The Catholic response to the clerical abuse crisis has not been Catholic enough. It has not been Catholic enough because it has failed to draw upon the Church’s own sacred traditions of reform and renewal, as embodied in figures like St. Peter Damian. For too long, the language of bureaucrats and businessmen has been allowed to supplant that of the saints—of sackcloth and ashes, of bell, book, and candle.
Why We Act
While recent expressions of shame and sorrow are good, they are not substitutes for righteous anger and mortification. As faithful Catholics, we choose to act not because we believe this diabolical abuse is more common in the Church than in other institutions today, but because the Church is Holy, and every act of clerical abuse is nothing less than damnable sacrilege. The time has come for sanctification.
The Call For Change
The severity and urgency of this crisis cannot be overstated. The eternal salvation of millions of souls is at stake, along with unity and legitimacy and public liberty of the Church throughout the world.
We therefore call for the following changes:
- The widespread institution of public and private penances by the hierarchy.
- The laicization or excommunication of abusers and their enablers.
- The restoration of a Rite of Degradation.
- The restoration of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, and the empowerment of its disciplinary apparatus.
- Full and transparent audits of all records on sexual abuse and misconduct, as well as all financial records, to be conducted by the Holy Office—with lay oversight.
- The encouragement of investigations by well-intentioned civil authorities.
- The immediate delivery of those guilty of civil crimes to the appropriate civil authorities.
- The comprehensive renewal of seminarian vetting and formation, and the enforcement of the 2005 Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations.
- The amendment of the pontifical secret insofar as it represents an obstacle to investigations into clerical abuse.