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ARCC President, Mary Louise Hartman
May 3, 2002
Boston, Massachusetts

The Association for the Rights of Catholics has been working for 21 years to develop a new way of managing the Church.   We produced a “Charter of the Rights of Catholics in the Church” in 1983, and a “Proposed Constitution for the Catholic Church” in 1997.   The credibility of the Catholic Church is at an all time low as a result of the revelations of sexual misconduct and the resulting secrecy surrounding the individual cases.  American Cardinals who returned from a summons to Rome last week further eroded this credibility by the inept handling of their questions about the meeting.  The bishops seem to be divided and unable to respond to the growing cries for reform in the way the church is managed. 

On April 28, Boston’s Cardinal Law wrote to all the priests of the archdiocese that a proposed association of parish councils organized by lay-Catholics would be “superfluous and potentially divisive.  Lay people must live within the hierarchical structure of the church.”  We come to you here today in this city so symbolic of human freedom to declare that that hierarchical structure must go. 

Catholics in the pews are angered at the bishops' mishandling of the situation.   It is a management challenge beyond the skills of the church’s leaders, a management meltdown.  This is a moment in time not unlike the days in 1215 when the leaders of what was Britain confronted King John demanding that traditional rights be written down and confirmed with a royal seal.  The resulting document or Magna Carta acknowledged that no person is above the law.  In this historic place we remind the CEO of the archdiocese of Boston that even a Law is not above the law.

We do not see a mass exodus from our parishes over this crisis. We hear priests across the country reminding Catholics that they are the Church and urging them to take responsibility for it.   Catholics are galvanized for action.  Today we need to adopt the best management structures that have been developed in the world at large to ensure justice in the Church. Reform will strengthen the church’s ongoing struggle for human rights and justice in the world.  To this end, we in ARCC press for the setting up in the church of participatory social structures that will end outdated practices of unilateral, unaccountable privilege and the lack of transparency, typical of monarchies.  We must enact new rules of governance that will guarantee participation and protection for all the members of the church.  The Catholic Church has always adopted and adapted whatever good means are available in an effort to bring the Gospel of love and justice to the world. 


  • We in ARCC remind Catholics to continue supporting the majority of priests who are good and faithful ministers of the people.  They need encouragement now more than ever. 
  • We call on Catholics to demand a voice in the governance of their parishes, dioceses and in the universal church. 
  • We call on Catholics to require their being represented on governing bodies within parishes, and dioceses, and the universal church. 
  • We remind Catholics to continue supporting those agencies which care for the poor and all those in need.  We must care for one another in order to build a community of the sort of trust that has been destroyed by a church policy of destructive secrecy. 

Mary Louise Hartman, President
Boston, MA
May 3, 2002


Mary Louise Hartman, President: 609-921-9134; mlhmls@aol.com
John Sheehan, National Coordinator: 413-527-9929 arccangel@charter.net
Leonard Swidler, Constitution Chair 215-477-1080 dialogue@temple.edu
Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church
PO Box 85 Southampton MA 01073 413-527-9929
arccangel@charter.net http://arcc-cathlolic-rights.org
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.

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
Last updated 4 May 2002
Electronic version copyright © 2001 Ingrid H. Shafer
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