Blog Post

New Laity Group Offers Good Advice on Abuse Scandal

No More Victims, a laity group with the likes of theologian Mary Healey, Ph.D. and broadcaster Al Kresta on its board, has issued a “reader” for both the bishops and the laity detailing what can be done to counter sex abuse of adults and minors in the Church and how the laity should become involved in the solution to these problems.

According to the No More Victims website, the organization was formed by the laity in the Diocese of Lansing Michigan out of concern for both victims of clerical sexual abuse and the purification of the Catholic Church.

“There is no place in our Church for sexual predation, for unchastity on the part of our priests, or for the clericalism that allows these sins to continue unchecked,” the site states.

While the abuse of minors is a very serious offense, processes and procedures have been put in place by the Dallas Charter of 2002 to deal with such crimes. This is why the focus of their report, “What We, the Laity, are Reading That is Shaking Us to the Core: A Reader on the Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal” is on another huge problem that has been festering inside the Church for too long – the continuing presence of priests who engage in sexual misconduct with adults, especially males.

Specifically, the report looks at the effect these crimes have had on the Church, the harm they’ve done to victims, their influence in seminaries, the extent of their influence in dioceses, and the way they impede zealous promotion of the gospel.

“Daily, new stories of abuse and cover-up are reported. We believe the extent of this problem is tremendous and the time to purify the Church is now," the report states. "We anticipate this will mean a significant reduction in the number of priests available to do the work of the Church. Many of our fellow laity may prefer to have priests who live immoral lives rather than a shortage of priests, but we believe that neither Jesus nor his Church are well served by such priests. Once the presence of predator priests and unchaste priests is eliminated, we expect that there will be an influx of devout, chaste men into the priesthood.”

The reader contains excerpts from news articles dating back to the 90’s ’s about abused adults, including seminarians, as well as commentary from such notable Catholic writers as Mary Eberstadt and Sandro Magister.

“Some of the articles are from a perspective hostile to the Church but that does not negate their veracity,” the report states. Even though it may seem difficult to believe all of these stories, “the sheer volume of them gives credence to them . . . While many of these articles may seem sensationalist, it is in fact the reality of abuse that is truly responsible for the shocking nature of what is reported.”

The group makes it clear that the intention of the report is not to force bishops to resign or to embarrass or harass them.

Instead, “We are making minimal proposals for action here -- more comprehensive ones will certainly come from elsewhere. Rather, we are imploring the bishops to take the strong actions needed to restore trust in the episcopacy so that we can all work together to have a Church that will attract because of its beauty, love, truth, and, yes, transparency and accountability. We don’t intend to stop praying, fasting, and advocating for change until that happens.”

Under the guidance of theologian, Dr. Janet E. Smith, the authors hope the reader will lead the bishops to find methods that include significant involvement of laity:

• To assure laity that seminaries are not places where seminarians will be subject to sexual harassment, but are places where they will be taught the fullness of the faith. • To assure laity that there is no network of priests who engage in sexual misconduct in your diocese. • To assure laity that priests who violate chastity in serious ways will be given an opportunity and help in repenting and changing their ways. • To assure laity that unchaste priests who refuse to repent and change their ways will be asked to resign from the priesthood. • To find ways to correct fellow bishops whose response to sex abuse cases is poor, confuses the faithful, and reflects badly upon all bishops.

The 20-page report contains numerous news accounts as well as a list of other headlines for further reading. It also offers links to key documents and online resources.

“Bishops, we truly do love you and honor you. We accept you as the successors of the apostles. We know there are those among you who do recognize our pain and feel the same or more distress at what has happened to our beloved Church,” the report concludes.

“We know that the criticisms made in many of the above articles paint with a broad brush that does not treat all bishops fairly. Indeed, we don’t know that we would have done any better with the challenges you face, especially had we inherited an episcopal culture so ill equipped to deal with the crisis that besets us now. We do not stand in judgment on you.

“We simply want to be a part of the solution, for we are confident that the Church will survive and thrive, but only if a deep purification takes place. It can’t take place without brave bishops who will break from the habits of the past and be willing to admit mistakes, expose the evil that is so pervasive, and work to find new ways to build the Church that Jesus intended.”

This report is a must-read for anyone wishing to obtain clear, unbiased information about the scandal as well as practical advice on how to proceed from here.

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