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Paul Kelly's Response
ARCC's  Press Conference
May 3, 2002
Boston, Massachusetts
Dear Dr. Ingrid Shafer and Peace to you, too:

Thank you for such a prompt response. My interest in AARC was started by the current crisis in the Church on sexual abuse of minors and the manner in which it is being handled by the Church's hierarchy. Today, May 4, 2002, I read two articles. Bill Keller's in the New York Times, "Is the Pope Catholic?" And Steven Wilmsen's in the Boston Globe, "Call for Change, Church Restructuring Urged", in which your Association was prominently mentioned. A Search on the Internet led me to your website. When I finished reading everything, I wanted to be part of it.

I am a retired lawyer, age 73. In my younger days, I was a Jesuit for a time, when I taught philosophy at Sophia University in Tokyo. My work for the Church has been sporadic over the years: reading in Church on Sundays, doing some legal work for the Bishop years ago, and watching from the sidelines. Although I have drifted away, I guess in my old age, that I would like to take a stand, finally.

Of course, members of the Church, whether lay or clergy, sexton or Archbishop, must obey the laws of the country in which they live and should be charged and prosecuted just as any other member of that society should they violate those laws. That is not the problem.

The problem in the Church is much larger than the one facet of it found in the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and the cover-up by Church leaders. I think that it is the abuse of power inherent in the governmental structure of the Church itself, from the Pope on down. Everything is so secretive, so
bound up in centuries of canon law and its legalisms, ancient titles and honorifics, funny-looking hats and robes with sashes and splashes of color, and the silencing of those theologians, who fail to follow a party line established, from time to time, by something called a Curia. Galileo may be dead, and the Church may have apologized recently for its treatment of him, but the same or similar method of operating persists. The Church's "M.O." is what we should be trying to learn about and to change.

I do not know how Catholic lay people can help change the way the Church is governed, but, until they attempt to do so, the abuse of power will continue. Perhaps we could look into the way a diocese is set up and how the chain of command goes out from the Bishop to a local parish or up to a group of Cardinals in Rome. Who tells a Cardinal what to do, when to speak, what not to say? How does he pass those messages on to his own subordinates? Is there room for discussion? Are different points of view allowed? Is there an inner cabinet, a council? Who is on it and how did they get picked?  Is a parish a legal entity, separate and apart from the diocese, and is a diocese also an entity? Or is every parish part of one legal structure, the country in Italy called The Vatican? Is the Holy See part of or all of The Vatican?

How are seminarians selected? What are they taught? Is there any sex education in seminary courses? May a woman be a seminarian? Who gets to be a Bishop? May a Pope stack the Curia with those who think as he does, just as a President picks a cabinet? If so, are there other bodies within the structure to allow for a balance of power, like a Congress and a Court?

Is  there such a thing as Church politics? If so, are there two or more political parties? If the Church is not a democracy, is it like a monarchy, a republic, a dictatorship, or is there some other form of government that is so secret that nobody really knows about it? There are so many questions to be asked and so few answers, so far.

These are my thoughts provoked by the narrower problem of sexual abuse of minors and the ensuing cover-ups. If the focus is just on those two issues, nothing can change. I can continue to stay away and get upset at those who shout and yell and crowd internet chats or ridicule the Catholic Church. Instead of blindly bashing, abusively criticizing,  would not all of us have a better chance of helping the Church grow up, were we to ask questions, dig for answers, make recommendations, see to it that they are listened to and discussed and acted upon, civilly? Can we not do so constructively, rationally, legally, faithfully?

Should I do something beyond reading about the crisis? It's hard to call myself a Catholic when I don't go to Church as often as I did before, even if I stay away out of disappointment that there appears to be no place for me now. Reading a lot of spiritual books or meditating by myself, even zazen on a cushion, doesn't provide a community for a belief in Christ, a common faith, a Church.

We all need a Church with a form of government or structure that allows a voice and a vote for all, whether conservative or liberal or in-between. We all need freedom for intellectuals, whether in theology or philosophy or sex education. We desperately need equality for women to take their proper, deserved and rightful place in the Church, whether as members of the laity or clergy or religious or hierarchy.

Sorry, Doctor, for getting wound up. I wasn't going to email it, but then asked if I really wanted to call myself Catholic and take a stand in my old age, finally..

E. Paul Kelly


Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church
PO Box 85 Southampton MA 01073 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.

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 8 May 2002
Electronic version copyright © 2001 Ingrid H. Shafer
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