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Maida chilly to Call to Action meeting


Responding to weeks of calls and letters criticizing the upcoming Call to Action gathering in Detroit, Cardinal Adam Maida has issued a statement discouraging both participation at the conference, protests against it and protests against pastors who support it.

Acting as "visible source and center of unity," Maida, archbishop of Detroit, said he was responding to "calls and letters inquiring about the position of the archdiocese with regard to the Call to Action conference" that he has been receiving "for some weeks now."

Call to Action, an organization that works for reform in the church, normally meets in Chicago but changed the meeting place this year to Detroit, site of its first conference in 1976.

Call to Action codirector Dan Daley said of the Maida statement, "It sounds like Cardinal Maida did what he feels was his responsibility. We look forward to further conversations with the Catholic community in Detroit in November." Daley said between 5,000 and 6,000 people are scheduled to attend this year's gathering. Speakers for the Nov. 15-17 gathering include German theologian Fr. Hans Kung and the French dissident bishop, Jacques Gaillot.

Twenty years ago, the conference was spearheaded by Detroit Cardinal John Dearden in an attempt to broaden lay participation in determining future direction of the church.

In the years since, Call to Action has become independent of the bishops and a point of some controversy. Earlier this year, for instance, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., called the group "inimical to the Catholic faith" and "destructive of Catholic church discipline" and announced that anyone in his diocese who held membership in Call to Action was to be excommunicated.

The view is not universal among the bishops. Other bishops, including Raymond Lucker of New Ulm, Minn., Kenneth Untener of Saginaw, Mich., and Thomas Gumbleton, an auxiliary in Detroit, are participating members of Call to Action and have spoken at organization functions.

In the statement, Maida said that Catholics have the right to assemble and to differ. "What Catholics do not have the right to do, however, is to openly dissent from church teaching. As I wrote in an earlier column in The Michigan Catholic, we cannot support a dialogue that publicly contradicts matters of doctrine. And regrettably, Call to Action appears to do just that" in its call for women's ordination and its question of matters such as priestly celibacy. On these matters, Maida said, the pope has spoken.

Regarding the Detroit gathering, he noted there were "some modules and speakers covering a variety of topics that appear to be in conformity with church teaching and discipline. Some could even be very helpful. And I can understand that people may want to attend such presentations. Unfortunately, however, the overall climate of the conference creates the appearance of dissent from church teaching and practice. For this reason, I do not think it is appropriate for parishes to finance or encourage the sending of church staff to the Call to Action."

But, added Maida, "I do not think it is helpful when individuals or groups of individuals organize countergatherings or protests as a response to Call to Action. Especially lamentable is when some of these individuals or groups criticize -- even campaign against -- select pastors or other priests, accusing them of infidelity to our Holy Father or church teaching."

National Catholic Reporter, October 25, 1996