Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pope Francis is Going to Be Heard

By brooklynbadboy


Note: This commentary was first published November 29, 2013 by Daily Kos.


Pope Francis is the only head of state in the world
talking about inequality & poverty, writes
brooklynbadboy.


The global economic establishment has a dissenter in the ranks, and his stature can only grow.

No election chicanery can remove him from office. He can't be pushed out with ad money or astroturfing. A head of state with no term limits that any mortal can impose.

The global heads of state, ranked by numbers of twitter followers:

• President Obama: 40,267,391

• Abdullah Gul (Turkish President): 3,971,690

• Pope Francis: 3,305,355

Nobody else is even over a million.

President Obama will leave power in just over three years. So will President Abdullah. But, God willing, Pope Francis will still be here. And he's gaining every day. He's got over three times the followers Hillary Clinton has.

While possessing little in the military power, financial might, or industrial capability relative to other nation-states, the Bishop of Rome has one thing that few heads of state today can't match: a life appointment coupled with a global organization. That's enough to begin to plant the seeds for a realignment of power in poor people all over the world.

Somewhere out there among the future leaders of the world, there are people being moved by Francis' words. The Holy Father is casting a wide net to find as many as he can.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Actions to Take to Be the Church We Want to See

By Paula Ruddy and Mary Jane Mitchell


The 250 people drawn to Pax Christi in Eden Prairie Thursday, November 21, spoke up loud and clear about the official church leadership’s handling of sex abuse perpetrated by clergy. They want a change in leadership and a change in Church policies and practices, i.e., structural change.

Voice of the Faithful Twin Cities (VOTF-TC) sponsored the event. National VOTF was established years ago in Boston in response to the sex abuse handling by the bishops. It has three goals: 1) support of victims of sex abuse in the church; 2) support of good priests; and 3)church reform. The Twin Cities affiliate has concentrated on goals 1 and 2, supporting victims of abuse and priests of integrity, because, as local chair Suzanne Severson, said, there are other groups in this archdiocese, like Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) and Call to Action-MN (CTA-MN), already focusing on goal 3, church reform. Shari Steffen and Tim Power are VOTF-TC organizers with Suzanne.

CCCR members present November 21 at Pax Christi felt challenged because we heard the people’s overwhelmingly thoughtful, determined, and passionate interest in church reform. VOTF-TC’s direct support of victims of abuse is much appreciated, and their support should be backed up with church leadership and structures that ensure a stop to victimizing in the first place. People said church leadership should stop re-victimizing abused men and women who seek help and should proactively reach out to support their healing.

There was a show of hands about whether the current Archbishop can provide this leadership, and it looked like a unanimous NO.

Besides the alleged sex abuse cover-up, people brought up other reasons for distrust of this Archbishop. There is the issue of John Nienstedt’s ideological stance in matters of policy and practice. What does it mean to be Catholic? Who may speak? Where may people meet? What may be discussed? How should Catholic citizens approach law-making for all citizens in a pluralistic society?


We Can Do Something About It!

The CCCR board of directors is a 17 member group of stout-hearted volunteers who have resource teams of like-hearted people. But we need help. If you have ideas, time and energy to spend, please call us at (612) 379-1043.

We have two campaigns underway that you can help with — one internal to the church and one external.


Our Internal Campaign

We do not want to go from the frying pan into the fire in archdiocesan leadership. Who will we get as Archbishop if John Nienstedt steps down or gets moved in the near future? Even if John Nienstedt stays on, we have to move now for the future. We want to have a people’s voice in who the next Archbishop will be. CCCR's Bishop Selection Task Force is designing a campaign to address this concern.

As a first and immediate step in having a voice, we ask you to write to the Papal Nuncio, telling him that we need leadership, preferably a local priest, who has the ability to pull our archdiocese together to do the work of the Gospel. If you have a person in mind who can do that, or if you have an opinion about the kind of person you want for a leader, write to:

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó
3339 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington DC 20008


The Nuncio is a direct path to appointments of bishops. The ultimate decision-maker for appointment of bishops under current Canon Law is the Pope. Candidates are presented to him by the Papal Nuncio, the Vatican ambassador to the U.S., through a committee in the Vatican. Though bishops can also send their nominations directly to the Vatican, the Papal Nuncio’s list of three candidates is the main way priests get named to the role of bishop.

Form letters are not effective, we are told. Write from your heart, and let us know you have written by e-mailing us at info@cccrmn.org.


Our External Campaign

We believe the church we want to see organizes for justice in the world and that organizing Catholics for external issues helps them to organize for internal issues. We are working with OutFront Minnesota and others on the Safe and Supportive Schools legislation to prevent bullying in schools. The Archbishop is the chief opponent of this legislation, even though private schools are exempt. We want the legislators to know that all Catholic voters are not in line with the Minnesota Catholic Conference agenda to defeat the anti-bullying bill. Bullying, being bullied, and watching bullying all teach children the way to get along in this world. To help school personnel counter a violent culture we need the legislation proposed. Check it out here.

Save this Date: Sunday, December 8, 2013. Kick-off Rally for this Campaign. Join CCCR members at South High in Minneapolis, 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. We will post details on the PCV and through email in the week of November 25.

Thanks!


CCCR Bishop Selection Task Force members Paula Ruddy and Mary Jane Mitchell attended the November 21 meeting at Pax Christi, Eden Prairie.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lay Groups Launch Surveys to Answer Vatican Questionnaire

By Brian Roewe


Note: This article was first published November 16 by the National Catholic Reporter.


While U.S. bishops consider how best and how broad to collect information ahead of a 2014 global bishops' meeting on family issues, several lay Catholic groups took the task into their own hands.

In mid-November, a coalition of 15 church reform groups – primarily members of Catholic Organizations for Renewal – created an online survey for U.S. Catholics to offer their thoughts on the preparatory document to the 2014 Synod of Bishops, which will focus on the theme of "pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization."

Before the coalition announced the survey, Marianne Duddy-Burke told NCR that the idea emerged from a concern that the U.S. episcopacy would not consult with lay Catholics as they compiled their responses.

"This is a chance for people to have their voice heard," said Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, one of the sponsoring organizations.

Other sponsors include the American Catholic Council, Call to Action, FutureChurch, Voice of the Faithful, the Women's Ordination Conference and Fortunate Families.

The survey, hosted online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/SynodOnFamilyUS, will remain open for response through Dec. 15. At that point, the coalition will compile and send the responses to four prelates: Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops; Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, papal nuncio to the U.S.; Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the American representative on Pope Francis' Council of Cardinals; and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., the newly elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The U.S. bishops' conference has set Dec. 31 as a deadline for response from its members, in order to meet the Vatican's request for a summary by the end of January.

Others have launched similar surveys, including the bishops of England and Wales and of Belgium.

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good on Nov. 1 launched its version (papalsurvey.com) in English and Spanish, sending it to its 30,000 members and posting it online. As of Nov. 12, more than 3,000 people had completed the survey, with more than half of the respondents coming from outside the nonprofit's network.

"We're really trying to make this an articulation of the American Catholic church," Christopher Hale, a senior fellow with Catholics in Alliance, told NCR. He said the survey will remain open as long as a steady flow of people continue to respond.

So far, results have shown respondents giving the church adequate marks on teaching about marriage and the family, although with a too narrow, sex-focused scope. Others noted plentiful resources for engaged couples, but fewer for those already married and struggling. The survey also showed mixed responses in outreach to gay persons, same-sex couples, and the divorced and separated, and a consistent call for a church of mercy.

The survey efforts followed news reports Oct. 31 that the Vatican had sought broad feedback before the 2014 synod. The themes outlined by Baldisseri in the preparatory document touched on "many new situations requiring the Church's attention and pastoral care": mixed or interreligious marriages; single-parent families; views of marriage as temporary; reformulations of the family concept; and media and current cultural influences on the understanding of marriage and family life.

The attached questionnaire expanded these areas into other corners of modern-day family life: the acceptance of natural law concerning marriage and church teaching on family planning; marriage preparation efforts; the reality of cohabitation, separated and divorced-and-remarried couples; and pastoral attention to same-sex couples, marriages and families.

Both the Catholics in Alliance and coalition surveys tweak the original language in their respective surveys to make it more accessible to ordinary Catholics, decisions that have drawn some criticism. Duddy-Burke responded that the coalition survey was less about the data and more about the feedback the open-ended questions elicited.

"What is really going to be heard here is sort of the cries of the people, in some ways when they are talking about their pastoral needs and where they are seeing them being met, and where they're not being met through the church structure," she said.

While the Vatican document was theological in nature, the Catholics in Alliance survey is pastoral, Hale said, as well as comprehensible to a large number of people.

"This is not a poll on doctrinal issues. This is a survey on pastoral experiences," he said, adding that it hopes to highlight the experiences of Catholics in the pews.

The Catholics in Alliance survey condensed the Vatican questionnaire's nine areas and 39 questions into eight questions organized into four areas: the church and family life; outreach to divorced and separated persons; outreach to same-sex couples and gay persons; and being a church of mercy and of welcome.

While the volume of responses has not surprised Hale, some of the answers they've contained have.

"People are really thinking deeply about these issues and want to contribute," he said.

That includes Kristen, 34, of Norman, Okla., who prepared for marriage with her husband at their local parish. After a few years, though, they experienced a "sophomore slump" and found their parish offered little assistance in coping.

"We were prepared well for the wedding, but not for the ups and downs of married life," she said in her response. "We went to an evangelical church nearby to get some help and found it. It would have been great to instead find that kind of help in our own Catholic parish."

Kristen's response showed Hale that when Catholic parishes and priests fail in fulfilling their people's spiritual needs, they'll turn to other sources. Still, a broad theme throughout has shown that the respondents desire to find a space for themselves and others in the church.

"The biggest message I've got from this was American Catholics want to work together with their leadership in moving the church forward," he said.

As part of that, organizers at Catholics in Alliance hope their survey provides a model for bishops to use in their dioceses. A handful of bishops already have begun conversations with Catholics in Alliance, and some dioceses have promoted the survey through their social media channels.

Whether the surveys and ensuing synod result in demonstrable changes in the church remains to be seen, but so far, the discussion surrounding them has brought an unexpected energy around a typically mundane meeting.

"The fact that these questions are being raised, and there seems to be an opportunity to talk about pastoral needs of people in real situations is very exciting for Catholics," Duddy-Burke said.

Some have taken the call for input as a call to return to the church, responses have shown. In that way, Hale said the surveys have become vehicles of the new evangelization.

"Pope Francis has made it clear that the voice of every Catholic matters in the church, no matter how often they practice the faith, there's a home for them here, and we want to re-invite them," he said.

Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. His email address is broewe@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Letter to Archbishop Nienstedt from the "People in the Pews"

Editor's Note: "The People in the Pews" is a lay-led effort within the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis initiated in response to the ongoing clergy sex abuse and cover-up scandals emanating from the leadership of the local institutional church.

The People in the Pews initiative invites Catholics to express the need for change, their deep desire for healing and forgiveness, and their hope for a better future by signing the following letter to Archbishop John C. Nienstedt.


Dear Archbishop Nienstedt,

We are the people in the pews. We are the sea of faces you see at confirmations. We serve lunch in the gym after funerals for people we don’t know and we serve communion alongside our priests. We teach religion classes and we work the school carnival. We help with clothing and food drives. We are the ushers, committee members and envelope stuffers. We are the set-up team and the clean-up team. When the plate is passed or the rectory needs a new roof or the archdiocese makes an appeal, we give.

We have been taught well by our Church. We know right from wrong. We also know that every moment of every day we must do everything we can to protect our children. But somehow our leadership has taken a different course. For decades, you and your predecessors have tried to balance the protection of our children with the protection of your priestly reputations. Now, it is obvious you have done neither. So we are left to explain to our children, neighbors and friends how we can believe in a Church that acts in ways so contrary to what it professes. So, we have lost faith in our local church’s leadership, but not in our Church or our Lord.

We believe that now is the time for healing, which begins with your resignation. Quite simply, the trust and confidence you once enjoyed are gone and will not return. You can no longer lead because we can no longer follow. We believe our energies and financial resources can no longer be spent defending the indefensible.

In the end, we are the people who will do the healing. We will be the ones to pay the lawsuits, comfort and support the abused, invite our neighbors and friends back into the Church they once loved and strive to forgive all those responsible.

Archbishop, we encourage you to act swiftly so that we may swiftly bring healing to our community.

Yours in Christ,

The People in the Pews


To join the growing number of Catholics
signing this letter, click here.


See also the previous PCV posts:
In the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, "Regime Change is Not Enough"
The Best Path for Archbishop Nienstedt is to Step Aside
Healing Can't Start Until the Knife is Removed from the Wound
A Call for the Resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt
Priest Demands Nienstedt Explain Handling of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Archbishop Nienstedt Does "Boilerplate PR"
To Regain Trust, Twin Cities Archdiocese Will Have to Come Clean
Catholic Coalition for Church Reform Votes No Confidence in the Leadership of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
Can the Archdiocese Continue Under the Leadership of John C. Nienstedt?


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The 'Francis Effect': Five Ways the Pope is Resuscitating the Catholic Church

.

Pope Francis is drawing admirers in & out of the church,
but he's making a quantifiable difference, too.


By Peter Weber


Note: This article was first published November 12, 2013 by The Week.


Pope Francis has won converts — at least metaphorically — around the globe. His conspicuous humility, kindness, willingness to engage with critics and admirers alike, apparent lack of verbal inhibitions, and relaxed doctrinal orthodoxy make for a big stylistic change from his two predecessors and their combined 25 years as pope. Not everyone is a fan of Francis, but the response has been largely, even enthusiastically, positive.

With an organization as old and structurally conservative as the Catholic Church, it can be hard to measure concrete change. But Pope Francis is making such an impression that observers have come up with a name for the impact he's having on the church: The "Francis effect." Here are five ways the pope is shaking up the Catholic Church:


1. The pope is filling back up the pews

Pope Francis is charming non-Catholics, and even a few atheists, but on Monday Italy's Center for the Study of New Religions (CENSUR) showed that he's quite popular with Catholics, too. CENSUR sociologist Massimo Introvigne found that after Francis was elected pope in March, more than half of the 250 priests in Italy he interviewed reported a significant boost in attendance numbers as disenchanted Catholics started to return to mass.

"If we project those results nationally, and if only half the parishes and communities in Italy have been touched by the Francis effect, then we're talking about hundreds of thousands of people who are returning," Introvigne tells The Guardian. He adds that he noticed a rise in attendance right after Francis was elected, and assumed it might be fleeting, "but after six months I got more or less the same result."

Introvigne tells The Guardian that the "Francis effect" is being felt in Britain, too, where an impressive 65 percent of 22 cathedrals are reporting fuller pews in the age of Pope Francis.

There isn't any data available for the U.S. yet. But John Gehring at CNN says in a country where nearly 1 in 10 Americans is a lapsed Catholic, you can "almost hear the ice cracking around a generation of disillusioned Christians who have a hard time finding Jesus frozen under ostentatious ecclesial trappings and hypocritical moralizing." Pope Francis can't refill America's pews by himself, but "against stiff winds he is steering in the right direction," Gerhring adds.

If the Catholic Church hopes to inspire lapsed Catholics and others to embrace the faith with renewed vigor, it will require a radical return to the essence of Christianity. Gospel means "good news." A smiling, good-humored pope stands in stark contrast to those dour-faced religious leaders who act as gloomy scolds and spy threats around every corner. [CNN]


2. Francis is taking pruning shears to the Vatican bureaucracy

The Roman Curia, or papal court at the Vatican, is a bureaucrat's bureaucracy, its ossification and entrenched power legendary. Pope Francis — the first non-European pope in centuries — is taking steps to reduce its reach and clean house. First, he ramped up transparency at the Vatican's super-secretive bank, the Institute for Religious Works. He's also talking about decentralizing power to national bishops' conferences. "The court is the leprosy of the papacy," the pope told Italian newspaper La Repubblica in September.

With Francis in the Vatican "there is something in the Roman air," says Karl Stuebe at Britain's Catholic Herald. Catholic conservatives need not fear that he'll upend longstanding doctrine. No, "the real effect is that the Vatican, that hauntingly complex curial closet of secrets, becoming like a model diocese, abbey, or parish."


3. Even the name Francis is staging a comeback

Since March, Francesco has become the most popular baby name in Italy, according to Enzo Caffarelli at Rome's Tor Vergata University. (Sorry, former No. 1, Lorenzo.) Is that really the pope's doing? Yes, says Caffarelli. "The name 'Francesco' is the most popular name for newborns in Italy so far in 2013, and it is evident that the impact of the former Jose Mario Bergoglio is the main contributing factor to the name's new popularity."

There's also been an sizable uptick in the number of public places named for Pope Francis' namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. Some 300 parks, piazzas, and other public places have been named after San Francesco, bringing the total number in Italy to more than 2,000.


4. Pope Francis is changing America's Catholic hierarchy

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is meeting in Balitmore this week to pick a new leader for the next three years. And "the more than 200 prelates will also be looking over their heads — and maybe their shoulders — to the Vatican to gauge what Pope Francis' dramatic new approach means for their future," says David Gibson at Religion News Service.

Francis won't change the U.S. episcopacy overnight, adds Gibson, but he's already having an impact on the USCCB.

The so-called "Francis Effect" is showing up in various ways, as some culture-warrior bishops have moderated their language on gays or shifted their emphasis to issues such as immigration. On the other side, bishops who have struggled for years to highlight the church's social justice teachings are getting a new hearing. [RNS]

On Tuesday, the bishops elected Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., as their next president, replacing New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Kurtz "comes from a background in social work and provision of social services," says Joshua J. McElwee at the National Catholic Reporter. Dolan's tenure, by contrast, was marked by fighting the implementation of ObamaCare, "which the cardinal repeatedly said did not leave enough room for Catholic employers from providing contraceptive services," says McElwee.


5. He writes letters and phones people personally

Pope Francis is famous for unexpectedly calling people up to offer his support, or condolences, or even set up an interview. Here's how Eugenio Scalfari, former editor of Italy's La Repubblica (and an atheist), recalls his first interaction with the pope, over the telephone:

I answered, and he simply said: 'Good morning, it's Pope Francis. You wrote me a letter in which you said you would have liked to meet me and get to know me, so here I am. Let's book an appointment. Is Tuesday OK with you? The time is a bit of a pain, 3 p.m. . . . is that OK?'... In 60 years of career as a journalist, I interviewed many important people, and I became friends with some of them. But I never thought I could feel I would become a friend of a pope. [Scalfari, to NBC News]

But while his proclivity for ringing up random strangers has earned Francis the nickname "the Cold Call Pope," he also is a pretty proficient pen pal, says Bob Shine at the National Catholic Reporter. In fact, one letter from a Florence-based gay rights group, Kairos, "prompted the pope's recent warm remarks on gay people," Shine adds. If the pope is listening, and responding, "everyone should be writing letters to Rome."

If reaching out to the pope is effective, perhaps it is time for Catholics to reach out to their local church leaders, namely priests and bishops. Sharing personal stories to replace philosophical constructs with human faces and relationships might lead to further conversions.... Francis' pen-and-paper revolution is truly radical, and transforms hierarchy into personal relationships. It offers each of us a moment to speak to the pope and bishops as if they are our own parish priests. [NCR]

Monday, November 11, 2013

Quote of the Day

The bishops realize that they themselves are going to have to change their tone if they are to become more inclusive and complement the new tone coming from Pope Francis and the Vatican. There is definitely something going on here: The American hierarchy is going to have to change its style or be left behind.

Mathew Schmalz
(Religious Studies Professor, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass.)
Quoted in Rachel Zoll's article,
"Pope's Rep: US Bishops Shouldn't Preach Ideology"
Associated Press
November 11, 2013


UPDATES:
Bishops Select Two Leaders Who Reflect New Tone Set by Pope – Laurie Goodstein (New York Times, November 12, 2013).
U.S. Catholic Bishops' New Leaders Concerned with Poor – Mary Wisniewski (Reuters, November 12, 2013).


See also the previous PCV post:
U.S. Bishops to Select Leaders as Pope Urges New Focus

Related Off-site Links:
Apostolic Nuncio to USCCB: Be Pastoral, Not Ideological – Grant Gallicho (Commonweal, November 11, 2013).
Who Really Benefits from the Constant Use of Gays as a USCCB/GOP Wedge Issue? – Colleen Kochivar-Baker (Enlightened Catholicism, November 8, 2013).
As Catholic Bishops Meet, Culture Wars Trump Poverty – John Gehring (Time, November 7, 2013).
Pastoral Priorities from Pope Francis for the US Bishops – Thomas Reese (National Catholic Reporter, November 7, 2013).
Imbalance Between Francis, U.S. Bishops Undermines Religious Liberty Campaign – David DeCosse (National Catholic Reporter, October 23, 2013).


Sunday, November 10, 2013

In the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, "Regime Change is Not Enough"

.

By Bob Beutel

Note: On November 9, 2013 approximately 200 Catholics gathered outside the chancery of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis to call on Archbishop John C. Nienstedt to resign. One of the speakers at this event was Bob Beutel (right), co-chair of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR). Following is the transcript of Bob's speech.


We are here today to express the faithful’s loss of confidence in the administration of Archbishop John Nienstedt and to ask for his resignation.

We won’t recite the litany of our issues with him, but they can be summarized as followed:

He sows division among Catholics and among the public at large by excluding members of the GLBT community, women, abuse victims,and critics.

He intimidates his priests, his staffers, his critics, and the victims and survivors of clergy sex abuse.

He wastes our money on partisan political campaigns and holds himself unaccountable despite a pledge to be transparent.

He has embarrassed and shamed our holy Church.

Why should we not just pray for healing and be nice to everyone? Wounds do not heal until the knife has been pulled out.

But regime change is not enough. John Nienstedt is not the root of the evils in our church. He is the product of a culture of clericalism that holds priests and bishops to be special, to be immune from temptation and hence free from committing evil. It's a culture that holds that the church is inerrant and incorruptible.

We know now beyond any doubt that priests and bishops are as human as the rest of us. They are capable of outstanding good and of despicable evil. They are subject to the same weaknesses such as fear, cowardice, and fear of exposure.

We further know that ordination does not confer a supernatural ability to manage, govern, or serve. These must be learned and one who is lacking must “borrow” the talents, wisdom, and experience from those who do have them: lay people, women, and critics.

No diocese, no parish can flourish unless it truly incorporates the faithful in its governance and decision making.

So where are we now? We are beyond bishop bashing, although they surely deserve it. We are beyond hand-wringing, beyond saying that “there is nothing we can do”, or “I am so afraid.” We are not going to dump it all on Pope Frances to accomplish all the changes necessary. We are well into asserting our rights and duties as adult Christians. We did it when we defeated the 'Marriage Amendment' and passed the Equal Marriage bill. We did it when we opened the statute of limitations on abuse claims. And we will do it again when we pass the Anti-Bullying bill and when we force the Archdiocese to open its books and budgeting. We'll know we've done it again when the Archdiocese reestablishes the Pastoral Council, a body that is truly representative, truly free from clerical interference, and truly respected and listened to.

And in so many ways that say 'We don’t re-victimize our abused children' and 'We treat everyone with compassion and respect,' we hold our clerical leaders, the bishops and the pastors, to the highest standards and expectations. We say 'the Church' and we mean not just the hierarchy but all of us. We are the Church.

Here's what each of us must do today:

1. Contact the Papal Nuncio [Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó at 3339 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC, 20008] to cast your vote of no confidence, and to tell him what kind of person should be our Archbishop and what your expectations are.

2. Divert your contributions, not just withhold them, and tell your pastor and the bishop why you are not giving and where your money is now going. It could be to organizations like CCCR, SNAP or Call to Action-MN.

3. Talk to your legislators and let them know that the bishops’ opposition to the Anti-Bullying bill does not reflect what the faithful believe is Christ-like behavior.

4. Talk to your friends and relatives about what you hear and read and what they can do to make our church the People of God described by the Second Vatican Council.


_________________________________________


Following are images by Progressive Catholic Voice editor Michael Bayly of November 9's event at the chancery calling for the resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt.



The November 9 gathering at the chancery opened with the following prayer written by Susan Creel and Michael Bayly.

Lord of Love, we gather today united in the love and sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ. We come together in our need for healing, justice, and authentic leadership in our local church. We gather to pray in a spirit of common purpose and humanity.

• For the victims and survivors of abuse in our Archdiocese, those who are known and those known only to you, may they know the compassion and tender mercy of all members of the church and may they experience empowerment and healing in their lives. We pray . . . Lord, hear our prayer.

• For the children in our Archdiocese, that we may work and pray on their behalf to build a church where all are treasured for who they are and protected from all forms of discrimination, bullying, and abuse. We pray . . . Lord, hear our prayer.

• For those in positions of leadership within our local church, that they may learn to always place the needs and concerns of people before institutional prestige and reputation. We pray . . . Lord, hear our prayer.

Loving God, we pray for the courage, fortitude and vision to walk together, bonded by our common Baptism and by our Humanity. Laity, ordained, and vowed together in the common goals of justice and healing. We pray for the strength to cry out with one voice united so that justice will be done. We pray in the name of the Love that creates, the Love that liberates, and the Love that makes whole. Amen.











Eric Fought, a master of divinity candidate at Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, and a former seminarian and member of a Roman Catholic religious order, was another speaker at the November 9 event at the chancery. In the picture above he is shown being interviewed by Rachel Slavik of WCCO 4 News.

“It’s up to us as the laity to step forward and say ‘enough is enough,’” Fought told Slavik. “It’s time for some profound action, and the action that the archbishop needs to take is to step aside.”



During his speech, Eric Fought noted that:

While I am a member of a parish of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, I in no way serve as an adviser to John Nienstedt, its archbishop. However, if I did, I would advise him to take swift action for the benefit of the organization that he has been called to lead.

That swift action would include his resignation, and his own willingness to cooperate fully with both civil and ecclesial authorities.

If we are to be fully honest with ourselves, we would acknowledge that if John Nienstedt served in a leadership capacity with any organization other than the Roman Catholic Church, such action would have been taken by now. However, the archbishop does serve the church, an organization with a long, painful and unfortunate history of covering up and enabling the criminal behavior of a segment of its clergy — a history that must come to an end.

And, let’s be clear: These matters are not “old news” that are simply being brought to the public for reconsideration by the media or others. In recent weeks, new allegations of abuse and the cover-up of abuse have been brought forward by independent journalists and authorities — cover-up directly orchestrated with Neinstedt’s knowledge and often through his own actions.

In recent years, Archbishop Nienstedt has been focused almost solely on an unsuccessful personal crusade to prevent Minnesotans in loving and committed same-sex relationships from having the freedom to marry. He has divided not only the church but also our entire state. He has squandered resources entrusted to his care — resources offered for the betterment of Minnesotans, not hate-filled politics. He turned the chancery into a campaign war room, the pulpit into a beacon of division and distrust.

If Nienstedt had spent a fraction of the time and energy he has spent in his tireless campaign against the freedom to marry in Minnesota on addressing the crisis at his feet involving the health and safety of Minnesota’s children, he might find himself at a different place in history. Unfortunately, that is not the case. His place in history will forever be marked with disgrace and shame.


To read Eric's November 6 MinnPost article, "The Best Path for Archbishop Nienstedt is to Step Aside," click here.


Left: Virginia Meuers was also a speaker at the November 9 event calling for the resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt.

Meuers, whose husband was abused by a priest, told those gathered that: "We have to have closure to this and I think it means that Archbishop Nienstedt has to leave and we have to have some new fresh air in order to bring any kind of healing."




Above: Bob Beutel, co-chair of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), the primary organizing group of the November 9 event calling for the resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt.



Above: Bob Schwiderski (right) and Shawn Plocher of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Plocher, who was sexually abused by a priest in 1986, said: “Who can you trust when you were abused by a person of God in the House of God? Something needs to change.”

Abused at the age of 13, Plocher says he’s spent his life fighting for justice that never came. “It’s been a cover up . . . and this has been going on for a very long time,” he said.

Speaking to the crowd gathered in front of the chancery, Bob Schwiderski, the director of the Minnesota chapter of SNAP, said:

The safety of children, civil justice, and healing for survivors of sexual abuse is paramount to the members and supporters of SNAP. Our child safety and victim justice message is proven day after day, month after month and year after year. Yet, the Catholic dioceses are in need of deceit-ending credibility and bold good faith actions.

We spent $zero over 15 years – publicly sharing painful truths to help establish the Minnesota Child Victims Act. Over Nienstedt's twelve years in Minnesota, he has supported and spent over $1,255,415 in opposition to what many are calling the nation's leading child protection civil law.

As we witnessed this week, the Minnesota Supreme Court determined "Religion is No Defense for Criminal Sexual Conduct." Archbishop Nienstedt's actions and inactions are a perfect storm of recklessness, callousness, deceit, and child endangerment.

• It's reckless to let proven serial child predator and sexually exploitive priests live unreported and unsupervised among unsuspecting children and families.

• It's callous to give proven serial predator priests bonus pay.

• And it's deceitful to do all this secretly, without telling victims, parishioners, parents, the public.

Resignation? Yes! And SNAP also calls for grand jury investigations, subpoenas, and search warrants looking at possible child endangerment activities of the Archdiocese of St Paul-Minneapolis.

You can clean a chalice every day. But if 'false spiritual healers' are those wiping them dry, survivors and their loving families, Catholics, and Minnesotans will keep getting hurt or betrayed.



Above: Kathleen Olsen leads a rousing rendition of of the hymn "We Who Believe in Justice Cannot Rest" at the closing of CCCR's November 9 event at the chancery.


Related Off-site Links:
Catholic Group Asks Archbishop Nienstedt to Step Down – Renee Tessman (KARE 11 News, November 9, 2013).
Catholics in St. Paul Ask Archbishop Nienstedt to Resign – Will Ashenmacher (Pioneer Press, November 9, 2013).
Some Rich Minnesota Donors Turn from Archbishop Nienstedt – Baird Helgeson (Star Tribune, November 7, 2013).
Archdiocese Led Lobby to Stop Abuse Law Change – Tony Kennedy (Star Tribune, November 5, 2013).

See also the previous PCV posts:
Catholics to Gather on Saturday to Urge Archbishop John C. Nienstedt to Step Down
The Best Path for Archbishop Nienstedt is to Step Aside
Healing Can't Start Until the Knife is Removed from the Wound
A Call for the Resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt
Priest Demands Nienstedt Explain Handling of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Archbishop Nienstedt Does "Boilerplate PR"
To Regain Trust, Twin Cities Archdiocese Will Have to Come Clean
Catholic Coalition for Church Reform Votes No Confidence in the Leadership of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
Can the Archdiocese Continue Under the Leadership of John C. Nienstedt?

Images: Michael J. Bayly.


U.S. Bishops to Select Leaders as Pope Urges New Focus

By Mary Wisniewski


Note: The following article was first published November 10 by the Reuters News Agency.


U.S. Catholic bishops will choose new leaders at an assembly in Baltimore this week and possibly signal a new direction for the American church under the influence of Pope Francis.

The conference begins Monday and all eyes will be on whether the new leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continue vigorous opposition to gay marriage and to Obamacare's contraceptive mandate, or increase their push to help the poor and immigrants given Pope Francis' emphasis on social justice issues.

The new leaders also will be preparing for an "extraordinary synod" of bishops in Rome to discuss teachings related to the family. The Vatican has asked bishops and parish priests around the world about the local views on gay marriage, divorce and birth control ahead of the October 2014 meeting.

"Bishops have been stuck in a bunker fighting the culture war," said John Gehring, who was once in the conference's communications office and is now Catholic program director for Faith in Public Life, a liberal advocacy group. "Pope Francis has said we can't just be known by what we oppose."

In an interview with a Jesuit journal published in September, Pope Francis said the church cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and must become more merciful or risk falling "like a house of cards."

Russell Shaw, a writer on Catholic issues and a former spokesman for the conference, said he doesn't think the bishops will back off on social issues like gay marriage and abortion, just as Francis has reiterated church teachings on these subjects. But they may shift their approach.

"They may make a greater effort to couple what they say about issues like that with messages of having a more pastoral tone, putting what they say about the questions of same sex marriage in a context of authentic and pastoral concern for same sex couples," Shaw said.

The bishops' conference has taken stands for immigration reform and anti-poverty programs under the leadership of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan the past three years.

But it has been extremely vocal on "religious liberty" - protesting the Obama administration's mandate that required Catholic schools and hospitals to carry insurance that provides birth control, forbidden by church doctrine, for free. The push concerned some Catholics, who felt the church's leaders had become too aligned with the political right.

"What's been in the foreground has been their campaigns on gay marriage, abortion and their concerns on the contraceptive mandate," said Father Thomas Reese, a writer who is, like Francis, a Jesuit.


The election

The conference broke with tradition in 2010, electing the outspoken conservative Dolan to a three-year term as president of the U.S. bishops group over then-vice president Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, who was seen by some as more moderate.

Conference observers believe bishops will follow tradition this time and choose the current vice president, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky. Kurtz is viewed as a reliable conservative who is well liked and effective.

The vice presidency is a more open field, though Reese believes Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, a Mexican-born cleric may have an edge in part because he can speak Spanish, enabling him to speak to Francis without a translator.

Reese said Gomez also would prioritize immigration reform, which should please moderates, and is conservative enough for conservatives.

Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, chair of the group that has fought the healthcare mandate, and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, who is known to ride a motorcycle and is considered strong on poverty and immigration issues, also are on the list.


UPDATE: U.S. Catholic Bishops' New Leaders Concerned with Poor – Mary Wisniewski (Reuters, November 12, 2013).

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Catholics to Gather on Saturday to Urge Archbishop John C. Nienstedt to Step Down

.
Note: The following is a media statement released November 7, 2013 by the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR).


Catholics are gathering in front of the chancery office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis on Saturday, November 9, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., urging Archbishop John C. Nienstedt to resign his leadership role in the St. Paul/Minneapolis Archdiocese.

“We need healing, but healing cannot begin with the knife still in the wound,” said Bob Beutel, St. Paul, co-chair of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR). “The archbishop himself is fomenting divisiveness, not showing leadership for a healthy Christian church.”

The action is spurred by revelations in local media of an on-going cover-up of sexual abuse by priests and possible danger to minors in parishes where they have been appointed to minister.

Since 2002 the Catholic Church has said it has and is following protocols for protecting children. Nienstedt took over the leadership of the Archdiocese in 2008, succeeding former Archbishop Harry Flynn. In his October 24 statement in The Catholic Spirit, Nienstedt admits that “There is reason to question whether or not the policies and procedures were uniformly followed. There is also a question as to the prudence of the judgments that have been made.”

Bob Denardo, Eagan, says “With the loss of the faith and trust of a large section of the community, Archbishop Neinstedt has also lost the credibility to assure us that all allegations will be given to the appropriate civil authorities for their review and determinations.”

“The reoccurring stories about this Archbishop's failure to truly provide protection for our children put an end to my faith and trust in his leadership,” said Doug Rodel, Eagan.

The editors of the blog The Progressive Catholic Voice say that Nienstedt has caused alienation among Catholics from the beginning of his tenure as Archbishop. They enumerate instances of what they consider to be the Archbishop’s divisiveness:

• his vociferous and expensive campaigning against civil marriage for gay and lesbian citizens;

• his refusal to let people of differing points of view meet in their own parish buildings and his censoring of speakers in parishes;

• his intimidation of parish workers who “stay under the radar” for fear of losing their jobs;

• his refusal to be open and transparent about finances.

“He needs to be in dialogue with the laity because laity is church. If John, our brother and bishop, finds he cannot be in dialogue, the laity needs to find a leader who will be,” says Judith Pryor, St. Paul.


Related Off-site Links:
Some Rich Minnesota Donors Turn from Archbishop Nienstedt – Baird Helgeson (Star Tribune, November 7, 2013).
Archdiocese Led Lobby to Stop Abuse Law Change – Tony Kennedy (Star Tribune, November 5, 2013).

See also the previous PCV posts:
The Best Path for Archbishop Nienstedt is to Step Aside
Healing Can't Start Until the Knife is Removed from the Wound
a Call for the Resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt
Priest Demands Nienstedt Explain Handling of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Archbishop Nienstedt Does "Boilerplate PR"
To Regain Trust, Twin Cities Archdiocese Will Have to Come Clean
Catholic Coalition for Church Reform Votes No Confidence in the Leadership of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
Can the Archdiocese Continue Under the Leadership of John C. Nienstedt?


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Best Path for Archbishop Nienstedt is to Step Aside

By Eric S. Fought


Note: This commentary was first published November 6, 2013 by MinnPost.


As a former senior-level political staffer and as someone who has advised leaders of organizations large and small in the midst of crises, I have often been forced to offer counsel that was difficult for the leader to hear. In some cases, the damage that has been done by their actions (or lack thereof) can be repaired; at other times the damage is far too great and the best path forward is for that leader to step aside.

While I am a member of a parish of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, I in no way serve as an adviser to John Nienstedt, its archbishop. However, if I did, I would advise him to take swift action for the benefit of the organization that he has been called to lead.

That swift action would include his resignation, and his own willingness to cooperate fully with both civil and ecclesial authorities.

If we are to be fully honest with ourselves, we would acknowledge that if John Nienstedt served in a leadership capacity with any organization other than the Roman Catholic Church, such action would have been taken by now. However, the archbishop does serve the church, an organization with a long, painful and unfortunate history of covering up and enabling the criminal behavior of a segment of its clergy — a history that must come to an end.


Not just 'old news'

And, let’s be clear: These matters are not “old news” that are simply being brought to the public for reconsideration by the media or others. In recent weeks, new allegations of abuse and the cover-up of abuse have been brought forward by independent journalists and authorities — cover-up directly orchestrated with Neinstedt’s knowledge and often through his own actions.

In recent years, Archbishop Nienstedt has been focused almost solely on an unsuccessful personal crusade to prevent Minnesotans in loving and committed same-sex relationships from having the freedom to marry. He has divided not only the church but also our entire state. He has squandered resources entrusted to his care — resources offered for the betterment of Minnesotans, not hate-filled politics. He turned the chancery into a campaign war room, the pulpit into a beacon of division and distrust.

If Nienstedt had spent a fraction of the time and energy he has spent in his tireless campaign against the freedom to marry in Minnesota on addressing the crisis at his feet involving the health and safety of Minnesota’s children, he might find himself at a different place in history. Unfortunately, that is not the case. His place in history will forever be marked with disgrace and shame.

We in the Catholic Church do not elect our leaders; they are offered to us and we are entrusted to their care. However, that process of selection and designation — even if the process is to include some form of obedience — does not remove the responsibility of the faithful to speak out when that trust has been broken. While we pray for the archbishop and all those that surround him in the leadership of the church, it is our responsibility as laity to step in and step up when necessary. It is time for the archbishop to heed these calls, which are offered in good faith for the betterment of the church we all love so dearly.


A need for new leadership

As a baptized and confirmed Catholic, I take my call to active ministry within the church seriously and respect deeply those ordained and lay leaders who have answered the same call. I also recognize the imperfections we as humans bring to our daily ministry. However, there are times when we must do what is best for the people who we are charged with serving, recognizing the pastoral needs of all. It is becoming clearer with each passing day that the pastoral decision the archbishop must make — in the tradition of Pope Benedict XVI and other leaders of our faith — is to resign and allow for new leadership to bring about healing and renewed trust in our local church.

I pray for Archbishop Nienstedt and his confreres each day. I ask all people of faith to join me in praying that he might find it within himself to do the right thing and humbly step aside.


Eric S. Fought is a master of divinity candidate at Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, and formerly was a seminarian and a member of a Roman Catholic religious order. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the university or anyone else associated with it. Fought formerly served in various roles as a political staffer and communications strategist, including positions as communications director of the Minnesota DFL Party, Our Vote Our Future, and Minnesotans for a Fair Economy.


Related Off-site Links:
Some Rich Minnesota Donors Turn from Archbishop Nienstedt – Baird Helgeson (Star Tribune, November 7, 2013).
Archdiocese Led Lobby to Stop Abuse Law Change – Tony Kennedy (Star Tribune, November 5, 2013).

See also the previous PCV posts:
Healing Can't Start Until the Knife is Removed from the Wound
a Call for the Resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt
Priest Demands Nienstedt Explain Handling of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Archbishop Nienstedt Does "Boilerplate PR"
To Regain Trust, Twin Cities Archdiocese Will Have to Come Clean
Catholic Coalition for Church Reform Votes No Confidence in the Leadership of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
Can the Archdiocese Continue Under the Leadership of John C. Nienstedt?


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Healing Can’t Start Until the Knife is Removed from the Wound

The Editorial Team


On the evening of Sunday, November 3, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt presided over a Penitential Holy Hour prayer service at the Cathedral of St. Paul. According to the Archbishop, the service was "for those whose faith is tested by scandal, failure and sin . . .[and those] who have been wounded by the church."

We see a serious problem here, however, as at no time either before, during or after the service has the Archbishop admitted any responsibility for his role in the division and hurt that is wounding our local church.

We agree with the Archbishop that a healing process needs to take place. However, no healing can take place under leadership that is itself a cause of the division, the knife in the wound. John C. Nienstedt is a cause of division. This is why Catholics across the Archdiocese continue to call for his resignation.

Instances of his divisiveness: Instead of assessing the pastoral value of the systems regarding sexually abusive priests that he inherited from the archbishop before him, he ratified them. When they proved to have failed, instead of an open and honest response to the allegations of cover-up of sexual abuse by priests made by Jennifer Haselberger in the media, he gave an evasive statement in the October 24 issue of The Catholic Spirit. Instead of trust and forgiveness, it inspired mistrust in his ability to face a difficult situation.

He does not seem capable of envisioning a pastoral approach to victims of sexual abuse. Instead of searching them out, listening to them, offering them hope, he has continued a system of obstruction of claims, surrounding the system with defenders. Victims, survivors, their families and friends have been permanently alienated.

The division caused by the Archbishop does not begin with the revelations of cover-up of sexual abuse by priests. Prior to the revelation of sex-abuse cover-up, the Archbishop’s vociferous and expensive campaigning against civil marriage for gay and lesbian citizens was a cause of division. A majority of Catholics rejected his position and voted in favor of equality for same-sex couples. The Archbishop’s framing the issue as“the fight of our lives” caused pain and division in parishes and families.

The Archbishop’s rigidity with regard to sacramental form has caused parish communities to divide and groups to escape his jurisdiction by establishing intentional Eucharistic communities. Instead of welcoming the variety of forms possible within a sacramental imaginary, he has alienated life-long, deeply religious Catholics from the institutional church.

Throughout his episcopate, instead of welcoming a diversity of points of view, he has refused to speak with people who question his pronouncements, has refused to let people who openly question him meet in their own parish buildings, and has censored speakers in parishes. This has alienated people who value the rich intellectual tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. It stifles growth and creates division among people about the “right” way to think to be Catholic.

That men and women on the church payroll have to “stay under the radar” to keep their jobs is a cause of division. A woman at the Call to Action meeting in Milwaukee on November 1-3, 2013, would not say aloud the name of the parish she works for, for fear of reprisals by the Archbishop should word get back to him that she was there. Fear, silence, and double-dealing divide people from the free and joyful living of the Gospel.

Refusal to be open and transparent about finances is a cause of division. A general annual report in the Catholic Spirit is the Archbishop’s response to calls for financial transparency. Suspicion of mismanagement of pension funds for priests and lay employees is a cause of division.

Given no awareness of or admission by John C. Nienstedt of his role in the alienation and division pervasive in the Archdiocese, we do not believe that healing can take place under his leadership.

We are therefore calling upon the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó, by individual letters to his office at 3339 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20008, to recommend a priest from our Archdiocese who is capable of pulling together the various factions in the community, in the model of Pope Francis, to serve the mission of the Church.


See also the previous PCV posts:
Save the Date! — A Call for the Resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt
Proiest Demands Nienstedt Explain Handling of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Archbishop Nienstedt Does "Boilerplate PR"
To Regain Trust, Twin Cities Archdiocese Will Have to Come Clean
Catholic Coalition for Church Reform Votes No Confidence in the Leadership of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
Can the Archdiocese Continue Under the Leadership of John C. Nienstedt?
Statement by Jennifer Haselberger
"Trust Your Shepherds"

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Save the Date!

.
A Call for the Resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt


Saturday, November 9, 2013
1:30-2:30 p.m.

In front of the Chancery Office
of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis

226 Summit Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102


In recent weeks it has become clear that many Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis no longer accept the leadership of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt.

Archbishop Nienstedt has failed to garner the trust of a significant number of Catholics in the archdiocese or lost such trust over the course of his tenure. This failure in pastoral leadership is the result of a number of factors, including his leadership style, his unwillingness to dialogue with Catholics on their legitimate concerns, his dismissive stance and pastorally insensitive way of dealing with those who disagree with his agenda and priorities, his promoting of a culture that values self-protection and secrecy above disclosure and justice, and his ill-judged, perhaps even criminal mishandling of a number of recent cases involving both known sexually abusing priests and highly suspect ones. These cases and the archdiocese’s well-publicized mismanagement of them have shocked and scandalized many – both within and beyond the archdiocese.


Please join us for this public event at the chancery
to call upon Archbishop Nienstedt's resignation
or his removal by the Vatican.


Feel free to bring banners and signs respectfully conveying
your call for Archbishop Nienstedt's resignation.