Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Temperature Heats Up --- Catholic Coalition for Church Reform Questions Archdiocese; Archdiocese Responds!

Last August 13, Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis issued the following announcement:

It has come to the attention of the Archdiocese that a group calling itself the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) is planning a 2010 ‘synod’ in the Archdiocese entitled, ‘Claiming Our Place at the Table’.

While the agenda for the proposed synod purports to be an exploration of the role of baptized Catholics within the institutional Church of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, it is not being conducted under the auspices of the Archdiocese, the universal Roman Catholic Church, or any entity or organization affiliated with the Archdiocese or the universal Roman Catholic Church.

The Archdiocese wishes it to be known that the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, the 2010 synod, and individuals endorsing the same, are not agents or entities of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis or the Roman Catholic Church. Moreover, the Archdiocese wishes to lovingly caution those members of the faithful participating in the ‘work/study groups’ and intending to attend the synod of the potential that the issues on which CCCR will seek reform are magisterial teachings of the Church, and are therefore to be believed by divine and catholic faith. The Archdiocese also wishes to remind the faithful of its need to shun any contrary doctrines, and instead to embrace and retain, to safeguard reverently and expound faithfully, the doctrine of faith and morals proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church.

The CCCR originally organized itself last Spring to prepare for a "synod" to be held in the year 2010 to call into questions the workings and organization of the Catholic Church.

At CCCR’s April 18 prayer breakfast, attendees reviewed the work/study groups already established and suggested additional groups. Approximately 100 people signed-up for the group/s they expressed interested in.

The groups already established are:

1. Bishop Selection
2. Clericalism in the Church/Post-Patriarchal Parish Culture
3. Local Church Organizational Change: How to Make It Happen
4. Church Authority and Governance
5. Sexual Orientation, Gender, and the Construction of a Healthy and Informed Theology of Human Sexuality
6. Catholic Identity/Christian Identity
7. Emerging Church/Intentional Eucharistic Communities
8. Catholic Spirituality
9. Ministry in the Service of Mission
10. Communication in a Polarized Community
11. Marriage
12. Social Justice

Other topics suggested for development:

Centrality of Eucharist
Increasing Inclusivity in Scripture and Lectionary
Children, Youth, and Family
Liturgy – Praying as Authentic Communities in Connection with the Universal Church
New Cosmology and How to Ritualize It

On October 19, the co-chairs of the CCCR sent a letter to the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Task Force that is preparing the realignment plan for churches and schools in the archdiocese. In it they posed the following questions:

We request an Archdiocesan-wide discussion of all the relevant questions people want to ask. The meaning questions we would like to address are the following:
  • • Why do young adults abandon faith formation classes immediately after Confirmation? Why are such a large percentage of children offered no faith formation at all or, if the offer is made, why are they not accepting it?
  • • Why don’t two-thirds of registered Catholics go to Mass?
  • • Why are good and capable men not stepping up for ordination as priests?
  • • Why is celibacy required for the role of priest?
  • • Why aren’t women’s vocations to the ordained priesthood recognized and accepted?
  • • Why are third and fourth generation American Catholics leaving the church in great numbers?
  • • How is the money collected by the Archdiocese spent? We want the Archbishop to be accountable for his expenditures as the parishes are accountable for theirs.
The Task Force’s response when these questions are raised is that they are outside the scope of its mandate. Of course, they are, and that is the problem. We do not think that response will suffice.

If the Task Force requests the power from the Archbishop to facilitate such a discussion with the people of the Archdiocese and is denied that power, we suggest that as a matter of conscience you consider resigning en masse unless and until a full communication process is approved.

Though we are not experts, we have many ideas about how this process could be organized and will be happy to discuss them with you. There are many professional discussion facilitators in the Archdiocese who would, we are sure, be available to help. Some of the crucial elements are that all subjects be allowed to be discussed, no threats of job loss or excommunication will follow open discussion, and that representatives from all the people, not just those chosen by leadership, be involved in planning the discussion.

Archdiocesan Response

On October 29, the Archdiocese responded to the signers of the CCCR letter, in part:

I read with particular interest your list of questions. Some of them are clearly outside the scope of this planning process. Some others call into question the framework of the Catholic faith that are simply part of our Catholic belief and tradition as delineated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You and your membership will know from your attendance at the meetings where you added your voice to the consultative process that the outcomes of the planning process will be consistent with the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church.

Finally, if your questions are a reflection of ongoing and serious concerns you have about the beliefs and traditions of our Catholic Church to the degree I sense they are, then it may be that your journey to God may well be served by exploring protestant denominations where your views will find broader acceptance. I prayerfully wish you well in your journey wherever it leads you.

A commenter to the posting of the archdiocesan letter on the Progressive Catholic Voice blog page noted: Not exactly the way I believe Jesus acted in his ministry.

The commenter probably hasn't studied the New Testament as much as is recommended. There are hundreds of instances where Jesus warned his listeners of the dangers of not obeying God's laws. One of the most remarkable is Matthew 23:29-33:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets' blood.' Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out! You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna?

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