Occupy the Catholic Church

Here is an inspiring “what if” article.

Click to read: “What If ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Could be Attempted in the Catholic Church,” by Tom Beaudoin, America (The National Catholic Weekly), Oct. 9, 2011


“What would be the last straw that would make you join such a movement? Would it be the episcopal malfeasance and coverup known as the sexual abuse crisis, would it be the steady disaffiliation, deconversion, and detachment of your family members or friends from the faith as church structures, teachings, and practices become steadily more incredible in contemporary society, or would it be the failure of the church to practice in its internal affairs the justice it preaches to the world — or something else?”






78 thoughts on “Occupy the Catholic Church

  1. As always, Susan, you are getting the Good News out early. The Occupy Wall Sreet demonstraters, in all sizes, shapes and ages, show that the people’s voices count. So do the voices of the People of God, including all present and former Philly Catholics. If you let the bishops treat you as dumb sheep, they will happily oblige. If you begin to roar like lions, they will cringe and fold. The Philly Church’s future is in the hands of everyday Catholics, if just more of them would wake up and begin roaring. Rally, demonstrate, speak out appropriately at Mass, etc. Every voice matters!

    1. tomassotucson Says:
      June 1, 2010 at 6:29 pm
      I wonder how many Catholics, in my age bracket, have left the church. I’m over 80. I kind of think that many in that age bracket are in the fewest number of Catholics leaving the Catholic church. My reason is based on the number of gray hair and bald church goers that I’ve seen in church. My age group, for some reason, can’t hear too well or see to well and I guess you have to throw in, can’t think too well. It’s difficult for that age group to fully comprehend that their bishops and their priests have been doing all the nasty things that are being printed about them, no less a pope. The Church is a sea of old people. Another reason I believe that older people are not leaving the church in large numbers is because all they read is the Sunday bulletins and the Monthly Diocesan News Paper. The Tucson bishop Kicanas, the most photographed bishop in the world, would rather cut off his right arm before he would allow anything printed in the monthly Catholic paper that reflects badly on anything Catholic. I know this for a fact. He told me that reflecting on bad news slows the healing process. So, he keeps 350,000 Diocesan Catholics in the dark. This is the guy that has a fund drive for $18 million and raises 40 million. this is the guy that still allows the name of one of the 10 worst bishops in American ( the late bishop Manuel Moreno) to remain on the public address of the Tucson Pastoral Center and Tucson diocesan letterhead. Since he will be the next President of the USCCB’s organization, he will be he most powerful bishop in America, if not the world. A bishop soooo powerful, he doesn’t have to answer his mail.

      Deanna Leonti Says:
      June 1, 2010 at 7:50 pm
      Yes, I agree…. 30m x-catholics can’t be wrong.

      Deanna Leonti Says:
      June 2, 2010 at 2:11 am
      How many can actually call themselves “Catholic?”.
      A “true” Catholic, practicing the whole rules, regulations of Dogmas & Doctrines aka (Roman Catholic Faith) and Papal infallibilty thing for when P16 sits on the chair of Petre?.
      How manyyyyyyyyyyyyyy??????????
      because Catholics should know that if they don’t hold all of these rules & regulations of the RC “faith”,
      they by their “own” law (canons) be “ANATHEMA” aka “EXCOMMUNICATED!”.
      Again I ask;
      HOW MANY ROMAN CATHOLIC really practice their RC faith????????????????????
      And can they actually answer

      ClevelandGirl Says:
      June 2, 2010 at 9:57 am
      Those 30 million “recovering” catholics are not wrong.

      Oh, and guess what? Just because the Latino population is up here doesn’t mean the catholic population is up too. Latinos are no longer lock-step catholics. Evangelicals (not much better than RCC Inc., IMO) have been “stealing” them away from catholicism for at least a generation now – in their *home* countries, not just here. We have a huge Latino population here, and there are at least as many Latino-oriented storefront christian churches as there are catholic churches that offer masses in espanol, probably more. Give Latinos another generation, and they’ll be just as disaffected as Anglos from RCC Inc.

      Kathy, congratulations on your defection. I defected two years ago, not even knowing what it was called – I just requested that my baptism be rescinded. I made my request to the diocese where I was baptized, gave parish and approximate date. They forwarded the request to the archivist, who then forwarded it to the parish. A week later, I got a sealed copy of the parish register (they had even screwed up our wedding info in 1980, recording it as if I had married outside of catholicism when I had married a Ukrainian Byzantine *catholic*, spelled his name wrong, got the date wrong, etc., so who wants to be connected to an organization that can’t even get simple details right?). No fuss, no hassle. This was the Cleveland diocese. I have considered myself an ex-catholic since 1981, so I wanted to do this to be a -1 and stop being counted (like Kathy).

      Anyone who wants to defect can go to countmeout.ie. They’ve got great info there. You can only use their form if you’re an Irish citizen, but they have a pdf form you can download for everywhere else. I didn’t have to go as far as a signed and witnessed form, but it’s there for dioceses that are a little more stubborn about counting you as a -1. It’s a very liberating experience! I learned a few months later that I was papally excommunicated before I turned six years old, so it didn’t reallly matter to RCC Inc anyway.
      This is from “Voice From The Desert” a blog I ran into. The comments on the blog contain one by Tom Doyle about Thos.Gumbleton.
      Just for fun, check countmeout.ie from time to time to see the numbers of Irish defectors go up. It’s been going up by about 500-1000 people per month and continues to do so. Those are just the Irish defectors. There are thousands of German and Austrian defectors in the last five months – they are counted via tax rolls as people who have newly requested that part of their taxes stop going to RCC Inc. This is scaring the crap out of RCC Inc, especially in Austria, because their share of government tax money is dropping precipitously.

      Few Europeans and Americans, fewer Latinos by the day – I guess that just leaves Africans to carry on the “faith”. More at:

      1. Gerald, Just a friendly reminder about what Susan requested about being aware of the length of comments.

  2. I would hope that if a group chose to take this approach we would be able to be clear on what it is we are asking for and from whom. The ‘occupy’ demonstrators in NY and Philadelphia seems rather scattered in their protests and I remain unclear of specific objectives. Perhaps the Holy Spirit could inspire a variety of groups to collaborate and develop an agreed upon list of 3 or 4 action items that would be the target for this initiatve. Solid issues + diverse supporters = successful campaign.

    1. Last July, on a sailboat, I wondered to myself whether there ever would come a time when a post on this blog would make me smile.

      TODAY IS THE DAY! Fr. Chris’ post is THE post (which I consider, truly, to be an act of God)!

      “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point is to change it”! (Karl Marx)


    2. I am asking you and your hierarchy to tell the truth about who the perps and enablers are. Also where does the money come from that the archdiocese of phila uses for the lobbying group catholic conference of bishops ? Why is chaput lobbying against HB 832 & 878 ? I look forward to your answers.

    3. Saying that your understanding of the specifics of the objectives of the protesters is still unclear is “so yesterday”. It was a sound bite two weeks ago. Since then various labor unions have joined the protest, more cities are participating, the President and, surreally, the Chairman of the Fed have spoken to their value.

      The Grand Jury testimony of Mr. Bevilaqua was posted on 7/29/11. The time to pray was then. The time to act is now.

      Breaking into a variety of groups for collaboration and prayer to develop an agreed upon list smacks, frankly, of a tactic often deployed by the bishops. You’ll note that they STILL haven’t approved an across the board mandatory procedure for responding to allegations of sexual abuse of children. It’s still in Committee. Indeed, the bishops have changed their focus to the upcoming Ad Limina Visits scheduled to bump up against the 2012 Elections; thus we have the ratcheting up of the rhetoric on abortion, homosexuality, blah blah blah. Real change does not come about via Robert’s Rules of Order.

      The clergy and the hierarchy are counting on the passage of time for the folks in the pews to lose interest or be distracted (“Look! A haystack!”).

      We could leave it up to the legal system. The wheels of justice are turning and a trial date has been set. So we could play the wait and see game. But what are you going to say when the Vatican suddenly whisks Mr Lynn off to Rome giving him diplomatic immunity (remember Mr Law in Boston?) Will that be the tipping point? A little late, no?

      No, the time is now. I’m not sure what speaking out at Mass “appropriately” means. There really is no give-an-take built into the liturgy. How about when the priest says “Body of Christ” we say “No, thanks. But I’d like to talk about why by your silence you are complicit in the abuse of children”. In NY in the 1980’s we spit the host into the face of the archbishop. That got attention.

      1. Charles I admire your passion but that isn’t my style at all. It’s not that I am a sheep – far from it. I just know how many people we have attracted to this cause – our highest financial supporter is a devout practicing Catholic. if you start doing stunts – that might garner some attention but in the log run only alienate people – that’s not my idea of progress .I won’t be spitting anything at anyone.

      2. Spitting the host at the archbishop that got MY ATTENTION and competely turned me off………..if you believed the host was truly the Body of Christ you could not treat it like that……………..I am for stopping child rape not disrespecting the Holy Eucharist………..

      3. Yes Beth I agree. Some people have said over the past few months that Susan and I are are not radical enough and my response has aways been the same. Our approach does not mean we are right and other approaches are wrong. Spitting the host is not something I would ever participate or condone.

    4. Father Chris and Susan, I couldn’t disagree with you more on this point. The Spirit is quite capable of guiding a group of concerned Catholics. This isn’t complicated. The goal is clear–you can’t rape kids and then cover it up so the priest rapists can rape again. So we must march and demonstrate to make sure Chaput and his other bishop-puppets, and also DA Seth Williams and Philly judges, get the clear and simple message—Catholics have had enough of dangerous behavior and deceitful policies. Trying to get angry Caholics to meet to discuss what they all already know is counter-productive. Let’s just demonstrate and then talk, OK? Enough already of the talk and procrastination !!

      1. I don’t think Father Chris was saying that we shouldn’t march and demonstrate. What he is suggesting and I agree, is that there is a cohesive message spread out across several like-minded groups and that we vocalize exactly what we wish to accomplish to the media and the public during the protest/rally. Without that, we would most assuredly be depicted poorly. Most like-minded groups on this subject matter are already in frequent communication and could do so prior to said event. I don’t think the Wall Street demonstrators articulated or controlled their message or “wants” early on.

      2. Susan, again I disagree. Of course, it would be nice if we had a “Catholic Manifesto” that all signed on to. But that won’t happen anytime soon. It’s been a decade since the abuse scandals broke in Boston and all Catholics do too often is just shake their heads. Even a group like SNAP ends up in endless controversy on your blog. The time to act boldly is now. Chaput’s insensitive cheerleading blunder is an opening we must act upon promptly. Chaput, DA’s and some Philly judges only understand power,. They are uninterested in dialogue and will only use it to delay. As someone who worked for over 30 years in the highest echelons on Wall Street, I also disagree with you about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. The view you expressed is close to the party line of the ” Friends of Wall Street” politicians of both parties who fear the pressure will build on them to really reform Wall Street.

      3. i understand exactly what Fr Chris and Susan are saying. Would this sit-in be covering child sex abuse or will other issues also be addressed regarding the church: i.e. married priests, women priests, role of latity, use of contraceptives, attitude towards gays, etc. Once you start putting up to many issues, even if worthy issues, the message gets muted, which is exactly what is happening with Occupied. In following Occupied, I am not sure if they are protesting corporate greed, excessive exective compensation, the rich not paying enough taxes, everyone is owed a job,the Sovet Union had it right to now trying to recreate Woodstock with sex and drugs

      4. I am all for peaceful rallies, sitins etc. I am surprised there has not been one earlier. I have had practice at other rallies. Besides not putting money in the basket and creating awareness by letters etc there is not much else left to do. I do think it should be a one issue rally to stop child abuse and the coverup in the catholic church or are we expanding this to all abused children in this rally? I think support would be splintered if we add other agendas as Joe stated in his blog.

    5. With all due respect, Chris, I would pay more attention to your views if you told us you stood up and objected loudly when Chaput and your “priest club” fraternity brothers applauded Lynn, or if you told us you reported to the Philly police just one priest you suspected of sexual abuse of a child. The widespread abuse could not have occurred if most, if not all, Philly priests hadn’t just turned their heads. I take no pleasure in saying this because for most of my life I really respected priests. No more!

  3. This is what we want. Holy Spirit unnecessary.

    We sit in the Cathedral until the questions are answered.

    “Archbishop, you were installed one month ago and have been actively, and publicly, engaged in the opposition of the Federal HHS Mandate, the defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, and the expansion of church-state relations. You have met with legislators in Harrisburg and gone on retreat. Yet you have been silent on the issue-of-the day here in the Church in Philadelphia: the abuse of children at the hands of the clergy. Indeed, the only news that we have heard is a newspaper account of your vocal support of Mr. Lynn at a recent meeting with the clergy. What, here, today, can you tell us about the status of each of the individual priests who have been “suspended”, for lack of a better word, by your predecessor? I am not asking you to comment on the cases currently before the Courts but, rather, each of those that we were told were being investigated, aggressively, internally. Can you please tell us where on the learning curve you are with regard to this pressing problem? Prior to your installation you stated that you had not yet read the Grand Jury Reports and the depositions to which they refer. Have you now read those documents in their entirety? Have you read all of the files in what are known as the “Secret Archives”? Finally, although you have not publicaly discussed the issue of child abuse at the hands of the clergy with the people of the diocese, have you discussed the issue with outside counsel at Stradley Ronon?”

    1. Holy Spirit is always necessary doing things on your own strength is what gets you in trouble………but listening to the Holy Spirit does not mean passive and not acting………look at St. Paul he gave everyone a run for their money……….

      1. Most people commenting on this blog, INCLUDING MYSELF, seem to be confused and in pain over struggles with squaring the behavior of the clergy with the Roman catholic faith that we have been born into.

        Someone on this blog wrote about leaving the RC Church and worshipping at an Orthodox Church instead. Part of the rational offered was that “Rome recognizes their sacraments as valid.”

        Someone has mentioned that they have made some sort of sacred space in their home and that they conduct their own services.

        Some have written that they have left the church, but continue to look back and comment on all things Catholic.

        Some have abandoned organized religion altogether and others have gone over to Protestant churches.

        Rome recognizes neither the ordination vows nor the sacraments of the Protestant churches. (Rome explicitly says that Mormons are not Christians but, rather, pagans.) “One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church” leaves no wiggle room. Those churches cannot affirm the Creed. But yet we go. We’re just that disgusted.

        Each of us are angry for different reasons. Each of us is dealing with this in different ways. If you don’t want to spit out the host into the archbishop’s face, that’s ok with me. We were taught, and some believe, that the Host is the Body of Christ. Spitting it out would be a crime against God. Ok I get that. As Flannery O’Conner said “Well, if it’s not real then to Hell with it!”

        I’m not interested in talking about Paul or the Holy Spirit. If that gives you strength more power to you. I’m not interested in vigils, or prayer circles, or anything else that buys into the Catholic Tradition, but if you are that’s ok with me. I’m not interested in allowing Mr. Chris to evade the questions we have asked regarding his complicity in the support of Mr. Lynn, but if you are that’s ok with me.

        I’m interested in confrontation. I believe the time for civil discourse has passed and that the time is now for civil disobedience.

        I wish you well in whatever means works for you. I hope your civility yields results.

      2. Charles-We do much more than prayers circles .Look for us on the news Monday October 17th . We will be joining with other child advocates for a noon press conference in Harrisburg.

      3. God Speed with that October 17th press conference. Need to confront this issue now while the iron is hot.

  4. This, also from the recent issue of America:

    It’s about the latest mandate from the bishops that we are about to have shoved down our throats. Six Major Issues of The Day – and not one about the sinfulness of the clergy.


    Money shot:

    “U.S. bishops should perhaps be worried that most Catholics are not drawing any conclusions at all from their guidance. A recent poll conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that just 16 percent of U.S. Catholics had even heard of the bishops’ document, and a mere 3 percent reported they had read it.”

    Folks, no one is listening to these fools. The time is Now for civil disobedience.

  5. I’m with Charles above. In addition I believe that this is not a one issue situation any more than womens rights or civil rights were one issue situations. Once women got the vote in America Gender equality and many other areas of women’s lives took 70 additional years and the work is still not done. Blacks were told that they should not ask for too much at one time (how much is too much when you are demeaned in so many areas?) because much of the public would be offended and not sympathetic to their cause. The Church is at a crossroads if I read these discussion pages corrrectly. If the hierarchy continue to drag their feet, if the male top down power structure remains in place, it is only a matter of time until The Church becomes irrelevent. It is losing its voice and validity. Who then will bring the message of the Prince of Peace?

    1. “Who then will bring the message of the Prince of Peace?”Jesus answered that already the Holy Spirit. If you don’t believe in the Holy Spirit I guess you lose hope.This is not the first time the church has been at a crossroads. Of course the church is the way it is for many reasons but one step at a time. Like you said it took 70yrs for women to get equal rights etc. right now the most important thing is to protect innocence children now by getting known pedophiles in jail and their names in the public eye.

  6. The “Occupy” people are a joke; don’t go there.[My two -cents]
    The ACC people have too many wrong objectives, don’t go there.
    Demonstrate about the sex abuse problem and keep your focus, get more bodies involved to make an impression.
    Objective: Root out the criminals and put them in jail.
    Stop attending mass and donating to them.
    [be outside mass demonstrating instead]
    C4C is doing well now, just don’t have the numbers yet.
    Just my opinion.
    Ex-Catholic And Saved By Grace

    1. Thanks, Gerald. I agree. Just demonstrate against the rape of children by priests. Full stop! The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, however, do show how much publicity large demonstrations get. We must keep our narrow focus, I agree. But we need to do more now. Swoosh! JUST DO IT!

      1. Beth, the ACC is the American Catholic Council.org . As indicated on its informative website, it has several goals, including introducing democracy and human rights for Catholics within the Church. It organized, with some other Catholic advocacy groups like the Voice of the Faithful, a large conference in Detroit last June. I assume G.Nichols’ point is that Philly Catholics need to have a more narrow focus the the ACC, namely on stopping the rape and abuse of children by the Catholic Church. I agree with Gerald.

      2. Sorry Beth, I meant the American Catholic Conference [if I’m not mistaken on their name]. They are activists for “reform” and champion married priests, women priests, homosexual “rights”, etc. etc. Basically, liberal Catholics. I suggested C4C not “join up ” with that “change” but stay focused.

  7. The sex abuse crisis is the issue we focus on. Many people within the Church have many different opinions on various issues. Children can’t fight for themselves – adults with concerns can fight for themselves. Liberal,conservative,fallen away,devout – doesn’t matter – child protection requires all adults to be responsible in this crisis.

    1. Right on, Kathy—victims and children. But believe me, if the pressure is not kept on by all legitimate means, Chaput, the DA, the judges, the legislators, they all will just run out the clock. Pray, demonstrate, write, etc., just don’t let up. The tide is beginning to turn and we all, in our own little ways, must press for the day when we can once again bring our children to Church without fear.

    2. I agree Jerry and hopefully our efforts directed at Harrisburg are having a positive effect.We have very positive feedback from the first part of our victim’s campaign. It is generating a buzz among the legislators and some more reps have signed on to the Bills. All good stuff.

      I also have started commenting on politicians and Catholic affiliated public FB pages. Private emails and phone conversations just don’t seem to have the same affect as making public statements on a FB page. It is like being at a cocktail party and bringing up the topic everyone is trying to ignore.

  8. In my opinion “unableto trust” has the right direction. Always focusing on the victims and children. Always a consistent message from him – I have no interest in protesting other things about the Church – victims and children for me.

  9. The Rev. Thomas Doyle, Dominican Priest and leading advocate for victims for cxlerical sexual abuse has said: There is no greater corruption or betrayal in a religious entity than when it sacrifices its corporate integrity for power and image at the unfathomable cost of the spiritual rape and pillage of its own members. The abominable scandal of sexual abuse of the young and vulnerable adults by Catholic clergy and those who knew that their fellow brothers were raping children has been pushed to the limits of the imagination of decent people by the apparently never-ending revelations of organized cover-up and total disrespect by church leaders for the victim’s souls. When these judgmental and myopic prelates clumsily try to deflect reality by comparing the secular press persistence to Nazie or Stalinist persecution, they reveal their own callousness and their inability or unwillingness to properly understand the meaning of the offices they hold. They are supposed to be pastors, not a caricature of medieval princes. The News exposes the sad reality of a church that has forgotten that true orthodoxy is NOT self-serving or brain-dead conformity to the misssion laid out by its founder.

    I believe as a survivor of sexual abuse that this very holy man truly “gets it”. He is one priest among thousands who have had the utter courage to speak the truth. The church has demoted him and finally disposed of him. This my good catholic people is how the church treats its brothers when one has the guts to step forward. Fr. Doyle will surly be honored by God on judgement day. I had the honor to meet this man many times. He is a humble man and he tried for years to get the church to do something before this crises broke out by writing a document about the priests that abuse children and how to correct it in a moral and true way for both the child and the priest. The vatican choose to ignore him and sure enough the crises happened. My thought is that the real enemy of the catholic church are those who abuse their authority to protect the guilty at the expense of the innocent, and who see the ultimate purpose of the church as the protection of clerical privilege rather than the salvation of souls. This crises surly is the “tip of the iceberg”.

  10. OCTOBER 11, 2011

    Abuse of Power is at the Heart of Catholic Church Scandal

    The great sociologist of religion, Max Weber, famously complained of what he called “the routinization of charisma” in the era of institutionalized religions. In such a world, the Pope bears a certain charisma because he occupies a role, and the throne of Saint Peter, not for any reason particular to his own character or persona. Weber also suggested that human beings are most often locked in “iron cages” of their own devising. It is a damning and fairly tragic picture of the fate of most moral communities, including the a Church, today.

    As the thick web of lying cover-ups, and allegations of abuse intensify, and as the swirl of intrigue expands to new states in the US, edging ever closer to the inner circle of the current Pope, the central problem is coming into sharper focus.

    I suggested in a previous post that the abuse at issue here is the abuse of power, not sexual abuse per se. I hope it is clear that, in saying this, I am not unaware of the enormous damage that is done to young children when they are sexualized before their time. But I am concerned that the Left, to the degree that it participates in the sexual obsessions of the media and the culture, runs the risk of diluting the real cause for outrage here.

    The paradox at issue in these cases is that sexual abuse of children, like rape, is not primarily a sexual offense. It is primarily an exertion of power.

    And in viewing it in this way, the great paradox lying at the heart of this, or any church, becomes clearer. the revolution has become a corporation. The Catholic Church is also an enormous bureaucracy, and in Rome’s special case, the Vatican is literally a state-within-the-state.

    The challenge, of course, for any bureaucracy lies in holding the bureaucrats responsible. Bureaucracy has a maddening capacity to hide responsibility behind a veil that is one-part secrecy, one part moral callousness, and one-part crass collusion and self-protection.

    In 1979, Jon Gunnemann offered an interesting way of looking at the shared paradox of Marxist and Christian attitudes toward revolution. The book, called The Moral Meaning of Revolution, offered the following new way of seeing, aimed specifically at the Christian churches:

    The point is not to abandon God talk for political talk, or even to translate God talk into political talk, nor to discern the political and worldly implications of the Gospel. All of these assume the division between the Gospel and the political. The point is rather to find a form of discourse in which it is recognized that the society of Christ, like any society, has power relations and thus needs to ask what patterns of authority are just and what unjust. (257, italics mine)

    The society of Christians is like any other society. It is an institution with complex power relations, and power can always be abused. When it is abused, it is important to have regulatory structures in place that can hold the power-holders accountable to the people, or the flock, they serve. Those are the institutions that have failed us dramatically in Rome.

    Instead of rules and regulations, we have been treated to vague invocations of tradition and the magisterium, as well as vacuous quotations out of context from the gospels.

    These are not sex scandals, and they are not indictments of the celibate life. These are abuses of power on a shocking scale; that is how they should be reported and that is how they should be handled. If there is anything distinctively Christian at work here, that should seem to involve rather the fundamental notion that if God takes sides, then God sides always with the poor, the marginalized or the oppressed.

    It is this fundamental moral orientation that the Church is currently failing to embody.

    1. I totally agree with all that. Sexual abuse of a child is abuse of power. Many here are working for changes in the law because of that very real truth. Many times I read our victims stories and I am so upset and horrified that it was so difficult for them to try and get away from the abuse. They were beaten,threatened and they were only children. I know survivors also that were molested every night by their fathers and stepfathers how the h-ll were those kids suppose to get away.It’s horrible.

  11. ESSAY
    April 5, 2010
    Father Does Not Know Best: How To Fix the Catholic Church

    Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D., is a feminist theologian who is co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. A Roman Catholic active in the women-church movement, she lectures and writes on theology and ethics with particular attention to liberation issues.

    Recent revelations of widespread sexual abuse by priests and cover-ups by bishops in Europe, as well as the abuse of deaf children in the United States, are signs of the implosion of Roman Catholicism. The price has been incalculable in human terms. A flatter, rounder, more inclusive community is the only possible way forward.

    Allegations that Pope Benedict XVI acted with the same impunity as other bishops in the failure to brings perpetrators of abuse to justice, and instead protected the institutional church’s reputation by secrecy, add up to the need for substantive structural change in Catholicism. Simply changing those in leadership, even adding women to a hopelessly flawed structure, will not be sufficient. A new, horizontal model of church led by teams of competent ministers who are accountable to local and wider communities is the best way to assure that these scandalous, damaging practices are ended.

    The details of the clergy sexual and physical abuse of children make clear that the crimes that went on for decades were not done by a few bad apples who spoiled the bushel, as Vatican officials have long insisted about the perpetrators. Rather, what comes into sharper and sharper focus with each new hideous revelation is that the hierarchical model of the Church, with absolute authority vested in a few individuals at each step up the ladder (a priest in his parish, a bishop in his diocese, a pope in Rome) is in and of itself a danger zone. Human organizations, especially religious ones, need more checks and balances to assure that those who have unfettered access to the young and privileged relationships with the spiritually vulnerable are monitored. Helping professions have codes of conduct, professional associations, and other means of making sure their practitioners are on the up and up. Roman Catholicism needs the same. It will never happen without structural changes.

    Here’s How it Works…

    The clerical culture that arises from and permeates the Roman Catholic Church is a key part of the noxious mix in which hundreds of thousands of people around the world were victimized by their religious leaders. Jim Jones and his followers look like kids at camp by comparison. Here is how it works.

    A boy (not a girl, mind you) goes to seminary to become a priest. He is hot-housed in an all-male environment often from an early age. He is taught to respect and follow the dictates of his professors. He is expected to swallow the theology they spoon-feed him even if it flies in the face of reason and experience—as much of official Catholic theology of sexuality does. He is rewarded for such behavior by the same clergy who decide whether he is “fit matter” for ordination. He is judged whether he is compliant enough to be part of the “collegium” into which he will be welcomed as a priest, that is, whether he is trustworthy enough to play the clerical game. He is well advised to follow the program, conform to the norms, and do what he is told if he wishes to be successful; which is defined as being ordained, made a pastor, or sent on for further study, and eventually becoming a reliable colleague in a closed circle that continues to indoctrinate the next generation of clergy. This mindset is formed early and reinforced throughout a priest’s career.

    Priesthood is a male-only society where those who are higher in rank judge those who are below them. No one else’s judgment matters—not lay colleagues, not women, not other ministry professionals, and certainly not the parishioners. Catholic clergy belong to a small, shrinking, and exclusive club. Many socialize with one another, vacation together, sometimes date each other. They project a holiness and piety that may or may not correspond with reality. They are also the object of plenty of projections.

    Lay people, including all sisters or nuns, are entirely outside of and considered below the clergy in ecclesial status. Until very recently, most high-level jobs in a diocese were reserved for clergy. For example, personal secretaries of bishops were often priests who were schooled in the ways of the system and in turn rewarded for behaving according to the rules. It is obvious how in such a system of collusion and cover-up of illegal behavior was easy to pull off, unquestioned by those who had been taught it was business as usual.

    Creeping Infallibility

    Two Roman Catholic theological confusions make the problems even more complex. One is the notion of secrecy and the other is a misunderstanding of infallibility. There is a culture of secrecy in Catholicism that is rooted in the “seal of the confessional.” That means that when a Catholic confesses a sin to a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation the priest is bound by Canon Law not to reveal the content of that sin under any circumstances. This is meant to assure the confidentiality of the sacramental process. Violations of the seal are taken seriously. However, in the case of criminal activity, the confessor is allowed (one would hope morally compelled) to encourage the penitent to turn him/herself in to civil authorities. Since chances of that are nil in most cases, it does not happen.

    In clerical circles, the confessor is only one person in a wide network of colleagues, many of whom know about offenses and would not break the seal by reporting a perpetrator. But instead of this happening, there is a mistaken extension of the “seal of the confessional” to other authorities in the same system who assume for a variety of wrong reasons—the good of the institution, the prevention of scandal, the hope that the perpetrator will rehabilitate himself, and so on ad nauseum—that secrecy is the way forward. This is a theological error that needs immediate correction.

    Another piece of the problem is the dogma of papal infallibility. This is a technical theological matter declared in 1870. In essence, it means that when the pope promulgates a teaching to the whole church on matters of faith or morals claimed to be based in divine revelation, the teaching is free of errors. Thankfully, this convoluted reductionistic approach is not invoked often.

    However, the mere idea of papal infallibility has been enough to make many people think: a) the pope does not make mistakes, b) everything the pope says is right, c) the pope knows best the mind of God. This is referred to as “creeping infallibility,” and it is a disease rampant in Catholicism. Not only is the pope assumed to speak for God and be right, but those down the ladder are grandfathered into the infallible realm. This accounts for a lot of the “Father knows best” thinking so dramatically portrayed in the movie Doubt.

    Pyramid v. Pinwheel

    Analysis of what went so tragically and devastatingly wrong in Roman Catholicism will take decades to sort out. But the hierarchical structure is an obvious place to start. The Vatican has displayed a strong allergy to liberation theological efforts, especially those in Latin America and among feminists, to replace the pyramid model with a pinwheel, as I have long envisioned it. It is time to dismantle the top-down structure and replace it with networks of local base communities that communicate and cooperate around the world. I realize that this is anathema to those in charge, but it would change both the players and the playing field of ecclesial power. It would involve women, married people, even young people in leadership, and it would decentralize authority. Nothing less will be sufficient to assure the safety of children and the accountability of ministers.

    Shorter-term solutions are tempting. It is clear that Pope Benedict XVI should fall on his crosier and resign. A lot of bishops should follow his lead. I am not holding my breath. But the specter of another conclave to elect his successor from the same old tired crowd of cardinal candidates is simply more of the same.

    Maureen Dowd’s clever piece in the New York Times calling for “A Nope for Pope”, that is, a nun instead of a priest, is a fresh thought. On reflection, it changes only gender and not structure. Conservative nuns are currently doing the Vatican’s bidding in the Apostolic Visitation of progressive nuns. This makes me dubious about imputing special virtue to women in general, women religious in particular. Besides, nuns are as lay as the rest of us, so why privilege them? How easy it is for even smart columnists to fall into the old mindset! Change does not come easily or quickly.

    My counsel is that we name the primary problem as structural—a hierarchy that ends in a sharp point at the top—and go about dismantling it. This doesn’t take any individual off the hook. To the contrary. But it does prevent others from taking their places. Withholding all money from parishes would give the process a jumpstart. Now that the hierarchy has imploded there is plenty of space to socialize the process of being Catholic. The task is clear. It is up to us, the laity and what would be in this model the former clergy, and we are up to it.

    1. So……….are you saying we no longer have a pope? or we just have more checks and balances on the institutional church not the teaching authority of the church?

  12. Charles, It’s so clear that the princes/princesses of the church need to be stripped of their crowns.

  13. Yikes. Sorry, my comments about the hierarchy and power were posted before I read that the group had decided that the focus is only on victims and children.

    For me, that isn’t compelling enough – it’s too narrow. The information before us is about the abuse of power. Sadly, the most sensational abuse was the sexual abuse of children. But we now know that the institutional Church is rotten to the core with ambitious, greedy, evil men attempting to dominate believers. And I will not be dominated.

    Dante called the Church a Harlot and gave the clergy their own circle in Hell. Not much has changed since the 13th century.

    My passions (read: Irish anger) run high, and, judging by all the little “thumbs down” I get, few agree. That’s OK. I’ll end my participation here on a light note. Apropos of absolutely nothing:


    1. I find the focus, the sexual abuse crisis, too narrow as well. When the focus fails to include the cause, it’s too narrow.

      I think that the sexual abuse crisis and clericalism should be the focus.

      I hope I speak for everyone when I say that Charles is not allowed to abandon his participation on this blog. Cloned thinking has never been the blogs’ goal. Indeed, the blog persists and evolves due to its diversity in thought. We need Charles’ valuable input and knowledge… at least I do.

      1. I agree that sexual abuse and clericalism go hand in hand. I don’t have a problem including it. I just wouldn’t want to dilute with all the other issues that have resulted from clericalism. And there are many!

        I also hope that Charles sticks with us and the site. We need a variety of viewpoints and voices. And I appreciate his.

      2. Hadit, I think we may be quibbling needlessly here. In my experience few Catholics even understand clericalism, but they certainly understand priest rape of children. The point of a demonstration would be express by sheer presence a united front demanding change. It would not be a time for negotiating specific change objectives, just a big statement to stimulate more support from apathetic Catholics and show the powers that be we mean business. Moreover, neither you nor I will ever get a broad consensus on specific objectives via blog comments–that is impossible in my view. This blog is of course great for sharing ideas and showing mutual support, etc.

    2. Charles, I also hope you continue here. Many have learned much from you, myself included. Some of us have been talking perhaps at cross-purposes. To consolidate a consensus for joint action, it appears advisable to focus on a few issues important to many–such as protecting children and supporting victims. Many other issues are also very important and most of them are inextricably related to the same fundamental problem, namely, a coercive hierarchy that is accountable to no one. The hierarchy is powerful and well funded. For us to have any real impact, we must try to coalesce around a couple of issues that will get broad support in the near term. That does not mean other issues will be neglected. All issues must be addressed in due course.

    3. Charles, that “test” was quite a challenge, I got 11. 🙂 At first I was embarrassed because I think of myself as quite knowledgeable about RCism; but, the more I think about it , I’m glad I don’t know all that “paraphernalia.” Isn’t that what the “Pharisees” were all about— the minute details of the law?

  14. Hadit and Charles – no censoring going on here. What I have found in the past few months is that a very diverse group within the Church is willing to focus on the issue of the abuse. Politics and ideology can be put aside and we can all work together for victims and children. If other groups want to address the other issues – that is their right.
    This crisis is about the abuse of power and clericalism and we have addressed that many times on the site – I hope that continues. But the victims and children need our attention more than any other group that may have issues with the Church . And like Jerry I don’t want to spend much more time defining that – there is too much that needs to be done.

  15. Staff in Rep Marsico’s office stated that the agenda for the hearings of the Judiciary Committee, PA House on 10/18/11 has not been set. If HB 832 and/or 878 is on the agenda, then this writer will buy everyone on this blog dinner.

    1. Be careful with that, Mike, you haven’t seen me. I can really eat! Thanks for the update. Kathy and Susan will be covering this, which is great. I wish I could be there, but will be there is spirit for sure.

  16. Jerry, you’re an attorney I respect and admire, so, the sky’s the limit. Even if you are from Long Island…….

  17. I have been at physical therapy and didn’t check in on the recent posts. Yikes!!!
    I think we all have the same result in mind, although we all have different opinions on how to go about obtaining it. I am first and foremost interested in protecting children from any type of abuse and for justice for “our” victims. Some of us will stay in the Church, others with return to the Church and some of us will never be able to attend a Mass again. However, I feel our goal is the same and although we agree to disagree with the ways and means of getting us there we need to keep calm, cool and collected and work together for the good of the cause. On another note, “Mr.” Chris (I am still praying for him) is eager to tell us how to go about achieving our goal but yet, he can’t speak up to the hierarchy. Chris, if God chose you to be his channel to help stop clergy sexual abuse, then oh, well, you might be in for a wild ride. If we all join in prayer for God to give you the strength to stand up and be heard, well God usually gets what He wants.

  18. Just got word,……agenda set for 10/18/11 Judiciary Committee hearings in Harrisburg in PA House, and of course, all you gambling fools out there who actually care for our children, we LOST again. No 832 or 878 on the agenda.

    Jerry, I guess you’ll have to actually buy your own dinner.

    Speaking with the office staff quite regularly there at Rep. Marsico’s office, whether the district or Harrisburg office, I had an idea……….I recommended that all personnel working for Mr.Marsico should bring pictures of their children and grandchildren to work and place them on their desks and office walls. But the sad, tragic and disheartening fact is that such a display of PA children, even in his own offices, would not make a bit of difference to Rep. Ron Marsico. Do you think that Rep. Marsico will ever prove this writer wrong?

  19. I would say that any one wishing to get the attention of the world about the RCC would not wish to be anything like these people. We must always be as Christlike in all that we do.

    An angry mob will accomplish nothing. Prayer is what we need and people who hear their Lord and Saviour in prayer and not listen to what comes out of the pulpit.

    The Lord said in the end times, all that was in darknes will brought into the light. Well it is in the Light and we must deal with it accordingly.It has been revealed to you so what should you do? Keep attending the palce where evil is continuting ? I think not!

    1. Gloria, of course, prayer is important. No one on this blog is advocating an angry mob, although I note Jesus did chase with a whip the vendors out of his Church (Temple) when they were defiling it. The hierarchy has proven time and again, it is not interested in honest dialogue, yet kids are still at risk. We must pray as if it is all up to God, but we now must act (prudently) as if it is all up to us. Kids and victims deserve no less. We must endeavor to be civil and open to each other’s views; but at some point, the talking should end and collective actions should commence. Otherwise, the hierarchy will continue to act as if we, the People of God, don’t even exist.

      1. I agree Jerry but this has been known for over ten years now and the people still attend this church? CALLED AIDING AND ABETTING!

        My husband and I left the RCC after our 50th wedding anniversary mass, on the back deck of our boat.in 2001

        We knew then, that everything we’d heard from the Catholic religiuous of our families was TRUE. We never believed them before but it all came to pass in the San Diego Paper in 2001.And everyday it got worse.

        “The truth will set you free”, a trite comment you might think…It did for us but not for the many who for ten yrs now, still attend their Sat’s or Sunday’s listening to anything but the WORD OF GOD, SPOKEN IN LOVE AND TRUTH by believers in Jesus Christ.

        They believe in an entity(their church) that is not anything like the Preached Word of Jesus Christ in the Bible. WWJD?

        You can’t pick and choose but you can’t mock God Almighty indefinately! And that’s exactly what’s been happening since we found out their secrets. HE is being Mocked ON A DAILY BASIS and it will not last forever, without HIS VOICE BEING HEARD TO US ALL.

      2. Gloria,
        We did a post on it a few weeks ago. If you use the Search bar, you’ll be able to locate it. Also, Amnesty International named the Vatican as a violator in their annual report on human rights abuses.

  20. I am wholeheartedly behind Charles regarding policy and procedures. The rot starts at the top and The Top will fight change one issue at a time and wear the laity down with rules, regulations, doctrine, encylicals, scripture (from their perspective) – they are very good at it, and have always treated the laity as second class citizens. As I see it, admittedly as an outsider – The Church hierarchy, from the beginning, has inserted itself between God and His Son in order to gain authority and power. Jesus does not represent authority, power and male domination. When He said: “Suffer the little children to come unto me for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” I don’t think He had popes, cardinals, bishops and priests in mind. Piecemeal change is not the answer – even on an issue as devastating as child rape by priests.

  21. It’s a big world and a lot of room for ideas to be implemented. On this site we focus on victims and child protection.. I have no desire or energy to take on a 2,000 year old institution. However I do feel that laws can make change within the institution. I have been going back and forth today between emails from advocates working for child protection and everyone sharing their thoughts here on how broad or narrow our focus should be. Children and victims – I think I am going to bow out this discussion. I think it is great everyone shares their thoughts – it is a forum after all. But that doesn’t change the focus of this site and it sure doesn’t keep children any safer. We had a really good following of people concerned about children and victims,not sure where that got confused – that is what we are about.

    1. Kathy, My heart is protecting children. They don’t have a voice, we need to be their voice and defend them. As you know I am a survivor, maybe I’m wrong but I think my intentions on this blog need to be really heard because I have walked the walk and paid a dear price for the innocence that was taken from me by the age of 13. Please lets focus on the children.

  22. I realize my last comment probably sounded a little bit angry. It is just that I know this site has provided an enormous comfort to victims and their families – I willl protect that at all cost.I also realize that a real shift in power can come through the courts and legislation which is evident in Delaware. Along with financial settlements there were other parts of the settlement that ordered the Church to release info and also the court used their authority in overseeing and striking down some things the church wanted. The Church is not used to getting their way – the legal system can take that power from them.

  23. Sorry – I meant to say the Church is “used” to getting their way. Whoever gave Vicki’s comment the thumbs down needs to do a little soul searching

  24. Perhaps Vicki and Kathy are right – for them and for the reasons this site started had to do with the children – survivors and the parents of the children – at least the parents who believed their children. Admittedly I never had that experience – only know those who did. My experience and history tell me that a big tent approach such as was seen in the Civil Rights movement is very effective. However, perhaps as a non-believer my thoughts are best kept to myself. I wish eveyone in this site well in your struggles against oppression.


    1. SRW, I hope you stick around and continue to make your case as effectively as you have been. Big tent, small tent–almost all of the problems in the big tent have the same source. The Roman clique and their US puppet bishops want to control everything by coercion and secrecy. When the Allies wanted to counter-attack worldwide Fascists during World War II, they focused narrowly on invading Normandy. With victory at this narrow target, the allies were able to expand quickly and victoriously to other fronts. Similarly, the bishops, especially Chaput, are most vulnerable on the cover-up of of the rape of children by priests. This target is, of course, very important in itself, as are all victims. But by aiming more at that target, especially since kids urgently need protection and can’t defend themselves,we are all just trying with our limited resources to aim at the best opening available. As Catholics mobilize behind this target, other important objectives should be easier to pursue. My view, anyways.

    2. I think it is kinda like a leak in the ceiling you go up stairs can’t find the leak pull up the floor and realize the pipe needs to be fixed or replaced and because the leak has gone on for so long the floor and the drywall need to be replaced and there might be mold that needs to be removed also. I think if we address child sexaul abuse the other issues will need to be addressed one thing leads to another but you can’t fix the leak, the floor, the mold and drywall all at the same time. You have to priortize and I think the protection of innocent children is a priority.

      1. Well said, Beth. You are nut just one hell of an advocate, you apparently would also make a great handyman!

    3. To S. Reid Warren, you now have a survivor, me that when I told my mother that the Rev. Richard Dolan had been raping me for almost 2 years, she had me stand in the diningroom for 3 hours until I gave up and told her it wasn’t true. I have since confronted him in Tennessee and its on tape what he had to say. The archdiocese with the tape in hand finally put his name on their website after they investigated my claims, but I did the leg work. My case was the oldest that the review board acknowledged. So when these lawyers say that these cases to to “old” its bunk, because they investigated my case that took place in 1963.

  25. Dear Vicky,

    Thank you for your comments and inclusion. I’m a retired psychiatric social worker. Over 60% of the women who were admitted to state mental hospitals had been sexually molested/raped – twice the national average. I was on the board of a domestic violence shelter for four years so know the emotional and mental carnage visited on girls and women over the centuries. You learned early on that the only way to regain self respect and take back your personhood was to go public, to take on the rapist and never flinch. You had the courage and the conviction to win some justice – all on your own. Dare I say: YOU GO GIRL!
    All the best to you.


  26. The most effective campaign is Truth. In Miami, the LAITY laboriously documented (with photos, etc.) the vile goings on in that archdiocese under Favalora (that violated church canons) and presented the irrefutable truth to the Vatican. AND to the press.

    Always, in the case of abuse, which violates state/federal law, the police should also be informed.

    I’m not in favor of noisy, dirty camp-outs like Occupy Wall Street. We must always act so that we are a credit to Jesus Christ.

    We must also give as much attention to healing and redemption for the victims as we do to prosecution of the perpetrators. Many of the perpetrators were themselves victims. They do not need to be allowed to be priests, but they do need help.

  27. They need help and supervision…many need perpetual incarceration or very, very limited freedom. They are sick…and many are unrepentant and feel no remorse, but believe they are entitled to gratify themselves with children, teens or whomever.

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