A special church service is set to take place on Saturday that officials with the Philadelphia Archdiocese hope will bring comfort to victims of clergy sexual abuse.
The Healing Mass for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse will take place at 5:15 p.m. at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
During the service, church officials and attendees will pray for survivors of clergy sexual abuse, for the healing of the church and for everyone who has been affected by abuse.
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Several priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese have been accused of abuse in recent years. Last month, the Archdiocese removed two priests from local parishes for “substantiated allegations” of sexual abuse. Earlier this month, a Philadelphia judge declared a mistrial in the case of Rev. Andrew McCormick, a priest accused of sexually assaulting an altar boy.
Officials with the Archdiocese say they’ve received several requests from victims to hold a healing mass and that the idea was formed several months ago. According to officials, the mass was planned by the Office for Child and Youth Protection (OCYP) and the Office for Divine Worship.
“In the end, we are a Church,” said Kenneth Gavin, a spokesman for the Archdiocese. “We are a family of God. We cannot imagine the enduring pain which victims and their loved ones suffer. We take our role in assisting them on their path to healing seriously. Praying with and for victims is only part of that process but it is an important one.”
Some critics are skeptical however regarding whether the mass will truly bring healing for victims.
“I think it’s a PR Band-Aid that the Archdiocese is throwing out there,” said Karen Polesir of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). “I don’t think it’s really accomplishing anything or hitting the point that needs to be hit.”
Archdiocese officials say they’ve implemented their Victim Assistance Program which offers counseling, prayer and support for victims and aims to prevent child abuse. Polesir doesn’t believe this is enough however.
“What Chaput should be doing is taking steps to change the legislation,” Polesir said. “To stop opposing the change in the statutes and get on board with the change and to help make it a safer place for children and for the vulnerable people who have been victimized.”
Officials with the Archdiocese told NBC10 that they go above and beyond what’s required of state law to create the safest possible environment for children.
The Archdiocese will stream the mass on its website for those who can’t attend. You can watch it live here starting at 5:15 p.m.