Sunday, June 22, 2014

Broadly Catholic, Narrowly Catholic: Can the Two Ways Pull Together to Save the Institutional Church?

Question posted by Paula Ruddy

As much as we all want this long culture war to be over, the conflict is hard to resolve. It came up in a committee in my parish this week; it is the main thread on the dotcommonweal blog just now about the role of Catholic theologians. The conflict is a constant undercurrent in Catholic life.

Usually labeled “liberalism” and “conservatism,” the division has been thoroughly analyzed for why it exists, what historical and psychological factors account for it. But what is the bottom line?

I’m calling it a difference between broad and narrow and I am asking you not to place a value on either word for the time being. Like the uses of optical lenses, both broad and narrow are good, but they are different. Narrow can be “bad” because it misses a lot. Broad can be “bad” because it can get very fuzzy without showing anything clearly. There are upsides and downsides to both.

Broadly Catholic Catholics recognize God in “the world” (hereafter BC’s). Another way of being Catholic is to recognize God within the Roman Catholic magisterial world, as distinct from “the world.” It is a narrower focus (hereafter NC’s). BC’s set out into the “secular” world in a maze of paths, highways, byways, guided by faith, the tradition, and a community, discerning the true, the good, and the beautiful from step to step. NC’s are happy with the path laid out by the magisterial community, illuminating the true, the good, and the beautiful in age old forms, warning of fruitless byways and evil open highways. Tradition is a guide to the BC’s, a set path for the NC’s. Too simple, I know, but the general idea is useful.

The bottom line raises fearful questions: if most Catholics turn to “the world” to be broadly Catholic, will the Roman Catholic magisterial world fall apart? If dogma is discarded because we all now know that truth is always on the horizon of knowledge, and goodness and beauty are all around us, what will happen to the magisterium? Will it have finances and authority to continue? If that world falls apart, how will the tradition be maintained and grow? Will most “broadly Catholic” people lose their way to the world’s banality without the guidance of the large community? Will Catholics who depend most on the Roman Catholic magisterial world be left behind with no support?

I see the magisterium in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis trying to solve the problem by narrowing the focus, trying to gather Catholics together for strength inside the corral of dogma, Catholic identity, pre-Vatican II practices, condemnation of “broadly Catholic” and “the world.” They are looking to Evangelical Protestantism for ways to narrow the focus and attract more people to be churched.

Wouldn’t it be better to spend the energy talking with the “broadly Catholic” to find ways to support all Catholics in living in the world and maybe even to influence the world? Could we get some leadership in that direction? What does anyone think?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

LCWR Joins Iraqi Sisters in a Call for Prayer

NOTE: The following media release has been issued by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

Facing imminent danger, the leader of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Sienna in Mosul, Iraq has called her sisters throughout Iraq to a time of intense prayer and retreat to beg God for the protection of the Iraqi people, especially the minority Christian community.

The Iraqi Christian community has steadily declined from approximately 1.3 million in 2003 to less than 300,000 today. Recent statements from Christian leaders have indicated that it is unlikely there are any Christians remaining in Mosul today.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the United States calls upon people of all denominations in the world community to join the Iraqi Sisters in a moment of prayer on Thursday, June 19 at 6 p.m. (in your time zone) to pray for an end to the violence and the protection of minority Christians in Iraq.

“We are living in extreme times. Christianity has been present in Iraq from biblical times, but at this point Christians are in grave danger and being forced out of this land or face martyrdom. The Dominican Sisters remain committed to accompanying their people regardless of the consequences,” said LCWR president Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ.

The Iraqi Christian Sisters are all Iraqi nationals and ministers in healthcare, social services, and education. In fact, the Iraqi Dominican sisters started the first Montessori school in the country. The Sisters serve all people, Christians and Muslims, in their ministry.

As the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine continue their days of intense prayer, they ask that people throughout the world join them on June 19, believing that this intensification of global prayer can make a difference.

“We believe that prayer has the power to change the course of events in Iraq,” Sister Carol noted. “We stand with our sisters and brothers who courageously remain with the people they serve and will join with them in prayer for as long and as often as it takes until the violence ceases.”

About LCWR: The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is an association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. The conference has more than 1400 members, who represent more than 80 percent of the approximately 51,600 women religious in the United States. Founded in 1956, the conference assists its members to collaboratively carry out their service of leadership to further the mission of the Gospel in today’s world.

Sister Annmarie Sanders, IHM – LCWR Director of Communications
301-588-4955 (office)
301-672-3043 (cell)

Monday, June 16, 2014

An Open Letter to Cardinal O'Malley

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM
Archdiocese of Boston
66 Brooks Dr.
Braintree, MA 02184-3839

Dear Cardinal O’Malley:

My letter, which I ask that you share with the members of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, is my plea as a lifelong Catholic (age 74) who views the subject of clergy abuse of children as the most outrageous and unimaginable crisis in the church in my lifetime. Throughout history there have been worse catastrophes in the church, but in this modern world, I think nothing matches this breakdown in the collective conscience of the church's ordained ministry. There are countless stories to illustrate the severity of the impact on ordinary people.

The Commission appointed to address this crisis carries an extraordinary burden insofar as the issues are complex, the suffering is extreme, and a large proportion of the world, especially Catholics, watches and waits for a clear sign that this failure will not be repeated or tolerated in any form without severe consequences for those responsible.

I think most thoughtful, prayerful Catholics would agree that those clergy guilty of destroying the lives of countless children did not set out to destroy. They are probably men who set out to serve God and the people of God in the best way they knew how. Whatever their motives, they deserve our compassion and forgiveness. They have undoubtedly suffered and will continue to suffer throughout their lives for their failures. Despite the need for compassionate, humane treatment, they are not exempt from civil laws and penalties and the church must not aide them in their understandable desire to escape due process under the law.

It is not too extreme, in my view, to cite this issue as analogous to the Christian failure in an earlier time to boldly speak out against the evil of slavery and segregation. While the number of victims may be much smaller, the advancing consciousness of our world serves only to magnify the grave injustice that has been done to the victims.

As for the bishops and others in the authority structure who have exhibited grave negligence in their practices to protect the guilty, the church must demonstrate that a new era has begun. It is shameful to think that my church is perceived to care more about protecting abusive priests and their bishops than it cares about the lives of children, and families, destroyed by their abuse.

The work of the Commission will be judged by many more than those who are directly affected. It will be judged by those of us, a far greater number, who want to believe that the Spirit will always guide the church in search of Truth, Justice and Wisdom, and that the same Spirit has been welcomed into your deliberations and heard with an open mind and loving heart, and not merely given lip service while the lives of innocent children are sacrificed at the altar of clerical denial and inventive rationalization. Please remember the extraordinary demands on parents responsible for the care of deeply troubled children suffering irreversible harm at the hands of abusive clergy. Your mission is as much to show that justice applies to all as it is to demonstrate compassion toward the deeply flawed among our brothers.

May the guidance of the Spirit be with you in your time of extraordinary responsibility.


Michael A. Ricci, Sr.

cc to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Apostolic Nuncio
Archbishop John Nienstedt, Archbishop of Saint Paul/Minneapolis Archdiocese
Fr. Thomas Balluff, Pastor of Saint John the Baptist Church, Little Canada, MN

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Mistaken Defense of Archbishop Carlson

By Phil Lawler

Note: This commentary was first published June 13, 2014 by

With his customary bravado, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League claims that “Archbishop Carlson Has Been Framed” and says that criticism of the archbishop’s testimony (including mine, presumably) can be attributed to “malice, ignorance and laziness.” Strong words. Let’s see if they hold up.

Examining the transcript of the deposition, Donohue notes several times when the archbishop spoke of sexual molestation in terms that suggested it was a crime. Donohue concludes that in light of that recorded testimony, “it is simply impossible to believe that Carlson did not know it was against the law for an adult to have sex with a minor.”

But that’s exactly the point! No reasonable person thought that the archbishop was ignorant of the law. That’s why it was so shocking that the archbishop said he was ignorant. Let’s be clear here. The scandal did not arise because Archbishop Carlson didn’t know the law. The scandal arose because, under oath, he said he didn’t know the law.

Following the line of defense taken by the St. Louis archdiocese, Donohue says that the plaintiff’s lawyer, Jeffrey Anderson, skillfully edited a video of the archbishop’s presentation to make it appear that he was answering a different question. To be honest I wouldn’t put such shenanigans beyond Anderson. But also to be honest, I still haven’t seen the video. I based my opinion on the written record of the deposition. The transcript doesn’t lie.

Is it plausible—as the archdiocese and now Donohue suggest—that Archbishop Carlson thought he was responding to a question about a law regarding mandatory reporting of abuse? Let’s look at that record. I shall omit nothing from the relevant section; I’ll just add my own observations (in italics).

We’ll pick up the testimony from the full transcript on page 108. Archbishop Carlson is speaking about how, in the past, society did not adequately understand the problem of sexual abuse. (“Mr. Goldberg” is the archbishop’s lawyer.) The archbishop says:

I think if you go back in history, I think the whole culture did not know what they were dealing with. I think therapists didn't. I don't think we fully understood. I don't think public school administrators understood it. I don't think we realized it was the serious problem it is.

Q. Well, mandatory reporting laws went into effect across the nation in 1973, Archbishop.

MR. GOLDBERG: I'm going to object to the form of that question.

MR. ANDERSON: Let me finish the question.

MR. GOLDBERG: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

Q. (By Mr. Anderson) And you knew at all times, while a priest, having been ordained in 1970, it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid. You knew that, right?

MR. GOLDBERG: I'm going to object to the form of that question now. You're talking about mandatory reporting.

MR. ANDERSON: Okay. I'll -- if you don't like the question, I'll ask another question.

MR. GOLDBERG: Well, you've asked a conjunctive question. One doesn't --

MR. ANDERSON: Objection heard. I'll ask another question. Okay?

[Take note: After a single reference to mandatory reporting, Anderson says that he will ask “another question.” Will he come at the same question (about mandatory reporting) from another angle, or will he take an entirely new tack? The witness (and his lawyer) should be ready for either possibility.]

MR. GOLDBERG: Go ahead.

Q. (By Mr. Anderson) Archbishop, you knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid?

A. I'm not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not. I understand today it's a crime.

[The question was quite clear. But is it possible that the archbishop was distracted, and thought he was answering a different question? Maybe Anderson senses that possibility. So he asks the question again.]

Q. When did you first discern that it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid?

A. I don't remember.

[And again.]

Q. When did you first discern that it was a crime for a priest to engage in sex with a kid who he had under his control?

A. I don't remember that either.

[And again.]

Q. Do you have any doubt in your mind that you knew that in the '70s?

A. I don't remember if I did or didn't.

[And again.]

Q. In 1984, you are a Bishop in the -- a Bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. You knew it was a crime then, right?

A. I'm not sure if I did or didn't.

[Now Anderson refers back to other parts of the deposition—the parts cited by Donohue—in which the archbishop’s testimony makes it clear that he knows sexual abuse is illegal.]

Q. Well, you're talking about criminal sexual conduct in 1980, and you're talking about it again in 1984, so you knew that to be correct, right?

A. What I said, I said, and if I—if I wrote it, I said it.

It’s barely plausible that when he first answered the question, Archbishop Carlson was confused. But with a lawyer at his side to alert him, could he conceivably remain confused through several iterations of the question?

In that final exchange (above), Anderson is not trying to create the impression that the archbishop is ignorant of the law. Far from it; he’s pointing to the contradiction between the archbishop’s claim to be ignorant of the law and his previous testimony.

To repeat, the scandal is not that Archbishop Carlson did not know that it was illegal to molest children. The scandal is that when questioned—under oath, repeatedly—he said he did not know.

Now you might ask, “What’s the big deal? Why does it matter what the archbishop said, in answer to the umpteenth question from an annoying plaintiff’s lawyer?” Well, back in the ‘60s and ‘70s and ‘80s, bishops were refusing to take responsibility for the priests who molested children. That abdication of responsibility caused irreparable harm to the entire Church—and even graver damage to the children who were abused. Now, by refusing to acknowledge openly what is already obvious—that he knew abuse was criminal-- Archbishop Carlson was trying to duck the question of a bishop’s responsibility yet again. For over a decade we have been hearing of lame excuses, feeble evasions, and outright lies. We, the loyal Catholic laity, should be outraged; we should demand an end to this dishonesty.

That's why this is important. That, and the fact that when he made a statement that was "simply impossible to believe," Archbishop Carlson was testifying under oath.

Bill Donohue has spent years defending the Church against her critics. His loyalty and his zest for intellectual combat are admirable. But when a prelate’s statements soar beyond the limits of credulity, it is no longer a service to the Church to defend them. The truth has higher claims.

My point—not just in my recent comment on this case, but in all the work I have done in the past decade, most notably in The Faithful Departed—is that when Church leaders deny or distort or camouflage the truth, they harm the Body of Christ, and love for the faith impels us to correct them.

”Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than that comes from evil,” our Lord told his apostles. From their successors, we should expect more—much more—than “I’m not sure if I did or didn’t.”

Phil Lawler is the editor of Catholic World News (CWN), the first English-language Catholic news service operating on the internet, which he founded in 1995. CWN provides daily headline news coverage for the, where he also offers regular analysis and commentary.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Time for Catholic Faithful to Speak Up

By Judy Hampel

NOTE: This op-ed was first published June 10, 2014 by the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati has been in the news lately for its new contracts, which have resulted in the resignation of beloved, respected archdiocesan teachers.

The issue has also brought to the fore the question many Catholics have been pondering the last few decades while women, LGBTQs and other minorities have gained social and political status in the secular world: How can Catholics justify our participation in the parish life of a church that discriminates against women and gays?

I grew up in local Catholic communities where priests, sisters, brothers, teachers and lay leaders were accessible and humble and kind. When my children where young, I took them to church regularly, and I hoped they would find the same solace and nostalgia as I did in our Catholic faith community.

But over the years, as the world has adopted a more inclusive and egalitarian attitude toward women, LGBTQs and other minorities, and as the church has lagged behind in incorporating these ideals, I have begun to feel less sure of my place in the Catholic community.

I'm uncomfortable with church doctrine that excludes women from the priesthood and calls LGBTQ lifestyles sinful. These attitudes perpetuate misogynist and homophobic ideals that marginalize minorities and make all women and LGBTQs vulnerable to self-hatred and social marginalization on a global scale. In the media, we witness daily violence and oppression toward women and gays – victims who have paid a steep price for the collective nostalgia Catholics enjoy.

My concerns are compounded by the fact that the church is involved in the formal education of so many children and adolescents, including my own, during their most formative years, putting them at risk of internalizing these misconceptions in ways that could lead to years of misery, self-loathing and prejudice.

I'm trying to describe a not-uncommon experience that leaves many Catholics straddling a thorny pew: Should we stay, and hope and wait for a new vision for our faith community, or should we leave in protest before we find ourselves counted among those who would perpetuate such a dark legacy for the sake of tradition? Until recently, many of us never even considered a third possibility: challenging these egregious teachings openly by voicing our concerns. There is a very real danger that, whether we leave or stay, we are perpetuating a dark regime as long as we are silent.

And historically, silent is what we have been. Catholic readers might remember when, in the 1990s, the issue of a female priesthood was coming to the fore and many of us began to hope that the church would finally abandon its two-millennial history of discriminating against women. Instead, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decreed a moratorium on discussion of the issue and, with very few exceptions, we immediately and succinctly shut up.

It was not one of the church's shining moments.

It's time to make up for lost time. It's time for all Catholics and anyone else who will join us to collectively call to task all leaders and followers of any religion, sect or denomination that indulges in discriminatory doctrines and practices. Because, let's face it, one of the most compelling forces inhibiting universal justice is intolerance toward others, which is often perpetuated by religious archaisms.

And it's time for the Catholic Church and its leaders to acknowledge the elephant on the altar: It's time to hear from the pulpit that the church is aware that we need to re-examine old doctrines and encourage a fuller truth and justice and mercy and unconditional love and acceptance and equality toward all. It's time to bring to fruition the hope that the religious scales will tip toward justice, mercy and tolerance.

It is – and has been for a very long time – time to speak.

Judy Hampel is a parishioner at St. Vivian Church and lives in Finneytown.

NOTE: Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis have a unique opportunity to "speak up." For more information, click here.

See also the previous PCV posts:
Let Our Voices Be Heard
Paul Lakeland in Minneapolis
The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 1)
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 2)
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 3)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Quote of the Day

If indeed religion is the core dimension of human life, and life is fragmented politically, socially, religiously and economically, it is no wonder that the fastest growing spirituality today is that of the "NONES" or those of no institutional affiliation? Helping to make the world a better place is not the problem; a large percentage of the NONES are oriented toward social justice. However, why we should make the world a better place is a problem. Why should we work together for a common good if we do not hold together a common future, that is, a common religious future? In short, we have no overarching metanarrative; that is, we have no story that binds us together regardless of religion, race, creed or continent.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin recognized the problem of religion over a hundred years ago. The breakdown of a fixed cosmology by the shift from a geocentric model to a heliocentric model has led to the isolation of religion from the development of modern science. In his classic work, The Human Phenomenon, he wrote on religion in the context of evolution saying, “evolution is a general condition, which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must submit to and satisfy from now on in order to be conceivable and true.” Teilhard broadly conceived of all life, including human life, as a movement toward greater convergence, complexity and consciousness.

Evolution means that life is in process; it is incomplete and open to completion in the future; that consciousness plays a significant role in the development of life, along with creativity and inventiveness. We are not in evolution; we are evolution become conscious of itself. God has been thought of too much in the past, Teilhard said, now we must conceive of God in the future.
– Ilia Delio
Excerpted from "Is a 'Common Good' Possible?"
Global Sisters Report
June 3, 2014

Note: The Twin Cities-based Catholic Coalition for Church Reform recognizes the significance of Evolutionary Spirituality and is dedicated to exploring and educating about it. To learn more, click here.

See also the previous posts:
Vatican at War with Nuns Over Evolutionary Thinking
Cardinal Gerhard Mueller Rebukes U.S. Nuns for Honoring Feminist Theologian Elizabeth Johnson
Barbara Marx Hubbard Responds to Cardinal Gerhard Müller
Nancy Sylvester, IHM: "We're Always Evolving"

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Vatican at War with Nuns Over Evolutionary Thinking

Pope Francis's remarks have often sounded compatible with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's concept of 'conscious evolution.' So why are American nuns in trouble for supporting it?

By Jason Berry

Note: This article was first published June 4, 2014 by Global Post.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a French Jesuit and paleontologist who died a church outcast in New York City in 1955 at age 74. Vatican officials had suppressed his writings on sequential evolution in the universe.

Teilhard was not officially a heretic, but rather a victim of church officials who were ignorant and fearful of science.

A decade later after his death, Teilhard’s books were being taught in Jesuit schools. Today he has a global reputation on evolution and spirituality.

Long before the internet, Teilhard wrote of an emergent planetary consciousness as a scientific development. He also wrote of this “noosphere” in mystical terms, as mankind’s quest for closeness with the divine. And he sounded prescient notes of warning.

“There is a danger that the elements of the world should refuse to serve the world,” he wrote in The Phenomenon of Man, published in 1957. “What is forming and growing is nothing less than an organic crisis in evolution.”

Pope Francis sounded a lot like his fellow Jesuit at a May 21 general audience. “Creation is a gift,” he told 50,000 people at St. Peter’s Square, “that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all.”

“We are custodians of creation, not masters of creation,” the pope continued. His sermon would well fit an anthology on conscious evolution, a school of thought that bridges science and faith in arguing that humanity has an urgent moral duty for care of the planet.

“I am the master of creation but to carry it forward I will never destroy your gift,” the pope asserted. “And this should be our attitude towards creation. Safeguard creation. Because if we destroy creation, creation will destroy us! Never forget this!”

Francis’s remarks came two weeks after Cardinal Gerhard Müller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a rebuke of Leadership Conference of Women Religious, representing most of America’s 57,000 nuns, for their promotion of conscious evolution.

The LCWR is operating under a Vatican mandate to submit its speakers and writings for vetting, and to show greater obedience to the bishops.

“I apologize if this seems blunt, but what I must say is too important to dress up in flowery language,” Müller declared. “The fundamental theses of conscious evolution are opposed to Christian revelation and, when taken unreflectively, lead almost necessarily to fundamental errors regarding the omnipotence of God, the incarnation of Christ, the reality of original sin” and other matters of church dogma.

Müller stopped short of using the ‘h-word,’ but heresy was on his mind:

“Conscious evolution does not offer anything which will nourish religious life as a privileged and prophetic witness rooted in Christ revealing divine love to a wounded world.”

How did a movement of theology and nature go so terribly wrong?

“Either Muller doesn’t understand what conscious evolution means,” Margaret Susan Thompson, a Syracuse University scholar on religious life told GlobalPost, “or he’s using it like in the Cold War, when they accused Sen. Claude Pepper of having a sister who was a thespian, because it sounded like lesbian.”

Responding to Müller in a post on National Catholic Reporter website, Barbara Marx Hubbard, a non-Catholic who spoke at an LCWR conference, and is president of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution, cited Teilhard and the late Passionist Father Thomas Berry [no relation to this writer], a prolific writer on ecology and spirituality, as major influences on the burgeoning movement.

“For me, the most vital source of meaning of conscious evolution is the Catholic understanding of God and Christ as the source of evolution, as its driving force as well as its direction,” said Hubbard.

“Through science, research, technology communications and virtually every other area of human activity, we are weaving a delicate membrane of consciousness, what Teilhard called the ‘noosphere’ or the thinking layer of Earth that is embracing and drawing into itself the entire planet.”

Teilhard, who died before climate change became an issue, saw the noosphere in a mystical light, a reach closer to God.

Father Berry wrote with a lyrical sensibility, setting what he called deep ecology in a thematic line with Dante and early mystic saints, notably Francis of Assisi and Hildegard of Bingen.

In The Dream of the Earth (1988) Berry called for “a spiritual context to the ecological age” and bemoaned society’s “neglect of faith in favor of reason, its exaltation of technology as the instrument for the conquest of nature.”

“In this disintegrating phase of our industrial society,” the priest wrote, “we now see ourselves not as the splendor of creation, but as the most pernicious mode of earthly being…We are the violation of the earth’s most sacred aspects.”

Cardinal Müller did not respond to an interview request. His denunciation of conscious evolution suggests that the first duty of theology is to uphold past teaching, rather than draw from an interdisciplinary well, as the nuns’ leadership conference has done in choosing their speakers.

“Theology cannot continue to develop apart from 21st-century cosmology and ecology, nor can science substitute for religion, “ Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio, a research theologian at Georgetown University wrote in a 2011 essay for America Magazine.

“Both the light of faith and the insights of science can help humanity evolve toward a more sustainable future.”

As the standoff between the Vatican doctrinal office and LCWR deepens, the sisters’ leadership has chosen a path of silence — self-muzzling —apparently to avoid the risk of more punishment.

Pope Francis, though speaking passionately about care of the earth, has through his silence given de facto support to Cardinal Müller.

“Müller did not give a considered response to conscious evolution,” Sister Christine Schenk of Cleveland, who is writing a book on women in the early church, told GlobalPost.

“To me, he clearly has not engaged the deep strand of theological reflection from Thomas Berry and Teilhard. It’s not lightweight stuff; there’s a lot of science involved. Why is this an issue?”

The LCWR conferences are not presented as official teachings of the Catholic Church — another source of conflict with the bishops.

“The nuns are trying to engage the world as it is,” says Schenk. “How do we live the gospel in the midst of an evolving universe? These are important questions that need to be engaged by anyone curious about the gospel.”

GlobalPost religion writer Jason Berry is author of Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church.

Note: The Twin Cities-based Catholic Coalition for Church Reform recognizes the significance of Evolutionary Spirituality and is dedicated to exploring and educating about it. To learn more, click here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Paul Lakeland in Minneapolis

By Michael Bayly

Note: This article was first published June 3, 2014 on Michael's blog, The Wild Reed.

On the evening of Friday, April 30, 2014, close to one hundred people gathered at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Minneapolis to hear theologian and author Paul Lakeland speak on the topic of "Pope Francis and the Liberation of the Laity."

Lakeland is the director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University. He is active in the American Academy of Religion, the Catholic Theological Society of America, and the Workgroup for Constructive Christian Theology. His two most recent writings, both winners of Catholic Press Association awards, are The Liberation of the Laity: In Search of an Accountable Church and Catholicism at the Crossroads: How the Laity Can Save the Church.

In this latter book, Lakeland defines laypeople as "baptized Christians called to ministry." Yet while he acknowledges that such a definition accurately depicts the place of laypeople in the church, it does not distinguish them from the clergy. This is because the definition offered by Lakeland harkens back to the era of the early church when a distinction between "laity" and "clergy" did not exist; everyone was simply part of the laos or "people" of God.

An "unequal society"

Unfortunately, however, a distinction did in time develop between "laity" and "clergy," and Lakeland explores and discusses the reasons for this in Catholicism at the Crossroads. He notes that this split began in the fifth century and reached its nadir fifteen hundred years later with Pope Pius X's Vehementer Nos, and in particular paragraph 8 of this encyclical:

It follows that the Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of person, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful. So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.

One result of Pius X's "unequal society" model of church was that any critical or creative thinking in the church of the early twentieth century was viewed with suspicion and routinely suppressed. But as is often the case, Lakeland notes, there was a "backlash against these crimes against the intellect, and theology actually emerged stronger than it had been for many centuries."

Vatican II

One of the theologians at the forefront of this "backlash" was the French Dominican Yves Congar who, writes Lakeland, "gave particular attention to restoring the idea that there is a theological value to the lay state." It was under Congar's influence that those who attended the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) not only addressed the role of the laity but came to the same conclusion Congar had reached in 1953, this being that the particularly distinguishing mark of the layperson is his or her "secularity."

Lakeland began his April 30 talk by identifying this and a number of other distinguishing marks or characteristics of the laity that were articulated by the Second Vatican Council. Emphasizing the grounding of these characteristics in Vatican II is important, insists Lakeland, as a primary task of the contemporary church is to remain faithful to the spirit of the council.

The first characteristic, as mentioned above, is that the laity is secular, meaning that as members of the laity we live out our apostolic mission in the everyday. Because we are called to love the world for God, we must be fully part of the world.

Second, the laity is apostolic; as members of the laity our calling is to the apostolic mission of the church. Lakeland reminds us that an apostle is a missionary disciple called to be "poised toward the periphery," someone who is thus "off-center." He also reminds us that it is our baptism that makes us apostles.

Third, the laity is prophetic; we are called to speak truth to power, to speak out for the good of the church.

Fourth, given all of the above, the laity should be and needs to be consulted by the ordained leadership of the church.

This last characteristic lead to a discussion by Lakeland on the purpose and meaning of the ordained ministry. First and foremost, the ordained ministry is a support ministry; it supports the laity in the apostolic mission of the church. Accordingly, the ordained ministry should be directed more to the people of God than to the inner workings of the institutional church, which, Pope Francis has reminded us in both word and action, should be a facilitator of faith, not an inspector of faith.

The laity does not assist the ordained ministry in spreading the gospel, says Lakeland. Rather, the ordained ministry assists and supports the laity. Accordingly, the priest must be understood relative to the lay person as it is the members of the laity who carry the sacramental love of God into the world.

Pope Francis

Lakeland noted that in a number of important ways the model of church that Pope Francis promotes and embodies is one that reflects Vatican II's understanding of the laity. Francis has also critiqued ecclessial narcissism or clericalism. In addition, the Pope embodies the servant model of leadership and has said that members of the institutional church, as true shepherds, should not be isolated from the laity, the flock, but should instead be with them to the extent that they "smell like the sheep." One obvious implication of this, says Lakeland, is that members of the church's ordained ministry should be less administrative and more pastoral.

Lakeland also stressed that the ordained ministers' close association with the laity is essential if they are to truly assist and support the laity in its apostolic mission of both bringing God's love to the world and bringing the world's concerns and problems to the transforming love of God. The shepherds of the church need to be respectful of and attuned to the spirit-inspired intuition – and thus practical wisdom – of the laity. For as Pope Francis reminds us, "Sometimes the flock has the scent of the way."

Related to this important point is the reality that there is no exact equivalency between the teaching of the church and the voice of the Spirit. Lakeland reminds us that at times in the past the ordained leaders of the church have been wrong while the rank and file have been where the Spirit is either leading or has taken up residence (with the most famous example of this being the Arian controversies of the fourth century). If this has happened in the past, says Lakeland, than it could not only happen again but could well be happening right now.

For many Catholics, including within the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, it seems clear that the Spirit has led us to the realization that there is simply no way to justify clerical culture as an essential characteristic of ordained ministry. For as Lakeland writes in Catholicism at the Crossroads:

Clerical culture does not say anything about what it means to be a priest. It is simply a description of a particular and entirely accidental subculture of Catholic life, which for historical reasons has grown up around bishops and priests. As a description it is a neutral term. But it has a dark side, usually called "clericalism," which is what has happened to clerical culture when it came to be seen as essential to the condition of priesthood.

. . . If clerical culture is to bow to normal standards of life for the discernment of a calling, the more fundamental problem with an emphasis on ontological change in the ordination of a priest has to do with in which it ties the very being of the person to what is, when all is said and done, a role in the church at the service of the people of God – not a medal or a transfer into another or higher order of being.

A catalyst for change

Lakeland believes that in our role as the laity we need to see ourselves as a catalyst for change. He commended the work being undertaken in our local church around organizing for lay participation in the selection of our next bishop. This organizing is being coordinated by the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) and has much to do with establishing accountability within the church, something Lakeland insists is crucial. "If the church is truly to practice accountability in the fullest sense of the word," he says, "then both its polity and its culture must manifest total mutuality." Lakeland acknowledges that there is a hierarchical structure in the church. Yet this hierarchy should indicate levels of responsibility to serve and not interpreted in terms of power, still less levels of holiness attached to strata of power.

The problem of lack of accountability in the church stems in large part from the lack of appropriate two-way openness necessary for the health of any institution. Here again, lay Catholics within our local church are stepping up and addressing an identified problem or disconnect. CCCR and the Council of the Baptized are leading a grassroots effort to organize a lay network throughout our parishes and deaneries. This initiative invites Catholics to join in building a strong lay voice on matters of concern in the Archdiocese, including the aforementioned issue of bishop selection.

All who heard Paul Lakeland speak on April 30 appreciated his wealth of knowledge, his insights, and his candor. Yet those at the forefront of local efforts to organize and facilitate lay participation in our church were particularly heartened and inspired by what Lakeland had to share.

Above: From left: Art Stoeberl (Call to Action MN & CCCR), Mary Beth Stein (CCCR and Council of the Baptized), Paul Lakeland, Rev. Michael Tegeder (St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church), and Bob Christensen (CCCR) – April 30, 2014.

For more of Paul Lakeland at The Wild Reed, see:
Paul Lakeland on How the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal Reveals a Crisis of Leadership
Paul Lakeland on the Church as a Model of Divine Mutuality

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Of Mustard Seeds and Walled Gardens
Dispatches from the Periphery
To Whom the Future of the Catholic Church Belongs
Beyond Papalism
Catholicism's Future is "Up to the Laity"
The Vision of Vatican II
Reading the Documents of Vatican II (Part 1)
Reading the Documents of Vatican II (Part 2)
Reading the Documents of Vatican II (Part 3)

Other related links:
The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission – Paul Lakeland (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 19, 2010).
Challenges to Us As Catholics – A 10-part series featuring excerpts from Paul Lakeland's book Church: Living Communion (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 2010).
Synod of the Baptized Uncovers Deep Well of Hope – Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 20, 2010).
Behind the Scenes at Vatican II: Yves Congar Captures a Historic Moment – Kathy Schiffer (Seasons of Grace via Patheos, November 5, 2012).

Images: Michael J. Bayly.