Monday, July 27, 2009

Revisiting Gaudium et spes

The following is written by Fr. Mike Byron and was first published in the July 4/5, 2009, parish bulletin of St Cecilia’s in St. Paul. It is reprinted by the Progressive Catholic Voice with permission.


Last week I found myself again teaching summer school at the graduate School of Theology at St. John’s in Collegeville. I love the diversity of the student body that I always encounter there. This year’s class has students ranging from about age 25 to about age 70, from places as diverse as China, Australia, Virginia, Louisiana, and, of course, Stearns County, MN. There are lots of lay professional church ministers, a couple of permanent deacons, and a few Benedictine monks in the mix. The manifold perspectives of the students are a rich blessing.

In the course of my teaching I have occasion to appeal heavily to the documents that were produced by the bishops at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), and I am regularly refreshed by the vision of church that is contained in those important writings. One of the documents, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (also known by its Latin title, Gaudium et spes) is well worth regular re-reading. It can be accessed with ease and without charge at the Vatican web site. I am always struck by at least three affirmations that are made repeatedly in that document.

One is the acknowledgment that our Catholic church is always situated in history, which means that it is forever in need of reform and correction in its visible structures, even though we rightly insist that the church is holy (because Christ is holy, and it is he upon whom we depend to sustain us, and not we ourselves). We strive for perfection in our way of living, praying, organizing, and witnessing to the faith together, but at any given moment in time we aren’t arrived at a place of perfection. That fact need not cause us to despair, but merely to face honestly our ongoing need for conversion and growth.

A second and directly related teaching from this document is that the church is not all-knowing in every facet of our shared life, and that other realms of existence have their own integrity and wisdom from which the church itself can stand to be enriched. Culture, politics, government, economics, the sciences, the arts, etc. are all parts of human existence that have their own purviews of knowledge and insight, and it need not (and ought not) fall to churchy people to trump the practitioners of those various endeavors with any alleged omniscience that purports to derive from God himself.

From all this flows a third teaching from the document, which proclaims that “the modern world” is a good place, not a fundamentally evil one. The world is where most Catholics live most of the time, and it is the context where we rightly expect to meet God and to experience God’s grace in our daily activities. Culture is not something to be despised or set over and against the gospel, at least not as Vatican II sees it.

I mention all this because so much of what I encounter in contemporary “Catholic” media and teaching promotes a message that is quite at variance with this. Far too often one can see, read, and hear of Catholics these days who presume to believe that our church is already a perfect community that floats over and above real daily life, unaffected by the turbulence of time and history, or that we believers know better than do the professionals how to be a “real” scientist, artist, or politician, or (most frequently) that our world and culture are categorically bad and bereft of God’s presence. Ironically, such dispositions are much more historically Protestant (among some, not all denominations) than they are Catholic. And even more ironic (and wrong) are the claims that such perspectives can be grounded in the teachings of Vatican II. You will search in vain for any such sentiment in a document like Gaudium et spes. You may find yourself pleasantly refreshed by having a look at that document again.

Fr. Mike Byron

P.S. If these topics are of interest to you and if you are looking for some good summertime reading, have a look at the classic account of Xavier Rynne titled Vatican Council II, or find John W. O’Malley’s What Happened at Vatican II. (Hint: the answer to the second title is not “nothing!”)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

CCCR's 2010 Synod: A Progress Report

By Michael Bayly

On the evening of Wednesday, July 15, over 50 members of the work/study groups of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) gathered in Bloomington, MN, for a spirited and productive meeting. This gathering marked an important stage in the ongoing preparation within the local church of St. Paul/Minneapolis for CCCR’s September 18, 2010 Synod of the Baptized, “Claiming Our Place at the Table.”

With Voices for Peace: The Twin Cities Peace Ensemble providing music that was both entertaining and inspiring, and the board of CCCR serving dessert to those in attendance, CCCR’s July 15 meeting served as both a community-building event and an opportunity for the various work/study groups to report on their progress. In addition, a number of speakers gave energizing and insightful presentations.

Beyond “blind obedience”

For instance, CCCR board member Brian Willette spoke about “Identity and Worth” and “Identity and Directional Leading.” The latter, based on the research of psychologist O. J. Harvey, describes four different stages/types of identity and leading. With Type 1, for example, identity and leading come from accepting without question external authority. Persons of this type are people of “blind obedience.” At the other end of the spectrum is Type 4, in which identity comes from within and directional leading from following one’s conscience after taking into account and carefully weighing all input, including input from external authority and peers. Persons of this type have internal control and are thus capable of fully exercising personal authority. They are individuated, liberated, and free.

In light of these stages/types of identity and leading, Willette posed a number of important questions to those in attendance at CCCR’s July 15 event: As followers of Jesus, what type of identity and leading are we called to? Given the indwelling of the Spirit, how does the Spirit lead? Only through external authority? Only through internal, personal authority? Or both? If both, what source has primacy?

“The Church’s teaching on the primacy of conscience recognizes the fourth type as the calling and right of every believer,” said Willette. Yet he questioned if present Church structures and policies foster and support the fourth type of identity and leading.

“Together, we are the Church,” concluded Willette. “Together, we need to ever reform our Church structures and policies so they reflect and express Jesus’ teaching and the leading of the Spirit.”

Awakening creativity

CCCR co-chair Bernie Rodel then offered a succinct summary of the ecclesiology (model of church) and goals of the coalition.

“CCCR is a coming together of organizations of concerned and caring Catholics who promote the full participation of the baptized in all aspects of Church life,” he said.

He noted that the coalition is envisioning and working toward a shift from a “church centered” ecclesiology to a “Kin’dom centered” ecclesiology, one that values forgiveness, reconciliation, justice, and peace, and is characterized by fundamental equality (through baptism) participation and collaboration, a dialogical spirit, inclusiveness (a “communion of communities”), and a sense of mission that is both compassionate and prophetic.

Rodel observed that in the Church today we are witnessing (and, in many cases, participating in) “dissipative structuring,” a process by which a system (in this case the Church) lets go of its present form so that it can reorganize in a form better suited to the demands of its changed environment.

“Dissipative structures demonstrate that disorder can be a source of new order,” said Rodel, “that growth appears from disequilibrium, not balance. Disorder and disequilibrium are the conditions necessary to awaken creativity. Inherent orderliness will follow.”

Rodel concluded his remarks by observing that events like tonight’s meeting, the ongoing meetings of the work/study groups, and next year’s synod are facilitating dissipative structuring within the local church. Such structuring will, in turn, foster the emergence of a collective creativity crucial for reform and the creation of a kin’dom centered Church.

Reports of the work/study groups

Following Rodel’s presentation, representatives from the work/study groups shared reports on the progress of their respective groups. As mentioned in a previous PCV post, the ten work/study groups that have begun meeting on a regular basis throughout the Twin Cities metro area are a key part of the preparations for CCCR’s 2010 Synod. Their purpose is to gather people together who share a passion for reforming certain areas of church life. These areas are ones that many have long recognized as being at odds with the Gospel message of love proclaimed by Jesus. They include clericalism, the selection of bishops, church authority and governance, and official teaching on sexuality and gender. Other areas are less controversial though still crucial when discussing renewal of the Church. These areas include Catholic spirituality; Catholic identity/Christian identity; social justice; and children, youth, and church.

At CCCR’s July 15 meeting Jim Moudry reported on the progress of the work/study group focusing on the selection of bishops. He noted that the group has met twice at a local parish and has began exploring, among other things, the history of ways to select bishops, the theological underpinnings for selection of bishops, the role of a bishop in the diocese and the church, the leadership selection process in other Christian churches, and the selection of bishops from the perspective of the sensus fidelium. Moudry noted that tentative resolutions for proposal at the 2010 Synod include how best to make a wider role for church members in the process for the selection of bishops, and how to discern and make real a role for women in the ordained ministry of the church.

Another of the ten work/study group that reported on July 15 was one focused on Church governance and accountability. Facilitator Connie Aligada noted that members of this group are studying the current practices of governance and authority in the local church with a view to addressing structures to accommodate the lay voice in ministry and in decision-making. The group begun with an historical study of the current hierarchical structure which came into existence in Constantinian Rome, then morphed through the late Middle Ages and the Reformation, leading into the monarchical papacy of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Within this process the concentration of power and formal leadership in a priestly caste has been defined by gender and celibacy. “This historically conditioned ecclesiology,” said Aligada, “implies a powerless theology of the laity quite out of tune with our 21st century American democratic society, and the egalitarian model of community offered by the early church. Furthermore, the pathologies of today’s Church (for example, clericalism and misogyny) prevent it from operating as it should – with a full internal commitment to human rights, genuine participation, and collegiality.

Paula Ruddy shared a report on the progress of the Catholic Identity/Christian Identity work/study group. She began by noting that, “We want to articulate our commitments to the Christian tradition and to the Roman Catholic tradition. Our question is how we identify ourselves as Christians and Catholics, and what aspects of the Christian and Catholic traditions we want to reinforce in the local Church culture. Our recommendation at the 2010 Synod will be practices aimed at reinforcement of those elements with which we identify.” The group plans on spending the next three months examining the psychological questions about identity. It has already heard from local psychologist (and CCCR board member) Brian Willette, who presented an explanation of how a healthy sense of self is developed and how that sense affects our relationship with God. For future meetings the group is reading two summaries of stages of development, one by James Fowler on personal faith development and one by Ken Wilber on the stages of cultural development. Later meetings will be dedicated to studying the history and theology of Christian/Catholic identity.

Yet another facilitator who presented a report on July 15 was Mary Jo Czaplewski of the Faith Formation of Children and Youth work/study group. Czaplewski identified two goals of this particular work/study group: 1) To ascertain the status of Archdiocesan Catholic education of youth in their Catholic faith in an effort to get to the root causes for why over 50% leave their church by the age of 18; and 2) To make recommendations for parental roles in faith formation, and the roles of parishes and dioceses in training instructors and serving children and youth. The group has been reading and studying a range of literature – including Vatican and USCCB documents, Tom East’s article “Community at the Crossroads: The Relationship Between Adolescents and the Catholic Church,” and Jeffrey Kaster’s article “The State of Adolescent Catechesis Today.” Czaplewski also reported that two teens attended the group’s last meeting to discuss what things made an impact on their personal faith journey and what was not useful. The group also plans on interviewing adult educators.

Well underway

The above summarizes just four of the eight work/study groups that reported on July 15. As these reports show, the preparations for CCCR’s first Synod of the Baptized, 2010’s “Claiming Our Place at the Table,” are well underway.

The primary outcome of this synod will be the election of a Coordinating Council, the task of which will be the creating of mechanisms of horizontal and vertical communication within the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis so as to begin conversation about implementing the recommendations for reform put forward at the synod by the work/study groups.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Announcing an "Evening in the Park" Fundraiser with Roy Bourgeois, MM

DATE: Thursday, August 13, 2009

TIME: 7:30 p.m. (Music starts at 7:00 p.m.)

LOCATION: Park Pavilion at the Lake Elmo Park Reserve (North Picnic Shelter), Washington County Parks. (Map and directions below.)

Important Update: A bus has been secured to transport folks to and from Lake Elmo Park Reserve. It will leave from and return to South Minneapolis. For further details and to reserve a seat on this bus, please call Tom Sullivan at 612-823-7541. There will be no charge for this bus service.


Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest and founder of SOA Watch, is a nationally recognized advocate for peace and justice. He will share with us his perspective on the social injustices within Roman Catholicism, and offer a clear and hopeful vision of what has been termed the “emerging church” – a growing grassroots expression of church that is participatory, collaborative, and valuing of dialogue and diversity.

The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) is sponsoring this event as a major fundraiser for its Synod of the Baptized (“Claiming Our Place at the Table”) scheduled for September 18, 2010. Your generous contribution will help keep our costs (including admission) low. Donations are tax deductible.

Refreshments will be served. Seating is at picnic tables. Feel free to bring a lawn chair if that would be more comfortable. This site has been reserved for the day, so you are welcome to arrive early and enjoy the park.

Please note: Although this event is free and open to the public, a $5.00 (per car) parking fee is in effect at the Lake Elmo Park Reserve.

If you are unable to attend but would like to make a contribution to the 2010 Synod planning effort, make your check payable to CCCR and mail to:

CCCR, 2080 Edgcumbe Road, St. Paul, MN 55116

1515 Keats Ave. N.
Lake Elmo, MN 55042

Located 1 mile north of Interstate 94 and 2.5 miles east of Interstate 694 at the intersection of County Road 19 (Keats Avenue North) and County Road 10 (10th Street North) in the City of Lake Elmo, Minnesota. (NOTE: We’ll be gathering at the North Picnic Shelter.)


· From Interstate 94, take exit 251/County Road 19. Follow County Road 19 to the north for one mile to County Road 10. Cross County Road 10 and proceed into the park.

· From Interstate 694, take exit 57 or County Road 10 (10th Street North). Follow County Road 10 east for 2.6 miles. Turn left (north) into the park.

· From State Highway 5 in downtown Lake Elmo, follow County Road 17 south for 2.5 miles to County Road 10 (10th Street North). Turn right (west) on County Road 10 for one mile. Turn right (north) into the park.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sounding an Alarm!

By Paula Ruddy

Like a locomotive hurtling down a mountain track, reorganization in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis is on its way.

Forget about summer vacations, the kids being home, relatives visiting. You have a little over a month to get your parish organized to respond to what might be a massive overhaul of the local church.

You would have had the whole summer had you been paying attention. The Task Force for Archdiocesan reorganization set to work in April, 2009. First they introduced the planning process to priests. By July, the priests are to bring two parish trustees, the parish council and finance committee chairs to regional meetings.

Maybe your parish council is on top of it. They meet once a month and will devote at least some minutes of the agenda to the question of how the church will fulfill its mission in the Archdiocese. That is, if they don’t take some months off in the summer.

Parishioners must weigh in, if at all, in September.

This is being billed as a highly consultative process. All voices are being heard. “Archdiocesan Catholics can easily give their ideas, concerns and feedback to the task force via the Web, telephone or U.S. postal mail”, says the time line published in the Catholic Spirit of May 20, 2009.

John Bauer and Peter Laird, Task Force leaders, issued a Key Facts sheet for inclusion in parish bulletins in July. It purports to give the necessary information for intelligent response.

Click here for the Key Fact Sheet.

We urge you to read the Key Fact sheet and start talking.

Is the bottom line that 55 of the 217 parishes are not paying their assessments to the Archdiocese? They are being monitored for their debt ratio problems, but it doesn’t say whether the debt in question is to the Archdiocese, the utilities company, or the payroll. Would it be appropriate for the parishioners to know what their assessment money is spent for in the Chancery office? Does reorganization include full disclosure of administrative expenses? We might end up after the reorganization with all the bills being paid, but what will we have bought?

Faith formation is in decline. Only 34% of registered Catholics celebrate Mass regularly on Sundays. (We are reassured that that is in line with the national average.) What is to be done about that?

If the mission of the Church is to be a sacrament of God’s love in the world, and if we who are the Church, are able to do that only if the institution supports our spiritual growth, what is it we want from “the distribution of Archdiocesan resources”? What does it take to support our growth into fully alive Christians? Is this question important enough for the Task Force to engage parishioners in a meaningful way?

Is the reorganization plan a foregone conclusion? Is there any point in getting to work on these questions in the short time still available?

We would like to hear your opinions on the process and the issues. Is your parish organized to respond?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Smaller, Purer Church: Observations from the Life of a Catholic Family

By William D. Lindsay

My interest in the smaller, purer church that Pope Benedict XVI has sought to build is more than academic. I’ve watched this restorationist theme play out for some years now in the life of a Catholic family close to me, and my reactions to the movement have much to do with the effects I see it having in this family’s life. These effects are, on the whole, destructive. And they’re accelerating, in part, due to the election of a president they regard as close to the anti-Christ, and in part, due to the hardened ideological lines the pope’s restorationist movement is creating all through their lives.

The Crisis of Vatican II

Let’s call this family the Schwanns. They’re a large Midwestern Catholic farm family, the kind often regarded as idyllic by those looking at their family life from the outside. Even as the birth rate of Catholic families in other regions of the country declined in the post-World War II period, theirs remained high — an expression of their unquestioning fidelity to church teaching, while the rest of the world had begun to critique aspects of Catholic teaching, and, in particular, sexual teachings.

Vatican II and its aftermath produced crisis for such Catholics. In key respects, they had been living in an ethnic, religious enclave up to Vatican II — and happily so. They didn’t have to pay much attention to what was going on outside their own world, which was totally Catholic, completely demarcated by ethnic and religious lines, so much so that their Lutheran neighbors were exotic to them, people they knew when they went to town, but with whom they didn’t socialize. And whom they definitely didn’t marry.

In one sense, Vatican II opened the Schwanns and their neighbors up to a new perspective: a new perspective not only on the church, but on the world. Since the council was underway as their children started going off to college, one of the usual effects of sending children off to school — the opening of a family to new friends and new experiences through connections the children form at school — was exacerbated by Vatican II. Several of the children went to Catholic colleges, where there was a new enthusiasm for social activism, travel, meeting and talking to those different from oneself.

For a time, this process created a small, quiet revolution in the Schwanns’ sedate Catholic-enclave farm life. They hosted exchange students from exotic places — Japan, Switzerland, Germany, France. Their children went to some of those places and brought friends home from their overseas jaunts. A number of the children even reached outside the ghetto to marry “outside” — Catholics, but Catholics of different ethnic backgrounds, Eastern European, French, Irish.

Two sons came out of the closet and announced that they were gay. Another married outside the church. Half of the children no longer go to church. The half that do go to church have retreated back into the shell with a vengeance. One of these, along with her family, has actually joined SSPX and had considered Benedict a schismatic until he rehabilitated her sect. Another wants to participate in SSPX but is forbidden by her husband, who considers it beyond the pale (plus, he has a position in the community to consider), though he likes and prefers the Latin Mass celebrated by a non-schismatic priest.

The Schwann family lost a key member last year who was a point of stability and moderation for the entire family. Without him, and in response to this year’s presidential election, the members of the family who affiliate with right-wing Catholic movements have, in recent months, slammed the door shut with a vengeance on anyone (including members of their own family) outside their chosen religious ghetto. They have pulled their mother, who was previously only on the fringes of the right-leaning religiosity of some of their children, into their cultic form of Catholicism.

Obama: the beginning of the end

To them, the election of Obama signals the beginning of the end, and is a signal to step up the devotions they have added to the usual Catholic ones. For some years now, they have been at war with their parish priest over the issue of perpetual adoration. They wanted (and finally got) a chapel for perpetual adoration in their church, and it is, in some sense, now their private chapel—theirs and that of like-minded neighbors.

One of the agreements they had to make with the parish priest to have the chapel set up was that they would maintain it, so that it would not be a burden to him, since he already serves an increasingly large parish as smaller priestless parishes around his close and he becomes pastor of those communities. This is to their liking, the perpetual adoration group: they had seen the chapel as theirs from the outset, in any case.

They arrange for the around-the-clock prayer sessions and the Friday devotions. They open and lock the chapel and decorate it. It’s their church inside the big church — a smaller, purer church co-existing with a lax larger church of dubious piety and orthodoxy. The chapel is a place in which they can prostrate themselves if they wish to do so, without fear of censure from other parish members.

Fridays are a big day for the group. No one has told me this, but I suspect the Friday devotions are centered on some belief that perpetual adoration before the Eucharist on the day Jesus was crucified somehow holds back the arm of the wrathful Father God in a world run amok with sin. I suspect this because I know, from what right-leaning members of the Schwann family say about political and cultural issues, that they believe this.

That is, they believe that God is intent on punishing America because abortion is not outlawed everywhere in the land. They also have distinct views about homosexuality, ever-hardening ones, but about those, they are less publicly vociferous, since two family members are openly gay.

Highly fetishized

Their piety is, in general, focused on select and highly fetishized aspects of Catholic piety. As the Friday devotions suggest, one big aspect of their piety is the crucifixion, mortification, suffering, the need for atonement in a world seen as dark and sinful. The SSPX branch of the family made a big fuss at a recent family funeral since the parish priest had replaced the “real” crucifix in the parish church with a resurrection crucifix — one they regard as not real, not a true icon of the real message of the crucifixion, which is about death and suffering, not life and resurrection.

They insisted that their dead family member wanted to be buried with the “true” crucifix behind the altar, and they got their way. For this funeral, the priest grudgingly redecorated the church. He would not, however, give in to their demand that a “real” pall — a black one and not the white one now used following Vatican II — be placed over their loved one’s coffin.

The rosary and Mary loom large in the piety of the right-leaning branch of the Schwann family, too. But a particular form of the rosary and a particular devotion to Mary: Mary and the rosary have everything to do with abortion and repressive right-wing politics, with the fixation on holding back the arm of the wrathful Father God by appeasing that God through constant prayer.

To the traditional recitation of the rosary, they have added flourishes and para-devotions, chaplets of mercy and pleas for the wrath of God to be stayed through their prayers. In some sense, the recitation of the rosary — the “real” rosary, the anti-abortion one — is an assertion of their identity as “real” Catholics. Lax Catholics no longer say the rosary, and if they do, they do not kneel on the bare floor without benefit of kneelers, and they do not say the endless round of mercy pleas that these purist believers have added to the devotion.

The rosary, and how they pray it, lets others know that they do not belong to the inner circles of the right-wing members of this family. It is a religious weapon, used not merely to pray but to banish fellow Catholics (and family members) who do not buy completely into the worldview of those praying the rosary in this particular way.

Latin is the only way for the right-leaning members of the Schwann family. The SSPX branch will not go to the parish church at all. Some of the others go only grudgingly, because their spouses refuse to permit them to boycott Sunday Mass if it is not in Latin.

True believers

The devotions are supplemented by cultural practices that increasingly set these true-believing Catholics apart from those who are not true believers, including members of their own family who do not endorse the right-leaning Catholicism these members have adopted. The women wear long skirts, and they insist that even their small daughters do so, even when they work on the farm. In church, they veil themselves. They do not eat meat on Fridays, and they expect other family members to go along with this preference, even when those family members do not partake of their rigid pre-Vatican II religious views.

Interestingly enough (or predictably?), the men do not adopt any particular practices or forms of dress or demeanor to set them apart from mainstream culture. Only the women.

These families home-school their children, and they have many children: they have replicated their parents’ choice to have a large family, in a period when such families are almost heard of among most Catholics even in their rural Midwestern community. They do not want their children to have computers or access to television, and have allowed these technologies only grudgingly, when the home schooling seemed to require them. When their children have decided to go on to college, they have sent the children to the most right-wing and cultic places available in the U.S., colleges that proudly proclaim that they are keeping the “real” and “true” Catholic identity in a church losing its identity.

And as inevitably happens when children of such sheltered worlds grow up and try their wings, occasionally one of the children sent out into the world comes home troubled and confused. One of the daughters of one of these families went away for part of a year last year, and came back seriously depressed.

No one could understand her problem. She became seriously withdrawn and talked about the need to go to confession in order to cleanse herself. She stopped eating and picked neurotically at her skin.

One of her aunts decided that the problem had to be demonic, so she contacted an exorcist in a nearby state. But before they could take the family member to be exorcised by that priest, her parish priest asked to hear her confession. After she had spent five hours confessing to him, she came out and announced she was healed, so the exorcism was set aside.

Rosary crusades

With the election of Obama, all these expressions of piety have been ratcheted up. Talk to any of the right-leaning members of the family, and you hear an endless litany of reasons this new president displeases God. The family has already been participating in (and helping organize) rosary crusades in their community, which are dedicated to praying the rosary more or less exclusively to hold back the arm of the Father God as the nation permits abortion. The pro-life signs at these rosary rallies never mention the war in the Mid-east, for instance. A special Marian statue circulates for these crusades.

Now these crusades are being organized with a vengeance, and the Marian statue is wandering the countryside more and more. And the lines are hardening around the issue of homosexuality, even when there are family members who are gay and who are likely to experience pain due to this hardening of lines. There are laments about why God has chosen to give the family such a heavy cross to bear: not one but two gay members! The smaller, purer church that has already produced a smaller, purer parish inside the larger one is now producing a smaller, purer family, a family of the saved and upright, who cannot and do not wish to affirm their unsaved and non-upright members.


In this family, it’s clear to me, the movement of Benedict XVI to a smaller, purer church has been antithetical to some of the key principles of catholicism—principles like including everyone, welcoming and affirming those who are different, refraining from looking inside the hearts of others and judging their worth in God’s eyes. In the life of this staunch Catholic family, the smaller, purer movement has set brother against sister, mother against children.

The restorationist movement, in the life of this Catholic family, has also resulted in the near deification of one political party, with a total blindness to its shortcomings in many respects, from the standpoint of Catholic values and an ethic of life. It has resulted in a quasi-apocryphal form of religion that centers almost exclusively on the notion of a wrathful God preoccupied with sexual morality and abortion, and intent on punishing those who do not toe His line.

And Vatican II? Not a blip on the screen, for these particular Catholics, except as a blip to be abolished by those retrieving the church as it should be, as God meant it to be. As they believe it should be.

William D. Lindsay is a theologian who writes about the interplay of belief and culture. On his blogsite, where this article was first published, William writes: “My life partner Steve (also a theologian) and I are approaching our 40th year together. Though the church has discarded us because we insist on being truthful about our shared life, we continue to celebrate the amazing grace we find in our journey together and love for each other. We live in hope; we remain on pilgrimage.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Joint Meeting Planned for CCCR Work/Study Groups

The Catholic Coalition For Church Reform (CCCR), of which the Progressive Catholic Voice is a member organization, announced yesterday a joint meeting of the ten work/study groups first formulated at the coalition’s April 18 prayer breakfast. Since this event, the work/study groups have been meeting on a regular basis within the local church of St. Paul-Minneapolis so as to prepare for a September 2010 “Synod of the Baptized.”

In a recent e-mail announcement, CCCR leadership invited coalition members and other interested persons to visit to review the topics that the ten groups are currently focusing on. The announcement also reminded people: “If you see a disconnect between the Gospel and Church practice in some area, gather a like-minded group and join us.”

The announcement also says:

You are invited to our first joint meeting of all the work/study group members on Wednesday, July 15, 2009, at 7 pm, at St Edward’s Catholic Church in Bloomington, located on the corner of Nesbitt and 94th Street South, just West of Highway 100 (Normandale Blvd.). Come meet the CCCR Board and hear what the work/study groups are doing.

The big picture that inspired our organization in the first place is, of course, our baptismal commitment as Christians to spread the Gospel message of God’s love for each and every human being. There is a radical equality in that message. We are deeply grateful for the faithful generations in the Roman Catholic Church for preserving the Gospel message down to our time. Nevertheless, over the centuries, the human family has grown in consciousness of the scope of equality and what it means, the intrinsic worth of each individual. For many reasons, the institutional structure of the Roman Catholic Church has not evolved to support that growing consciousness. We find ourselves with institutional policies and practices that we think inhibit people’s spiritual growth.

As loyal members of the global church, we want to pass on to future generations the Gospel message we have learned. We want to change the policies and practices that hold our own community back from being fully alive in the spirit of a loving God. Our questions are about what changes can be made on a diocesan level to make the church of St Paul and Minneapolis a sacrament of God’s life.

Our assumption is that, in a grown up world, all questions are on the table and all the people involved have a place at the table. Pray for us and join us if you can on July 15.