Sunday, September 29, 2013

Photo of the Day

Synod 2013, sponsored by the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), took place yesterday, Saturday, September 28, at the Ramada Mall of America Hotel in Bloomington, MN.

Approximately 300 people came to hear an inspiring keynote address by Sister Gail Worcelo, a practitioner of evolutionary spirituality and a co-founder with Thomas Berry of Green Mountain Monastery in Vermont.

In addition, Synod 2013 offered participants a number of afternoon breakout sessions that explored topics and ideas such as "Integrating the Universe Story with Our Christian Story," "Envisioning an Integral Church," "Moving Beyond Alienation with the Church," "Building Alternative Modes of Church," and "Developing a Healthy Perspective on Sexuality." One breakout session looked at how we can have a voice in the selection of our next archbishop, while another focused on the purpose, achievements, and next steps of the Council of the Baptized.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Pre-Synod Get-Together

Earlier this evening the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) hosted a pre-Synod of the Baptized 2013 reception at the Ramada Mall of America Hotel. Present were CCCR board members, Council of the Baptized members, key organizers of Synod 2013, and special guests – including synod keynote speaker Sister Gail Worcelo.

Synod 2013 takes place tomorrow, Saturday, September 28, 2013 at the Ramada MOA. It's not too late to attend! For more information, see this previous PCV post.

Following are photos from this evening's reception.

Above: From left: Bob Beutel (CCCR), Karin Grosscup (outgoing Council of the Baptized member and "All Things Council" Synod 2013 break-out session co-facilitator), Don Conroy (CCCR, outgoing Council member, and "All Things Council" break-out session co-facilitator), Nancy Cosgriff ("Integrating the Universe Story with Our Christian Story" break-out session facilitator), Kendra Rodel, Katie Johnson (Council of the Baptized support team member), and Doug Rodel (Council support team member).

Above: Rosemary Desmond (outgoing Council member), Brent Vanderlinden (outgoing Council member), Lyn Yount (Council member), Mary Beth Stein (CCCR, Council member, and "Building Alternative Models of Church" break-out session facilitator), Lisa Vanderlinden (outgoing Council member).

Above: Carole Kastingar, Karin Grosscup (outgoing Council member and "All Things Council" synod break-out session co-facilitator), James Moudry (Council member), Sister Gail Worcelo (Synod 2013 keynote speaker), and Michael Bayly (CCCR and Progressive Catholic Voice editor).

Above: Eileen Rodel (Council member), Judith McKloskey, Paul Ruddy (CCCR and "Bishop Selection" synod break-out session co-facilitator), Jeff Grosscup, and Patty Thorsen (Council support team member and "Bishop Selection" break-out session co-facilitator).

Above: Ron Strand, Jeanne Cornish (Synod musician), Ed Walsh (CCCR), Sue Jendro (Synod musician), and Bonnie Strand (Synod 2013 Prayer Coordinator and "Moving Beyond Alienation with the Church" break-out session co-facilitator).

Above: Dorothy Irvin (CCCR), Mary Sutherland (CCCR and Synod 2013 Logistics Coordinator), Mary Beth Stein (CCCR, Council of the Baptized member, and "Building Alternative Models of Church" Synod 2013 break-out session facilitator), and Connie Aligada (CCCR).

Above: Mary Ellen Jordan (incoming Council member), Eilenn Rodel (CCCR and Council member), Jim Jordan (incoming Council member), and Bernie Rodel (CCCR and Council member).

Above: Lonne Murphy (Synod musician), Judith McKloskey (Synod host), Shari Steffens (Lay Preaching Proposal Committee member), and Mary Beckfeld (2013 Adsum Award recipient).

See also the previous PCV posts:
Save the Date: Synod of the Baptized, September 28, 2013
Countdown to Synod 2013 – Part 1: When, Where, Why, What!
Countdown to Synod 2013 – Part 2: Sister Gail Worcelo
Countdown to Synod 2013 – Part 3: Evolutionary Spirituality
Countdown to Synod 2013 – Part 4: Media Coverage of Synod 2013 and CCCR
Countdown to Synod 2013 – Part 5: Synod 2013 Break-Out Sessions
Countdown to Synod 2013 – Part 6: The "New Story" at the Heart of Evolutionary Spirituality
A Homily for Evolutionary Sunday
Dueling Worldviews

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Trust Your Shepherds"

By Rev. Michael V. Tegeder

"Trust Your Shepherds." These words were spoken a few years ago by Archbishop John Nienstedt to a woman who was the victim of one of our recently ordained priests. After hearing that the priest was appointed as pastor of a parish some 40 miles from the Chancery offices, she raised her reasonable concerns only to be dismissed with the above words.

Since then we have had the recent case of the priest who impregnated his subordinate staff member, helping to break-up her marriage. The Archbishop then appointed him to the marriage tribunal where he judged others' marriages, potentially judging the very marriage he affected.

On another front, the Archbishop, apparently against the judgment of his main financial adviser, ended the Archdiocesan lay pension plan, breaking the promise made to long-term employees, many of whom are single women who have received very modest compensation for their dedicated ministries. And under his watch we hear that the head of the Archdiocese's accounting department embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Then there was the Archbishop's crusade against gay and lesbian people's committed relationships – a campaign that saw a million dollars spent in an attempt to change our State Constitution to limit the rights of people, many of whom are not Catholic. And he continues to insist on the termination of employees whose only failing is to love another person. (Thank God that our new pope, Francis, rejects this culture war mentality.)

And now we have the investigative report on Father Curtis Wehmeyer by Minnesota Public Radio. This is no longer the case of "what did he know and when did he know it." MPR provides a helpful timeline which sadly documents major malfeasance in assigning this convicted sexual predator.

So far the Archbishop has hid behind the inadequate press releases sent out by his two recently hired, high priced public relations consultants. Last Sunday, Catholics heard the gospel passage, that if you cannot trust a person in small things, how can you trust them in something of major consequence. None of these failures are small things.

Archbishop Nienstedt needs to personally and publicly address this latest breach of trust. A new direction is needed, starting at the top of our Archdiocese.

Rev. Michael V. Tegeder is the pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Minneapolis and of the Church of Gichitwaa Kateri in Minneapolis. This commentary was originally written for inclusion in Fr. Tegeder's "Pastor's Comments" in the September 29, 2013 parish bulletin of St. Frances Cabrini Church.

Related Off-site Links:
Archdiocese Knew of Priest's Sexual Misbehavior, Yet Kept Him in Ministry – Madeleine Baran (Minnesota Public Radio, September 23, 2013).
Twin Cities Archdiocese Knew of Priest's Compulsions, Report SaysAssociated Press via The Star Tribune (September 23, 2013).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Countdown to Synod 2013

is less than a week away!

If you haven't registered yet, now is the time to do so!

To register online,
click here.
(To have an informational brochure/registration form
mailed to you, call 612-379-1043.)

The Progressive Catholic Voice is committed to "Co-creating the Living Church" and so presents today Part 6 of its "Countdown to Synod 2013" series.

In this latest installment we continue our exploration of Synod 2013's overall theme, that being evolutionary spirituality, by sharing an excerpt from "Living the New Story," an interview with Sister Miriam Theresa MacGillis by Alan AtKisson.

AtKisson introduces his interview with MacGillis by noting that: "Theologian Thomas Berry has emerged as a key teller of [the 'New Story' at the heart of evolutionary spirituality], and Sister Miriam Theresa MacGillis is one of his foremost interpreters. Through her workshops and lectures, she helps people to understand and embody this new understanding of what it means to be human. Miriam is the director of Genesis Farm, a center for education in earth stewardship, sponsored by the Dominican Congregation in affiliation with Global Education Associates."

Synod 2013's keynote speaker Sister Gail Worcelo is a practitioner of evolutionary spirituality and a co-founder with Thomas Berry of Green Mountain Monastery in Vermont.

NOTE: For previous installments in the "Countdown to Synod 2013" series, see:
Part 1: When, Where, Why, What!
Part 2: Synod 2013 Keynote Speaker: Sister Gail Worcelo
Part 3: Synod 2013 Theme: Evolutionary Spirituality
Part 4: Media Coverage of Synod 2013 and CCCR
Part 5: Synod 2013 Break-Out Sessions

Part 6: The "New Story" at the Heart of Evolutionary Spirituality

Alan AtKisson: What is the heart of the "New Story"?

Miriam Theresa MacGillis: We are now in a position, based on our scientific explorations, to understand the origin and process out of which the universe has emerged, and with it the solar system, planet Earth, all of life, and the human as well. For the first time all peoples of the Earth can understand this origin story, and it places everyone – their history, their significance, and their roles – in a whole new light.

The most significant part of this scientific story is that the universe has emerged not only in its physical dimensions, but also in its inner, psychic, spiritual dimension. It is an integrated evolutionary process. When we reflect on that, we can begin to understand our place in that process – which is to be that being in whom the Earth has acquired a self-reflective consciousness. That changes all the definitions that we have about ourselves and our nature.

Any school child learning contemporary science and Earth studies has this information available. If we can understand that our life and human history is as much a part of the unfolding of the universe as is the natural world, then we can see that all peoples, cultures, religious traditions, and ethnic diversities have also been part of the same process, and have therefore played a significant role in it. The Earth desperately needs the sum total of all that wisdom in order to go forward into the next stage of evolution.

Alan: We're now in the process of telling ourselves this New Story, and teaching it to our children. How can we begin to live it? How can it become manifested in our lives?

Miriam: I think at every level of our humanness, in the whole inner psychic structure out of which we define our sense of person and individuality. We’re beginning to realize now that the self is an expression of this deeper Earth self, and the even deeper Universe self – that there are no separations. The whole is my whole self. Psychically, the sense of unity – true unity – with the inner dimension of the universe then becomes an incredibly beautiful and enticing mystery to enter into. And in terms of our emotional life, the feelings of communion, union with the whole, or oneness are no longer just the idealistic notions of poetic insight. They are empirically founded, because we know that in our very genes we are connected to the whole.

Physically, it’s the same idea. When we begin to identify with the whole physical being of the planet, then we can see the necessity of enhancing and conserving the integrity of the whole natural world – because it’s the functioning of this part of the planet that makes it possible for humans even to exist. Without air, water, soil, vegetation, there’s no human life. I mean, the Earth literally is our body.

Alan: Doesn’t living this New Story amount to a thoroughgoing revolution in religious life?

Miriam: More of a transformation, because in a revolution one party just changes places with another party. A transformation brings everybody forward.

Alan: How does a transformation relate to history? What part of the past comes with us?

Miriam: I think we carry the entire past. We’re not cutting ourselves off from the past, as though the past were wrong and we’re making an enormous corrective that disconnects us from it. The past has made it possible to have these kinds of insights.

The major shift we’re making now is in our concept of time and space. In the old cosmologies, time was cyclical, and the universe fixed and static. But in this new context, the universe is a constantly emerging process. Time itself is development. Therefore, everything in the past has been essential to open up the possibilities for what is yet to develop – like the tree in the acorn. The acorn has to go through all the states of its process to bring forth a tree, and the tree is very different from the acorn. But you can’t have one without the other.

Alan: That leads us to some interesting questions about the relation of a people to their traditions. How will this affect Catholics and Buddhists and those of other faiths?

Miriam: I believe it will deepen and re-enliven their connections. I find myself more deeply committed to my tradition than ever before. The difference is that the meanings within the meanings have changed. In other words, the forms which held meanings in the past have been opened up to much deeper meanings – so the forms have to adapt and change.

To read Alan AtKisson's interview with Miriam Theresa MacGillis in its entirety, click here.

Remember, Synod 2013 registration is easy!
You can register online, here.
Or call 612-379-1043 to have a brochure/registration form
mailed to you.

Looking forward to seeing you at
Synod 2013!

See also the previous PCV posts:
Save the Date: Synod of the Baptized, September 28, 2013
Countdown to Synod 2013 (Part 1)
Countdown to Synod 2013 (Part 2)
Countdown to Synod 2013 (Part 3)
Countdown to Synod 2013 (Part 4)
Countdown to Synod 2013 (Part 5)
A Homily for Evolutionary Sunday
Dueling Worldviews

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Local Catholics Respond to Pope's Interview

By Beth Hawkins

Note: This article was first published September 23, 2013 by MinnPost.

For Mary Beth Stein, church services Sunday were a breath of fresh air. “There was great excitement, actually, in my community,” she said. “The word of the day is hopeful.”

Generating the excitement was the extensive interview with Pope Francis published last week in which the new pontiff said the Roman Catholic Church had become “obsessed” with gay marriage, abortion and contraception.

“The pope in his interview indicated he is keeping an open mind and he is willing to engage in conversation,” said Stein, who attends the progressive St. Frances Cabrini in Minneapolis. “The windows have been quite closed for the last couple of decades. Today, the windows were open and the spirit was blowing in.”

The church should refocus its efforts on becoming more inclusive, on poverty, war and social justice issues, Francis said in the 10,000-word interview, which was published simultaneously by 16 journals around the world Thursday morning.

“Not all equivalent”

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent,” the 76-year-old former Jorge Mario Bergoglio told the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, the editor of Rome’s leading Jesuit journal. “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently . . . .

“We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel,” Francis also said. “The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”

Most important to local progressive Catholics, who are increasing pressure for transparency in the wake of the Archbishop John Nienstedt’s decision to use church resources to fight marriage equality, Pope Francis indicated a desire to open up conversation at all levels of the church.

“I myself am very, very encouraged by what Pope Francis had to say because it opens up dialogue between the laity and the hierarchy,” said Paula Ruddy, a leader of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform.

Conservative local Catholics were quick to fire back that the pope did not change church doctrine or teachings, but rather suggested his papacy would be marked by a focus on service to the poor, as was his time as a cardinal in Brazil.

One Twin Cities parishioner who asked not to be identified said there was no mention of the interview during services Sunday at her church. Asked about Francis' interview after Mass, the priest told her the news media sometimes gets things wrong and that reading the entire interview shows "nothing has changed."

Statement from Nienstedt

Nienstedt issued a formal statement on the interview Friday. “We are delighted and inspired by Pope Francis’ extraordinary efforts to reach out and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ,” the written statement said. “We reaffirm our allegiance to the Holy Father and extend our hands in service to all who are in need, without condition.

“Building on the core teachings of the Church, which remain clear and unaltered, the Pope’s call to embolden all Christian disciples to joyfully proclaim the Gospel throughout the world is deeply welcomed,” the short statement continued. “In new and bold ways, Pope Francis continues to build on the legacy of his predecessors in calling for the faithful to awaken and live out the Gospel message.”

Spokesman Jim Accurso said the statement would be the Archdiocese’s only response to the interview.

Executive coordinator of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN and a longtime proponent of church reform, Michael Bayly had conflicting feelings.

“I appreciate the shift in focus from doctrine to meeting people where they’re at,” he said. “For me it translates to the church not spending its resources on things like funding a campaign to stop civil marriage [for same-sex couples].”

At the same time, Bayly said, he did not hear anything that indicated a move away from a monarchical system in which the next pope could simply “switch back.”

“I appreciate what he said, but as a gay man I am disappointed that those really hurtful, harmful teachings are still there,” he said. “The system is still set up so that the bishop still calls the shots, still has final say about things.”

Like others, he said he expects Francis’ remarks to have a greater impact on dispirited Catholics than on the local archdiocese. “If you’re conservative-minded, like Nienstedt, this is not going to change that,” Bayly said. “This is why it is so important to have some kind of church reform.”

Recalling Second Vatican Council

A doctor of theology, Hudson resident William Hunt was present at Vatican II, the 1960s council that moved the church toward a peace-and-justice focus, among other things.

“One of the emphases of the Vatican Council was looking out at the world and looking at religious freedom and humanism and social justice,” he said. “Popes John Paul II and Benedict were about circling the wagons to keep the problems of the world from seeping into the church.”

Francis, Hunt continued, “seems to bring an openness to the world.” The archbishop is right, for instance, when he says that doctrine has not changed. But in his interview, Francis emphasized the importance of “discernment.”

The hierarchy will retain authority to make decisions but should listen, Hunt heard the pope say: “A superior spends a lot of time sounding out the people who will have to live with the consequences.”

American bishops are overwhelmingly more vocal about the doctrinal issues Francis wants to de-emphasize, Hunt added. Yet the pope is urging them to “look not at how [people] are labeled, but at who they are.”

Church teachings may still condemn abortion, for instance, but confronted with an individual parishioner, leaders “have to really look at what causes a woman to seek an abortion.”
Shift regarding peace

Hunt also sees a shift toward Francis’ beliefs regarding peace. In 2002, U.S. bishops issued a statement on President George Bush’s talk of invading Iraq that stopped short of saying they opposed it. After the pope vehemently opposed talk of military intervention in Syria, American bishops issued a strong statement of agreement.

And Stein is quick to point out that Francis made it quite clear that dissenting voices were welcome.

“He also issued a challenge to all of us because sometimes people on the progressive end of Catholicism, sometimes it’s easy to fall into blaming conservative Catholics,” she said. “The pope challenged all of us to not do that. He challenged all of us to keep open hearts.”

Stein also is encouraged about the upcoming reform-oriented Synod of the Baptized, which is scheduled to take place this weekend at the Ramada Mall of America. With hope for change in the air, she's looking forward to an energized gathering.

However, partly because of fatigue following marriage-equality and voter-restriction campaigns and because Francis’ tone since his March election has removed some of the sense of urgency, attendance is expected to be down at the synod.

“Restored a lot of people's hope”

“I think this pope has restored a lot of people’s hope in the church after the damage Nienstedt did,” said Bayly. “People are commenting on Facebook how much they like this new pope and they’re not even Catholic.”

Why? “His inclusiveness, his openness to where people are at on their journey, which to me is totally reflective of Jesus. That’s what people are recognizing and responding to.”

As a bishop, the new pope was known for living a simple life and for focusing his energy on the poor and the marginalized. At the Vatican, he has installed himself in a guest house rather than the papal apartment, which he has decried as too isolated.

To Bayly, this speaks volumes.

“Whenever you are eye to eye with someone, you’re more open to their experience,” he said. “If you shut people out, you never hear their voices and they can’t inform the Catholic narrative.”

See also the previous PCV posts:
Quote of the Day – September 23, 2013
The Pope's Radical Whisper
Countdown to Synod 2013

Recommended Off-site Links:
Minnesota Catholics Weigh In on Pope's criticism of church's emphasis on abortion, gays – Rose French (Star Tribune, September 21, 2013).
Pope's Blunt Remarks Pose Challenge for Bishops – Rachel Zoll (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, September 21, 2013).
In Light of Pope Francis' Interview, Where Are the U.S. Bishops? – Mary Ann McGivern (National Catholic Reporter, September 24, 2013).
Pope Francis is a Liberal – William Saletan (Slate, September 19, 2013).
What the Church Needs More Than a "Good Pope" – Mary Hunt (Religion Dispatches, September 20, 2013).
Quote of the DayThe Wild Reed (September 24, 2013).

Monday, September 23, 2013

Quote of the Day

When the cardinals gathered last March to elect a successor to Benedict XVI, many Catholics were praying for a reformer who would tilt the church toward the progressive side of the spectrum. The cardinals, and many other bishops, were mainly concerned with getting a pope who would get the Roman Curia off their backs and maybe even listen to their concerns once in a while.

Both prayers may have been answered, but the most significant development may be Francis’ vow to have a “real, not ceremonial consultation” in which he hears all points of view and where everyone can speak freely.

Francis wants to consult with the bishops, but it doesn’t stop there: He wants the bishops to consult with their people, to “support the movements of God among their people with patience.” The point is that the institutional church needs to account for the beliefs of the “people of God.”

He expressed that most provocatively in highlighting that all Catholics — rather than the pope alone — “are infallible in matters of belief.”

Francis’ appreciation of consultation comes from reflecting on his past mistakes, when he vaulted to a senior leadership position in the Jesuits at the age of 36 and alienated many with his “authoritarian way of making decisions.” The church, too, has been guilty of that fault, he says, and he wants to change that.

– David Gibson
"Five Things We Learned About Pope Francis
from His Blockbuster Interview

Religion News Service
September 20, 2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Pope's Radical Whisper

By Frank Bruni

Note: This op-ed was first published September 21, 2013 by the New York Times.

It's about time. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church has surveyed the haughty scolds in its ranks, noted their fixation on matters of sexual morality above all others and said enough is enough. I’m not being cheeky with this one-word response. Hallelujah.

But it wasn’t the particulars of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking message in an interview published last week that stopped me in my tracks, gave fresh hope to many embittered Catholics and caused hardened commentators to perk up.

It was the sweetness in his timbre, the meekness of his posture. It was the revelation that a man can wear the loftiest of miters without having his head swell to fit it, and can hold an office to which the term “infallible” is often attached without forgetting his failings. In the interview, Francis called himself naïve, worried that he’d been rash in the past and made clear that the flock harbored as much wisdom as the shepherds. Instead of commanding people to follow him, he invited them to join him. And did so gently, in what felt like a whisper.

What a surprising portrait of modesty in a church that had lost touch with it.

And what a refreshing example of humility in a world with too little of it.

That’s what stayed with me, not the olive branch he extended to gay people or the way he brushed aside the contraception wars but his personification of a virtue whose deficit in American life hit me full force when I spotted it here, in his disarming words. Reading and then rereading the interview, I felt like a bird-watcher who had just stumbled upon a dodo.

I’m hardly the first to flag this pope’s apparent humility or the fact that it extends beyond his preference for simple dress over regal costumes, for a Ford Focus over a papal chariot, for modest quarters over a monarch’s suite. Less than two months ago, when he answered a question about gay priests with a question of his own — “Who am I to judge?”— the self-effacement in that phrase was widely and rightly celebrated. Was a pope really acting and talking like this?

But Francis’ tone so far is interesting not just as a departure for the church but as a counterpoint to the prevailing sensibility in our country, where humility is endangered if not quite extinct. It’s out of sync with all the relentless self-promotion, which has been deemed the very oxygen of success. It sits oddly with the cult of self-esteem.

Humility has little place in the realm of social media, which is governed by a look-at-me ethos, by listen-to-me come-ons, by me, me, me. And humility is quaintly irrelevant to the defining entertainment genre of our time, reality television, which insists that every life is mesmerizing, if only in the manner of a train wreck, and that anyone is a latent star: the housewife, the hoarder, the teen mom, the tuna fisher. Just preen enough to catch an audience’s eye. Just beckon the cameras close.

Politics is most depressing of all. It rewards braggarts and bullies, who muscle their way onto center stage with the crazy certainty that they and only they are right, while we in the electorate and the news media lack the fortitude to shut them up or shoo them away. They disgust but divert us, or at a minimum wear us down. Maybe we get the showboats we deserve.

For a textbook case of humility gone missing, consider right-wing Republicans’ efforts to derail Obamacare by whatever crude and disruptive means necessary. The health care law has its flaws, some of them profound, but it was legitimately passed, in accordance with the rules, and to stray outside them in order to make it go away is to believe that they don’t apply to you, that your viewpoint trumps the process itself. It’s the summit of arrogance.

Humility doesn’t work in the cross-fire of our political combat. Certainty and single-mindedness are better fuels.

How exactly does President Obama fit in? While his Syria reversals may well have diminished him, they had a sort of humility to them, reflected a willingness to yield to the strong feelings of others and deserve some acknowledgment along those lines. Leadership, more art than science, should be a mix of rallying people to your cause and recognizing when you stand too far away from them.

But in Obama there’s a recurrent deflection of criticism and a refusal to abide certain political customs and efficiencies — the stroking, the rewarding, the mantra-style repetition of a simplified argument for a distracted populace — that work against his success and smack of excessive pride. He could take a page from this pope.

I never expected to write that. For too many years I watched the chieftains of the church wrap themselves in lavish pageantry and prioritize the protection of fellow clergy members over the welfare of parishioners. They allowed priests who sexually abused children to evade accountability and, in many cases, to abuse again. That cover-up was the very antithesis of humility, driven by the belief that shielding the church from public scandal mattered more than anything else.

For too many years I also watched and listened to imperious men around the pope hurl thunderbolts of judgment from the Olympus of Vatican City. But in his recent interview, Francis made a plea for quieter, calmer weather, suggesting that church leaders in Rome spend less energy on denunciations and censorship.

He cast himself as a struggling pastor determined to work in a collaborative fashion. He characterized himself as a sinner. “It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre,” he clarified. “I am a sinner.”

He didn’t right past wrongs. Let’s be clear about that. Didn’t call for substantive change to church teachings and traditions that indeed demand re-examination, including the belief that homosexual acts themselves are sinful. Didn’t challenge the all-male, celibate priesthood. Didn’t speak as progressively — and fairly — about women’s roles in the church as he should.

But he also didn’t present himself as someone with all the answers. No, he stepped forward — shuffled forward, really — as someone willing to guide fellow questioners. In doing so he recognized that authority can come from a mix of sincerity and humility as much as from any blazing, blinding conviction, and that stature is a respect you earn, not a pedestal you grab. That’s a useful lesson in this grabby age of ours.

You can follow Frank Bruni on his blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Countdown to Synod 2013

is less than two weeks away!

If you haven't registered yet, now is the time to do so!

To register online,
click here.
(To have an informational brochure/registration form
mailed to you, call 612-379-1043.)

The Progressive Catholic Voice is committed to "Co-creating the Living Church" and so presents today Part 5 of its "Countdown to Synod 2013" series. In this latest installment we share the descriptions of the Synod's seven afternoon break-out sessions. When registering, you will be asked to select one of these sessions.

NOTE: For previous installments in the "Countdown to Synod 2013" series, see:
Part 1: When, Where, Why, What!
Part 2: Synod 2013 Keynote Speaker: Sister Gail Worcelo
Part 3: Synod 2013 Theme: Evolutionary Spirituality
Part 4: Media Coverage of Synod 2013 and CCCR

Part 5: Break-Out Sessions of Synod 2013 . . .

1. Integrating the Universe Story with Our Christian Story
Facilitator: Nancy Cosgriff

In this session we explore how the Christ Story and the Universe Story intersect. We will consider these questions: What do we mean by Christ Consciousness? What do the words and deeds of the historical Jesus tell us about his essence and his consciousness? What do we mean by the Universe Story? How do these expanded understandings help us become co-creators of the living Church and of our times? What action outcomes might emerge from this?

2. Envisioning an Integral Church
Facilitator: Tom Smith-Myott

We will introduce a developmental framework for building/evolving a church that provides a safe—and challenging—place for everyone, wherever they are on their journey. What is an "integral church"? It involves telling a new and universal cosmic story and integrating it with the Judeo-Christian story. It involves awareness of developmental stages of consciousness. . It's about evolving a more inclusive, holistic institutional structure and leadership. We will discuss the principles of integration and how we can make this happen in our local church.

3. Moving Beyond Alienation with the Church
Facilitators: Pat Walsh and Bonnie Strand

Are you able to look at your feelings right now about the Church and accept it with compassion? Instead of giving energy to anger, fear, isolation, withdrawal, or resentment we can experience the freedom and spiritual transformation that Radical Acceptance brings to our life. With this awareness we can meet our ongoing life experiences from our inner self of wholeness, wisdom and love. This is our deepest nature, the very self Jesus calls forth to co-create the living church. Join us for images, music, stories questions—lots of questions— and discussions to get an understanding of the power and compassion of Radical Acceptance.

4. Building Alternative Models of Church
Facilitator: Mary Beth Stein

How did the first community of Jesus followers, a community that was characterized by "See how they love one another," evolve into the domineering hierarchical institution we experience today? The 'reign of God,' living the teachings of Jesus in our time and place, is the center around which everything in the church should revolve. This break-out session will reflect on eight movements inspired by Vatican II that are moving our Church toward becoming once again the community of transforming love that characterized the early Christian community. In our shared discussions, we will evaluate these eight movements, consider how they apply to the Church as we experience it, and discuss how we can participate in and nurture these movements in our work for church reform.

5. Developing a Healthy Perspective on Sexuality
Facilitator: Jim Smith

All around us we see signs that Catholics are evolving in their thinking on a range of issues relating to sexuality. Yet many other people, including most in positions of church authority, are fearful of this evolution, actively discourage others in participating in it, and resist involvement in it themselves. Yet where these fellow Catholics see sin and disorder, many of us have found the grace of God manifested in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) persons, relationships and families. Are there ways that we can encourage all within our church to seek and recognize the face of the Divine in diverse sexual orientations and gender identities? What are the steps we can take to attune ourselves to God's presence in LGBTQ lives? How do such steps help develop a healthy and authentically Catholic perspective on human sexuality?

6. Would You Like a Voice in the Selection of Our Next Archbishop?
Facilitators: Rose Marie Assad, Paula Ruddy, Carol Tauer and Patty Thorsen
Panel: Fr. Stephen Adrian, Fr. John Brandes, Fr. Patrick Griffin

In this break-out session we will explain briefly the current processes for bishop selection and discuss our need for leadership, the qualifications we are looking for in a bishop, and a preliminary slate of candidates for appointment. We need creative ideas for how to involve the priests, religious, and lay people of the Archdiocese in developing a final slate of candidates. Canon Law says we have the right and duty to express our spiritual needs to the official leaders. Come prepared to write to the papal nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó, about your spiritual need for leadership in our local church. You bring an envelope and paper, we will provide the address and the stamp!

7. All Things Council
Facilitators: Karin Grosscup and Don Conroy

As laity we are integral to the evolutionary process of our church. Vatican II and the 1983 Code of Canon Law stated it is not only our right but our responsibility to speak to church leaders on matters concerning the church due to concerns of conscience. The Council of the Baptized was formed out of Synod of the Baptized 2011 to voice this conscience of the laity within our church. Much of the focus of our work came from participants in that Synod. We will share that work, gather concerns of conscience, and explore other forms of involvement in our evolving church.

Remember, Synod 2013 registration is easy!
You can register online, here.
Or call 612-379-1043 to have a brochure/registration form
mailed to you.

Looking forward to seeing you at
Synod 2013!

See also the previous PCV posts:
Save the Date: Synod of the Baptized, September 28, 2013
Countdown to Synod 2013 (Part 1)
Countdown to Synod 2013 (Part 2)
Countdown to Synod 2013 (Part 3)
Countdown to Synod 2013 (Part 4)
A Homily for Evolutionary Sunday
Dueling Worldviews

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What is the Lesson?

By Rev. Michael V. Tegeder

I have no direct connection with Totino-Grace High School in Fridley but I was very affected by this Catholic high school's firing a teacher after she told coworkers that she was gay and in a committed relationship. The teacher, Kristen Ostendorf, also served as a campus minister, English teacher, and coach. She has responded: "I am profoundly sad to have to leave a job I have loved for more than eighteen years in a community that was like family to me." She also stressed that the story was not about her former school but about the larger institution. Indeed the firing was done according to our Archbishop's policy. This is what affects me as a priest and member of our Archdiocese.

We live in a changing society. Totino-Grace’s own diversity and inclusion policy states that the “entire community of students and staff [strives] to become more welcoming of diversity and more inclusive of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, academic ability, sexual orientation, or economics.” This is an admirable policy but practice has yet to catch up with it in our Archdiocese. What a great learning opportunity was lost. And what lessons are being taught to the students who find a beloved mentor yanked out of their lives?

While it might seem a double standard, this policy is thankfully not being enforced at other Archdiocesan institutions such as the University of St. Thomas and Catholic Charities. And some parishes are under the radar for now. Happily we now have a pope who is asking us to reassess our judgments in the area of sexuality. We need to talk and to listen.

Rev. Michael V. Tegeder is the pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Minneapolis and of the Church of Gichitwaa Kateri in Minneapolis. This commentary was originally published as part of Fr. Tegeder's "Pastor's Comments" in the September 15, 2013 parish bulletin of St. Frances Cabrini Church.

Related Off-site Links:
Fired After She Came Out to Colleagues, Totino-Grace Teacher Leaves Dissonance and Silence Behind – Jim Walsh (MinnPost, September 11, 2013).
Thoughts on the Firing of Kristen Ostendorf – Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, September 12, 2013).
Fired Minnesota Teacher Speaks Out on the Danger of Silence – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, September 13, 2013).
Quote of the DayThe Wild Reed (September 13, 2013).

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ending Marginalization in the Catholic Church

By Roy Bourgeois

Note: This commentary was first published August 26, 2013 by the Washington Post.

After serving as Roman Catholic priest for 40 years, nine months ago I was expelled from the priesthood and my Maryknoll community because of my public support for the ordination of women.

While being expelled from my religious community that I loved was incredibly painful, that pain doesn’t compare to the hurt endured by women and LGBT Catholics who have been marginalized by our church for centuries.

In a wide-ranging interview with press while returning to Rome following World Youth Day in Rio, Pope Francis covered a variety of topics that have real import to the life of the church, and the lives of individuals. In the two most-reported comments, the pope talked about the need not to marginalize gay people while maintaining the ban on same-sex relationships, and said that the issue of ordaining women to the priesthood is closed, stirring reactions to his comments among people across the globe. He added that the felt the church needed to examine the role of women, and perhaps open more ministries to them.

While many bishops are doing their best to say the pope was merely reiterating current church teaching and that his words should be seen in that light, the extraordinary global response to this press conference demonstrates that most people know there is much more going on. In a world increasingly marked by division—between rich and poor, among people of different faiths or sects, among races and ethnicities, between war-torn countries and those who supply weapons—the pope, as head of the earth’s largest Christian denomination, can be the symbol of the unity and justice yearned for by so many. He comes to the papacy from ministering in urban South America, rather than from an office in the Vatican bureaucracy. He has the potential to be a truly transformative figure.

It seems clear to me that the pope is still coming to terms with the power of his office, and how he wants to use it. He seems a bit conflicted between his pastoral sensibilities and the doctrinal tradition he has been handed. And he has yet to fully grasp the connections among the many kinds of alienation experienced within our church.

I wonder if Pope Francis has thought through the inconsistencies in his comments on women and gay people.

Can you imagine if the take-away quote had been: “If a woman is of good will and called by the Lord to serve, who are we as men to judge and interfere with that call?” Or if the pope had acknowledged that we lack a truly deep theology of sexuality and relationships? Talk about letting in fresh air by speaking truth!

As a priest I learned that when there is an injustice, silence is complicity. I saw the exclusion of women from the priesthood as a grave injustice and, in good conscience, I could not remain silent. The punishment for raising the question of equality was severe –I was thrown out of the community that I love.

Perhaps the biggest change demonstrated by the pope’s comments is the sense of liberation among Catholics to freely discuss the many issues facing the church. The fear that led so many to keep their doubts about current policy to themselves under the previous two popes seems to have been lifted. However, Pope Francis’s pastoral tone should not be mistaken for pastoral action. We need mechanisms and forums for the official church to hear the voices of the laity, especially women & LGBT Catholics.

The people of the church are talking but we need the hierarchy to listen to groups like DignityUSA, the Women’s Ordination Conference, and the majority of Catholics who support a church based on justice. We cannot allow for the inconsistencies of justice in Pope Francis’s comments to stand without speaking out.

I am filled with hope because I know most Catholics have a personal experience that has convinced them that God’s love is not constrained by a person’s gender, sexual orientation, relationship status, or any other factor we humans may define.

Nor is the call to ministry and the ability to serve God’s people. We need all Catholics—laity, priests and leadership—to engage in discerning what living this conviction would mean for our church. Only then we will experience the deeper theology called for by our pope, as well as an end to marginalization among too many of our church’s members.

See also the previous PCV posts:
"A Bloodless Yet Painful Martyrdom"
Roy Bourgeois: "The Exclusion of Women from the Priesthood is a Grave Injustice"
Roy Bourgeois' Statement on His Dismissal from Maryknoll
Christian Sacrifice and the Unholy Crusade to Defrock Roy Bourgeois
Fr. Roy Bourgeois: Ordination of Women Inevitable
St. Mary Magdalene: How the Apostle to the Apostles Subverts Patriarchy
Minnesota's Seven Catholic Womenpriests Are Here to Stay
Roman Catholic Womenpriests: Differing Perspectives

Monday, September 16, 2013

Countdown to Synod 2013

is just two weeks away!

If you haven't registered yet, now is the time to do so!

To register online,
click here.
(To have an informational brochure/registration form
mailed to you, call 612-379-1043.)

The Progressive Catholic Voice is committed to "Co-creating the Living Church" and so continues today its "Countdown to Synod 2013" series by looking at recent media coverage of both Synod 2013 and the organization behind it, the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR).

(NOTE: For the first installment in this series, which contains basic information about Synod 2013, click here. For the second, which focuses on Synod keynote speaker Sister Gail Worcelo, click here. For the third, which focuses on Synod 2013's theme of evolutionary spirituality, click here.)

Synod of the Baptized and CCCR in the News . . .

We start with an excerpt from Beth Hawkin's September 6 MinnPost article, "Catholic Lay Group Wants A 'Place at the Table' with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis."

Several hundred people are expected to converge on a Bloomington hotel this month for an assembly of Catholics seeking church change. The third event of its kind, the gathering is called the Synod of the Baptized.

In the Roman Catholic Church, a synod is a meeting at which bishops consider matters of church governance or teaching. Those in attendance may vote on proposals for consideration by the pope, who may accept or reject the synod’s wishes.

Trying to find an analogous structure for giving the laity a voice in the discussion, the Catholics who will gather later this month . . . would like [their voice] to be heard [on issues such as] human sexuality, women’s equality, the selection of bishops, and financial transparency.

“The use of the word” — synod — “is fairly intentional,” explained Korla Masters, who is helping to coordinate the event. “They are exploring the definition of who does in fact have baptismal authority to enter into decision-making.”

The gathering is intended in part to fill a void created when an archdiocesan pastoral council, an advisory body that included lay people, was disbanded in 2005. Since then, the archbishop and his staff have handled planning, sometimes with the help of ad hoc task forces that included the laity.

The Synod of the Baptized is one part of a five-year-old effort to generate more two-way communication, said Masters. To date, 1,500 people have signed up for its communications.

“There are a lot of folks who are raised Catholic and who at whatever age, but especially young people, are disaffected and alienated from their church,” she said. “Catholics want to come together to increase lay voices.”

[. . .] This year’s synod will feature Sister Gail Worcelo as keynote speaker. [Worcelo] is the co-founder of the Green Mountain Monastery, which is dedicated to healing and protecting Earth and its life systems.

Breakout sessions will address building alternative church models, moving beyond alienation, and developing a healthy theological perspective on sexuality.

Next is an excerpt from an article in the September 10 issue of the Shoreview Press. In this article CCCR board member Mary Beth Stein (right) shares her thoughts not only on Synod 2013, but also on why she is dedicated to staying in the Catholic Church.

[Mary Beth Stein] understands why people wonder if there’s a denomination more suited to her beliefs, but she can’t abandon the tradition she grew up in.

“I am a Catholic and have always been a Catholic, so it is part of my identity,” she said, adding that the sacraments and Mass hold great meaning to her, as does the church’s long history of social justice.

What’s more, said Stein, to leave Catholicism would be to abandon the people who she believes are being hurt by the church’s actions.

“When I look at the practices that the Catholic Church engages in, I see that they’re not always consistent with, well, the Gospel,” she said.

On Saturday, Sept. 28 at the Ramada Mall of America Hotel in Bloomington, CCCR will hold its premier event of the year: the third Synod of the Baptized, a daylong organization of Catholic lay people discussing and learning about ways to change the church’s mindset to one Stein sees as more culturally current. Stein is one of the primary planners of the event, which has “Co-creating the living church” as its theme this year.

“The Synod of the Baptized is a gathering of a growing community of Catholics who would like to revitalize our church [and] bring some reform to our church,” Stein said. “We see areas that are not life-giving for Catholics and are in some cases holding us back.”

Though Stein said she attends a very welcoming parish in the metro area (one she declined to name, citing concerns about archdiocese dealings with the parish), she felt for years that Catholicism as a whole was “excluding” of certain people groups, including women, people who have been divorced and remarried, homosexuals and more.

She feels the approach is inconsistent with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, the mid-sixties council of Catholic leaders that resulted in several documents laying out modernized guidelines for the church as a whole. Though many of those documents did not change the Catholic Church’s approach to topics like reproductive activity or women in the priesthood, Stein and the rest of CCCR believe the spirit of the council encourages the church to reform and practice openness.

Mary Beth Stein also recently featured in the following six-minute video by Peter Shea, in which she discusses both CCCR and Synod 2013.

Finally, the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform is very much the focus of Rose French's September 16 Star Tribune article, "Reform Group Denied Seat at Archbishop Nienstedt’s Financial Meeting." Following is an excerpt.

Archbishop John Nienstedt is expected to discuss church finances and a proposed $165 million capital campaign at a meeting with priests on Monday, and a group of Catholics calling for greater financial transparency from church leaders thinks they should be allowed in, too.

Members of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform asked to attend the Priest Finance Day at Pax Christi church in Eden Prairie but were told by Nienstedt in a letter dated Aug. 21 that the meeting is “intended to be a professional gathering for those who have been duly ordained to the Catholic priesthood.”

Robert Beutel, a St. Paul attorney and co-chair of the board of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, said the group of lay Catholics argues that issues dealing with parish and archdiocesan finances should be open to Catholics in the pews, not just clergy.

“It’s our money,” Beutel said. “It’s like taxation without representation. … We want the lay people to be a part of all of this, the budgeting, decision-making, the oversight.”

During the meeting, Nienstedt is expected to address the capital campaign, proposed to be shared with parishes and other partners to raise money for Catholic schools, charities, seminarian education and preservation of the St. Paul Cathedral and the Basilica of St. Mary.

The annual Catholic Services Appeal, another major fundraiser, is also expected to be discussed, as well as lay and priest pension plans, Beutel said.

. . . Charles Zech, director of the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova University, noted that Protestant churches tend to be more open and transparent with people in the pews, compared to the Catholic Church.

“There should be some venue for him [Nienstedt] to meet with the laity to discuss these very issues,” Zech said. “If I was the archbishop and I was hoping to raise some millions of dollars, I’m not going to do it through my priests, I’m going to do it through my laity.”

The [Catholic Coalition for Church Reform] is [holding] a Synod of the Baptized assembly to discuss changes they’d like to see in the church on Sept. 28 at the Mall of America Ramada in Bloomington. Previous assemblies have attracted close to 500 people.

Remember, Synod 2013 registration is easy!
You can register online, here.
Or call 612-379-1043 to have a brochure/registration form
mailed to you.

Looking forward to seeing you at
Synod 2013!

See also the previous PCV posts:
Save the Date: Synod of the Baptized, September 28, 2013
Countdown to Synod 2013 (Part 1)
Countdown to Synod 2013 (Part 2)
Countdown to Synod 2013 (Part 3)
A Homily for Evolutionary Sunday
Dueling Worldviews

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Vatican Official: Priest Celibacy is Open to Discussion

By Dylan Stableford

Note: This article was first published September 12, 2013 by Yahoo! News.

The Vatican's new secretary of state said this week that clerical celibacy is open to discussion, signaling a shift in approach for the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Francis.

"Celibacy is not an institution but look, it is also true that you can discuss (it) because as you say this is not a dogma, a dogma of the church," Archbishop Pietro Parolin [right] said in an interview with Venezuelan newspaper El Universal. "The efforts that the church made to keep ecclesiastical celibacy, to impose ecclesiastical celibacy, have to be taken into consideration. One cannot say simply that this belongs in the past."

Parolin, who was named Cardinal Secretary of State late last month, is considered the most powerful official at the Vatican after Pope Francis.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Parolin's comments "are raising eyebrows" in Rome, "with some wondering if they herald looming changes in Catholic teaching and practice."

But Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See’s press office, told NBC News the comments were "in line with the teachings of the church."

It's not clear when celibacy became mandatory for priests, HuffPost Religion notes, but the first written mandate for chastity dates to 304 C.E., when Canon 33 of the Council of Elvira stated that all "bishops, presbyters, and deacons and all other clerics" should "abstain completely from their wives and not to have children."

And "a definitive ruling was handed down at the Second Lateran Council of 1139, which ruled that priests were forbidden to marry."

Parolin's admitted question of priestly celibacy represents “a great challenge for the pope."

In 2012, before becoming pontiff, Francis addressed the issue, saying he was in favor of maintaining the tradition "for the moment."

"It is a matter of discipline, not of faith," he said. "It can change."

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Quote of the Day

All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs to all of humanity!

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on September 7th, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all [people] of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

– Pope Francis

Related Off-site Links:
Military Solution in Syria Would Be Futile, Pope Tells G20 – Philip Pullella (Reuters via Yahoo! News, September 5, 2013).
The Catholic Case Against Strikes on Syria – Fr. Edward L. Beck (The Huffington Post, September 4, 2013).
Vatican Opposition To Syria Strikes Ramps Up, Pope Francis Calls For Peace Vigil – Nicole Winfield (Associated Press via Huffington Post, September 4, 2013).
Syrian Christians Say Western Attack Could Make Things Worse – John L. Allen Jr. (National Catholic Reporter, September 4, 2013).
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Joins Pope Francis’ Call for Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria – United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (September 3, 2013).
Francis Calls for Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria – Thomas C. Fox (National Catholic Reporter, September 1, 2013).
Pope Asks Other Faiths to Join Day of Prayer for Peace in Syria – Philip Pullella (Reuters, September 1, 2013).
Grand Mufti Desires to Be in St. Peter's with Pope to Pray for Peace in Syria: Muslims and Other Groups Join in AppealAgenzia Fides (September 2, 2013).
What Moral Theologians Are Saying About Getting Involved in Syria – Thomas Reese (National Catholic Reporter, September 3, 2013).
Respond, But How? What We're Missing on Syria – Jim Wallis (Sojourners, September 5, 2013).
Eight Arguments Against Going to War with Syria – Stephen Zunes (, September 4, 2013).
Calling on America to Find Power in Peace – Vina Kay (Opine Season, September 3, 2013).
The Press and the Syria Debate: Neither Neutral Nor Balanced – Conor Friedersdorf (The Atlantic, September 3, 2013).
Why Climate Change May Be Responsible for the Horrors in Syria – James Fallows (AlterNet, September 3, 2013).
Eight Reasons Not to Go to War with Syria – Peter Suderman (, August 27, 2013).
Do's and Don'ts for Progressives Discussing Syria – Ramah Kudaimi (, August 27, 2013).
The U.S. Does Have Non Military Options in Syria. Here Are Four of Them – Max Fisher (Washington Post, August 23, 2013).