August 28, 2018
Dear Bishops (addressed personally),
I write to each of you because I have had some contacts over the years with each of you, some more than others. I even taught a few of you in seminary. I also write because my experience has led me to believe that each of you are serious about being committed to serving the people and promoting the full teaching of Jesus Christ.
We are all aware that we are now in very challenging times in our Church and that you as leaders bear a considerable amount of responsibility for the difficulties we are experiencing as a result of the both the sexual abuse by clergy and the cover up by bishops. I trust you have heard the anger and hurt of many people throughout the nation and the resultant loss of trust in the leadership of our Church regardless of how little responsibility you bear for the crisis.
I love the Catholic Church and I want our leadership to regain the respect of our members and other people of our nation. As a simple priest of the Congregation of the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul, who did what he could both to evangelize the poor and to renew the clergy of his day, I dare to write you. I make these suggestions because I think a major cause of the crisis is a controlling culture of clericalism rooted in a male, mostly white, celibate episcopacy in our nation.
I believe the beginning of the solution to regain trust will take place if you declare to your fellow bishops the following to show that you are not interested in perpetuating a culture of control but want to be true servants of Jesus Christ.
1. We propose revisions to the Dallas charter to include specific ways to hold bishops responsible for personal sex abuse and for protecting others who fail. We will also turn complete control of the board overseeing the charter to a group of lay women and men, with legal and religious qualities capable of good discernment.
2. We will open our diocesan books to law enforcement officials to inspect any hidden information regarding behavior of any under our care or that of previous bishops. If required by canon law, we will seek permission of competent authority to wave the right of privacy.
3. We will also wave the statutes of limitations regarding cases in our files.
4. We will submit our resignations as bishops and leave it up to the prayerful discernment of the Pope if we are to resume serving as shepherds of the flocks.
5. We will invite every bishop to join us in this open and humble approach to serving Our Lord and promoting his Kingdom as true servants.
Hopefully, all bishops will join you in this resolve and you will together show to the people of the United States that you truly see yourselves as servants and not lords of the flocks that were entrusted to you. Another hope is that Pope Francis will discern carefully whose resignations he needs to accept.
These are drastic measures and yet many of us think drastic measures are called for at this time. The present crisis is not something that just erupted as a result of the Cardinal McCarrick and Pennsylvania tragedies. It has been developing over many years. There has been a growing lack of trust in the Catholic Church and specifically with the leadership of the Church. You are seen as an "old boys club" protecting one another and the institutional structure without sufficient concern for the good of all particularly the unordained. Many of the faithful are confused and wonder how much more has happened that remains hidden. To begin to regain that trust, you need to show through very specific and concrete actions that you are eager to change. Calling for prayer and penance is not enough. I hope that you have the conviction to act courageously. I pray for all bishops.
If the above sounds too drastic, I urge you to check out the recommendations the "Association of U.S. Catholic Priests" (uscatholicpriests.org) sent to the U.S. Bishops committee on priestly formation re renewing priestly formation.
Finally, I ask that you acknowledge that you have received this letter so I will be assured that you have seen it and it has not been misplaced or discarded by someone. I welcome your reflections and suggestions.
Sincerely in Jesus Christ our eternal high priest,
Louis Arceneaux, C.M.
The letter, above, was sent personally to three archbishops and five bishops in the United States.