To all concerned about the future of the Roman Catholic Church:
Conversations are going on in all parts of the world about the most recent reports of clergy sexual abuse of children that have been covered up by Bishops under the pretext of “protecting the image and reputation of the Church.” The truth is they are only protecting themselves and their clerical status.
We can be silent no longer. It is past time for the baptized Faithful, who are the Church, to take action. We invite you to join with us on our Facebook page and share your views on how we the People of God can move responsibly forward to be the Church as intended by Jesus.
Pope Francis has outlined his vision for a church that is “synodal” at every level, with everyone listening to one another, learning from one another and taking responsibility for proclaiming the Gospel. We at CCRI feel that all of us in the reform movement have spent far too many years trying to communicate with the hierarchy and convince them of the necessity of reform and restructuring within the Church. But are convinced beyond any doubt that our trying to change them is fruitless. Consequently, our strategy is no longer to put our energy into “reforming” the institutional church which seems beyond repair but rather to focus on “re-founding” the Church in the spirit of the early Christians. The Vatican is not the Church. By virtue of our baptism, we are the Church and we believe that we have the responsibility to enrich the future leadership and management of our church. But how? What IS within our power to do is to join or start small faith communities by whatever name they are called in various parts of the world: Intentional Eucharistic Communities (IECs), Base Christian Communities (CEBs), or Small Christian Communities (SCCs). Scroll to the end of this newsletter to learn what you personally can do.
Pope Meets with Sex Abuse Victims in Ireland
Francis expressed outrage at the Church’s cover up of sex abuse
Marie Collins, a former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and an Irish survivor of clergy sex abuse, has asked to meet with Francis a second time this month to further explore why he is not planning to follow through on a 2015 proposal for the Vatican, supported unanimously by every member of the Commission, to create one tribunal tasked with judging bishops accused of mishandling abuse allegations. Although Francis said he has “esteem” for Collins, he said that instead, the Vatican is now instituting separate local tribunals to look into these matters on a case-by-case basis, as needed.
Why is all this abuse, and especially the cover-up, so prevalent in the Catholic clergy?
CCRI agrees with the analyses of so many as to the cause of such a preponderance of clergy sexual abuse. Pope Francis has repeatedly warned about the culture of clericalism. Richard Rohr sees “the idealized culture of celibacy being the cause….creating an aura of spiritual superiority.” He calls for the Roman Catholic church to “disconnect celibacy from ministry.”Author and former priest, George Pieczonka, sees “male misogyny contributing to the cause, pointing out that “the religious male ‘ego’ has legalized it in Canon Law that supersedes every norm of an integrative consciousness.” Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, leading expert on sexual abuse by priests and a prominent voice for its victims finds that “specific aspects of seminary training correspond to known causes of abusive behavior.” Catholic Feminist Theologian Mary E. Hunt believes that it is “the church’s clergy/lay structure and not just the abuse of it, the clerical/lay system, not simply clericalism, that is at issue.” In other words, the problem “lies within Catholicism’s foundation.” Bill Nathe, a former priest with credentials including MDiv, MSW, and JD believes the key reason for the cover-up is more theological. “The church insists that priests are especially chosen and endowed with special powers by a divinity; they, therefore, can do things that no one else can do” – things like – change wine and bread into Jesus’ flesh and blood and forgive sins. “This exalted status of the clergy has been presented as an “infallible, thus incontestable, ‘fact.’ The church must, therefore, defend ‘to its death’ that ‘fact.’ The laity accepts this ‘fact’ of the special super-humanity of the priest and, because of it, gives them astounding respect.”
From the lay Faithful perspective, it all comes down to one thing: power. By virtue of our baptism, we the People of God are the Church, but we have no power, no say, no determinable voice in the governance of the Roman Catholic Church. If we did, the problem of clerical sex abuse and its cover-up might well have been brought to a more immediate and just conclusion.
Are Church hierarchical leaders capable of being the fox over their own hen houses?
Recognizing that bishops have “obviously have not been able to deal with this effectively on our own,” Cardinal Cupich urged “not only lay involvement, but lay leadership, in the church’s response to sexual abuse and cover-up. Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, further reinforced this concept saying that the crisis facing the Church would not have been so grave if laity were more involved in the formation of current and future priests.
With the Faithful having an influential voice in the governance of the Church, we would have long since lifted the mandate of celibacy on priests; we would have welcomed married priests back to active ministry; we would have welcomed the LGBT community into the Church and invited those in ministry to come out in the open with their partners; and we would have elevated the status of women to welcome them as equal members welcomed to serve in ministry.
So many feel that church leaders have lost all authority and credibility to manage this crisis any longer. They’ve had decades to do so and have failed miserably. More than 3,000 theologians, educators and lay leaders have called for all U.S. bishops to submit their resignations to Pope Francis, much like Chile’s 34 bishops did in May after revelations of sexual abuse and corruption, as a public act of penance and a “willing abdication of earthly status.”
Reflections from Supporters
According to Bill Nathe, “The church itself will not be reformed. To be reformed it would need to completely reinvent itself. It cannot do that. Its own theological foundations do not permit it. The bishops and pope can hold many councils, commissions, etc., to reform itself but without abandoning its foundations it is a hopeless task.”
CCRI joins with so many other reform organizations including: We Are Church Int’l calling for dismantling the systems that facilitated this abuse and cover up; Future Church calling for a full and transparent accounting along with an immediate and independent investigation of any and all investigations of cover up; Voices of Faith demanding that Francis call a Synod of the Faithful; Women’s Ordination Conference saying: “Time’s Up” on clergy sex abuse!” as they plan vigils nationwide; and Call to Action calling for a #CatholicToo movement, a campaign formed together with other groups that encourages Catholics to speak out about their experiences of abuse and misogyny in the era of #MeToo. All of us recognize the time has come for the baptized Faithful to begin now to participate fully in the life and leadership of the Church.
Beth Bastasch says: “Certainly the Catholics who remain have at least two distinct ways of being Catholic. One is hierarchical, patriarchal and has no respect for Vatican II. The others, a small intellectual group, love everyone….[as a] way of life, care of the poor, politics, earth and continual renewal and quest for non-violence. What does it all mean anyway? Do we need a church organization or can we read, pray and live in our multi-faith, including atheists, community?”
Myra Poole says: “Here, here, at last the many years of crying in the wilderness are over. The groundswell for change is growing rapidly, the institution is crumbling before our very eyes. The easy days of being a Catholic are over. We all have to take responsibility for a new form of Church as yet unseen and un-imagined.”
Scilla Stack from Australia says: “The barque of Rome seems to be floundering on a reef of its’ own detritus and it is difficult to see where it will end….First the central status quo has to implode and then the avant garde moves in to occupy the space….Our difficult task is to discern, quite quickly and much more precisely, what we want to replace the rusting, rotting structure with. What will the new look like?… Just BEING it helps, we are the avant gardeafter all, we are the Church.”
Sal Umana responds to this: “As far as calling a new Council, or a worldwide “Synod” is concerned, I do not think it is necessary. There exists the hierarchical structure of the Church under the Pope and Bishops who are doing a magnificent job of destroying themselves, especially their credibility. But there already exists the People of God who are all us of who follow the teaching of the magnificent Jew Jesus, whether he was the Messiah, or God’s son, whether he was only human or divine or both. We, the people of God, do not need the discredited institution and its self-appointed leaders any more. (Of course, we would be happy to welcome the latter into the People of God. After all, we believe in redemption.)”
Betty C. Dudney reflects on the inequality taught and supported by the Church and asks if inequality can be stopped by the Faithful no longer financially supporting the Church?
“Religious, economic, and political control remains in the hands of males….When only one half of the whole rules over the other half, neither are likely to be satisfied or happy in that kind of a unfair, unequal relationship!…When we as a People, Community, or Nation, can get to that Equalitarian frame of mind, we will be able to live with one another in peace and prosperity. Until then, we face costly wars, one after another! Jesus message was to Love One Another, even your enemies; to do good, not evil. A God worthy of worship is a God of Love, in Equality….”
Mary Hunt purports”The good news is that we do not start at ground zero to construct postmodern Catholicism. Many groups, base and/or intentional Eucharistic communities, women-church groups, Dignity Chapters, and others, have been living out per force new ways of being church for decades. The sacramental theology and ecclesiology necessary to dismantle the hierarchical system and replace it with egalitarian, function-based, globally connected structures that conform to the Gospel is already in the literature.”
With no official power, what can the People of God do?
To foster building the Church in the image of the early Church, we invite you to:
1. Join us on our CCRI Facebook page and engage in further conversation about what is within our power to do. Rather than being followers of a outdated system with archaic rules, we want to bring us back to the spirit of the early Church, to help us all once again become followers of Jesus Christ.
2. To familiarize yourself with the concept of a small group type of Church community, by reading Fr. Joe Healey’s article on “Small Group Ministry” in the USA Catholic Church. What he says is applicable to any region of the world.
3. Small Christian Communities can come together either including a Eucharistic liturgy or not. Click here to see one format for prayer and reflection without a liturgy. To learn more about a gathering that includes the Eucharist, click here. Go to the … in the top right corner, click on “find on a page” and insert “SCC Mass.”
4. If you are part of a parish and pleased with it, you might offer legitimacy to your home gatherings by inviting a trusted parish priest to your home and on occasion ask him to preside over your liturgy. If you are not pleased with any parish community, it is high time that the laity stop feeding the dying institution. One of the few powers that we have is: we can stop putting money in the collection basket and contribute instead to your favorite church group or reform organization.
4. Check out www.ThePeopleSpeakOut.org to explore how you might join or start a small faith community in your neighborhood or town.
5. Young people have indicated they prefer to form their own small faith communities where they can discuss matters of interest to their age group. Click here to access the Young People’s Small Christian Communities Facebook page begun by a group in Kenya. The daily lectionary-based scripture readings (for Mass) are posted here. Discussion and exchanges are encouraged to extend worldwide.
6. A small number of interested people can form a video and/or audio Small Faith Community and meet on Skype, Zoom, What’sApp, etc. Click here to learn more.
The time has come for us to re-found our Church. We may be powerless to reform the institutional church but we are able to change how we function within the Church. Let us each do our part to be the Church we had hoped the institutional Church would become – one that is inclusive, forgiving, and welcoming of all people regardless of where you are on your faith journey.
We thank you for your continued support,