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Dear Pope: Call Me

Mar 30, 2010 — Categories: , ,

As the crisis erupts again in Europe and the U.S. with serious questions being raised about the Pope himself, one has to wonder if the men in charge have learned anything in the past 20 years. It would appear not. If the Vatican were to ask me for advice on how to handle this situation (which they will not), here are my ten steps to justice and healing.

In fairness to the Pope, there is probably nothing he could have said to the church in Ireland that would be sufficient to bring healing to the thousands of survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of pedophile priests. Too little, too late. I don’t think anyone ever imagined the numbers of victims, the numbers of abusive priests, and the material (not to mention the spiritual) cost facing the Roman Catholic Church. But as the crisis erupts again in Europe and the U.S. with serious questions being raised about the Pope himself, one has to wonder if the men in charge have learned anything in the past 20 years. It would appear not.

If the Vatican were to ask me for advice on how to handle this situation (which they will not), here are my ten steps to justice and healing:

  1. Words are important but actions are the real test. Anyone who knew and did nothing or knew and covered it up should no longer be in a position of authority in the church. Holding individual bishops and administrators accountable would speak volumes.
  2. Stop expecting any sympathy from the flock; you don’t deserve it.
  3. Stop being defensive and complaining that the media coverage is a “pretext for attacking the Church.” You created this problem by not responding to disclosures of abuse and by trying to hide them instead of dealing with them.
  4. Stop empathizing with Bishops who hid the abuse of children because they wanted to protect the church’s reputation. They sacrificed thousands of children and set in motion an institutional failure that now threatens the future of the church.
  5. Come clean and own up to the system’s failures and tell us what you are doing to fix it. Remember: repentance, according to Ezekiel, means to “get a new mind and a new heart.”
  6. Don’t ever use the Gospel passage about the woman caught in adultery when Jesus said that anyone without sin should cast the first stone to discuss any of this. Instead check out Luke 17:1-2: “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come. It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown in the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Jesus was serious about accountability; you should be too.
  7. If you are serious, establish a commission to really investigate and recommend structural changes because this is a structural problem. Be sure to include non-bishops and non-Catholics who actually have expertise.
  8. Stop pretending to “protect” the institutional church by hiding from victims and survivors. Your first job is pastoral and they are your flock. All they are seeking is justice and healing, and they have a right to expect both from their church. In fact, your defensive, lawyer-driven responses have placed the institutional church in great jeopardy. You have compromised the integrity of the church and caused many to question their faith.
  9. Remember: they don’t expect us to be perfect, just to be faithful.
  10. “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:12)

So Pope Benedict, call me. Let’s chat.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

Document Actions

Letter to the pope

Posted by Erlin Perlado at Apr 05, 2010 06:09 PM
Thank you very much! Well said, I sent a copy of your letter to manhy friends and co-workers in the church.
I met you when you first came to the Philippines around 2001 I think, I do not remember exactly the year.
I was still working with the Women and Gender Commission of the AMRSP and went to participate in your talk on Clergy Misconduct.
I am now in St. Louis finishing my MAPS at Eden Theological Seminary and hope to pursue an MSW with it. I admire your work immensely and had been thank ful for the worl you started and the writing you are doing for the church.
Blessings and a happy Easter!

Erlin

Call Me!

Posted by Valarie Jean Bernadette Martin at Apr 05, 2010 06:09 PM
As a former Eucharistic Minister, Lector and Choir member, I have added "former Catholic" to this long list. I do not feel that the Church as an organization will ever become the "body" that Christ was purported to head.

The church has committed far too many sins against her charges to ever account for, let alone atone for.I place all of "organized religion" in the same category, as property and riches seem to be the central focus. Faith stands alone and above the organizations!

Take away the Non-profit status and replace it with Prophets. The patriarchal nature of the dominent religions by necessity removes them from the custodeans of spirit. Let the corporations perish, so that true faith and spirituality may again sustain and enrich the lives of the faithful!

Valarie Martin

Dear Pope - Call me

Posted by Kathleen Schatzberg at Apr 05, 2010 06:10 PM
You have it exactly right. I sent it to my pastor. When will we see righteous priests stand up in large numbers to call for this kind of accountability?

French version of this great letter

Posted by martin dufresne at Apr 05, 2010 06:10 PM

Lettre ouverte à Benoît XVI
Par la Rév. Marie M. Fortune

Si les autorités vaticanes me demandaient conseil pour résoudre la situation actuelle (ce qu’elles ne feront pas), je leur proposerais les dix étapes suivantes vers la justice et la guérison:

Les mots sont importants mais c’est à ses actions qu’on jugera l’Église. Toute personne qui était au courant de la situation et n’a rien fait – ou qui était au courant et a dissimulé les faits – ne devrait plus occuper de position d’autorité ecclésiale. Une reddition de comptes de chaque évêque et administrateur en cause serait parlante.

Cessez de vous attendre à quelque sympathie de vos ouailles; vous n’en méritez aucune.

Abandonnez votre posture défensive et cessez de vous plaindre que la couverture médiatique constitue un “prétexte pour s’en prendre à l’Église”. C’est vous qui avez créé ce problème en ne réagissant pas aux témoignages des agressions subies et en tentant de les dissimuler au lieu d’en prendre acte.

Arrêtez d’exprimer de l’empathie pour les évêques qui ont dissimulé des agressions commises contre des enfants, dans le but de protéger la réputation de l’Église. Ces hommes ont sacrifié des milliers de jeunes et déclenché un échec de l’institution qui menace aujourd’hui l’avenir de l’Église.

Avouez vos torts, reconnaissez les défaillances du système et dites-nous ce que vous faites pour le réparer. Rappelez-vous que le repentir, selon Ézéchiel, signifie «se faire un cœur nouveau et un esprit nouveau».

N’utilisez jamais en référence à quelque aspect de la situation actuelle le passage de l’Évangile sur une femme accusée d’adultère dont Jésus a dit que celui qui est sans péché lui lance la première pierre. Voyez plutôt les paroles de Saint-Luc 17:1-2: « Il est impossible qu'il n'arrive des scandales; mais malheur à celui par qui ils arrivent. Il vaudrait mieux pour lui qu'on lui mît au cou une meule de moulin, et qu'on le jetât dans la mer, que s'il scandalisait un de ces petits. » Jésus prenait au sérieux le principe de reddition de comptes; vous devriez en faire de même.

Si vous êtes sérieux, mettez sur pied une commission pour enquêter réellement sur ce problème et recommander des changements structurels, parce que ce problème est structurel. Assurez-vous d’y inclure des non-évêques et des non-Catholiques ayant une expertise réelle de ces enjeux.

Arrêtez de prétendre « protéger » l’institution ecclésiale en vous cachant des victimes et des survivants et survivantes de ces agressions. Votre toute premier mandat est pastoral, et ces personnes sont votre troupeau. Tout ce qu’elles exigent est la justice et la guérison, et elles sont en droit de s’attendre à l’une et l’autre de leur Église. En fait, ce sont vos réactions défensives et guidées par des avocats qui ont profondément ébranlé l’institution ecclésiale. Vous avez compromis l’intégrité de l’Église et amené plusieurs personnes à remettre en question leur foi.

Rappelez-vous que ces personnes n’attendent pas de nous la perfection, mais la fidélité à nos principes.

« Relevez donc vos mains languissantes et dirigez vos pas dans la voie droite, afin que ce qui est boiteux ne dévie pas, mais plutôt se raffermisse. » (Hébreux, 12 :12)

Alors donnez-moi donc un coup de fil, Benoît XVI, et parlons-en.



Théologienne, la révérende Marie M. Fortune, du FaithTrust Institute, de Seattle (WA), a signé plusieurs ouvrages innovateurs sur la violence domestique, sexuelle et ecclésiale, dont « Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church » et « Is Nothing Sacred? ».
©Marie M. Fortune, 2010.

Vous avez raison

Posted by Yves Petit at Apr 20, 2010 07:01 PM
Madame fortune,

Félicitations Madame Fortune; Je suis rarement d'accord avec tout le contenu d'une chronique qui fait une telle longueur. Pourtant, je trouve que vous dites simplement tout ce que le clergé doit faire. J'ai envoyé un chèque à l'archevêché de Montréal ce matin pour la campagne annuelle. J'ai donné la moitié de l'année dernière en leurs disant de faire ce qui doit être fait dans la crise des pédophiles prêtres. Je verrai à ajuster mes dons en fonction de leurs actions! J'ai joins une copie de vos conseils au pape qui a été publié hier dans le journal Le Devoir de Montréal.

Dear Pope, Let's Talk...

Posted by Larry Reidt at Apr 09, 2010 03:47 PM
Beautifully and simply stated

Thank you! Gracias! Danke! Merci!

Posted by Dr. Nina L. Dulabaum at Apr 14, 2010 04:05 PM
Thank you! This is not only relevant to the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church but to people and religious leaders of all faiths. According to the media, Pope Benedict has apparently taken more action in seeking justice than many of his predecessors. Is this true?
Dr Duly

Dr Duly's question

Posted by Beverley Burlock at Apr 20, 2010 06:54 PM
It doesn't matter, nor is it relevant whether or not this pope has taken more action in seeking justice than any of his predecessors. That does not excuse or invalidate his accountability earlier and now. That's like saying a man who abuses his wife is 'excused' because he's such a good citizen and contributes to charity.
In Nova Scotia (Canada) there was just recently an archbishop who was lauded for obtaining a record settlement for victims of clergy abuse, when, it was later discovered, he was simultaneously involved in child pornography, visiting countries that 'specialize' in child prostitution and had himself abused children at a church orphanage/school in another province!
The victims who sat with him at the news conference for the settlement were absolutely devastated. And he, like the pope, had meet victims face to face.

Your comment

Posted by Dr Duly at Apr 20, 2010 10:20 PM
Your example about the "lauded" archbishop in Canada is appalling. I understand your strong emotions about this.

In no shape or form was I suggesting that this would decrease his - or anyone's - accountability. However, I was interested in finding out if others had more information on whether one might note that there is perhaps a teeny-tiny bit of progress at the Vatican.

Yes, I think this does matter. For example, if a church leader finally speaks out against abuse, even though others have systematically turned a blind eye, I would applaud this leader's efforts. I have witnessed many blind leaders and blind followers - not all "direct abusers" themselves.

Amen!

Posted by Susan Hagen at Apr 28, 2010 03:04 PM
Amen, preach it sister! Thank you, this is the action plan needed to address the shameful situation.