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25 January 2017 Changing the Conversation (170509) Celebrating More Than 50 Years (170509) Conscience-Based Moral Judgments (170509) Dignitaries Humanae (170509) False Views on Jesus' Views on Divorce (170509) Mission and Human Rights (170509) Jesus and the Ordination of Women (170516) 29 May 2017 How much of Church Doctrine do we really believe? (170602) Trump Pulls Out of Paris Agreement (170602) 05 June 2017 Thoughts on Religious Vocations: An Open Letter to Pope Francis (170605) I can't get the institutional church out of my system (170618) 25 June 2017 Just War? Enough Already (170703) What would Teilhard say? Evolve or be annihilated (170710) Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (170719) Religion's Wax Nose (170726) American Civil Religion (170731) A Heresy of the Times (170807) Cardinal Calls for Global Church (170818) The Price of Being a Prophet (170821) The Implosion of the Roman Catholic Church (170902) Reflection on Racism in America (170913) Who am I? Where am I going? (170918) One Priest's Hopes for the Mass Translation (170925) The Edge of the Inside (171002) Selective Christianity (171016) Theology at the Cutting Edge: Healing the Political and Social Divide in America (171016) Resisting Islamophobia Is The Catholic Thing To Do. (171023) It Started With a Letter to the Archbishop (171030) Why Do We Still Tolerate Mass Stipends? (171106) Their Cross to Bear: Catholic Women Told to Forgive (171113) Papal loyalists become dissidents (171120) Echoes of Theocracy (171127) Will Pope Francis Remove the 'Warning'? (171204) Gumbleton on Nuclear Deterrence (171211) The Scandal of the 2011 Missal (171218)
ARCC News 2018
Prophets of a Future Not Our Own (20180101) 2018: Time to Become Ultra-Human? (20180118) Time for a Bonfire of Their Vanities? (20180122) Until All Are Welcome My House, My Rules: 3 Women "Rejected" (20180208) Policing the Communion Line (20180205) A Time to Judge (20180212) Mary McAleese Being Banned is Embarrassing (20180219) Correct, Don't Complicate Excommunication (20180226) Catholic Tradition, Labour, and Organizing Workers (20180305) Misogyny in the Vatican (20180312) The Unofficial Saint of the Internet (20180318) Francis Invites Change, But We Are the Change (20180325) Rediscovering the Role of Mary Magdalene as Apostle of the Apostles (20180401) Synodality and its Perils (20180409) Get rid of the clergy - But keep Holy Orders (20180415) Renewing the Program of Priestly Formation (20180429) Male and Female, in the image and likeness of God (20180506) Wedding Bans: Why Do Parishes Turn Young Couples Away? (20180513) Christian Humanism, the Path to the Divine (20180520) Mary - Prophet and Priest (20180527) A Wake-Up Call to Liberal Theologians (20160603) Canonization is right for Oscar Romero (20180610) Could the Church take a risk? (20180618) AJC expresses "Profound Concern" over beatification (20180624) The Bible's #MeToo Problem (20180701) 'Humanae Vitae' and the census fidelium (20180715) The Catholic Church wasn't always so against contraception (20180722) 50 years later, scientist's findings on birth control... (20180729) #MeToo, Your Excellency The Catholic Church needs a way to deal with bad bishops (20180812) The Catholic Church is tempted by power and obsessed with sex (20180819) Real change against abuse... (20180826) Pope Francis is facing a crisis of justice (20180829) Catholics Are Facing a Very Real Emergency (20180902) Truth and its violent consequences (20180909) The Third Millennial Catholic Reformation (20180917) Reality in an Historical-Critical Perspective (20180923) Both Prudential & Indisputable (20180930) Catholic Crossroads and Catholic Conflict (20181007) Schism or Evolution? (20181015) Theology: Stones or Bread? (20181028) White Christian America (20181102) Stone Throwing. Or Not. (20181104) Young People, Hope for the Church(es) (20181112) Who Represents the Laity? (20181118) Open Letter to the US Catholic Bishops: It's Over (20181125) From Collegiality to Synodality (20181203) The Birth of the Messiah (20181217) A Non-traditional Blessing for 2019 (20181231)
ARCC News 2019
Epiphany 2019 (20190107) Celibacy isn't the cause of the church sex-abuse crisis; the priesthood is (20190114) How to save Western civilization - again (20190121) Catholic curricula and the invisibility of Native Americans (20190128) Ministry and Power (20190204) A Document on Human Fraternity Our History The Reflection on the Wrath of God (20190224) Read Just One Speech (20190304) Why the Priesthood Needs Women (20190311) "Honest Rituals" argues for sacrament update (20190325) Stop Calling Me "Father" (20190401) The Sexual Abuse Crisis is not a Crisis (20190408) Palm Sunday 2019 (20190414) What Women Want (20190428) Targeting Pope Francis (20190513) Power Sharing Seen As Essential... (20190520) Pde Francis Dithering... (20190527) When the Sky Didn't Fall... (20190603) The Ancient Diaconate of Women (20190609) Bishop Bransfield and the Misuse of Funds (20190616) When it comes to Church reform... (20190624) We asked Catholic Church women if they... (20190630) Women in Christianity - Free to share their wounds (20190707) Can laypeople lead a parish? (20190714) Civility (2190721) Mary the Magdalen (20190729) Faithful America (20190804) Sacralizing Politics (20190811) Tackle Clericalism First (20190818) Failure Guaranteed (20190826) Divorce, Annulment & Communion (20190901) Human Nature & Human Sexuality (20190909) Climate Change Most Important Life Issue (20190915) Being An Open-Minded Believer (20190923) The Laity Hold the Key (20190929) Be Prophetic (20191013) Are You Satisfied With Priestly Ministry? (20191020) Racism - A Challenge to the Church (20191101) Irish Priests Call for... (20191104) McAleese Calls on Pope... (20191111) Top 5 Takeaways from the Amazon Synod (20191111) Thomas Doyle traces the disintegration... (20191202) We've been bishops in 3 Death Penalty states... (20191209) Spirituality (20191223)
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The Laity Hold the Key (20190929)

The Laity Hold the Key to Reforming the Church



Contemporary Catholic Belief and Action


The mission of ARCC is to bring about substantive structural change within the Catholic Church by seeking to institutionalize a collegial understanding of church where decision making is shared and accountability is realized among Catholics of every kind and conditio n.
Once people start to believe change is possible, 
the drive to achieve it accelerates. 
                                          -   Patrick Sullivan, ARCC President
The laity hold the key to reforming the church
Ken Briggs
While bishops scramble to find their way out of the woods, attempting to disprove the illusion that rulers are capable of reforming themselves, the laity hold the key to whether anything fundamentally will reform the church.            
So far lay people are either leaving the repair work to the clergy and hierarchy or taking that final step out the door, leaving the church behind. That's mainly the passive role they've been taught over the centuries by a theology that dispenses divine authority in the ordained ranks and expects lay people to obey.
That neat formulation has been fractured as more ordinary Catholics disagree with the authorities on particular teachings and go their own way. In America, this adjustment has reflected the culture's passion for individual rights and the Second Vatican Council's reminder that an informed conscience can overrule doctrine. Absolute truth is the province of the hierarchy; street-level truth the growing preserve of a democratic society. Same structure remains but the fear of disobedience has largely disappeared.
The result of mingling the two sources has fostered a complex laity that is less prone to take the bishop's word as final and lives in varying degrees of separation from the church's standards of true membership. That looser connection has become a comfortable compromise among many Catholics - "they" can lay down the law as they see fit; "we" can accept a Catholic identity that doesn't buy the whole package.
Supporters of the traditional division between rulers and ruled have assailed this settlement as "cafeteria Catholicism," which undermines the authenticity of the church's witness to truth. They argue that you can just choose which doctrine you will heed and reject others. That accusation has stung many lay people who had departed from the catechism on birth control, capital punishment and other teachings. Over the years, however, dissent has become common and less stressful. Meanwhile, the clergy sex abuse scandal and cover-ups have revealed a Catholic cafeteria of another kind, involving nothing like a rigorously informed conscience.
The widespread evidence of a widening gap between official teaching and private behavior makes it less likely that the laity will generate a response that can revamp the church at its very core - re-defining the meaning of ordination and recasting of how elements of the church relate to one another in a manner reflecting the Body of Christ.
Re-thinking the nature of the church in such foundational terms won't occupy the bishops. They have too much too lose, too much to admit.  And I'm enough of a Calvinist to believe that human depravity won't end with clerical abuses. If the laity could capture the dynamic concept of a pilgrim church, constantly beset by flaws and the need for confession but moving ahead by grace, that would be an astounding, liberating achievement.
At the moment, however, that seems like a very remote possibility. If bishops' loyalty to their own privilege hampers them, the laity appears to reflexively dismiss an opportunity to assert itself. Up to now, a flow of thoughtful letters, articles and discussions has conveyed a powerful level of dismay, disgust and diagnoses of the scandal's causes. Remedies focus on such issues as celibacy, authority, ordination and homosexuality within the clergy and hierarchy.  The implication is that the clergy will be the final arbiters of the self-examination.
It wouldn't have to be so limited to the already-in-command, but the laity has demonstrated little willingness to create their own forum with latitude for a broad range of views. Using untapped leverage, resulting convictions could have impact in a setting where a church that has bottomed out breaks open to renewal in the deepest sense.
A groundswell of lay assertion would depend on great resolve that doesn't appear to exist. The laity have in general located their contemporary Catholicism at a certain remove from the voices of authority where there must be little motive to do more than bewail the catastrophe that they didn't cause or don't feel responsible for fixing. They may well feel justified in their longstanding doubts about authority and satisfied to let the clerics figure out their own fate because they are no longer invested in it the way their forbears were.
It's hard to imagine, however, a renewed church that doesn't arise in large degree from the bottom up, from those never in recent decades accorded a formative role in how the church will conduct itself. The "people of God" imagery from Vatican II could come closer to fulfillment.
For now, the watchers from the sidelines can observe the crisis-driven spectacle by their appointed leaders while their essential outlook goes untapped.
Ken Briggs reported on religion for Newsday and The New York Times, has contributed articles to many publications, written four books and is an instructor at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania
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