Monday, October 25, 2010

Save the Date!

Join LGBT Catholics and their allies in
demonstrating inclusiveness and celebrating our diversity!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

at the

Cathedral of St. Paul
239 Selby Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102

We’ll gather in loving opposition
to the MN bishops’ campaign
of intolerance and discrimination
against the LGBT citizens of Minnesota.

We welcome you to join in one or both of the following actions.

Wear the Rainbow Sash
as a Symbol of Celebration
of LGBT Diversity

Gathering Time: 11:30 a.m.

Place: The Selby Ave. side of the Cathedral.

Rainbow Sashes will be provided.

Attend the noon day Mass at the cathedral wearing the Rainbow Sash – a symbol of celebration and an invitation to dialogue. The Rainbow Sash proclaims that its wearer is (or knows and affirms someone who is) a GLBT person who embraces and celebrates their sexual orientation and identity as a sacred gift. Since 2005, the Archdiocese has adopted the policy of denying Communion to wearers of the Rainbow Sash.

For more information about this action visit or call 612-721-6341.

Surround the Cathedral with Love!

With their recent anti-gay marriage campaign, the MN bishops have actively championed a message of exclusion. We’ll model and symbolize the gospel message of love and inclusion by joining hands and circling the cathedral! You’re welcome to wear the Rainbow Sash, wave rainbow flags, and/or hold signs and banners with positive messages of support for our LGBT brothers and sisters.

Gathering Time: 12:30 p.m.

Place: On the public sidewalk in front of the Cathedral.

We’ll form our “rainbow circle of love” around the cathedral at 12:45 p.m. When Mass finishes at about 1:00, those who are inside the cathedral for the Rainbow Sash action will join us in the circle. At approximately 1:15 we will all gather on the Cathedral steps for a group photo.

For more information about this action, call 612-201-4534.

Sponsored by Rainbow Sash Alliance USA
and Catholics for Marriage Equality MN

POSTSCRIPT: For images and commentary of this event, click here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Church Further Adrift

Recently over at Enlightened Catholicism, Colleen Kochivar-Baker highlighted an insightful, if rather sobering article by Peter Steinfels (pictured at right), co-director of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture.

Steinfels wrote his piece for Commonweal in response to a recent Pew Foundation study that found that “Catholicism has lost more people to other religions or to no religion at all than any other single religious group.”

Following are highlights from Steinfels informed commentary on this reality. (NOTE: To read Steinfels’ commentary in its entirety, click here. To read Colleen Kochivar-Baker’s erudite reflections on the issues raised by Steinfels, click here.)


In February 2008, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, based on interviews with a representative sample of thirty-five thousand adult Americans, reported that one out of every three adult Americans who were raised Catholic have left the church. If these ex-Catholics were to form a single church, they would constitute the second largest church in the nation. . . . Thomas Reese, SJ, the former editor of America, recently described this loss of one-third of those raised Catholic as “a disaster.” He added, “You wonder if the bishops have noticed.”

. . . Those who hailed a new day with the advent of a “John Paul II generation” were suffering, I suggest, from “sampling error.” Buoyed by the hundreds of thousands who gathered at World Youth Days, they did not look closely at the millions who were absent. So while our own firsthand impressions and diligent perusal of news sources are irreplaceable, we badly need surveys based on representative samples. Yes, they always suffer from the simplifications necessary to gather and organize large amounts of data, but their findings are checks against our own anecdotal impressions and those from the media sources we favor.

According to the Pew survey, about half of that one-third leaving the church enter the ranks of the fastest-growing religious group in the nation, the “nones,” people who tell pollsters they have no particular religious affiliation, although many hew to surprisingly familiar religious beliefs and practices. The other half of Catholics leaving the church join Protestant denominations (and, more often than not, Evangelical). Catholics becoming unaffiliated stressed disagreement with church teachings, both general teachings and church positions on specific issues like abortion, homosexuality, and treatment of women, and to a lesser extent clerical celibacy. In open-ended questioning, they also stressed hypocrisy and other moral and spiritual failures of church leaders and fellow Catholics.

The divisive factors driving people from Catholic ranks are only magnified versions of those within Catholic ranks. There one sees at work all the hot-button issues that now unaffiliated former Catholics point to, as well as the sharp reaction, especially to teachings on homosexuality and identification with high-octane conservative politics, that [researchers] Putnam and Campbell conclude are currently driving young people from religion altogether. Within the church, one also sees the longing for effective worship, meeting spiritual needs, and pastoral creativity that many now-Protestant former Catholics, especially Evangelicals, underlined.

Liturgical language, decorum, and participation. Quality of homilies. The shortage of priests. Celibacy. The role of women and their ordination. Transparency and consultation in church governance at every level, from the parish to the Vatican. Anti-Catholicism in the media. Religious identity and the role of the hierarchy in Catholic higher education and health care. Monitoring of Catholic theology. Abortion and same-sex relations, and the even more combustible demand that Catholic citizens and civic leaders be answerable to episcopal judgments about laws regarding these matters.

I list these familiar sources of conflict in no particular order except for the last because I think the growing tendency of prominent bishops to claim authority not only in moral principles but even in rather fine-grained judgments about translating those principles into public policy has tremendous potential for divisiveness. It appears to overturn a stance the hierarchy has long followed and spelled out explicitly in their pastoral letters on nuclear defense and on the U.S. economy. Are these bishops repeating the behavior of Religious Right leaders who have now faded from prominence—but only after provoking, if Putnam and Campbell are right, a strong anti-religious backlash among the young?

There are several ways of missing this reality. It is true that the one-third exit rate of Catholics is actually lower than the rate of loss suffered by many other groups. Americans live in a constant religious churn. Almost half change their religious affiliation in the course of their lives. This is even true of the “nones.” One can also point out that Catholicism enjoys numerous converts. A number of people are baptized or enter into full communion at my parish’s bilingual Easter Vigil every year. But most of the losses among Protestant denominations are simply to other Protestant denominations. As for converts, the experience of parishes like mine illustrates “sampling error” once again. We celebrate those coming in the door; we don’t note publicly those going out; perhaps no one notices at all except saddened family members. In reality, three Catholics leave the church for each one who enters.

Then there is the good news about Latino Catholics, whose growing numbers both from immigration and higher birthrates have largely compensated for the losses and maintained the church’s proportion of the population at a more or less steady level. Latinos are much more likely than non-Latinos to say that their ethnicity is a very important part of who they are, and strong ethnic identity is associated with retaining religious identity and lower rates of intermarriage: 78 percent of Latinos raised Catholic remain in the church, compared to 57 percent of non-Latinos. Latino Catholics also express relatively greater agreement than non-Latinos with church teachings on divorce, premarital sex, abortion, gay marriage, ordination of women, opposition to the death penalty, and papal authority. I say relatively greater agreement because, in fact, far less than majorities of either Latinos or non-Latinos actually agree with any of those church teachings even while high percentages express confidence in the hierarchy. What the future will hold depends on variables like whether the nation’s capacity for assimilation is greater than its current hostility to Latino immigrants—and whether cultural differences in styles of worship and pastoral needs will exacerbate the Catholic “white flight” already underway. Finally, Latino Catholics appear increasingly Democratic at a time when the hierarchy appears to increasingly signal an obligation to vote Republican.

The constant religious churn in America, the public recognition of conversions but not departures, and the compensating numbers of Latino Catholics may all disguise the magnitude of the church’s recent losses. Yet for the bishops, something else, perhaps more fundamental, may be at work.

My impression is that bishops are constantly called upon to boost morale and lift up spirits in the face of often daunting problems. Appearances at parishes, reunions, conferences, or conventions are hardly occasions for dwelling on ominous trends, let alone encountering former Catholics. Many bishops bounce from event to event and from crisis to crisis. Except for financial matters, they may have little opportunity to contemplate the Big Picture, even on the diocesan level, let alone the national one. Their diocesan newspapers are rife with boosterism. In addition, bishops generally shun polemics. There are notable exceptions, even a few who may see the one-out-of-three who depart not as lost sheep but as good riddance, dead wood that should be cast into the fire, or even wolves preying upon the remaining flock. Most bishops, however, for good or ill, have reached their present positions by avoiding conflict, and they try to be what they should be, a point of unity for the local church. Findings like Pew’s can certainly unleash polemics. After their release, ultras and even moderates all along the ecclesiastical and theological spectrum flooded the blogosphere with accusations. Everyone else was to blame for the losses; one’s own viewpoint was the sure recipe for stanching them.

These partisan reactions cannot survive the most cursory look at the data, in which issues transcending camps like spiritually compelling worship, congregational leadership, and the need for effective adolescent catechesis rank alongside hot-button issues like abortion, homosexuality, treatment of women, sexual abuse, and episcopal forays into politics.

Having raised the question of the bishops’ awareness of American Catholicism’s crumbling condition, am I in turn blaming it on them? (Blaming the bishops is the one thing truly uniting the Right and Left in the American church.) Well, the bishops have their share of the blame, as do many others of us at every level and on every wing of the church. But it would be inane to hold the bishops or any other specific group in the church responsible for the social and economic forces that dissolved the Catholic subculture, or for “the sixties,” or for the inevitable succession of generations. We can only be responsible for the ways we have responded, or not responded, to such huge shifts—with energy, sensitivity, and creativity, or with timidity, inertia, and stock formulas.

I doubt whether any diocese is without some energetic, sensitive, and creative initiatives to improve pastoral practice, liturgy, catechetics, preaching, faith formation, financial support, social witness, and all the other things that could reverse the current decline. I continue to hear of successful programs, learn of valuable research, meet inspiring individuals, and see ads for attractive guides and educational materials for clergy and lay leaders alike. Yet somehow all these initiatives seem too scattered, too underfunded, too dependent on an always limited number of exceptional talents to coalesce into a force equal to the forces of dissolution.

The bishops are not the only ones who should be galvanizing and multiplying these initiatives; but they are, as they often remind us, the church’s authoritative leaders. They direct resources, human and material. They oversee personnel. They grant approval and signal change. They can make the difference between isolated examples and widespread renewal. It is hard to imagine a reversal of the current trends without a concerted effort on their part.

What exactly should the bishops do? Anyone can find my own views distilled in the “Afterword” to the 2004 paperback edition of A People Adrift. Occasionally I’ve tried to distill this distillation even further. I have emphasized very concrete, practical items — a quantum leap in the quality of Sunday liturgies, including preaching; a massive, all-out mobilization of talent and treasure to catechize the young, bring adolescents into church life, and engage young adults in ongoing faith formation; and regular, systematic assessments of all these activities—as well as theologically more complex and controversial matters like expanding the pool of those eligible for ordination and revisiting some aspects of the church’s teaching on sexuality.

What matters is not this set of proposals — or any other. What matters is merely some kind of acknowledgment from the hierarchy, or even leading individuals within the hierarchy, of the seriousness of the situation. What matters is a sign of determination to address these losses honestly and openly, to absorb the existing data, to gather more if necessary, and to entertain and evaluate a wide range of views about causes and remedies.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One Courageous Parish Priest

By Mark Silk

Editor's Note: This commentary was first published October 18 at

I'm happy to discover that Fr. Michael Tegeder, pastor of St. Edward's church in Bloomington, Minn., appears to have suffered no ill effects in the archdiocesan reorganization and retrenchment laid out this weekend by St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John C. Nienstedt. Tegeder had the chutzpah to take to the pages of the state's leading daily to criticize Nienstedt for sending out 400,000 DVDs attacking same-sex marriage a few weeks before an election that gives Minnesota voters some opportunity to weigh in on the issue.

Tegeder's comments to his parishioners, posted on his web page, bristle with well-placed barbs. Under "THE AXE FALLS," the clearly unreconstructed Vatican II-nik responds to the archiepiscopal call for greater collaboration among parishes by saying, "Thankfully we have been doing that for many years as we work with local Catholic and Protestant [ital. added] parishes in many areas of ministry."

After noting that financial pressure may require freezing benefits for employees and denying pension coverage to hew hires, Tegeder turns (under "CLOTHE YOURSELF IN CHRIST JESUS") to Nienstedt's readiness to allocate $90,000 to procure identical vestments for all priests to wear at diocesan Masses and clergy funerals. Helpfully, he points out that, in fact, the liturgical year utilizes five different colors, which would require five different sets of matching matching vestments, at a cost of $450k. "Or perhaps," he offers, "a rainbow colored vestment is called for, something like Joseph's coat of many colors. Indeed, a rainbow stole would suffice. And I already have one."

Finally, alluding to the priest shortage that the archbishop points to as a partial explanation for the merging of parishes, Tegeder -- a member of Voice of the Faithful -- turns to "A COLORFUL BISHOP":

Bishop William Lee of the Waterford Diocese in Ireland has recently called for more formal involvement by the laity in church governance. He said that he would have no problem with the ordination of women or married priests. It is refreshing to see bishops addressing the real concerns of the day.

But perhaps not so colorful or refreshing. After his remarks were published in the local biweekly Munster Express, Bishop issued a "clarification":

The Pope has spoken very formally and authoritatively on these matters and I fully accept his teaching and guidance always. The Pope's teaching authority is a gift from God to his people which I appreciate and follow in all my preaching and teaching.

I regret any confusion or misunderstanding that may have arisen on these matters at a recent Pastoral Listening Session and I am glad of the opportunity to clarify this.

Whatever he was quoted as saying, it cannot now be found on the newspaper's website. So it goes when parish priests speak truth to power and successors of the Apostles behave like church mice.

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and the author of Spiritual Politics: Religion and America Since World War II and Unsecular Media: Making News of Religion in America.

See also the previous Progressive Catholic Voice post:
Pastor Mike Tegeder Challenges Archbishop Nienstedt's "Bullying Behavior"

Sunday, October 17, 2010

St. Paul-Minneapolis Catholic Archdiocese Releases New Strategic Plan: Who Was Consulted?

By William D. Lindsey

Editor’s Note: This commentary was first published on William’s blog, Bilgrimage.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, which is "right-sizing" by closing churches and merging parishes (even as the Archdiocese engages in a hugely expensive, glitzy political video campaign against same-sex marriage), has a statement now on its website about the strategic planning process that supports the right-sizing.

This statement begins:

After 20 months of consultation, analysis, and prayerful consideration, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis is announcing the Strategic Plan (pdf) that shapes the vision for the future of our local Church and restructures parishes to foster a more vibrant faith community.

And as I read that statement, the obvious question that leaps out at me immediately is, consultation with whom? Analysis involving whom? Consideration for whom?

What process of consultation supports the new strategic plan of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis? Can that process have been wide, if there is so much shock and anger among many local Catholics?

When I click on the strategic plan itself, I see a slick media-driven advertisement for the "new" lean and mean Archdiocese expected to arise from the ruins of the old. I see, in other words, precisely the kind of image-management media kit I would expect to find when corporate leaders decide to "right-size" their operation, to bring in larger profits even as employees are cut and expenses at the bottom of the corporate food-chain are curbed.

Nothing in the glitzy media-oriented advertisement I see with this strategic plan assures me that the right-sizing in which the Archdiocese is now involved -- or the baffling decision to accept a huge sum of money from an anonymous donor to bash gays for political gain when the archdiocese was planning to close churches and merge parishes -- depends on wide consultation of the people affected by the right-sizing process.

To the contrary, the tone of the media-driven strategic plan kit in and of itself tells me that the leaders of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese have listened predominantly, overwhelmingly to corporate leaders and their gurus as they have crafted their plan for right-sizing.

And I wonder why those folks are in the driver's seat in American Catholicism now, as we plan for the future.

See also the previous Progressive Catholic Voice posts:
Breaking Up is Hard to Do: The Man at the Ten O'Clock Mass – Paula Ruddy (June 10, 2010).
What is the Church's Mission and How Are We Doing as Missionaries? – Editorial (March 1, 2010).
Sounding an Alarm – Paula Ruddy (July 13, 2009).

Recommended Off-site Links:
More Than 20 Churches to Close Under Plan to Restructure Twin Cities Archdiocese – John Brewer (Pioneer Press, October 15, 2010).
Archdiocese to Close 20 Churches, Merge Others - Rose French (Star Tribune, October 16, 2010).
U.S. Catholic Bishops and the Corporate Model of Pastoral Leadership – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, October 16, 2010).
The Price of Catholic Homophobia: While Spending to Bash Gays, Minnesota Catholic Bishops Close Churches – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, October 16, 2010).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pastor Mike Tegeder Challenges Archbishop Nienstedt's "Bullying Behavior"

“It’s not the work of Jesus Christ,”
he tells the National Catholic Reporter.

Tom Roberts has interviewed Pastor Mike Tegeder of St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Bloomington for an October 5 article in the National Catholic Reporter. Tegeder (pictured at right) has been a vocal critic of the Minnesota bishops’ anti-gay marriage campaign – one that involved the mailing of a DVD to 400,000 Catholic households throughout the state. Tegeder’s criticism of the campaign and of Archbishop Nienstedt's role in it reached a mainstream audience when he had a letter-to-the-editor published October 2 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“Catholics have very diverse opinions about this issue,” he wrote. “The bishops themselves are not united on how to approach this new reality of gays and lesbians claiming a right to have their own families publicly recognized with corresponding rights and responsibilities.” To support this view, Tegeder notes that: “the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, the main author of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and friend of the pope, [has] publicly stated that the church needs to look differently at committed same-sex relationships. His fellow Austrian bishops concurred. These are thinking, serious church leaders. They listen.”

Following is an excerpt from Robert’s article.

. . . In an interview Oct. 4 with NCR, Tegeder said he had received overwhelmingly positive response to his letter, but had not yet received any reaction from Nienstedt.

Asked if he feared reprisal, he recalled that he'd already been threatened by the archbishop “with excommunication and interdict” for installing a cremation garden at the church. When he was called on the carpet, he said, he was able to produce documentation that showed his parish had complied with all of the diocesan and state regulations. He said he’s heard nothing further. “You have to know how to defend yourself,” he said, “because a lot of what we’re being told we have to follow just isn’t true.”

He also referred to Paul’s instruction to Timothy to be “strong, loving and wise.” While being strong “in our convictions, including our conviction about marriage,” said Tegeder, “we also have to be wise and loving.” It is those last two qualities, he said, that he finds “so missing in this DVD campaign.”

. . . What struck him [about the campaign], he said, “is that there were no names in it. It’s all ideology, all a theoretical viewpoint.”

He couldn’t help thinking, he said, of the two gay men in a long, committed relationship, who have adopted two boys “out of a hell hole of a Russian orphanage” and recently spent thousands to help one of their sons overcome a learning disability.” One’s view of the issue, he said, changes profoundly when you get to know people’s names and their circumstances.

“In this very difficult world where there are many divisive issues, we’ve got to begin getting to know each others’ names. We’re all up in arms about something that is about love, about people trying to find some happiness in this very difficult world. I’ve been to the mountain. I laughed when he sent that letter threatening excommunication and interdict,” Tegeder said.

“If he throws me out I can walk away from this with my head up … I love ministry. I wake up at 5 every day and stay busy until midnight. I love it. I’m energized by the opportunities.” But some things just need to be said, he remarked.

“This man is leading us in the wrong direction,” on this issue, he said of Nienstedt. “We have to call it for what it is – it’s bullying behavior. It’s not the work of Jesus Christ. It’s not the work of Jesus Christ.”

On the matter of obedience, he quoted from a book that he’s reading by Msgr. Dennis Murphy, A View from the Trenches: Ups and Downs of Today’s Parish Priest: “One dimension of this obedience that has become clearer in recent years is that there is more to this promise than a pledge or a commitment made only to a bishop. It encompasses obedience commitment to the church, and especially to the church understood as the people of the diocese within which the priest serves.”

“That says it all,” said Tegeder.

To read Roberts’ article in its entirety, click here.

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Local Catholic Priest Speaks Out on the MN Bishops' Anti-Gay DVD Controversy

Editor's Note: The following letter-to-the-editor by Michael Tegeder, pastor of St. Edward's Catholic Church in Bloomington, was published in the October 2 issue of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

I have watched the DVD sent out by the Minnesota Catholic bishops in favor of a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman.

The premise of the DVD is that same-sex couples and their committed relationships are a grave threat to marriage. To be clear, these bishops hold that sacramental Catholic marriage is in essence different from what is considered marriage by society. Nevertheless, the bishops claim they have a concern for marriage in the overall society.

What are the real threats to marriage? The Sept. 29 story “Economy is Hitting Hearts and Wallets,” about the effects of our current economy on marriage, said that “being broke and unemployed is not conducive to matrimony, young Americans are finding. In 2009, the number of young adults (25-34) who have never tied the knot surpassed those who had married for the first time since data collection began more than a century ago.”

In every serious study, poverty is the top reason for marital breakdowns. It is very hard to make the case that a small percentage of the population who bond with members of their own sex and seek to live in a committed relationship could have anything but a positive effect on the general population’s appreciation of stable, faithful, life-giving unions.

The very thoughtful letters to the editor about this subject reflect the fact that Catholics have very diverse opinions about this issue. The bishops themselves are not united on how to approach this new reality of gays and lesbians claiming a right to have their own families publicly recognized with corresponding rights and responsibilities.

Since arriving in Minnesota as a bishop in 2001, Nienstedt has had the constitutional amendment as a priority. In 2006, he promoted postcards, which as archbishop he has upgraded to DVDs. I do not believe any of our other bishops would have been on such a crusade. “Minnesota nice,” if not prudence, would have prevailed. Ask them privately.

Just recently the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, the main author of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and friend of the pope, publicly stated that the church needs to look differently at committed same-sex relationships. His fellow Austrian bishops concurred. These are thinking, serious church leaders. They listen.

The constitutional amendment being promoted by the archbishop does not allow even for civil unions, and it would limit current rights enjoyed by our gay and lesbian citizens. We as Catholics can have our own beliefs about marriage. But we must recognize that people of other faiths and of no faith have conscientious beliefs as well.

Most scandalous is that Archbishop Nienstedt has compromised his office with the use of anonymous money to fund this effort. The constitutional amendment is a very political issue. The impression is given that political funding is at work here.

- Pastor Michael Tegeder
Church of St. Edward, Bloomington

Image: Michael J. Bayly.