Saturday, August 20, 2011

Big Deal or No Big Deal?

By Paula Ruddy
Catholic Coalition for Church Reform

Something happened this past weekend, not a big deal on a global scale of injustices, but it got to me. This is what happened:

Back in June, a group of parishioners from a lovely suburban Catholic parish invited CCCR to facilitate a Listening Session at one of their bimonthly meetings, an August Saturday morning adult gathering. People deeply concerned with being the Church in the world. Committed people, well educated and reflective people.

CCCR readily agreed. Four Listening Session facilitators met with the group’s planner, had a conversation with one of the liaisons to staff, cleared calendars, printed handouts, got ready. This was a great opportunity to hear what these people, committed to living the life of the spirit, were thinking. It was an opportunity to plan with them for responsible action in our local church — for its mission and survival.

You guessed it. The call came on Wednesday before the Saturday gathering. The parish told its members they could not hold the meeting in the church building. The group meets there regularly but on this occasion they were not welcome in their own church. You know the hassle that then ensued — between work schedules, emailing and calling people, trying to get the sense of what the group wanted to do, trying to make a respectful decision. Bottom line -- the group decided to cancel.

CCCR respects the group’s decision. They are free and responsible adults following their consciences. They too may be disappointed and saddened by the action of their parish. We empathize with that. They don’t want to jeopardize the possibility of meeting on their own church property in the future.

Who made the decision for the parish to put the kibosh on this meeting and why? Was it the pastor? He is reportedly out of town. A staff member? Yes, it was reportedly a staff member, citing the technicality that the group had not reserved one of the available rooms as well as Archdiocesan disapproval of CCCR.

And why is CCCR non-grata? We want to discuss the “magisterial teachings” of the Church.

This is a tiny incident. I hear people responding: No big deal. Get over it! Coalition members have been shut out of church property for years — CTA, CPCSM, Dignity, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, anyone who asks a question. You should have expected it, should have moved the meeting elsewhere in the first place. Don’t make a fuss about it for such a small number of people. The parishioners have to pick their battles. We have to be strategic. That wouldn’t happen in my parish, thank God!

Okay, I can get over it, but is it really no big deal? Institutional support for the human need to question, to think, to understand and make sense of the world and our mission in it is an absolute necessity, not a luxury. If you are lucky, you may get this need met in your parish, but it is starved in our local church, the Archdiocese. It is a need particularly strong in young people and in the Vatican II generation. The church may be able to survive the dwindling and death of the old folks who were awakened by Vatican II, but can it survive the departure of the young who get no support for their awakening minds? Authoritative fiats from the “magisterium” do not satisfy the questioning mind.

CCCR calls for pastoral leadership at the archdiocesan level for the sake of the Church’s mission, leadership that cares for human needs. We need a robust culture of reflective, imaginative, nuanced moral reasoning. I suppose that is, inevitably, threatening. But we are on minimal life support here, and it is a very big deal.

We can’t wait around for the Archbishop’s approval. The Council of the Baptized, to be launched at Synod 2011 on September 17, is our attempt to provide for ourselves a unified, reflective and deliberative discernment of the sense of the faithful in our local church. Come and help. Go to

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