To Members of the Planning Committee for the Clerical Sex Abuse Conference called by Pope Francis:
Reverend Hans Zollner, Germany
Cardinal Blase Cupich, Chicago, U.S.A.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Mumbai, India
Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, Malta
The ongoing worldwide scandal of clergy sexual abuse and cover-up dramatically affects all of God’s people. Sexual abuse of any kind is a crime which must be reported and dealt with by civil authorities so that justice can truly be served. Healing the spiritual wounds suffered by victims of abuse requires that Church authorities listen with the heart of Christ if the Church is to heal this wound to the Body of Christ. Pope Francis has responded by convening a meeting of the heads of bishops’ national conferences in February. You are tasked with preparing for this meeting. We hope you will consider the following observations and recommendations.
Pope Francis has stated, “To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism.”
(Letter to the People of God, par. 2.4) We agree that clericalism is a key issue because it maintains the Church’s clergy/lay structure, which is seriously flawed since it reserves decision-making to a small minority of unmarried men. Unfortunately, they are more akin to a secular pyramidal corporation rather than a college of Apostles whose mission is to teach, govern and sanctify through sacrament and example, the whole People of God. Real change against abuse must start with essential change to the
Church’s clergy/lay structure. Two changes we consider essential to restore the credibility of the teaching authority of the Church are the inclusion of women in all ministries of the Church and the end to mandatory celibacy.
We speak as women who love the Church and have accepted, in prophetic obedience to the Holy Spirit, to exercise a leadership of service within Catholic faith communities, tending the broken souls of those wounded by the Church. We minister to victims of clergy sexual harassment, exploitation and assault, and to their families. We also journey with offending priests to help them find forgiveness and healing. The absence of women in positions of ecclesial authority denies the Church the wisdom and insight women bring to the processes of discernment and decision making. Patriarchal gender stereotyping silences the voice of half of humanity. Women know from experience that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is a primary carrier of the global toxic virus of misogyny and the violence it engenders. The cure for that virus is equality: the inclusion of women in all ministries of the Church so that men and women are equal partners in gathering and shepherding God’s people. Further, if the Church would recognize the dual call to priesthood as well as marriage, the insights of family life would enrich the ministry of its priests as it does with its deacons. An end to mandatory celibacy would afford priests and bishops the emotional support and stability of family life (see Gen 2:18; I Tim 3:2-5) and would provide a role model for parishioners. This is not to say that we do not honour the charism of celibacy in those who receive it.
The members (women and men) of the international Roman Catholic Women Priests movement join their voices with all who hope that your meeting in Rome will produce the real changes necessary to restructure Church governance. A conversion from clericalism and entitlement to service is imperative in order to heal the grave wounds to the Body of Christ and move the Church into the 21st century.
We earnestly pray that the Spirit will guide your deliberations and your decision making, to bring the Church out of the darkness into Christ’s light, “for the Holy Spirit Itself is a burning and shining serenity, which cannot be nullified, and which enkindles ardent virtue so as to put all darkness to light” (St. Hildegard of Bingen).
Roman Catholic Women Priests:
+Marie Evans Bouclin, (Sudbury, ON, Bishop Emerita, RCWP Canada)
+Merlene Olivia Doko, (Pismo Beach, CA, Bishop Emerita, RCWP USA)
+Patricia Fresen, (Capetown, RCWP South Africa)
+Joan M. Clark Houk, (South Bend, IN, RCWP-USA, Great Waters Region)
+Andrea Michele Johnson, (Annapolis, MD, RCWP USA, Eastern Region)
+Jane Kryzanowski, (Regina, SK, RCWP, Canada)
+Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, (Pettenbach, RCWP Austria/ Europe)
+Nancy Louise Meyer, (Indianapolis, IN, RCWP USA, Midwest Region)
+Ida Raming, (Stuttgart, RCWP Germany)
+Sibyl Dana Reynolds, (Pebble Beach, CA, Bishop Emerita, RCWP USA)
+Suzanne Avison Thiel, (Portland, OR, RCWP USA, Western Region)
+Jane Via, (San Diego, CA, RCWP USA, Western Region)
On behalf of the members of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests:
+Olga Lucia Alvarez (Coloumbia, S.A., ARCWP)
+Michele Birch-Conery (Windsor, ON, ARCWP)
+Mary Eileen Collingwood (Hudson, OH, ARCWP)
+Bridget Mary Meehan (Sarasota, FL, ARCWP)
Bridget Mary Meehan