IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller
By Julie Asher
WASHINGTON (CNS) — After years
of Catholics having to confess their sins to the clergy, it is now time for
priests and bishops “to come clean about what they have done and what they have
failed to do,” the CEO of the Knights of Columbus said in a letter to his brother
Knights and the organization’s chaplains.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson’s
letter, dated Aug. 21, came in response to the recent release of the Pennsylvania
grand jury report on abuse claims in six dioceses and reports of a cover-up by
some church leaders and the allegations of past abuse and other sexual
misconduct made against Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick.
“Repentance should include a
full accounting of the misdeeds by those who have committed them. Archbishop
McCarrick and others at fault owe us a full account of their actions,
motivations and cover-ups,” he said.
The abuse crisis represents “a
crisis of commitment to the Gospel,” Anderson said. He called for repentance,
reform and a rebuilding of the church and said the Knights of Columbus — laymen,
priests and chaplains — “will have an important role to play in rebuilding the
church” and recommit themselves to doing that.
“Many feel deeply betrayed by
those whom they long held in high regard,” Anderson wrote. “Such concerns are
shared not just in the United States, but in Europe, Latin America and
“These sins of commission and
omission have sent the church we love, the church we serve and the church that
Jesus Christ established into convulsions,” he said. “Sadly, the disgrace not
only is borne by the perpetrators, it hurts us all, as does the silence of
shepherds who have ignored the cries of their flocks.”
He praised the “many wonderful
and faithful laborers” in the Lord’s vineyard among the priests and bishops,
but “it is clear that in addition to devastating criminal acts, we have seen
many other moral failings by clergy that represent a crisis of commitment to
Anderson said that victims’
needs too often “have been subordinated to a distorted sense of mercy toward
the perpetrators or an instinct for clerical self-preservation.”
“The sexual acts — both
criminal and non-criminal — highlight the need to recover a respect for and a
renewed commitment to the priestly promises of celibacy,” he added.
He noted that the Knights of
Columbus have supported the pastoral and charitable work of bishops and priests
since the fraternal organization was founded by Father Michael McGivney. The
Connecticut priest, who is a sainthood candidate and has been declared “venerable,”
started the Knights in 1882.
“We understand that the priest
should lead the parish and the bishop should be the center of unity in a
diocese,” Anderson continued. “But we — like all Catholics — are painfully
aware of the wreckage that ensues when elements of this leadership are
abdicated by evil actions whether directly perpetrated or covered up.”
Anderson outlines actions that should
be taken on repentance, reform and rebuilding.
Repentance and a full accounting
of misdeeds “will help increase the recognition that clerical sexual abuse is a
global problem that must be addressed at the highest levels of the Catholic
Church,” he said.
“Moreover, priests and bishops
who refuse to live according to their promises of celibacy should be removed
from public ministry, not out of retribution, but for the protection of the
faithful and to prevent future variations of the scandal we now suffer,” he
As for reform, he said a lot of
good ideas have already been proposed, including a lay-led independent
investigation, complete transparency by the hierarchy and the expansion of the “zero
tolerance” policy to include bishops.
But in addition, Anderson called for
establishing “an independent ethics hotline for reporting of criminal and other
conduct at odds with Catholic teaching on the clerical state of life; and there
must be protections against retaliation.”
“Such reforms will be difficult
for a church largely unused to them, and we must support our bishops and our
priests in embracing these reforms in order to rebuild,” Anderson said
He said the Knights can help
rebuild the church “in several ways.”
“Above all else, Knights — and
our chaplains — must embrace love of God and love of neighbor,” Anderson said.
“This is Christ’s great commandment and the founding mission of our order. It
is also exactly the opposite of the rejection of God and exploitation of
neighbor that our church has witnessed in these scandals.”
On a national level, he said, the
Knights plan to have a novena of Masses in reparation ” for the sins that have
so grievously wounded the body of Christ” and urged local churches to offer such a Mass as soon as could be done. At the parish and family level, the Knights have a Building the Domestic Church program. “Imbuing families with faith
and strengthening parish life are critical to rebuilding the church based on
Gospel principles,” Anderson said.
He also said the Knights plan to
sponsor a national tour of the relic of the heart of the patron saint of
priests, St. John Vianney. The tour will be organized with the cooperation
of his shrine in Ars, France.
He asked all Knights “to stand
steadfast” in their faith.
“We will assist priests, bishops
and our fellow Catholics in helping the church chart a course for the future
that puts Christ at the center, so that truly we may say, ‘Thy will be done on
earth as it is in heaven,'” Anderson said, “This is the moment in which Knights —
including in a special way our priest members — can be part of a great renewal
for good in our church.”
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Editor’s Note: The full text of
Carl Anderson’s statement can be found at https://bit.ly/2NflhTC.
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