Catholic Priests in Charleston Seek Support to Change Church Hierarchy Amid Abuse Scandal
By Bill Burr
ABC 4 News
September 4, 2018
Gospel passages and scripture readings address acts of betrayal and other sins. Now, those who preach the good word are turning to the faithful for help.
"We all feel a little helpless. We're angry. We are disillusioned," said Father Gregory West, pastor of Saint Clare of Assisi Catholic Church on Daniel Island. He says he and other priests are giving parishioners a voice to make changes in the church.
"We want to do what we can to make sure this never happens again, so that there is never again any kind of victim of sexual abuse by clergy, or any other person working in the name of the Church."
Father West wants parishioners to sign an online petition to the American Members of the College of Cardinals. Among the requests, the group seeks to reform the church's hierarchy by getting rid of anyone who knew about the crimes and hid them. Also, they want Pope Francis to step down if he can't or won't enact necessary changes to evoke true reform.
"We want to make sure that there are the necessary controls, protocols, and reporting capacities. Many of which are really all well in place and have been for quite a few years," Father West said.
So far, a little more than 7,000 people have signed the petition. The goal is for 7,500 signatures. Father West and other priests believe this grassroots project will make a difference.
"We're hopeful not only that this petition, but the whole groundswell effort by the laity and clergy of the Church will ensure that forever more, the Church and any other place in society will be a safe place for children."
Bishop Robert Gugliemone of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston sent a letter to the Papal Nuncio last Friday supporting a lay commission to investigate aspects of the sex abuse scandal. Father West says these stories hit close to home. A priest at his childhood parish of Stella Maris on Sullivan's Island was accused of wrongdoing decades ago, but he wasn't a victim.
Stella Maris and Blessed Sacrament in West Ashley are the other churches involved with the online petition.