Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Council of the Baptized Recommends Comeback for Archdiocesan Pastoral Council

Did you know that in our archdiocese in the 1970’s we had an elected Council to bring lay people and ordained people into communication with each other?

Communication — without it there is no such thing as church. No communication, and there is no spiritual growth, no stable organization, no flow of energy and joy. The Holy Spirit is all about communication.

Since January 17, 2012 we have had a Council of the Baptized initiated by lay people of the archdiocese to set up some channels of communication. Their first publication was sent to Archbishop John C. Nienstedt on January 17, 2013. It is a recommendation from the people asking the Archbishop, who is by canon law the chief decision-maker for the local church, to bring back an elected Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.

The APC in the 70’s was a response to the directives of the Second Vatican Council to the bishops to consult with the people of the church. In the Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church (Christus Dominus, 1965), the Council bishops say “It is highly desirable that in every diocese a special pastoral council be established…to investigate, to consider, and to formulate practical conclusion about those things which pertain to pastoral work” (CD 27).

All the questions raised by people during the 2010 strategic planning process are “things which pertain to pastoral work.” Why are people not going to Mass? Why is there a shortage of priests? What can be done about the divisions in our community?

The position paper recommending a new APC is available on request here.


Following is the Council of the Baptized's January 18, 2013 media release about its call for the re-establishment of a Pastoral Council within the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Contacts: Karin Grosscup (612-825-4069) and Terry Griep (651-457-4339)
Email: info@councilofthebaptized.org.

Council of Baptized Calls for Re-establishment
of Pastoral Council

Citing historical documents, including a 1967 letter from then-Archbishop Leo Binz of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and earlier Catholic Church practices that included a Pastoral Council, the Council of the Baptized recommends that leaders in the archdiocese of today, including Archbishop John Nienstedt, re-establish an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.

The Pastoral Council would be a collegial association of laity, clergy and hierarchy, whose purpose would be to facilitate communication among all baptized Catholics and to consult in pastoral planning to better serve the mission of the Church. In a researched position paper, completed in December 2012, the Council of the Baptized said that in "recommending the re-establishment of an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, we include specific structural elements, such as elected membership, open agenda and open meetings to ensure the Council’s sustainability."

Support for a Pastoral Council can be found in the following:

• Scripture and the practice of the early church.

• Documents of Vatican II and subsequent papal documents.

• Code of Canon Law 1983.

• Contemporary best management practices.

• Precedent of an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and evident current need.

In summarizing the above practices and documentation, it is significant to emphasize that a diocesan Pastoral Council was in place between 1967 and 2005. According to reports from participants, the council of the 1970s and 80s was one of "two-way communication." However, in the late 1990s a shift took place, and according to reports from participants in later councils, the selection process for council members deteriorated and the workings of the Council faltered. That council did not function well and ended in the period of 2004-2005 without an official decree of termination.

It should be noted that in 2010-2011 Archbishop John Nienstedt appointed an ad hoc advisory task force for strategic planning. The fact sheet, dated June 2009, on which this planning process was purportedly based showed a growing Catholic population, increase in socio-economic and ethnic diversity, but dwindling financial support, Mass attendance, and participation by youths. The fact sheet cited fewer clergy available for parish service also. This first phase of planning produced parish mergers, clusters, and closings and school closings in an effort to streamline the delivery of services. The details of this strategic planning initiative are on the Archdiocesan website.

The strategic planning uncovered a host of challenges besetting the local Catholic Church. Reestablishing an elected Archdiocesan Pastoral Council offers a way to engage representatives of all parts of the church’s life to address these challenges and similar questions. Such a council will provide a vehicle for communication among laity, clergy, and hierarchy, necessary for the nature and mission of Church.

Such a council must meet the following structural criteria:

• Elected membership: Lay men and women, diverse as to ethnicity, geography, theologies, and sexual orientation, shall participate in open elections in parishes, deaneries, and other associations to select Pastoral Council membership;

• Open agendas: All members are free to submit agenda items and receive agenda items from the Catholic faithful;

• Strategic coherence: Representation from other consultative bodies must be sufficient to ensure coherence in Archdiocesan pastoral planning;

• Transparency: All Council meetings shall be open to observers.

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