The Common Good

Making the Church Accountable

Sojomail - June 12, 2002


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+++++++++++++ Making the Church Accountable +++++++++++++++++

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 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Thomas Merton on love, hate, and war

 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *What must be done about clergy sexual abuse
 R e l i g i o n   &   S o c i e t y
     SojoMail exclusives:
     *Joan Chittister: The faith - if not the church - will survive
     *Richard Rohr: Beyond crime and punishment
     *Rose Marie Berger: Catholic scandal, ecumenical solution
 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Al Qaeda faction goes soft on the West

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Let freedom sing: Interview with Harry Belafonte

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *Military analyst: Fight terror with a better story, not bigger bombs

 C o l o m b i a   J o u r n a l
     *Many victims, many victimizers

 B o o m e r a n g
     *SojoMail readers hit reply

 W e b s c e n e
     *Let there be Lego
     *Take their word for it


Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k

"Instead of hating people you think are warmakers, hate the 
appetites and disorder in your own soul, which are the causes 
of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, 
hate greed - but hate these things in yourself, not in 
                           - Thomas Merton


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Making the church accountable 

by Jim Wallis

Having a 3-and-a-half-year-old son has made the horrific 
revelations about the sexual abuse of children by Catholic 
priests even more abhorrent. His innocence and vulnerability 
has been my daily context as I listen to one awful story 
after another. It makes a person very angry.

Concern for the victims of abuse has to be our first and 
overriding concern. Where the church and its leaders have 
begun to fully repent of these terrible sins 
and make those who have been irreparably damaged its 
principle priority, it becomes the beginning of healing. But 
where concerns for the perpetrators, or the priesthood, or 
the institution, or the financial consequences have dominated
the response, the original sin has been seriously compounded. 
Clearly, the path that must be followed now is to put the 
welfare of the victims over the protection of the system. 
Indeed, that is the only way to save and heal the system in 
the long run.

But what must be done? Celibacy is not the problem (though 
some reforms in how it might be implemented may be in order).
And while I support both the ordination of women priests (my 
wife is an Episcopal cleric) and the welcoming of married 
priests, neither of these crucial church reforms would solve 
the problem either. Both pedophilia (the sexual abuse of 
children) and the abuse of power in sexual relations with 
post-pubescent young people are problems in many places, 
including other churches where women and married priests 
are accepted. Nor is the problem the prevalence of homosexual 
men in the Catholic priesthood. Pedophilia is as much a 
heterosexual illness as a homosexual one. The underlying 
issue in this terrible church sex scandal is not - as the 
Left and the Right have variously asserted - celibacy, the 
lack of women priests or married priests, or the number of 
homosexuals in the priesthood.

The real problem here is a lack of accountability, and only 
radical reform that brings new and effective accountability 
to every aspect of the church's life will suffice as a 
solution. That solution is as possible as it is urgent. 
Bringing a new and institution-changing accountability to 
the church's life is something that can be done now, at 
occasions such as this week's all-important meeting of the 
American Catholic bishops in Dallas.

The bishops should institute far-reaching changes that would 
bring lay people (women and men) into virtually all the 
decision making at the core of the church's life and mission. 
That means substantial lay involvement in every aspect of the 
church's business and ministry - including decisions 
regarding management and administration, finances, grievances, 
and the crucial decisions about the evaluation and deployment 
of personnel, which are at the heart of this painful 
situation. The truth is that such substantial lay 
participation is already occurring in many parishes and 
dioceses around the country. And many of these issues were 
apparently raised during the April Vatican meetings with the 
American cardinals.

The result would be greatly increased accountability for the 
church, for priests, and for bishops that would, ultimately, 
be to everyone's benefit. Women and married people of both 
sexes don't need to be ordained to exercise significant and 
effective leadership in the church. Many Catholic women and 
parents have wise and healing gifts and experience to bring 
to this pivotal crisis in the church's history. This is the 
time to call upon their gifts. Accountability is the most 
basic reform that might transcend both conservative and 
liberal constituencies. And most important, accountability is 
the reform that could make the most difference. It is what 
must be done.

********************* JOB OPENING ***************************

Sojourners and Call to Renewal seek a hard-working, dedicated 
administrative professional for the position of Administrative 
Assistant to the Executive Director. This position coordinates 
all aspects of Jim Wallis' schedule, speaking, travel, phone 
calls, correspondence, and other Executive office needs. The 
position is available in early July 2002. A complete job 
description may be found at 


R e l i g i o n   &   S o c i e t y
Exclusive pre-released articles 
from the July-August issue of Sojourners magazine:

*The faith will survive
by Joan Chittister, OSB

The question everywhere is the same these days: What, in the 
long run, will be the effect of the pedophilia scandal on the 
Catholic Church? Speculation ranges from predictions of total 
collapse to speculation about total reconfiguration. Given 
the long lessons of history, neither hypothesis is likely, 
perhaps, but we may have already been given a mirror into the 
future of change.

Read more:

*Beyond crime and punishment
by Richard Rohr, OFM

Hearing confessions is a rather dangerous and lethal 
profession. It creates a kind of patience with sin that is 
often scandalous to outsiders. But confession is a very good
thing about my Catholic tradition that might not be 
recognized in the midst of our shame about the pedophilia 

Read more:

*Catholic scandal, ecumenical solution
by Rose Marie Berger

While much recent media hype has focused on the Catholic 
Church's pedophilia scandal, relatively little attention
has been given to the high rate of sexual misconduct in 
the rest of American Christendom. This truly is a crisis 
that crosses all borders.

Read more:


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F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Al Qaeda faction goes soft on West 

Arguing the death penalty has not proven to be an effective 
deterrent, the staunchly liberal faction of the al Qaeda 
terrorist network today urged the group to change its 
official stance from "Death to the West" to "Life in prison 
to the West with no chance of parole." 

Ministers from Osama bin Laden's government, however, blasted 
the proposal as weak and counter-intuitive, though they 
conceded it did appeal to the conservative party's desire to 
build more prisons. 

Get the full satire:


               Attend the FOR National Conference! 
                June 15-19 in Riverdale, New York

Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire, Rev. James Lawson, 
Jimmy Breslin, David Kaczynski (Ted's Brother), and many 
more! Performances by Pete Seeger, Tom Chapin, and others! 
Bid on a rare Dylan photo in our auction! Details and 


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Let freedom sing: Interview with Harry Belafonte

by Sarah Ruth van Gelder

Harry Belafonte's successes as an artist have never eclipsed 
his passion for justice and civil rights. His most recent 
musical contribution, "The Long Road to Freedom," is a musical 
narrative - in 80 tracks on five CDs - of the history of 
African Americans.

Sarah Ruth van Gelder: I'm enjoying "The Long Road to Freedom" 
very much. Could you tell us the story of how this 
extraordinary collection came about?

Harry: I realized that most white Americans knew very little about 
our history and our struggle, and were having difficulty 
understanding the basis for our agitation and our resistance 
and our complaints. I also discovered that while black 
Americans had a sense of the beauty and tragedy of the 
journey from the time of slavery until now, we were not 
rooted in the specifics. I thought one way to familiarize 
people with that history would be through the voices of the 
great folk artists. 

Sarah: What have these African-American traditions taught 
the larger American society?

Harry: I don't know what America has really learned. We are too 
quick to do what's expedient on behalf of our culture of 
greed and hedonism. We're quite prepared to go to 
conditions of tyranny in order to sustain that culture, 
and we do it in the name of democracy, when nothing could 
be more undemocratic. We do it in the name of saving the 
values of our society, when the way we behave corrupts 
those values. We do it in the name of God in whom we believe, 
when in fact we have corrupted our own vision of the 
Christian journey. 

Sarah: You quote Paul Robeson, who said that the purpose 
of art is not just to show life as it is, but also to show 
life as it should be. What does this collection tell us 
about life as it should be?

Harry: That the human spirit is resilient and that truth - no 
matter how long you abuse it and how long you try to crush 
it - will, as Dr. King would say, rise up again, and in the 
final analysis will prevail. From the point of view of the 
poor, the hungry, the disenfranchised, the wretched of the 
Earth...there will never be peace until their condition has 
been alleviated and until their humanity is in full bloom.

Read the full interview at:


P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
The best story, not the biggest bomb

by Francis Pisani

John Arquilla, a former Marine, is now a professor in a U.S. 
military academy. He finds it fascinating "that there is a 
determined effort to learn the wrong lessons of the 
[Afghanistan] campaign." 

In the new war on networks, he says, you need "the best story 
rather than the biggest bomb." The outcome of conflicts 
depends increasingly on intelligence and communications, 
which facilitates a flexible response and "favours and 
strengthens network forms of organisation while making life 
difficult for hierarchical forms" found in conventional 
armies. Arquilla estimates that 90% of the current U.S. 
military effort is invested in dealing with "state actors." 
It is the easy way out. He adds: "It almost becomes the case 
of when you don't know what to do, you do what you know. We 
know how to deal with nation states very well. We don't know 
how to deal with networks so well."

Read more at:

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C o l o m b i a   J o u r n a l
Many victims, many victimizers

by Janna Bowman 

On the morning of May 2, 300 civilians crowded 
together in a small church, whispering prayers as they 
plastered themselves to the cement floor, hoping the 
sanctuary would afford protection from the bullets whizzing 
outside the walls. Fear turned to horror as a homemade 
mortar exploded on the church roof, covering the huddling 
mass in debris and killing 119 people and injuring dozens of 
others. In a country where violence is so commonplace that 
massacres are often not reported, the immense scale of the 
killing in Bojayá has rocked Colombia. 

Although the Catholic Church, community leaders, the 
Colombian government's human rights office, and the United 
Nations Human Rights Office sent urgent warnings to the 
Colombian government at least a week in advance, indicating 
the convergence of thousands of troops of two warring 
factions, the state took no measures to protect the civilian 
population. In fact, the Catholic Diocese of Quibdó denounced
that hundreds of paramilitary troops were able to enter the 
region on a river with numerous police and army checkpoints, 
suggesting a complicity of the Colombian armed forces with 
the paramilitary. 

As the U.S. Congress prepares to vote on the Bush 
administration's request for more funding to the Colombian 
government and more leeway in using past U.S. funds to 
directly fight the insurgents, we must learn from the 
tragedy in Bojayá. This newest wave of violence clearly 
shows that those who suffer most from this senseless, bloody, 
and unwinnable war are innocent civilians. 
But the tragic loss of life does not end there. According to 
our contacts, at least half the paramilitary soldiers involved 
in the battle and nearly as many guerrillas died in combat. 
The number of dead combatants is rumored to be at least 300. 
We remember that soldiers too are people, with parents and 
children, and that many of them were either forcibly 
recruited or joined the armed groups simply because it was 
the only way to earn a living in such an impoverished region. 

Read the full story:


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B o o m e r a n g

Jon Franz writes from Atlanta, Georgia:

Jim Wallis' call for the "practical necessity of disavowing 
and dismantling nuclear weapons" sounds wonderful on the 
surface, but it is naive and impractical in the world today.
The leadership in places like North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria, 
and Libya, to name a few, are not reasonable negotiators in 
search of peaceful options. They have demonstrated that their
words cannot be trusted. Nuclear and chemical weaponry is 
their only hold on power. They will not peacefully give up 
this power simply because "it's time for sanity" to prevail. 
They do not operate from hearts of compassion for their own 
people or the people of the world.

While the same could be said of many in Washington, we have a 
Constitution that empowers the voting populus to vote out 
our leaders who don't measure up. These nations do not. As 
long as a chemical and nuclear threat exists in the hands of 
evil leaders, it is imperative that we, who operate from a 
more reasonable and compassionate platform, maintain the 
ability to answer with a like threat. It is the only language 
the wicked seem to understand.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. The views expressed are not necessarily
those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice
heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:



W e b s c e n e
This week's best of the Web

*Let there be Lego

From Genesis to the Pauline Epistles, Rev. Brendan 
Powell Smith has created elaborate scene-by-scene 
productions of Bible stories using Legos. Unlike the 
toy, however, this is not for ages 6-12. Rev. Smith has 
thoughtfully included content ratings for violence and 
sexual content - it is the Bible, after all.


*Take their word for it

"The Weekly Word-Origin Webzine" is how Take Our Word
For It describes itself. Etymology is the fancier term
for the service they provide, researching the history 
of obscure terms and phrases:


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