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Catholics launch appeal urging world’s bishops to break silence on crisis under Pope Francis

(Diane Montagna, Life Site – January 5, 2019) A prominent group of Catholic laity are calling on bishops and priests to break their silence surrounding the “homosexual networks” in the Church’s hierarchy, which many believe are at the “root” of the clerical sexual abuse crisis to be discussed next month at the Vatican.

In an appeal launched in Italian, English and Spanish on Jan. 5 (see full text below), the president of the Rome-based Lepanto Foundation, Italian historian Professor Roberto de Mattei, is urging Catholic bishops and priests to abandon “the path of absolute silence” about the moral and doctrinal crisis in the Church, arguing that it is only precipitating her “self-destruction.” 

He is also entreating them to place “the interests of the Church, which are those of Jesus Christ,” above their own personal interests, and to join their voices to prelates like Archbishop Viganò who have openly denounced what they call “homosexual networks” in the hierarchy that thrive in “secrecy” as they “strangle innocent victims, priestly vocations, and […] the entire Church.” 

Titled, “Dare, Monsignor!,” the appeal urges bishops and priests to ask God for the supernatural grace needed to respond courageously to the current crisis. 

“If you will dare to ask Him, the Holy Spirit will not fail to suggest to your conscience times, ways, and tones of coming out into the open, in order to be ‘the light of the world, a city set on a hill, a lamp set on a lampstand’ (Mt 5:13-16),” the appeal reads.

“What are you afraid of? The world may attack you with defamation and slander. Your superiors may deprive you of your authority and external dignity. But it is to the Lord that you must render an account, as must each one of us on the Day of Judgment,” it adds. 

Until now, de Mattei observes, many bishops and priests — even those who sympathize with the “unease” and “concern” expressed by cardinals and laity — have adopted “silence as the supreme rule” and counselled others to follow suit in the name of “following the Pope” and “preventing schism.” 

But, he argues, “there is only one way to save the Church from schism. Proclaim the Truth. By remaining silent we will only further the schism.” 

The lay group is therefore urging bishops and priests: “Dare to openly encourage those who defend the Church from within, and who publicly profess the entire Truth of the Catholic Faith. Dare to seek out other confreres who will join you and us in issuing that cry of war and of love which St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort raised in his “Fiery Prayer” [Prière embrasée] with these prophetic words: “Fire! Fire! Fire! There is a fire in the house of God! There is fire even within the Sanctuary!”

In comments to LifeSite, de Mattei explained why the Lepanto Foundation is issuing their appeal now, what they hope to achieve, and also why they focused on the issue of homosexuality. He said:

On February 21, a summit on clerical sexual abuse with presidents of episcopal conferences around the world will open at the Vatican. Pope Francis has just sent a letter on this issue to the US bishops gathered at Mundelein Seminary in the Chicago archdiocese for their week-long retreat. Pope Francis, however, seems to limit the problem of the moral corruption of pedophilia to one of clericalism and the abuse of power, without extending it to homosexuality — which Archbishop Viganò has rightly denounced as a true “scourge” in the Church today.

In issuing our appeal, we are acting as the laity have done many times in the course of history. The laity by their action have contributed to the moral reform of the Church in key moments; for example, through the “Pataria” movement of the eleventh century in Lombardy. 

The Pataria was a religious movement in the northern Italian archdiocese of Milan that sought to reform the clergy and ecclesiatic government, and supported papal sanctions against simony and clerical marriage. The “patarini” — or “ragpickers” as their opponents called them — were generally lay tradesman who were motived by personal piety. 

De Mattei continued: 

Today, however, the problem is not only moral but also theological, because even more serious than the practice of homosexuality is the affirmation by many members of the clergy that a bridge between the Catholic faith and LGBT culture is possible. These pastors and theologians are likely a minority, but they are an active minority, and have been encouraged by the Supreme ecclesiastical hierarchies through a general silence. I often meet both in Rome and in other cities around the world, clergy who privately criticize these positions and complain about the situation of the Church, but do not dare to make their voices heard and lock themselves up in silence.

Our appeal aims not only at shaking the sleeping clergy from their lethargy, but at serving as a symbolic act of indignation and defense of the Church’s honor. We hope that our voice as simple lay faithful will not be despised, but will be listened to and respected, also as a contribution to the debate that must precede the February summit.