Dear Pope Francis,
It is hard to be Catholic today. I know you finally spoke out to us -- in a letter -- about the horrific allegations of sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses. I've been waiting for days to find comfort from Rome. And you notably began your letter by quoting St. Paul: "If one member suffers, all suffer together with."
While I appreciate the words, I need to see action. I need to see real change.
We are suffering from disappointment so deep it is, for some of us, hard to believe in God. On Sunday, at my church, Sacred Heart Chapel on the campus of Loyola Marymount University, Father Allan Deck put it into words: "The emotional and sexual abuse and manipulation of others, especially little children, constitutes a gross rejection of the healthy and holistic love exemplified by Jesus and proposed by our Catholic tradition." (Full disclosure: My husband is President of LMU.)
And then he cautioned, "These terrible reports are not going to stop."
According to The Buffalo News, there are calls for the New York Attorney General to conduct a statewide investigation similar to the Pennsylvania probe. And, if it's anything like Pennsylvania's investigation, it will add more than salt to the wound. It will rip apart our souls even further.
Pope Francis, you say in your letter that you and your soldiers -- priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals -- "showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them," and that "no effort to beg pardon" or "repair the harm done" will ever be sufficient. You are right. For the thousands of victims harmed by the Catholic Church, there is no way to find solace unless unprecedented and thorough measures are taken. And that's a stretch in my book.
I know the alleged abuse in Pennsylvania happened over a period of 70 years, but it feels like it happened yesterday. Yes, the Vatican, according to Father Tom Reese at Georgetown University, implemented a "zero tolerance" policy for "any priest involved in abuse." Father Reese even told HLN last Thursday, "They can never act as a priest again." And, he says, "the Pope has started to hold bishops responsible" for covering up abuse.
Pope Francis, you can prove that by taking action against Cardinal Donald Wuerl. I know he says he fought the church's order to reinstate a pedophile priest before you took the helm, but there are questions about his actions when he was bishop in Pittsburgh.
Pennsylvania's Attorney General Josh Shapiro accused Cardinal Wuerl of "not telling the truth." He alleges, "many of (Wuerl's) statements in response to the Grand Jury Report are directly contradicted by the Church's own documents and records from their Secret Archives."
The Cardinal issued a statement denying those allegations. He said, "I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse."
Please, Pope Francis, if Cardinal Wuerl is "not telling the truth," act swiftly, decisively.
There is such beauty in the Catholic faith. I see it every day in the selfless work of Catholic Charities around the world. The service organization provides affordable housing to the poor, aids in disaster relief and helps refugees find solace and legal help in a world that seems decidedly unwelcoming. I see it on the campuses of Jesuit universities that strive to educate young people to not only succeed, but to love one another and to give back to others along the way.
Pope Francis, listen to your church.
If there ever was a moment in our faith's history to begin to make things right, that time is now. This is the time to eject every church official found guilty of abuse or a cover-up.
This is the time to widen your talent pool. Maybe even consider allowing priests to marry or women to become priests. There is nothing other than tradition and a chorus of conservative voices in your ear that tells us these changes cannot be made.
Pope Francis, the time is now.
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