I, like many of you, have been disheartened by the unfolding scandal regarding now Archbishop Theodore McCarrick – a scandal we thought had been sufficiently handled in 2002 with the implementation of the Dallas Charter, which adopted a zero tolerance policy for sexual indiscretions with minors by priests and deacons. (It has come to light that Archbishop McCarrick removed the term “cleric” so as to exempt Bishops and Cardinals, and in turn himself, from responsibility). And yet the sins of the past continue to creep forward.
In a statement released yesterday by Cardinal DiNardo, President of the USCCB on the Course of Action Responding to the Moral Failures of Judgement on the Part of Church Leaders, he mentions “The way forward must involve learning from past sins” and rightly acknowledges that the Bishops must “recognize that a spiritual conversion is needed as we seek to restore the right relationship among us and with the Lord.” I applaud him, and other Bishops who have made public statements in the previous weeks committing to transparency and rebuilding trust among their flock.
However, it is also our responsibility, as the lay faithful, to accept our part bestowed on us by virtue of our Baptism to participate fully in the Body of Christ. According to Canon Law on the Obligations and Rights of All the Christian Faithful we “have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors our opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make our opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.” (Canon 212 §3)
The rejection of Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae by so many in the Church, including at its highest levels, has come to fruition. It is time we demand sound teaching and the action of every Catholic, Lay and Ordained. It is only then that we will begin to restore trust in God’s Church and all Catholic Institutions that provide so much good.
It has been the aim of the Napa Institute, since its inception in 2010, to gather together the faithful with a focus on sound catechesis, deep spiritual renewal, and camaraderie. As such, I, and the Napa Institute team, are committed to gathering with other Lay leaders to chart a new way forward and to hold accountable all leadership within the Church, both lay and ordained. We must insist on a new governance to avoid further or repeated scandal.
In the coming weeks we will be turning our attention toward the appropriate and authentic response to the reform necessary in the Church. As part of this effort, we are committed to hosting conferences on the topic of authentic reform and the universal call to holiness.
It is important to remember that, although this terrible situation apparently went on without appropriate resolution, there are many Church leaders who have acted swiftly to resolve other situations of indiscretion, expeditiously dismissing guilty parties from ministry. We must not turn a blind eye to the guilt of those who are responsible for allowing this situation to continue, but at the same time we must not give in to despair and must not indiscriminately lump all Church leaders together in blame.
I ask you to join me in constant prayer for all of those who have been victimized by the failure of our leaders, for the lay faithful to grow in strength and holiness as we work together to renew the Church, and for the Church hierarchy to find the courage to root out every sin and restore truth, beauty, and goodness to the Church. I predict this will be the beginning of a new period of Church reformation and spiritual renewal.
If you have constructive ideas of how we can act please reach out to our Executive Director John Meyer at email@example.com. Please look for our emails and website for further updates, including a conference on this matter which we will convene in the next two months.
St. Theresa of Avila, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Ignatius, St. Thomas More, and all Saints of authentic reform, Ora Pro Nobis.
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Originally published in USA Today.