Laity for Moral Reform in the Catholic Church

Patrick Button now general director of SPDS

Posted: 2021-02-21

To our brothers and sisters in Christ,

On this, the feast day of our great patron, I wish to introduce myself to you, all the members of the Saint Peter Damian Society scattered throughout the world. As of today, I have assumed governorship of the Society from Mr. Jonathan Carp. And to begin, I wish to thank Mr. Carp immensely for his great service, for all the good he did as governor of the Society. He has led us from our very beginnings, and we would not have achieved all that we have achieved were it not for his leadership.

2020 was a trying time for the Society, as it was for the entire world. All the Church suffered in the great year of the pandemic, all of us tested by the troubles of the year. It seemed as though the entire year was one long Lent, one long time of penance and abstinence, of fasting, prayer, and keeping watch. But now, one year later, the world has begun to resume some of its normal orders. And now, one year later, I wish to announce that the Saint Peter Damian Society has risen from above its struggles, and commits itself anew to the reform of the Roman Catholic Church.

As you know, we were founded in the wake of the great scandal surrounding former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. And, indeed, McCarrick still drives us, in part, because he remains emblematic of the slow pace of reform. Though laicized, he has not truly been punished for his crimes and sins, and has not been called to repent and reform his own soul. Additionally, 2020 saw the publication of the formal report on McCarrick’s crimes and sins, and though it contained much information, we ultimately found it inadequate. There was too much passing of blame and refusal to accept responsibility, too much finger-pointing at those who are dead or no longer in power, while those who are still very much alive, and still very much responsible for enabling McCarrick, were able to escape censure. This is a sign that the pace of reform in the Church has not been fast enough. We thus commit ourselves anew to the drive for reform, for penance, and for purification of the Church and the clergy.

Yet despite our frustrations, there are many signs of hope. Our Society has grown, and you, our membership, have added so many more voices to the call for reform and the commitment to penance for the Church’s sins. We have increased the devotion to our patron, and, we hope, driven an increase in his intercession on behalf of the Church and the clergy. We have composed prayers and devotions, litanies and chants, to our patron, in furtherance of this goal. We have recently commissioned an icon of our patron, one which was funded by you, our membership, and we shall use this image to further inspire devotion to Saint Peter Damian, and to the mission of the Damianites. So, indeed, there are signs of hope.

And, in fact, hope is why we act. Hope is why the Saint Peter Damian Society exists in the first place. If we believed the cause of reform in the Catholic Church was hopeless--if there was no chance of reform, renewal, and rebirth--then we would never have founded the Society to begin with. If we believed the only possible response to the crimes and sins and scandals within the Church was despair, the Saint Peter Damian Society would not have been created. But, of course, that is not the case. The Catholic Church has been reformed before, from scandals and crimes at least of equal magnitude to those we face today. Our great patron, himself, was a reformer in his own day. He did not believe the cause of reform in the Church was hopeless. Neither do we. We love the Church. For all the crimes and sins of her members, for all her scandals, she is the One True Church of Jesus Christ, founded by the Lord to spread the Gospel and do the good work of God upon Earth. She is currently full of crime and sin and corruption. But such has been the case before. She has been purified before. She will be again. And we, the Saint Peter Damian Society, exist to help in that cause of purification.

Thus, as I assume the governorship of the Society, I wish to announce our determination to press ever forward in the reform and purification of the Church. I also wish, and always wish, to call for more Catholics to join us. You who read this letter, do not hesitate to reach out to those in your Catholic community. Talk about us in your parish, in your diocese, among your prayer groups, and elsewhere. Invite your friends and relatives to join our ranks. The more we have among us--praying, fasting, doing penance, investigating, making our demands--the greater our impact will be, and the more our cause will succeed. We can use all the volunteers we can get, and we are eager to welcome new members into our ranks.

I believe the Saint Peter Damian Society’s best days are ahead of it. I believe we shall yet see a glorious new springtime in the Church, when it is shed of its present troubles and once more gleams like polished gold. But work must be done first. And, as I assume leadership of the Society, I recommit myself, and all of us, to that work. Let it be done, in God’s name. And may Saint Peter Damian pray for us!

Yours in Christ,

Patrick Button