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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Dozens of Catholics have published an open letter demanding that the bishops submit to an independent investigation into clerical abuse and corruption.
In a letter to Catholic clergy published in First Things on Wednesday, 43 young Catholics slammed the ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick and especially those bishops who knew of his conduct yet stayed silent as he rose through the ranks.
The letter begins:
Dear Fathers in Christ,
In preparation for the upcoming Synod on Young People, the Vatican asked for reports from young Catholics around the world concerning their faith and the role the Church plays in their lives. Some of us are younger than others, but we were all children in the decades leading up to the sexual abuse crisis of 2002. In light of that experience and the recent revelations about Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, we answer the Church's invitation to speak. Our experiences have given us cause for gratitude, but also for anger.
The memo's authors note the servant leadership of faithful clergy, saying, "Their daily sacrifices give us blessings of infinite worth. For all of this, we are profoundly thankful."
While appreciating the sacrifices of good priests, they are infuriated that "everybody knew" about McCarrick but said nothing:
We are also angry. We are angry over the "credible and substantiated" report of Archbishop McCarrick's abuse of a minor. We are angry over the numerous allegations of his abuse of seminarians and young priests. We are angry that "everybody knew" about these crimes, that so few people did anything about them, and that those who spoke out were ignored.
In addition, we have heard reports of networks of sexually active priests who promote each other and threaten those who do not join in their activities; of young priests and seminarians having their vocations endangered because they refused to have sex with their superiors or spoke out about sexual impropriety; and of drug-fueled orgies in Vatican apartments.
They state that their disgust flows from concern for the virtue of chastity: "As Catholics, we believe that the Church's teaching on human nature and sexuality is life-giving and leads to holiness."
"We believe that just as there is no room for adultery in marriages, so there is no room for adultery against the Bride of Christ," they continue. "We need bishops to make clear that any act of sexual abuse or clerical unchastity degrades the priesthood and gravely harms the Church."
Returning to the McCarrick scandal, the letter decries the fact that his sexual predation was an open secret:
We are scandalized by the fact that men like Archbishop McCarrick have held positions of authority in the Church. Indeed, we are alarmed by reports that Pope Francis acted on McCarrick's guidance in creating cardinals and appointing men to senior positions in the Church.
The letter goes on to exhort the hierarchy, "You are the shepherds of the Church. If you do not act, evil will go unchecked."
There follows a demand for a "thorough, independent investigation" of both McCarrick's actions and the conspiracy of silence that allowed him to continue. They call on bishops to stop covering for unchaste and abusive priests, and to punish them, as well as a request "that good priests be given the freedom to tell their bishops what they know, without fear of reprisal."
Forty-three Catholics signed their names, including Catholic writers, scholars and pro-life leaders.
The signatories pledge to do their part to address the crisis: to give voice to victims of sexual harassment in the Church, to "speak out when we discover clerical sexual impropriety" and to "work to protect the good priests and seminarians who are threatened when they refuse to condone the sins of their fellow clerics, or when they speak out about them."
Ending the letter is a promise to pray:
Above all, we pray for holiness in our Church and in ourselves. We pray for good priests and bishops who can lead us on to the vision of God. You constantly remind us that Jesus Christ is the fountain of mercy. Please do not forget that he is also the judge of the world.
Catholic convert Sohrab Ahmari, senior writer at Commentary Magazine, is one of the signatories. Other writers include First Things senior editors Matthew Schmitz and Julia Yost; U.S. editor of Catholic Herald Michael Davis; Law and Liberty editor Richard Reinsch; and National Review staff writer Alexandra DeSanctis.
A number of Catholic college professors added their names — most of them theology and philosophy professors — as did a handful of doctoral students and other Catholics pursuing careers in academia, for instance, Andrew W. Jones, professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, and Stephen Bullivant, a professor of theology and sociology of religion at St. Mary's University in London.