Priests group to hierarchy: 

Involve the laity on clergy abuse and cover-up -- or face further failure! 

 September 19, 2018 • For immediate release

 The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests calls for lay involvement at all levels of Church decision-making, including the Vatican, as the Church struggles with sexual abuse and cover-up. 

 The AUSCP, the largest association of its kind in the United States, applauds Pope Francis for his determination to root out clericalism in the Catholic Church because in the pope’s own words, “clericalism fosters every form of abuse.”

 In his message to Jesuits in Ireland (August 25, 2018), Pope Francis cited widespread abuse in Chile, Ireland and the United States, and said “this drama of abuse . . . has behind it a Church that is elitist and clericalist, an inability to be near to the people of God. Elitism, clericalism fosters every form of abuse.”

 In a statement released today, the priests say: “The clerical culture which surrounds and marks us must be disrupted and destroyed for the church to be healthy.” The priests also cite “insufficient psychosexual development and maturity among the clergy at all levels” and a seminary system that is “inadequate as a way to form priests able to function well personally and pastorally in today’s world.”



The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests applauds Pope Francis’ announced gathering of the Presidents of the world’s Catholic Church’s episcopal conferences next February. We strongly encourage Pope Francis to include an equivalent number of qualified lay persons, men and women, in that special gathering because of its occasion and focus. Without meaningful participation of the laity, the gathering and its outcome will lack credibility.

In our own nation our bishops have, by and large, addressed the problem of clergy sexual abuse. By adopting the Dallas Charter they seemingly, and hopefully, brought the shameful debacle mostly under control. But their Charter and its implementation addressed only half of the problem. It dealt with priests’ abuse. It left unaddressed episcopal management of the situation. Our current crisis is due to the latter. 

There is much skepticism among our people and among priests that the bishops will effectively discipline themselves. Our hierarchy, our clergy, and even our laity are infected with the disease of clericalism. Pope Francis has clamored against that since his election. We concur with his analysis that clericalism is at the root of many of our troubles. Other factors are certainly in play, including insufficient psychosexual development and maturity among the clergy at all levels. The seminary system is inadequate as a way to form priests able to function well personally and pastorally in today’s world. That being said, we stand with Pope Francis and many others who consider clericalism the root of the current crisis, which is episcopal cover-up of inappropriate behavior by clergy.

By clericalism we mean the aspects of clerical and hierarchical culture well described by others:

• “clerics’ having power or authority over the faithful and the state of subjection of the faithful with respect to clerics” which “involves an atmosphere where the faithful are bound to obedience and respect for clerics.” Lucetta Scaraffia in Osservatore Romano

• “the reflexive notion that clerics are a privileged fraternity whose sacred status guarantees them eternal protection from the reproaches of the world, even when they do wrong.” Religion writer David Gibson

• “an overriding set of beliefs and behaviors in which the clergy view themselves as different, separate and exempt from the norms, rules and consequences that apply to everyone else in society.” Voice of the Faithful

Official Church secrecy, which was intended to protect the faithful from the scandal of abuse, instead led to the greater scandal of cover-up and the tolerance of even more abuse.

The clerical culture that surrounds, permeates and marks us must be disrupted and destroyed for the church to be healthy. We support Pope Francis in the direction he desires to move and his effort to come to terms with clergy sex abuse and episcopal cover-ups. Eliminating clericalism in our church’s life is necessary, but a gathering of the uppermost levels of the hierarchy to determine how to change the hierarchy will not work without central involvement of the laity. Their absence will simply be another manifestation of clericalism. In fact, such an exercise will leave the Church and her clergy looking, in the words of Cardinal Newman, awfully silly, indeed outrageously silly, again.


Contact Rev. Bernard “Bob” Bonnot,, (330) 397-1257

Sr. Jacquelyn Doepker, OSF, Executive Secretary,, (872) 205-5862