PHOENIX — The Church’s efforts to help abuse victims heal has been steadfast since shortly after the first incidents came to light more than two decades ago.

But the need for love and compassion likely will never end.

“Abuse really hurts a person in the depth of their soul that they don’t forget,” said one survivor, who remains anonymous at her request following Sunday’s semiannual Mass of Healing and Reconciliation for Survivors of Abuse and Their Families; her voice lowering as a tear ran down her face in the courtyard of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix.

Yet, she said her faith has remained strong.

“I know that I brought that pain to the LORD, and he healed me in my pain,” she explained, grateful that the Diocese and the Church are committed to acknowledge the suffering.

“That helps. We (survivors) feel that we’re seen.”

Worshippers with no links to abuse agreed.

“I can’t imagine (the suffering) being one of those victims,” said Ss. Simon and Jude parishioner Mary Petroff, who was at the 9 a.m. Mass with her husband, Dave.

Mary Petroff also commended the Church’s efforts.

“(The Church is) trying its best to resolve the issues, so they don’t happen again,” she said.

“We want survivors of clergy abuse and families to know that we are here. We have never left them,” said Dr. Ann Vargas-Leveriza, director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection and Safe Environment Training. “We continue to do our outreach through the Mass of Healing and Reconciliation, but at the same time we also want (survivors and families) to know that we continue to pray for their healing.”

Because abuse can occur anywhere throughout society, the Mass remains open to any survivor victimized outside the Church, as well as their family.


Sunday’s rite marked the first live TV stream by the Diocese since it began holding them in 2006, as well as the latest celebrated by Bishop John P. Dolan since his 2022 installation.

Held twice annually, the Mass usually takes place during the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent, each at a different parish.

The spring Mass also comes during April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, established by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 to raise awareness of the need to ensure the safety and welfare of children.

Similar Masses are held throughout the United States.

A majority of the 196 U.S. dioceses and eparchies take part, according to Dcn. Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection, an agency formed in response to the abuse crisis.


The USCCB also wrote a landmark document in 2002 to address abuse and the Church’s response.

Named for the city where the bishops met, the “Dallas Charter” established procedures to address allegations of abuse of minors by clergy as well as a comprehensive prevention strategy, reconciliation and healing.

The Diocese of Phoenix’s Office of Child and Youth Protection assists individuals and families who have been directly affected by sexual abuse, whether in the Diocese or that of their childhood. Counseling referrals, spiritual direction, healing Masses, community services, and meetings with Bishop Dolan are all offered.

The Diocese conducts rigorous screening of clergy and anyone else who works with children. This includes religious, seminarians, employees and volunteers.

The Diocese has been audited annually — including an on-site inspection in 2017 – and maintains full compliance with the Charter.

Bishop Dolan hailed the office’s work Sunday.

He also used his message to reference a new Vatican document addressing abuse as it relates to human dignity.

The Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith released the statement April 8. The dicastry is the Roman Curia department charged with the Church’s religious discipline.

“Dignitas Infinita” renewed the Church’s conviction that all human beings—created by God and redeemed by Christ—must be recognized and treated with respect and love.

The document discusses the violation of that dignity through not only child abuse but abortion, euthanasia, violence against women, human trafficking and other areas.

Bishop Dolan said that child abuse, as well as slavery and human trafficking, violate
the God-given – or inalienable right of human dignity, as conveyed in the first chapter of the Bible’s Book of Genesis.

“We are made in God’s image and likeness. That inalienable – or innate – human dignity can never be annulled,” he said.

Still, as others pointed out, the scars of abuse are daunting.

“Some of the survivors I’ve worked with; it was their faith in the Church that sustained them,” said Dcn. Nojadera. “There are others who have said they don’t want to have anything to do with the Church.”


In his Homily, Bishop Dolan pointed to God’s unwavering commitment to his created beings, even in the midst of such suffering, and urged survivors and families to lean on the triune God for healing and comfort, bearing in mind the suffering and resurrection of His only Son.

“Our God does not abandon us. He does not nullify our human dignity,” he said.

“Jesus is the only answer, and we need to listen to His voice.”


“God of endless love, ever caring, ever strong, always present, always just:

You gave your only Son to save us by the blood of his cross.

Gentle Jesus, shepherd of peace, join to your own suffering the pain of all who have been hurt in body, mind, and spirit by those who betrayed the trust placed in them.

Hear our cries as we agonize over the harm done to our brothers and sisters.

Soothe their restless hearts with hope, steady their shaken spirits with faith.

Grant them justice for their cause, enlightened by your truth.

Holy Spirit, comforter of hearts, heal your people’s wounds and transform our brokenness. Grant us courage and wisdom, humility, and grace, so that we may act with justice and find peace in you.

We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

Dicastery Declaration for the Doctrine of Faith on Human Dignity

Diocese of Phoenix Office of Child and Youth Protection