Organizers of a “Synod of the Baptized,” entitled “Claiming Our Place at the Table,” hope to inspire local Catholics to take action for what they see as much-needed church reform. Scheduled to take place tomorrow, Saturday, September 18, at the Ramada Plaza Minneapolis Hotel, the synod is expected to draw 500 people.
“Our goal is to energize ourselves to work at reforming those church structures and practices that fail to manifest the love that Jesus lived and taught,” says Paula Ruddy, one of three co-chairs of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), the organization planning the synod.
“Most Catholics sense that things are not right with their church,” says co-chair Bernie Rodel. “Synod 2010 will offer concrete ways for us to move forward in the difficult but essential work of church reform.”
The synod will feature Professor Paul Lakeland, Director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University, CT. Lakeland, the author of The Liberation of the Laity and Catholicism at the Crossroads, will deliver a keynote address entitled “The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission.”
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.”
In addition, the Coalition is willing and open to working with all Catholics in restoring trust, confidence, and allegiance to church doctrines, practices, and policies. However, based on the Catholic understanding of reception, the Coalition believes that this can only happen when all members of the church have an active role in the ongoing development, clarification, and articulation of church laws, norms and values.
“Such a process requires a model of church that embodies community, participation and dialogue,” says Ruddy. It’s also a model, the Coalition insists, that was put forward by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s but which has, in the years since, been undermined and downplayed by some within the church’s clerical leadership in an attempt to return to a pre-Vatican II model – one that discourages, even forbids, dialogue around certain issues.
CCCR’s reform efforts seek to emphasize Vatican II’s spirit of dialogue and reform, primarily by envisioning and working toward a church that “radiates Jesus’ core teaching of radical equality, unabashed inclusivity and transforming love.”
“We take to heart Vatican II’s call on the laity to play an active role in the dynamic process of discernment, decision-making and reception of laws,” says Ruddy. “It’s a process that’s an important part of our Catholic tradition and one that requires honest dialogue. We want to keep the conversation open and include everyone in the discussion.”
Throughout the church of St. Paul-Minneapolis, this discussion is well underway. For the pat year-and-a-half, small groups of Catholics have been gathering in CCCR-sponsored “work/study groups” and focusing on areas of church practice that many see as disconnected from Jesus’ message of love, justice and inclusivity. These areas of practice include Bishop Selection, Church Authority and Governance, Church as a Community of Equals, Mandatory Celibacy/Clericalism, Catholic/Christian Identity, Emerging Church, Faith Formation of Children and Youth, Catholic Spirituality, Social Justice, and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. At the September 18 synod, the work/study groups will present and facilitate discussion around recommended practices and actions for reform.
The synod will also serve as a launch pad for ongoing action. “A special Action Coordinating Team (ACT) will be commissioned,” says Ruddy, “and synod attendees will have the opportunity to sign up to become part of the action as together we take the synod’s recommendations for reform out to our families, parishes and communities.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” says Rodel. “And we trust that it is the Spirit that is leading us to be the church that Jesus envisioned – a community that welcomes and nurtures all.”
The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform’s 2010 synod will take place on Saturday, September 18 (8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.) at the Ramada Plaza Hotel (1330 Industrial Blvd., Minneapolis, MN). For more information, visit www.cccrmn.org.