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Healing and Hope: Analysis of a Crisis

 A Statement by Members of Catholic Organizations for Renewal

The fuel that lit the fires now burning in the Catholic Church is the desire to preserve the childhood of our children. No one should have to choose the safety of a child over allegiance to a church. A reformed and renewed church will not oblige us to decide between the church we love and the children we cherish.

In the voiceless victimization of our children, we have found our voice. In their suffering, we have found the wounded places in our own lives and in our church. We have been led to a land more promising than the bondage in which we lived too long a time. We shall never return to where we once were.

We believe that the root cause of all the evils of these latter days is the abuse of power. We know that Jesus condemned severely such abuse in the religious leaders of his time.

We are all too flawed to flourish in an environment where no accountability is required, where people are made passive before authority, where pretension to infallibility and wisdom is not justified or tested. In such a system, children are the early victims, but sooner or later, all of us, even those in power, are damaged and destroyed.

When abuse of power is uprooted, a tree of life will grow in the church again and we shall find safety in its branches. We believe that abuse of power bears evil fruit, poisoning all of us. We demand that this fruit never again be offered to God's people.

1. We demand justice for the victims of sexual abuse by clergy. Women and children have been sexually abused in numbers we can no longer calculate. Since church leaders have not effectively restrained the perpetrators of such violence, we demand that they be brought to justice in full compliance with civil law. Victims do not need reconciliation with the church; it is the church which must be reconciled to them. The church must be ready with the spiritual, emotional, and financial resources to help the healing process whenever victims are ready. There are no statutes of limitation on healing. Moreover good priests do not abuse others. Too often they also are abused by a church system which oppresses and silences them. We celebrate good priests and we invite them to join us in our demands.

2. We demand structural reform and renewal. A collegial church is the only cure for the pathology and secrecy, patriarchy and privilege that have made us ill. Monarchy and aristocracy are not evangelical values. The church of Christ has been starved in all of its ministries for too long a time, malnourished by the exclusion of all women and married men from the priesthood and decision-making. It is clear that were the baptized given voice in the church, an inclusive priesthood would be overwhelmingly endorsed. Structural reform will deny a haven to abusers of sex or power, to those who require secrecy for their actions and immunity for their crimes.

3. We demand a community of God's people. The fires of Pentecost do not burn for a few but for all of us. We were not summoned to a church where some have titles and deference and privilege at the expense of the community's very life and spirit. The church is God's people, not a corporation of executive officers or a medieval fiefdom. Only a church out of touch with the Gospel could boast that there is no democracy in its structures. A church that puts power and privilege before social justice betrays the Gospel.

4. We demand that sexuality be celebrated by the church as a source of life.The demonization of sexuality, its repression and renunciation, is an abuse of life. The focus of church teaching on sexual conduct and its relative neglect of abuse of power distort the Gospel. A church in which male celibacy is a precondition for authority and all other sexual choices are marginalized is a church that has lost not only the Gospel but also common sense. Abuse of women, abuse of children, and mandatory celibacy are different forms of sexual abuse, each reinforcing the other in a dance of death.

5. We demand financial accountability. Just wages and financial fairness must prevail in the house of the church. We must overturn the tables that block the way to full financial disclosure. The coins of the poor must not be bartered for the comfort of church leaders. We must know why there was money for cathedrals but not for those working in church institutions, for hierarchical excess but not for pensions, for papal visits and even cover-up compensation but not for teachers and ministers.

6. We demand the end of discrimination in the church. The present attempt to scapegoat homosexuals is symptomatic of a system that blames everyone except those in power. The list of those denounced as a source of evil in the church is a sign of the dysfunctionality of the system: married priests; all the divorced and remarried; homosexuals; those who call for a collegial church; indeed, the contemporary world in which we live. The suffering of those most in pain is intensified by excommunication for abortion, denial of Eucharist for remarriage, prohibition of lay ministries to married priests, and legal harassment of sexual abuse victims. Discrimination exists in the church; it is racial and sexual at different times. At the moment, it is focused on sexual orientation. It also is class and caste-driven, preserving from blame and granting immunity from resignation those with clerical privilege.

Let this analysis stand as our sense of why we are now in crisis. Let it be known that we Catholic reform organizations from North America join in the calls for a Continental Congress of Catholics. Let this document be received as our contribution to the agenda of such an assembly. Let it come quickly.

It is time, long past due, to make the church a community of healing and hope for all of us. Only such a church dares to call itself the church of Christ.

It was not power over one another Jesus encouraged. The church is meant for love. Jesus abused no one, least of all those whose trust he sought.


Endorsing Organizations & Contact Information

Members of COR


Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC), Southampton, MA 

John F. Sheehan - 413.527.9929 
Mary Lou Hartman - 609.921.9134

Call to Action USA, Chicago, IL 
Contact: Don Wedd - 773-404-0004 X 270

Call to Action/Baltimore 
Contact: Fred Ruof - 410.889.5996

Call to Action of Northern Virginia 
Jim Webster - 703.525.4013

Catholics for a Free Choice 
Jon O'Brien - 202.986.6093

Catholics for a Free Choice/Canada 
Joanna Manning - 416.599.1244

Catholics for the Spirit of Vatican II, Denver 
Thomas J. Kerwin - 303-221-7622

Catholics Speak Out/Quixote Center Brentwood, MD 
Rea Howarth - 301.699.0042 or 703.527.3501

CORPUS, Morris Plains, NJ 
Anthony Padovano - 973-539-8732 
Russ Ditzel - 908.638.6877

DignityUSA - Washington, DC 
Mary Louise Cervone
Marianne Duddy, 617-361-9512

Federation of Christian Ministries 
Sr. Bridget Mary Meehan, SFCC - 703.379.2487 
or 703.967.6736

Fellowship of Southern Illinois Laity 
Lena Woltering - 618.234.4073

Good Tidings, Canadensis, PA 
Cait Finnegan - 717.595.2750

National Coalition of American Nuns 
Jeannine Gramick, SL - 301.864.3604 
Mary Ann Cunningham, SL - 303.936.5904

New Ways Ministry, Mt. Rainier, MD 
Frank DeBernardo - 301.277.5674

Pax Christi Maine 
Bill Slavick - 207.773.6562

Save Our Sacrament: Reform of Annulment & Respondent Support, Cochituate, MA 
Janice P. Leary - saveoursacrament@aol.com

Women's Ordination Conference, Fairfax, VA 
Erin Hanley - 703.352.1006

Liaison Groups

A Critical Mass

BVM Network for Women's Issues

Grail Women Taskforce

Greater Cincinnati Women–Church

Loretto Women's Network

Priests for Equality/Quixote Center
Mark Buckley - 310.699.0042

San Francisco Bay Area Women-Church

Sisters Against Sexism

Southeastern Pennsylvania Women's Ordination Conference 
Regina Bannan - 215.545.9649 or 215.204.7351

Women Church of Northern Virginia
Sr. Bridget Mary Meehan, SFCC - 703.379.2487 or 703.967.6736

Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) 
Mary Hunt or Diann Neu - 301.589.2509

Women Church Convergence
Ruth Fitzpatrick - 703.938.0746

Young Feminists Network
Joy Barnes - 703.352.1006


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