The Catholic community in Wales has spent a week standing in prayerful solidarity with victims and survivors of abuse at the country’s first LOUDfence event. It took place in Cardiff from 21-28 October 2023.
LOUDfence is a survivor-led initiative, open to everyone, that gives a voice to those who have experienced abuse within a faith-based setting or have been affected by it.
At a Mass to mark the opening of the initiative, on Saturday, 21 October, Archbishop Mark O’Toole, Archbishop of Cardiff and Bishop of Menevia, offered a sincere apology and called for reparation – not just though words but, more importantly, through actions:
“We know of the betrayal of the innocent who have suffered at the hands of those from whom they should have experienced only life and love. If you have suffered in any way like this, within the life of the Church, I offer my profoundest apology… We need reparation for all those times that representatives of the Church we love, the Church founded by Christ, have: taken advantage of the young and the vulnerable by committing acts of abuse; or turned a blind eye to the suffering of those who were abused and their families; or failed to prevent abusers from continuing to offend; or stood silent in the face of abuse.”
Addressing victims and survivors, Archbishop O’Toole said:
“We stand in solidarity with you. You re-live the trauma of what you endured every time there is a new allegation or story of abuse. We ask for the grace to be able to stand close, to hear your stories, and continue to allow them to be heard.”
The Archbishop said that the Mass evoked feelings of Good Friday, especially as that particular day marks the hour of our Lord’s death, when darkness seems to have conquered in the world:
“As we hear the accounts of abuse we know that there is darkness there; the evil one has his way, working through sinful human beings, and he seems triumphant. This is particularly so in the devastation caused to individual victim-survivors, to families, to whole communities, to the priesthood, to the Church and society as a whole.”
That’s why, the Archbishop said, it’s important we look to Christ to renew the Church:
“In the face of this terrible evil, we can but draw close to Him, make our way to Golgotha, too. Because it is only there, from the foot of the Cross, that the Church will be renewed… We must take action, but we must also beg God to purify and strengthen his Church by purifying and strengthening us, her members, especially to renew the priesthood and the episcopacy… Let us strive personally to renew our own prayer and to work faithfully and steadfastly for the goodness, but most especially for the holiness of all members of the Church.”
At the end of his homily, in a poignant prayer for Christ’s healing for those who have been abused, Archbishop O’Toole prayed:
“May they see that our sorrow and deep shame is sincere, and may they contribute as they are able to, to the transformative change that we need in our Church.”
Outside Cardiff’s Catholic Cathedral, St David’s, ribbons were tied to the railings in support of victims and survivors. The Welsh Government’s Minister for Social Justice and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, was one of many to attach a message to the fence at the start of the initiative.
“I stand alongside all survivors of abuse, and it is my ambition to work towards a Wales where such abuse does not happen,” wrote the longest-serving Welsh Government minister. “While we work towards this, Welsh Government will continue to put survivors at the centre of this work. I hope your event will be a tremendous success and I thank you for your contribution to our shared ambition to end violence against women and girls, domestic abuse and sexual violence.”
You can download Archbishop O’Toole’s full homily here.