Thursday, July 30, 2015

Our Next Archbishop: What Would You Ask a Candidate If You Knew Your Voice Would Be Heard?

The following is from the leadership of the Twin Cities-based Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR).

We are currently seeking an opportunity to express our needs and desires to those who are appointing our next Archbishop, with the hope that they care what we – and, indeed, all Catholics in the local church – need and desire.

Can you imagine an organization that depends for its bread and butter on people’s voluntary contributions not caring what those people think?

Can you imagine an organization that preaches loudly that Jesus is its Lord ignoring the people it is its mission to serve?

Let’s hope that the Papal Nuncio who is the organization’s man in the U.S. and Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, the temporary administrator, will accept CCCR’s offer to set up an open and broad consultation process before the appointment of the new Archbishop.

In the meantime . . .

If you had a seat on the selection committee in Rome, making a recommendation to the Pope for appointment, what would you look for in a candidate for St. Paul and Minneapolis?

Please let us know by sending as e-mail to PCV editor Michael Bayly at

Michael is continually adding to this post the feedback he receives on what local Catholics are looking for in their next archbishop.

Listed below (in most recent to earliest order) are the comments received to date.

I would like to see a rare presence - one who doesn't have the spirit of timidity in speaking about the deep misogyny in the Church, and exposing it as not of Christ.

– Elizabeth Rainsford-McMahon

Many critical attributes have already been offered and I agree with all of them. Most importantly, I think, is someone who has a welcoming attitude to all Catholics as well as the greater community. Someone who recognizes that many of the faithful have been hurt, disenfranchised, condemned, and turned away from the Church they love. Someone who embraces all, recognizes the beauty and value of diversity, and listens carefully and respectfully. And someone who has the intellect and courage to lead us (at both the local level as well as within the world Church) to a Church more fully embracing of gospel values for all God’s people.

– Kathy Andrus

I would like to see the next bishop (whether male or female) be one who acts first to help the victim of abuse rather than trying to protect the person causing harm; I would like to see the next bishop work as a pastor - spending a month (from time to time) serving as a parish priest in different places in the archdiocese.

I would like to see the next bishop:

• address changes in the formation of candidates for the priesthood by revising the curriculum; hiring lay
couples to teach courses; to require extensive hands on internships in social justice agencies

• establish ministries by and for LGBT people, homeless people, and non-Catholic/former Catholic people

• open discussion on the elimination of celibacy rules

• rent a "double wide" trailer for a residence and donate the bishop's throne at the Cathedral to the Pentecostal church in Brooklyn Center ( the current priests residence would make a great emergency shelter and short term rooms for homeless teenagers.

– Art Stoeberl

At the risk of replicating some of the qualities that others have suggested, I offer my thoughts on the ideal person for the position. He (I suppose it has to be a male) should be someone whom the majority of people respect because of his proven record of trying to create a community of the faithful. To this end, he needs to actively listen and respond with compassion to what he hears. He needs to identify with the real concerns of the people and to interpret the teachings of the church in light of the 21st society in which we live. To this end, he will need to understand that the findings of scientists and psychologists mean we must change our understanding of the environment and human behavior. Finally, he will need courage to take a position that may sometimes be opposed to those of higher standing in the church.

– Patricia Mulrooney Eldred

After reading the comments and suggestions already offered concerning the next Archbishop and the qualities people would like to see, I concur with what has been said. The quality I want to raise up is looking to the possibility of the next archbishop being from here. I think part of the difficulties encountered by the two previous archbishops – Flynn and Nienstedt – were that they were outsiders. I don’t know if they ever caught up with this culture. There was an article in the NCR a few weeks ago that spoke about the Old Boys’ Network that was/is involved in how men become archbishops. Nienstedt was used an example in how he ended up here.

With this in mind, I strongly urge the powers-that-be to name a local person to be the next Archbishop – either a bishop elsewhere whose roots are here or someone is not yet a bishop. I believe we need someone whose roots are here and knows our culture.

– Mark Scannell

For too long, our archdiocese has suffered from a "small tent" mentality. An atmosphere of exclusion has alienated large numbers of Catholic who experience their faith in ways different from the archbishop. This has created polarization and caused a fragmented and divided local Church.

Our new archbishop must be someone who welcomes all Catholics. He must create forums whereby he can dialog with and listen to Catholics with diverse lived experiences. He must be a bridge builder who leads our local Church into an atmosphere of diverse conversations, loving inclusion, and Christ-like welcome. Our next archbishop must create a tent large enough for all!

– Mary Beth Stein

Give us one who is transparent, accountable, and responsive to the needs of the people, acting with Love and Compassion as Jesus lived and taught; doctrine and dogma be d----d.

– John Chuchman

It would be great if the new Archbishop knew how the laity has longed for dialog with him and longed for his visibility to all of us; how we have been saddened and alienated by our leader traveling constantly away from his people; and how we are discouraged by the Catholic flock diminishing before our eyes. And he needs to know that there is a great need for healing - and it has not begun for many of us.

– Bonnie Strand

Yes to what has been previously presented, and . . . a bishop who fulfills Pope Francis's "missionary option" as expressed in #27 of The Joy of the Gospel. "...a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the churches customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today's world rather than for her self preservation.... To make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with him."

– Don Conroy

I would look for a man with the Christian vision "Here comes everybody!" All are welcome. We are on the move to co-create the Kingdom of God, so let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.

– Paula Ruddy

I'd like to see as our next archbishop an educated person who is generally perceived to be mature, stable and pastoral in style. Someone familiar with the spectrum of theological thought, but who relates well to young people and disenfranchised people, and has an understanding of the economic, social, psychological, and technological challenges they face today. Someone who might aspire to soothing the hearts and souls of people living in a wounded culture. Someone who might represent Church as a beacon of hope in an increasingly hopeless world. Leadership, kindness, empathy, intelligence, and humility might be good starting points. A very big order.

– Mary Lynn Murphy

The next archbishop should have compassion, and mercy. He should be familiar to this area, the culture and history. It is important that the new leader listen to the many voices that love their church. The archbishop must be skilled in healing and at the same time progressive in stimulating new growth.

– Nancy Gotto

I think we’d all be looking for someone from our region that knows the people and their outlook.

I would want someone willing to talk to their own staff, interact with both ordained and lay people, and have open forums throughout the diocese from time to time so they would always have their finger on the pulse of the community.

Someone willing to be open about structure, budget items, costs, income, and expenditures of the diocese.

Someone aware that the ordained are not above the people, but were ordained to serve the people.

Someone willing to make the changes and adjustments necessary to see that abuse is never again ignored

Someone willing to agree with the pope that we are not called to judge people, that God can handle that all alone.

– Frank Meuers

What we desperately need in a new bishop is someone who can relate to our young people. It has been brought to my attention that very few weddings are taking place in church, that young people see Confirmation as a graduation from having to learn anything more about their faith, and that anyone who attended Easter Vigils were made painfully aware of how few people joined the church

I think it is absolutely necessary to convene a panel of young people, teenagers as well as 20-30 year-olds to seriously listen to them and heed their concerns. If we do not do something soon, I don't see much hope for the future of the church. What is desperately needed is visionary leadership - the time is ripe, let's take advantage of it.

– Mary Beckfeld

Share your thoughts by e-mailing a comment to

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Challenging Ourselves to Think Like a Community on Climate Change

By Bill Moseley

Note: The following reflection was delivered before the start of mass at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church on the weekend of July 25-26, 2015.

People of God, my name is Bill Moseley and it is my privilege to reflect with you on today’s readings.

Some of you may know that my wife and I are the parents of two teenage children. One of our perennial struggles is convincing our kids of why it is worthwhile going to church – a challenge I am sure none of you have ever faced. We hear: it’s such a waste of time, it’s boring, it’s irrelevant, it’s old fashioned... The basic critique is that church has nothing to teach us. The reality is that I understand some of these concerns, yet I go to mass. Why? Well, on a good day, I suspect it is because I know that I can be small minded and I understand that I need to have my way of thinking and acting challenged.

Our son recently went through confirmation class this year and one of the benefits of this process is that the candidate gets a sponsor with whom he or she can discuss this question of ‘why bother going to church.’ We would periodically hear from our son about the conversations he had had with his sponsor. In one of these our son’s sponsor said: I think you will grow up to be successful and rich, and part of the reason you should go to church is so that you will not grow up to be a rich jerk.

So I would like to riff on this theme of ‘not being a rich jerk’ and connect it to today’s readings. Please note that I am interpreting rich in a broad, relative sense. In other words, by global standards everyone in this room is wealthy. Furthermore, by jerk, I take this to mean less than honorable, if not self-centered behavior. How do today’s readings challenge our way of thinking and acting, how do they push us to think bigger than ourselves and to behave in a way that is better for us, our fellow human beings and the planet?

In today’s lessons, both the first reading from Kings, as well as John’s version of the loaves and fishes story, we hear about the enduring human concern of: “will there be enough?” We read about the servant in Kings who is worried that there will not be enough food to feed all of the guests. We also hear about Philip, in the Gospel of John, who is deeply concerned about how they will feed the 5,000 who have gathered to hear Jesus. Philip’s angst is clear when he notes: ‘Two hundred days wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to have even a little.” In each story, there is some food to be had, but there seemingly isn’t enough. Jesus clearly says: let go of your fears of scarcity and there will be plenty. Furthermore, the writers of both stories go out of their way, and really emphasize, that there is food left over and that this should not be wasted. After performing the miracle of plenty, Jesus instructs the disciples to “Gather up the fragments so that nothing may be lost.”

This kind of advice challenges us on a least two fronts. First, it takes on our deep seated anxiety of shortages. Some in our community may worry about the source of tomorrow’s meal, some of us worry about having enough money to pay the bills each month, others are concerned about saving enough for retirement. These concerns often trigger an almost primeval fear of scarcity, a sort of panic that can keep us up at night. Furthermore, we often reason, prudent people, responsible people, save their resources and do not use them frivolously. In fact, at some level many of us believe that poor people are poor because they do not know how to manage their resources wisely.

The second challenge is that, perhaps, the one time we feel like we can afford to be less frugal, to waste a bit, is when there is a sense of abundance. Some of us drive to work when we could bike or walk, we fly when we could go by train, or we jet ski when we could paddle. If we have the resources, we reason, then why not live a bit easier? These readings ask us to share when we sense scarcity and to conserve when there is a feeling of abundance. At first glance this makes no sense.

And while this message may be counter-intuitive at the level of the individual, I think in both cases we are asked to take a step back and think about the situation more from the perspective of the group, to think about the state of affairs collectively. By working as a group, by thinking about each other, by sharing, by taking only what we need: scarcity dissolves. Furthermore, by moving beyond ourselves, we begin to realize that abundance is also an illusion and that frivolous over-consumption is deeply problematic. This shift in perspective, from the individual to the collective viewpoint, is – if you will – all about not being ‘rich jerks.’

I believe Pope Francis is calling for something very similar in his recent encyclical on climate change. I don’t know if any of you have had a chance to read this document, but I highly recommend it. Pope Francis clearly believes that climate change is real, that this problem is disproportionately impacting the poor of the world, and that over-consumption by some is a key driver of the problem.

Why have we, as a people, been so reluctant to address this global environmental challenge? Clearly the reluctance to address climate change varies by individual. For some, like the guy who sat next me on the plane last month and incessantly questioned me about the validity of climate change science, he not only doubts the science but he believes this is a conspiracy to destroy the American dream. For him, Americans have worked hard to become rich and prosperous. We are deserving. And now others are using the climate change problem to question the economic system that has created this wealth. At some level, he was articulating a fear of scarcity. Others will take what we have. At another level is voicing a right to over-consumption. We earned this wealth and we should be able to spend it as we please.

Others understand global climate change, they believe in the science, yet feel completely overwhelmed by it. We are like Philip in the Gospel of John. How can we possibly feed 5,000 people, this problem is so, so huge: ‘Two hundred days wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to have even a little.” The planet is warming, the oceans are rising, I just don’t know what to do.

As in today’s readings, the encyclical asks us to think bigger than ourselves, to think beyond our group, the tribe we call America. While Francis gets into some of the science of climate change, much of the text has a social justice bent and focuses on how the impacts of climate change are and will be differentially experienced. He goes into detail discussing how those who produce very few greenhouse gases, the world’s poor, will suffer some of the worst impacts of climate change. We are asked to have empathy for others, to think beyond ourselves.

Francis also spends a considerable amount of time discussing over-consumption as a key driver of the problem. He writes: “We all know that it is not possible to sustain the present level of consumption in developed countries and wealthier sectors of society, where the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels. The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty.”

By thinking larger than ourselves, by being wholehearted, we simultaneously come to better understand the problem and begin to see the possibilities for a solution.

My read is that Pope Francis believes that we need to reform the economic system to solve this problem. He writes: “Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming . . .” This sets off a lot of alarm bells for many Americans, including my friend on the airplane. It sets off alarm bells because reform plays on our latent fears of scarcity, a concern that we will lose out if the system changes. But even for those who understand the problem and want to change the system, it can be overwhelming. If the economic system is the problem, how do we change it?

My students ask me this question all the time and get really depressed about it. If the system is the problem, how do we change it? While Francis uses more nuanced language, he is saying that the rules we have set up, the way we operate as a global community, is faulty. We can only accomplish so much as individuals. If we let go of our fears of scarcity, and start working together, we might be surprised by what is possible. Miracles may even happen. We feed 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and two fish, we end slavery and Apartheid, we elect a black president, or we enact marriage equality for all. All of these changes were thought to be impossible. None of these things would have happened had we not relinquished our fears and worked together as a group. And while it may not seem possible now, it is within our capacity to address climate change by setting up laws and tax policy that leads us to consume differently. And while some may lose out, namely those invested in fossil fuels and related technologies, the larger collective of humanity will win.

The miracle here is in the collective. It is tempting to read the loaves and fishes story and draw individual lessons about morality: we need to share and not waste. The problem is that moral behavior will only get us so far if the economic system, the way we exchange resources, takes insufficient account of human deprivation and environmental degradation. The harder task is to reform the system, to make sure we privilege what is good for all. What makes sense for the individual may not be best for the group. Many people, like myself, are not moral superstars, but we are ‘rich jerks.’ I do not naturally feel compelled to share when I sense scarcity, and I need motivation to conserve when I sense plenty. I cannot do this alone, but I can in a community. And that is why I go to church.

The author may be contacted at or

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Supreme Court and Marriage Equality

By Donald Conroy

Our country has taken another step in the separation of church and state. We are reminded that marriage has a civic and a religious dimension, and the two are to be understood as separate. All citizens who qualify by age and citizenship have the civil right to the advantages of marriage. If there are any conditions that disqualify a person of this right, they must be addressed in this context.

The churches are now to emphasize and practice the choice to marry as a religious act, and not just a civic right. Catholics believe that marriage is a sacrament, a sacred symbol of their union in the Spirit of Christ. It is not only in itself a union of two persons, but also a sacred symbol of the Union of Christ and the People of God, the Church. With this decision of the court, each institution is prompted to focus on its own responsibility to its people. This is a good day.

The sacred symbol of marriage is the personal commitment of two people that is consummated in sexual intimacy. The stated purpose of marriage that is found in the encyclical "Casti Connubii" and repeated in "Humani Generis" is children and personal love. The experience of many Catholics in a same-sex committed union has been revealed over many years as sacred. We have been told over and over of the religious, sacred dimension of their relationship.

Today these couples have the civil right to marriage and all the corresponding advantages: visitation, inheritance, emergency admittance, joint real estate, etc. What is it that is missing from acceptance from religious institutions? Is it propagation? The sacred symbol is the personal commitment and union not the outcome. For many centuries our attention in marriage has been its place in our legal and political system. We have been very concerned with legitimacy and inheritance as well as property rights. One main reason for celibacy for clerics has been that any children born of clerics could not have a legitimate claim to property, church property in particular. That condition has no religious content.

The Supreme Court has confirmed the view of most citizens about the definition of the civil right to marry for all citizens. The next institution to hear from is the religious. Some have expressed their views that are inclusive of LGBT marriage and some have not. Those who have rejected same sex marriage are now called on to explain how it is that these committed relationships lack the dimension of the sacred.

See also the previous PCV post:
Questions for Archbishop Kurtz re. the U.S. Bishops' Response to the Supreme Court's Marriage Equality Ruling