After three months of work by hundreds of Catholic lay volunteers, the Movement to Restore Trust has presented its recommendations to Bishop Richard Malone.
The movement was started by nine organizing members in the wake of clergy sexual abuse revelations in the Buffalo Catholic diocese, but has since grown quickly by thousands. Its mission is to assert the laity's role to restore trust and confidence in the Church.
"Our very clear sense from everything we've seen and read was that there has been a serious erosion of trust in the Diocese of Buffalo arising out of the handling of the sex abuse scandal," said Canisius College President and MRT organizer John Hurley, "and that there's a lack of confidence by the laity of the church, in the institutional church and particularly here in Buffalo."
Hurley said the Bishop is in a position to start the process of change and MRT members want him to be a leader in that.
Facilitator Stephanie Argentine said lay volunteers broke down into six workgroups and came up with nine initial recommendations for the Bishop:
- Commit to a partnership with the laity to restore trust
- Embrace the opportunity to act voluntarily now
- Address the needs of survivors for support and healing
- Provide complete transparency into the scale of th4e abuse in both human and financial terms
- Ensure the faithful are central within the organizational structures within the church
- Voluntarily delegate greater authority to the consultative bodies in the diocese
- Establish accountability with periodic review of implementation
- Engage the Leadership Roundtable
- Revive the spirit of Vatican II
Hurley said an Executive Summary of those recomendations were presented to Malone and discussed during two meetings, which he characterized as "productive."
"Miracles of miracles, it happened," Hurley said. "The Bishop said all the right things about affirming our work, believing in our work. He reminded me that he's a Vatican II priest. He's firmly committed to Vatican II. He said, 'I'll have to study this, but as I look at your foundational recommendations, there's nothing here jumping off the page that tells me I gotta be worried about."
Just Friday, Hurley said the Bishop agreed to "general support" for the nine recommendations as a foundation to proceed and to bring in Leadership Roundtable to lead the process of change. Leadership Roundtable was formed in 2005 in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse scandal in Boston and has since worked with two-thirds of dioceses around the country dealing with similar scandals.
The Bishop also proposed a "joint implementation team" of MRT members, clergy and possibly diocesan staff. Hurley said the full report of recommendations also will be presented to the Bishop for review.
"From my perspective and anyone who has dealt with the church, I think there's a lot to be encouraged about here and that we've moved very quickly from Dec. 1 to gather some consensus," he said.