BRAZIL, Indiana (LifeSiteNews) — In response to the ongoing sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, Fr. John Hollowell asked for and received an incredible penance so he could suffer alongside victims.
In a video produced by LifeSiteNews, Fr. Hollowell discusses how after the “Summer of Shame” in 2018, which exposed high-ranking clergyman like Theodore McCarrick as both abusers and colluders in the cover-up of abuse, he asked and received from God an incredible penance to offer in reparation to all victims of clerical abuse.
In the video, Hollowell outlines how ever since he entered the seminary in the early 2000s, the Catholic identity had become one of deep shame stemming from reports of sexual abuse and cover-ups of sexual abuse by priests and bishops.
According to Hollowell’s testimony, this became especially true after the revelation in 2018 that the conspiracy of abuse had ascended to some of the highest points of the Church, culminating in the first ever laicization of a Cardinal, McCarrick.
While many dioceses’ put out press statements of sorrow, Hollowell described that as a priest he could perhaps offer something up for the victims that a diocese could not.
Recalling a day in 2018, Hollowell described how after offering Mass, he went into the confessional to wait to hear the confessions of parishioners. In the confessional, Hollowell was overwhelmed with emotion thinking about the people that suffered at the hands of the clergy and began to weep.
Ultimately, this led to Hollowell making a plea to God, that if it be God’s will, he would happily suffer on behalf of the already suffering souls of the victims.
Months later, Hollowell describes three episodes in which he was running and was overcome with dizziness and a “twitching” in the right side of his body. After a priest friend witnessed one of these episodes, Hollowell was instructed to visit a doctor.
In short order, Hollowell was sent from a hospital in Indiana to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where he was ultimately diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“Almost immediately I realized when he said ‘brain tumor’ that that was an answer to my prayer that I had made almost two years ago, at that point,” recalled Hollowell, describing how he then took to his blog to reveal his condition and asked for victims to send their names so he could privately offer them up through his suffering.
A month after the diagnosis, Hollowell entered surgery with “about 170 names” of victims for whom to pray and do penance. He continued by explaining how his mother came to visit him during his recovery and would read the names off the list as “tears” rolled down his cheeks.
Despite the severity of his condition, Hollowell began to offer Mass via livestream from the hospital, as to not leave his parishioners without his guidance. Footage in the LifeSiteNews production shows Hollowell, with intense scarring and stitches on his head, wearing a hospital bracelet, offering Mass and leading the Rosary from the hospital.
Hollowell describes that shortly after, it was discovered that he had contracted an infection from the surgery and required emergency surgery to remove a piece of his skull, and a third surgery in which a plate was installed to replace the bone.
Hollowell explained that he tried to go back to his parish while undergoing chemotherapy, but ultimately could barely move and realized he could no longer function as a parish priest.
In a heart-wrenching clip, Hollowell can be seen at the pulpit wearing a helmet-like bandage, recalling how he had to tell his parishioners 10 minutes before a Mass, “I’m sorry, I can’t do this.”
Despite surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, Hollowell still has around 20 percent of the initial tumor in his brain.
After being told he was not fully cured, Hollowell said, “I just decided if it [the aggressive tumor] comes back … I’m just going to let nature take its course.”
“So then the prayer became … If it’s God’s will, to even die, I’m not afraid, I’m at peace with that.”
In conclusion, Hollowell reflects on the words of St. Peter, “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow, and I think what the Church has always understood that to mean is, we should suffer for other people as well, in imitation of Christ, and in that we will find our ultimate happiness and fulfillment.”