By Paula Ruddy
Archbishop John Nienstedt met with a delegation from CCCR and Council of the Baptized on January 20 in a conference room at the Chancery Office in St. Paul. The delegates were Bob Beutel, co-chair of the CCCR Board, Mary Beth Stein, co-chair of Council of the Baptized, and I, a member of the CCCR Board. The Archbishop had invited Bishop Andrew Cozzens and Father Erich Rutten to join us.
Archbishop Nienstedt was cordial, gave us an hour of his time, and accepted the agenda we proposed. He led us in prayer to start the meeting. The agenda was 1) to explain the mission of CCCR and Council of the Baptized, 2) to explore how we could work together to comply with Pope Francis’s request for lay input for the Synod on the Family to take place in Rome in October 2015, and 3) we also wanted to know generally how we could work together to make our archdiocese a growth supportive community for all.
The Archbishop listened carefully while Bob explained the mission and activities of our joint organizations. When Bob had finished, the Archbishop asked this question: How do you think of yourselves as a Catholic organization when some of the member organizations of the coalition have opted out of the Roman Catholic Church?
Good question. We all talked about it in the spontaneous way that semi-formal conversation happens. I don’t have a transcript, but I had the perception that we reached some understanding with the Archbishop. He said he understood us more clearly and we went on to the next item on the agenda.
The question is an important one for CCCR and Council of the Baptized. How do we think of ourselves as Catholic when people are all over the board on Catholic teaching? Our policy, we explained to the Archbishop, has been to accept anyone who self-identifies as Catholic, and, at the same time, keep all the questions open for discussion, on the assumption that discussion is the way for people to grow toward truth in their thinking.
Is CCCR/Council of the Baptized justified in its policy of inclusion?
The question gets muddled up with the ideas of subjectivity and objectivity. Is being Catholic about being under the canonical jurisdiction of a bishop? That would be objective. Is it about identifying yourself as a Catholic? That would be subjective. Is it about having had water poured over your head with the right words as a baby and having been registered in a Catholic parish? Is it about giving internal assent (subjective) to statements in a catechism (objective)? Is it about getting yourself physically to Mass every Sunday and obeying the laws of the church (objective)? Can it be completely subjective with no external observance? Can it be completely objective with no internal assent?
Let’s say it is about both/and. Some objective observance and some internal assent. To draw lines we have to identify the essential objective observances and the essential subjection requirements. Has that been done? How are they tested? By whom? Is the person making the objective judgment using any subjectivity? Is determining who is in and who is out part of the mission of the church?
Is CCCR/Council of the Baptized justified in trusting the Holy Spirit to work within a whole community of self-identifying Catholics who are all across the board in their thinking and in their observance and yet somehow drawn to grow within this community? Does Jesus’s point about letting the weeds grow with the wheat have relevance? Or his caution not to snuff out the smoldering wick?
Or is it better to draw lines for being either in or out and to provide programming in standard thinking and practice to support the people who are in? In a fragmented world with so many influences working against the Christian faith, is it necessary to get clear on some formulations of truth and zero in on a faith formation?
Choosing between these two modes of operating—inclusion or exclusion—is necessary to run a coherent program. So it is a fundamental question. What do you think?