University of Saint Francis professor Adam DeVille has been writing about sex abuse in the Catholic Church for 27 years.
Now, he's written a book that examines the structural issues of governance in the church. Specifically, DeVille's book discusses how current structures, which centralize power with bishops and popes, must be reformed in favor of new structures that put power in the hands of localities.
The book, “Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power,” has been endorsed by various bishops, clergy and theologians in the United States, Europe and Australia, according to a news release from the university.
DeVille's book was released about a week ago, and so far, he said he's received some mixed reaction.
DeVille said he anticipates his work will be somewhat controversial.
“I think that it's going to be a stretch for some people, in some ways, to think about some of these changes, so I expect the reception will be critical in some ways and very controversial,” he said.
“I say, bring it on because we can't just stick with the status quo.”
In an interview Friday, DeVille said the proposals outlined in his book start at the local parish level and work their way up through every portion of church hierarchy.
Specifically, the book calls for the creation of parish councils to provide accountability over the power of priests and bishops. Ideally, each parish council would be made up of 10 to 12 members, evenly split between men and women.
Parish councils, DeVille said, would work with the bishop when the time came for changes in parish leadership. The idea is to eliminate destructive practices, such as moving around priests who have been accused of sexual abuse.
“No more secrecy, in other words,” DeVille said. “Requiring a local parish council to work with the bishop would cut off this kind of secret shuffling around of abusers.”
The book, DeVille said, outlines similar proposals for every stage of Catholic hierarchy.
“It creates a mechanism where people are forced to get together and talk about what they're doing, making it harder to hide the abuse and abusers,” he said.
Regardless of whether the church adopts his proposals, DeVille said change is necessary for its survival.
“If nothing changes at all, the church is going to continue to collapse and disintegrate and disappear in large parts of the world,” DeVille said. “If the church continues to do nothing, people are going to vote with their feet, and I don't blame them at all. The institution will have squandered its moral credibility on any topic.”
Still, DeVille said he doesn't want the clergy to see his book and its proposals as a threat. His proposals aren't meant as a hostile takeover but as a restructuring to help strengthen the church for the future. Without changes, the church's future is bleak, DeVille said.
“I try to say to bishops and clergy that this is not a mob coming for your head,” he said.
“This is people coming to help.”