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Detroit Catholics pray to be forgiven for sins of the church

Oct 7, 2016

Members of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit held a unique service on Friday called “Mass for Pardon.”

Leaders at the Archdiocese said it's important to ask forgiveness for sins the Catholic Church has committed as an institution. 

The sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests has been the most visible controversy in the church in recent years.

“And we responded very strongly,” said Bishop Michael Byrnes. “It has really changed a lot of our protocols, and (we) have been very proactive at creating a safe environment for children.”

But parishioners and clergy were also gathered to ask forgiveness for racism and the neglect of the poor, which are two issues Byrnes said are particularly significant in Detroit.

During Detroit’s “white flight” years of the early 1970s, Byrnes says a lot of members of the church moved out of the city.

“Part of what we as a church need to do is turn back that attitude of neglect toward the core city of Detroit,” Byrnes said. “And to reinvest not just spiritually, but also socially, morally (and) economically in the spirit of Detroit.”

But for some victims of sexual abuse by priests, the church asking for forgiveness seems like an empty platitude.

Bill McCalary of Grand Rapids is the Michigan leader for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“These priests, these archbishops, the Pope, are trying to push it aside as a crime and ask the flock for forgiveness of their sin,” McCalary said. “It’s a joke. It’s a slap in the face to hundreds of thousands of abuse victims around the world.”

Families of victims have had difficulty suing the Catholic church for legal responsibility, although individual priests have been prosecuted.

Byrnes said Friday's "Mass for Pardon" comes after years of looking at how the church could reach more people in Detroit. The Archdiocese will convene in mid-November in a meeting called a synod and lay out a vision for the future of the church across Southeast Michigan.