For over a year now a group identifying itself as the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) has been planning to take advantage of their interpretation of the Spirit of Vatican Two that promised a greater roll for the laity in the running of the Roman Catholic Church. Tiny groups of Twin Cities residents met in homes and even in the parish meeting rooms of accommodating Catholic pastors formulating their program.
These unhappy self appointed critics, maybe 100 or so, developed an agenda for change within the Church that they would like to see in the running of our one billion member Church.
They declared themselves unhappy with, among other things, a Church led by male priests and bishops; a church in which the individual conscience would at times be able to override the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church; they seek to counteract the failures of the Church in recent years to teach our children the faith by proposing we replace the Catechism as an educational tool by increasing the message of the social justice teachings of the Church; that the Church be more accomodating to other religions, recognizing all to be equally valid in providing paths to salvation; and that the Church compromise more in the face of the political needs of the country. That's quite an agenda.
I'm not sure how many Africans, Polynesians and other Catholics were invited to the CCCR "synod." So I decided to go out to their meeting site for a bit last Saturday morning and check it out just to see who was behind these ambitious restructuring plans for the Church.
I arrived at the Ramada Inn in northeast Minneapolis about 7:45 and positioned myself about 20 feet from the registration table. Their main meeting room was set up for about 350 people but I read that they had an overflow room seating another 100.
It was interesting that this assembly happened just one week after the reunion celebration of my 50th high school graduation from Duluth Cathedral in 1960. As such, I am familiar at thinking about the age of old people like me.
Without a doubt, I would swear that most of those who attended the CCCR "synod" appeared to have graduated from their high schools in 1955 or before. There were maybe 40 or so that I estimated to be younger than age 50, but those included obvious members of Dignity, the homosexual interest group, one of the sponsors of the activity. None younger than 30 appeared to be present that I could see.
From their numbers and age profile, I would assume that there would be little to fear from these people. They fit the profile of aged Vietnam War and free speech protesters from the 1960s. Most of them will be dead from natural causes in 20 years. And there doesn't seem to be any replacements for them in their movement.
Women appeared to be about 70% of those in attendance. Probably a few discerning vocations as wymen-priests, one supposes. There were no obvious racial minorities that I could see and only one person in a wheel chair. And none from Africa, Polynesia or other Catholic countries around the world.
I did chat with an Notre Dame grad, probably from the days of Frank Leahy, and we talked a bit about football. I bragged that I was a student at the U of MN when the Gophers last went to the Rose Bowl in the 1960 and 61 seasons. He asked who the coach was, Bernie Bierman? That tells you the vintage of the attendees. [It was Murray Warmath!] He identified himself as a founder of the local dissident Call To Action group many years ago and had been in the seminary when he was at Notre Dame. He agreed that the group no longer had much visibility in the Twin Cities these days. He sort of laughed when I commented on the age of those in attendance that day.
There were quite a few breakout rooms set up for the different issues to be discussed during the day's session that was scheduled to end by 5:30 or so. I don't know how they could come to an agreement in one day on all of the issues that they had indicated are points of concern for them.
They did have a pretty good looking breakfast buffet before the sessions began. But I "offered it up" and did not partake. At 9:00 as what appeared to be a former nun tinkled a little bell signalling the start of the session, I left and headed out for St. Helena's parish in South Minneapolis where I sold carnival ride tickets for the remainder of the weekend. Talking to 3 and 4 year old kids about to go on their first merry-go-round ride was much more enjoyable than spying on the ineffective CCCR dissidents.