December 10, 2018
Dear Bishop xxxxx,
Nuntio Archbishop Christophe Pierre recently reported to you, our bishops, that:
Priests today are hurting and are experiencing a trauma over the abuse crisis. They are looking to you to be a father and brother who will listen …. Listening to them and sustaining them is essential to responding to their concerns ….
Our religious and laity are also hurting and at the same time questioning your leadership.
As you enter into retreat at Mundelein January 2 -8, we, the 1200 priests and 157 lay members of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, pledge our personal support through prayer and fasting during that time. Your gathering at Mundelein has special meaning for us because our Association of U.S. Catholic Priests was founded during a Retreat there in 2011. Inspired by the Spirit, our mission is to provide priests "mutual support and a collegial voice through dialogue, contemplation and prophetic action." We include you as brother priests in that mission.
We ask you in particular to include in your contemplation, prayer, and any proposed actions that might arise from your retreat, the 8 observations articulated by one of your longtime associates for justice, John Carr. Practical and necessary at this time, they are:
1. There are not enough parents in the room when decisions are made.
2. Lay people need to be much more involved—but need to be independent and focused on the needs of the vulnerable, not the protection of the institution or the care of perpetrators.
3. Many bishops are isolated, surrounded by people who reinforce their judgments. Institutional protection, isolation and lack of connection to the anguish of survivors and their families have often led to a lack of empathy, urgency and action.
4. There have to be independent, credible and effective ways for bishops to be reported, investigated and held accountable for their behaviors, abuse of power, actions and non-actions with regard to sexual abuse.
5. Institutional protection and clericalism can blind us to protecting the vulnerable. Beware of those who seem to use the suffering of survivors to settle scores or to advance their own ideological agendas, left or right, or opposition to Pope Francis.
6. Defending past choices is no substitute for owning and personally apologizing for past actions that harmed the vulnerable.
7. Silence in the face of attacks may be spiritually defensible but is pastorally harmful.
8. Silence makes things worse and is not an option for any of us.
In the words of Laurent Landete, former moderator general of the Emmanuel Community, "One absolutely necessary rule is to never stay silent and never silence anyone else."
Thank you for your consideration and do know that you are in our prayer.
In Christ with Hope, Joy & all Blessings,
Fr. Bob Bonnot, Chair