January 24, 2020
Dear Archbishop Etienne:
We are a group of diverse Catholics, many of whom have been meeting since last fall, in the hopes of a collaboration with the Archdiocese to bring about substantive reform and renewal in our church, the body of Christ.
We appreciate your comments upon assuming the episcopate. We share your concerns for our faith as well an optimism for greater involvement of the faithful in our Church. We hold dear a major investment in the Church as part of our personal lives and spirituality. We also bear a growing concern over the deep impact of the clergy abuse scandal and the imperative for active, substantive involvement of the laity in the governance of the Church. This is not simply a crisis for middle aged and older Catholics. In fact, it is particularly alarming in the resulting alienation of younger Catholics and their reluctance to actively participate in the life of our Church.
What we propose is set out in the enclosed “Statement of Belief”. (Our website, Healourchurch.com provides more detail regarding our work.) In short, we call for the creation of a lay-led Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) model whose purposes are twofold:
(1) A review by the TRC of all files related to the sexual abuse scandal, followed by a report to the faithful regarding ‘how and why’ this scandal happened. For our Church to move past this dire problem, it is essential that an independent group of lay Catholics access to the files, issue a report, and take this important step toward healing. We acknowledge the efforts undertaken by the Archdiocese through its safe environment program but, for us, it is a matter of not only legal but moral transparence as well.
(2) Following the TRC report, we invite you to collaborate in convening a series of assemblies of lay and religious persons, open to all Catholics, to review the TRC report and its recommendations. This report likely will include a range of proposals bearing on the beliefs and practices of the church. We request your agreement to consider and act on those recommendations.
Our message to you is that we want you to work with us to establish a process that will regain our faith’s prominence in the lives of its members. The TRC model we envision represents a creative approach and unique opportunity to bring about healing and reconciliation. The many good works, community resources, traditions and liturgy of our church deserve no less.
We look forward to meeting with you, ask that you respond to this letter as soon as possible, and schedule a meeting with us by the end of January. Thank you in advance for your attention. Please direct any response to this letter to Colleen Kinerk, email@example.com, (206) 334-7300.
Mary Jo Gasparich
John Ricky Hayes
Kelly Nolan Shafer
Sheila Dickey -Wykoff
Lisa Howe Verhovek