Frequently Asked Questions
➤ Who started The Siena Project?
The Siena Project is run by volunteer members of the lay Catholic faithful in the United States. The contact person for The Siena Project is Miriel Thomas Reneau; you can find her short bio on the Contact page. If you have questions, please feel free to email Miriel at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the form on our Contact page.
➤ What is the goal of the siena project?
The primary purpose of The Siena Project is to make it as easy as possible for members of the Catholic faithful to send letters to bishops asking for meaningful, visible reforms in response to recent scandals within the Church. We provide downloadable templates for letters to local bishops, to the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (Daniel Cardinal DiNardo), and to the apostolic nuncio to the United States (Archbishop Christophe Pierre). We hope that visitors to the site will download and send the letters!
The Siena Project website also has a mission statement page. The mission statement reflects the convictions of The Siena Project's founders about the crises facing the Church in the United States and outlines six points of action that members of the clergy can take toward meaningful, visible reform in light of these crises. Anyone who affirms the mission statement can add his or her name to the growing list of affirmations. Our hope is to elicit affirmations from every diocese in the country.
➤ is the siena project faithful to the authority of the church?
Wholeheartedly, yes. We fully affirm the authority of the bishops and the unique authority of the Bishop of Rome. The foundation of The Siena Project is an understanding of the Church as communion [koinonia] (cf. CDF, Church Understood as Communion 1-6). As living members of the Body of Christ, we acknowledge our responsibility to care for one another for the sake of the good of the whole Body (cf 1 Cor. 12:25). At this hour, in complete fidelity to Christ and His Church, we seek to exercise the prophetic office of Christ which has been entrusted to us. "Christ . . . fulfills this prophetic office, not only by the hierarchy . . . but also by the laity. He accordingly both establishes them as witnesses and provides them with the sense of the faith [sensus fidei] and the grace of the word" (LG 35, cf. CCC 904). We act in fidelity to Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, which teaches us that the lay faithful “are, by reason of the knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy, permitted and sometimes even obliged to express their opinion on those things which concern the good of the Church" (LG 37, cf. CCC 907). We do not advocate any kind of infidelity to the teachings of the Church. We "firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals" (Cf. Donum Veritatis 16). We seek to fulfill our responsibility as members of the lay faithful as we ask our pastors and bishops to act as courageous fathers.
➤ Why is it called The Siena Project?
We were inspired by the story of St. Catherine of Siena, a fourteenth-century mystic whose correspondence with Pope Gregory XI helped convince him to rectify abuses within the Church of her day. We pray for her intercession during this time of tumult in the Church.
➤ Who is the siena project for?
The Siena Project is for anyone who wills the good of the Catholic Church. It is run by members of the lay faithful but anyone--lay, consecrated, or clergy--is invited to share the site, use the letter templates, and affirm the mission statement if he or she can. We invite all people of goodwill who are not within the Catholic communion to share the site with their friends and acquaintances.
➤ What if I can't affirm the mission statement? Is The Siena Project still for me?
Yes. We anticipated that there would be diversity of opinion regarding the content of our mission statement, especially with regard to the six points of action we ask our priests and bishops to undertake. Such is the beauty of a universal Church! If you cannot affirm the mission statement in its entirety but still find some points of agreement with it, we welcome you to share the link along with your reservations with your friends and family, and alter the letter templates to reflect your convictions.
➤ How do I use the letter templates?
The links on our homepage will take you to downloadable templates through Google Drive. The sections highlighted in yellow are the parts for you to personalize: your name and address, the date, the name of your local bishop where applicable, and a place for your signature and name at the bottom. Once you replace those sections with the correct information and remove the highlighting, you can print and send the letters! Alternatively, please feel free to change the body of the letter as much as you would like, writing in your own voice and from your own convictions.
➤ Can I change the content of the letters before I send them?
Absolutely. The templates we have provided are designed to make it as easy as possible for members of the faithful to send letters to our bishops. If you desire, you are more than welcome to alter the content of the letters to reflect your own convictions.
➤ Can I share the site with friends and family?
Yes! We hope that everyone who encounters The Siena Project and finds any degree of agreement with it will share the link with his or her friends, family, and acquaintances. You do not need to agree with every point of the mission statement—or even be Catholic—to share a link to the site.
➤ Can I donate money to the siena project?
Thank you so much, but no. The Siena Project is run by volunteers. If you are able, we encourage you to donate money to organizations working to support victims of clerical abuse.
➤ Is writing letters going to do any good?
The history of the Church, and especially the life of St. Catherine of Siena, give us reason to hope that heartfelt correspondence between the faithful and our bishops can help propel them to change. We place our trust in the promise of Jesus that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against His Church (cf Mt. 16:18). We also urge you to undertake whatever other efforts you feel drawn to—prayer, fasting, direct conversations with your pastor and with others, or any other prudent and courageous action—in pursuit of the reform and purification of the Church.