Lay group urges Pittsburgh Diocese to do more to restore broken trust

Pittsburgh Diocese Broken Trust

: Lay group urges Pittsburgh Diocese to do more to restore broken trust
Author: Madeleine Davison
Publisher: National Catholic Reporter
Date: 07AUG2020

The Pittsburgh Diocese is reeling from declining attendance and a massive restructuring program two years after a 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report uncovered widespread clerical sexual abuse in six dioceses in the state. A lay advocacy group now says diocesan leadership has made few concrete steps to restore trust with parishioners.

“I don’t think they’ve made progress since the grand jury,” said Jan Hayes, a leader of the advocacy group known as Catholics for Change in Our Church.

Catholics for Change in Our Church arose out of a meeting of lay parishioners from across the diocese in September 2018, said Kevin Hayes, the group’s acting chair. Horrified by the scale of the crisis, members of the new organization wanted to address issues such as insufficient support for survivors, the diocese’s financial secrecy, and a lack of leadership roles for laypeople. The organization eventually coalesced into seven focus groups, representing about 1,000 total members, he said.

Each focus group targets a different issue identified in two early meetings:

  • Providing pathways to lay leadership;
  • Diversifying the clergy;
  • Engaging young people;
  • Promoting lay oversight of the diocese;
  • Ensuring financial transparency;
  • Supporting survivors of sexual abuse;
  • Addressing clericalism.

Some of the group’s proposals would work within existing structures, Kevin Hayes said: offering leadership training for lay parishioners, or giving finance councils real authority over parish funds. Others would require changes to church teaching and discipline, such as allowing women and married people to be ordained.

“All too often, the church hierarchy and the clergy in the parishes are again trying to tweak the model that isn’t working — making this small change here, that small change there,” Kevin Hayes said. “Some of the changes really do need to be structural, and not window dressing.”

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