New Orleans archbishop holds “healing mass” for abuse victims


New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond on Tuesday likened the sexual abuse scandal engulfing the Roman Catholic Church to the “incredible destruction” wrought by Hurricane Katrina, saying that church leaders face a similarly fraught road to recovery.

“Thirteen years later, we are hit by another storm — not of rain, not of wind,” Aymond said. “It is, indeed, a man-made storm.”

The archbishop apologized for the atrocities of some of his colleagues, telling hundreds of parishioners, priests and seminarians there is “no excuse in the world for abusing a child.”

He asked God to forgive predatory clergymen — and the hierarchy that countenanced their misconduct — for betraying their faith in the same way the apostle Peter denied knowing Jesus three times before the crucifixion.

“It’s a first step,” Aymond said, “and I can assure you that with this apology will come action, in our archdiocese and throughout the United States.”

Aymond delivered his remarks during a “healing Mass” at St. Joseph Church on Tulane Avenue, a well-attended service dedicated to thousands of victims who were sexually abused by priests and other church officials.

The Mass continued the tour of atonement the archbishop has led after a steady stream of horrific revelations this summer, including allegations of priests raping or abusing children and high-ranking church officials looking the other way for generations.

The scandal has reached unprecedented depths in recent days, with Pope Francis himself facing calls to resign over his handling of allegations made against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who stepped down recently amid claims he sexually abused young priests and minors.

Tuesday’s service also came just two weeks after a grand jury in Pennsylvania released a stunning report that outlined 70 years of abuse and cover-ups in six of that state’s eight dioceses. That report found that hundreds of clergy members had sexually abused more than 1,000 victims, and that “individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability.”

Closer to home, Aymond has sought to explain how local church leaders allowed George Brignac, a former Catholic deacon accused of molesting several young boys, to continue serving as a lay minister decades after he was defrocked for sexual misconduct.

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