July 4th Declaration of the Need for Fundamental Catholic Church Transformation

Voice from the Desert
July 3, 2008

As I grow older I find myself believing more intensely in the principles in the United States Declaration of Independence and admiring more deeply the Declaration's soaring rhetoric. As we approach another July 4th holiday, I have used the style of the Declaration to again this year share with you my view of the need for fundamental even radical changes in the practices and policies of the Catholic Church, using the lens of the eternal principles and timeless style of the Declaration.

At the end there is an opportunity to sign the declaration by electronically signing an Internet petition.

Declaration of the Need for Fundamental Catholic Church Transformation

July 4, 2008

The course of recent events compels us to call for fundamental changes in the Roman Catholic Church, and to assume the equal station to which the Creator calls us. We declare here the principles and reasons that oblige us to transform the Catholic Church, and we outline our vision for a church aligned with Gospel values.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all women and men are created equal, and that our Creator has endowed us with certain inalienable rights. These rights include life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech. To secure these rights, men and women institute governments, which derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, not from a small group of elitists who are unaccountable to the larger community. Whenever any form of government, secular or religious, tramples on these rights, it is the right and the duty of the people to transform it. Recent events, especially the worldwide sexual abuse of minors by priests and the continuing cover-up and inaction by most bishops and the Pope, have demonstrated that the Catholic Church is a government of the hierarchy, by the hierarchy, and for the hierarchy. This government has relegated us, who call ourselves the People of God, to second-class status—a condition that cries out for essential transformation. We are not serfs in a feudal system; we are citizens of the 21st century.

We take these actions compelled by the commandments of Jesus to love God and neighbor, by the belief that the Creator inspires the entire people of God not just certain clerical elites, and by the principles of equality, freedom, and solidarity embodied in the Gospels, the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the documents of Vatican II. The long list of significant and systemic papal and episcopal abuses—to which many Catholics have, through their own learned helplessness, been complicit—amounts to an unacceptably corrupt and tyrannical system that we must change. There are numerous examples of this corruption and tyranny:

1.Coverup of the sexual abuse of minors by priests and secret reassignment of abusers to new posts, posing potentially grave risk to our children

2.Failure by the Pope to call for the resignations of fellow bishops who knowingly transferred sexually abusive clergy

3.Appointment by the Pope of Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law, a symbol of the worst of the sex abuse scandal, to a position of honor in Rome

4.Failure to minister as Jesus would to the survivors/victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families

5.Continuation and fostering the church culture of control, fear, secrecy, deceit, and denial

6.Continued failure to publish the names and whereabouts of known pedophile priests

7.Restriction of ordained ministry to men who promise to be celibate

8.Disregard of civil law (for example, stonewalling civil authorities who investigate sexual abuse crimes committed by clergy)

9.Silencing of qualified theologians who dissent from Vatican teachings

10. Control by the hierarchy of church assets that pew Catholics have funded with their sweat labor and contributions—in effect "taxation without representation"

11. Disregard of the community's collective conscience that many of the church's teachings on sexuality are not in accord with the compassion of Jesus, common sense, and the "sense of the faithful."

Therefore, we the undersigned, secure that our cause is rooted in the compassion and justice of Jesus and appealing to the Creator and our own best selves for strength and courage, solemnly declare that we shall, based on the sacred principles declared above, transform the Catholic Church.

We demand the immediate removal or resignation of all bishops who were complicit in the sexual abuse scandal.

We shall, in partnership with like-minded Catholics of all kinds—laity, religious, clergy, hierarchy—work toward full implementation of the following fundamental changes:

1.Make priestly celibacy optional

2.Open the priesthood to married men

3.Open the priesthood to married and unmarried women

4.Provide equal access of all qualified people to all positions in the Church

5.Realign principles of sexual ethics to conform to the compassion of Jesus expressed in the Gospels, to common sense, and to the "sense of the faithful."

6.Honor the right of freedom of speech and freedom of conscience of all people

7.Secure the rights of all church members to fully participate in all aspects of church life at all levels

8.Select the pope and bishops to limited terms in office, by the people's duly elected representatives, with the right of recall

9.Select pastors by the people whom they will serve

10. Separate church legislative, executive, and judicial governance powers through a series of checks and balances documented in a ratified constitution

11. Design and implement legal trusts that place control of church assets in the hands of the people whose work and donations created the assets

12. Increase ecumenical efforts to all Christians and non-Christians

In solidarity, we pledge to each other our time, talent, and support.

Dated the 4th of July 2008.


The Undersigned


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