Faced With an Ongoing Sexual-Abuse Crisis, What Are Catholic Parents to Do?

“I think it’s different for parents. We have to protect our children. That’s our No. 1 calling in life, and that comes before everything.”​

By Julie Beck and Ashley Fetters

As it has been for decades, the Catholic Church is in the midst of a crisis, one whose long reach has traumatized thousands and left one of the world’s oldest institutions struggling to find a way forward. In late February, the Vatican held a high-profile conference on the sexual-abuse crisis—the revelations of decades of abuse, by priests in different parts of the globe, of children, adult seminarians, and nuns. During the conference, Pope Francis called for “concrete change, though the Atlantic reporter Rachel Donadio wrote that, on the whole, the meeting seemed largely to be a “consciousness-raising exercise,” out of step with the “zero tolerance” that many victims’ advocates in the United States have been demanding for priests who use their power to abuse. It seems the crisis will likely drag on as the Church’s highest authorities continue their slow-moving reckoning.

What is an institutional crisis for the Church is a personal crisis for the faithful. Lay Catholics are left to grapple with what this crisis means for them, their families, and their faith. Parents in particular often feel acutely conflicted. How can they not worry about sending their children to be altar servers after reading about priests taking advantage of altar servers in the past? At the same time, devout parents who deeply love the Church naturally want their children to receive its spiritual benefits. What are they to do?

Some decide that they simply can’t reconcile their faith with decades of abuse and the subsequent cover-ups, or that the best way to protect their kids is to leave the Church. Laura Donovan, 30, says the child-sexual-abuse crisis is the reason she’s parted ways with the Catholic Church. Donovan, a social-media manager based in Los Angeles, had drifted away somewhat from her Catholic upbringing by the time The Boston Globe revealed the extent of the Catholic Church’s cover-up of Boston-area priests’ child abuse in 2002, but when she learned just how widespread the problem was, she says, “ultimately, that’s what made me think, I don’t want to go back to a Catholic church again, and I certainly don’t want to raise my own children in a religion like that.”

The Pennsylvania grand-jury report that revealed 70 years of abuse by more than 300 priests came out in August of last year, around the time Donovan’s first child, a son, was born. After becoming a parent, Donovan felt called back to Christianity and wanted to raise her family in a Church, but she and her husband “made the call not to raise him Catholic.”“

I don’t necessarily think anything would happen to him,” she says. “I mean, it could. But I’m just thinking, What would he think of us if we brought him to that church even after all of this had unfolded? … Let’s say he was raised Catholic, and then he learned about all of that—about the sex abuse worldwide that had been going on for decades and covered up—and then came to us and said, ‘How could you have raised me in that religion?’ I wouldn’t have an answer for him.”

Eventually, Donovan’s son was baptized in the Lutheran Church, and Donovan herself was confirmed as well. Her husband grew up attending a Lutheran church, and when Donovan first attended with him, “I felt really comfortable there,” she says. “It had a lot of elements of what I like about the Catholic Church—it’s old, it’s structured, but it doesn’t have that big scandal, obviously.” Still, she misses some of the Catholic traditions she grew up with: the songs, the rosary beads, the congregational sign of peace, “praying to saints and thinking about angels.” Today, when Donovan prays, she has a hard time not instinctively making the sign of the cross.

It’s difficult to know just how many people have left the Catholic Church as a direct result of the sexual-abuse crisis. But across the United States, the Catholic Church is losing members at a faster rate than any other religion, with more than six former Catholics for every recent convert as of 2015, according to the Pew Research Center. (The second-fastest-declining religion in the United States was mainline Protestantism, with 1.7 former congregants for every new member.) From 2010 to 2016, the percentage of American adults who describe themselves as Catholic dropped from 25.2 percent to 23.5 percent. While it’s unclear whether the abuse crisis is the main reason Catholics are leaving the Church, a 2016 Public Religion Research Institute report found that people who were raised Catholic were more likely than those raised in any other religious tradition to characterize their departure as a direct result of “negative religious treatment of gay and lesbian people” and/or “the clergy sexual-abuse scandal.”

Other Catholic parents, though distressed by the Pennsylvania revelations and earlier reports on the crisis, are committed to the Church.

“It’s not something that changed my day-to-day practice of the faith, and I couldn’t see how it possibly could,” says Kendra Tierney, a 42-year-old writer and stay-at-home mother of nine children, ages 1 to 16 years old. “If you believe that the Catholic Church is the one founded by Jesus Christ, there is nowhere else to go. Jesus asked Peter, ‘Are you going to leave me also?’ and Peter says, ‘To whom shall we go?’ This is how I feel.”

Tierney was raised Catholic and says her faith deepened after she became a mother, when she started to shape her family’s home life around the liturgical year. That was the inspiration for her blog Catholic All Year. She says she wasn’t paying much attention to the news when the 2002 Boston Globe investigation came out, “so for me, the first big punch in the gut was late last summer, when the [Pennsylvania] report came out.”

She sees cases of abuse as “failings of personal holiness,” and rather than “sitting back and saying, ‘This is a terrible thing; this is a threat to my children and my faith,’” she wanted to do something in response to the news. Along with some others in the Catholic community online, Tierney launched a campaign to promote a month-long period of prayer, fasting, and sacrifice, as an act of reparation to God for the sins of abusive priests and the bishops who covered up their actions.

“For the whole month of September, our family observed kind of a Lent,” she says. “We gave up all treats, desserts, and sodas, all TV and video games, and we added in a special prayer from a book called In Sinu Jesu, a prayer of reparation for priests. We are all sinners, and if we can each improve as a member of the body of Christ, if I can raise holy sons and daughters, that’s going to help the Church.”

One Catholic father, a 35-year-old in New York City, seems to be feeling torn between raising a holy daughter and protecting her. (This man asked to remain anonymous, because he works for a Catholic organization and worried there could be consequences at his job if he spoke freely about the Church.) He grew up in a Hispanic Catholic family and went to Catholic school for middle and high school, and though he didn’t go to church much in college, he says he grew closer to the Church after he met his wife. “She was much more devout than me,” he says.

The man says he and his wife have not yet discussed how they feel about raising their daughter, now 2, in the Church, in light of the sexual-abuse crisis. “We’ve just been numb,” he says. Plus, with the stresses of parenting a 2-year-old, the family hasn’t had a ton of time to go to church lately anyway. “But I’m not going to deny that part of it is a real distaste for all this news that keeps coming out,” he says.

A couple of days after the Pennsylvania report was released, he posted on a Catholicism subreddit, asking whether it was reasonable to be wary “of priests with very poor social skills or [who] appear awkward?” In the replies, some people chided him, saying that just because someone is awkward doesn’t mean he’s a predator, but the man still feels like he needs to trust his gut if someone seems off to him.“I think it’s different for parents,” he says. “We have to protect our children. That’s our No. 1 calling in life, and that comes before everything. You’re not worried about the Church or school—you’re allowed to judge and be cautious and not feel guilty about that, because you’re a protector.”

Nonetheless, he still hopes to send his daughter to Catholic school when she’s older, and for the Church to be part of her life in some way, even if he’s still thinking through how exactly to handle it. “[Catholicism] is wrapped up in identity for a lot of Hispanics,” he says. “I want my daughter to find her own way, but there is a place in my heart that still hopes she ends up being part of the faith. There’s a lot of beauty in the Church. Even if you just want to look at Christ as a historical figure, that’s a great model for how people should treat other people.”

Among families who are still part of a Catholic church, some parents have begun to rethink the level of their children’s involvement in the church community. The Catholic dad in New York City, for example, said, “I probably would never feel comfortable with my daughter being alone at a church by herself without parents around.”

In 2018, after the Pennsylvania grand-jury report, Chris Damian, an author and attorney based in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, co-founded YArespond, a group that hosts events for young Catholic adults to get together and discuss the crisis in the Church. At a meeting in August, more than 100 attendees gathered in the basement of a Minneapolis church to express sentiments including worry, disillusionment, anger, and grief. According to Damian’s blog, one attendee said, “There’s no way I would let my child be an altar server.”

It’s an understandable position to take, says Kirby Hoberg, 28, a blogger, actor, and mother of three who helps YArespond organize and host meetings—especially given that, historically, altar servers have spent more time alone with priests than have other children in a congregation. “I hear that a lot, and I see why people would do that,” Hoberg says.

A dose of caution is enough to make some Catholic parents comfortable with their kids being involved in church activities. Chris Mayerle’s 12-year-old son, for instance, not only is an altar server but knows how to serve Mass in Latin, which apparently makes him in quite high demand in their home state of Utah. The Mayerles—Chris, his wife, and their seven children (some of whom are adults)—have moved around a good amount, since Chris was in the Air Force for a time. In each place they’ve lived, they’ve vetted churches and priests—“parish shopping,” as he puts it—before settling down with a congregation.

“We became very, very selective about which priests we would be around, and which priests we would let our children be around,” Mayerle says. “Everywhere we’ve been, we’ve been close to our priests. We have them over for dinner. You can get a sense when things are not quite right with a priest. But we never put our kids in a situation where they’ve been alone with a priest or where they could be compromised.”

The way a priest says Mass, Mayerle believes, is one clue to his personality, and that plays a role in whether or not Mayerle will trust him. At the first church the family went to in Utah, “the priest just skipped over major parts of the Mass,” he says. “That was off-putting to us. One of the things we look for is when they do things the way they’re supposed to. In other words, they’re obedient—it means they’re probably obedient to their vows also. When they just start winging it, it means they view themselves as their own authority, which I don’t think is healthy.”

Of course, many Catholic parents, while dismayed by how the scandal reflects on the Church as an institution, still trust their own parishes and priests. They say their churches have routine audits, training for adult volunteers, and policies that prohibit priests from being alone with children. Some Catholic parents we spoke to mentioned that their priests openly discuss the issue and share in their grief, and that the leaders in their churches seem willing to engage with parishioners in discussions on how to make Catholic churches safer places. Others emphasize that they believe the vast majority of priests are morally sound leaders, and that only a small portion have been accused of inappropriate conduct.

But perhaps the biggest change from earlier eras, when some of the abuse described in the Boston and Pennsylvania reports occurred, is that for some of today’s Catholic families, priests are not put on a pedestal. Several parents we spoke to for this piece said there is less of a sense among Catholics today than in decades past that priests are infallible, or more incorruptible than the average person. And so they teach their kids to be wary of inappropriate behavior from all grown-ups—priests and other spiritual leaders included.

“You want your kids to have respect for people in positions of authority, but perhaps overemphasized respect for the clergy allowed this culture of abuse to last in the shadows as long as it did,” Tierney says. “They’re not superheroes; they are humans. We are all capable of sin, and that’s the conversation I’ve had with my kids. You trust your gut, and if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.”

“It’s not that I would treat my priest differently from the way I would another grown-up, but I am very, very cautious about leaving my children alone with anyone,” says Haley Stewart, the writer behind the Catholic blog Carrots for Michaelmas and a 33-year-old mother of four in Waco, Texas. Her children are seven months, 5, 7, and 10, and she says she has talked about bodily autonomy with them from a young age.

“We start really young by teaching our kids the anatomical names of their body parts, saying, ‘This part of your body is not for anyone else to touch,’” she says. “It doesn’t have to be a big scary conversation with a small child. Also impressing upon them that if someone ever does something to your body that you did not like, that is not your fault, and you need to tell Mom and Dad so we can make sure you are safe from that person.”

Kirby Hoberg has noticed that the younger Catholic parents she knows seem angrier about the recent wave of sexual-abuse revelations than do older parents she knows who were adults during the first phase of the crisis, in 2002. “I think I was turning 12 when the news started to break … We watched things like the Dallas Charter [come into effect] and really believed that things were being taken care of,” she says. “I’m noticing a lot of people older than me [seem to feel] very helpless. Like, ‘We tried once, and now it’s gone.’”

Hoberg expects that Catholic parents of her generation will be reckoning with the aftereffects of the sexual-abuse crisis for years to come. “It’s going to be a long road,” she says. “The kids aren’t going away, and these questions are only going to get harder [as they get older].”

She’s uncertain, she adds, about how she might handle a future in which her son decides he wants to go to seminary—a sentiment that Chris Mayerle, the Utah dad whose son is an altar server, echoes. His son has expressed interest in becoming a priest, and if he were to follow through, Mayerle says, “we’d be excited, in all honesty. The Church is in great need of renewal, and it’s gotta start somewhere. But whatever seminary he wanted to go to, we would vet very closely.”

Complete Article HERE!

Leading Benedictine nun in Germany calls for women priests

‘Why shouldn’t we pray for gender equality in the Church? It is most important that all discussions on reform be offered up to God,’ says Sister Ruth Schönenberger

By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

The leader of one of Germany’s most important female religious communities has called into question the Catholic Church’s exclusion of women from the ordained priesthood.

“It is surely only natural for women to be priests and I cannot understand the reasons given as to why not,” said Sister Ruth Schönenberger, head of the Benedictine Priory of Tutzing, the Bavarian motherhouse of a worldwide missionary order.

“I am surprised that the presence of Christ has been reduced to the male sex,” she said in a recent interview with katholisch.de, the official website of the German Catholic Church.

“Here in Tutzing, we, too, have excellently qualified women theologians. The only thing they lack is ordination – nothing else,” said 68-year-old Schönenberger, prioress of Tutzing since 2015.

The priory is one of the most important in the Benedictine world. In 1885 it founded the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing, a congregation that today numbers some 1,300 sisters in 19 countries around the world.

Priesthood should not be based on gender

Schönenberger, who is responsible for the 70 members at the Tutzing priory and those at two other Benedictine convents, said the criteria for priesthood should not be based on one’s gender.

“Our present image/concept of the priesthood urgently needs to be fundamentally revised and I am genuinely surprised that priests themselves don’t protest more against present developments since they involve them,” said the prioress, noting that men and women should be treated as equals.

“The extent to which this power imbalance exists the world over is truly alarming and so is the fact that we have not learned to grapple with it more effectively. It is something we must rigorously tackle,” Schönenberger said.

She called for greater and open discussion on the issue to look for concrete steps that could be taken to remedy the imbalance “and not just comfort us women somehow – as, for example, by promising to look into the question of women deacons.”

Schönenberger said she and her fellow sisters often discuss the subject.

New forms of Eucharist?

“After all, we experience concrete examples of subordination day after day. If we, as a group of women religious, want to celebrate the Eucharist together, we have to arrange for a man to come and celebrate it, every single day. He stands at the altar and leads the celebration. We are not allowed to,” the Tutzing prioress said.

“We intend to look for forms (of celebrating the Eucharist) which suit us and develop new ones,” she added.

Worldwide prayers for gender equality in the Church

She said she and her community fully supported the prayer initiative for gender equality in the Church that was launched in February by Sister Irene Gassman, prioress of the Benedictine Monastery of Fahr (Switzerland).

The Swiss religious has invited Benedictine communities around the globe — as well as parishes and other communities — to include the “Prayer on Thursday” during compline (or night prayer) each week.

Schönenberger said prayer alone was not enough, but added: “Why shouldn’t we pray for gender equality in the Church? It is most important that all discussions on reform be offered up to God.”

Complete Article HERE!

Nun compares Church to criminals in its dealing with priests’ abuse

Sr Véronique Margron accuses Church of covering up reports of abuse of nuns

Sr Véronique Margron: ‘Any criminal organization would not have done worse.’

By Patsy McGarry

A leading French nun has accused the Vatican and Catholic bishops of having sanctioned the spiritual and sexual abuse (including rape, prostitution and forced abortions) of women religious in many countries and on every continent for over 20 years and probably much longer.

“Any criminal organization would not have done worse,” said Dominican nun Sr Véronique Margron, president of the French Conference of Men and Women Religious (CORREF)

She accused the Church leadership of responding to reports if such abuse of nuns with silence, cover-up and in-action. It was shocking, she said.

In an accompanying statement the liberal Catholic We Are Church (WAC) international group noted how in in 1994 Clare-born Medical Missionary of Mary
Report

Sr Maura O’Donoghue presented a detailed report on the abuse of nuns by priests to the Vatican based on six years experience in 23 countries and 5 continents.

In 1998 Scottish nun Sr Marie McDonald of the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa presented another report on the abuse of religious women by priests in Africa to the Vatican

It recalled how in 2001 the European Parliament wrote to the Vatican calling for action to be taken about the sexual abuse of religious sisters by priests.

“But all to no avail. Just more silence, more cover-ups and more in-action. But in recent years courageous women who have spoken out despite the pressure to remain silent have highlighted this disgraceful behaviour,” it said

In a statement it continued:“it is a horrifying litany of spiritual and sexual abuse against women religious by men who claimed to be servants of Christ but were in fact servants of lust and power. There must be no more silence, no more cover-ups and No more in-action. The people of the church demand repentance and justice.”

Following the recent Vatican meeting on child safeguarding, attending by Catholic bishops and religious leaders from around the world WAC regretted that it had resulted in “an absence of concrete actions to safeguard children.”

“The clear message remains that any concerns about clerical child abuse should be reported to the civil authorities and not to the church authorities,” it said.

Complete Article HERE!

In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy by Frédéric Martel – review

Four years in the making, this exhaustive exposé of the Catholic church’s moral fraudulence demands outrage

Cardinal sins: ‘The scale of the Vatican’s sanctimonious mendacity reminds Martel of the Third Reich.’

By

When God died, the official cause was elderly enfeeblement; after reading Frédéric Martel’s exposé of infamy in the Catholic church, I suspect that the old boy committed suicide in remorse, aghast at the crimes and un-Christian sins of organised religion.

Although Martel’s book is published just in time to spoil a pious conference on clerical paedophilia convened by the pope, the abuse of minors is not all that St Peter’s pharisaical heirs have to answer for. The Vatican combines a venality that the mafia might envy with a bigotry worthy of Steve Bannon (who not coincidentally was in Rome for last week’s gathering), and to this already foul mixture it adds an unctuous hypocrisy. The moral fraudulence of the church is Martel’s subject: having spent four years sleuthing in all corners of the Catholic world, he establishes that during the past few papacies the fieriest critics of homosexuality – the cardinals who regarded Aids as a divine judgment, condemned the distribution of condoms in Africa, called gender theory an abomination, and ignored peccadilloes like those of the Cuban priest who administered a special blessing to the penises of little boys – were themselves unabashedly gay.

Some of them cruised in Roman parks, claiming diplomatic immunity whenever they were bothered by the police; others used their smartphones to summon Arab hustlers. Many attended infernally red-lit orgies in the Vatican, with party drugs and strapping seminarians on tap, and quite a few rejoiced in drag-queen nicknames. One financially canny episcopal plutocrat added Rome’s busiest gay sauna to his bulging property portfolio. Martel includes a single incongruously heterosexual anecdote, about a prince of the church who died of a heart attack in Paris while having overenergetic sex with a prostitute called Mimi. Jesuitical spin doctors claimed he’d paid her a visit in the hope of persuading her to repent, which didn’t explain why he was naked when the ambulance arrived.

Is all this a symptom of bad faith, or perhaps of closeted self-disgust? No, it simply reveals the convenient duplicity of Catholicism: as André Gide put it, after the theologian Jacques Maritain failed to dissuade him from publishing his memoir of romps with Arab boys, “I hate lying. That’s where my Protestantism takes refuge. Catholics don’t like the truth.” The scale of the Vatican’s sanctimonious mendacity reminds Martel of the Third Reich, where the euphemisms and evasions of an entire society destroyed “the reality of a common world”.

Visiting a cardinal who is “refined and well pomaded”, Martel is “submerged in a cloud of scent” when he makes a detour to the man’s bathroom and checks his medicine cabinet; inside the Vatican, his astute French nose detects expensive traces of “amber, violet, musk, champaca” when his perfumed interviewees waft towards him. But the prevailing odour in his book is sulphur, a metaphorical stink that alerts Martel to the presence of the devil.

He flinches when introduced to George Pell, the Australian cardinal recently found guilty of sexual abuse in Melbourne (he will be sentenced later this month), whose colleagues in the Vatican treasury called him “Pell Pot” in homage to the bloodthirsty Cambodian dictator Pol Pot. Martel manages not to feel frightened on this occasion, but is glad never to have encountered two Latin American priests who strike him as unequivocally “evil”. In Mexico, the “diabolical” Marcial Maciel amassed “insane levels of wealth” and indulged in systematic “sexual violence”, while of course exhibiting pious meekness on public occasions; in Colombia, López Trujillo – like Maciel, now defunct – connived at the murder of dozens of priests and bishops, who were eliminated by paramilitary brigades after he fingered them for their progressive opinions.

Among all this villainy, Martel has a sneaky fondness for Pope Benedict XVI, who railed against homosexuals while flouncing about in natty ermine-lined bonnets and lipstick-red Prada slippers. In one decadent episode, Benedict moons over his hunky chamberlain Georg Gänswein during the younger man’s consecration as an archbishop, caressing his Clooneyesque salt-and-pepper curls for all of 19 enraptured seconds. Despite such florid displays of an apparently platonic affection, Martel sees Benedict as a victim of wishful self-neutering. As Nietzsche remarked, “The saint pleasing to God is the ideal castrato”.

It’s a pity that Martel’s book is so preposterously long and lazily repetitive; lacking an index, it will be useless as a reference work. I also worry a little about its methods. Some highly placed informants are given the benefit of anonymity, and others are lured into confiding or confessing by the flirty signals Martel transmits. “He employs guile with me,” he says during a teasing duel with Pope John Paul II’s former secretary, “and I play with him.” Stray comments reveal a double standard. Thus he denounces Catholic potentates for the luxury in which they live, yet grimaces like a snooty interior decorator when he visits one residence: “The furniture is horrible, as it often is in the Vatican,” he sniffs. The tone falters because Martel seems unsure whether to be horrified by the church’s corruption or to let out a gasp of high-camp amazement at its excesses. Given the evidence that he has uncovered, I’d say that outrage is the better option.

Complete Article HERE!

Why the Priesthood Needs Women

Far more than celibacy or sexual repression, barring one gender from the Roman Catholic Church’s highest ranks provides the implicit rationale for clerical abuse.

Protesters outside St. Peter’s Basilica on the day of the opening of a global child protection summit for reflections on the sex abuse crisis within the Catholic Church, at the Vatican, on Thursday.

By Alice McDermott

No Christian should need to be reminded of the moral error of discrimination. We hold at the center of our faith the belief that every human life is of equal value. And yet the Roman Catholic Church, my church, excludes more than half its members from full participation by barring women, for reasons of gender alone, from the priesthood.

The moral consequences of this failing become abundantly clear each time another instance of clergy abuse, and cover-up, is revealed. It is the inevitable logic of discrimination: If one life, one person, is of more value than another, then “the other,” the lesser, is dispensable. For the male leaders of the Catholic Church, the lives of women and children become secondary to the concerns of the more worthy, the more powerful, the more essential person — the male person, themselves.

The Catholic Church needs to correct this moral error.

I was visiting a Catholic university in Boston in 2002 as the clergy abuse scandal involving Cardinal Bernard Law was breaking. I was there to discuss a novel I had written, but the questions from the audience at my talk — and at the book signing after, and on the sidewalk as I walked to my car — were mostly, if passionately, rhetorical: What do we do now? Where do we go from here? Do you think the church understands our pain? Do you think the church understands what we’ve lost? How much corruption should we tolerate?

At the time, I could offer only small commiseration — as well as my regret that these Catholics had been so betrayed by their spiritual leaders that they were left to seek solace from the likes of me, a reluctant and often contrarian Catholic, a novelist, a woman. “Awful, yes,” I said. “Outrageous, yes.” “Hope,” I said now and again. “Hope for change, perhaps.”

In the intervening years, the institutional church has learned to expand its vocabulary to include such words as “transparency” and “victim” and even “prosecute.” In the intervening years, wrists have been slapped, apologies made, some twisted souls have been sent to jail. But even as bishops and other Catholic leaders gather in Rome this weekend to address the abuse crisis, no Catholic I know feels assured that real change will come, that the worst is behind us, that some prince of the church, even a sainted pope, won’t eventually be revealed as a predator, an enabler.

For those of us trying to hang on to our affiliation with the Catholic Church, Pope Francis’s recent defrocking of Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, though commendable, is no recompense for the blindness, the arrogance, the cruelty of a system that allowed that pathetic man to become the shepherd of one of the most visible dioceses in the world. We fear that boys’ club secrecy and prancing misogyny, the profound moral error of discrimination, will prevail.

For myself, and for many of the Catholics I know (especially women), the question of how much corruption we can tolerate is now weighed against the tremendous loss we would feel, if we left this church. It’s an institution that has shaped us, comforted us, guided and informed us, that is the center of our spiritual lives as well as our community lives and family lives, the source of our own moral strength, of our faith in the substance of things hoped for. And yet small commiserations can no longer placate our outrage. A sea change is required.

Forty years ago, when, as the evidence now shows, abusive priests and winking bishops were flourishing throughout the world, Sister Theresa Kane of the Sisters of Mercy stirred a bit of outrage in the Catholic rank and file when she implored Pope John Paul II, on his first trip to the United States, to “be open to, and respond to, the voices coming from the women of this country.” She added later that “serious social injustices” were imposed on Catholic women by the “very system” of their church, and that until the church began reckoning with this uncomfortable fact, it could not “give witness to justice in the world.”

Sister Theresa was not the first voice in the Catholic Church to suggest that discrimination against women was at odds with the church’s core mission. More than a decade before, in 1965, the Second Vatican Council released a document called “Gaudium et Spes,” or “Joy and Hope” — two gifts now in short supply among the Catholics I know. It said, in part: “With respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent.”

In barring women from the priesthood, then, what Sister Theresa called the “very system” of the Catholic Church is adhering to a rule, a mere custom, that is contrary to God’s intent. It is this grave moral error, far more than priestly celibacy or Catholic sexual repression, that provides the implicit rationale for abusive priests and, more insidious still, for the men who excuse and protect them.

Rape and abuse is not about sexual longing or loneliness. It is about power. It is about the cruel dehumanization of the other, the perceived lesser being, in order to gain, and retain, power. The institutionalized misogyny of the Catholic Church reinforces the notion of women, and their children, as the lesser. Catholic women, and their children, can have no assurance that the church can reform itself until that essential error is addressed and corrected. And that error cannot be corrected as long as women cannot be priests.

Lately, as I have listened to the conversations of my dismayed and discouraged fellow Catholics, I have thought of the Catholic women who have shaped my own faith — nuns, teachers, mothers, friends. I’ve recalled the particular sound of these women’s voices when they have come to the end of their patience; it’s a calm, powerful, sober sound, a formidable voice that can bring children up short, silence excuses, restore order to chaos. It’s the voice of a woman saying, simply: “All right. That’s enough.”

It’s the voice the Catholic hierarchy needs to hear.

Complete Article HERE!