Thursday, September 23, 2010

Communicating With Leadership

By Paula Ruddy

What does it mean for Catholics in a diocese to “be in union” with their bishop?

Prior to the Synod of the Baptized last Saturday, September 18, the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), the sponsoring organization, issued a press release announcing the Synod and its goals. The press release said in one paragraph:

Although CCCR currently works independently of the clerical leadership of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, it considers itself in union with Archbishop John Nienstedt and as working for church reform within the Catholic tradition. “The majority of coalition members are part of local parishes,” says co-chair Michael Bayly. “The dialogue we encourage and engage in is grounded in well-formed consciences – something our church values and expects.”

This paragraph elicited this curious response from Dennis McGrath, the Archdiocesan spokesman:

The fourth paragraph in your press release about tomorrow’s synod is absolutely untrue and was craftily phrased to give the impression that CCCR and this synod are “in union with Archbishop John Nienstedt.” That is, as you well know, patently untrue. CCCR is not “in union” with either the Archbishop nor the Archdiocese in any way, shape or form. That fact has been posted on our Archdiocesan web site since this past August and has been printed in the Catholic Spirit.

From the claim that some of CCCR’s “members” are also members of individual parishes does not justify the giant leap to conclude that CCCR is “in union” with this Archdiocese or its parishes in any way.

The decent thing for you to do would be to issue a correction of this claim, but since I presume that’s unlikely, we would ask you, on behalf of Archbishop Nienstedt, to refrain from making this kind of false claim again.

Dennis B. McGrath
Director of Communications
Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

Did we read that right? CCCR is not “in union” in any way, shape or form?

The Board members are Catholics; the people they were inviting to the Synod are Catholics; they live within the geographical jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. They look to Archbishop Nienstedt as the leader of their local church. If we are not mistaken Catholics have the right under canon law to found and direct associations and to hold meetings. So how can it be that CCCR is not in union in any way, shape or form?

The Coalition has never claimed to be an official agency of the Archdiocese. CCCR is not part of the Archdiocesan governmental structure. The paragraph referred to says as much. If that is what Dennis McGrath means by the phrase “in union” he is right.

But there is another sense of the phrase “in union” that does describe CCCR’s relationship to the Archbishop. This kind of “union” is both spiritual and juridical. It is a spiritual union by virtue of baptism and commitment to the Roman Catholic tradition, of which bishops are a constitutive part, by individuals who have organized themselves into an association, as is their canonical right, to understand and work for the mission of the Church. In this sense all Catholics of good standing in the local church are in union with the Archbishop. I wonder why Dennis McGrath denies this? It seems to be the theological basis for the unity of the universal Catholic Church.

There is a third sense of being “in union” that we all long for. It is the wholly spiritual condition enjoyed by people who are of one mind and heart with each other. It is the condition we desire when we want to “put on the heart and mind of the Christ Jesus.” Obviously Archbishop Nienstedt does not consider himself in union with CCCR in this sense. The tone and text of Dennis McGrath’s message indicate that. The tone and text of the denouncement in the Catholic Spirit he refers to indicate that also. It was published in August 2009 and reiterated on September 17, 2010, on the Archdiocesan website. I can’t speak for the whole of CCCR, but I and, I suspect, many people regret this lack of union and want to work together to heal the disunity through reasoning together with compassion. I would appreciate the Archbishop’s sending us a message about how this could happen.

The Progressive Catholic Voice is a member of the Coalition and it brings you the Coalition Board’s response to Dennis McGrath’s message:

The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform does not claim to be authorized by the Archbishop or the Archdiocesan office. It is not an official part of the Archdiocesan government or its agencies. Nevertheless, we, the individual members of the Coalition Board, consider ourselves in union with the Archbishop by virtue of our baptism and membership in the mystical body of Christ. We, both as individuals and as an organization, want to work with the Archbishop as head of our local church in its mission to be the sacrament of Christ in the world.


  1. Relevant Empowerment

    The Oregonian 9-25-10 articles on ‘Catholic women in Portland will answer the call’ and ‘Archbishop: Church not likely to allow ordination of women’ dwell on the issue of empowerment. If people want empowerment then seek knowledge!
    An institution that originated in the age of Greco-Roman mythology is an institution that desperately needs to seek some of the best of evolving human knowledge. For example, scientific biblical-historical scholarship such as Robert Funk’s and his associates’ The Acts of Jesus gives strong evidence that the probability is very low of an incarnation and resurrection of Jesus being actual facts. And yet these two doctrines are the indispensable foundation of Christianity; without them there is no Christianity. In 2010 we work with probabilities to support validity.
    Besides scientific research, advanced philosophical reasoning nudges our quest. For example, Robert Audi’s Belief Justification And Knowledge shows that a belief per se has to be evaluated. Does it have a memorial (from memory), an introspective (imaging), an inductive (general conclusion), an a priori (prior to observational experience) or a rational/reasoned basis? The scientific biblical-historical knowledge shows that there was no documented memory of a ‘resurrection’ of Jesus. But there is anecdotal data in the literature as to how the idea of a resurrection of Jesus came to be. The typical Christmas nativity legend as documentation of Jesus’ incarnation is pure myth. Did the habit of making myths from the Greco-Roman period simply continue into early Christianity’s doctrinal development?
    What about relevant science areas other than historical science, as well as philosophical reasoning, for example the issue surrounding the ‘faith and revelation’ circular argument?
    If the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy and the people, especially women, want empowerment then why not channel all that ‘protest energy’ into intellectual wealth called ‘knowledge’? Then the institution will evolve from an antiquated entity to an empowered faith and action phenomenon for the twenty-first century’s global imperative to save people and planet from the tipping point of ecological disaster that is staring directly and immediately at us.

    P.S. I was planning to send this to The Oregonian blog but technical difficulties prevented it;I send it on to you. Marie

  2. I give all of you so much adoration and credit for “sticking it out” in the Catholic Church and working for change. I was one of the many who bailed years ago and cannot bring myself to come back. I wish I had the fortitude and ambition to deal with the arrogant overtones that come from the hierarchy of the Church. More power to you, please keep up the good fight!!