Clergy and laity write letters and petition about abuse crisis

Clergy and lay people around the Diocese of Charleston are using the power of the pen to respond to the recent sexual abuse crises that have rocked the Church nationwide in the past few months.

Msgr. Lawrence B. McInerny, pastor of Stella Maris Church on Sullivan’s Island, has written a letter to the American members of the College of Cardinals.

In it, he expresses outrage at the recent scandals and includes a list of pointed suggestions on how to deal with the crisis and reform the church. It is posted on the church website at

Msgr. McInerny said he initially wrote the letter after former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was forced to resign following abuse allegations, and it became even more relevant after the August revelations about years of abuse in Pennsylvania dioceses.

“No community, even secular, can accept these egregious offenses against human dignity and common decency,” he wrote. “Much less, can the Body of Christ or its leaders simply remove an offender of this type and move forward without a meaningful reform of systemic evil, collusion and denial.”

Copies of the letter have been available in the church and parish hall at Stella Maris for parishioners to sign if they wish. They will then be mailed to the American cardinals.

“The letter just expresses simple and basic truths, and it is written out of love for the Church,” Msgr. McInerny said. “I wrote it because people in the parish had expressed the need to do something. They were expressing anger. And for some, the ritual of signing their name to the letter, of actually writing something, fills that need. I’ve heard a lot of gratitude from people.”

The letter’s impact has spread beyond Stella Maris. Father Gregory West, pastor of St. Clare of Assisi Parish on Daniel Island, has shared it with his parishioners. Another copy has also been uploaded in petition form to the website and currently has more than 7,000 signatures.

John Garcia, a member of Stella Maris Church, was inspired by Msgr. McInerny’s writing and he is working on his own letter to the editor on the topic, and he hopes to submit it to the Charleston Post and Courier.

“His letter motivated me to write a longer piece of my own,” Garcia said. “I’m essentially saying enough is enough, and we have to get this fixed. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Somehow or other there has to be a change in structure in the Church that distributes power more equitably, and we have to deal with the cardinals and bishops who have been covering up for the abusers.”

Father Andrew Trapp, pastor of St. Peter Church in Beaufort, has been evangelizing through ads in print media for several years, and he recently wrote a long, thoughtful piece titled, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” that appeared in ad form in The State newspaper and the Myrtle Beach Sun News.

In it, Father Trapp writes about the challenges facing the Church in the wake of the abuse crisis and offers perspectives on how to stay strong in the faith. Read his letter, which can be found on the church’s website,