November 12, 2006
Dear U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
As a society, we now understand what the clergy sex abuse crisis has revealed to the world. The human and due process rights of children, vulnerable adults, employees and families were denied based on freedom of religion privileges and claims.
Precious children and vulnerable adults were sexually abused by employees of religious institutions because due process and human rights were denied and non-existent within the business and employment practices of the Catholic Church and other religious institutions for many years. Freedom of religion never allowed for sex abuse crimes, cover-ups and failures to report sex crimes to the appropriate authorities -- and never will.
Please stop the erosion of human and due process rights in the Catholic Church. Please set an example for religious leaders throughout the world. Please provide time for dialog on this urgent matter at the upcoming annual meeting in Baltimore this week. The agenda items, (1) resolving the issues relating to why a presidential candidate was denied Communion in 2004, (2) offering pastoral guidance on the Church's teaching concerning contraception, and (3) proposed guidelines for approaching homosexuality, are important BUT in the interests of protecting children and those who protect them, human and due process rights take a precedent to the other agenda items.
This year's USCCB's agenda reveals that smokescreens are continuing within the management of the Catholic Church and other religious institutions. Management, business and employment practices within all institutions, public, private and religious must guarantee due process and human rights to all persons equally, with accountability. The Catholic Church can no longer deny this absolute right. For this reason, it is with respect that the following agenda items be added to the bishops' agenda meeting:
* Publicly clarify and confirm that due process and human rights are guaranteed to all persons employed and/or associated with the Catholic Church and/or other religious institutions, without exceptions;
* Publicly clarify and evaluate the "ripple" effect that the clergy sex abuse crisis has set off in the world and the responsibility of all Catholic and religious leaders to take immediate corrective action, without undue influences.
* Publicly issue and acknowledge to all clergy sex abuse victims, their families and the faithful that the human and due process rights of all persons, employees, children and families will be guaranteed at all times in the interests of justice and the common good.
If the Catholic Church and/or other religious institutions continue to deny human rights and due process, based on freedom of religion privileges and claims, the consequences of failing to protect human rights will be beyond catastrophic in the years ahead.
In my opinion, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops could save millions of dollars in attorneys' fees, marketing strategies and lawsuits, if they begin to rebuild the faith and trust in the social justice teachings of the Church, with an absolute public statement that the human rights and freedoms of all persons will be held at the highest priority, without exceptions.
As a society, we can no longer allow the erosion of the United States commitment to uphold human rights standards at home and/or internationally. There is a perception that when religious leaders and their legal advisors are challenged with accountability, the violation of human rights is acceptable, based on freedom of religion. This is deceitful and wrong.
Without justice, there will never be peace and without peace, faith and our country's laws are empty.