Cardinal Daniel DiNardo
Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
1700 San Jacinto
Houston, TX 77002


Your Eminence,

My people are in pain! The recent revelations concerning child sexual abuse by the clergy and the hierarchy has wounded and angered my people. Their trust in the hierarchy especially has been severely tested. Too many have fled the Church; our youth see it as irrelevant.

A series of open parish meetings were held in December 2019. We sought the input of Dr. Thomas G. Plante, Ph.D., the Augustin Cardinal Bea University Professor of Psychology at Santa Clara University and Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. He is nationally known for his expertise in clerical sexual abuse and has worked both with the perpetrators and victims to find healing.

A group of our members has distilled their concerns and their hopes for the February meeting with the Holy Father on the issue. Perhaps you might add your voice to a call for substantive reform.

Even as I pray for you and your work, I ask you to pray for my people and all who suffer.

Fr. Xavier Michael Lavagetto, OP
Catholic Community at Stanford

Message to Bishops

Members of Catholic Community at Stanford contributing to this letter:

  • Terry Connelly, JD, Dean Emeritus, Ageno School of Business

  • Claire Fitzgerald, MA, Marriage & Family Therapist

  • Albert Gelpi, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Stanford University

  • Barbara Charlesworth Gelpi, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Stanford University

  • Anne Greenfield, MA, Catholic Campus Minister, Stanford University

  • Deacon John Kerrigan, Chief Investment Officer, Santa Clara University.

  • Valerie M McGuire, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, Stanford University

  • Pat Rice, Ph.D., Marriage & Family Therapist

  • Tobias Wolff, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor, Stanford University

  • Catherine Wolff, Writer, Former Director of Arrupe Center Santa Clara University

Decades of child and sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and religious severely damaged its victims; exposure by third parties brought the Church into disrepute; and the further disclosure of cover-ups by Church officials has triggered heartfelt pain and profound loss of trust among the faithful. In the absence of accountability, members of the hierarchy have been derelict in their care for the powerless, and careless in their own use of power.

The gravity of this moral crisis and the urgency of restoring trust requires our leaders to engage in an open, searching and fearless moral inventory, asking the Holy Spirit for help to question and rectify any aspect of Church culture or structure that enables such abuses:

Has the view of celibacy as a “more perfect” vocation given rise to a clericalism that avoids public responsibility and denigrates the role of the laity?

Has clericalism led to the exclusion of the wisdom and expertise of the faithful, especially women, and led to errors in understanding the perspectives of women, the vulnerabilities of children, the lives of homosexuals, and the challenges facing families?

Has the culture of silence and the failure of transparency with civil authorities resulted in more children at grave risk and more grievous civil consequences?

A hierarchical examination of conscience and act of contrition requires also a public atonement (such as laying aside regalia of power) in order to make the urgently needed structural changes both credible and lasting, including:

  • Holding bishops accountable to the 2002 Dallas Charter through a transparent process.

  • Reforming the selection of bishops, expanding the range and number of people among both peers and laity who propose and vet candidates.

  • Training all clergy, religious and laity so that they have the spiritual and psychological maturity needed to be knowledgeable and staunch advocates for children: all children deserve to be loved, cared for and protected.

  • Engaging the broadest possible range of members of the People of God in this program of reform, creating practical structures “to equip the saints for the ministry to build up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12)

We await your response with a prayerful sense of hope and urgency.