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Tips: How to write to your Bishop

This post is to assist you with tips and ideas for writing a letter to your Bishop regarding the sexual misconduct crisis in the Church.  This page is a companion to our resource page that we are continuing to update as this crisis plays out.  We pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you in your letter writing.

In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus returns after his long journey to find his house is inhabited by lazy, cavorting men who have abused his wife and dishonored his memory. Before he reveals who he is to the riotous crowd, he takes his son Telemachus aside and instructs him: “To be angry is easy. But to angry at the right person, at the right time for the right reason is difficult.” He and Telemachus first plan their attack . Then they summon their energies and resources and drive the foe to the grave or exile. They have vanquished the enemy. The pigs in the parlor are driven out.  Their anger was creative and  fruitful.

The fact that one feels moral outrage means very little beyond proving that you are alive. It doesn’t take high moral sensitivity to be outraged at the abuse of children, the manipulation of adolescents, the breaking of vows, lying and deceit among certain clergy. Virtue is necessary to channel that anger and avoid sin as St. Paul tells us (Eph 4:26-32). So remember the counsel of St. James: “The anger of man works not the righteousness of God”  (James 1:20). Don’t be afraid to speak with passion but make sure that passion flows from the Holy Spirit who has come “to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).  Also consider the Blessed Mother as she watched the violation of her Son sitting at the foot of the cross.  Write well. Write prayerfully. They go together.

Tips in letter writing:

Remind them who you are if you are personally acquainted 

Keep it short– anything more than one page is burdensome. A few paragraphs is best.

Keep it simple– stay focused on one idea: the need for an investigation.

Keep it civil– Respect for the episcopal office outweighs your personal feelings.

Keep it personal– if appropriate, communicate how this has affected you.

Don’t engage in calumny, detraction, rash judgment see Catechism 2473-2487.

Don’t try to be Shakespeare- write conversationally.

Sample ideas:

These ideas are intended to prime the pump. In no way are they intended to constitute a form letter. Make your concerns in your own words and voice. Nothing is wrong with emotional expression but remember your objective: we want an investigation by an independent lay panel of specialists in all the related fields of criminology, sociology, pastoral studies, canon and civil law, etc. Venting is not usually very effective and discredits your substantial ideas.

Dear Bishop xxxxx or Your Excellency,

A.  Express thanks for what his ministry has meant to you. Avoid fawning. Avoid flattery. Be real.

B.  The recent news about xxxxxxxx has concerned me for these reasons xxxxxxx.

C.  This has affected me in these areas: (Pick one or two and relate it to your life.)

  1. The difficulty of inviting friends to consider the Catholic Church
  2. The priests we love and trust now live under suspicion.
  3. This affects my children in xxx way.
  4. I or a friend has experienced abuse
  5. I know people leaving the Church

D.  This is how this might affect me in the future

E.  What you are willing to do build up the body of Christ

  1. Prayer and fasting
  2. Continued pursuit of the universal call to holiness
  3. Follow the news
  4. The spiritual and corporal works of mercy, e.g., Encourage those who are dispirited, visit those in prison for sexual assault.

You can find sample versions of letters here. 


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