Thursday, October 4, 2007


. . . to The Progressive Catholic Voice, a grassroots initiative dedicated to reflection, dialogue, and the exchange of ideas aimed at facilitating renewal and reform within the Catholic community of Minnesota and beyond.

The Progressive Catholic Voice has St. Francis of Assisi as its patron saint. In his time, our brother Francis heard and responded to God’s call to “repair my Church.” It’s a call that resounds today in a Catholic Church which, at its worst, is corroded and weakened by clericalism, hypocrisy, intellectual dishonesty, a profound lack of imagination, and a monarchical mind set and structure totally contrary to Jesus’ egalitarian model of community.

As progressive Catholics we are drawn to participate in and contribute to the Church’s capacity to grow, change, and evolve in ways that ever increasingly reveal God’s transforming love in our midst. Accordingly, our calling is to develop and unify the progressive Catholic voice of the local church, as we believe that this voice is an intrinsic and essential part of our Catholic tradition. Along with the moderate and conservative voices within the Church, this progressive voice needs to be heard in the discussions and deliberations that are part of any living faith community. As Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-90) once noted: the laity has to be consulted in matters of doctrine, especially when teachings concern their lives so intimately.

Sadly, such consultation is not taking place. In its place we are witnessing an institutional retreat into clericalism and theological absolutism. Yet as distressing as this is, we, as progressive Catholics, are unwavering in our commitment to embody a healthy, life-giving, intellectually-honest, and authentically Gospel-based model of church – especially in terms of organizational structure, decision-making, and Vatican II’s call for “full, conscious, and active participation by all the baptized.”

This embodiment is one way we are called to “repair” the Church. Another involves providing a forum for the voices and stories of progressive Catholics that have been suppressed. A third aspect involves highlighting and critiquing the inconsistencies, incongruencies, and injustices of an institution that claims to be Gospel-based but sometimes falls short. All are proactive endeavors and will be undertaken in a respectful tone and in a spirit of love for our brothers and sisters throughout the Church – regardless of whether they identify as conservative, moderate, or progressive.

More often than not, The Progressive Catholic Voice will undertake these three endeavors, vital for the repairing of our beloved Church, by simply asking and exploring questions. As progressive Catholics, we take to heart Sister Joan Chittister’s observation that “the courage to question the seemingly unquestionable is the essence of spiritual leadership.”

Because we strongly believe that any authentic spiritual leadership must acknowledge and reflect the legitimate concerns and perspectives of all – including progressives – we will lovingly yet firmly question authority.

Some of the questions and issues that relate to our lives as Catholics within both the local and universal Church and which, accordingly, we will raise and explore in future posts of The Progressive Catholic Voice, include:

• Why is there no input from the laity in the selection of bishops? Why do we tolerate a model of leadership that is neither representational nor accountable? How can we inspire positive change?

• How is lay representation on diocesan and national boards determined? Can we be truly represented by “appointed” lay members rather than elected lay members?

• What is the current state of the archdiocese’s Commission on Women? Why have a number of this commission’s members recently resigned? Why are stories such as this not being covered by The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the archdiocese?

• How can we better understand why so many of the young men in the priesthood are pre-Vatican II in their thinking and thus opposed to change within the Church? Is there a role for us to play in dialoging with these men?

• How are young and conservative priests faring in parishes more open to collegial models of leadership and to questions and issues of diversity?

• How does mandatory celibacy and the unacknowledged sexual lives of priests (gay and straight) prohibit and compromise them from being authentic pastors, prophets, and leaders within their communities?

• How does the Church’s insistence on orthodoxy limit intellectual freedom and authentic education in Catholic secondary schools and universities?

• What compelled the archdiocese to recently ban communal penance? How do Catholics experience healing and reconciliation in their lives?

• What percentage of people in the US who call themselves Catholic believe all the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church? Is it possible to identify with the Catholic tradition and question the doctrinal formulations of the Roman church? Could it be that being a “cafeteria Catholic” is the only reasonable and honest way of being Catholic?

We hope you are as energized as we are at the prospect of exploring these and other questions. As part of The Progressive Catholic Voice community, you are welcome to submit your own questions, stories, commentaries and ideas to this blog – one that we hope will serve as a vital forum for informed dialogue and respectful critique.

Submissions may be sent to:


The Progressive Catholic Voice Editorial Team:

Michael Bayly (Coordinating Editor)
Mary Beckfeld
Steve Boyle
Susan Kramp
David McCaffrey (Technical Coordinator)
Brian McNeill
Mary Lynn Murphy
Rick Notch
Theresa O'Brien
Paula Ruddy

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