Edit: I wrote these before the Vigano report came out. I’ve re-written to the Pope, asking him to respond and allow full investigation into the matter. This letter here is most beautifully and respectfully worded as well. There are 41,000+ signatories to date. 

I wish I didn’t have to write this. I wish our end of summer was all filled with popsicles and baseball. But the findings of the grand jury in Pennsylvania cannot go undiscussed, lamented, cried over. So these are my responses.

First to participate in #sackclothandashes led by my friends Kendra Tierney and Bonnie Engstrom on fb and ig. Prayer and fasting and offering things up: the best foundation.

Second to writing letters. Here are my letters I’m sending. I share them if you need a template to work from and aren’t sure what to say.

Lastly to being committed personally to building up the Church. I’m giving my time to help lead our women’s study group at my parish (and my husband’s contribution is to watch the kiddos while I do it). We’re sending my kids to Catholic school and giving them our moolah. My work for Blessed is She is very meaningful to our whole family, lifting up sisterhood and inviting women to walk closer to Christ in their faith journey through Scripture.

For the Priests

Dear Father,

I am a horrified mother. Horrified by the abuse endured by children at the hands of priests under the shadows of monsignors, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals. Horrified at the dehumanizing assaults made on seminarians and young priests by predatory power brokers. Horrified at decades of systematic abandonment of us all.

I am an enraged mother. My sons and daughters deserve better. If any of them are called to a religious vocation, they absolutely deserve an assault-free place to discern this call. If they are serving at the altar, they deserve to learn faithful and prayerful service in a safe sacristy.

We the faithful lay women of the Church see two problems here: pedophilia and predators of power violating their vows of celibacy. Neither will be tolerated in our Church. Both must be rooted out today.

I ask you to speak and acknowledge the hurt your flock is experiencing. Please address the scandal in your homily and intentions/prayers of the faithful.

I ask you to write to our Bishop and Pope. Please ask for accountability and real change.

I ask you to know I am praying hard for you. As discouraged as I am and as pained, I am not abandoning the Mass, the Holy Sacrifice given to us by Christ to feed us with His Word and His Body and Blood. I am praying through my tears. I am donning sackcloth and ashes and making reparations for the deep sin against the Mystical Body of Christ.

God bless you. Let us pray for each other.

Etc.

For the Bishops

Your Excellency,

I am a horrified mother. Horrified by the evil abuse endured by the children at the hands of priests under the shadows of monsignors, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals. Horrified at the dehumanizing assaults made on seminarians and young priests by predatory power brokers. Horrified at decades of systematic abandonment of us all.

I am an enraged mother. My sons and daughters deserve better. If any of them are called to a religious vocation, they absolutely deserve an assault-free place to discern this call. If they are serving at the altar, they deserve to learn faithful and prayerful service in a safe sacristy.

The lay people I have spoken with about this see two problems here: pedophilia and predators of power violating their vows of celibacy. Neither will be tolerated in our Church. Both must be rooted out today.

These dark days rip me to my core. As a faithful Catholic lay woman, as a mother, a godmother, an aunt, a sister, a daughter, I am called to add my voice to demanding accountability in the changes that must take place.

  1. An investigative council put forth by the USCCB comprised of faithful lay woman, examining the Cardinal McCarrick scandal and how an openly held secret of a predatory man wielding power damaged the lives of young men and silenced their cries for justice.
  2. Reporting to the police is the mandatory step for every allegation of abuse and sexual assault whether it be with a minor or adult. Every safety training program will mandate reporting to police, not to a supervisor. Too many times politics and corruption have impeded these claims from going forward.
  3. A call for penance and sacrifices made by all bishops, a Mass set aside for victims of abuse, and express signs that the bishops are repentant for the sins of their fellow bishops.
  4. A flagging system put in place. When an incident is reported, we advocate an approach similar to other expansive and complex organizations, a suspected individual is flagged in a national system until the completion of a thorough and transparent investigation. The investigation must involve layperson teams in the reporting process and appropriate-level outside legal proceedings. The use of a national offender/suspect registration system would also alert a new community should a party lacking integrity attempt to transfer a suspected individual to a new location

The healthy priests deserve these protective measures so that allegations can be sorted out by the proper authorities. The sick priests deserve removal from ministry for the sake of their own souls and whatever healing can take place for them away from any flock. The people of God deserve the truth and justice for our wounded brothers and sisters.

Please add your voice. Please speak truth and repentance and changes.

God bless, etc etc

For the Pope

Your Holiness,

I am a horrified mother. Horrified by the evil abuse endured by the children at the hands of priests under the shadows of monsignors, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals. Horrified at the dehumanizing assaults made on seminarians and young priests by predatory power brokers. Horrified at decades of systematic abandonment of us all.

I am an enraged mother. My sons and daughters deserve better. If any of them are called to a religious vocation, they absolutely deserve an assault-free place to discern this call. If they are serving at the altar, they deserve to learn faithful and prayerful service in a safe sacristy.

The lay people I have spoken with about this see two problems here: pedophilia and predators of power violating their vows of celibacy. Neither will be tolerated in our Church. Both must be rooted out today.

These dark days rip me to my core. As a faithful Catholic lay woman, as a mother, a godmother, an aunt, a sister, a daughter, I am called to add my voice to demanding accountability in the changes that must take place.

  1. The Vatican must remove from ministry its priests who choose the non-celibate life.
  2. Priests and Bishops in the USA who also choose to live a non-celibate life must be removed from ministry.
  3. Please direct the Bishops to cooperate with the law enforcement to immediate report any allegations of sexual misconduct with minors. Each diocese must actually enforce zero tolerance in these matters. No “rehabilitation” and then reassignment.
  4. Bishops whose involvement in abuse and covering it up is substantiated by law enforcement and lay person investigation panels must be removed from their ministry.

Your flock is being persecuted by their own shepherds. We have little faith in our leadership. Trust has been shattered and we’ve yet to see universal remorse and acknowledgement of the gravity of these sins.

We turn to you, Our Papa, to show our bishops how to truly take responsibility for their failings and those of their brothers. A huge movement of lay Catholic women dons sackcloth and ashes. Thank you for joining us and please require the bishops to do so as well.

May God bless you abundantly and keep you, etc etc

Let us pray for each other during these raw times. And let us pray for the victims of abuse as they navigate their trauma and triggering.

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12 Responses to Writing to Our Priests, Bishops, and the Pope

  1. Christy says:

    These are so good Nell!!

  2. Liz says:

    So good! Thank you!

  3. Sarah Damm says:

    Thank you, Nell. These took time, and you are generous to share them. It is so hard to know what to say … These will give people (including me) a starting point.

  4. Ashley S says:

    This is great. Thanks for the inspiration, Nell.

  5. Mara says:

    Thank you for the inspiration, Nell. You are a rock for us all. XOXO

  6. Helen says:

    Nell, the majority of these cases are not paedophilia: they are acts of homosexual pederasty – older men preying on and grooming adolescents and young men.

    An 11 page letter written by the former Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, has been published by the National Catholic Register and claims that Francis knew of McCarrick’s despicable reputation since at least June 2013 and did nothing.

    Vigano’s words: “80% of the abuses found were committed against young adults by homosexuals who were in a relationship of authority over their victims.”

    Thank God that the swamp is being drained. We lay people do need to double down on our own personal holiness, but we also need to call this out for what it is, rather than skirting the issue. Bishop Morlino calls it a “homosexual subculture” in the Church, and if this is not addressed then nothing is going to change,

  7. Theresa says:

    Thanks for the ideas for content! Maybe this is a silly question, but did you snail mail the letters? Do you have addresses handy?

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