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It is amazing how similar the battle for national rights parallels the battle for church rights. This week I received an email from civil rights activist and Georgia house representative, John Lewis. He was a friend of Martin Luther King and was brutally beaten by police in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 while marching for civil rights. In his email, he said: "While we have made progress toward a vision of a more fair, just and open country, the majority of Americans are afraid this country is headed in the wrong direction.... Some leaders reject decades of progress and want to return to the dark past, when the power of law was used to deny the freedoms protected by the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and its Amendments."
Does that sound familiar for those of us who are working steadily for the reform of our Church? Could we not utter these very same words? "While we have made progress toward a vision of a more fair, just and open [church] , the majority of [people] are afraid this [church] is still headed in the wrong direction....Some [church] leaders reject decades of progress and want to return to the dark past, when the power of law was used to deny [the message of Jesus that is recorded in the Gospels."
Lewis went on to say: "It took massive, well-organized, non-violent dissent and criticism of this great nation and its laws to move toward a greater sense of equality in America....Often, the only way we could demonstrate that a law on the books violated a higher law was by challenging that law. By putting our bodies on the line and showing the world the unholy price we had to pay for dignity and respect."
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To young people, their parents, grandparents, and friends:
If you have moved on from the Church believing it to be outdated and out of touch with your needs, you have an unprecedented opportunity to turn this around. We have just sent out this press release and invite you to join in the movement for all people of all ages - and especially the younger generation - to speak up for the good of our church. To remain silent is to be complicit with whatever wrongs you see in Church teachings.To ignore the positions of the church that differ from your beliefs is to be complicit. To live your lives as if the church doesn't concern you is to be complicit. Pope Francis has opened the door and sent a letter to young people inviting you to speak up so that he can "listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism." All of this will culminate at the Synod on Youth, Faith, and Vocational Discernment scheduled for October 2018 where young people will be invited to participate.
While some will be invited to attend, all are invited to complete a questionnaire specifically aimed at youth and "their expectations and their lives." This will be available online by March 1st and will be found at www.sinodogiovane2018.va . Please spread this to your contacts and local media. Pass the website onto all the young people in your part of the world.
In addition, we invite you to join a movement urging all people of all ages to speak up and make their voices heard: www.ThePeopleSpeakOut.org . There you can make your views made known:
In his farewell address to the nation, President Barack Obama reminded us of this important reality: "Change only happens when ordinary people get involved an they get engaged, and they come together to demand it." It is time for us, the People of God who are the Church, to make our voices heard.
Grateful for your continued and ongoing support .
Catholic Church Reform Int'l congratulates Pope Francis on calling a Synod dedicated to young men and women. Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, told journalists yesterday that the presence of young men and women at the synod will help bishops understand how best to accompany youths who are searching for their vocation and path in life. "The mere presence of young people is not enough," said Rene Reid, director of Catholic Church Reform Int'l. "If any change is to come, this needs to be a synod where the bishops become the listening church and the young people become the teaching church sharing their heartfelt experiences."
"This synod should not look like those in the past:
Rather, if anything is to be accomplished, the Synod on Youth and Vocations should look like this:
It is a well-known fact that many young people have turned away from the Church. Why? Because they are more open to a rapidly changing world, having grown up in it without the prejudices of prior generations. From this vantage point, they see the grace of God in fresher and more vibrant terms than a Church governed by older generations. Regarding the laity, Pope Francis has urged the clergy to overcome "the temptation to manipulate them and infantilize them." This synod should be about young people sharing their insights and Bishops listening and engaging them in dialogue. Young people are the future of the Church. If there is to be a future for the Church, the fresh perspectives of millennials must be integrated into the life the Church. How they view the world is likely to make a constructive contribution to the Church's discernment on a number of issues: co-habitation, pre-marital relationships, inter-racial and inter-faith partners, LGBT relationships, birth control and family planning to mention just a few.
Make this Synod truly a synod with young people represented in large numbers and invited to address issues which they are able to see with fresh eyes. Whenever Pope Francis speaks to young people, he encourages them to "make some noise." What better place than at this Synod on Youth and Vocations!
This January marks a significant milestone in my life; the eighteenth of the month is my seventieth birthday. I have wondered how best to mark it. I am not by nature a ‘party person’, so that option did not greatly appeal to me. Having spent forty years of my life ministering as a priest, I am now into my fifth year when I am forbidden by Church authorities to minister publicly. I have decided to honour my age, and my lifetime, by ignoring the Church censures, and celebrating a public Mass. Since I would not be allowed to do so either in a Catholic church or other Catholic controlled building, I have chosen, with the kind permission of the committee, to celebrate it in the local community hall in the village where I now live, which means that the Mass will take place in Killimordaly Community Centre on Sunday, January 22nd, at 2.30pm.
Why am I doing this? I don’t think that I am doing it just for the sake of defying Church authorities. Neither do I want it to be the beginning of an unofficial ministry on my part. I have no wish to start a new ecclesial movement. My reasons are as follows:
1. For the last five years I have been in something of a ‘limbo’ state, neither fully in or fully out of the priesthood. I have known from an early stage that there was no possibility of a resolution of the dispute between myself and the Vatican. So this public Mass will be for me a way of acknowledging the forty years of my life, and the work I did as a priest—a way of acknowledging who I am.
2. Since my dispute with the Vatican went public I have received enormous support from people all over the country, and indeed internationally. Eucharist is essentially a thanksgiving and In this Mass I am giving thanks for the good will of many people.
3. Since the beginning of my difference with the CDF, I have consistently held to one fundamental point. I don’t have any problem with the Church exercising authority. Every institution needs an authority structure. But authority must be exercised in a way that is just, and that respects the dignity of the person. In my experience, and in the experience of many others whom I have come to know in these past years, Church authority is exercised in a way that is unjust and abusive. For that reason I hope that my action will highlight once again the urgent need for change in the way the Vatican deals with people who express opinions that are considered to be at odds with official Church teaching.
4. In celebrating this public Mass I am also saying something else that I regard as important. The Mass, the Eucharist, is not in the ownership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or indeed of the Vatican. It belongs to the believing communities. That was where it began in the early Church, and where it finds its true meaning. My hope is, in this time of great change and upheaval in Church and society, that the believing communities begin, by whatever means possible, to regain ownership of the Eucharist. My late Redemptorist confrere, and distinguished theologian, Bernard Haring, put it this way: “The people of God have a God-given right to the Eucharist. On the basis of human law, to deprive the people of God of the Eucharist is objectively gravely sinful”
I am somewhat apprehensive about presiding at a public mass after almost 5 years in the wilderness, but to quote Macbeth, “to go back is as tedious as to go on” and I now feel the urge to take a positive step.
For those who may wish to come to this event from various parts of the country, this is how you will find Killimordaly Community Centre:
Leave the M6 at exit 16, and take the road to KILTULLAGH.
Having reached the village of Kiltullagh – the church is clearly visible in front of you – follow the sign for Ballinasloe.
After about two hundred yards take a left off this road, and follow the signs for ATTYMON. After about a mile you will pass the hurling pitch on your right. A few hundred yards further on you will see the Community Centre, also on the right.
After the Mass refreshments will be available in the local pub, The Earl Inn, about a mile from the hall.
Somebody sent me the following, for directions on a Sat Nav or a phone. Don’t know if my copy and transfer of them will work.
Sat Nav coordinates
Smart phone directions Google Maps
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As we say goodbye to the old year and welcome in the new, let us continue to pull together to work for the reform of our Church. While it may seem that Pope Francis is moving slowly, he is clearly advancing the Church purposefully toward a more welcoming, inclusive, and merciful Communion of us all. Although there are members of the hierarchy who continue to resist his efforts, all the more reason that he needs our ongoing support. As our Jesuit adviser, Gaston Roberge, reminds us: "Alone, the pope cannot change the Church. A pope for the people needs a people for the Pope."
While the Holy Father may not be moving as quickly as some of us would want, nor did he sound encouraging about women's ordination, let us take pride in what Francis has accomplished. He has gained the love and respect of so many - both Christians and non-Christians around the world.He has reached out across international and ecumenical borders. He has encouraged young people to "make some noise" and has urged all of us to "bother our pastors." He has said to the LGBT community: "Who am I to judge?" He has envisioned the governance of the Church as an upside down pyramid with the people at the top. He has created a dicastery for the laity opening the way for the Faithful to have a greater role in the Church.
Following on the two Synods of Bishops Francis has called, we are pleased to have joined with two other movements to foster the role of the laity in encouraging people to speak out. We are working closely with Fr. Joe Healey in Africa to work through the Small Christian Communities asking those in attendance to let their needs be known. We have also joined with Global Council Network to support the forthcoming series of Forums for the People of God. Two international People's Forums are planned: one in Brazil in 2018 and one in Africa in 2021. And two national People's Forums/Synods are planned: one in 2017 in New Zealand and one in 2018 in the U.S. For any kind of reform to come, the people must have a voice. These Forums will provide a place for the people to speak out.
We will keep you posted on the details of these gatherings. But even if you cannot physically attend, you can be virtually present by visiting The People Speak Out website. As part of the preparation for these Synods, we have created this place in cyber space where you can make your voice heard and explore with others the reforms you'd like to see presented to the Vatican on behalf of the People of God.
There you can make your views made known:
1. By joining in the discussion on the blog.
2. By gathering people together in your community and exploring the changes you want to see in the Church. Find help with getting started.
3. And most importantly, by sharing the outcomes of your discussions so that they can become part of the agenda of the various Forums.
We are grateful for your continued support and are fully aware that, unless we the People speak out, reform of our Church will never happen. As you consider making an end-of-the-year donation, we would appreciate any support you may offer. CCRI is fully committed to these series of Forums of the People of God and all contributions we receive this year will go toward this cause.
Wishing you every blessing for this New Year,