According to David O’Brien of the University of Dayton, the recent calls to disobedience and group protests of priests in America, Austria, and Australia are “.. a sign that the pastoral needs are sufficiently grave now that priests are speaking up and saying, ‘Wait a minute, you can’t just ignore the pastoral consequences of the things you do and say at the top.’ ”

This is excellent! Priests are finding the courage to stand up for Fr. Roy Bourgeois, who is being threatened with dismissal from the priesthood for speaking out in support of women priests, and for the Bishop of Toowoomba, Australia, who was forced to resign for the same reason. Pew Catholics should be standing with these protestor/priests, signing the petitions, placarding  and planning. If  Catholics don’t want their parishes to close and their sacraments to be rationed they need to wake up to the facts and start supporting the option of marriage for our priests and the ordination of women priests.

It is heartening to see such courage among our clergy. But as much as I am encouraged by this activism I have to wonder, are  the pastoral needs of sexual abuse victims not sufficiently grave yet to elicit the support of such priests and bishops?  Are the pastoral consequences of the things that have been said and done at the top in the last 60 years for the protection of criminal priests and Church assets not yet sufficiently appalling for these good and honorable priests to stand up and shout to their Bishops: 

Enough! Open the files, dismiss the lawyers, get down on your knees and beg… beg for God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of all Catholics. And when you get up, you had better be ready to start over.

These good priests need to gather abuse specialists, victims and their loved ones, the families of victims who have committed suicide, concerned Catholics in SNAP and other organizations who have been advocating for victims for decades and having to fight the Catholic authorities every step of the way, and ask them: What do we need to do?  How can we help victims and their families heal? And they need to bring their findings to the Bishops, who need to start really listening. Then maybe the Bishop of Rome will start to listen too.

What an idea! The courage and conviction of good Catholics organizing for change from the ground level up. Well, it’s not so new. People like Roy Bourgeois and Tom Doyle, Barbara Blain, Barbara Dorris, David  Clohessy, Jason Berry, organisations such as  Call to Action, Voice of the Faithful and so many more, have been living it for years.

It is only people and organizations such as these, and the groups of priests who are challenging their bishops, that give me hope for Catholicism, or at least a Catholic Church I would want to be associated with.

Living the Gospel of Love
Call To Action 2011 National Conference
Nov. 4-6     Milwaukee, WI