Catholic faith­ful de­mand change af­ter sex abuse scan­dals

Manteca Bulletin - - Nation -

MIN­NEAPO­LIS (AP) — The day af­ter a grand jury re­port re­vealed that Ro­man Catholic clergy in Penn­syl­va­nia mo­lested more than 1,000 chil­dren over decades, Adri­enne Alexan­der went to Mass at a Chicago church and waited for the pri­est to say some­thing about the sit­u­a­tion.

He didn’t. And that left Alexan­der fum­ing. So she went on Face­book to vent — then or­ga­nized a prayer vigil in Chicago that be­came the cat­a­lyst for sim­i­lar laity-led vig­ils in Bos­ton, Philadel­phia and other ci­ties na­tion­wide.

Alexan­der is among count­less Catholics in the U.S. who are rais­ing their voices in prayer and protest to de­mand change amid new rev­e­la­tions of sex abuse by priests and al­le­ga­tions of wide­spread cover-ups. They are do­ing let­ter-writ­ing cam­paigns and hold­ing prayer vig­ils and lis­ten­ing ses­sions in an ef­fort to bring about change from the pews, re­al­iz­ing it’s up to them to con­front the prob­lem and save the church they love af­ter years of empty prom­ises from lead­er­ship.

“I think it’s im­por­tant that the large body hears from us,” Alexan­der said. “We ac­tu­ally make up the church.”

Their grass­roots ef­forts are gain­ing mo­men­tum. In the last week more than 39,000 peo­ple have signed their names to a let­ter de­mand­ing an­swers from Pope Fran­cis him­self.

Another ef­fort, spon­sored by re­form groups, has seized upon the “Time’s Up” and #MeToo move­ments and is or­ga­niz­ing events across the coun­try this week­end un­der the CatholicToo hash tag.

Some of the ef­forts are call­ing for spe­cific re­forms, such as laity-led in­ves­ti­ga­tions and trans­parency, while others are still brain­storm­ing so­lu­tions. One woman in Michi­gan founded a web­site to make it easy for any­one to speak up and write to church of­fi­cials.

“I’ve never seen any­thing like this be­fore,” Mar­jorie Mur­phy Camp­bell, a civil and canon lawyer in Park City, Utah, said of the laity’s en­gage­ment. She said many Catholics feel they have no choice.

“You ei­ther have to get in­volved now, be­cause you can­not trust the bish­ops to solve this them­selves, or you leave. ... It’s our job to help the mother church get through this.”

The ac­tions come as the church is fac­ing a global cri­sis over clergy abuse fol­low­ing the scathing Penn­syl­va­nia grand jury re­port and the pope’s re­moval of ex-Car­di­nal Theodore McCar­rick from pub­lic min­istry amid al­le­ga­tions McCar­rick sex­u­ally abused a teenage al­tar boy and preyed upon adult sem­i­nar­i­ans decades ago.

Fran­cis wrote a let­ter to Catholics in Au­gust, say­ing the laity must help end the cler­i­cal cul­ture that has placed priests above re­proach. He then found him­self im­mersed in the scan­dal amid claims that he knew about al­le­ga­tions against McCar­rick in 2013, but re­ha­bil­i­tated him any­way.

A col­lec­tive of in­di­vid­ual Catholic women last week wrote a let­ter urg­ing Fran­cis to de­liver an­swers. The let­ter, which had more than 39,000 sig­na­tures by Fri­day, de­clared “we are not sec­ond-class Catholics to be brushed off while bish­ops and car­di­nals han­dle mat­ters pri­vately.”

“In short, we are the Church, ev­ery bit as much as the car­di­nals and bish­ops around you,” the let­ter said.

Robert Shine, a Catholic in Bos­ton and vice pres­i­dent of the Women’s Or­di­na­tion Con­fer­ence, said he be­lieves Catholics are now ready to con­front what’s been hap­pen­ing in the church and talk about how they can be in­volved in re­form, re­flect­ing a broader trend in the U.S. with peo­ple get­ting more ac­tive in protests. Other de­nom­i­na­tions have been strug­gling with the is­sue as well.

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