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Archbishop McCarrick’s predatory career would not have been possible without the culpable silence or active complicity of men at the highest levels of the Church. Revelations of his abuse have therefore gravely damaged the credibility of the whole Catholic hierarchy. Here a group of young Catholics speaks with one voice about the need for a cleansing fire. Their statement is non-partisan, assuming nothing but the eternal validity of the Church’s teaching.

They call for an independent investigation of who knew what and when, a new intolerance of clerical abuse and sexual sin, and public acts of penance by Catholic bishops. They promise to work and suffer for the Church, and to strive for holiness in their own lives. As children of the Church, they ask for fathers who honor the Father above. They are confident that their pleas are heard by God. They hope that they will likewise be heard by the priests and bishops who fear him.

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.

We are grateful for the way good priests and bishops lay down their lives for us day after day. They say the Mass, absolve us from sin, celebrate our weddings, and baptize our children. Through their preaching, teaching, and writing, they remind us that Jesus Christ has conquered evil once and for all. Their daily sacrifices give us blessings of infinite worth. For all of this, we are profoundly thankful.

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.

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. We need bishops to make clear that any act of sexual abuse or clerical unchastity degrades the priesthood and gravely harms the Church.

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. Men McCarrick mentored and lived with are now important archbishops and heads of Vatican dicasteries. We want to know what those men knew about McCarrick and when they knew it, especially since “everybody knew.” If the pope himself knew, we want to know that as well.

You are the shepherds of the Church. If you do not act, evil will go unchecked. As members of your flock, we therefore ask the following of you.

We ask you to agree to a thorough, independent investigation into claims of abuse by Archbishop McCarrick, both of minors and of adults. We want to know who in the hierarchy knew about his crimes, when they knew it, and what they did in response. This is the least that would be expected of any secular organization; it should not be more than we can expect from the Church.

We ask that the silence surrounding sexual impropriety in the Church be broken. We ask that bishops take clear action when priests flout the Church’s sexual teaching and that networks of sexually active priests be rooted out. We ask that good priests be given the freedom to tell their bishops what they know, without fear of reprisal. Along with these actions, we ask that bishops engage in formal acts of public penance and reparation.

We also commit to the following. We will refuse to be silent when we see or hear of sexual assaults taking place anywhere in the Church and by any person, clerical or lay. When those we know are assaulted, we will encourage the victims to come forward. We will stand with them until justice is done. We will not accept silence and inaction. Rather, we will publicly name and expose those who harm others and superiors who fail to take action when others are harmed.

We will likewise speak out when we discover clerical sexual impropriety. We will 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.

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.

Yours in Christ,

Sohrab Ahmari
Senior Writer

Ashleen Menchaca Bagnulo
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Texas State University

Matthew Berry
Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics
Boston College

Stephen Bullivant
Professor of Theology and the Sociology of Religion
St. Mary’s University, London

Janice Chik Breidenbach
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Ave Maria University

Brian Carl
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Dominican House of Studies

Katy Carl
Editor in Chief
Dappled Things

Michael Davis
U.S. Editor
Catholic Herald

Daniel De Haan
Postdoctoral Fellow in Theology
University of Cambridge

Alexandra DeSanctis
Staff Writer
National Review

Meghan Duke
Doctoral Student in Theology
Catholic University of America

Obianuju Ekeocha
Culture of Life Africa

Lauren Enriquez
Public Relations Manager
Human Coalition

Jennifer Frey
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
University of South Carolina

Molly Gurdon
Doctoral Student in Philosophy
Columbia University

Thomas Heyne
Instructor in Medicine
Harvard Medical School

Jeremy Holmes 
Associate Professor of Theology 
Wyoming Catholic College

Andrew Willard Jones
Faculty Fellow in Theology and History
Franciscan University of Steubenville

Aaron Kheriaty
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
University of California Irvine

Rebekah Lamb
Lecturer in Theology and Arts
University of St. Andrews

Brian Lapsa
Student of Classics
University of Oxford

Victoria Lebzyak
Doctoral Student in Theology
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Ross McCullough
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
George Fox University

David McPherson
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Creighton University

Bronwen McShea
Associate Research Scholar
Princeton University

Alex Miller
Doctoral Candidate in Theology
Fordham University

Melissa Moschella
Assistant Professor of Medical Ethics
Columbia University

Turner Nevitt
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
University of San Diego

Timothy O’Malley
Director of the Center for Liturgy
University of Notre Dame

 Jared Ortiz
Associate Professor of Religion
Hope College

Nathaniel Peters
Executive Director
Morningside Institute

Nathan Pinkoski
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Princeton University

Richard Reinsch
Law and Liberty

Lila Rose
Live Action

Christian C. Sahner
Associate Professor of Islamic History
University of Oxford

Alexi Sargeant
New York, NY

Leah Libresco Sargeant
Building the Benedict Option

Matthew Schmitz
Senior Editor
First Things

Jared Schumacher
Assistant Professor of Theology
University of Mary

John Sikorski
Doctoral Candidate in Theology
University of Notre Dame

Aaron Taylor
Doctoral Candidate in Theology
University of Oxford

Eve Tushnet
Christ’s Body, Christ’s Wounds

Mene Ukueberuwa
Writer and Editor
New York, NY

Julia Yost
Senior Editor
First Things

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