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All Revved Up: Can The Catholic Church Survive Much-Needed Criticism?

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, right, and Marie Collins attend a press conference at the Vatican, Saturday, May 3, 2014
AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca

Clerical sex abuse survivor and victim advocate Marie Collins resigned from a special commission dealing with sex abuse in the Catholic church, saying the Vatican failed to comply with a basic recommendation that all victims who reach out to the church should receive a response. In a statement published in the National Catholic Reporter, Collins expressed her frustration with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), a department tasked with finding solutions to the widespread problem to clerical sex abuse. “I find it impossible to listen to public statements about the deep concern in the church for the care of those whose lives have been blighted by abuse, yet to watch privately as a congregation in the Vatican refuses to even acknowledge their letters,” she wrote. “It is a reflection of how this whole abuse crisis in the church has been handled: with fine words in public and contrary actions behind closed doors.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley responded to Collins’ retirement in a statement on behalf of the PCPM. “We will certainly listen carefully to all that Marie wishes to share with us about her concerns and we will greatly miss her important contributions as a member of the Commission,” he wrote. In an interview with the Boston Globe, O’Malley expressed solidarity with Collins, saying the Vatican needs to “get on board” with responding to letters from victims. “There are structures that need to be changed and adopted,” He said. “I certainly understand Marie’s frustration — I think we all feel frustrated at different times.”

As prominent Catholic leaders question the internal workings of the church, can people of faith grow and adapt to these changes, without losing allegiance to the institution? Reverends Irene Monroe and Emmett G. Price III joined Boston Public Radio Monday to tackle these questions and more.

A short (edited) excerpt of the interview is below. To hear the entire conversation, click on the audio link above.

IRENE: You know what I find very disheartening? I really felt with the sex scandal that there was this collective consensus of a church that really wanted to heal. That being such a priority, coupled with the fact that they needed to fill their pews and the money associated with that and needing to clean up its tarnished image, I really thought that there was going to be forward movement with this.

EMMETT: I think you have another binary way of looking at it; you have a church that is trying to heal, you have people who are trying to hold fast to their faith and trying to kind of stay true to what they believe, and then on the other side you have Pope Francis who is ready to rip the carpet up and say, hey, we’ve got some bugs and some insects under here, we need to clean this thing up. But when you rip up the carpet, you end up doing more harm and damage before you do the good.

IRENE: I think that if you want systemic change, you have to rip the carpet. I even appreciate the church out in Scituate that much more, because I think they realize, while change will come, it’s very very slow. People’s lives are on the line, and people need to heal. In many ways, we will have what we call ‘runaway churches’; independent churches that follow a catholic liturgy and not be tied to the Vatican.

EMMETT: But you also have the change of people no longer believing. That’s what I mean that happens when you rip up the carpet, these things or people who don’t have the depth, or don’t have the full totality of the belief, when you see the illness within the church and when you see the lies and the hypocrisy, that is a quick flare for people to say, you know what, none of this is real, I don’t want any of it.

Reverend Irene Monroe is a syndicated columnist for The Huffington Post and Bay Windows, and Reverend Emmett Price is a Professor of Worship, Church & Culture and Founding Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. To hear All Revved Up in its entirety, click on the audio link above.

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