Cardinal Schonbörn and Wir sind Kirche, the lay reform group in Austria last night held a penitential service in St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. (from Die Presse, Der Standard, and n-tv).

3000 entered a cathedral darkened except for the candles of the victims around the altar. Cardinal Schonbörn entered clad all in black, except for his red cardinal’s cap. He sat under a crucifix of the tortured Son of God, and all his body language spoke of humility, sorrow, and acknowledgment of guilt. 

The Cursing Psalms were read: 

“I will pour forth my anger, my scorn, my hate before you. I wish upon him poison and gall, he shall be blind, starving, and lonely. God, do you not see my helplessness?” 

Heavy drum roll.  

Schönborn says nothing for this is the time for the victims to speak: One cried out 

“Night after night the memories come back, like howling dogs. I cannot cope with them.”  

Another accused his tormentor: “From him nothing shall remain, his name extinguished. Strike it out of the Book of Life.” 

Drum roll. 

It continued: 

The student in a girls’ boarding school, who with head shaved bald and in a straight jacket lay in her own excrement, who at the point of a cane held by a nun had to clean herself up. 

The far-too-premature boy, who through the love of his parents developed so well that he could study theology – and after sexual abuse by a priest mentally fell back to a four-year-old level. 

The pedophile pastor, who despite the pleas of a mother of one of his victims was after a year’s pause sent into other parishes. 

Drum roll. 

Schonbörn at last spoke 

“We acknowledge that we would not recognize the truth, that we have covered up and given false witness.” 

I have often wondered why abusers and bishops did not fear the curses of victims. God hears the cry of the oppressed and vindicates them His wrath will fall upon those who tormented children and on those who stood by and let the children be tormented. Their names will be blotted out of the book of life – don’t they fear that? Perhaps they do not fear God’s wrath because they do not believe He exists – maybe that is what Benedict meant when he said a lack of faith was the source of the abuse and the enabling of the abuse. How many abusers, how many bishops are at heart atheists? How else to explain what they did?


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