To the People of God

Boston, Massachusetts   August 26, 2018

Dear Friends and Followers of Jesus,

We are appalled and saddened by the recent revelations of Catholic priest sexual abuse in Pennsylvania and further revelations about abuse by a Cardinal. Studies of this problem show that about 6% of Catholic clergy have fallen under this shadow of shame.  But the remaining 94% bear some responsibility for our silence and lack of oversight.  We will compound that responsibility if we let this moment pass without taking healing action for the Catholic Church.

These criminal behavioral symptoms are signs of deeper systemic problems.   The choosing, training, and support of our priests needs to be reviewed.  Many celibate priests are struggling with unmet human needs.  Sometimes these are denied and forced into unawareness through guilt, shame and the image of priestly perfection.  When this happens, we have priests disconnected from themselves, acting out their shadow.  The institutional church has sometimes echoed this pattern of suppression, unawareness, and shadowy secrecy to protect its image.   The same systemic patterns can be seen in its history with colonialism, racism, elitism and sexism among other issues.

Part of the Church community has detoured far from Jesus and his message of love to ourselves and one another as God loves us. We have to look very deeply with love in our hearts.  When we deny our shadow, the church becomes complicit in a repetitive pattern of scapegoating on issues like women, homosexuality, and married priests…  It is a way of hand washing like Pontius Pilate. We are not looking into the deeper issues of the human struggle.  The church is either consciously or unconsciously not addressing fundamental issues.

We join those who have in recent days called for the American Catholic bishops to resign their leadership positions as an act of repentance and create a new starting point of honest transparency, accountability and a new beginning. The bishops of Chile did this. It served to give confidence to members of the church in Chile that the leaders recognized responsibility and accepted the consequences for their failure to address these abuses.

We the undersigned are members of Married Priests Now!  We are Catholic priests and bishops who determined that we were also called not only to ministry but to the sacrament of marriage, and so we stepped back from formal ministry as representatives of the institutional church.  However, we continue ministry through hospital chaplaincy, counseling, teaching, celebrating baptisms, communions, confirmations, Eucharists, marriages, anointings and funerals, especially for those who cannot abide the institutional church.

We feel strongly that women must be heard and have leadership roles in the Catholic Church. There is some debate about archeological evidence in the early church indicating that there were women deacons, priests and bishops. But there is no debate that St. Peter was married, that many of the early popes were married. There is no debate that St. Paul recognized the partnership of women in spreading the news of Jesus by calling some women apostles. The former President of Ireland, a Catholic woman, has called on Rome to face up to the equality of women and not to continue to give to nations that treat women as second-class citizens as excuse to continue this abusive subordination.

We welcome the movement toward Catholic women priests and bishops, over 200 worldwide. No one has left the church because of married priests and married bishops or womenpriests or womenbishops through our ministries.  We have often convinced people that the church can be different and more humane.  Many of us are members of the Federation of Christian Ministries which for fifty years has supported the ministries of Catholic women and now ordained Catholic women.  We grant access to our activities at any time.  Each of us is ready to work constructively with church and state authorities at any time.  We meet our community, family and ministry responsibilities, and celebrate the sacraments with great care.  We follow our vocation and sometimes it is also prophetic.

While official Rome does not agree with what we do, we have genuine apostolic succession from Pope Paul VI through Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, his successors and those ordained behind the iron curtain during the cold war.  We are worker priests who are not salaried by the Catholic Church.

In October 2018, many bishops of the world will gather in Rome for a synod about young people, their growth in faith, and their vocation.  We call upon the bishops of the world to listen clearly to the voices of women, and to put women in clear leadership positions. Women are half the human race and they should share in equal leadership in the Church of Christ, not a few token women in specialized ministries.

These significant problems deeply affect the universal church and the divisions among Christian denominations.  We think it is time to call for a worldwide truly ecumenical council in the next decade and to begin dialogue and preparations now.

As the leading Catholic bishops of the world gather October 3 – 28, 2018 in Rome to understand how the Holy Spirit has answered the last 50 years of prayers by the universal Catholic People for an increase of vocations, we pray that they will listen to the answer that the Holy Spirit is giving in the signs of our times and that they will call married men and women of tested quality to lead Eucharistic communities alongside men and women who feel the call to the single life dedicated to the Church.  While dedicated single life is a holy path, living the Sacrament of Marriage is a holy and dedicated vocation giving public witness of love and commitment.   Write to your bishop this week, do not let the moral catastrophe of these abuses continue.  Raise your voices.  Light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.

Bishop William Manseau,         Massachusetts  

Bishop Joaquin Perez,                         Florida                          

Bishop Philip Belzunce,                      Ohio                             

Bishop Robert Graf,                            West Virginia              

Rev. Michael Aparo,                            Connecticut                

Married Priests Now!

Bishop Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger    Austria