What can and should be done to clean up once and for all the crisis of sex abuse and cover-ups that has exploded in the Catholic Church? The French reform movement Conférence Catholique des Baptisé-e-s Francophones (CCBF) has no doubts at all: the solution must be to rid the Church of the “poison” of clericalism, that “culture of death that abuses the body of others” and perpetuates a “perverse discourse that instrumentalizes the divine, disguises power in ‘service’ and infantilizes the Catholic people”.
In a powerful reflection posted on its website August 29, the CCBF pleaded that “it is urgent that we do not close our eyes to the objective conditions” that favor clericalism, the idea that the opinions and leadership of ordained men are the only ones that matter in Catholic life. According to the CCBF – an organization that counts among its members more than a thousand of the Francophone faithful –the clericalism that leads to priests and religious abusing young people is in turned sustained by “obligatory celibacy, [the] absence of women in decision-making bodies, [and an] anthropology which ignores the structuring function of sexuality in the psyche of the human being and is based on ‘what’s natural’, a concept that does not exist“.
According to the CCBF, the perpetuation of the culture of clericalism – which amounts to the “unacceptable concentration of all decisions of the Church… in the hands of a small caste of people who protect themselves and others with impunity” – amounts to nothing less than an exercise of “spiritual abuse”, a phenomenon it defines as “scandalous”. It is for that reason that the CCBF believes that deep changes must be made, starting with the imposition of the obligation that leaders in the Church hand over all relevant information on child abuse to the civil authorities.
“We must dare to trust the people of God”
“Too often, in the Church, it is believed that the justice of God goes beyond the justice of men, but one does not go without the other”, warned the CCBF in its statement. Beyond the “perverse effects” they have on the people of God, the Conférence continued, the “pathetic excuses” that internal regulation is enough to solve the problem of sex abuse “makes [the Church] lose, in France in particular, any credibility in ethical matters”.
Beyond collaborating with law enforcement, however, the CCBF also issued a call that the failed “management approach” that has heretofore prevailed in the Church be “rethought with the laity”. “We must dare to trust the people of God”, the organization pleaded: “their sensus fidei, thought in connection with the magisterium, of course: this ‘sense of faith’ unanimously recognized, but scandalously unused“.
There is no shortage of Catholic laypeople who could give “their skills, their experience and their faith in the service of a Church attentive to the calls of the Gospel”, concluded the CCBF in its statement, before going on to echo the teaching of Pope Francis that “baptism precedes and goes beyond ordination” and to issue the heartful cry: “Let us listen to the baptized and enter a new age of our Church”.