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Press Release
May 3, 2002 10AM EST

Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC)

Catholic Crisis: Catalyst for Change!
Boston, Massachusetts

The deteriorating credibility of the Catholic Church, reflected  recently in the worldwide wave of revelations of sexual  misconduct by clergy and resulting cover-ups, requires that a new governance structure be conceived and implemented so that the  Church can properly serve the world in the 21st century. Now is  the time to respond to the instructions of Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council, who said, "Set up a Constitution for  the Catholic Church!" Few heard his call. Church officials have  done nothing to answer it. The Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC), supported by many Catholic  organizations and individuals world-wide, is today launching an:

International Movement for a Catholic Constitution

Elements of a Constitution are found in many of the Catholic  Church's documents. According to Dr. Leonard Swidler of Temple  University and founding member of ARCC, "for more than half its history, the Catholic Church has been a "constitutional  monarchy." A Catholic Constitution is in the spirit of Jesus'  gospel of liberation and love. It would adapt the most effective of the governance principles recognized as necessary for the human community at the beginning of the 21st century. In 1996, the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC), in consultation with Catholic organizations worldwide, developed a Proposed Catholic Constitution. Key governance principles on which that document are based on are:

  • 1. A Written Constitution -Throughout the Church each community would form its own body of regulations to ensure continuity of just procedures.
  • 2. Subsidiarity - All decision-making rights and responsibilities would remain in the domain of smaller community unless the good of the broader community specifically demands that it exercise those rights and responsibilities.
  • 3. Election - their respective constituents would elect Church leaders to office.
  • 4. Limited Term of Office - Leaders would hold office for a limited term.
  • 5. Separation of Powers - would be observed through elected councils and leaders, as well as through established judicial systems at all level. All will branches share responsibility in ways appropriate to the spirit of the Gospel and this Constitution.
  • 6. Accountability - All leaders and councils would regularly provide their constituents an account of their work.
  • 7. Representation - All Catholics, including women and minorities, would be equitably represented in all positions of leadership and decision-making.
  • 8. Dialogue - All decisions would be arrived at thorough a process of charitable and respectful dialogue.
ARCC urges Catholics of every level worldwide to undertake the following actions :
  • To start a process of bringing together ALL elements of a parish to draw up a parish constitution by which the parishes will be governed.
  • To start a process of bringing together ALL elements of the diocese to draw up a Diocesan Constitution by which the diocese will be governed.
  • To request that the president of their national conferences of Catholic Bishops start a process of bringing together ALL elements of the national Catholic Church to draw up a national constitution by which the national Catholic Church will be governed.
  • To request that the Pope bring together ALL elements of the Catholic Church to draw up a "universal Constitution," by which the Universal Catholic Church will be governed.
There are no restrictions on these matters in the 1983 Code of Canon Law; they lie completely in the hands of pastors and bishops to initiate without any permission needed.

The ultimate goal of this Movement for a Catholic Constitution, according to Mary Louise Hartman, President of ARCC, will be a series of Constitutional Conventions at each level culminating in the universal level, to draft and ratify a Constitution by which the Catholic Church at that level will be governed. Copies of communications to the hierarchy may be forwarded to ARCC.


Mary Louise Hartman, President: 609-921-9134
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
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 3 May 2002
Electronic version copyright © 2001 Ingrid H. Shafer

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