Pax Christi USA, as a national, nonviolent Catholic movement dedicated
to a spirituality of nonviolence and peacemaking and committed to
human rights, we are impelled to ask the following question:

CAN A CHURCH BETRAYED BECOME A CHURCH REDEEMED?

The People of God are experiencing yet another public
betrayal with the Pennsylvania Grand Jury’s
disclosure last week of the continuing abuse and secrecy in a Church
entrusted with witnessing to the Gospel.

There is no rationale or apology, no matter how well worded, thought
out, or eloquent it might be, that excuses the actions of the
perpetrators, the complicity, the rationalizations, and the cover-ups by
those in positions of trust and authority.

  • To all those with the courage to speak your truth after years of
    being held hostage by fear and silence…we pray for your
    continued healing.
  • To all those members of the Grand Jury who heard the pain of lost
    innocence and prepared such a comprehensive report…we
    commend your endurance.
  • To all those families who are affected by these betrayals of
    trust…we ask the God of unconditional love to sustain you.
  • To those mentioned in past, present and future reports for both
    illegal and/or immoral conduct against God’s most vulnerable
    people…we entrust you to the God of Justice.

How does an institution heal after such a profound betrayal? There
is no ‘fix’ short of a total transformation of the policies, practices, and
procedures within the structures of the Church. There needs to be a public profession of
complicity, along with real and symbolic proof that the institutional
Church is trustworthy.

This rebuilding of trust will take years, because the transformation needs to
be radical. Truth, accountability, and transparency need
to replace secret archives, loyalty to a highly dysfunctional system, and
a gross misuse of power. We desperately need a clergy who are more
committed to the needs and protection of their people than to the
institutional Church. For this radical transformation to be real it must
include opportunities for ALL people to be engaged in painful, deep, and
honest dialogue; otherwise, we cannot hope for the Beloved
Community, as envisioned by God, to emerge among us.

May we who are angered, disgusted, saddened, disillusioned, and ready
to give up on an institution that once nourished us remember that our faith
is in a lavish God who craves a relationship with us and offers us the fullness of life promised by the Holy One who gave his life
and death for us.

Suggested Actions:

We invite parishioners to gather in large and/or small groups to share
openly and honestly the pain, hurt, and mistrust you are feeling, and
together find creative ways to bring about healing and reconciliation.

We invite regional and local Pax Christi chapters to facilitate the above
conversations in their areas.

We also invite Catholic organizations to advocate, facilitate, and
encourage such dialogues.

26 thoughts on “CAN A CHURCH BETRAYED BECOME A CHURCH REDEEMED?

    1. The Church has 2 parts: human where humans can mess things up as they have in all places and times but the Church is also the Body of Christ and Jesus remains with it through thick and thin but He will not step in and replace free will. To me the Eucharist is the center of the Church and my life. No matter what the humans in the Church do I cannot walk away from the Eucharist. I would only hurt myself.

    2. Hello–

      I respect what you are trying to do but need to say that I and many, many people with whom I have spoken in the last few days, all of us observant Catholics, are done with listening to the endless professions of remorse from church officials rendered hypocritical when balanced against any real correction, improvement, or admissions of responsibility. Unless there are major changes to the structure of the church, nothing will change and ever more Catholics will leave in sadness, disgust, disappointment and/or anger. . Priesthood needs to be completely revised and open to women as well as to married persons both male and female. Clericalism has to be eliminated in ALL of its manifestations. Mandatory celibacy needs to be eliminated as well. Top down hierarchical leadership must be, at a minimum, severely curtailed. As a 68 year old cradle Catholic woman, I tried for far too long to justify the structure. No more. We have a major scandal –caused by a flawed system–and not speaking out/demanding change risks our being complicit. Thank you.

      1. Thank you, Margaret-you have expressed my feelings exactly. I am an abuse victim from 1960, when I was just 5 years old. Those horrific acts & the pain were buried deep in my psyche until I was 48 yrs old! The came screaming out in 2002 when the scandal first broke for real… These new developments have ripped open my wounds, body, soul & spirit!! How can I remain after so much CONTINUED deception & cover up. I am wrestling…

      2. I very much agree with most of what Margaret has written. Although I am not a Catholic, I am a Christian and I work an organization of “Sisters.” I, too, am sick and tired of listening to the hollow and meaningless procession of apologies from the Church every time a child abuse scandal hits the media. I truly believe that the Church is totally incapable of healing itself under it’s current structure. I don’t have all the answers but certainly the formation of a commission with the powers of instituting changes needs to be formed. This commission would include women, particularly the women who currently serve as Sisters and Nuns (an example is the Sisters of Mercy), lay people, law enforcement agencies, medical professionals, and other parties with a stake in the healing of the church. Although the Pope would be a member, I do not believe he is capable of leading this change under the current Church condition. I truly believe that, unless radical transformation takes place, we may very well witness the reduction of the Catholic Church to a hapless, impotent “has been.”

      3. Thank you so much. I so agree with your thinking. Could this have happened if women had been treated with equality in our Church; if women were considered intelligent enough, pure enough, holy enough….WORTHY enough to be shepherds of Jesus’ flock along with men? Could there have been this terrible pervasiveness of sexual abuse of innocent people? Women who carry the infant in the womb, who nurture the young would have clawed these men to death. WHAT is happening in our seminaries, what culture in this institution is lending itself to this kind of terrible perversion among some ordained and religious? The seeds of this corruption are somewhere to be dug up. We must absolutely radically change the culture and structures which invited this to happen, foundations which were man-made. There should be no mandate of celibacy. No matter how “prayerful” a person may be, God gave all of us the beatiful gift of our sexuality, a most basic, human instinct and drive. The Church cannot humanely and realistically insist that its ordained people live a total life without being able to express this great gift. I simply cannot believe that this was a mandate from Christ. Our Protestant brothers and sisters have married women and men as wonderful, supportive pastors. What prideful arrogance our hierarchy has been guilty of! How overwhelmingly powerful the hegemony of certain men who have made a career of their “priesthood” to satisfy themselves, feel the power, and prey upon the flock they led us to believe mattered to them. How dare this Church! WE the people, out there in the pews, on the chairs, must rise up in revolt against this sickening culture. WE have the power. It is OUR church. Men and women alike who have so loved and believed in the Eucharistic Celebration, who take it as our gift, our calling, to be the Body of Christ, we must have a voice, we must play a role in the changes which have to take place. It is sickening to hear one more statement of guilt, of promise of prosecution of the guilty, of grief for and monetary support for the victims, if our hierarchy is not willing to go much deeper and be willing to fall from the many pedestals of power. I salute the many fine priests who have done their best to live up to the strenuous call of their chosen vocation. Many have loved us, have cared for us, have witnessed to us their magnificent spirituality, and truly have brought us closer to Christ. I weep for them, who must suffer this undeserved humiliation.

      4. Amen — structures need to be changed. I appreciate the dedication that people can give without trying to manage family or partners, but my family, spouse, and close friends give me strength and depth of understanding that is invaluable. Families do require time and attention, but they build stronger people who can understand the reality that people face. Optional celibacy provides a path for those who want to be committed to a single life, which is wonderful, but it also provides a path for those who have families or partners to bring their skills and insight into ministry.
        The time has come! Let’s not demonize different positions, but find a common path forward to build God’s kingdom.

      5. Thank you, Margaret, for so eloquently speaking what many of us feel. I am starting to believe that the only way radical change will occur is when the money stops flowing in and the pews empty out. That is the only thing that will speak to the dysfunctional and power-grabbing hierarchy. I can no longer go to mass knowing that I am supporting such a corrupt institution by my presence. I am disgusted by the hypocrisy and the fact that these men are not being held accountable. Those who were/are complicit in the abuse and cover up should be in jail.

  1. Scipture passages in the Old Testmant speak about the process of purifying Israel. Indeed, they point to getting at the very root of the problem. In 2002 the Boston Globe broke the story of what was transpiring in the Church. While many efforts were made to address a situation that had long been known before the story in the Globe, the most recent 2018 uncovering indicates that the Church most go much deeper to truly be cleansed of these evil sins.

  2. Does Pax Christi envision a dialogue that can possibly lead to some healing and reconciliation involving honest and open conversation about the systemic violence at play in the patriarchal institutional Church? In particular, does Pax Christi envision conversation that includes discussion about the very real possibility that the Holy Spirit is inviting the Church to reevaluate AND actively change gender and celibacy requirements for ordination into the priesthood?

  3. This is an answer to my feelings. Last Sunday our pastor talked to the Spanish Mass congregation to which I belong, about the situation that you describe in this article. His message was not very clear (at least not for me). He talked about the need to forgive and to ask forgiveness, never about the responsibility of the Church as an institution and the ministers that govern it – bishops, cardinals, even the Pope, and about our responsibility to denounce to authorities whenever we learn about any one complaining about this atrocities. I was very upset and angry as I felt that the homily was not honest and was directed to people who knew very little.

  4. I have tears in my eyes reading your beautiful statement. The anger I was holding in my heart is gone. Thank you, Pax Christi, for all you have done and are doing to bring peace and justice to us all. God bless you.

  5. Thank you for your awareness, compassion, & having the integrity to speak out. We, the people, have been
    betrayed by many institutions. The Church is only one. Many Catholics have deeply inspired me yet I have
    trouble with the Church due to much of its history (e.g. Inquisition). I have to remember that the Church is a
    social institution created by man. My faith is in God.

  6. Many decades ago, I left the convent because our mother superior was sexually abusing young nuns. I failed to succeed in getting any reply to my concerns from the diocese or the Vatican. Please recognize that sexual abuse in the Catholic Church goes beyond the local parish priest.

  7. I want to recommend reading a book to all those who are suffering because of the sexual abuse in the Catholic Church; The book is called, “My Heart Will Triumph”, written by Mirjna Soldo, one of the visionaries of Medugorje who is still receiving monthly appartitions on the 2nd of every month and on the 18th of March.
    She says that Our Lady has taught us that the blessing of Jesus only comes through a priest. “Their hands are blessed by my Son,” she said, and she often repeats that our priests do not need our judgment; they need our prayers. God will judge priests on how well they carried out their missions, and He will judge us on how well we treated them.
    We have this time that we are living now, and we have the time of the triumph of Our Lady’s heart. Between these two times we have a bridge, and that bridge is our priests. Our Lady continually asks us to pray for our shepherds, as she calls them, because the bridge needs to be strong enough for all of us to cross it to the time of triumph. On her message of Oct 20, 2010, she said, “Only alongside your shepherds will my heart triumph.”
    At this moment, according to Our Lady, we are living in a time of grace. God is love. Jesus is love incarnate. The Blessed Mother leads us to love, and everythig happening in Medugorje today originates in that love.
    All those priests who succumbed to temptation and sinned terribly need our prayers as much as their victims. We must forgive them if God is to forgive us our own sins. It is not up to us to judge.
    We are the body of Christ and the church is a place for us to gather in community to pray together and receive Jesus in Holy Communion. Those priests are lost souls and need our prayers now more than ever.
    My heart and prayers go out to all those who have been hurt. I pray that they know the love of God and have not lost their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. God Bless.

  8. The Church must report offenders to civil authorities immediately upon receiving information of their sexually abusive behavior. Failure to do this should result in civil penalties for the leaders who have failed to act properly. This behavior needs to be dealt with in the public legal arena as this crime involves breaking the law. However the Church chooses to punish abusers within its ranks is separate from the mandated civil course of action. This is the first call of justice.

  9. At the very least, I am aware of a small parish in a medium size town in south east France where since at least, the end of WW 2, it was common knowledge that very few but, some Priests were deviant, however the congregation did nothing for decades.
    I suspect that overall many congregations over the centuries chose to close their eyes.
    While very few Priest perpetrated, many congregations did nothing, until now.
    What surfaces today has been centuries in the making. Congregations should also take some responsibility.
    The above Pax Christi suggested conversations will bring the Good both out of the Priests and the Flock they shepherd.
    Jacques.

  10. In 1962 I was born in a Catholic country. 89% of Austrians were born into Catholicism…
    I didn’t choose it ….it chose me.
    As a Catholic this is no time to wallow in our own shock and disgust. The men who perpetrated these unspeakable crimes depended on them to remain unspeakable. We must empower all who have been affected to come forward and be counted and relieved of the burden they have carried in silence and with great shame. For those we shall stay…with them we will pray. Sadly this is only the beginning….only one diocese among so many.

  11. As non-ordained people of God, I am wondering if it would be useful for a large number of us to develop and issue a petition to our past and current Bishops and Order Generals in the United States asking each of them to reflect individually on their role with people that abused others sexually knowing that God is our eternal Judge. For those in authority who have withheld information about people that have committed abuses or abused people themselves, they should go to a priest functioning outside their diocese to confess their sins, receive a significant penance (suggestions could be provided in the petition), and then immediately submit their resignation to the Vatican and turn themselves over to the District Attorney in their jurisdiction that deals with personal abuse cases. Responsibilities of the resigning Bishop could be given to the vicar general of the diocese or second in charge of the Order until a new Bishop or Order General is named.

    Concurrently with this process, the Vatican and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops should start an evaluation to identify the sources of this horror and implement ways to prevent future occurrences. Involvement by non-ordained people of God in efforts such as parish pastor selection and seminarian formation is one type of action that could help prevent future occurrences.

    I do not see any other way to re-establish moral integrity and accountability and to communicate to all that the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church put people ahead of their institution.

  12. Elephant in the Room-Clergy Sexual Abuse

    As I entered Christ of the Desert Catholic Chapel last Sunday, a woman who was deeply disturbed by the recent clergy sexual abuse revelations cornered me.

    She asked me “Why don’t they allow priests to marry?” I would imagine that this question is on the minds of many who are struggling to understand this scandal. The implication is, that if celibacy were optional, incidents of sexual abuse would be greatly reduced.

    Like her, many continue to be struck by the absence of a serious public discussion as to what extent did the requirement of mandatory celibacy contribute to the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.

    Therefore, I would like to share my reflections on the need to restore optional celibacy for the Roman Catholic Priesthood in the Latin Rite. I invite others to do the same.

    I am writing this as a retired married Roman Catholic Priest. I am now 88 and deeply saddened and embarrassed by the recently reports of sexual abuse by some priests in Pennsylvania going back over 70 years. I had gone through the same emotions in 2002 when similar reports came out of the Archdiocese of Boston.

    Let me start by stating that I attended two Catholic Seminaries over a period of 12 years. I began my journey to Ordination in 1944 at age 14 when I enrolled in the Junior Seminary of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

    In the sixth grade I had read the book MEN OF MARYKNOLL by Father James Keller. This book painted a romantic picture of young American men who enrolled in the MARYKNOLL seminary to become missionaries in China and Africa. While reading the accounts of these brave heroic men, I first heard a calling to the priesthood.

    At the time, I gave little or no thought to the requirement of mandatory celibacy. My goal was to become a Priest/Missionary.

    On April 25, 1956 I was ordained by Cardinal McIntyre.

    For the next 15 years, my ministry took me to five large parishes in Southern California. During that time, I was very much a part of a Clerical culture that included the avoidance of scandal. Even my mother was not allowed to ride in the front seat when we were out together.

    I can honestly say that during that time, I was unaware of any cases of child sexual abuse by priests. It was true that I was aware of alcoholic addiction by some of my fellow clergy. So when a priest was removed from a parish and sent to a treatment center, it was assumed it was for treatment of his alcoholic addiction.

    Starting in 1968, I became aware of another calling, that of adding love and marriage to my priesthood. I spent the next two years in discernment of this calling. It was a painful period for both my future wife and myself.

    On October 10 of 1970, I answered a new calling and added love and marriage to my priesthood. On March 13, 1973 our first child was born, the first of five. As a new parent I was overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility I had not experienced as a celibate priest. Keeping our children safe made me very aware of possible abuse they might experience from a teacher, coach, babysitter or other trusted adult.

    I am not saying that allowing priests to be married (or for that matter, ordaining women to the priesthood) is the total answer to clergy sexual abuse crisis. However, I do think optional celibacy is one step in the right direction and Church authorities should welcome full dialogue from the laity, married and celibate priests.

    Please share your thoughts on this most sensitive subject.

    Father Charlie Ara, retired Catholic priest.

    He can be reached at cara@sprintmail.com

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