By Kelly Luttinen
VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - As bishops of the Catholic Church meet with the pope in Rome, lay members watch and wait, hoping for substantive change. And leading women in the Church have a message for the Vatican.
Dr. Mary Healy, Professor of Sacred Scripture at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary, in comments to Church Militant urged the bishops to turn to Scripture for guidance, specifically quoting Luke's Gospel on the gravity of the situation: "Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble."
She rejected focusing too much either on clericalism or homosexuality as the root cause of the crisis, saying, "Clearly the problem is that of priests and bishops indulging their sexual lusts, in the vast majority of cases by preying on young men and boys. But clericalism is the unholy environment that has allowed that evil to flourish. Both need to be rooted out."
Dr. Monica Miller, president of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, is hopeful the Church is finally going "to attend to the priest scandal that has been going on for decades."
"I believe we can and should expect some significant reform policies to come out of this gathering," she told Church Militant. But she fears the ongoing tendency to downplay "for politically correct motives, the homosexual problem." If this dynamic dominates the Rome meeting, she said, then "we can expect little will happen in terms of healing the wounds of the Church and establishing a truly holy priesthood."
"Furthermore, the participants need to also emphasize that all are called to chastity," she insisted, "not only our priests, but all are called by God to honor the meaning of human sexuality as designed by God — whether priests or lay-persons."
Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, said the bishops have to "put in place preventive measures to make sure there are no more victims."
"The bottom line is that honesty is the best policy," she told Church Militant. "It's a shame it went on this long, but at the end of the day, all those guilty of abuse will have to face Jesus Christ in judgment."
Nancy Nohrden, territorial director of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi in North America, said she, like many, would love the opportunity to address the bishops. Associated with the Legion of Christ, an order scrutinized and its constitutions revamped by the Vatican after the sex abuse scandal involving its founder, homosexual predator Fr. Marciel Maciel, Nohrden's group recently received canonical approval as a Society of Apostolic Life.
She characterized the meetings taking place in Rome as of "monumental importance." Assuring the bishops of her group's "intense prayers," she exhorted them, "as successors of the apostles and our pastors" to be "humble, prayerful, honest and collaborative." Despite the costs, she told Church Militant the bishops must be "radically courageous. I pray that our entire Church is ready to embrace the challenge that true purification and renewal imply."
Kathryn Mulderink, founder of the online group Agape: Women Praying for Spiritual Fatherhood, invites women of faith to join her in praying and sacrificing for priests and bishops. On comments on social media, she writes:
Friends, I am moved to deep sorrow and a sense of spiritual responsibility by the renewed revelations of the spiritual crisis within the priesthood around the world. I know you are too. We need not despair. ... As women, our charism is one of spiritual motherhood. Together, let us join our prayers in support of spiritual fatherhood, particularly for seminarians, deacons, priests, bishops, cardinals and our Holy Father Pope Francis.
Dr. Janet E. Smith has been a watchdog for the princes of the Church ever since the Pennsylvania grand jury report revealed widespread cover-up of sex abuse over the course of 70 years — implicating such high-ranking cardinals as Washington, D.C.'s Cdl. Donald Wuerl. Her efforts have only intensified with revelations about now-laicized Theodore McCarrick and his predatory behavior.
A long-time professor of moral theology at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Smith is well known in academia for her work in bioethics as well as her support for Humanae Vitae in addressing the issue of same-sex attraction. In November 2018, she wrote an open letter titled "To the U.S. Bishops: A (Friendly) Call to Repentance and Reform," giving her support to the group No More Victims, which published a reader titled "What We, the Laity, Are Reading That Has Shaken Us to the Core."
She has called on the bishops to examine their consciences and implement real reform in the Church.
"They’ve got to realize their responsibilities are much, much larger than to not embarrass or expose a fellow classmate from years ago," Smith told the National Catholic Register. "Eradicating the presence of the homosexual networks in their dioceses has to be of the highest priority. ... [It] grieves me we cannot trust the bishops to take care of this internally."
She clarifies that her intent is not "go after" bishops. "We want to find ways to help the good bishops clean up their diocese and to expose bad bishops who won't cooperate," she said. "We love the Church, and we believe telling the truth serves the Church."