August 24, 2018
"Let us begin again, for up to now we have done little or nothing!"
FAN Statement in response to current scandal in the Catholic Church
Washington, DC - The Franciscan Action Network (FAN) is inspired by the Gospel of Jesus, and the example of Saints Francis and Clare. FAN is a collective Franciscan voice seeking to transform United States public policy related to peace making, care for creation, poverty, and human rights.
"Let us begin again, for up to now we have done little or nothing!" These words of St. Francis of Assisi are a clarion call for us as Franciscans, for our church and church leadership to face the truth that we must begin again, “for up to now we have done little or nothing”, with regard to the situation of the current scandal regarding the misuse of power and authority in this country and in our church.
In these recent days we have been faced, once again, with the Pennsylvania grand jury indictments for sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy and the failed episcopal oversight. We continue to hear stories of cover-ups, secrecy and the protection of the abusers with little or no regard for those who were and continue to be victimized. The lives of our sisters and brothers have been shattered and broken by a church and by church leaders in whom they trusted, looked up to for their faith development and their very salvation.
“Let us begin again, for up to now we have done little or nothing!” As a Catholic community in the United States we have been living with the reality of clerical sexual abuse and failed episcopal oversight for decades. We acknowledge and appreciate the development of many programs and policies for the protection of children and young adults. Yet, in truth “we have done little or nothing” as a Church to address the real and underlying problems of a culture of clericalism that is exclusive of the wholeness of the Body of Christ. Francis of Assisi always saw “power” in service to those to whom he served. This culture of clericalism is a scandal imbued with a deep sense of misguided power that enables the secrecy, the cover-up, and this immoral behavior to go unchecked.
“Let us begin again…” As Franciscans we are called to use whatever authority we have to honor, nurture and care for all of God’s creation in all its forms, yet some of our leadership have done little or nothing to protect our children, or as Pope Francis said, "We showed no care for the little ones". We call upon all who have authority in the church, especially our U. S. Bishops, to hold themselves accountable by beginning to genuinely share their authority with competent laity to implement strategies for transparent oversight as well as opportunities for constructive dialogue to address the erosion of our church’s moral and ethical conduct. Together we must commit to clear and measurable policies that will work to bring change for the sake of the gospel to the culture of clericalism within our church.
“Let us begin again…” As Franciscans we are called to live a life of gospel penance and ongoing conversion and to witness these virtues and values to everyone we meet. We call upon Pope Francis and members of our church’s hierarchy, especially our U. S. Bishops and priests, as well as all consecrated religious men and women to call for a day of repentance, prayer, and reconciliation acknowledging the sinfulness that has demoralized God’s people and continues to cause pain and suffering in the Body of Christ.
“Let us begin again . . .” to build new ways of being Church, recognizing that ministry is rooted in baptism. We must begin again to support the role all the baptized play in leading our church including the vast number of good priests who also suffer for what their ordained brothers have done and failed to do. We must begin again and listen to God’s will so all people may know that they are heard and respected as members of the Body of Christ.
Francis of Assisi heard God’s call to “Go, rebuild my Church which is falling into ruin.” We as Franciscans and Catholics must open our ears, our eyes, and our hearts to respond to this call in our lives today.
While we pray for deep healing for all those who have suffered, we can only begin to understand that the harm done to so many is irreparable. We urge the leadership of our church to hear Francis’ call to begin again and to rebuild God’s church by committing themselves to authenticity entering into the needed dialogue and pastoral care that calls for total transparency and accountability.
“Let us begin again, for up to now we have done little or nothing!”