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Chancellor and Parent: Common sense on the abuse crisis

In 2002, Chancellor David Spotanski of the Belleville diocese delivered a 10-page memo to his bishop, Wilton Gregory. In the last week, he decided to publish the memo after years of sharing it privately with friends and colleagues, and was interviewed by BustedHalo‘s Bill McGarvey. The canonist is a lay ecclesial minsiter and a father of three. (Mr. McGarvey finds this “a little unusual” even though 25% of U.S. dioceses currently have a lay chancellor, and there is nothing about the position that requires, or even recommends, a cleric in the office – but that is an aside!)

Some worthy highlights of the interview:

“It is important on occasion to remind ourselves that the only affiliation that’s required to speak up in this church is baptism. From that moment forward we are full-fledged members with a God-given right and a God-driven obligation to help fix what’s wrong in our church and in the world.”

“If there’s any lesson we in the church should have learned by now, but still seem to struggle with,” Spotanski said, “it’s that disclosure is always better than discovery.” (Emphases original.)

“I was asked recently what advice I’d give the bishops today, and these three things came to mind immediately:

  • We have to stop making rules without consequences.
  • We have to stop patting ourselves on the back for quickly enacting policies our people reasonably presumed had been in place for 2,000 years.
  • We have to stop comparing our crisis-driven responses to those of secular institutions for which we were all taught the Church would be our secure, God-given sanctuary when those worldly institutions inevitably failed us.

I would add to that a renewed sense of urgency. I closed my 2002 memorandum this way: “More than anything else, Christ’s Church should be about preserving and promoting innocence, not accelerating its ruin. Pardon the platitude, but it’s time we stopped protecting our past and did something to fortify our future.” We don’t have the luxury of “thinking in centuries” any longer, and we’re running out of second chances.”

Full interview available at; Thanks to Whispers in the Loggia for bringing it to my attention in the first place!

The memo can be read here. I strongly encourage you to take the time to read it, to remind yourself (as if you need it) of where we have been and how far we have yet to go.

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