Dear fellow Catholic clergy,
If you’re not shaking with rage right now, you are not my friend. That said, this will probably make some of you angry with me, but maybe not. Maybe you’re all as angry as I am. Or maybe you’ll disagree with my suggestions, which is fine. This is one deacon’s effort to channel his intense heartbreak into something useful. If I am wrong, testify to the wrong.
The present situation is intolerable. The one-two punch of McCarrick and the Grand Jury report should have each of us repenting and calling for serious change and action. Our credibility in the eyes of the people, already damaged from the crisis of 2002, is once again in the toilet. The long, hard work of building trust and community in the Church is once again in the toilet.
What should we do? I think we should be calling for at least the following:
1. We need to call on every single Bishop in the United States — and probably worldwide– to push for a thorough, honest, and unsparing INDEPENDENT investigation to find out who knew what and when regarding McCarrick and the people who sheltered him and his ilk. THIS IS PART OF WHAT IT MEANS TO LET THE HOLY SPIRIT GUIDE US TO THE TRUTH.
2. We need resignations, sack cloth and ashes. NOW. I don’t know how I encourage any victim to believe that we’re serious if the guilty are not brought to justice.
3. We similarly need an independent, national report that looks at sexual malfeasance and coverups of both child and adult victims. The John Jay report was helpful but obviously inadequate. Furthermore, it should be THE BISHOPS asking for this. Why? To prove that they have decided to be like the Jesus they claim to follow, they need to be definitively on the side of the suffering. And they–and we– need to be full of righteous contempt for ANY religious leaders who would abuse and mistreat God’s people.
4. We need to be on the side of those who would extend or eliminate the statute of limitations for cases of the sexual abuse or assault of a minor.
5. We need more than “prayers and sympathy.” We need public repentance. We need to cut the sanctimony until we actually have our house in order. We need to be sponsoring events, prayers and rituals, and other services for anyone who’s been sexually assaulted and abused. We need to communicate in word, deed, and expenditures that victims and survivors are beloved by God. We clergy need to sit in the back and listen and weep and just say I’m sorry over and over again. We need to act like victims and survivors are the Church, not like they are our enemies.
6. We need to stop patting ourselves on the back for the Charter for the Protection of Children and Virtus and we should never mention it when addressing victims and survivors by way of justifying ourselves. It’s true that a lot of good work has been done, but it is not all that God is calling us to do.
7. Whatever a person thinks he is saving or protecting by participating in the coverup, it is not Christ’s Church. Christ’s Church is a place for the truth that sets us free.
We cannot sit by and pretend that this will all go away, and we can’t act as if the status quo will save us. If we don’t have moral credibility, we have NOTHING. And right now, we have NOTHING. We need to start with our own repentance and move quickly to decisive action on behalf of God’s broken people. NOW is the acceptable time.