Monday, July 25, 2011

Talking About Disconnects: One Response to Archbishop Nienstedt’s Letter of July 18

By Paula Ruddy

It has come to the attention of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform that Archbishop John C. Nienstedt has written a letter dated July 18 to the priests of the Archdiocese cautioning them, as well as the Catholic faithful, “against participating . . . or otherwise supporting the CCCR and its efforts.” You can read the letter here.

CCCR’s efforts consist in Listening Sessions throughout the archdiocese and the launching of a Council of the Baptized at Synod 2011 on September 17. A fundraiser for these efforts is scheduled for August 2 at Lake Elmo Park Reserve.

The purpose of all our efforts is to be active participants in the mission of the Church which we take to be growth in the Christ life as individuals and as a community with the responsibility to manifest that life to the world. Our responsibility is direct service to and in the world, but it is also to help create an institutional Church culture that is a sacrament of the Gospel in the world.

The Archbishop is correct that we are trying to create a “structure of authority within the Church.” The Council of the Baptized is intended to be a structure to discern the sense of the faithful and to communicate it to each other and to our ordained leaders. We claim authority from our baptisms and from our lived experience of the faith. We have something to contribute. Our contribution does not “stand against” the authority of the bishops, the pope, the constitutions of Vatican II. Rather, we think we are also authorized by our tradition to think and to speak.

The Archbishop affirms our aspirations as valid: “to be a prophetic sign in and for the world, to promote justice and reconciliation in the Church, and to facilitate courageous and honest dialogue.” Then he makes it very clear that it is the responsibility of bishops and the pope to “to respond to the issues raised by the CCCR.”

How can the issues be raised if we are to sit down and be quiet as well as to be shunned by our pastors in the Archdiocese and by our brothers and sisters in the Church?

The Archbishop seems to think that the issues and the answers are all pre-existing, enshrined in crystal clear, logically and experientially unquestionable writings of a pope in communion with all bishops somewhere in the abstract. No discussion necessary.

We, however, think that the experience of faith is individual and communal and grows through communication and in specific contexts. What a community believes is a continuous process of communication among the faithful — all of us together — people who live the life, theologians, and the ordained leadership whose job it is to listen, articulate, and teach.

How can we reassure the Archbishop that we want to work with him?

Click here to register for Synod 2011.

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