To all who are outraged about the abuse within our Church: We have remained silent too long. It is time for us, the People of God, regardless of where we are – active Catholic, former Catholic, Christian, and all faiths – to speak out and take an active leadership in bringing us all into the one Body of Christ. No more divisions. We are all one worshiping the same God. Let us use this opportunity of crisis within the institutional Roman Catholic Church to re-found the Church in the spirit Jesus intended.
Reform Groups around the globe echo a call for a "re-founding" of our Church
Like the walls of Jericho and the destruction of Jerusalem, the edifice of the Catholic Church is crumbling, having lost credibility in the eyes of the world as an institution for failing to practice within itself what it preaches about justice, human dignity and basic human rights. This is especially true in the wake of sexual abuse scandals that have been exposed all over the world, most recently in Pennsylvania, Chile, and Australia. For too long the cracks in this edifice have been plastered over; this unjustifiable policy and practice has persisted under the cover of official darkness, which is no longer tolerable or acceptable. Reform groups around the globe are calling for action now, to reclaim our church, and bring it in line with the gospel values on which it was founded. We are interested in "re-founding" it through small Christian communities at the grass roots reflecting the diversity that is the global human family in which all are welcome.
Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI'ntl) joins our voices with We Are Church International, Voices of Faith, Faithful America, theologian Mary Hunt, and so many others. With the recently released Grand Jury report on clergy sexual abuse and cover up in Pennsylvania, we too express our solidarity with the victims, survivors, and their families in their quest for justice and consolation. It is time for the grass roots of the Church to rise up and take a leadership role in bringing our Church in line with Gospel values and the spirit of the Church that Jesus intended.
Pope Francis has outlined his vision for a church that is "synodal" at every level, with everyone listening to one another, learning from one another and taking responsibility for proclaiming the Gospel. "The journey of synodality is the journey that God wants from his church in the third millennium," he said. "A synodal church is a listening church, aware that listening is more than hearing. It is a reciprocal listening in which each one has something to learn."
"We have spent far too many years trying to communicate with the hierarchy and convince them of the necessity of reform within the Church," says Rene Reid, Director of Catholic Church Reform International, "Universally, we have come to the conclusion that our trying to change them is fruitless. Consequently, we are putting our energy into changing ourselves and educating all the baptized that we are the Church and we have the responsibility to enrich the future leadership and management of our church and to lay the groundwork for a new governance model of Church that engages the giftedness of the People."
Jo Bock of Belgium says: "I don't speak any more about 'Reforming the Church.' I would prefer that we speak about "Re-Founding" it on two foundational elements: the Gospel (of the Living, Liberating, Raising us up Jesus) and joining and forming Small Christian Communities. Let us have a new beginning along the lines of the early Church!"
Peter Mbuchi of Kenya reiterates these sentiments: "Re-Founding the Church is to me a call to implement the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council coherently and universally through Small Faith Communities. There is no other way of being the Church of Christ than following in the footsteps of the Apostles whose method of Evangelization comprised Kerygma, Koinonia, Diakonia, and Didache."
Voices of Faith echo these calls, demanding that Pope Francis call a Synod of the Faithful – a comprehensive participatory process on a global level involving laity and priests, women and men, that will address the urgent problems of our Church and start us on the path to renewal.
Clyde Christofferson of the U.S., a long-time member of a lay-led Intentional Eucharistic Community, echoes the call: "Precisely because of the sexual abuse crisis there is an openness and opportunity for recognition, within these already existing Small Christian Communities, that the Spirit is calling them to speak up, and accept that the larger community wants to hear their discernment. It is our task to cultivate these seeds so that they grow into a regular synodal practice. We do not need to wait for Francis to do this. If we are the Church, let's call a Synod of the Faithful on our own."
In fact, this is already happening. The American Catholic Council has a Peoples Synod planned to take place in Dallas Texas next year. The Global Council Network will host their People's Forum in Sao Paulo Brazil, in June 2019, and similar gathering is planned for Marienburg in the Netherlands.
We Are Church International states that "Only by dismantling the systems that facilitated this abuse and cover up for so long will Church officials be able to begin to demonstrate that they are serious about repentance and ensuring that children remain safe and whole."
Michael Sherard, spokesperson for Faithful America, says: "It's long past time for Catholic bishops to stop trying to protect themselves and start siding with survivors who are seeking the justice they deserve. With the whole church watching what happens in Pennsylvania, this is the first step in holding these abusers accountable."
But "real change against abuse starts with church's clergy/lay structure" asserts Mary E. Hunt, Catholic feminist theologian. "It is the structure and not just the abuse of it, the clerical/lay system, not simply clericalism, that is at issue. Clericalism is key issue, but the problem lies within Catholicism's foundation."
"The good news is that we do not start at ground zero to construct postmodern Catholicism. Many groups, base and/or intentional Eucharistic communities, women-church groups, Dignity Chapters, and others, have been living out per force new ways of being church for decades. The sacramental theology and ecclesiology necessary to dismantle the hierarchical system and replace it with egalitarian, function-based, globally connected structures that conform to the Gospel is already in the literature."
Mary Hunt continues: "These new models meet the needs of contemporary, and if there are to be any, future Catholics. That would be a legacy worthy of [Bishop] McCarrick's best moments as a human being without erasing his failings as a cleric. Then we can sing "All Are Welcome" and mean it."
Thank you for your continued support,