Fundamental Rights in the Church
At the Network of Reform Groups conference in Chicago last October, one group, of which I was a member, agreed to work together to produce a Charter of Fundamental Rights for all members of the Church.
Below is an outline of the goal we have set ourselves.
I would be more than happy to hear from anyone who might have some ideas on this fairly major topic.
Day by day the faithful in our Roman Catholic Church are experiencing the withholding of their fundamental rights by those who lead the church. On all levels of the church the People of God are excluded from a guaranteed participation in decisions although they must bear the consequences of these decisions (nomination of bishops, suppression of parishes, change of pastoral and theological concepts by parish priests etc.). The People of God receive no accounting from those who are leading the church (refusal of requests concerning the reform of the church, handling of cases of sexual abuse in the church, use of the financial contributions of the faithful etc.). Groups of members of the church are excluded from the sacraments without an individual, transparent, appropriate and just assessment of the situation of their life. The faithful are suffering sanctions without a transparent, fair and just process. In the absence of a right to be treated with respect, or the right to follow one’s own informed conscience, real injustice results and real pain is caused. There is no separation of legislative, executive and judicial power in the church and recourses are not handled in a transparent and fair procedure.
The Second Vatican Council has put the People of God back into the centre of its teaching about church. Pope Paul VI wanted to give back fundamental rights to the People of God and commissioned the creation of a Lex Ecclesiae Fundamentalis, a constitution for the church. That project was stopped by Pope John Paul II. But a church without respect for the conscience of each of its members, without appropriate participation on decisions in the church and without an obligation for those who are leading the church to give account, such a church lives in contradiction to the message of Jesus Christ and of the bible concerning each human being and to its own teaching about society.
It is high time to give back to the People of God the fundamental rights they have lost over the centuries and to allow the charisms of the Holy Spirit, with which all the baptized faithful are gifted, to be recognized and to flourish. There is a long history of trying to define and assert fundamental rights in the church. Therefore, based on previous efforts to establish a constitution for the church which respects the dignity of all the baptized, we wish to start a broad movement of the citizens of the church asking for their fundamental rights.