As a Catholic, what are our rights in our Church today? For many this might seem like a very strange question to pose indeed. Knowing that for centuries let alone over family generations, it was a given, that you would never question your Church at all. Yet today, it is a question whose resonance is sorely missing, considering the ever changing landscape of our Church. It is a question which definitely deserves an answer.
Abuse and Scandal

The Priest Sexual Abuse Scandal which literally has rocked our Church at its very core. Yet, it continues on its merry way. We need to eradicate this former “pray and obey” mentality which is always ever present and ready to resurface at any time. Well, how can this actually be done, without violating Church Teaching? In The Documents of Vatican II, Chapter IV, The Laity, under Article # 37, page 64,…”An individual layman, by reason of the knowledge, competence, …is permitted and sometimes even obliged to express his opinion on things which concern the good of the Church.” 1.

Who knew, we as the Laity, can actually speak out our views on matter “concerning the good of the Church.” If your child was ever abused by a priest what would you do? You definitely would not stop until you did everything you could, to stop this priest’s deplorable behavior. You certainly wouldn’t be quiet about it.

Yet, this is exactly what is happening with the rest of the laity. There is complete silence, nothing at all towards standing behind your fellow Catholic’s, whose own son or daughter were abused by a religious figure.

A Bishop who basically enabled a known priest abuser to roam freely in local parishes and when things got to hot with him, the Bishop wrote a glowing letter of recommendation about said priest to a cruise ship line.
The Stories are Real

It is one thing to hear about victims of this abuse, but to actually hear their individual stories is indeed, sickening. Through my own picketing on this issue, I have heard their stories. Here they are, standing up against this same ongoing abuse, and there is basically just a few other Catholics coming out to not only support them, but as well to end this awful situation. I learned that this molestation is not limited to priests only, but as well to some sisters doing the same.

The following incident occurred while picketing against this same Bishop. There we were, all three individuals including myself along with one man abused by a priest and one woman who had been raped by a nun.

Many parishioners kept asking us the same question, where is your proof? The man and woman would reply, we are the proof we are the victims of this abuse. Some walked away in shock, while others shook their heads in disbelief.

A vial man came up to the woman who had been abused and told her, that probably was the best sex you ever had in your life. Then he proceeded to go inside of Church for Mass. The total disrespect, lack of civility and outright ignorance on this issue were so stingily directed at her. Having previously picketed for Women’s Ordination, I have noticed if the base picketer’s numbers are small it seems to make the Parishioner’s more embolden to make cruel, jeering and disdainful comments to us. We basically are in this situation in the first place, of taking this flack because of the hierarchy of our Church’s Scandal of Secrecy on this topic.
In light of now knowing, you do have the right to speak out against the Church on this issue, what will you personally do? What intimidation could you possibly have, in speaking out or picketing to save children from this type of sexual abuse? If anything, this action is definitely for the good of our Catholic Church indeed!
The True History

In picketing for women priests, I run into a similar ignorance and animosity being directed my way. They have called me a liar, make believe story teller, along with other impolite comments to say the least. Again it is all part of this territory of trying to present the truth at hand, the actual true history behind, Women Bishop’s Women Deacons and Women Priests in our Church’s past History. We have another Scandal of lies, deceit and deception from again our Church hierarchy.

In knowing now, that you have every right to speak out against or picket for Women’s Ordination, what will you choose? In lieu of this unbelievable hypocrisy of our Church hierarchy on this issue in exercising your own right to speak out against being lied to by your Church, fear should not even be an issue to you in demanding the truth of this issue. Is being able for any woman to again regain her own right to answer God’s call to serve Him, enough reason to picket or openly speak out on this issue? Isn’t certainly, speaking out for Women Priests in order to end a centuries long Scandal of lies and deceit, isn’t that in the best interest of our Church?
Pray and Obey

Today, so many Catholic’s, remain in the “pray and obey” mode, not realizing their own right to voice what they think about a church issue. We collectively, the laity of the Church, have to break bonds with that limiting mentality. Where exactly has that silent mentality got the Church to?

When you think about it, the Laity’s silence has basically stocked the hierarchy’s mentality of silence. With no one questioning what they are doing, why they are doing so, their very Scandal of lies and deception continue on with no need for open transparency to the Laity. Remaining in this “pray and obey” mode prevents you as well from understanding the issues of our Church for exactly what they comprise and what needs to be done to fix them.

Until we as Catholics move out of and beyond the ingrained confines of this concept of “pray and obey” nothing will change. From the book, What Makes Us Catholic, by Thomas H. Groome, it states, …”the word Catholic …’’we can translate the word literally as including everyone to work together.” 2

So then, we as Catholics, we all are included and meant to indeed join forces and work together as one. Yes, this is a completely different mindset from “pray and obey”, where we don’t move, we stay right in place. Where one’s obeying, consists of absolutely no questioning about anything. The very concept of working together certainly has no room within the “pray and obey” mentality. Apathy and indifference are free to literally take hold in the mindset of Catholics, basically, nothing has changed and therefore nothing will ever change. The Hierarchy has the power and we are only the Laity. In such a mindset the hierarchy is definitely free to do whatever they wanted in secrecy, knowing there would be no interference coming from the Laity.

Laity’s Mindset

The subject of conscience was obviously completely missing from the Laity’s mindset. What did they have to be upset over? They literally knew nothing was amiss, and even if they ever did, they certainly knew better than dare ask anything. The sad reality was that for the most part the Laity was questioning nothing, while suffering from sexual abuse, the victims certainly were not in a position then to question. Over the generations indeed, for the parents that found out about the abuse they were questioning the tactics of the hierarchy of their Church to no avail. All too many parents had so many questions to ask, let alone ever actually having them answered. The sad truth is what was back then is still here today.

There is though, the beginning ray of light where individuals here and abroad are finding their voices and openly speaking out against this. Even so they are small in proportion to the other missing voices from the majority of Catholic’s World-Wide today.

This “pray and obey” mentality still has some individual Catholics saying that priests were simply being friendly to the children. Or touching their hand on their body is not meant in the way the public portray it. One might explain their particular viewing of any discussion of priest abuse as being off to say the least.

Then again they might be operating out of complete denial. If you were Catholic, you know there was that certain image of a Priest, as the nearest one to God along with the Sisters being so religious. There was a set religious stereotype, definitely in play, to the extent that for both their moral character was beyond reproach. For those individual Catholics who never will admit to the abhorrent behavior of the priests or sisters, this information must have shattered their belief that these religious figures above all people would ever do this, let alone be capable of such behavior.

A Carousel View of the Church

Walking a picket line in a sense gives one a carousel view of Church issues such as the women priest’s issue or priest abusers and their enabling Bishop. In one’s eyes recalling a carousel and its horses moving up and down in motion with accompanying sense of spinning indeed represent our hierarchy’s spinning out of control, literally moving up and down out of one Scandal only to resurface in another Scandal. Why then, when the raw facts are leaked out about this awful priest sexual abuse, or lies about women never being priests, why are we hearing basically silence from the Catholic Laity?

It is one thing to absolutely be unaware of this abusive priest behavior, but to realize that and still not act is something entirely different. It is like this former “pray and obey” mentality has completely erased the concept of one’s very conscience in directing or leading you to take some type of personal initiative to help change a deplorable situation. A former priest, who actually stood up for Women to become priests was removed from the priesthood. He cited the “Primacy of Conscience” issue to illustrate his own motives in stepping forward for Women Priests in our Catholic Church.

This article says it all, it states: “In essence, you are telling me to lie and say I do not believe that God calls both men and women to the priesthood.” …Bourgeois also raised the issue of the “Primacy of Conscience” in his letter, citing a 1968 commentary by then –Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on the Vatican II Documents on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes. Over the Pope-there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary, even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. Bourgeois quotes from the future Pope’s words.” 3

Yes, “one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else,” and the time in our Catholic Church about keeping quiet, “pray and obey” has long passed. We all have to open our eyes to what is going on in our Church, right here and now. We no longer can simply look the other way on this issue.

We need to have a searing image of these despicable priests inflicting their physical and mental abuse on young children and young adults, all to satisfy their own sick perverse pleasures. We have to do something completely new, we have to get tuned into our own conscience, to be able to begin again to feel internally the wrong which is so pervasively present within the walls of our Church. Indeed, it is so easy to just look the other way and become overwhelmed in this previous endless cycle of nothing changing in our Church. Yes, that was then but what about now?

In light of the way the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, has failed us, the ‘People of God,’ we need to follow in Jesus’ steps and openly begin to speak out against the authority in our Church. We must be sure that beyond the offending priest, that their enabling Bishop or Cardinal as well are dealt with to finally rid our Church from this Priest Abuse Scandal or with the Women Priest Scandal of lying about women priests actual past history in our Church. It requires the united World-Wide action of the Laity of our Church to come together and demand truly a ministry reflecting Jesus’ actions rather than one of lies and deception, along with repulsive moral behavior.

We the Laity, ‘The People of God,” as such we indeed are the Church. It is time we openly voice our outrage against the continuing priest sexual abuse, whether it is the actual victims of said abuse or the general Laity of our Church, we all in some-way have been betrayed by the hierarchy of our Church. But how they the Hierarchy and individual priests continue to deceive the trust of children is something I will never understand. I guess the very way they have treated fellow Catholic victims with such disregard, why should it be any surprise how they as well have absolutely no regard for Jesus Christ’s ministry.

That chilling fact alone reflects a very dark presence at work throughout our Church today. Our work is cut out for us but with Jesus’ presence behind us we can finally eradicate this evil deity out of our Church and bring back once again Jesus’ Ministry of love, inclusion and above all Truth. Let our Catholic Church truly be the Church for all of “The People of God.”

The Documents of Vatican II, by Walter M. Abbott, S.J., Rev. MSGR. Joseph Gallagher, 1966

Groome Thomas H. What Makes Us Catholic HarperSanfrancisco 2001, pp. 243, 244.

Bourgeois tells Maryknoll: ‘I cannot lie, I cannot recant’ by Joshua J. McElwee National Catholic Reporter, April 08, 2011,

Author's Bio: 

Margaret Mary O’Connor has made it her mission to reveal the truth of Your Catholic Church.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University At Buffalo (NY), and a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry from Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, NY. She is a former Chaplain and is currently a Eucharistic Minister at Our Lady of Charity Parish where, ironically, the Church windows depict the Vatican II Council. One window represents the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” which includes an article that speaks directly to ending sexual discrimination of all kinds in our Church.

Margaret Mary is available for podcast interviews. Visit for more information.