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.


  1. Wow - I'm stunned by the hubris and sense of self. As a Christian and a Roman Catholic, I find this really degrading. Why not just break off and form a protestant Church? Why ridicule the Church? I really put stock into the idea that the Church (the Roman Catholic Church) does not exist to suit my needs as I voice them. It exists to preach the gospels, feed the poor, free the oppressed and help the needy. I guess the proof is in the photo above. My rural, traditional Catholic Church in TN has more people at a regular mass than this Synod will have in total. By leaving the Church, you don't hurt the church, you just hurt yourselves and those who rely on you for guidance.

  2. Thomas, thanks for your comment. I'm curious: where's the hubris in concerned Catholics gathering to discuss the state of the Church? How exactly are we "ridiculing" the Church?

    Like you, those who comprise the various work/study groups of the 2010 Synod are dedicated to embodying the gospel message - so much so that we are willing to question Church structures and practices that many feel and experience as hindering this message.

    Finally, none of us are planning on "leaving the Church." We - and that includes you - are the Church