Tuesday, November 6, 2018

13 Ways To Stop Catholic Clerical Sexual Abuse: A Summary of The Millstone Mandate

I never thought the day would come when Michael Voris and I would believe anything in common outside the most basic tenets of our Catholic faith. 

And yet, Michael J. White's Millstone Mandate, recently published in Michael Voris' Church Militant is the first lay proposal I've read to outline very specific, and possibly effective, protocols to increase transparency and accountability within the Catholic Church hierarchy as a response to extensive, longterm, repeatedly covert sexual abuse within our Church -- even at my home parish, within the diocese of Cardinal DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

[Before I jump into compliments, a hearty disclaimer: in many cases, I find Church Militant to be unnecessarily partisan and excessively antagonistic, supporting a worldview more informed by American conservative political culture than actual Church teaching. That said, I could issue the same disclaimer for other Catholic publications more informed by American liberal political culture than actual Church teaching. In response, I make it a point to be informed and annoyed by both.]

The Millstone Mandate is incredibly thorough and detailed with a couple of distracting side rants about homosexuality. (Church Militant is among a cadre of Catholics that believe homosexuality is at the root of the sexual abuse crisis in our Church. In contrast, I believe clericalism is the root of this scandal, and if abuse -- homosexual or heterosexual -- had been reported and dealt proper consequences rather than covered up, this ignominy would not exist today.)

Despite our different beliefs about the source of scandal, the Millstone Mandate sets a standard worthy of discussion, if not agreement, for the transparency and accountability needed in our Church hierarchy.

For a quick read, below is a summary. The full text is available at this link.

1. Full disclosure of all Church financial documents, from the Vatican to parish level, updated and posted quarterly on websites created for that purpose.

2. Full disclosure of all settlements and judgments sealed by request of the Church (not by request of unaffiliated third parties or where disclosure would violate a court order).

3. Public identification of culpable individual Catholic deacons, priests, bishops, and cardinals who are implicated in -- by direct participation or by obfuscation, denial or failure to report -- any act of moral or fiscal impropriety of which he had actual or constructive knowledge that would present grounds for civil or criminal prosecution or constitute an abuse of power through any act violating a moral precept of, or fiduciary duty to, the Catholic Church.

Sidenotes: a) I appreciate that this point includes fiscal crimes. b) I think the definition above might include publicly identifying clergy who engage in consenting adult sexual relationships, thus breaking their vows of chastity. While I believe these men should be removed from ministry and laicized, I don't believe their names need to be publicized.

4. All evidence of moral or fiscal impropriety that would present grounds for civil or criminal prosecution shall be provided to civil authorities for potential criminal prosecution or civil action.

5. Any accused individual shall be immediately removed from all active responsibilities as an ordained representative of the Church. They shall not be allowed to represent the Church in any sacramental function or office or in any public or media forums.

Sidenote: Immediate removal of an accused person from ministry is already supposed to be Church policy for deacons and priests (not bishops or cardinals). Perhaps stating it again, and this time including bishops and cardinals, will be more effective the second time around?

6. If found guilty by a subsequent legal process, clergy shall be subject to mandatory, immediate and summary laicization. If found innocent, they shall be fully reinstated to their former status, with the apology of the Church and just compensation for their ordeal.

7. Every diocesan and national appeal by the bishops shall publicly report the amount of funds collected, identity of recipient programs, amounts disbursed to those programs, and an accounting of the use of such funds within each program. This information will be confirmed by an independent audit.

8. Every bishop and cardinal will be subjected to a vote of confidence by the clergy serving under them at 40-month intervals by secret ballot (black ball vote) of the priests under his authority who will gather and one-by-one drop a white or black marble into a sealed, opaque box behind a draped enclosure assuring personal confidentiality. 

Sidenote: I like pomp and circumstance as much as any Catholic, but even my truncated summary of this voting process sounds a bit over-the-top.

9. If the bishop does not get a two-thirds vote of confidence, he shall resign his bishopric within 30 days. His successor shall be appointed by the bishops of that country within the next 30 days. However, only those bishops whose dioceses are ranked in the top 33 percent of vocations ordained over the prior three years may vote in that appointment. Their qualification will be based upon the ratio of new priestly ordinations per 1000 registered Catholics in each diocese, not the numerical count of ordinations in each diocese. 

Sidenote: I'm not sure why we would weight a bishop's vote based on the percentage of new vocations ordained within his diocese over the prior three years. Aside from this system innately discounting the equally valid vocations of women religious or married life, there are many other markers to consider in the effectiveness of a bishop's ministry. 

10. Every cardinal will be subject to a two-thirds vote of confidence using this same process, except the vote shall be cast by all bishops of the country where the cardinal presides. Upon the resignation of a cardinal by reason of a failed vote, the bishops ranking in the top 33 percent of vocations in the country shall nominate a new successor for consideration by the Pope.

Sidenote: Again, why are only bishops of a certain percentage of newly-ordained vocations getting to vote on future cardinals? This emphasis on the priestly vocation seems to only perpetuate the clericalism that got us into this mess. 

11. Vatican and Curia appointments by the Pope shall be subject to a two-thirds vote of confidence by the College of Cardinals – including appointments to the Vatican Bank and the Offices of the Vatican every 40 months following each such appointment.

12. The Pope remains undisputed as the ultimate arbiter of faith and morals in the Church. However, his role and directives in the administrative affairs of the Church do not obtain a similar deference.

13. Remove homosexuality from the ranks of the priests, bishops, and cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church — now. 

Sidenote: This is an excerpt from one of the White's side rants. The Mandate makes sweeping statements about homosexual clergy, suggesting that even having homosexual tendencies -- regardless of whether one acts on them or not -- should preclude a person from the priesthood. In my opinion, he misses the complicity of many in the hierarchy by claiming the sexual abuse scandal is "entirely the fault of homosexuals in the clergy." Then, after this non sequitur tirade, he continues with a much more balanced and perfectly reasonable statement that any clergy -- homosexual or heterosexual -- who breaks their vows of chastity should be laicized. Why not just say that to begin with?

In White's words, "they are called to chastity by their vows. If they break their vows — with either men or women — they remain neither shepherds nor examples to the rest of us."


White suggests withholding tithe as a way for the laity to force these measures upon Church hierarchy.

His argument is convincing if you consider that from 1950 to August 2018, the U.S. Catholic Church spent nearly $4 billion of parishioner donations on sex-abuse related settlements and legal costs.

While I have personal reservations about cutting off funds to good programs, especially at the parish level, I don't want our hard-earned money contributing to more cover-ups and buy-outs. White suggests continuing our personal generosity to direct programs that demonstrate the transparency and accountability we value. I hope this would not negatively affect the many good laypeople who are serving as employees within our parishes -- youth ministers, religious education coordinators, et cetera.

As I've said before, this is not a crisis our bishops can navigate alone. Their spiritual isolation is what allowed this deep-seated scandal to go unaddressed for so long.

We, as laity, are not wasting time and energy when we repeatedly remind our bishops and cardinals -- in love and respect -- that anything short of a complete overhaul of current policies on transparency and accountability is not enough.

Please, contact your local bishop to let him know that transparency and accountability are critical issues, for the safety of our children and the sanctity of our Church. 

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