August 22, 2013
TO ALL OF THOSE WHO HOPE FOR REFORM WHICH AT THIS MOMENT SEEMS
TANTALIZINGLY CLOSE, AND YET AT THE SAME TIME FAR TOO FAR AWAY: THE
QUESTION IS WHAT CAN WE DO AT THIS TIME TO BRING THIS NEED AND
URGENCY TO CONSCIOUSNESS AT THE LEVEL OF THE PAPACY ITSELF?
For the first time in years, reform-minded Catholics find themselves
at a moment of opportunity, a time that could well begin again the
kind of church renewal Vatican II heralded for all the world to see.
Bogged down by restorationist papacies for years, the church has
lurched between a deep-seated vision of renewal and the continuing
shadow of 19c authoritarianism, between the kind of scandals
authoritarianism breeds and the steady stream of defections they
carried in their wake.
The Traditionalist papacy maintained the trappings of a medieval
church and became more and more monarchical by the year while the
church of the people clung to the call of Vatican II and worked and
prayed for the conversion of the institution that could make it
possible. You know the truth of all of that because you are it. You
are the American voice of a church in exile groaning for new life.
With the election of Jorge Bergoglio as the simple Pope Francis, it
is possible that the time of listening has finally come. If we can
possibly get his ear.
This week I got a phone call that I have been waiting for, for
years. Rene Reid, a member of one of our Vatican II groups called
to ask me whether or not I thought that it might not be more
effective if her group collected the concerns of multiple groups and
wrote a common letter to present to Pope Francis at the first
meeting of his new advisory Council of Cardinals in October. I
agreed to write my answer to all of you: I sincerely believe that
until we raise a common voice we will not only not be heard, we will
not even be listened to in the light of larger issues and larger
groups, all clamoring for attention. By this I do not suggest the
collapsing of reform groups into one agenda or one leadership.
On the contrary. Every agenda being pursued by church groups in
this country shines, as far as I can see, a valid and enlightening
laser beam on the effects of bad theology or poor church
administration in a modern world. This work cannot be bartered
after all these years of study, research and compilation of
materials. These groups are our experts on multiple subjects and
must, I think, be encouraged to feed the rest of us with the
background material we need to understand the problems and address
the answers plainly and persuasively. The work they have done, are
doing, cannot be lost. Nor do I think that we should sacrifice the
leadership of each group to some kind of super-group. I am not
suggesting any particular format or organizational structure.
But I do think that our leaders should model together another way of
being church. Without competition, without distrust, without
control. Instead, we need to raise a common voice on a single
issue—the immediate need for the genuine renewal of the church.
The problem is that we can't get anyone to take seriously the most
serious issues in the church because they have yet to take the
Reform of the institution itself seriously. And so we go on as if
transparency, lay participation, finances, the women's issue,
authority, sexual abuse, the genderization of the church, the nature
of the episcopacy, the right to the sacraments and a host of others
will not eventually destroy the church no matter how much good work
we do. A church that refuses to take the Gospel as its guide on
these topics rather than canons that are designed to prop up the
structures that spawn them cannot possibly really preach Jesus.
My hope is that by speaking out together--a strong chorus of calls
for Reform--we can provide a common, a clear, a strong and ongoing
voice for the yet incomplete vision of Vatican II. My hope is that
by putting all of our petitions in the same envelope we may actually
visualize the breadth and depth of this movement more effectively
than any amount of words can do. My hope is that in our desire to
be heard on particular issues—all of them important--we do not lose
the strength of our common voice by reducing it to a whisper. The
purpose of this letter is simply, as Sr. Thea Bowman loved to say,
to encourage the Church in one great lusty and full-bodied voice to
say “AMEN” together to a new beginning.
Joan Chittister, OSB
first teleconference call is set for Wednesday, September 4th, at
10:00 A.M. eastern time. The phone number to call is 712-432-0080
and the code is 1031413. The purpose of the call is to find our
common voice on a single issue that we, as Church organizations and
reform groups, want to have delivered to Pope Francis. We
are requesting to have our topic placed on the agenda of the October
meeting which the
pope has scheduled with his cardinal advisors. Along with it, we
intend to include a summary of backup data gathered by all of the
organizations who have resource information, initiatives, or
petitions that have been gathered over the years. If you want to be
a part of this special opportunity, please mark
this date on your calendar and be
call or have a representative from your group.
Because we are a
worldwide group, the time for the call is:
time: 10:00 A.M.;
time: 9:00 A.M.;
mountain time: 8:00 A.M.;
pacific time: 7:00 A.M.;
Ireland time, and Italy time: 3:00 P.M.;
Australia time: midnight.
There is no need
to pre-announce your plan to be on the call. We will take a roll
call at the start. And minutes will be provided to everyone
afterwards. If you see that an individual or group has been left off
of this list, please forward them this information and have them
contact us to be included in the future.