Dear Editor: Like many Catholics, and probably some non-Catholics, I think that although the Church is in deep trouble, it is worth saving. I have some suggestions that I believe could help. I hope that we can get a conversation going and through some spiritual capillary action, good ideas will rise to the top. I propose three ideas:
First: Financial transparency is essential to ethical governance. Bishops are human and when human beings have money with no accountability, bad things happen. So, every parish should have access to audited diocesan financial statements, and these statements should be made available to all members of each parish.
Second: Woman should have a much larger role in Church governance. There is no good reason why women cannot be priests, but those who govern the Church move with extreme caution, so I don’t expect to see women Catholic priests any time soon. However, women should be ordained as deacons as soon as possible. As such they could have decision making authority, including being pastors of parishes. Admitting women into the structure would double the pool of potential leaders, bring an influx of rejuvenating ideas and attitudes, and make the cover-up of wrongs much less likely to happen again.
Third: Every bishop should take a vow of poverty. This does not mean that they would be destitute, but that they would live like members of religious orders. (Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome, is a Jesuit.) Like men and women in religious orders, the bishops would have enough bodily goods to stay healthy, and the materials they need to do their job. If bishops took a vow of poverty, they would not be distracted by the lust for luxuries and the accumulation of wealth.
These would be just a few immediate outward signs that changes are real and not just a public relations show. The Church has the ability and the duty to provide a tremendous amount of good for the whole society. But the hierarchy must not be allowed to sink back into the clericalist structure that bred the current problem in the first place.
As the Jewish prophet Isaiah said, “For Jerusalem’s sake I will not be silent until her vindication shines forth like the dawn.” So Catholics should not be silent until the vindication of the Church shines forth and she is seen again as the people of God and the Body of Christ. Sincerely,