Our Great Commission: The Call of the Laity to Holiness & Reform in Times of Scandal

By Timothy R. Busch, Founder of the Napa Institute
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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 jmeyer@napa-institute.org. 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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I am stunned yet again about the magnitude of the flaims against many if our so called church leaders. I too am feeling a sort of frozen in time feeling and cant help but think if I feel this way there must be more Catholics and many others who do, so what now? There certainly is not a lack of hope because it is bred into Catholics but the feeling of dread is like a pet for me right now, trying to nurse it as its moaning. Its a personal feeling of constantly looking over the shoulder and being prepared to say “yes! The church is in reformation!,” I notice it isnt even a hushed topic at work. Im tired of reading how we are going thru another reformation, thats not going to work marketing-wise this time. The church firstly needs to hire a marketin firm-a good one, to start a worldccampaign esp fir the billion catholics who are waiting, Like any other major business would, not to say we are sorry (sign of the cross) but to say catholics are outraged and want to hear from the pervs who tried to use the church! I was always told the devil is closest to where God resides...so what? God is more powerful. Heres a campaign logo idea: We need an Arch Angel Michael at our gate again but here on earth! I do feel non Catholics feel like I do however and they,,too, are wondering how this or if this will all come to rest. I feel a sense of longing to hear the Church is taking dramatic action, but what action? Should we open the very bandaged scab and nationally expose the leaders whove brought such shame to our name? To ask or tell them to show their faces and ask those who have experienced mistreatment who has not to come forward and be heard? I feel thus time the church should do something dramatic like fall to the knees and publically make the torturous leaders involved to step up and talk about who they are and why they did what they did and why they chose the church I mean there must be a reason. Couldbit be because the church doesnt have the guts to raise a sword and say off with your presence? Why the coverup,,why must we wait any longer to see how the church will react? I vote to bring the bandage off so this can heal properly. God does not want wimp s! He needs soldiers and i feel this is the time for our churcvto open up and come out if the closet and say outloud tobthecworld that we as Catholics are the FIRST to step up and announce how disgusted we are of many past leaders and we wont stand for it but cherish iur faith! One way to act may be to announce one address anyone can write to, write , forget the internet, (ive been in business 40 years so hear me out, i know info tech) announce one an address on national television and ask everyone to write a postcard (nothing else accepted) who has any idea how they would like the church leaders to handle this situation and start reading. Im sure there will be an outpour and maybe a national phenominon will happen like our precious last Pope did when he visited the States,,the amazing turnout in the streets of those who clearly love our church.

Mr Meyer - my brother Augie forwarded the above letter by Timothy Busch. I agree with it wholeheartedly. Having grown up in Pittsburgh, attended a Catholic School, choir, altar boy and so on, I've been deeply affected by the PA grand jury report. The section on the Pittsburgh diocese had me in tears...these were the parishes I was familiar with growing up during the 60's and 70's. All of it has hit "too close to home". Our bishop here in Denver sent a letter throughout the diocese. Pope Francis of course, did the same. Regrettably, both mean very little to me. I felt compelled to visit with one of our parish priests after Mass recently to share my deep distress in person. Finding the words to write a letter to our Bishop proved to be impossible. In tears, I shared how my faith has been badly shaken. I shared the same with our deacon recently as well. (as he compassionately listened, he shared with me that the priest who married him and baptized his children is now doing time...and that it took him over a week to get his wife back up off of the floor!) In response to the above mentioned letter, my wife and I feel very strongly that words from the Catholic hierarchy no longer suffice. Our pain is too deep, our trust and faith in them (not Jesus) are badly shaken. My wife hasn't been to Mass in over a month! We're looking for action. I'm sure many at the Napa Institute share the same feelings. I'd be interested in learning how and what the Institute intends to do to help create action from the current hierarchy. Thank you for the opportunity to share - prayers and peace. Dan (and Andrea) Turak Greenwood Village, CO

How can I help the Napa Institute and EWTN and any others among lay organizations that you recommend undertake the renewal necessary for our Church? May I be on your email list to stay informed? God bless, Jeannette Feeheley Benzie County, Michigan

I think you have hit on something that needs to be emphasized and, at this point, our priests and bishops are not in the best position to address this issue. The laity has a part in all of this vulgarity. Marriage and the priesthood are connected and woven together necessarily and Providentially. We, in the pews, must examine ourselves and shed some light on our own sins as we call for our priests and bishops to do the same. As the priests and bishops were failing, the people in the pews were also making horrible choices. Premarital sexual relations, the use of contraceptives inside the bonds of marriage, the abortion of children, physical and emotional spousal abuse, adultery, neglect in the formation of our children in the Faith, divorce and remarriage, inappropriate demands for annulments and the list goes on. The Mystical Body was weakened by our poor choices as well as the horrific behavior of our leadership. There is a lot of work to be done across the board. Personally I think the priority is to make sure that the victims of sexual assault receive the care they require, if that is even possible. Then we need to open ourselves to the mercy of God. Our Blessed Lord is perfectly merciful while we are on this side of heaven. He is also perfectly just when we enter into our eternity. Each of these fallen priests and bishops and cardinals who are not reconciled to our Lord's endless mercy, are a tragic loss to the Mystical Body. Their lack of contrition is diabolical and threatens the spiritual well being of the Church. It is for this reason we all need accountability from them. But, we must walk that walk too and make use of the sacrament of confession. I do not know what the vehicle for change is going to be. How do we clean up the pews while we are pushing to clean up the leadership in the Church? Blessed Mother, hear our prayers and raise up for us holy leaders whom we can trust. Humble our hearts so we can hear clearly the voice of your Son who is calling us to reconcile with our Father!

I am unable to attend the conference. How can I access the proceedings?

I wonder at the reason you do not comment on the fact that predatory acts are criminal unless participated in by consenting adults and should be thusly reported to civil authority. I know this has been done in many incidents, but is that always the case? I applaud your efforts to remind us as laity of our responsibilities in the Church. We have too long been intimidated as to these and of voicing our our concerns. It is time for openness and collaboration among the faithful in their parishes and dioceses. It is time for accountability going both ways ie. Bishops having open forums with parishes and the process of evaluating parish priests and pastors. Time for going back to the foundation of the Church when ALL were an important part and ALL valued. I would welcome your response.

I agree whole heartedly with your perspective and suggestions for the Laity to step up and play a role in addressing the scandals facing the Church. Emphasis should be placed on prevention not on the sins of the past which have and are being addressed. My son Chris works for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver (RCAV) and attended your recent conference. His account of it was very positive. I’m semi retired but am actively involved as a volunteer to RCAV regarding their capital projects and fund raising. Archbishop Michael Miller is like many of his counter parts addressing the the problem head on. I pray for all Church leaders to persevere and overcome this evil that afflicts some of our priests, bishops and cardinals. We are blessed to have Francis as our Pope during this tumultuous time.

Can you please respond to the article by Ron dreher regarding the involvement of archbishop John neinstedt with the institute. Thanks


Yes! This is precisely what is needed and I applaud Tim Busch for taking charge. It is what Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Albany has also said … that it is now time for the lay faithful instead of bishops to investigate the handling of sexual misconduct: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/bishop-tells-cardinal-wuerl-bishops-alone-investigating-bishops-is-not-the.

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I believe we can make a contribution to your Conference: Adolescence is a time of identity formation, of separating from parents, of forming life goals. We have found that the Socratic method of guided experiential learning of their fertility biomarkers teaches teens to discover, understand and value their sexuality and fertility as their bodies begin pubertal changes. Once teens understand the language of their bodies they "own" their womanhood or manhood and explore the emotional, social, cognitive and spiritual aspects and implications of possessing the power to procreate on any relationship. They understand that the body has its own truth and dignity drawn ultimately from the fact the the Second Person of the Trinity chose to assume a body - to become one of us. Our program, Teen STAR - Sexuality Teaching in the context of Adult Responsibility, requires parental consent for any minor's participation, and has developmentally appropriate curricula for early, middle and late adolescents. We monitor behavioral outcomes at the end of the six month- course and 2 and 3 years later. Since 1980 Teen STAR has demonstrated consistent support for remaining chaste by over 90% of virgins while different cohorts showed stopping of sexual activity by one to two thirds of teens who had already begun sexual activity. These outcomes come from the US, France, Chile, Poland, Ethiopia and Uganda. Firmly establishing one's gender identity via experiential learning of one's fertility biomarker helps dispel the gender confusion of many adolescents who may otherwise be led into psychological and morally damaging behavioral paths. It is also remote preparation for marriage. If we can train more Teen STAR teachers far more youngsters will not embrace the contraceptive mentality. More information can be found on our website and in the July 9 Catholic News Service article: http://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2018/nun-physician-has-spent-much-of-her-life-educating-young-people-about-nfp.cfm S. Hanna Klaus, M.D.

Thank you from the bottom of my aching heart for this strong statement and call to action, including prayer. I am anxious to see a number of things happen to defeat the abominable problem but promises of new policies and meetings by November are not among them (the approach by the USCCB). I believe Cardinal DiNardo means well, but the old paradigm must change and now. I will pray about what solid actions I can suggest and assist with myself and let you know. Again, my deepest thanks.

Please immediately add my contact info to your e mail list so that I may receive any and all follow ups of this communication. I definitely want all details concerning this upcoming first conference on OUR lay response to the world wide scandal.

I think it is imperative that we look into what is being taught at Catholic universities throughout our country. My son is attending a Catholic university in the Fall and I was so disturbed by something that I received from them today. It was a benign email from the Office of Alumni Relations that included a survey meant to gather information about activities that may interest alumni and parents of current students. No big deal, except that the last question asked me to indicate if I identified as being a homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, etc (there were more - I just can't remember them). Why is this information necessary? And why is a Catholic university interested in gathering it? To me it should only matter that we share an interest in the university and hopefully, our Catholic faith. I bring this up because normalizing and celebrating homosexuality (the university also posted something celebrating gay pride on Instagram), is very confusing to the laity, especially the young who are being formed in their faith. And where does this attitude come from? The ones who run the universities and who hold the title of 'Father'. There is something going on in the formation of priests and their attitudes toward homosexuality. Our church has some major reconciling to do, and we, the laity need to demand it.

Good for you Tim. There is an old expression in military affairs that war is too important to be left to the Generals. One could apply that to the Church too. The universal Church belongs to all of us and lay leaders with vast experience in institution building and management need to be heard....and to lead too a partners with the clergy.

This is an interesting article as it alludes to a fundamental problem in church hierarchy. The greatest struggle we all share in life is self regulation and we rebel when our cheese is moved - this is natural. The difficulty facing church hierarchy is that it is unable to see itself as the problem and consequently is unable to regulate itself. This scandal and others that are surfacing all over the world exposes a malignancy that becomes a major threat to our church. We experienced something similar, but smaller, at the beginning of this century, which has virtually gutted the parishes of the North and Northeast. Church hierarchy as we know it is essentially the same as it was following upon the Reformation, when most of the laity were illiterate and the church itself was the center of learning. How could this management style be appropriate in the world of today? Yet we are an unusual body as unlike all earthly organizations we propose a spiritual existence whose attention should be focused upon God and our neighbor, with our rules of management based upon love, not law. To create the kind of world that Christ seeks, a Christian world, where we - all of us, become the light that is so often quoted we should consider the formation of the early church where all mature members were considered. Here are three human factors that grate against the nature of the laity, on a continual basis, which causes so many to vote with their feet. * Failure to communicate: How many time have we sought spiritual guidance from the pulpit during times of societal crisis, only to be left with silence. * Taxation without representation: The church has now given out billions of dollars in compensation and legal fees in an effort to quell these sexual scandals, every dime of which is contributed by the laity. How much has been withheld by a disenchanted laity - we will never know. * No stock in trade: Every parish has a parish council - to advise, but has no teeth. The situation has grown even worse with bishops centralizing more and more power to themselves. All of these attributes and more alienate the faithful from the source of our spiritual fountain. To be blunt, our administration is either ancient and majestic or socialist and dictatorial. Instead of a top down hierarchy we need to consider a bottom up church. In the thirteenth century God asked Francis of Assisi to rebuild his church. We need to re-examine that message.

Thank you for your leadership i this grave matter, I am very concerned and believe that we do need to stand up Thank you

Great Initiative Tim. Hope I can contribute to the cause.

Thank you for sending this out. We are praying.