Letter to Pope Benedict
May 26, 2006
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Dear Pope Benedict XVI,
Please accept this letter as a request for your help. Our organization
represents 32,000 faithful, active, and mature Catholics in the
United States. We ask that you help us to better serve the Church
we love by putting into place processes and procedures that enable
more lay participation in the administration of the Church at the
Your papal ministry has given us hope as we deal with the crisis
in the American Church. Because we are a group who is well educated
and who have been active in the life of the Church, we were gratified
when you chose the name Benedict because it disclosed your own model
for your new ministry. We are encouraged by your first encyclical
and by your welcoming treatment of Hans Küng.
Voice of the Faithful has created a space and a "voice" for
Catholics who have embraced the vision of Vatican II. The Church
asked lay people to take their baptism seriously, to more fully
participate in the mystery of the Eucharist, to ponder and become
educated about the vocation of the Christian in our world as well
as the many other challenges Vatican II described. Our organization
has also embraced Lumen gentium's emphasis upon the Church as a
mystery of salvation, as a sacrament of Our Lord's presence, as
a whole pilgrim people gathered and called to holiness. We are a
careful and reflective group of people. Because of this we also
have embraced Lumen gentium's renewal of the authoritative character
of the Church as expressed in Chapter 3 of that great Constitution.
Most of us have been active in Catholic institutions all of our
adult lives. We have seen the importance of authoritative and competent
leadership, which is what Lumen gentium characterizes as an essential
characteristic of the Church for service to its mission. Sadly the
root of the crisis in the U.S. is a failure of competent authority.
In your commentary on Dei Verbum, you return again and again to
the insight that God's presence is best characterized as a "plenitude" of
saving activities. You also noted that the entire Council was
struggling to express how our belief in the Incarnation demands
that we recognize God's activity in history. As you noted, the
entire Council went on to re-capitulate the encounter between
the human and the divine in ways that take seriously each specific
historical context in which the Church will find itself. One of
the ways in which Vatican II went on to apply this insight is
in the ancient description of the family as "the domestic
Church." Another way is in its call for the bishops to draw
upon the laity to exercise their various competencies since bishops
and pastors will increasingly need to rely upon them as the world
grows in complexity.
We indeed are competent in many areas that could serve our beloved
Church during this time of crisis. We are particularly competent
in the areas of the development of children and their needs. We
are also highly competent in the various areas of financial expertise
as well as in the management and administration of institutions.
This has been demonstrated in our schools and hospitals for decades.
We ask that you further instantiate the vision of Vatican II by
putting in place procedures that give the lay faithful a true voice
in diocesan leadership. We are convinced that if many people had
been able to exercise due diligence and some measures of governance
over both finances and management, no one priest who abused a child
would have been able to do so twice.
It is here that we ask for your help. The United States Conference
of Catholic Bishops has as a body made recommendations to the bishops
in the areas of child protection and financial transparency, we
ask that you require the bishops to comply with these guidelines
making them mandatory rather than optional. Require the bishops
to adhere to canon law in creating and maintaining pastoral and
finance councils at the parish and diocesan level.
As you can see our requests here are merely to make a reality what
the bishops themselves have proposed and or approved. Unfortunately
because the bishops are not in compliance with their own guidelines
it appears to the laity that they are not sincere or truthful. This
state of affairs is doing damage every day to the credibility of
In addition, Holy Father, the bishops have launched a malicious
campaign against the victims of clergy sexual abuse by hiring high
priced lobbyists in an effort to fight state legislation, to extend
statutes of limitations. Child abuse is not contained within the
Church it is rampant around the world in all sectors of our society.
The Church should be taking a leadership role in ensuring that predators
can be identified and prosecuted. The current law in many of our
states does not provide sufficient time for a victim to come forward
as a mature adult. It is for this reason that we are working for
the reform of those laws.
If the Church is to heal we must have justice for survivors and
forgiveness for our church. We need to restore the Church to a
role where it can be a voice of moral high ground. The only way
to do this is to:
- Listen and meet with survivors and survivor supporters, embrace
them with compassion, honesty and humility
- Ensure justice for survivors. One must remember that the abuse
of a child by a priest, one who the child has been taught,
rightly or wrongly, represents God causes emotional and spiritual
that is not easily measured. For one to feel betrayed by God
is more than traumatic.
- For the USCCB to fund the study their National Lay Review
Board recommended on the causes and effects of the sexual
in the Catholic Church.
- For the USCCB to make available the personnel records
of clergy and laity as part of the new audit process.
for the recent RFP to hire an outside firm to conduct “on-site” audits
of the diocese compliance with the Charter for the Protection
of Children and Young People.
- The Church must take a leadership role in raising the
consciousness of people around the world to the evils
of child sexual abuse
and the destruction that this causes not only to the
child abused but
also to society at large for today and for generations
One more request would be to ask the bishops to remove all bans
that they have instituted prohibiting the concerned Catholics who
make up local Voice of the Faithful affiliates from meeting on church
Holy Father we ask these things of you because we love our Church,
we want it to be healthy again, and we want it to be a place of
spiritual nourishment for our children, our children’s children
and ourselves. We need your help and we welcome the opportunity
to work with you to heal the Church here in America.
Thank you, for your consideration. We look forward to your response.
Mary Pat Fox
Voice of the Faithful