Former Catholic Seminary Professor Addresses Sexual Misconduct by US Bishops in Open Letter to Pope Benedict

Your Holiness, I, Richard Sipe, approach you reluctantly to speak about the problem of sexual abuse by priests and bishops in the United States, but I am encouraged and prompted by the directive of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, Chapter IV, No. 37. “By reason of knowledge, competence-the laity are empowered-indeed sometimes obliged-to manifest their opinion on those things that pertain to the good of the Church.” And also moved by your heartfelt demonstration of concern for victims on your recent visit to the United States I bring to your attention a dimension of the crisis not yet addressed. It is closer to the systemic center of the problem and one most difficult for you to address. As the crisis of sexual abuse of our children and vulnerable adults by priests and bishops in the United States is unfolding the dynamics of this dysfunction are becoming painfully clear. This sexual aberration is not generated from the bottom up-that is only from unsuitable candidates-but from the top down-that is from the sexual behaviors of superiors, even bishops and cardinals.