Saturday, February 28, 2009

Save this Date!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

8:30 a.m. - 12 noon

at the Metropolitan Ballroom
5418 Wayzata Blvd.
Golden Valley, MN

A coalition of Minnesota Catholic organizations dedicated to church reform invites you to a Prayer Breakfast to announce and plan a series of Lay Archdiocesan Synods to be held in 2010 and 2011.

The keynote speaker at this April 18 Prayer Breakfast will be Janet Hauter, vice-president of Voice of the Faithful, and co-chair of the American Catholic Council, a national convention to address the issue of church reform, projected for 2011.

The purpose of the Minnesota synods (that the April 18 Prayer Breakfast will launch) will be to initiate dialogue and healing around issues currently polarizing our Church and compromising its mission.

The first synod, to be held in 2010, will celebrate the role of progressives in the Roman Catholic tradition and focus on developing regular channels of communication within the Archdiocese. The second synod is projected for 2011 and will focus on concerns emerging from a survey of parish leaders.

The synods are being planned by a coalition of Minnesota Catholic organizations, including the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church, the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, Call To Action MN, Corpus, Dignity Twin Cities, the Progressive Catholic Voice, Roman Catholic WomenPriests, Future Church, and the Society of St Joan, an international organization dedicated to the ordination of women.

Further updates about the April 18 Prayer Breakfast will be posted in the coming weeks at the Progressive Catholic Voice.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ministry, Not Maleness, is the Theological Starting Point for the Priest

By James Moudry

Theologian James Moudry reflects on Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski’s October 2008 comments accompanying the promulgation of the Vatican’s “Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood.”

This reflection deals with the reason why, according to Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski (pictured at left), priesthood is not open to women and to the issue of disqualification of homosexual men from priesthood. My concern is with how the Cardinal frames the issue with the starting point of spiritual paternity and the argument flowing from that.

He is quoted as saying “Homosexuals [and women] cannot be admitted to the priesthood because of the nature of priesthood in which a spiritual paternity is carried out.” And again, “when we ask why Christ reserved the priesthood to men, we speak of this spiritual paternity.” *

Regarding this line of reasoning I would say the following. The assumptive starting point of the Cardinal’s descriptive imagery of the priesthood is that the subject in question is male. He speaks of spiritual paternity. With that in mind, there is applied quite appropriately a series of biblical and theological symbols and metaphors to describe this male person. They are powerful and enrich our understanding of the person in question who is male.

However, if the assumptive starting point were a female subject, a different set of biblical and theological symbols and metaphors could be mustered to describe her person.

But in point of fact neither paternity nor maleness or femaleness are the biblical or theological starting points for the priest. Rather it is ministry, the priest as minister of the Gospel for the sake of the community. And the Scriptures list descriptive symbols and metaphors to describe the ministry of that person which are or can be gender neutral. It is not clear why “paternity” should govern a discussion of the question.

In short, I am struck by how much of the language and argument used by the Cardinal to describe the person of the priest starts with the assumption that the priest is male, which is exactly the point under discussion and being contested. As a consequence his arguments do not make his point why the gender of the priest must be only male.

*Quoted in Thavis, J., “Homosexuality and the Priesthood Revisited,” Catholic News Service, October 31, 2008.

See also the previous Progressive Catholic Voice posts:
“Spiritual Paternity”: Why Homosexual Men Cannot Be Ordained Catholic Priests - Paula Ruddy (Progressive Catholic Voice, January 13, 2009).
Homosexual Priests and Spiritual Paternity - Ed Kohler (Progressive Catholic Voice, January 26, 2009).
“We Are All the Rock”: An Interview with Roman Catholic Womanpriest Judith McKloskey - Michael Bayly (Progressive Catholic Voice, August 2008).

Image: Giancarlo Giuliani (Catholic News Service).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In What Sense Are We Progressive Catholics?

An Offering for Reflection and Discussion

Note: Since the words “Catholic” and “progressive” have many meanings, the editorial board of the Progressive Catholic Voice feels that it is important to clarify what those terms mean to us and to our readers. To that end in recent months we have had discussions among ourselves and with a wider group of Catholic theologians. In an attempt to broaden the dialog, we are sharing the results of these discussions with you in the following paper. We invite your comments.

In what sense are we catholic?

We are catholic or universal in the sense that we see ourselves as part of a worldwide Church full of richness and diversity, rather than members of a narrow sect. We speak from within the great Christian tradition that comes to us down through the ages and from every corner of the world. The depth of this tradition provides resources that enable us to encounter modern culture without fear and to address issues of the day with confidence. We are also catholic in the sense that we are open to the influence of other movements and streams of thought. The Spirit is greater than the Church, and we expect to discern God’s Spirit at work in other religions and movements.

In what sense are we Roman Catholic?

We are Roman Catholics in the sense that we recognize a ministry of unifying and reconciling: that is, we believe that Jesus’ mission can be concretely symbolized in the church of Rome and its bishop in communion with all the other Catholic churches and their bishops.

This ministry of unifying and reconciling does not require uniformity. It is a centripetal force that, far from eliminating the centrifugal force of the Gospel reaching out to the whole world, exists in a dynamic balance with it. This ministry is only imperfectly symbolized in the church and bishop of Rome, given the divisions among Christians and the constant need of the Church to be reformed.

We recognize many ways of being authentically Catholic as part of the desired pluralism and diversity within the Catholic Church. At the same time we aspire to being a unifying force and are hesitant to draw lines or to force people out. We acknowledge our indebtedness to other religious and secular influences and seek to enter into dialog with fellow pilgrims seeking the truth.

In what sense are we progressive Catholics?

First, we feel a strong sense of urgency about institutional reform. We see painful incongruities between the mission of Jesus and the institution that purports to symbolize his mission in the world. Although we recognize that humans are ever-evolving in their consciousness of God, and, therefore, that the institution will always be in need of reform, we think that, at present, institutional leadership is blocking the evolution of consciousness in its members and standing as a scandalous obstacle to the mission of Jesus.

For us, being progressive is more a matter of method than of positions. We recognize that knowing truth, as well as knowing what reforms to implement in the institutional Church, is a process of research, discernment, and ever-increasing understanding. We do hold positions, but being progressive is primarily a characteristic way of approaching both theological and practical issues and a commitment to critiquing our own positions, using the same method by which we critique the positions of our counterparts in dialog.

That being said, what are some of the characteristics and methods that identify us as progressive Catholics?

1. Historical Consciousness

As progressive Catholics we strive to understand the history of Catholic teachings and practices in their cultural setting and to relate them to the issues of the present time. Since divine truth can never be captured completely in a particular formula of words, it is important to understand the terms of the debate that led to a particular formulation. This attempt to understand a given formulation in its own historical-cultural context is the necessary prelude to applying the underlying teaching to the changed circumstances of our own time.

The same is true of church laws and practices. They are also contingent responses to concrete circumstances. When the circumstances change often it is necessary to change laws and practices in order to achieve the same goal.

As progressive Catholics we welcome solid historical studies that help us understand church laws and teachings in the context of the times in which they were articulated.

2. A Developmental Perspective that Values Diversity

This is closely related to historical consciousness. Historical studies show that church laws and church teaching have changed over time. This means that current laws, teachings, and even worldviews can change in fidelity to the search for divine truth.

Diversity plays an important role here. In evolutionary biology diversity is crucial to survival. As an ecosystem changes some members of a given species turn out to be better adapted to the changing environment than the once dominant type. Similarly, with regard to church teaching and practice, some minority views that were considered marginal at a given period of time turn out to be crucial in a radically changed cultural context. For this and other reasons we see a positive value in contemporary religious diversity.

3. Commitment to Dialog and Discernment

Far from wishing to have a completely uniform Church, we as progressive Catholics welcome diverse points of view as an opportunity for respectful dialog and spiritual discernment in pursuit of what is most appropriate for today’s Church.

We are particularly interested in intra-Catholic dialog. Starting from the truth as we understand it, our goal is mutual understanding and, if possible, creative consensus – not victory. Dialog involves vulnerability. The reciprocal possibility of conversion from one’s point of view to that of one’s partner in dialog must remain open. In addition, there is always the possibility that divergent views lovingly shared can lead to a higher synthesis that brings out aspects neither party fully realized before entering into dialog. We feel that this is the most effective way to assure widespread agreement on church teaching and common action for justice and peace.

In addition to other Catholics, we are open to other partners for dialog and discernment: other Christians (Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal, non-denominational, etc.); representatives of other religious traditions (Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.); people who profess no religion, and even atheists and anti-religious persons. Each has a perspective on the truth, and each can assist us in the journey to the truth.

4. Attentiveness to the Stories of Marginal Catholics

As progressive Catholics we seek to identify where church is happening, especially in the margins of contemporary society. We attempt to listen to and retell the stories of Catholics who are engaging with the dominant culture or seeking new ways to embody their religious and spiritual experiences within the large home of Catholicism. Their voices are precious.

5. Commitment to Inclusiveness

As progressive Catholics we seek to bridge the gaps that divide Church and society. We invite all to take part in the dialog regardless of gender, age, social status, education, ethnic identity, sexual orientation, level of affluence, etc. The religious experience of each human being is valuable. Only if the conversation is open to all concerned parties can any semblance of consensus be achieved.

6. Commitment to Openness and Accountability

As progressive Catholics we have little tolerance for secrecy in either church or society. Although we may differ among ourselves in our preference for various models of church governance, we are one in our demand for transparency in church affairs and clear lines of accountability in such matters as finances and appointments to positions of authority and responsibility.

7. Solidarity with Other Groups Working for Church Renewal

As progressive Catholics we realize that no single group or movement has all the answers to the problems the Church faces today. Hence, we hope to build bridges to other groups working for church renewal and work cooperatively with them whenever practical.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

American Catholic Council Issues "Declaration for Reform and Renewal"

The following Declaration was released on January 26 by the American Catholic Council, a coalition of major reform organizations in the United States, including Call to Action, Voice of the Faithful, and the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church.

The Declaration’s publication and its explicit call for reform within Roman Catholicism is, for many Catholics, a positive and hopeful development.


American Catholic Council

Declaration for Reform and Renewal

After years of dialogue and experience with the often-unrealized reforms set in motion by the Second Vatican Council, the American Catholic Council, a coalition of representatives of organizations, communities and individuals, calls for a representative assembly of the Catholic Church in the United States to consider the state of our Church.

We do this because the Signs of the Times reveal a serious deterioration in the life of the Catholic Church in our country: We see:

- Closed parishes, broken communities, and unavailable sacraments.

- Sexually-abused children and young people and ineffective clerical response to correct this institutional sin.

- Dwindling financial support and widespread fiscal mismanagement.

- Paternalistic, monarchical leadership that is often unresponsive, repressive, and ineffective.

- A seriously compromised social justice mission--because internal institutional justice is lacking.

- Catholics abandoning the Church with demoralizing frequency.

- A community starved for a spirituality that fits our modern lives, consistent with out maturity, experience and education.

We acknowledge co-responsibility for these conditions - for no community can be governed without its implicit or explicit consent. We “consent” with financial and personal support, with participation, or, often, with passivity.

We do not challenge the faith we were given or the essential beliefs of our creeds and councils. We do know that this faith is not tied to the governance structure of any one historical period or culture. We seek a Church in which all the baptized have an effective voice in decision-making and a ministry worthy of their calling.

We are wise enough to know that we shall never have a perfect Church. We do not, however, want to be far from a Church that is free and honest, even if it is one in which we are called at times to uncomfortable accountability and responsibility.

We seek a Church that is inclusive, compassionate, trustworthy, and representative.

We seek a Church that actively listens to the Spirit in its people and that worships and evangelizes in the fullness of that inspiration.

We seek a Church that addresses the spiritual hunger of all Catholics, including marginalized and former Catholics.

We seek to multiply the bread of the Eucharist so that a malnourished Catholic Community can encounter Christ with all the healing power of his sacramental presence through the preservation of parish community and a radically inclusive theology of ministry.

We seek reform of the governing structures in our Church so that they reflect the better aspects of the American experience: a democratic spirit, concern for human rights, freedom of speech and assembly, and a tradition of participation and representation.


We take as our norm the Gospel and the life-giving elements in our Tradition, especially the earliest history of our Church and the renaissance promised by the Second Vatican Council. We are guided, furthermore, by the wisdom gained from decades of intensive reform and renewal efforts in the post-Vatican II Church of the United States.

Jesus called all to the Reign of God without reservation. The ministry and table fellowship of Jesus found place for the marginalized and the previously uninvited, for the adversaries and the advocates, for friends and religious leaders, for the poor and the rich, for the searching and for those who do not search, for women and men.

The disciples of Christ became a New Testament community of Churches, democratic in believing the Spirit was given to all. These communities were never perfect. St. Paul tells us there was factionalism as well as harmony and confusion as well as clarity. Nonetheless, these communities proved themselves reliable and became the embodiment of the living Christ. They selected their leaders and held them accountable. They recognized a wide diversity of charisms and ministries, validated not by one person or office, but by the community at large.

The inclusive, collegial model lasted for centuries. It led to a global Church, the conversion of the Roman Empire, and the first Ecumenical Councils. It created a spiritual and sacramental Tradition that continues to enrich our lives. A Church from below proved itself trustworthy with the Gospel and responsive to the creative Spirit.

We summon those who share our vision or question it, those who want the Church to be more than it is now, and those who yearn for the renewed and reformed Church that the Gospel, Vatican II and the Signs of our Times require.

In the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero, we are conscious that we are “only the workers, not the Master Builder.” But, together we can fashion a charter of rights and an expansive ministry, a social justice agenda, and an inclusive community.

With God’s help and with the Spirit at work in all of us, we can become Christians, such that the world will marvel at our love for one another and at the service we give the human family. We do not despair of this possibility. If you do not, join us.

American Catholic Council
January 26, 2009