Keep The Faith, Change The Church: The Battle by Catholics for the Soul of Their Church
James E. Muller, Charles Kenney
From the Publisher:
Even before the terrible revelations of sexual misconduct and the cover-up that allowed such atrocities to continue happening, the Catholic Church was in trouble. With a devout but aging congregation giving way to a generation of so-called lapsed Catholics, the spiritual vitality and significance of the church had seemed, in the context of modern American society, to be ebbing away. Then when the scandal hit, even true believers were pitched into an all-out crisis of faith. It was at this low point that a fiercely committed group of Catholics emphatically said, Enough! This book tells their inspiring story, the story of Voice of the Faithful, a grassroots organization formed to give the laity a voice in making their church a more effective spiritual and social force. The group came to realize that the underlying cause of the cover-ups and the failure of the church to adopt many needed changes is the abuse by some in the hierarchy of the excessive power they hold. For too long, average Catholics have been disenfranchised. Now, with the growing success of Voice of the Faithful, there is finally a legitimate forum for the laity. As James E. Muller and Charles Kenney show in this urgent call to action, history is on the side of those who would stand up and be heard.
"The renewal of the Church in America will not be possible without the active presence of the laity. Therefore, they are largely responsible for the future of the Church" (quoting Pope John Paul II in Ecclesia in America, 1999. p9
... the world's largest group of Catholic theologians issued a statement supporting the foundation of our activity. The group, the Catholic Theological Society of America ... told reporters "Public outrage has been directed not just toward the instances of clerical sexual abuse themselves but toward church leadership’s systemic failure to maintain, even minimally, the kind of open communication, consultation and participative decision-making that ought to characterize the church..." p125
I told her that I, too,was concerned that we could could face some conflict with the hierarchy if we pushed for a mass. ... [the response] "The Eucharist belongs to all of us. It's not one of the assets of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston". p.134
While infallibility has been invoked for only two teachings-in support of Mary's Immaculate Conception, and her Assumption into Heaven-the mere existence of the principle has created a halo of infallibility over many fallible assertions by the pope and others, and an "infallibility creep" has occurred. Father Donald Cozzens has noted the distinction between "official truth," which represents infallible statements of the church, and "common truth," which is dependent on the historical conditions of the church and subject to change. A decision by a bishop to close an inner-city school is not part of the official truth of the church-it represents part of the common truth in which the laity have an important perspective to offer. Yet such a decision is frequently issued in an autocratic manner.p.216
The term cafeteria Catholic has been used to disparage a believer who accepts only those church teachings with which he or she agrees. And yet in the Middle Ages, the church tolerated slavery, taught that the earth was the immovable center of the universe, and burned to death those who disagreed with it. A lay person who disagreed with those fallible teachings of the church could have helped the church acquire the truth more rapidly.ibid
Extended infallibility also hampers problem solving. To be solved, a problem must first be acknowledged. But within an institution burdened by maintaining its aura of infallibility, serious problems have been suppressed to avoid scandal. Unfortunately, we have learned too well that a scandal suppressed only prolongs pain and suffering.ibid
On the ban by Bishop Allue, Muller quotes one member: "How dare they ban us from our churches!" As Jim Post put it, "Because we wanted our church to respond to the horrible deeds involved in the sex abuse scandal, the Boston hierarchy believed we should be kept out of churches?" Bishop Allue had gone too far. Yet, as offensive as it was, the Allue letter was a gift of sorts-an opportunity. His banning called for more than a polite and deferential response. We consulted with Father Orsy and worked through a point-by-point rebuttal to his letter. Our letter to the bishop stated, "We believe your actions to be inconsistent with church teaching, christian morality, the spirit of the Vatican II Council, and contrary to your pastoral duty." It continued,p.243
Voice of the Faithful is an organization of Catholic laity, properly formed as an association under the meaning of Canon 215 in the code of canon law. . . . Further, the teachings of the Second Vatican Council clearly articulate the right of the laity to form associations and set forth their obligation to make their voices heard on matters concerning the good of the Church. Voice of the Faithful was formed to serve the Church by helping lay persons understand and address, individually and collectively, the most serious crisis in the 500-year history of the Catholic Church in North America: the perpetration and cover up by the hierarchy of sexual abuse of children by clergy. . . .
To my knowledge, you have not contacted anyone from Voice of the Faithful to inquire as to the truthfulness of the accusations lodged against us, nor to provide us any opportunity to respond. . . . There is no due process, no objective ascertainment of facts, no opportunity to hear the defendant and witnesses, no evidence produced, just the innuendo of "scandal" and "polarization," and a hint of heresy in the apparent lack of "orthodoxy".
These actions are devoid of principle, not in the spirit of the Vatican II Council, and lacking in Christian morality and basic justice when applied to a Catholic group that accepts the teaching authority of the Church. We might expect actions such as this from totalitarian rulers and repressive political regimes, but not from the stewards of our faith family. Bishop Allue, if you listen to slanderous accusations, fail to verify their veracity, and use unsubstantiated accusations as the justification for your public actions, you are either a participant in or a victim of an unbecoming smear campaign. Bishop Allue, through innuendo and by implication, your letter defamed the good name of faithful Catholics in North Andover and elsewhere who, acting in collaboration as Voice of the Faithful, have wept for their Church, prayed for survivors and abusers alike, and struggled to find hope in the actions of Church leaders. Your actions in this matter are unfounded and unacceptable. Further, we believe the abrogation of due process in a matter of this nature constitutes a dereliction of pastoral duty. . . . We pray that God may give you the grace to heal these wounds that affiict us all. Toward that end, we request that you rescind your instructions. . . . welcome Voice of the Faithful to parishes in the Merrimack region of the Archdiocese of Boston, and apologize to thousands of faithful Catholics who are members of Voice of the Faithful.
This forceful letter was a landmark document for Voice of the Faithful. Soon after we released it to the press, Cardinal Law met with a large number of parish priests to discuss the crisis. A number of them told him they believed that Voice was an organization comprised of good Catholics with the best intentions, and they urged him to lift the ban. Amazingly he did so. ibid
***... some suggested activities for those who might like to become more actively involved in helping strengthen the church.
1. Join Voice of the Faithful
2. Actively engage in dialogue about Catholicism
3. Enhance the role of women in the church.
4. Support those who have been abused.
5. Reach out to lapsed Catholics.
6. Support priests of integrity.
7. Work to promote transparency and diminish the culture of clericalism and secrecy within the hierarchy.
8.Pursue the agenda of Cardinal Bernadin for reform of the church.
9. Pray -- and keep the faith!