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June 17, 2002

For over two decades the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church has called the Catholic Church to develop a participatory Church governance structure that will end outdated practices of unilateral, unaccountable privilege and lack of transparency that have been typical of monarchies and unworthy of a church that claims to bring the light of Christ into the world. The bishops' meeting in Dallas was the beginning of a process which must not end whether the Vatican approves or not. 

We commend the USCCB for their efforts toward resolving the current crisis and making the Dallas conference into a landmark event. It may well affect the future of the Catholic Church not only in the United States but all over the world. We commend the bishops for showing themselves as shepherds concerned with those in their care by listening to critics and victims. We commend the bishops for admitting their mistakes in public. We commend the bishops for arriving at a final version of the Charter by a transparent and democratic process. We commend the bishops for having their deliberations televised and webcast. We commend the bishops for placing documents and transcripts on a website for open examination, discussion, and critique. 

ARCC supports all actions to prosecute perpetrators of sexual abuse. Victims have a right to full judicial processes. However, as advocates for the rights of ALL Catholics in the Church including priests, we are troubled by the charter's reduction of all forms of sexual abuse to the same level. This kind of draconian implementation violates the basic Christian principle of forgiveness and will result in harm to good men who have sinned and reformed.

We are concerned by the lack of debate concerning the annulment of ordination.  We are concerned at the relatively minimal involvement of lay people in bodies called to establish policies and effect structural changes. These bodies must be independent of all hierarchical ties and have real authority. 

The failure to include policies dealing with bishops who do not follow the norms is of deep concern. The People of God will continue in their anger at the leaders of the church until a policy to address this is in place. 

We call on the Bishops to refine this Charter to address these concerns. In addition, they must continue this process of full disclosure begun at the Dallas meeting by launching professional financial audits of all dioceses in the United States. We call on priests to speak the truth in love to their superiors and discontinue destructive cover-ups. Catholics will not wait for the approval of the Vatican for these reforms to this document. They must begin now. Bishops have the authority and now a mandate from the People. 

Mary Louise Hartman      
President 609-921-9134 
John Sheehan
National Coordinator 413-527-9929


ARCC is a 501-c3 non-profit international organization dedicated to achieving substantive structural change in the Roman Catholic Church.  It works to implement an identified body of rights that every Catholic has from Baptism and membership in the human community.  ARCC works for a more collegial church structure, which affirms these rights through accountability and shared decision-making.   

Link to USCCB Website of June 2002 Bishops' Meeting

Other voices

Another Voice

Questions From a Ewe

Challenges Facing Catholicism
(Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in converation with Dr Ingrid Shafer)

Ingrid H. Shafer, Ph.D.
e-mail address: ihs@ionet.net
Posted 7 April 2001
Last updated 8 April 2001
Electronic version copyright © 2001 Ingrid H. Shafer
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