(Over these last weeks since learning of the revelations which gave rise to the current crisis in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America, I hear, as most likely do you, many a lay person initiating a discussion with the question posed: “What CAN we do?” Many have been and continue to pray and sacrifice and, at the same time, do not wish to bypass concrete actions that contribute to setting things right. Enter Msgr. Charles Pope with an assessment of what is before us and with encouragement to pray and stand strong. In answer to that question which keeps popping up, Msgr. gives outstanding counsel to harness our anger, allowing it to be impetus for action. Emboldened text is my own in the excerpts presented. Msgr.’s full article is here. ~Beckita)
I am not sure how many of the bishops realize just how angry, disheartened and disturbed God’s people really are… Each day there are new articles published that cannot be simply dismissed as rantings in an overheated “blogosphere.” These are the thoughtful essays of good Catholics, faithful writers, journalists and lay leaders who love the Church and have spent most of their energy building and defending the Church and the faith. However, they cannot defend the indefensible nor simply repeat Church-issued statements insisting that no one knew anything. Doing so strains credibility, and they, to whom many Catholics look for guidance and information, have had to say so. Thus, they have written with saddened hearts, justifiable anger and sober concern.
I hope our bishops, especially the highest ranking and those closest to the epicenter of the Archbishop McCarrick case, hear just how angry the faithful are. I think it is hard to overestimate the storm that is brewing. If any of our prelates think this latest storm will soon pass, they should ponder the more likely case that these are merely the outer bands of a Category 5 hurricane that is closing in and will likely make landfall in Baltimore at the November meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)…
This is where we are today. As a Church hierarchy, we have worn on folks’ last nerve. We have come to a point where only penance and a complete housecleaning can restore credibility and trust. As a lower-ranking priest I cannot issue demands or send binding norms to those in wider and upper ranks of the hierarchy, but I do want to say to God’s faithful how powerfully aware I am of their justified anger and agree with their insistence that something more than symbolic action or promises of future reform is necessary.
I also would like to say to God’s faithful that this is a critical hour for you. I have learned from Church history that reform almost never comes from the top; it comes from religious life and from the grass roots, from among God’s people. Please stay faithful to the Lord and His Body the Church. Pray as never before. Realize that the devil would like nothing more than for you to walk away from the sacraments. However, please also feel freer than ever to confront Church leadership and insist upon reform. There is at times an unhealthy deference to authority that leaves those in authority unaware of the impact of their action or lack thereof.
I encourage each of you to write personally to your bishop. It is not enough to sound off on social media or in comments sections on the internet. Be old-fashioned: write a physical letter to your bishop and request a written reply, at least acknowledging receipt. Be brief and charitable, but also be clear about the crisis of trust in episcopal and clerical authority and your deepening concerns over what this means if trust cannot be restored…
I am grateful that many lay faithful love the Church enough to be angry. Sometimes one must be angry enough to be willing to act for change and to persevere in that work. I hope you will honor your anger and use it to creative ends: to tirelessly demand real reform in all the ways God gives you to see. Be careful to target your anger and speak it in love and for the good of all.
So, this is a crucial moment for God’s people. As a member of His clergy, I want to say that we need you now more than ever and to remind you that you will be essential to reform by insisting on it and refusing to accept a return to business as usual. Let us pray for one another and work for the reform we all know is necessary and long overdue. Many lay leaders are stepping up, leading the charge to insist on reform. For those of you who are on Facebook, Janet E Smith, moral theology professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, is using that platform to share articles and encourage action. She responded to Msgr. Pope’s piece with the following suggestions to incorporate in writing one’s letter to the local bishop:
1) Commend the bishop for the good works he has done. 2) Demand a clean up of whatever homosexual network exists in the diocese. Carefully give evidence if we have some, “I have heard; I don’t know if it is true but I have heard it enough to think queries if not an investigation should be made.” Demand that if there are credible accusations against priests and more evidence is needed, that private investigators need to be hired, 3) Tell the bishop that if cleaning up the homosexual network means that there will be such a priest shortage that parishes will close and services will be curtailed, say that we laity will stand by him and support his action.s 4) Insist that a lay board be set up to which priests and others can make charges of sexual harassment by the bishop himself and by priests and, particularly, that priests can report any mistreatment from the bishop without fear of reprisals. 5) Send the bishop copies of the best articles published expressing lay outrage. 6) Promise to pray and fast for your bishop. 7) Send copies of your letter to Cardinal DiNardo (President of USCCB) and the current papal nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. 8) Get signatures of others who may not be inclined to write. 9) Ask for a reply. Be polite but firm. And write again every month until something is done. If we don’t get a satisfactory reply, we need to consider writing to the public newspaper.
As the Storm swirls, the mission, message and community of TNRS-ASOH becomes the more precious, ever inspiring action and instilling peace.