We Are Church Intl.


On the changes we all need to make

weeping statue

A matter of concern to us all expressed succinctly by We Are Church Portugal

by Pedro Freitas

We Are Church Portugal wrote a letter to the Portuguese bishops, just before their meeting today, urging them to take concrete measures regarding the report of a recent committee established to hear testimonies of people abused by priests and other church members. I attach a slightly edited automatic translation of this letter.

The Bishops' meeting was meant to decide the measures to take in the wake of this report, and we wanted the letter to come out just before this meeting. Unfortunately, the measures announced were extremely disappointing, with no concrete decisions.

The letter was signed by six groups (WAC Portugal was one of them) and 219 individuals, and received the attention of most Portuguese newspapers, TVs and radios. Some members of WAC Portugal were contacted by these media to comment on the letter and the decisions by the bishops. So, all in all, it made quite an impact.

To the Portuguese Bishops

Letter on the changes we all need to make

This is the time.

This is the time that none of us would wish for but that we cannot escape.

This is the time of acknowledging an inescapable intense guilt and therefore the time to find ways to ask forgiveness from the victims whose lives have been damaged by acts and omissions.

This is the time of our shame and therefore of atonement for the great organised sin.

This is the time of immense sadness and - how can we not say it? - of an equally immense revolt at the abuses and cover-ups.

This is the time of a crisis on a scale we have never seen before.

For all these reasons, this is the time that can only lead to the great changes that will avoid sinfulness once again.

As Church, we now have two possible paths: either to deny and deceive, to insist on the course that has brought us to this permanent affliction of moving towards self-destruction and hurting people; or to move forward, with prayer and the courage to change and reform, with a humble but fearless spirit. We have no doubt about where we will most easily encounter Jesus Christ.

We know how tremendous the challenge is.

So tremendous that we believe it is time not to leave our bishops alone and to help them reflect on how to take the path of change, the only way possible. We want to believe that our bishops, in communion with the general feeling of the Church, will know how to listen to us.

What do we propose to our bishops?

Immediately (that is, within 30 days)

a. the creation of a new, independent commission, similar to the previous one, that continues its work and continues to receive reports of abuse and follow up cases, composed of people of good will mostly from outside the Church, especially those capable in the social sciences, courageous, with integrity and leadership ability;

b. mechanisms be created to provide psychological and psychiatric help to victims and, if they so wish, spiritual help

c. accept the help of the Vatican referred to by Cardinal Sean O'Malley, President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, to reflect seriously on abuse in the Church and how to overcome the current crisis;

In the short term (i.e. up to 60 days)

d. the activity of diocesan commissions on abuse be refocused on primary prevention and training, according to a discerned programme constructed by duly qualified persons and a clear mandate

e. bishops who covered abuses, if any, be removed from office

f. all abusers currently serving in the church be suspended on a precautionary basis whenever there is even the slightest credible evidence of abuse and, when found guilty in the light of Christian morality, and regardless of any judicial process, be discharged to the lay state;

That in the medium term (that is, up to six months)

g. all pastoral workers have access to and study the report of the independent commission, avoiding the temptation to negate or relativize the criminal phenomenon;

h. to initiate reflection on the negative impact that the distorted perception of human sexuality is having on the whole Church, with the help of experts from outside the Church

i. develop a manual of best practices to assist pastoral workers in identifying signs of abuse and in welcoming and referring victims

j. follow-up care be provided to abusers that necessarily includes psychiatric and psychological treatment.

We are well aware that all of these proposals carry an associated pain and that they all reveal an uncomfortable truth: we all need to question ourselves.

But, also because of this, we all need to cooperate in building ways that will lead the Church to be less authoritarian, non-clerical, more inclusive, more fraternal and more attentive to the signs of the times, with the living God at the centre of our hearts.


Reports in the Media

RND - Germany