Sunday, March 28, 2010

He Spoke Truth to Power, but Vatican Wouldn't Listen

By Rubén Rosario

Editor's Note: The following article and interview with Tom Doyle (pictured at right) was published in today's St. Paul Pioneer Press. It is essential reading.

Last Sunday, I went to a suburban east metro Catholic church I sometimes attend. The elderly priest gave a traditional Lenten homily based on the biblical tale of the adulterous woman and Jesus’ words, “Let ye who have not sinned cast the first stone,”

It was all well and good until, right before the benediction, the priest implored the congregation to pray that the health care reform bill be defeated by Congress because it contained federal funding for abortion. I will wager a week’s pay the guy did not read the entire bill. So much for separation of church and state.

There was also no mention of how the Catholic Church’s priest abuse scandal has spread across Europe and into Pope Benedict XVI’s native Germany in recent months.

But it did not escape me that this was the same priest who refused to shake my bare hand during the height of the swine flu scare a few months ago. He would do so only through his robe.

“Be not afraid, Father,” I told him after I politely grasped his garment-covered hand as I walked out.

I confess all this now as a back-handed way of introducing the Rev. Tom Doyle, 65. Four decades ago, the Sheboygan, Wis., native went through “priesthood boot camp” in Winona, Minn., and ultimately became a top official in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.

As a canon lawyer for the Vatican’s embassy in Washington, Doyle seemed on a smooth and seamless ascension up the diplomatic and legal ladders of a church he believed with all his heart and soul was the paragon of morality.

Then something profoundly disturbing transformed Doyle from trusted and idealistic church insider and defender to church pariah and loose cannon.

While at the Vatican embassy, he became deeply troubled by a high-profile case in Louisiana involving a pedophile priest. Instead of defrocking the priest or calling authorities, local archdiocese officials decided to hide the crimes and transfer the child predator from one parish to another, where he abused again.

Doyle thought this was against everything the church stood for. So did a now-deceased fellow priest as well as a former criminal defense attorney once hired by the church to defend a suspected child molester in the clergy.

On their own initiative, the trio assembled a 100-page report warning church officials to come clean about the abuses and respond to the needs of the victims rather than protect abusive priests from secular prosecution or protect – at all costs – the church’s status and image.

The report, sent to virtually every U.S. bishop, was largely ignored.

A quarter of a century and an endless string of child abuse scandals later, the report, titled “The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy: Meeting the Problem,” has proved prophetic.

Blasphemer. Traitor. Heretic. Doyle has heard it all. Still an ordained priest, he is all but barred from serving Mass or being involved in public ministry without church approval.

No doubt Doyle has a big ax to grind with the church. But since Jesus himself broke bread with sinners and outcasts, I felt it appropriate to talk with Dolye and take his pulse on the 25-year-old report he helped write, as well as the ongoing crisis.

Rubén Rosario: Tell me about the 1985 report and its impact.

Tom Dolye: At the time, my main function at the embassy was running the legal process for the selection of bishops. As far as the report itself, it was an attempt to help the church and also reach out to victims.

We encouraged (the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) to address this on a voluntary basis. They rejected all of it. They told the media at the time they had policies and procedures in place. They had nothing, and I knew that.

Rubén Rosario: What else?

Tom Doyle: I had the backing of some powerful bishops who thought it was a good idea. There was a letter sent to me from an attorney for victims that alerted us to the potential that such abuse would result in a class-action lawsuit against the Catholic Church. The lawyer who wrote the letter surmised the church would likely pay out claims in excess of $1 billion.

Rubén Rosario: What was the response?

Tom Doyle: I remember an archbishop said to me: “Tom, calm down about this. No one is ever going to sue the Catholic Church about this.”

Rubén Rosario: And here we are, well over $2 billion in payouts so far and counting.

Tom Doyle: Exactly, as well as more than 4,000 civil cases.

Rubén Rosario: Do you think the church has done enough to deal with this problem in an in-house or public way? Are they there yet?

Tom Doyle: No. They are nowhere near that. All of this points to the governmental system of the Catholic Church. The closed clerical club that is concerned more about itself than it is about these children who have been abused by priests. The reason for the cover-up all along has been to protect the bleed of money. But, more importantly, it’s to protect the reputation of the Catholic Church.

Rubén Rosario: Has it backfired?

Tom Doyle: It has. They don’t get it. I think there’s an attitude in the Catholic hierarchy of which I was once a part of – of definite superiority.

Rubén Rosario: What are the lessons here?

Tom Doyle: What we’ve learned over 25 years in that the Vatican has stayed mostly hands-off until forced to on this. They first said it was an “American” problem. That has been debunked. They then said it was Western secularism and materialism aided and abetted by the anti-Catholic press. That has been debunked.

Rubén Rosario: What has been the overriding problem?

Tom Doyle: This issue goes right to the subculture that runs the Catholic Church, At no time have they been willing to look (at the larger issue). They’ve prosecuted priests (in-house and in secret) by the hundreds since 2002. But not one bishop who has been accused of sexually abusing children himself has been subjected to any kind of penal process. All they have been asking to do is resign, and then they go and live a fairly comfortable retirement,

Rubén Rosario: We both do still love and want to believe that this church is the ultimate direct and most holy and upright product of the teachings of a man believed to be the divine son of God. So what does the modern-day church have to do to regain its reputation and restore confidence and trust on this child abuse issue?

Tom Doyle: To begin the process of restoration, I believe that the current pope needs to stand up and make a public apology. Not that those mistakes were made in the past – they always do in the past tense and there’s a subtle message there that this is in the past and not now. The pope should say: “I’m sorry for what I did in my negligence to allow this to happen. I’m sorry for what I did fire bishops when I knew they were covering up.”

But I don’t believe that will happen in my lifetime.

Rubén Rosario: Why?

Tom Doyle: Because to protect their own self-identity, they will cling to the premise that they are appointed by the Almighty and are the vicars of Christ and the essence of the church. They believe this will dissolve their power. It’s all about control, and it’s all about power.

Rubén Rosario: You spent a month counseling or meeting with scores of alleged clergy abuse victims in Ireland. How did that go?

Tom Doyle: Yes. I cannot put into words the anguish and the pain of what these men and some women went through. Once I gained their trust, I apologize. I tell them how sorry (I am that the church) covered up. And every time, without exception, many with tears in their eyes, they said to me: “You are the first one from the church who has ever said that to me.”

Rubén Rosario: So you apologize for a church that once you believed in but that has basically relegated you to outcast status?

Tom Doyle: Yes. But I do this because I know how important (a church apology) is to these people.

Rubén Rosario can be reached at 651-228-5454 or

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Vatican's Fix: Abuse and Renewal

By Michael Walsh

Editor’s Note: The following commentary was first published March 22 at

The burgeoning international scandal
involving the abuse of children by Catholic clergy
is the biggest crisis for the church since the
16th-century reformation, says Michael Walsh.

The Archbishop of Vienna has broken ranks. Few observers would have regarded Cardinal Christoph Schönborn as a radical – after all, he was largely responsible for the much criticised Catechism of the Catholic Church. Now, however, he is on record as suggesting that, in the light of the exposure of sex-abuse scandals in at least four European countries, the church should look again at the obligation of celibacy for Roman Catholic clergy. In the Vatican, whose corridors he frequents, such a proposal is utterly taboo. In any case, if he believes this is the panacea he is almost certainly mistaken: paedophilia afflicts married men (and some women) as well as single ones, which would indicate there was no direct link. There may, however, be an indirect link.

There are many reasons given for the imposition of celibacy on (the majority of) Catholic clergy, an obligation with a long and problematic history. Some of these reasons are practical, others ascetical, but there are good arguments for claiming that celibacy was originally imposed to mark off clergy as a separate caste within an increasingly Christian society. That was a long time ago, but the “caste” mentality survives to this day.

It is not true, of course, for all Catholic clergy, many of whom are well adjusted human beings, but it is true for some that they socialise almost entirely within clerical circles. Their closest friends are often other priests, especially those who had been in the seminary with them. They have regular class reunions, rather like schools and colleges, but with the difference that, unlike college graduates, they have not moved on into a more diverse and mature world. Many have not had their values challenged or, if they have, are they are bolstered in their beliefs by the support of those who have grown up alongside them. There is, in other words, a distinctive clerical culture which celibacy has an obvious role in maintaining. In their daily lives they are not challenged by wives or children. Certainly not by interaction with housekeepers, always a rare breed and nowadays almost extinct.

The most deleterious aspect of this culture is the assumption by the clergy of the mantle of authority and the power they assume goes with it. It is insidious. It is exercised without reflection. It used to have some kind of basis in the better education clergy enjoyed, but that distinction is now gone. Their parishioners rightly show reverence to an ordained minister, but that is exploited. It is exploited unthinkingly in many minor ways, but it is also exploited by some in their abuse of women and of children. They are in a position of power bestowed on them by the church’s law, and they make use of that power for their own ends, sometimes immoral ones. Not all, of course, do so, not even most, but enough have done so in so many different countries of the world (clerical culture is a global phenomenon) that they have brought about the greatest crisis in the Catholic church since the 16th-century reformation. And just as in the 16th century, the Vatican is floundering.

A lesson unlearned

The problem with the Vatican is that it shares this clerical culture, and to excess. There is a pious belief among Catholics that the Vatican is run by the best clerical civil servants the church can produce. It isn’t. With some few exceptions it is staffed by people who have drifted into their jobs by inertia, because they happened to be in Rome, or because they wanted to be close to the source of power in the church. And they regard that power as untouchable, answerable to no one under God. There was a canonical phrase, much beloved by medieval canonists, that the pope may be judged by no one. Papal power has in fact waxed and waned, but at the moment it is at its height. The so-called Magisterium - or teaching authority to which obeisance is demanded and is widely made - dates (in its present incarnation) only from the mid-19th century. It is a new thing, but no one except academics seems ready to question it

And it is no longer limited only to the papacy. It has been extended to the Vatican offices, the “congregations”, tribunals and committees that make up the administrative structure of the Catholic church. This is a nonsense, but again it goes unquestioned. The Vatican does what it likes. It is imposing a new and unwelcome (by many if not by most) English translation of the liturgy. It is attempting to attract back into the fold the highly reactionary Society of St Pius X which went into schism as a result of the Second Vatican Council. It has, apparently without consulting even those in the Vatican charged with ecumenical matters, made an offer to dissident Anglicans to reunion, which has caused embarrassment to the English Catholic bishops and irritation to their Church of England counterparts.

Yet Rome seems supremely unconcerned as it progresses from one gaffe to another. It is the supreme power in the church and does not consider itself accountable. Catholics will no doubt turn out to greet Pope Benedict XVI when he visits Scotland and England (leaving out Wales was another blunder) on 16-19 September 2010, but Rome appears to be entirely unaware of the little importance it plays in the lives of Catholics - except for the irritation of learning the new version of the liturgy being imposed upon it.

It could all have been very different. In the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council talked of collegiality, the sharing of authority in the church. It has been forgotten. It described the church as the people of God, but this implied model was far too democratic-sounding for the ecclesiastical powers-that-be, and the phrase has been banished from official utterances. The church is a self-contained system whose leaders appear to regard themselves an answerable to no one. Why does no one ask whose church is it anyway?

The publication in 1968 of the encyclical Humanae Vitae banning artificial means of birth-control was the turning-point - in two ways. First, the pope of the day, Paul VI, rejected advice from a reasonably representative committee of Catholics, both lay people (including a married couple) and clerics. Had he not done so, and quite irrespective of the decision reached, it would have been a potent symbol of consultation within the people of God. Second, after initial heart-searching the ban was in any case widely ignored by Catholics. This seriously undermined papal authority. Pope Paul was aware of the danger, and never issued another encyclical. Pope John Paul II and his successor tried to make the acceptance of their interpretation of papal authority on these matters the test of one’s Catholicity. It hasn’t worked. Catholics haven’t necessarily left the church in droves, though many have indeed ceased to practice. They are simply paying less and less attention to Rome.

A time to renew

The Vatican is helpless in the face of the current abuse scandals because it shares the same mindset, the same clerical culture, that gave rise to it. It recognises such abuse as a scandal, but wants to contain it within the ranks. It acknowledges the moral failings of some of its clergy, but has for too long failed to insist that such behaviour is not only sinful but it is a crime. The letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the church in Ireland at last acknowledges that priests guilty of paedophilia must answer to the civil, as well as to the ecclesiastical, authorities (see “Pastoral letter of the Holy Father...”, Bollettino, 20 March 2010). That is an important step from a man who, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, appeared to want to keep these accusations secret within the bosom of the church. But who does he blame for this scandal? The modern world, and the misinterpretation of Vatican II. His remedy? Just more old-time religion.

After the crisis of the reformation the Vatican survived, oddly enough with its prestige enhanced, for two reasons. A reforming council was called, the Council of Trent (1545-63); and there was an extraordinary renewal of the men at the top. The modern church has had its reforming council, Vatican II. It has not yet had the renewal of the men at the top. This is long overdue - and some women would be a start.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Catholic Denis McDonough Plays Role in Obama's "Spiritual Cabinet"

Denis McDonough is President Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser and Chief of Staff at the National Security Council. He’s also from a Minnesotan Catholic family that has significant ties to the local church, as Dan Burke notes in his recent profile of Obama’s “spiritual cabinet.”


Denis McDonough was in eighth grade, he heard his older brother, a Catholic priest, deliver a homily entirely in Spanish. McDonough soon learned Spanish himself, and became an expert on bridging cultural gaps.

Now . . . McDonough is working to strengthen international bonds strained by the Bush administration’s go-it-alone approach to foreign policy.

Traveling by the president’s side on overseas missions, the 40-year-old Minnesotan is a crucial player in Obama’s quest to engage Muslims, find common cause with the Vatican, and restore the country’s moral authority.

McDonough helped craft Obama’s landmark address to Muslims last June in Cairo, and the robust defense of American foreign policy—including the waging of “just wars”—during the president’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Norway.

A key component of Obama’s foreign policy is the Catholic concept of the common good, McDonough said. “It’s a general posture of seeking engagement to find mutual interests, but also realizes that there is real evil in the world that we must confront,” he said in an interview at his West Wing office. “The president also recognizes that we are strongest when we work together with our allies.”

In addition, McDonough has schooled Obama on the internal politics of the Catholic Church, an institution he knows intimately. His brother Kevin was vicar general of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, another brother is a priest-turned-theologian, and his best friend in Washington is a Redemptorist priest. A graduate of St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., he helped vet a young theologian on the faculty, Miguel Diaz, to become ambassador to the Vatican last May.

Image: President Barack Obama meets with Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough on Air Force One en route to Cairo, Egypt, for the president's address to the Islamic world. McDonough has helped craft Obama's policies, and the Cairo speech, in moral terms. (Pete Souza/The White House.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A New Phase

The planning of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform’s September 18, 2010 Synod of the Baptized entered a new phase this past week with the printing and mailing (via both e-mail and snail mail) of an informational and registration brochure to approximately 2,000 people.

Entitled “Claiming Our Place at the Table,” CCCR’s 2010 Synod invites Catholics from the local church of St. Paul-Minneapolis to come together and discuss practices that will bring our local church culture more in line with the Gospel message of love. We believe that we are committed by our baptism to our Church tradition, but we see a number of disconnects between our Roman Catholic Church practices and the mission of the Christian Church, which is to proclaim and manifest, as Jesus did, the reign of God. These disconnects and our response to them are matters of conscience to us. Accordingly, we want to be part of a transformed culture within our local church community in response to the Spirit of God and in service of the Church’s mission.

So what can folks expect if they attend CCCR’s 2010 Synod? Well, the day will start with an exploration of the model of Church that will best help us proclaim and manifest the reign of God. To help guide us in such an exploration, we’ll be hearing a keynote address by Paul Lakeland entitled “The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission.” Dr. Lakeland holds the chair of the Aloysius P. Kelley, SJ Professor of Catholic Studies and is the director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT. He is also the author of The Liberation of the Laity (2004) and Catholicism at the Crossroads (2007). His latest book, Church: Living Communion (2009) has been described as “seizing the moment of a church on the brink of change and pointing the direction forward.”

In addition to a no doubt informative and energizing keynote address by Paul Lakeland, CCCR’s 2010 Synod will also provide an opportunity for participants to hear from the ten work/study groups that since CCCR’s April 18, 2009 Prayer Breakfast have been focusing on specific areas of disconnect so as to develop recommendations for best practices that will bring our local church culture more in line with the gospel message of compassion and justice. Those in attendance at the synod will be invited to join in the discussion of these recommendations around such issues as Bishop Selection, Catholic/Christian Identity, Church Authority and Governance, Faith Formation of Children and Youth, Catholic Spirituality, Mandatory Celibacy/Clericalism, Social Justice, Church as a Community of Equals, Emerging Church, and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

Finally, participants at the synod will be invited to join the Action Coordinating Team (ACT). This body will be commissioned to plan and facilitate the starting of conversations within our families and parishes about the best practices recommended at the synod.

If you would like to learn more about CCCR’s 2010 Synod of the Baptized – including the synod’s schedule, venue, cost, and registration information, click here.

To register online, click here.

To print a registration form to mail in, click here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Colleen Kochivar-Baker on "Why We Stay"

At her blog Enlightened Catholicism, Colleen Kochivar-Baker recently responded to a reader who posed a question that those working for church reform are often confronted by:

If all of you are in such disagreement with the basics of Catholic Theology and Doctrine (and they are very clearly defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church), why continue to call yourselves Catholic? Why set out to redefine a faith rather than simply join a church that more accurately represents your point of view?

Following is Colleen’s response.


I can't answer your question for any other commenter, but I will answer it for myself.

I'm not looking for another club to join or a 'bar' where I can fit in and 'everyone knows my name'. That's way too simplistic and childish a solution.

The spiritual path is supposed to be a challenge to one's enculturated ego. Religions too often want the spiritual path to be an affirmation of their enculturated God. Jesus fought his own tradition on just those lines by challenging the assumptions behind the rules of Pharisaic Judaism. Ultimately He taught it's not about the rules, it's about the spirit behind the rules.

So I ask myself this question: What energy really benefits from the current Institutional absolutist emphasis on rules and doctrine? Who benefits from the current push to make those absolutist rules the law of the secular land? Who benefits from the political gay bashing and the cover up of clerical sexual abuse? Who benefits from forcing birth on poor women incapable of raising another child? Who benefits from denying birth control to over populated Catholic areas? Who really benefits?

The answer is the dark side of the energy equation. All of these absolutist doctrines, which seek to take choice away from people, foment human misery, exploitation, poverty, and greed. The spirit from which they operate is about control, domination, and fear of 'others'.

With baptism comes rights, but also responsibilities. My responsibility is not obedience to rules, but to freely live the Spirit and that Spirit is about loving like an adult, not obeying like a fearful child.

To follow Jesus means to slay the demons within ourselves, but this also applies to His Church. To maintain obedient silence is to enable evil. What do you think the abuse crisis is all about? I would rather stand against the evil in my own Church than transfer to what you think is just another more congenial 'religious' club.

Perhaps that is how you wish Catholicism to be, or how you see religious observance, a club of sorts in which you feel comfortable and want others to be just like you. Unfortunately we are called to be just like Jesus, not like me, and not like you.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Time to Go? - Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, December 29, 2008).
Staying on Board - Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, April 15, 2009).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Three Minnesota Residents Sue to Save Expiring Health Plan

By Tim Pugmire and Madeleine Baran

Minnesota Public Radio
March 4, 2010

Three Minnesota recipients of General Assistance Medical Care filed a lawsuit against Gov. Pawlenty and other state officials Thursday to keep the subsidized health care program in place, at least temporarily.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Ramsey County District Court, seeks to prevent the end of funding for General Assistance Medical Care on April 1.

The state had planned to transfer many current GAMC enrollees into another state health insurance program, called MinnesotaCare, on April 1. But many recipients say they would not be able to afford MinnesotaCare' s monthly premiums and higher co-payments.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty cut GAMC last year as part of his unallotment action to balance the state budget. GAMC covers more than 30,000 low-income adults.

Anne Quincy, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis, says the state has enough money available to provide coverage to needy Minnesotans under GAMC for at least another month. "Every month of General Assistance Medical Care, until there is another program to replace it, is vital," she said. "The funds that are appropriated for GAMC should be spent on GAMC. And our clients are greatly in need of those services."

The lawsuit does not challenge Pawlenty's line-item veto of GAMC funding for fiscal 2011. Instead, three GAMC recipients allege Pawlenty violated the state Constitution when he used unallotment to cut funding for fiscal 2010.

Their lawsuit says there was enough money available to pay for GAMC at least through the end of April, and that the unallotment law does not allow its use in that circumstance.

Quincy says it's the same basic argument in an earlier unallotment case that the governor has appealed to the State Supreme Court.

"If the Minnesota Supreme Court should decide that the unallotment of the nutrition program was unconstitutional, then we think our temporary restraining order could become a permanent injunction," she said.

The lawsuit comes three days after the House failed to override Pawlenty's veto of a GAMC extension. The governor has repeatedly defended his cut of GAMC funding as a necessary move to control an unsustainable area of state spending.

His office issued only a brief written response to the lawsuit. Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said the lawsuit seeks to spend money the state doesn't have and "underscores why the state budget shouldn't be run out of a courtroom."

The three plaintiffs are Robert Fischer and Gabriella Raspa of Minneapolis, and James Beede, who lives in Ramsey County.

Fischer, 51, has sleep apnea, depression, and a degenerative back condition. His only income is $203 a month from the state's General Assistance program.

Fischer said he would be unable to afford his medications and doctor's payments if he loses his GAMC coverage and is transferred to MinnesotaCare.

Fischer said has been looking for a job, but said that he doubts he would be able to work if his medical conditions went untreated.

"My life will become more complicated and painful," he said.

But, he added, "I don't want to be viewed as a victim. To me, the reason I'm doing all this stuff is to help change the system."

Raspa, 22, has diabetes and relies on insulin. She works part-time at a bagel shop, and said she would be unable to afford medication if she loses her insurance coverage.

"[Pawlenty] is taking it out on the people who are the poorest and sickest," Raspa said.

Beede, the third plaintiff, is a Vietnam veteran who lives on $203 month in General Assistance payments.

Under General Assistance Medical Care, recipients pay $1 for generic prescription drugs and $3 for name brand medications, with a $7 monthly maximum. The program does not have co-payments for doctor's visits.

In contrast, MinnesotaCare charges a $3 co-payment for all prescription drugs, a $3 co-payment for non-preventive doctor's visits, and does not have a monthly co-payment maximum.

Meanwhile, legislators were back at work trying to find a compromise plan for covering the affected patients. Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, said the lawsuit wouldn't change her focus.

"We have always known there was a potential for lawsuits," said Berglin. "Maybe there will be more, I don't know. But we believe this problem needs to get solved for the long term though the legislative process."

Attorney Anne Quincy has a similar view. She said the GAMC lawsuit will probably be withdrawn if lawmakers reach agreement on a new health care plan.

See also the previous PCV posts:
Update on GAMC
GAMC - The Story Behind the Story

Helpful Resources:
How You Can Help Save GAMC

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Update on GAMC

Earlier this week the Office for Social Justice of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis issued the following statement concerning General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC), a state-funded public health insurance program for the Minnesota’s poorest adults.


An Update on the Veto Override Attempt
on the GAMC Bill

As you will be reading shortly in the media, the veto override attempt on the GAMC bill failed on a straight party line vote.

While this was certainly not the outcome we hoped for, our campaign to protect Minnesota’s poorest and most vulnerable residents, including GAMC enrollees, will continue. While this is a sad day for us as advocates, we are a people of hope and optimism. We are not going to give up on vulnerable people and the hospitals and physicians that support them. We will push on in support of a solution to this issue that works for the people who rely on this health care program.

When legislators see the forecast numbers tomorrow and begin in earnest on budget negotiations, a reformed GAMC program must remain in the mix of issues. This program as it is currently being proposed contains cost savings and delivery reforms while protecting the most vulnerable.

We will continue to work with you at the Capitol and in our communities to ensure that GAMC enrollees are protected. Funding for General Assistance Medical Care ends in 30 days, but we not stop until the health care of our fellow Minnesotans is protected. We know that we can count on you to stand in solidarity with GAMC enrollees as we move forward.

Call your legislators right now, ask them to keep working to find a solution to the impending elimination of GAMC. Find out who represents you here.

Thanks for all you do and that you've done for justice. Together, we can save GAMC.

For more information about GAMC, visit the website of the Office for Social Justice.

See also the previous PCV post:
GAMC - The Story Behind the Story

Monday, March 1, 2010

What is the Church’s Mission and How Are We Doing As Missionaries?

By the Editorial Team

We want to thank Archbishop John C. Nienstedt for addressing the question of the Church’s mission in his column of February 10, 2010, in The Catholic Spirit.

He is writing in response to comments on the Archdiocesan strategic planning submitted by the people of the Archdiocese.

Among the concerns raised . . . I found the most interesting one to be a statement that the archdiocese should clarify the mission of the church. I found this intriguing because I always assumed that the mission of the church was clear to all her members.

In most organizations it is quite important for everyone to be on the same page as to the mission in order to get the job done, even when the mission is as obvious as pleasing customers in order to sell widgets. The theology of Church requires some work of explaining and, above all, of modeling. What is the institutional church supposed to be doing? We want very much to be on the same page as the Archbishop since we are working at the mission together.

He has given us some starting points for conversation toward understanding. He summarizes:

The root of the word “mission” means being “sent.” Thus, the church is sent into the world to continue the works of Jesus Christ (i.e. preaching, teaching, healing, doing works of charity and justice.)

Her members are able to do so because they have been empowered by Christ’s Holy Spirit. Convinced that the Risen Christ is alive and present in and to the church, her members gather in his name in order to be sent forth in his name.

…The church is called to gather into “communio” where she celebrates the presence of the Risen Christ in word and sacrament in order to be sent forth in “missio,” as she bears witness to the faith by her teaching and works of charity.

The Progressive Catholic Voice has joined a coalition of other Catholic organizations in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to form the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform. Together we are discussing the Church’s mission and how our Roman Catholic practices help us create the kind of community that can fulfill the mission.

We’ve been thinking about the idea of “community” in the Church’s mission. Think along with us here and tell us how you see it.

We are sent into the world as a community. What does this mean? Does it mean we gather in a parish community on Sunday for individual strength to face the world during the week to live the Christ life in our family and workplaces? That’s one way to look at it. It might be what the Archbishop means by “her members gather in his name in order to be sent forth in his name.”

Another way to look at it is that since the whole human race is called together into the reign of God, the best sign or sacrament of what that should look like is the Christian community as a whole. The community manifests the reign of God that Jesus proclaimed. The way we live as Christians, our culture manifesting love, wisdom, peace, and goodness -- fruits of the Holy Spirit, shows the world around us what the kingdom of God, the reign of God, looks like. It proclaims and at the same time models a people who believe what Jesus proclaimed and manifested -- that humanity is beloved of God. We are beloved sons and daughters of God and the Spirit of the Risen Christ dwells within us.

In this view, “salvation” isn’t about individuals being good persons and going to heaven when they die. It’s about the whole human race evolving to its loving Creator in glory. The church as a whole is to live in such a way that the world can say, See how these Christians love one another! Christ draws the world to God through the modeling of the Christian community. We are co-creating the kingdom of God, here and now, toward an end-time [eschaton] when all will be one in union with God.

As we all know from experience, making a harmonious, mutually loving and cooperative family is a daunting task. It takes the Holy Spirit working in us, grace, and the whole of our minds and hearts to work at it. And we Christians are called to make a community with the whole human family! We have to be fully developed individuals to create a community that models the love of God for humanity. But this is the mission of the Church.

This description of the mission of the church is for the whole Christian Church, is it not? The Christian Church includes all the denominations who have faith in the Risen Christ and who bear witness to the reign of God Jesus proclaimed. There are thousands of Christian communities within the Christian Church, organized differently, maybe with different articulations of the mission. Some may do a better job than others of manifesting the Holy Spirit to the world. We may humbly have to admit that some non-Christian religions do a better job of manifesting God’s love for the world than we do. It may be their mission too, but here we are focusing on our own mission as Christians.

Those of us baptized into the Roman Catholic Church have first of all the mission of the Christian Church to proclaim and manifest God’s love for the world. The Roman Catholic Church is structured in “local churches,” as the Archbishop points out. They are dioceses headed by bishops, all in union with each other and in union with the diocese of Rome with its bishop, the pope. The union of all these local communities stands for the belief in the future unity of all Christianity and all humankind. The church exists in each of these communities and each has the mission of the church to make the reign of God a reality here and now and for the end time, which is present in sacramental meaning/mystery.

We can ask ourselves: How has Christianity throughout its history manifested the Holy Spirit to the world? Lots of positives and lots of negatives. Without going into that wonderful/woeful history, we can agree that we as a global Christian community are a work in progress.. How about our global Roman Catholic community in its history? Also wonderful/woeful, a work in progress.

But to get down to where the rubber meets the road, what about our own local church, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA? Our place to start is at home. Do we as a community, in 2010, manifest the love, joy, peace, justice, and wisdom that will draw the world to the Risen Christ through us? We believe that is our responsibility as baptized Roman Catholic Christians.

Archbishop Nienstedt is currently in the process of reorganizing parish resources to make sure we each as individuals have the sacramental means to grow in the life of Christ. He speaks of more efficiently carrying out ministries, but he does not speak of the kind of culture the ministries are aimed at developing. Reorganization by itself will not create a community to fulfill the mission of the church. To grow, we need cultural change. We want to become a local church community in which the members, ordained and lay,

• value growth in moral sensitivity and spiritual consciousness

• value individual development in thinking and self direction as adults

• value the lived experience of each person and the findings of science about revelation in creation to grow as a community in wisdom

• reverence each other, instead of polarizing around labels of disrespect

• treat each other as equals, not as members of a clerical caste and a lay caste

• seek wisdom and understanding by discussing all questions reasonably

• express joy and unity in our sacramental celebrations, possible only when all feel respected

• work wholeheartedly together for peace and justice

In short, we see ways we can improve in becoming the kind of Christians that the mission of the church calls for. We need discussion about this within our families and parishes. Cultural change happens when each of us practices behaviors that make us more and more conscious of the reign of God. Grace supports our practices, but it is up to us to think and act.

Given this understanding of the mission of the Church to create loving community in order to manifest God’s love for us, CCCR should be working to be the kind of community we are advocating. How are we doing? We can’t say we are all on the same page, and we can’t say we have that kind of community, but we are working in that direction.

To learn more about the Coalition’s efforts and plans for a Synod of the Baptized on September 18, 2010, go to

Paula Ruddy
Mary Beckfeld
David McCaffrey
Michael Bayly