Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dialoguing with the Bishop

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt writes a column in The Catholic Spirit entitled “In God’s Good Time.” As the editorial team of The Progressive Catholic Voice, we take his public statements as an opportunity to discuss his views with him.

Dear Archbishop Nienstedt:

May we ask for clarification of the first two principles of your plan to reorganize the Archdiocese? You announced on March 26 that the Archdiocese was undergoing a streamlining, and identified the following as the first two principles for determining the new arrangements:

• Full sacramental ministry must be available to every Catholic in each geographical area of the archdiocese. In other words, every Catholic will have a home parish and will know where to go for spiritual assistance.

• Qualified pastoral leaders (i.e., clergy, religious and lay) will be assigned to each of those geographical areas.

Such “principles” leave us deeply perturbed and raise for us the following questions:

Does this now mean that people will no longer be able to choose to join a parish outside the geographical area of their residence? Will people who like St Agnes Parish no longer be able to belong there unless they live in St. Paul’s Frogtown? Will people who like Assumption Parish no longer be able to belong there unless they live in downtown St. Paul? Will people who like St. Olaf or the Basilica no longer be able to belong to those parishes unless they live in downtown Minneapolis?

Does this mean that to be numbered among the Catholics of the Archdiocese one must have a paid membership in the geographical parish of one’s residence?

This sounds less like a principle to provide full sacramental ministry to free and equal adult human beings than it is a strategy to divide the sheep from the goats. Those who are paid up members in their geographical parish with its “assigned” pastoral leaders are Catholic, those who are not signed up are not Catholic.

Please tell us that our suspicions are ungrounded and people will still be free to choose the parish they want to join.

Or please tell us that you are planning to let people in a geographical parish have input into the “qualified pastoral leaders” who will be assigned to them.

Better yet, please tell us that you will consult the baptized from all over the Archdiocesan geographical area about the “spiritual assistance” that they need from a parish team. If serving human spiritual needs were like a gas station fill up, the geographical, one-stop shop, would suffice. But as we all know people’s needs differ. We are asking you to take differences into consideration and agree to provide for all the diversity that you find in your consultation.

The Progressive Catholic Voice Editorial Team

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