Friday, November 22, 2013

Actions to Take to Be the Church We Want to See

By Paula Ruddy and Mary Jane Mitchell

The 250 people drawn to Pax Christi in Eden Prairie Thursday, November 21, spoke up loud and clear about the official church leadership’s handling of sex abuse perpetrated by clergy. They want a change in leadership and a change in Church policies and practices, i.e., structural change.

Voice of the Faithful Twin Cities (VOTF-TC) sponsored the event. National VOTF was established years ago in Boston in response to the sex abuse handling by the bishops. It has three goals: 1) support of victims of sex abuse in the church; 2) support of good priests; and 3)church reform. The Twin Cities affiliate has concentrated on goals 1 and 2, supporting victims of abuse and priests of integrity, because, as local chair Suzanne Severson, said, there are other groups in this archdiocese, like Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) and Call to Action-MN (CTA-MN), already focusing on goal 3, church reform. Shari Steffen and Tim Power are VOTF-TC organizers with Suzanne.

CCCR members present November 21 at Pax Christi felt challenged because we heard the people’s overwhelmingly thoughtful, determined, and passionate interest in church reform. VOTF-TC’s direct support of victims of abuse is much appreciated, and their support should be backed up with church leadership and structures that ensure a stop to victimizing in the first place. People said church leadership should stop re-victimizing abused men and women who seek help and should proactively reach out to support their healing.

There was a show of hands about whether the current Archbishop can provide this leadership, and it looked like a unanimous NO.

Besides the alleged sex abuse cover-up, people brought up other reasons for distrust of this Archbishop. There is the issue of John Nienstedt’s ideological stance in matters of policy and practice. What does it mean to be Catholic? Who may speak? Where may people meet? What may be discussed? How should Catholic citizens approach law-making for all citizens in a pluralistic society?

We Can Do Something About It!

The CCCR board of directors is a 17 member group of stout-hearted volunteers who have resource teams of like-hearted people. But we need help. If you have ideas, time and energy to spend, please call us at (612) 379-1043.

We have two campaigns underway that you can help with — one internal to the church and one external.

Our Internal Campaign

We do not want to go from the frying pan into the fire in archdiocesan leadership. Who will we get as Archbishop if John Nienstedt steps down or gets moved in the near future? Even if John Nienstedt stays on, we have to move now for the future. We want to have a people’s voice in who the next Archbishop will be. CCCR's Bishop Selection Task Force is designing a campaign to address this concern.

As a first and immediate step in having a voice, we ask you to write to the Papal Nuncio, telling him that we need leadership, preferably a local priest, who has the ability to pull our archdiocese together to do the work of the Gospel. If you have a person in mind who can do that, or if you have an opinion about the kind of person you want for a leader, write to:

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó
3339 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington DC 20008

The Nuncio is a direct path to appointments of bishops. The ultimate decision-maker for appointment of bishops under current Canon Law is the Pope. Candidates are presented to him by the Papal Nuncio, the Vatican ambassador to the U.S., through a committee in the Vatican. Though bishops can also send their nominations directly to the Vatican, the Papal Nuncio’s list of three candidates is the main way priests get named to the role of bishop.

Form letters are not effective, we are told. Write from your heart, and let us know you have written by e-mailing us at

Our External Campaign

We believe the church we want to see organizes for justice in the world and that organizing Catholics for external issues helps them to organize for internal issues. We are working with OutFront Minnesota and others on the Safe and Supportive Schools legislation to prevent bullying in schools. The Archbishop is the chief opponent of this legislation, even though private schools are exempt. We want the legislators to know that all Catholic voters are not in line with the Minnesota Catholic Conference agenda to defeat the anti-bullying bill. Bullying, being bullied, and watching bullying all teach children the way to get along in this world. To help school personnel counter a violent culture we need the legislation proposed. Check it out here.

Save this Date: Sunday, December 8, 2013. Kick-off Rally for this Campaign. Join CCCR members at South High in Minneapolis, 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. We will post details on the PCV and through email in the week of November 25.


CCCR Bishop Selection Task Force members Paula Ruddy and Mary Jane Mitchell attended the November 21 meeting at Pax Christi, Eden Prairie.


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