The Catholic Church must change

Philippe Wojazer AP In this Friday, Sept. 12, 2008 file photo, Pope Benedict XVI waves to wellwishers as he leaves … Continued

Philippe Wojazer


In this Friday, Sept. 12, 2008 file photo, Pope Benedict XVI waves to wellwishers as he leaves the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, following a vespers service. Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, he would resign Feb. 28 because he is simply too old to carry on.

There is a growing crisis within the leadership of the American Catholic church, and the Catholic faithful are desperate for change. Today, our church is less known for bringing good news to the poor and more for its forays into electoral politics and doctrinal inquisitions. The new pope has an opportunity to right the course of the American bishops and re-inspire a generation of American Catholics.

Take for example some recent Catholic controversies that highlight the crisis of leadership in Catholicism:

A Catholic hospital in Ireland allowed a patient in its care to die rather than terminate her non-viable fetus.

A Catholic high school administrator in Cincinnati was fired this week for expressing a personal opinion about marriage equality on his private blog.

A Catholic teenager was denied the Rite of Confirmation in Minnesota for publicly supporting marriage equality on his Facebook profile.

A Catholic hospital in Phoenix was condemned for terminating a pregnancy to save the life of a mother.

The bishop of Peoria, Ill., compared the president of the United States to Hitler and Stalin.

A grieving daughter in Maryland was denied communion at her mother’s funeral Mass because the priest thought she was a lesbian.

Robert Finn, the bishop of Kansas City, Mo., was convicted of protecting a pedophile priest but somehow still remains in charge of the diocese.

The Vatican initiated an inquisition of American nuns for focusing too much on the needs of the poor and not fighting enough against abortion and the rights of gays.

Employees and volunteers in the Diocese of Arlington, Va., are forced to sign a “loyalty oath” to the bishop or face termination.

These examples demonstrate a form of religious leadership that is far removed from the Gospel message of Christ. The Gospel’s call to love one another is the basis for the rich Catholic social teaching that sparked and nourished my love of God and church. It is this love that is absent from too many actions of our leadership. No wonder Catholics like me are despairing. We can’t find Christ in our church.

When I graduated college, I joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and dedicated myself to serving the church through service to others. I did so because of a profound inspiration I found within the actions and teachings of our church leaders. I was inspired by Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago who articulated a seamless respect for all life, from the unborn child, to the victim of a drone strike. I was inspired by Bishop Dingman of Des Moines who sold his mansion as a way to live in greater solidarity with the poor. And I was inspired by Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle who embraced the reforms of the Second Vatican Council by fully empowering lay leaders in the ministry of the church. When I look for it, I can still find that inspiration in the humble servants of the church, but more and more, today’s bishops leave me wanting.

And it’s not just me. If you look at the recent data from the Pew Center, younger Catholics are abandoning the faith in record numbers. Many of these fallen-away Catholics leave because they don’t want to be associated with a church that is more known for its opposition to homosexuality than for the work of peace and justice. The proof is in the numbers. Catholics are still the largest set of religious adherents in the United States. The third largest? Former Catholics.

It is for this reason that I hope and pray our new pope has a more inclusive mind and a stronger commitment to the teachings of Jesus. I hope the next pope embraces the truth and necessity of social justice not only because it is inspirational, but also because it is vital if our church is to be relevant in the lives of younger Catholics for generations to come.

Salt is the executive director of Catholics United, a non-profit, non-partisan national lay Catholic advocacy organization. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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    Christians are broken, disfunctional, hypocrites and there’s room for one more! Secularization of church and state sure hasn’t done us any favors-turn on the news, see all social ills data since 1963 for example-can’t call that progressive!
    Just because we refuse to nomalize eveything under the sun (moral relativity) doesn’t mean we hate those that disagree, we just disagree with unlimited moral realtivity as a world view-leads to anarchy, the results are in! I’m not Catholic, but I value and respect timeless, proven tradition and essential Christian doctrine! The evolution faith movement is a hoax, taught to our kids as gospel and it’s a National disgrace!!

    Time Magazine interview with Einstein in his 50s:
    To what extent are you influenced by Christianity? “As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”

    Do you accept the historical existence of Jesus? “Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.”

    Do you believe in God? “I’m not an atheist. I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books.”

  • Human Rights

    Abortion does not cure sepsis, or anything else for that matter. James Salt is a liar. The International Consortium on Maternal Health has spoken. James Salt doesn’t want you to know what they concluded. That hospital in Ireland should sue this ignoramus for his ludicrous comments.

  • xexon

    The Catholic church is dying. You should let it.

    This is a cult of personality. Spiritually hollow. A deception that comes as an angel of light. The only power it has is that of persuasion over weaker people. Legions of them.

    For you are many…


  • geraldtslevin

    My stats are from experts at the Vatican’s 2/11 conference on abuse (see John Allen’s report at the National Catholic Reporter website). You cite the stats from a study funded by supporters ot the US bishops that depended on unaudited data voluntarily submitted by some bishops, then spun futher.
    Either way, the extent of priest rape is obscene and President Obama must step up as Australia PM Julia Gillard is very effectively doing.
    it is surprising that anyone is still trying to defend the Catholic hierarchy no matter whose data you use. Bishops must obey the law like everyone else.

  • WmarkW

    Gee, every one of these “crises” is related to sex.

    Is the Catholic Church right about everything, except not having caught up to the fact that later marriages requires re-thinking rules about celibacy, dating to the era when girls married at puberty?

  • Jim Robertson

    You don’t know even a part of the Church’s game play around us victims of priest sex abuse.
    Do you know that all the major “victims/survivor organizations were created by the Church to cross validate each other as “pro-victim”? The Church did this to control victims and our families and for 23 years it (SNAP) has been a raging success, for the Church.
    Don’t you ever wonder why you see so few (and usually the same) victims?
    Do you actually believe we are ashamed of being seen. We know it’s the perps that should be ashamed and arn’t. You don’t see victims you see 3 victims (now internationally) I can name them: Barbra Blaine; David Clohessy;
    Joelle Castix. Now just what are the odds numerically with an 80% male victim rate that the “leadership” (never elected mind you) should have such a preponderence of women? I support women’s leadership but what are the odds with a victims list that’s 80% male?
    I have personally worked with and around and now against SNAP since 2003 in Los Angeles. They are a fraud, a complete and utter and horrific fraud. But the press runs to them for statements “from victims” time and time again.
    If you really want a bigger more accurate picture of the sex abuse scandal you must look much much deeper than the SNAP facade. But you won’t. The days of Woodward and Bernstien are long gone.

  • Rongoklunk

    But on the other hand he Einstein also wrote;

    “I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a
    personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an
    agnostic. I do not share the crusading spirit of the
    professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a
    painful act of liberation received in youth. I prefer an
    attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of
    our understanding of nature and of our own being.”

    The above is from a letter to USNavy veteran who corresponded with AE dated june 14,1945, also quoted
    in “The Believing Brain” by Michael Shermer, and quoted
    too In “The Portable Atheist” ed. Christopher Hitchins.

  • ThomasBaum

    Standing up for the coverup and standing up for the right statistics is not even close to the same thing, as a matter of fact anyone who blatantly pushes false and misleading statistics, in either direction, is adding insult to injury to an already terrible situation.

  • Rongoklunk

    DrJJJ quoted Einstein earlier on this thread, and has the impression that he was simple minded enough to believe in a great skygod. Most of Einstein’s writings suggests otherwise. In reality he was fed up with Christians approaching him justify their absurd belief in a god. Here he makes it clear.

    “The religious feeling engendered by experiencing the logical comprehensibility of profound interrelations is of a somewhat different sort from the feeling that one usually calls religious. It is more of a feeling of awe at the scheme that is manifest in the material universe. It does not lead us to take the step of fashioning a god-like being in our own image – personage who makes demands of us and who takes an interest in us as individuals. There is in this neither a will nor a goal, nor a must, but only a sheer being. For this reason, people of our type see in morality a purely human matter, albeit the most important in the human sphere.”

    Einstein in a letter to a Rabbi in Chicago. from Albert Einstein; The Human Side.pp69-70.

  • nkri401


    Wasn’t Einstein a Jew?

  • XVIIHailSkins

    I can’t explain to you how many times I’ve tried to correct DRJJJ on his transparently misleading Einstein quotes. His response? Einstein was a smart guy but not quite as smart as me, because I made the appropriate and logical intellectual leap to realize there is a personal God. This is what Christians mean when they talk about humility.

  • Rongoklunk

    At what period was Christiantiy all about love? In the history books that I’ve read it was more about war against the other, and burning people alive, and torturing folks and hunting down and killing witches. Religious life must have been hell on earth for most people, and things only changed when secular authorities put a stop to it, and the churches lost the power to physically harm people. So, they turned to help and compassion, as there was no other way.
    But even then they were diddling kids on the sly, and who knows what else.
    One thing’s for sure; if there was a god he’d be furious with his earthly representatives, and would have dealt with it, one way or another. But his silence on this issue is more evidence to support the modern theory that there’s nobody up there; no god, no heaven, no angels, nothing but stars and planets that go on forever. God was always too small and too local for the infinity of the cosmos. And as Stephen Hawking writes in his book The Grand Design that no supernatural help was needed, and no superman either – in creating the universe. It was all about chemistry and eons and eons of time. This makes religion the biggest scam of them all. The old pope probably knew this. He wasn’t totally stupid.

  • Gabarus`

    Nobody is making the claim that abortion cures sepsis. The sepsis would not have occurred, had an abortion been carried out when it first became apparent that the miscarriage was going to have additional complications.


    If it was not for the good nuns and good priest, the RCC would come apart from the inside out.

  • TDJ-Vivificat

    There is no such thing as “marriage equality,” popular screeches in the media to the contrary notwithstanding.

    Speaking for “all Catholics” is also a falacy. I’m not “desperate for change”; I’m confident that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit. I am at peace.

  • immigrant1

    How protestant of you. Your article does nothing to convince anyone that the Catholic Church needs to change. I couldn’t respect any organization that would change its tenents and teachings so that they could be more “modern”. What you have proved is that you have not been Cathecized properly and have misinterpreted the Words of God. I pray for you and I would die for you but not for your ideas. The only change that true practicing Catholics wants is religious freedom and to evangelize lost souls. The only change you will see it the Roman Catholic church that grows smaller and stronger, otherwise its cause is nothing more than what the flesh seeks. Peace be with you – I am at peace because I know how it all ends.

  • Tomb67

    tell it like it is…

  • Tomb67


  • Tomb67

    You are reading the wrong books: your history is flawed; your cosmology is flawed; your theology is flawed. What’s left? You have nothing.

  • Tomb67

    Sure, it’s true. Great intellect may have little to do with great faith. However, great faith shows one has great intellect. Why? Faith is knowledge. Supernatural faith in Jesus as God’s only son, risen from the dead, shows strong love and strong intellect. After all, a person who rejects eternal life, because here is no scientific evidence, can’t be too smart.

  • Tomb67

    huh? what’s your point?

  • Michael Clemons

    This,,,writer,,wishes the Church to bend to met his own immorality. That would make the Catholic Church merely another social club. Won’t happen.


  • PhillyJimi1

    immigrant1 – As a blind defender of the faith, you only serve to re-enforce my complete and total rejection of the Catholic faith and my calling myself a Christian. Thank you!

    I don’t know how any rational person could read about the evils of such a morally corrupt organization such as the RC church and justify it in their tiny mind. The article didn’t even talk about the untold deaths in AIDs stricken Africa where the Church taught that condom use as a sin.

  • Liew

    If the above is true, it shows the Church in American is legalistic and judgmental contrary to Jesus’s teaching.
    Shouldn’t the church be more pastoral rather than follwoing rules?
    Do you solve the root cause of the problem by denying communion etc?
    We need to understand why people behave in certain way and find ways to help them rather than pass judgement on them. If Jesus is here he will not do that. The Church need to ask – what will Jesus do?
    People need to find love in the Church before they embrace her.
    I pray that the Church that Christ founded may see a spring time of spiritual growth in the clergy and the laity.

  • Rongoklunk

    Boy! Do you ever kid yourself. Great faith shows how deluded you are. Any idiot can believe in a great skygod. It called wishful thinking. Our knowledge challenged primitive ancestors were forever inventing them. Apollo, Zeus, Huitzilopochtli,Thor, Wotan and more than 3000 other gods.
    It’s the scientists that have shown that there are no gods, and no need for a god.Put the Bible aside for a while and study reality. I recommend Richard Dawkins new book “The Magic of Reality” which explains what’s real and what’s not real, and how to tell the difference.Be the first in your church to read it. It could open your eyes to a better world, an amazing world. Or does the truth scare you if it doesn’t involve a celestial superman? Be brave. Try other points of view. At least science is all about truth, which is more than we can say about religion.

  • Sandra Liceaga

    Liew, it’s obvious you do not understand the Catholic faith. May God have mercy on you and show you what the Catholic faith truly is.

  • Qyinn2U

    The Catholic Church has criticized the US for its bloodlust in all its recent wars, it has urged humanity and empathy where the American people as a whole have gone over every precipice in leveling human rights and respect for human life. The Russians know how you treat foreign children in your strange land-sadistically. Sadism is the social glue for plenty of American children too. Pope Benedict has been much kinder to children than many of the Americans you genuflect to every day. I mean, how many children has he massacred in Libya, in Iraq, in Afghanistan. How many orphans has he sold into slavery in Dubai, how many children has he sold in gay dives all over the USA. None of the yelpers after the Catholic Church in this column would ever mention how very politically correct the sale, rape, and killing of children really is in the USA. Many of the detractors are oozing pus not because of what the Church has done TO children but because of what it has done FOR children, that they with their pimped out portfolios, haven’t.