Laity for Moral Reform in the Catholic Church

Our Mission

The Catholic response to the clerical abuse crisis has not been Catholic enough. It has not been Catholic enough because it has failed to draw upon the Church’s own sacred traditions of reform and renewal, as embodied in figures like St. Peter Damian. For too long, the language of bureaucrats and businessmen has been allowed to supplant that of the saints—of sackcloth and ashes, of bell, book, and candle.

Why We Act

While recent expressions of shame and sorrow are good, they are not substitutes for righteous anger and mortification. As faithful Catholics, we choose to act not because we believe this diabolical abuse is more common in the Church than in other institutions today, but because the Church is Holy, and every act of clerical abuse is nothing less than damnable sacrilege. The time has come for sanctification.

The Call For Change

The severity and urgency of this crisis cannot be overstated. The eternal salvation of millions of souls is at stake, along with unity and legitimacy and public liberty of the Church throughout the world.

We therefore call for the following changes:

  • The widespread institution of public and private penances by the hierarchy.

    For too long, the response to the abuse crisis has been one of denial, litigation, and subterfuge. The Church has behaved like a Wall Street firm guilty of securities fraud, or a health insurance company found to be cheating its customers. It has acted like an entity belonging totally to this world—which, of course, it does not.

    The Church’s response to this crisis must begin, once again, to be Catholic. The bishops must realize that they have sinned viciously against both God and their neighbor—and, worse, they have violated their oaths to be good shepherds of their flock. Accordingly, they must take on penance, in the manner of the guilty clerics of old. Fasting, hair shirts, sackcloth and ashes—nothing in the traditions of the Church should be off the table for the bishops. They should mortify their flesh so as to better cleanse their spirits, and to better make amends before God for their sins.

  • The laicization or excommunication of abusers and their enablers.

    Priests who have abused children, and priests who have abused seminarians and young adults, are terrible sinners in the eyes of God and man. They have violated the trust of those who they should have held in highest regard. Instead of shepherds, they have behaved as wolves, ravaging the flocks under their care. Their enablers in the hierarchy are no better. From moving serial abusers between parishes to lying about cases to the laity, they, also, have betrayed the trust of the Body of Christ.

    Their crimes against God and man warrant the ultimate punishment: excommunication. They have damaged the Church; let them be cast out from it. Let them go into the darkness, where there is wailing and grinding of teeth. Only after they make a firm and sincere public repentance may they, perhaps, be permitted to return to Christendom. But not before.

  • The restoration of a Rite of Degradation.

    As previously stated, all abusers and all of their enablers must be punished for their crimes with excommunication. However, they have also, in a special way, besmirched the clerical office, and offended the dignity of the Church. They have broken their oaths to God and to the Pope. There is, within canon law, a procedure put in place from ancient days to punish such offenses. It is known as the Rite of Degradation, and we declare that it should be put in place immediately. It must be made known to all the world that the Church of Jesus Christ has no tolerance for ministers who violate its most sacred oaths.

  • The restoration of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, and the empowerment of its disciplinary apparatus.
  • Full and transparent audits of all records on sexual abuse and misconduct, as well as all financial records, to be conducted by the Holy Office—with lay oversight.
  • The encouragement of investigations by well-intentioned civil authorities.
  • The immediate delivery of those guilty of civil crimes to the appropriate civil authorities.
  • The comprehensive renewal of seminarian vetting and formation, and the enforcement of the 2005 Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations.
  • The amendment of the pontifical secret insofar as it represents an obstacle to investigations into clerical abuse.

    The Society was gratified to learn the Holy Father implemented this reform with his rescript on the confidentiality of legal proceedings dated 17 December 2019, and will monitor closely how it is implemented throughout the Church.

    Rescriptum of the Holy Father Francis to promulgate the Instruction on the confidentiality of legal proceedings