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Time for renewal, reformation, and rebirth in 21st Century Catholicism


Columns2012 Dear Most Holy Father:

As a survivor of clergy sexual abuse in the early 1960s in Birmingham, Ala., I approached the local diocese, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and John Paul II, in 1993, to report the priest who sexually abused me for four years. I was virtually ignored.

As a result, this monster priest was allowed to remain in ministry until his crimes were finally made public by The Decatur Daily (Ala.) in 2002 after I reported him. He was forced into retirement in June of this year as a result of my relentless pursuit for justice.

For the past 19 years, I have been an outspoken critic of the hierarchy of a broken church in need of renewal, reformation, and rebirth in the 21st Century. Consequently, I have written numerous letters challenging the church's hierarchy to admit culpability in the cover-up of clergy sexual abuse crimes. John Paul and you failed miserably in meeting my challenge.

The Roman Catholic Church is in dire need of becoming truly "spiritual" in exercising its brand of Christianity in the 21st Century. I offer the following recommendations for your consideration:

1) Rescind the canonization process for Pope John Paul II. He is unworthy of this exalted declaration as it has been proven that he failed miserably in protecting children from being sexually victimized by predator priests.

2) Allow any ordained priest of the Roman Catholic Church to marry and remain in the priesthood. Two points are significant related to this recommendation. The first point is that priests were allowed to marry up to the 12th Century when the Vatican established the rule that priests could no longer marry in order to retain wealth for the church primarily in the form of land ownership.

The second point is related to the fact that priests of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church, who accept the authority of the Church of Rome, are permitted to be married. In addition, married clergy converts from a number of Catholic-like denominations have been allowed in recent years to become Catholic priests while remaining married. I propose that it is grossly unfair for the church to enforce totally different "celibacy" rules for its ordained priests.

3) Allow women to be ordained to the priesthood. It is time for Catholicism to embrace ordaining women to the priesthood is the God-inspired thing to do. Just a thought... if women who choose to be nuns are worthy to be accepted into this religious community, what spiritual purpose is served by keeping them from being ordained priests?

4) Allow the taking of communion with other Christian denominations at Mass and at Christian churches. It appears that the overwhelming theological argument from the Catholic perspective revolves around transubstantiation whereby the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Does it really matter?  If Christians believe in the "same" Jesus, surely we can agree to communion together in a show of love for Him. I ask, why not?

5) Do not allow the secrecy and confidentiality of the confessional to be misused to harbor sexually abusive priests.  It is time for the church to admit that it has allowed the Sacrament of Penance to be employed as an "unholy weapon of mass destruction" in killing the souls of children by protecting predator priests.

Priests who have been confirmed as sexual predators should be laicized and reported to law enforcement agencies to determine if they can be prosecuted for their crimes. Of course, many of these criminals will unjustly escape prosecution due to statue of limitations restrictions.

6) Repeal the infallibility doctrine. This doctrine was not proclaimed until the 19th Century intimating that the church cannot make errors regarding matters of faith and morals. It is flawed! It is unrealistic! It is invalid! ...proof of my point? ...Joan of Arc ...Martin Luther ...Galileo ...inquisitions and crusades ... and the cover-up of crimes committed by clergy sexual predators. These persecutions and/or misuses of power by the papacy are just a few of the reasons that the "infallibility" doctrine is a gargantuan mistake.

From this day forward, I will implore (demand) that the USCCB challenge you and the "fallible" papacy in affecting God-inspired change in Catholicism. The following quote is taken from the church's catechism and is listed on the website of the USCCB:

"As a legitimate successor of the apostles he (a bishop) is, by divine institution and precept, responsible with the other bishops for the apostolic mission of the Church."

Is this statement an ethical, a moral, a pastoral, and a spiritual, mandate for the bishops to confront the papacy when its decisions and actions are "fallible" as well as reprehensible? You know it is; the bishops know it is; and, now in the 21st Century, most Catholics know it is.

Yes, I still love my church and its beautiful traditions. No, I do not hold you and the majority of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in high regard.

It is up to you as the leader of Catholicism to regain credibility and restore trust in the world's oldest Christian religion. Carpe diem... the time is now.