Dear Dr. Ingrid
Shafer and Peace to you, too:
Thank you for such a prompt
response. My interest in AARC was started by the current crisis in the
Church on sexual abuse of minors and the manner in which it is being handled
by the Church's hierarchy. Today, May 4, 2002, I read two articles. Bill
Keller's in the New York Times, "Is the Pope Catholic?" And Steven Wilmsen's
in the Boston Globe, "Call for Change, Church Restructuring Urged", in
which your Association was prominently mentioned. A Search on the Internet
led me to your website. When I finished reading everything, I wanted to
be part of it.
I am a retired lawyer, age
73. In my younger days, I was a Jesuit for a time, when I taught philosophy
at Sophia University in Tokyo. My work for the Church has been sporadic
over the years: reading in Church on Sundays, doing some legal work for
the Bishop years ago, and watching from the sidelines. Although I have
drifted away, I guess in my old age, that I would like to take a stand,
Of course, members of the
Church, whether lay or clergy, sexton or Archbishop, must obey the laws
of the country in which they live and should be charged and prosecuted
just as any other member of that society should they violate those laws.
That is not the problem.
The problem in the Church
is much larger than the one facet of it found in the sexual abuse of minors
by clergy and the cover-up by Church leaders. I think that it is the abuse
of power inherent in the governmental structure of the Church itself, from
the Pope on down. Everything is so secretive, so
bound up in centuries of
canon law and its legalisms, ancient titles and honorifics, funny-looking
hats and robes with sashes and splashes of color, and the silencing of
those theologians, who fail to follow a party line established, from time
to time, by something called a Curia. Galileo may be dead, and the Church
may have apologized recently for its treatment of him, but the same or
similar method of operating persists. The Church's "M.O." is what we should
be trying to learn about and to change.
I do not know how Catholic
lay people can help change the way the Church is governed, but, until they
attempt to do so, the abuse of power will continue. Perhaps we could look
into the way a diocese is set up and how the chain of command goes out
from the Bishop to a local parish or up to a group of Cardinals in Rome.
Who tells a Cardinal what to do, when to speak, what not to say? How does
he pass those messages on to his own subordinates? Is there room for discussion?
Are different points of view allowed? Is there an inner cabinet, a council?
Who is on it and how did they get picked? Is a parish a legal entity,
separate and apart from the diocese, and is a diocese also an entity? Or
is every parish part of one legal structure, the country in Italy called
The Vatican? Is the Holy See part of or all of The Vatican?
How are seminarians selected?
What are they taught? Is there any sex education in seminary courses? May
a woman be a seminarian? Who gets to be a Bishop? May a Pope stack the
Curia with those who think as he does, just as a President picks a cabinet?
If so, are there other bodies within the structure to allow for a balance
of power, like a Congress and a Court?
Is there such a thing
as Church politics? If so, are there two or more political parties? If
the Church is not a democracy, is it like a monarchy, a republic, a dictatorship,
or is there some other form of government that is so secret that nobody
really knows about it? There are so many questions to be asked and so few
answers, so far.
These are my thoughts provoked
by the narrower problem of sexual abuse of minors and the ensuing cover-ups.
If the focus is just on those two issues, nothing can change. I can continue
to stay away and get upset at those who shout and yell and crowd internet
chats or ridicule the Catholic Church. Instead of blindly bashing, abusively
criticizing, would not all of us have a better chance of helping
the Church grow up, were we to ask questions, dig for answers, make recommendations,
see to it that they are listened to and discussed and acted upon, civilly?
Can we not do so constructively, rationally, legally, faithfully?
Should I do something beyond
reading about the crisis? It's hard to call myself a Catholic when I don't
go to Church as often as I did before, even if I stay away out of disappointment
that there appears to be no place for me now. Reading a lot of spiritual
books or meditating by myself, even zazen on a cushion, doesn't provide
a community for a belief in Christ, a common faith, a Church.
We all need a Church with
a form of government or structure that allows a voice and a vote for all,
whether conservative or liberal or in-between. We all need freedom for
intellectuals, whether in theology or philosophy or sex education. We desperately
need equality for women to take their proper, deserved and rightful place
in the Church, whether as members of the laity or clergy or religious or
Sorry, Doctor, for getting
wound up. I wasn't going to email it, but then asked if I really wanted
to call myself Catholic and take a stand in my old age, finally..
E. Paul Kelly