Posts Tagged clericalism

Following bishops’ spring meeting, Voice of the Faithful echoes calls for mandatory civil reporting and lay involvement in bishop accountability

BOSTON, Mass., June 18, 2019 – The 2019 U.S. Bishops’ spring assembly left Voice of the Faithful and concerned Catholics across America with a nagging sense of déjà vu. Once again, the plan for resolving the Church’s lengthy, widespread child abuse and cover-up scandal is for bishops to hold their fellow bishops accountable. This is the best they could do nearly 35 years after Jason Berry’s reporting on horrendous abuse in Louisiana and Fr. Tom Doyle’s comprehensive report on the extent and potential repercussions of Catholic clergy abuse.

Over the past three and a half decades, time and again, when clerical transgressions were brought to light by others, bishops apologized and promised reform. The reform attempted at this latest bishops meeting has left bishops monitoring other bishops, controlling reports to lay boards and establishing themselves as final arbiters when abuse is reported. It has left us still waiting for substantive actions that could signal real reform. Here are two:

  • mandatory reporting of abuse allegations to civil authorities, even where state law does not require it, as Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski emphasized during the bishops’ meeting; and
  • mandatory lay involvement in bishop accountability, without which, as the bishops’ National Review Board Chairman Francesco Cesareo has said, a culture of self-preservation would continue that suggests complicity.

For arguably good reasons, Pope Francis in his recent Vos estis lux mundi did not require either of these actions, only suggested them, while requiring that bishops’ transgressions be reported within the Church and investigated by other bishops. This is a variation of the medieval court system where only clerics were allowed to judge other clerics and not a step forward.

At their meeting, U.S. bishops adopted the metropolitan model suggested by Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich wherein a metropolitan archbishop, a largely ceremonial role, would be in charge of investigating bishops within his province. But without mandatory reporting to police and mandatory lay involvement, the faithful can only hope that the bishop involved will investigate properly—investigative work that is not covered in any catechism or theology course.

VOTF agrees with canon lawyer and former National Review Board chairman Nicholas Cafardi, who has been quoted, “The system really perpetuates clericalism, which is something Pope Francis has criticized in other situations—the idea that priests exist on a different level than lay people and bishops exist on a different level than priests, and that’s by divine origin and you can’t even talk about changing it.”

Although several bishops during their spring meeting spoke in favor of mandatory reporting and mandatory lay involvement, they did not carry the day. This underscores the necessity for Lay Catholics to continue the drumbeat for reform and repeatedly ask their bishops to lobby their brothers and the Pope for whatever is needed for real reform, whether papal edicts or changes in canon law.


Voice of the Faithful Statement, June 18, 2019
Contact: 
Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org(link sends e-mail), 781-559-3360
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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Priest and lay reform organizations take on clerical culture


Pope Francis has repeatedly called out the clerical culture’s danger to the Catholic Church and its faithful, for example, calling clericalism “our ugliest perversion.” Now a nationwide Catholic priests’ organization and two international lay reform groups have developed the BridgeDialogues: Laity & Clergy re-Imagining Church Together to show Catholics what they can do to recognize and prevent this perversion which blocks the laity from achieving their full potential in the Church.

Clericalism has been defined in various ways. In a 2011 report criticizing the Church’s “Study of the Causes and Context of the Sexual Abuse Crisis,” VOTF defined clericalism as “an overriding set of beliefs and behaviors in which the clergy view themselves as different, separate, and exempt from the norms, rules and consequences that apply to everyone else in society.” As the Pope has said, “Clerics feel they are superior, they are far from the people,” and clericalism “can be fostered by priests or by lay people” where the laity show clergy excessive deference because they assume the clergy are morally superior.

The BridgeDialogues is a collaborative effort of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, FutureChurch, and Voice of the Faithful. They offer:

  • prompts for opening up discussions addressing clericalism, including topics such as the subtle ways that language and pastoral relationships can feed clericalism;
  • examples of how you experience clericalism barriers and what you can do about them;
  • tips for how you can guard against clericalism in your own behaviors, while removing the barriers others may use to hold you on “your side” of the lay/clergy divide.

The BridgeDialogues’ many resources are available online at bridgedialogues.org.

Deborah Rose-Milavec, FutureChurch executive director, said, “Although some form of clerical culture will always be with us as long as we make distinctions between priests and laity, we can all work together to reduce its deleterious effects. The BridgeDialogues provides the resources to begin a dialogue in your parish or community to look at the subtle ways that language and pastoral relationships can feed clericalism and how all Catholics experience those barriers.”

Donna B. Doucette, VOTF executive director, added, “We must make ourselves, priests and laity, aware of a clerical culture that has so many damaging consequences. Many Catholics are unaware of how embedded those effects are. Priests typically live aside and apart from the people they should serve—they are culturally and often physically far removed from the realities of the communities that surround them. Yet instead of trying to bridge the separation, too often lay people contribute to it. And some priests, of course, often don’t realize it should be bridged.”

Said AUSCP member Louis Arceneaux, a priest of the Congregation of the Mission living in New Orleans, “For our wounded Church to grow, we need organizations of women and men, of laity and clergy, to minister together. As an AUSCP member, I am delighted to be working with FutureChurch and Voice of the Faithful in promoting the BridgeDialogues, which affords me personally and our association a wonderful opportunity to be part of an important priests/laity collaboration.”



Association of U.S. Catholic Priests
(Contact: Louis Arceneaux, louiearceneaux66@gmail.com)
AUSCP serves the People of God in parishes and other ministries. We seek to add a priest’s voice to the public conversation within our pilgrim church, among bishops and lay persons, vowed religious, ordained deacons and others. Our concerns are your concerns: good liturgy, social justice, the role of women in our church, immigration policies that reflect Gospel values, the dignity of all human lives, and a Church that welcomes all the People of God. Our mission is to be an association of U.S. Catholic priests offering mutual support and a collegial voice through dialogue, contemplation and prophetic action on issues affecting Church and society. Our vision is to be a Priest’s Voice of Hope and Joy within our Pilgrim Church. More information is at uscatholicpriests.org.


FutureChurch
(Contact: Deborah Rose-Milavec, Executive Director, debrose@futurchurch.org)
FutureChurch’s mission is to seek changes that will provide all Roman Catholics the opportunity to participate fully in Church life, ministry, and governance. FutureChurch works for just, open and collaborative structures for Catholic worship, organization and governance; a return to the Church’s early tradition of both married and celibate priests; a return to the Church’s earliest tradition, modeled on the inclusive practice of Jesus, of recognizing both female and male leaders of faith communities; and regular access to the Eucharist, the center of Catholic life and worship, for all Catholics. FutureChurch’s activities grow from a spirituality based on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Eucharist, the Spirit-filled beliefs of the faithful, and the teachings of Vatican II. More information is at futurechurch.org.

 

VOTF Logo
Voice of the Faithful®
(Contact: Donna B. Doucette, Executive Director, dbdoucette@votf.org)
Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in reforming administrative structures that have failed. VOTF’s mission is to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church. More information is at votf.org.

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What do the Church’s victims deserve? / The New Yorker

The Catholic Church is turning to outside arbiters to reckon with its history of sexual abuse. But skeptics argue that its legacy of evasion continues. (the New Yorker)

Like many Catholics, I wonder whether this story will ever be over and whether things will ever be set right.

“Often called a crisis, the problem is more enduring and more comprehensive than that. Social scientists report that the gravest period of priestly sexual abuse was the sixties and seventies, and the problem has been in public view for the past three and a half decades. For most American Catholics, then, the fact of sexual abuse by priests and its coverup by bishops has long been an everyday reality.

“Priestly sexual abuse has directly harmed thousands of Catholics, spoiling their sense of sexuality, of intimacy, of trust, of faith. Indirectly, the pattern of abuse and coverup has made Catholics leery of priests and disdainful of the idea that the bishops are our ‘shepherds.’ It has muddled questions about Church doctrine concerning sexual orientation, the nature of the priesthood, and the role of women; it has hastened the decline of Catholic schooling and the shuttering of churches.

“Attorneys general in more than a dozen states are investigating the Church and its handling of sexual-abuse allegations. In February, New York State loosened its statute of limitations for sex crimes, long the Church’s bulwark against abuse claims. And that is just in the United States. Priestly sexual abuse has had grave effects around the world, including in Rome, where the three most recent Popes have been implicated in the institutional habits of concealment or inaction, and where Pope Francis has yet to find his voice on the problem …

“In all of this, a distinctly American solution to the problem has emerged—the commissioning of an independent, secular authority to arrange settlements between the Church and survivors of abuse. This strategy has been taken up by an unlikely advocate: Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, and a traditionalist who generally relishes defending the Church against its adversaries.”

By Paul Elie, The New Yorker — Read more …

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New report addresses church’s ‘twin crises’ of sex abuse, leadership failure / National Catholic Reporter

The report comes five days after the conclusion of the global summit on sexual abuse Pope Francis held at the Vatican and a month after Leadership Roundtable hosted its own two-day meeting on the clergy sexual abuse crisis. (National Catholic Reporter)

Just days after the close of the Vatican abuse summit, a prominent U.S. Catholic group has released wide-ranging recommendations to address what it calls the ‘twin crises’ of sexual abuse and leadership failures in the church.

“The recommendations were part of a report Friday (Mar. 1) from the Leadership Roundtable, a coalition of laity, religious and clergy to promote best practices in church management. The proposals are aimed simultaneously at reforming the structures and the clerical culture that permitted sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults to persist and go unreported for decades.

“Among the report’s more than 50 recommendations is to place bishops under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, also known as the Dallas Charter, and strengthen its audit process, as well as …”

By Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Editorial: The Lessons of Opus Dei Fr. McCloskey’s Downfall / National Catholic Reporter

It is, indeed, the clergy culture that is at the heart of the church’s problems. It is in dire need of radical reform.

“It is time for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to issue a standard sign to be posted in every chancery office in the country, just outside the bishop’s door, reading:

“IT’S THE CLERICAL CULTURE!

“It is time to be done with the breathless wonderment at whatever new revelations show one more holy and wonderful priest has been, in a hidden life, abusive of children, or women, or seminarians, or just a liar about what he knew or didn’t know, did or didn’t do.

Opus Dei priest Fr. C. John McCloskey III, for whom the prelature paid a $977,000 settlement to a woman who accused him of sexual misconduct, is the latest to cause former associates and friends to go all aflutter with ‘How could he have?’ And ‘How did we not know?’ And ‘Why didn’t those who did know speak up?’ And ‘How could someone like that also do so much good?’

“The answers to the other questions reside primarily in understanding the culture in which all of those actors, McCloskey included, operated: the Catholic clerical culture. It is highly secretive, highly privileged, believed to be distinctive from the rest of human kind, allegedly celibate and, until recently, enjoying from members of the Catholic community as well as from civil authority in this country a level of deference that is normally reserved for the highly privileged.”

By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff — Read more …

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Curb the crisis: 10 essential lessons for investigating church leaders / National Catholic Reporter

Based on my many years of supervising and teaching how to do complex investigations, and having closely followed the investigation of (former St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John) Nienstedt and conduct related to it, I have identified 10 of the most important lessons to be learned from the initial success and then ultimate failures surrounding that investigation. (National Catholic Reporter)

“The Catholic Church is in serious and deepening crisis, primarily as a result of grave sins and failed leadership involving clergy sexual misconduct. This tragedy is most recently exemplified by the alleged abusive, long-standing behavior of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. In order for the church in the United States to determine and learn from how it failed to address McCarrick’s decades of alleged misconduct, new guidelines and procedures must be established and implemented for investigating him and any high-ranking church leader.

“For the last five years, the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese has grappled with this challenge, having had to investigate its former Archbishop John Nienstedt for alleged personal sexual misconduct and failed leadership involving abuse by other clergy.

“Many painful lessons were learned from that investigation, which was prematurely terminated and never resumed. Egregious clergy abuse by an archdiocesan priest and the failed leadership that permitted that abuse to occur ultimately led to criminal charges being filed against the archdiocese and Nienstedt’s abrupt resignation. Those lessons should be examined and heeded by every American cardinal, archbishop and bishop to avoid their repetition elsewhere …

“Based on my many years of supervising and teaching how to do complex investigations, and having closely followed the investigation of Nienstedt and conduct related to it, I have identified 10 of the most important lessons to be learned from the initial success and then ultimate failures surrounding that investigation.”

By Hank Shea, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Failure at the top / The Boston Globe

American bishops promised reform after the clergy sexual abuse scandal exploded in Boston. But they largely ignored the misdeeds of one group: themselves. (The Boston Globe)

Bishop Robert Finn wasn’t going anywhere.

“He never alerted authorities about photos of young girls’ genitals stashed on a pastor’s laptop. He kept parishioners in the dark, letting the priest mingle with children and families. Even after a judge found the bishop guilty of failing to report the priest’s suspected child abuse — and after 200,000 people petitioned for his ouster — he refused to go.

“‘I got this job from John Paul II. There’s his signature right there,’ Finn had told a prospective deacon shortly after the priest’s arrest in 2011, pointing to the late pontiff’s photo. ‘And that’s who I answer to.’

“Sixteen years after the clergy sexual abuse crisis exploded in Boston, the American Catholic Church is again mired in scandal. This time, the controversy is propelled not so much by priests in the rectories as by the leadership, bishops across the country who like Finn have enabled sexual misconduct or in some cases committed it themselves.

“More than 130 US bishops — or nearly one-third of those still living — have been accused during their careers of failing to adequately respond to sexual misconduct in their dioceses, according to a Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer examination of court records, media reports, and interviews with church officials, victims, and attorneys …”

By By Jenn Abelson, Thomas Farragher of the Globe Staff, Jeremy Roebuck, Julia Terruso and William Bender of the Philadelphia Inquirer Staff — Read more …

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