Call to Action Conference - Milwaukee, WI  November 7-9, 2003
 Called to be Peacemakers: Prophet Leadership in World & Church
by Richard Sipe


I was taught during my training that when two people get together for psychotherapy it is important that one of the participants be in touch with reality. It is preferable that the therapist is that one.

 The dilemmas of our time are daunting. If we don't feel confused we probably not in touch with reality and don't understand what is going on. All of us, without exception, are caught in the same maelstrom. There is no safe harbor, only the fictitious protection of denial.

Frequently we hear the comment that the Catholic Church in America is in the most severe crisis of its life. If true, how can we grasp that reality? Where can we turn to put our time, our life, in perspective?

Historian Barbara Tuchman, in her masterful account the 14th century A Distant Mirror, put a spotlight on a time not unlike the 20th century. A time filled with, "guilty passions; loyalties and treacheries; political assassinations; sea battles and sieges; fear of the end of the world; corruption in high places and a yearning for reform;…sorcery and demonology; lust and sadism on the stage…"

There was a Church Council then too—the Council of Constance, 1414 to 1418—and a Pope John XIII, who in contrast to our good Pope John, was deposed on charges of "piracy, murder, rape, sodomy, and incest." Even at that, history records that the "most scandalous" charges were suppressed.

We do need some help, some glasses, to see where we have come from, where we are, and if possible, where we are going. Some historical lens may help us put ourselves in perspective; a magnifying glass is needed to read and examine the data and propaganda behind headlines and; and a microscope, a telescope and possibly a crystal ball may prove useful to show us where we are going.  

A.   Lessons from history

There are also powerful parallels between our predicaments and those of the 16th century. The development of the printing press with its movable type provided a quantum leap in communication over the production of manuscripts in the scriptorium. Likewise, today the proliferation of cell phones and the Internet are not simply refinements of the telephone and the computer. They provide a means of instant, world-wide communication for ordinary people. No longer is the populous dependent on printed pronouncements from authorities, delayed accounts of events, or censored and manicured opinions.

The exposure of the sex abuse crisis in the Church certainly would not have been possible without the leadership of the print media, but the power and forcefulness of the victims of clergy abuse and the influence of current reform movements within the Church are children of the internet.

1.  Martin Luther visits Rome 1510
2.  Wittenberg the center of Conflict 1517
3.  Luther Dies Defeated: Council of Trent Opens 1546
B. Being part of history
1.  Globe Proves Cover-up 2002
2.  Tucson Victims Paid 14 Million 2000
3.  Cardinal Bernardin Falsely Accused 1993
4.  Conclusion     (Rausch)