Thursday, July 28, 2011

Diana Culbertson to Speak at CCCR's "Evening in the Park" Fundraiser

An important announcement from the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR)

Due to an emergency situation involving one of her community members, Christine Schenk, Executive Director of FutureChurch, is unable to join us as keynote speaker at our August 2 "Evening in the Park" fundraiser at Lake Elmo Park Reserve.

The fundraiser will go forward, however, as we are happy to announce that Diana Culbertson, O.P. (pictured at right), has agreed to be our keynote speaker for the evening.

For the past two years Diana has served on the FutureChurch Board of Trustees as a member of its Strategic Issues Committee. She also helps edit FutureChurch publications and is a well-respected lecturer, speaker and author. (To read her homily for the Feast of Mary Magdalene, click here.)

We look forward to seeing you at our August 2 fundraiser, the details of which are below -- as is more information about Diana's credentials and accomplishments.


Join us for an "Evening in the Park" Fundraiser with

Diana Culbertson, O.P.

Date: Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Place: Park Pavilion at the Lake Elmo Park Reserve (South Shelter),
Washington County Parks, MN.

For map and directions, see below.

Diana Culbertson, O.P., is professor emeritus at Kent State University. She received her Ph.D., in Comparative Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, N.C., and a M.A. in Theology from Aquinas Institute in St. Louis, MO.

She is a former president of the International Colloquium on Violence and Religion. Her publications include The Poetics of Revelation: Recognition and the Narrative Tradition, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop: Selected Writings, and Invisible Light: Poems about God.

Diana has lectured and published extensively and is currently an editor and writer at the Center for Learning in Villa Maria, PA. She recently served as the vicaress (vice-president) of her religious congregation, the Sisters of St. Dominic of Akron, OH. She is presently a member of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, founded in 2009 as a union of seven religious congregations.

Diana has served on the FutureChurch Board of Trustees for two years as a member of the Strategic Issues Committee and helps edit FutureChurch publications.

The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) is sponsoring this event as a major fundraiser for its Synod of the Baptized (“Making Our Voices Heard”), scheduled for September 17, 2011.

If you are unable to attend but would like to make a tax-deductible donation, make your check payable to CCCR and mail to:

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

Please Note: 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 feel free to arrive early and enjoy the park. There is no car fee for entering the park.

You may reserve seats on a bus that will leave from South Minneapolis for the evening. Call Paula at 612-379-1043 for reservations and more information.

Map and Directions

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.


From Interstate 94, take exit 151 or 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.

Teachings of the Church

Surely if there ever was a perfect catch-all phrase, it is "teachings-of-the-Church." It includes everything from defined dogmas, items in the Apostle's Creed, 1752 Canon laws, opinions of the Pope (like steam locomotives are the work of the devil), every one of the 2865 items in the Catechism, to the thoughts of cranky old bishops like Burke and Molino.

It has become a universal cliché of the hierarchy to discourage dissent. Falling into the same catch-all basket of against "The Teachings of the Church" are those who disagree with pre-Vatican II liturgical norms and language, contraception, mandatory celibacy for priests, collective bargaining, just war and torture, women's ordination, slavery, same sex unions, the resurrection of Jesus, the nature of the Trinity, and if God really exists. Note that some "Teachings of the Church" are slippery, time-bound, and culturally-colored.

At stake here is the power and authority, originating from the community of the Church and appropriated by unelected leaders to set the rules for who is in and who is out. By voting a certain way, you could be considered "out" according to "The Teachings of the Church". By not behaving/believing according to the bishop's instruction, you are obviously against the Teaching of the Church.

Some (bishops?) believe good teaching is the attempt to influence, even coerce, the faithful into believing what is being taught. But the criteria for effective teaching involves, rather, if the teaching makes sense and is received by the faithful.

If you do not accept that all contraception is sinful, or legalizing same-sex unions are wrong, or only men can be ordained, or contributors should have a say in how their money is spent and who should be responsible, or the language of prayer should be strange or contorted, or bishops should tell us how to vote, you are dissenting against "the teachings of the Church".

Without careful and intelligent scrutiny, accepting every "teaching of the Church" is similar to checking the box "I agree" to observe every privacy/usage rule for downloading new software/upgrades.

Study the reasoning behind Church teachings, consult and observe how your Catholic community receives them, and judge for yourself.

Follow your own well-formed conscience, as fallible as it may be.

Who is going to save the church?
Not the bishops, not the priest and religious.
It is up to you the people. You have the minds,
the eyes, the ears to save Her.

-- Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Written and distributed by the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Notes on the Magisterium

By Carol Larsen

The Archdiocese is taking note of CCCR. In the July 21 issue of the Catholic Spirit we are given valuable free publicity, and also a warning in the name of the “universal Roman Catholic Church.” It directs all of the faithful to believe and abide by the “magisterial teachings” of the Church. (By the way, “Magisterial teachings” is a redundancy, since the meaning of the Latin word for teacher is magister).

Church history is replete with examples of church teachings which have been overturned by science. The most egregious example, perhaps: the church taught for centuries that the Earth was the center of the universe and threatened Galileo with severe penalties for believing the evidence of science and his own eyes.

In more mundane matters, we were told for ages that eating meat on Fridays was a mortal sin.

We were told that divorce was forbidden, but if you could convince some board to give you an annulment, you could marry again with the blessing of the Church. If not, you were barred from the sacraments, whether you remarried or not, according to many bishops and pastors, though not all. This inconsistency has pretty much made a laughing stock of our beloved church in the eyes of our Protestant brethren. It's not hard to see why.

Many of us had communal penance in our parishes for a decade or more: now we are told that we must return again to the confessional box. So, which was was right, according to the magisterium?

The word “magisterium” has a foreign and intimidating aura about it. It frightens the easily cowed into doing, or not doing, things out of fear of their souls being lost. However, the American Catholic has, in large numbers, overcome that fear with common sense — in the matter of birth control, for instance. We lag behind in our use of artificial contraception by 2% as compared to our Protestant brethren. In fact, many of our Protestant brethren used to be Catholics, due in large part to the unreasonable strain put on their marriages by the doctrine that “every sexual act must be open to new life.” This doctrine is in direct opposition, in my view, to the good of the planet, and cannot much longer stand. The Church will soon come under attack if it continues to insist on this dangerous philosophical stand. It is surprising that the United Nations has not come out against it more forcefully in view of the population growth, particularly in Africa and South America. The doctrine is no longer tenable in the modern world, although sexual restraint is still a moral virtue, easier for some than for others.

Of course, the Archbishop is also concerned that we are interested in seeing to it that women are allowed to be accepted as pastors and priests in our parishes. Many women have already been ordained validly but in secret by certain bishops. Yet they are not allowed to serve in traditional priestly roles. The reason usually given against women priests has to do with the fact that all the Apostles were male. This is no more than an excuse to maintain male dominance. Consider the type of life that the Apostles were required to lead in order to spread the Gospel two thousand years ago, and you will see that a women in those days would have had a hard time surviving the rigors of life on the road, not to mention that women's roles were very restricted, as they still are in many third-world countries today. In the developed world today, however, we have women leading several democracies. Would you like to explain to them why they are not fit to lead?

If our priests were allowed to marry, the stand of the Church on the foregoing issues of human life would be dead in the water, as the intellectualism that permeates so much of church doctrine in these matters would be largely replaced with humanity, understanding, compassion and common sense. Many Catholics do not realize that, for the first 1000 years after Christ, priests were indeed allowed to marry. The reason that changed had little to do with spirituality and a lot to do with money and property, which the Church did not want to pass into the hands of wives and children of priests after they died.

These are some of the issues that worry the Archbishop and which he would prefer not to be brought up for discussion. We are instructed to “shun any contrary doctrines” and embrace fully the doctrines of the magisterium. We are to have no part in the way the church is governed. Apparently it is none of our business. This attitude is in direct conflict with Vatican II, which states that we have a right and a duty to help guide our church in the right path. The saints — including clerics, nuns, and members of the laity — have always done this through the centuries. It is not always “top down,” and Vatican II was quite emphatic about this principle, although it has been degraded to a large degree by subsequent Popes since the beloved John XXIII, who wanted to “open the windows” and let fresh air in!

We must help that spirit to succeed, for the love of the Church, which is us! We need to reclaim the spirit of Jesus and urge our leaders to do the same for the sake of life on this planet and, as we hope, in the next world as well. The Lord would expect no less of us. Courage!

Click here to register for Synod 2011.

See also the previous PCV posts:
"All Voices Must Be Heard": A Response to Archbishop Nienstedt
Archbishop Nienstedt's July 18 Letter
Talking About Disconnects: One Response to Archbishop Nienstedt
The Consensus of the Faithful as the Voice of the Infallible Church
Acclaimed Church Historian Marvin O'Connell to Discuss Cardinal Newman
The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission
Richard Gaillardetz on the Need to "Wrestle with the Tradition"
Nicholas Lash on Dissent and Disagreement
Communicating With Leadership
It's Critical That Catholics Find Their Voice
Let Our Voices Be Heard!

Monday, July 25, 2011

"All Voices Must Be Heard": A Response to Archbishop Nienstedt

James Moudry responds to Archbishop John C. Nienstedt's July 18 letter in which he cautions the priests of the Archdiocese and the Catholic faithful against attending the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's September 17 Synod of the Baptized.

As a member of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) I was pleased that the Archbishop recognizes that “some of the aspirations” held by CCCR and other groups are “valid.” It has always been our intention to be faithful Catholics and to be, in the Archbishop’s words “a prophetic sign in and for the world, to promote justice and reconciliation in the Church, and to facilitate courageous and honest dialogue.”

Furthermore, we agree with him when he says that “it is the bishops, in communion with the Roman Pontiff, that have the responsibility to respond to the issues raised by CCCR.” Our concern is with how to get these issues raised, heard and understood in all sectors of the church. Without in any way denigrating the proper role and authority of the bishops and the Pope, we wish to raise up the correlative roles of the baptized faithful and the theological community in discerning the authentic meaning of the Christian life. These latter two voices are part of the Catholic tradition. Church history shows the necessity of listening to this sense of the baptized faithful in matters of church doctrine and discipline because God’s Spirit is present and speaking in them, too. The same holds true for the Catholic theological community. All voices must be heard. It is not the Catholic tradition that the official magisterial voice alone exhausts the conversation.

Our experience as baptized Catholics is that our voice on many matters of church teaching and discipline has not truly been heard. Yet God’s Spirit is leading the Church through the voice and experience of the people, too. For that reason we continue to meet, pray, reflect, speak out and act. For that reason we have scheduled the “Synod of the Baptized” for September 17, 2011 to make our voices heard. We hope that our Church can honestly listen and honor our experience as part of how God is guiding the Church.

Click here to register for Synod 2011.

See also the previous PCV posts:
Archbishop Nienstedt's July 18 Letter
Talking About Disconnects: One Response to Archbishop Nienstedt
The Consensus of the Faithful as the Voice of the Infallible Church
Acclaimed Church Historian Marvin O'Connell to Discuss Cardinal Newman
The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission
Richard Gaillardetz on the Need to "Wrestle with the Tradition"
Nicholas Lash on Dissent and Disagreement
Communicating With Leadership
It's Critical That Catholics Find Their Voice
Let Our Voices Be Heard!

Talking About Disconnects: One Response to Archbishop Nienstedt’s Letter of July 18

By Paula Ruddy

It has come to the attention of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform that Archbishop John C. Nienstedt has written a letter dated July 18 to the priests of the Archdiocese cautioning them, as well as the Catholic faithful, “against participating . . . or otherwise supporting the CCCR and its efforts.” You can read the letter here.

CCCR’s efforts consist in Listening Sessions throughout the archdiocese and the launching of a Council of the Baptized at Synod 2011 on September 17. A fundraiser for these efforts is scheduled for August 2 at Lake Elmo Park Reserve.

The purpose of all our efforts is to be active participants in the mission of the Church which we take to be growth in the Christ life as individuals and as a community with the responsibility to manifest that life to the world. Our responsibility is direct service to and in the world, but it is also to help create an institutional Church culture that is a sacrament of the Gospel in the world.

The Archbishop is correct that we are trying to create a “structure of authority within the Church.” The Council of the Baptized is intended to be a structure to discern the sense of the faithful and to communicate it to each other and to our ordained leaders. We claim authority from our baptisms and from our lived experience of the faith. We have something to contribute. Our contribution does not “stand against” the authority of the bishops, the pope, the constitutions of Vatican II. Rather, we think we are also authorized by our tradition to think and to speak.

The Archbishop affirms our aspirations as valid: “to be a prophetic sign in and for the world, to promote justice and reconciliation in the Church, and to facilitate courageous and honest dialogue.” Then he makes it very clear that it is the responsibility of bishops and the pope to “to respond to the issues raised by the CCCR.”

How can the issues be raised if we are to sit down and be quiet as well as to be shunned by our pastors in the Archdiocese and by our brothers and sisters in the Church?

The Archbishop seems to think that the issues and the answers are all pre-existing, enshrined in crystal clear, logically and experientially unquestionable writings of a pope in communion with all bishops somewhere in the abstract. No discussion necessary.

We, however, think that the experience of faith is individual and communal and grows through communication and in specific contexts. What a community believes is a continuous process of communication among the faithful — all of us together — people who live the life, theologians, and the ordained leadership whose job it is to listen, articulate, and teach.

How can we reassure the Archbishop that we want to work with him?

Click here to register for Synod 2011.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Archbishop Nienstedt Cautions Priests of the Archdiocese Against Attending CCCR's 2011 Synod of the Baptized

Editor's Note: The following letter was sent July 18, 2011, by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt to the priests of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. The links in the text of this letter have been added.


Reverend and dear Fathers,

I recently received a letter from the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), informing me of the upcoming activities that they have scheduled in this Archdiocese. You will recall that an official announcement regarding this group was published last year.

According to this letter, the group has scheduled a second ‘synod,’ to be held on September 17, 2011, at the Sheraton Hotel in Bloomington. In preparation for this event, CCCR is sponsoring ‘Council of the Baptized Listening sessions’ at various locations in the Twin Cities, as well as having a fundraiser at Lake Elmo Park Reserve. Based on previous communications from the CCCR, and having reviewed the materials provided on these events, I have a number of concerns and wish to caution you, as well as the Catholic faithful of this Archdiocese, against participating in these events or otherwise supporting the CCCR and its efforts.

Given my sacred responsibilities as catechist and defender of the faith, I especially wish to caution those who may consider attending one or more events that the invited speakers at both the fundraising event and the ‘synod’ hold positions contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Christine Schenk is the Executive Director of FutureChurch, a group that ‘respect[s] the leading of the Spirit and primacy of conscience of women seeking to obey their priestly call outside the present canons of the Church (1), and actively promotes optional celibacy and an ‘inclusive’ priesthood. Anthony Padovano, whose theological writings have questioned the physical resurrection of Jesus, the virgin birth of Jesus, the perpetual virginity of Mary, and the need for an ordained priest to celebrate a valid Mass, was President of CORPUS (National Association for Married Priests) and Vice President of the International Federation of Married Priests (2). He has also been active in promoting an ‘ecumenical alliance’ of various schismatic groups.

This is not to suggest that some of the aspirations of those affiliated with these groups are not valid. On the contrary, I believe all Catholics share the desire to be a prophetic sign in and for the world, to promote justice and reconciliation in the Church, and to facilitate courageous and honest dialogue. However, it is the bishops, in communion with the Roman Pontiff, that have the responsibility to respond to the issues raised by the CCCR, and to do so in a way that reflects the mind of Christ and the Church. Furthermore, one of the practical effects of the CCCR and its activities is the creation of a counter-structure of authority within the Church that stands against the teachings of the Catholic faith on the authority of the bishops, the Holy Father, and the divine constitution of the Church as articulated by the Second Vatican Council. My grave fear is that faithful Catholics who may attend these events will receive confusing and inaccurate information about the teaching of the Church, and thereby be led astray.

I ask that you join me in praying for the unity of the Church, and for an outpouring of the infinite love that she embodies.

With every good wish, I remain,

Fraternally yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

(1) FutureChurch Statement on the Canonical Warning Issued to Fr. Roy Bourgeois, 3/31/2011.
(2) Documentation from the writings of Dr. Padvano can be supplied.

See also the previous PCV posts:
Launching a Council of the Baptized in St. Paul-Minneapolis
Twin Cities Coalition for Church Reform Has High Hopes

Negative Experience of Contrast: Synod and Council As Liberation
The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Homily for the Feast of Mary Magdalene

By Diana Culbertson, OP

July 22, 2011

Sisters and Brothers:

We are the bearers of a great tradition. The word that we have just heard is ours to pass on — to proclaim. On this night we have heard an astounding story — one that we must tell over and over again, to the next generation and the one after that. This word is particularly precious because it came to us so late in the tradition. And because the real Mary Magdalene was mysteriously dissolved into a sinful woman — unnamed in the Lucan text — or into Mary of Bethany in an earlier part of the Gospel. Now that we can all read the texts, which was not possible in earlier ages, and retrace the biblical traditions, we can re-discover this remarkable person.

When the event of Resurrection was related, it came to the first generation of Christians in multiple versions. St. Paul was told that "Cephas" was the first to see the Risen Christ. Mark wrote that a group of women were the first to see the Risen Christ, but they were afraid and not believed. As Luke writes, "this story of theirs seemed like nonsense" — all that business about a vision of angels. As a biblical scholar has recently pointed out, the writer does not say that the women were not believable, simply that they were not believed. (Why are we not surprised?). Luke mentioned that the Lord had appeared to "Simon." But we don't know how that happened. It was third hand evidence — or, as we might argue in a court — hearsay. Then, at the end of the first century, decades after the death of Paul, the Community of the Beloved Disciple told their story. The writer — or the scribe unknown to us — offered to the Christian community their understanding of the Lord in whom they believed, their understanding of the meaning of discipleship, and especially the meaning of love — the love of the Lord for us, our love for one another. It is this love that impels us to attend to the story of Easter morning. Let us look again.

It was still dark. She peered into the darkness, experiencing grief so profound that she didn't realize that angels were speaking to her or that the one she was looking for was, in fact, present. Then she heard her name. The words of Jesus, however, must have been deeply disturbing. Is this what she wanted to hear? Is this what we want to hear?

Jesus said to her: "Stop clinging to me" ("Let go!"). Could any word have been more disturbing. "Let go."

And then, "Go."

We can reflect on her awareness of what was happening. Everything she had thought about for three days — and for years before that, and now in the darkness — was dissolved and re-arranged. From this moment on nothing would ever be the same. "Let go," said Jesus to her. And so must we all — "let go." Let go of the Jesus we think we understand, the Jesus we think we know so well. Can the church – the community of believers — ever know completely, ever really know, the Jesus we proclaim with such confidence? What does he say to those who have found him, to those whom he calls by name?

"Go." (This is not always what we want to do.)

"Go to my brothers and sisters (Adelphoi can mean brothers, can mean sisters — and here Jesus is referring to the Christian community.) "Go to my brothers and sisters" (not apostles in this text, my brothers and sisters).

"Go to the community and tell them 'My Father is your Father. My God is your God.'" He does not say, "Go to Peter and the Apostles and tell them to take over, there is work to be done."

And Mary of Magdala delivered the message: the technical apostolic proclamation: "I have seen the Lord." The Lord. This is the message of every Christian witness: "I have seen the Lord."

"I have seen who Jesus is for us. I have seen him alive and present to us. I have seen the Lord."

And who is permitted to utter this proclamation? All who have sought the Lord, all who have found him alive in their midst, all who have heard his voice. All who have been sent.

"Go to my brothers and sisters." Let go of the Jesus who is constricted by your preconceptions, let go of the Jesus whom you thought you understood. Leave the tomb. The world is not as dark as it seems. Listen again to the words of angels: "He is not lifeless. He is not among the dead. He is alive and near you. He has sent you to his brothers and sisters — all of them, wherever they gather – formally and informally, sometimes in fear, sometimes within their own darkness, sometimes convinced that they already know all about him and that there is nothing more to learn.

Mary Magdalene is the patron saint of those who have to abandon preconceptions, abandon old ideas, let go of fear, let go of despair, and forget the idea that nothing will change. When Mary of Magdala saw the Lord, everything in the world changed . . . and is still changing. Nothing will ever be the same. Jesus is alive and still with us.

And he is unpredictable. He sends us where we may not want to go. He sends us an unpredictable protector and advocate, a source of wisdom and strength who surprises us with unpredictable gifts of courage and hope.

No one can still the voices of those who have been sent — those who have seen the Lord. No one can stop us from telling the world. His Father is our Father. His Mother is our Mother. His God is our God. We are his brothers and sisters. He is with us — now and forever. He will never leave us. We know, we know . . . because we also have seen the Lord.

Mary of Magdala, lover, disciple, friend, apostle, preacher, guide to the Order of Preachers, pray for us.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Negative Experience of Contrast: Synod and Council As Liberation

By Don Conroy

The experience of neglect, oppression, dependency, etc., are negative experiences of contrast to the way things ought to be and can be. Liberation theologies are a response to negative experiences; for example, poverty, patriarchal systems, and absence of civil and human rights. Another example of negative experience is excessive demands by ecclesiastical authority in governance and teachings.

Let's begin with teachings. When religious leaders make authoritative statements that address issues outside their discipline, such as the natural or social sciences, their statements are suspect if not entirely false. This was the classic case of Galileo in the 17th century, and this is the case today in their attempt to define the nature of the human condition of same-sex attraction. Another example of negative experience of contrast as what ought to be is the condemnation of artificial birth control by celibates; whereas, those of good faith who are not consulted in the condemnation and are directly affected ignore the condemnation. These are only two examples.

Now let's look at governance. The most striking fact that applies to the negative experience in Roman Catholic ecclesiastical governance is the systemic exclusion of over half its members from active roles in governance and praxis: women. (Praxis is structured activity of free persons.) Not only is it the case that women are relegated to a place of little or no power in church governance, the non-ordained baptized also have no representation.

Catholics who have been influenced by the Spirit alive in the documents of promise and the reforms consequent to Vatican II are now responding in a variety of ways to their experience. They are engaging in forms of liberation thought and praxis. One example of this is the call to the baptized to gather in a synod and be part of organizing a "council of the baptized," the members of which will act as representatives of the people in forming policy for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Liberation theologies are contemporary expressions of oppression. Our post-modern culture calls on us to examine and take personal responsibility to understand systems and relationships of power. Our social responsibility does not allow us to be defined and relegated to an inferior place in society. Liberation theologies address questions that, for clarity sake, can best be expressed in a negative form. Why should we contribute to a social system that places us in a marginalized passive role? Why should we accept a teaching that all are equal when it is clear that we are not included as equal? Why should we submit to a hierarchical system where some dominate others and deny them due process? How explain the exclusion of women from the Sacrament of Orders?

These are religious questions, not only about the existence of a God that is the ground of being, but also about the kind of God, the interest of this God in human existence, and the quality and character of a divine will for human history.

– Roger Haight
Jesus: Symbol of God

We find it necessary to raise our voices against oppression as we experience it. We come together for solidarity of expression and action. If we do not express our negative experience, the clerics in high position would not be advised of the destructiveness of their policies and practices. Come join us.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Remembering David McCaffrey

By Mary Lynn Murphy

I have been wandering around the house all morning, drying my tears on the hem of my night gown, still not believing that David McCaffrey is gone. I suppose our icons never really leave us, though, and David was without a doubt, one of the Twin Cities icons of the gay rights movement, especially in Catholic contexts. But . . . I won't see his round impish face anymore, won't hear his bird whistles, his hilarious wise cracks, his wonderful singing voice, or his pitch perfect imitations of crusty old clerics from days long past. I won't observe the sideways comments to his partner Michael that crack them both up! I won't receive his understated absolution/apologies after one of our many tiffs, or his consistent affirmation of my role in this work. I will sorely miss David McCaffrey, whose lasting impression on my life dates back almost two decades.

On a late fall afternoon I waited to be buzzed into the massive side door of the Basilica of St. Mary. I was headed for my first meeting with a tongue twister of a group named "Catholic Pastoral Committee for Sexual Minorities" (CPCSM). I could never get the initials or the name straight! And I wasn't all that clear about what this group wanted from me.

I wondered about that as I followed directions down a darkened hallway to a suddenly sunny and laughter filled, man filled room – all seated around a huge oblong table. Smiles surrounded the cookie filled table, amidst efforts to straighten up and act a little more dignified - now that their female guest/potential new member had arrived. They referred to me as their "crown jewel," in that I was an "out" mother of a gay kid, a board member of a Catholic high school, and looking for a way to make a difference. That day I found it.

David McCaffrey and Bill Kummer were clearly the head honchos of CPCSM. They played off one another that day and always, like finely tuned instruments creating warm, informal feelings in that most formal of settings. (The official church was more welcoming of LGBT leaders then, before it became apparent that they weren't going away, and were intent on raising the public profile of the Catholic gay rights struggle.)

David boomed out his personal introduction (in that resonant voice!), relating stories complicated by Bill's frequent interruptions and guffaws from the rest of them. What a crew! Though their work was deadly serious, I have never had more fun at meetings than pounding the table in laughter during the early days with Bill, David, and their brain child offspring, CPCSM. Through that organization and its future manifestations, Bill and David became tag team teachers, mentors, and cheer leaders for a whole generation of people seeking hope.

Despite being a straight woman, I was welcomed into their mostly male ranks, which later opened to all kinds of women, parents, and activists. David and Bill built an impressive organization. When one of them faltered, the other picked up the slack. I used to laugh at their complicated flow charts – that rarely panned out, but kept them busy through long nights of insomnia! The success of their work came not from flow charts, but straight from their hearts. They persevered through all of it, (with great support from the Sisters of St. Joseph), celebrating when things fell in place, and gutting out the disappointments - which were many. From David and Bill I learned that social justice must be a way of life, and that unadulterated passion is the truest catalyst for change.

David McCaffrey was a passionate man. For sure he had a temper, but he gave you an honest answer when you needed it. He had you-know-what's of steel when it came to facing down conflict, and never backed away from a struggle. He spoke out loud against the bigotry of presenters at an Archdiocesan "Marriage Panel" at the University of St. Thomas. It was he who sanctioned the suggestion of a "Die In" at the Cathedral, never fearful of "making a spectacle."

David embodied the deepest sense of justice. He was relentless. At initial Safe Staff meetings with Catholic school administrators, David laid out our objectives with the precision of a Church historian, backed up by solid psychological data, and empathy for kids who were suffering. His professionalism, comfort with Catholic administrators, and obvious good heart helped establish our credibility. His understanding of boundary limits in schools set a professional basis for our effectiveness. His written summaries of the work were impeccable and detailed to the max. That man could write!

David was a man on fire in many respects, and the flames burned bright until the very last minute. He had co-convened Catholics For Marriage Equality MN to fight the anti-gay marriage amendment, and valiantly kept up communication websites despite health that was fading faster than we knew. (He had planned to be the "wheel man" at the Basilica Block Party action, but ended up in the hospital instead). David would have been so pleased with the entire wonderful outcome. Concert goers swamped us for "I support marriage equality" stickers. How thrilled he would be by such a warm response on Catholic soil! He, Michael Bayly, and the Catholics for Marriage Equality folks should take a huge bow for that one!

David should take so many bows for his work both during and before my tenure at CPCSM. Though change within the Church has stalled in recent years, (to David's enormous frustration!) it is coming on steady as a freight train in America at large. David has been an undeniable part of that. The Safe Schools Initiative (in addition to all of the other initiatives David helped launch) extended far beyond the Catholic school doors, and helped lay the tracks for the engines of societal change.

Earlier (in the mid '90s), after his retirement, Archbishop John Roach publicly acknowledged David and Bill's work. From inside the walls of the Cathedral he spoke about CPCSM in words to the affect of: "These are the the people to see if you have questions about homosexuality. Go to them if you need help". I have never forgotten that day. It made David so proud.

Whether building trust with the hierarchy in better times, or launching the Safe Schools Initiative; whether in meetings with the Catholic Education and Formation Ministries (CEFM) of the the Archdiocese (left) or in eloquent writings, personal presentations, and videotaping events; whether verbally archiving CPCSM history, or lying flat on his back "dying in" at the Cathedral; whether facing down opponents at demonstrations and crashed conferences, or counseling those in need and firing up our motley crew, David led the way for change that is finally arriving in American society. This change will someday, thanks to people like David, even arrive in his beloved Church. David was a remarkable man whose tenacity of spirit will probably remain with me much longer than I might ever have imagined.

If there is any justice out there, David is now with his trusted friend, Bill Kummer, and he will be savoring a job well done. I will be calling on David for prayerful intervention as I often have, and I will remember the man who gave his life to his cause, his Church, and to the people he loved.

– Mary Lynn Murphy


David's funeral arrangements:

Visitation: 4:00-8:00 p.m., Thursday, July 14, 2011 – Bradshaw Funeral Home, 1078 Rice St., Saint Paul.

Funeral/Memorial: 11 a.m., Friday, July 15, 2011 at the Church of St. Stanislaus, 398 Superior St. & West 7th St., Saint Paul.


Recommended Off-site Links:
"I Have Never Felt Closer to Anyone in My Entire Life Than to David" – Michael Douglas (The Wild Reed, July 12, 2011).
Sad News – Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, July 10, 2011).
CPCSM Co-Founder Responds to "Not Catholic" Assertion
History Matters
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 1)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 2)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 3)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 4)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Twin Cities-Based Coalition for Church Reform Has High Hopes

By Zoe Ryan

Editor's Note: This article was first published in the July 5, 2011 issue of The National Catholic Reporter.

ST. PAUL, MINN. – Some 2,000 people gathered in Detroit June 10 for the American Catholic Council to attend discussions surrounding current issues in the church. Among them was Paula Ruddy, who said the spirit of hope in the people was inspiring.

Ruddy isn’t a person who needs inspiration from other lay Catholics just for the nice feeling it gives her. She leads a lay organization in Minnesota. Like the American Catholic Council, it calls for more discussions in the church and more involvement from the laity in those discussions. Unlike the council, Ruddy’s group wants to become a permanent, official organization in its archdiocese one day.

So far, the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese hasn’t bought into the reform group’s agenda -- last year the archdiocese warned people to stay away from the group’s study sessions and convention and this year the archbishop called them a threat to church unity – but Ruddy remains hopeful.

Ruddy helped found the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform in the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese because, she said, “there’s a lot of wonderful stuff going on in our archdiocese” but the laity of the archdiocese are not really pulled together as one core unit.

The coalition wants to strengthen the laity in the archdiocese and eventually create a “council of the baptized.” Ruddy said that she does not know of any other group like it in any diocese in the United States.

“We want to make policies, practices, church administrative structures that will serve the Gospel message and we need to hear from the people in order to do that,” Ruddy said.

As one of its guiding themes, the group uses a description attributed to Pope Pius XI: “The church, the mystical body of Christ, has become a monstrosity. The head is very large, but the body is shrunken.”

The “shrunken” body of the church – the laity – has to develop its own organizational strength, Ruddy said. That’s where the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform comes into play.

“We found that people were really concerned about a lot of ... issues and also feeling that they had no place to talk,” said Eileen Rodel, co-chair of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform. People can speak about those issues -- such as equality for women and sexual minorities – at listening sessions the coalition hosts.

In putting together their vision, the organization’s founders had to come up with a very specific understanding of what they mean by church, said Bernie Rodel, another coalition co-chair. They modeled their understanding of church after the Asian bishops’ model, he said.

“The church, in their understanding, is really a communion of communities that’s based upon acceptance,” Bernie Rodel said. The other qualities for church the Asian bishops outlined, he said, were equality, participation, dialogue and prophecy.

The coalition started in 2009 after a few Catholics noticed that there were many reform groups in Minnesota working on different things and wanted them to band together.

Eight groups are members: Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church, Call to Action-Minnesota, Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, CORPUS, Dignity Twin Cities, Minnesota St. Joan’s Community, the Progressive Catholic Voice and Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

The coalition is a nonprofit Minnesota corporation and does not have a voting membership. It is run by a board of directors.

In April 2010, the coalition started work-study groups that explored any disconnect they saw between church practice and the Gospel message. The work-study groups looked at topics such as Catholic identity, Catholic spirituality and social justice. [Note: CCCR's work/study groups actually started in May 2009.]

The object of 2010 was to get action teams started to build networks and relationships with the community, and also to find out what people were “thinking and wanting,” Ruddy said. Listening sessions provided an outlet for the latter.

The groups also planned the Synod of the Baptized, where an action plan and listening sessions could begin.

According to Ruddy, 500 registrants gathered at the Synod of the Baptized in September 2010. The coalition hopes to have 1,000 at this year’s synod, planned for Sept. 17, she said.

This year’s synod will launch the Council of the Baptized, which will be different from the coalition, Ruddy said.

The council will be the “spokesperson” for the people and will be a “lay organization to discern and to communicate the sense of the faithful and to invite partnership with the official archdiocesan leadership in working for the mission of the church,” according to Ruddy.

Council members will be nominated by lay Catholics in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area who attend the synod or are supportive of the coalition. Nominees who agree to the responsibilities will then meet and each will nominate three people among themselves. From that pool of nominees, 16 people will eventually be chosen by the coalition board members, as well as five others who will be members-at-large.

The coalition invited Archbishop John C. Nienstedt to join its process, but he declined the invitation. In a June 8 letter to the group, Nienstedt noted that by canon law only a diocesan bishop can convoke a diocesan synod and that the coalition does not have his permission to hold a diocesan synod. He called the coalition’s organizing “an affront to the hierarchical ordering of the church ... and a threat to her unity.”

Nienstadt asked the group to cancel its plans “since nothing positive will be gained by such a meeting. Should you persist in your planning, I ask you to be honest enough to drop the word ‘Catholic’ from your organizational title.”

Ruddy said the invitation to Nienstedt still stands and the group wants to engage him in dialogue.

As for the future of the group, Ruddy said she thinks it’s going to be a constantly evolving idea. But the laity always will be the core.

“The sense of the faithful comes from listening to people,” Ruddy said.

Zoe Ryan is an NCR intern.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Clericalism and Laity-ism: Twin Evils in Our Church

No gift of the Spirit trumps the radical equality
of baptism, writes Brian J. Willette.

Laity-ism (a new word) is the conscious or unconscious belief that the Church is primarily the domain of the ordained—the clergy. Those who hold this belief see decision-making in the Church as properly belonging to priests and bishops, especially the bishop of Rome, the Pope and his Curia. If the non-ordained, the laity, have any role in decision-making in the Church, it must be granted to them by the clergy, and it can only be advisory. And this advisory role can be revoked at any time for any reason by the clergy.

The adherers to this belief hold that the division between the clergy (the ordained) and the laity (those who are only baptized) was instituted by Jesus. They further hold that this division is based on an ontological difference—a difference in being, a difference in nature—between the ordained and the non-ordained. Those holding the belief in this ontological division believe that there should be two classes of people in the church—a higher class, the clergy, and a lower class, the laity.

Although laity-ism didn’t cause clericalism, laity-ism enables clericalism.

Clericalism is the belief and/or attitude that holds the ordained, the clergy, are ontological different from and superior to the laity. Clericalism defines the Church primarily as the realm of the clergy and relegates the laity to a second class status—dutiful members, who are to pray, pay and obey. Clericalism assigns decision-making in the Church to the clergy, especially in the hierarchy. It also gives them a privileged status—akin to untouchable royalty. It raises them above most measures of accountability and provides them the cover of secrecy.

These twin evils are an affront to Jesus’ Good News.

Both clericalism and laity-ism directly assault baptism’s radical equality in Christ. Simply put, clericalism and laity-ism eviscerate baptism’s inherent equality.

Many biblical scholars and theologians challenge the belief that Jesus intended setting up two classes of citizens in the Church—with the clergy belonging to the first class and the laity belonging to the second class. They also challenge the conjecture that there is an ontological difference between the ordained and the baptized faithful.

It is true Jesus called some to special roles—special ministries—in the Church, but he called them to be servants, not lords.

Although all are equal in baptism, St. Paul clearly states, there are many and varied gifts of the Spirit. No gift of the Spirit trump’s the radical equality of baptism. No gift of the Spirit—even the gifts of preaching, sacramental ministry or governance—makes one ontologically different or superior. All gifts of the Spirit are given for the building up of God’s kingdom here on earth. All gifts should be recognized and shared in ways that respect the fundamental equality in baptism.

If our Church returns to Jesus’ core teachings and the early Church’s respect for the radical equality in baptism, both laity-ism and clericalism will be exorcised from the Church, the mystical body of Christ.

To eradicate these twin evils, the baptized faithful must take the lead. They have to challenge their “second class” status by embracing their equality and rights inherent in baptism. Then, led and empowered by the Christ Spirit, they need to embark on exercising their responsibilities as first class citizens in the Church.

History points out that those who deem themselves to be of the “higher class” are very reluctant to give up their privileges. Most tenaciously cling to their privileged status, especially when they believe their identity and worth come from their higher status. However, some—often a minority—in the “higher class” recognize the injustice inherent in their higher class status and willingly give up their ill founded privileges. Most often these people join the effort to end the divisive apartheid system based on radical inequality.

By the grace of God, not all bishops and priests have succumbed to the temptation of clericalism. Some continue to believe in baptism’s inherent equality and are faithful to Jesus’ example of servant leadership.

Clericalism will remain strong in our Church as long as the baptized faithful allow it, as long as the baptized faithful hold on to laity-ism. Only when they renounce laity-ism and embrace the fullness of their baptism, especially its radical equality, will clericalism with its destructive effects come to an end.

It is a true blessing that more and more laypeople, empowered by the Spirit, are embracing the fullness of baptism and are working to reform and renew our church.

Only when laity-ism and clericalism are eradicated will our Church be able to be all that it is called to be.

© 2007 and 2010, Brian Willette. Reprinted with permission.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Church Remodeling

By Mary Stadick

Today, the words, “church” and “peace” are often not synonymous; certainly not when we worship at the altar of comfort and consumption in the church of me and mine, anxious that the security of our ideology and our stuff may be threatened, afraid that someone less deserving may get to the goodies before we have our fill. We have so many things, but we have so little joy. We are often not at peace within ourselves, with other people, or within and among our churches and communities.

I experienced an alternative when I visited Assisi [pictured above], nestled in the gentle landscape of Umbria, Italy. A very old new way of peace and church are embodied there in the legacy of Assisi’s most famous citizens, Francis and Clare, and their call of paz y bien, peace and good. Peace and good not just for themselves, or the people of Assisi, or Italy, or Europe, but for all people on the planet, for all life and the planet itself. Liberating themselves from the heavy burdens of power, money, and patriarchy, they did not merely tolerate the poor, the ill, and the outcast. Francis, Clare, and their followers lived among them, served them, and embraced them.

Assisi stands in vivid contrast to the Vatican, just a few hours away by train. Both have their shares of grand churches, but Assisi is free of the excess of everything that is the Vatican. I felt a sense of equal footing on the narrow, stony streets of Assisi that open to an expansive view and flexibility of mind, freedom from absolute power, control, and top-down thinking. My experience of the Vatican was quite different, packed with crowds standing in lines at metal detectors, jostling and elbowing for a better view, maybe even a glimpse of the Big Guy – the Pope himself. The Swiss Guard was very apparent in their brightly striped, velvety finery, looking like rare exotic birds. They are, however, an army in every sense; military-schooled young men who are required to be expert marksmen.

Brightly dressed groups of people were found in Assisi, too, but no army, and no metal detectors. Rather, saffron-robed Buddhist monks stood in deep conversation with a group of Franciscan friars.

Assisi offers a renewed model of church. Grounded in humility and service, united with the earth and all its residents, the lives of Francis, Clare, and their followers are proof that churches of material treasure, intolerance and worldly power can evolve to churches of the spirit when we are freed from the excess of things, living fully where we are with what we have, reverencing all of life in the cathedral of the open air; when we embrace paz y bien – peace and good.

First published September, 2010. Reprinted with permission from Peace Begins, published by the Loft Literary Center Peace and Social Justice Writers Group. Copies of the book may be purchased here.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Quote of the Day

. . . American Catholicism should be preparing for 2020 when a large increase in the Catholic population, mostly Hispanic, will present Church leaders with the challenge to open rather than close new churches and schools. Instead of preparing for the future, bishops and priests now in key administrative and pastoral positions, led by Pope Benedict XVI, are dressing the set of Catholic life with props from the past in an effort to take the church back to 1920.

That era of simplistically captioned silent movies is now re-created through the awkwardly translated liturgical readings soon to be expensively imposed on what these self-styled "reformers" hope to be passive and silent parishioners. Americans are not, however, alone in experiencing this phenomenon. In May the bishops of England and Wales restored meatless Fridays year round for Catholics. In the same month a nun held up a silver reliquary carrying the blood of the newly beatified Pope John Paul II, to applause by a large crowd in St. Peter's Square. Besides alerting Pope Benedict to beware of doctors holding syringes, this reveals the Transylvanian caste of some of the clerics now decorating the set of Catholicism throughout the world.

As demanding and sometimes as narcissistic as great actors, these set-dresser clerics are tantrum ready if they pick up any symbol or practice of Vatican II in their sight lines. While the makers of "The Untouchables" knew that they had emptied a warehouse of dusty props to create a temporary illusion of Prohibition era Chicago, these "New Men," as they sometimes style themselves, believe that placing pre-Vatican II artifacts everywhere in contemporary Catholicism actually restores the high times of the hierarchical Church.

Clericalism redux energizes this spreading movement to reinstate that Neverland age of Catholicism when priests controlled the church, lay people knew their place, the Mass was in Latin, God was in His heaven and all was right with the world.

All they need are church parking lots filled with Twenties era Pierce-Arrows and Model T's to match the retro-fitted customs, such as recruiting people to keep vigil with a supposedly lonely Jesus in overnight adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

The examined life is not, however, the focus of set-decorators who promote an unexamined return to Flapper-era Faith. Nothing better symbolizes these efforts than their fussy revival of that liturgical species once thought extinct, the Solemn High Mass that keeps lay people well away from the altar as, by deploying a deacon and sub-deacon to assist the priest celebrant, reinforces the concept of the hierarchically layered priesthood and church. In short, the church before, as one set-decorator said in my hearing, the "morally evil" Vatican II occurred.

Through this movement, clericalism, whose exclusive country club culture has finally been identified as one of the breeding grounds and hiding places for priest sex abusers, has vaulted back onto center stage or, better, the center sanctuary of ecclesiastical life. These new zealots assault Vatican II's formal collegial theology of the church as a People and Catholicism's informal sense of itself as a big family. . . .

– Eugene Kennedy
"Set Decorator Catholicism: Clericalism Thrives
in a New Phase of the Sex Abuse Crisis"
National Catholic Reporter
June 30, 2011