Laity for Moral Reform in the Catholic Church

A Letter from the General Director

Thank you for volunteering to serve as a local chapter organizer for the Saint Peter Damian Society. This apostolate is a lay society devoted to two intertwined goals- eradicating the scourge of clerical sexual abuse and misconduct and calling to account those in the Church, from the lowliest lay employees to the loftiest prelates, who enable such horrors and protect those who perpetrate them.

As a lay apostolate, the Society is run from the top down by faithful Catholic men and women like you, who volunteer their own time, talent, and treasure to ensure that Christ has His bride without spot or wrinkle, as St. Paul says. As you organize your local chapter, you become the eyes and ears, hands and feet of the Society in your diocese. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, the Society will not direct your actions. We all share the same goal, and I and the rest of the directors trust that you will pursue that goal as effectively and efficiently as you can in your particular circumstance.

Of course, you may feel a bit overwhelmed and uncertain of what to do. So do I! But here are some guidelines and suggestions that I hope will help you get started. Please don't see these ideas as setting limits on what you can do.

Prayer and penance: At our core, we are a penitential Society. The Lord God has been gravely offended by the wicked conduct of many of His priests and bishops. We offer prayer and penance for the healing of victims and the repentance of perpetrators. If your chapter does nothing else, please continuously offer prayer and penance for these intentions.

Studying the problem: With 3,160 dioceses, archdioceses, eparchies, etc., the leadership of the Society cannot possibly know the details of the scope and impact of the problem of clerical sexual abuse and misconduct everywhere. Our local chapters play a key role in building up the Society's knowledge regarding our mission in your local area. What has your bishop done? What did his predecessors do? Have records been made public, or are they being kept secret? Is your diocese cooperating with investigations, or stonewalling them? Check official statements against the public record, and determine as best you can what the truth is.

Writing letters: I can tell you from personal experience that physical letters get read. Once you know the nature of the problem in your area, compare the situation to the SPDS mission statement, and start a letter-writing campaign. And don't assume your bishop is the only person to whom you can write. Letters to the editor, particularly when written as part of a sustained campaign by multiple individuals, do get noticed. If the problem is particularly acute and your local bishop particularly recalcitrant, you might also consider writing to your local prosecutor's office.

Public penance, prayer, and protest: We do not go in much for the sign-waving, chant-shouting form of protest so popular in America, but we should not shy away from public action. We have a rich Catholic heritage of public demonstrations of penance, as well as public exhortations to repentance. Ordinary people, especially fallen-away Catholics, need to see that we, the laity, are not simply passively accepting the atrocities being perpetrated in our church. Public prayer and penance not only serve to make reparation for these grievous sins; they can serve as a powerful evangelical witness, as well.

Now I would like to say a few words about what the Society will not do. While we do hope to be able to accept donations, we will never require any dues or charge for any of our resources. Anyone demanding money in the Society's name is committing fraud. Furthermore, no officer in the Society will accept any salary or other remuneration for his work. If and when we do accept donations, we will be entirely transparent in how that money is spent. Finally, and most importantly, we will not deviate from our mission. A great many of us have a wide array of ideas on any number of issues, from liturgy to public policy, but this Society is devoted to the mission of its patron, the great Doctor of the Church Saint Peter Damian, and will pursue this goal of purification with a single-minded intensity. Thank you for joining us, and please pray for me and for the Society. Saint Peter Damian, pray for us.

Yours in Christ,

Jonathan Carp General Director