BLUEPRINT FOR VATICAN III
Catholics worldwide map church future
This is the request NCRs editors circulated to
Catholics in various parts of the world:
Which three issues do you believe a future general council of
the Roman Catholic church must address, with a sentence for each explaining
why. What are up to 12 additional items you would want to see on a council
agenda, with a sentence on each.
No names will be mentioned. No one will be quoted by
We want the voices weighted toward Asia, Oceania, Africa and
The tag, Vatican III, is purely utilitarian.
Obviously the sessions ought to be held in cities large and small throughout
the developing world, with perhaps the final session held in Rome. This
council, realistically, ought to be Haiti I, or Calcutta I, or Benin City I or
World Church I.
The editors undertook this project because we believed there was a
compelling need to gather the people of God around their shared views as we
look to the future. With the clergy culture and hierarchy in disarray, there is
a growing yearning for shared leadership and vision.
The Blueprint illustrates -- at a time when the U.S. and Western
Catholic church focuses anxiously but almost exclusively on the clerical sexual
abuse scandal and the leadership crisis it illustrates -- that there is a
larger call for reform.
This Blueprint is not the final answer, and the fact that it is
not a final outline is not the point. This Blueprint hopes to jumpstart the
imagination of the church and promote a global conversation.
The point is that this Blueprint illustrates -- to church leaders
and those who may one day call for a general council -- how they need to
approach the people of God, as equals, in designing and reforming the church to
meet the future. The voices of those closest to the peoples needs and the
issues of the day have to be seen as coequal and co-responsible in shaping the
church and its decision-making.
The Blueprint lets their voices be heard.
What impressed us in this Blueprint project was the range of
responses to the editors request. The volume of returns from the
worldwide church was reassuring -- some 60-plus from an estimated 300 people
contacted. The respondents were in thirds -- about one-third women religious,
one-third laity and one-third priests. There was at least one cardinal, and at
least three bishops.
The range was from Catholics in a rural El Salvador village who
sent in their hopes for their local church, to an authority on science who said
the whole idea that our destiny is inseparable from cosmic destiny is
barely on the fringes of contemporary soteriology [salvation accomplished
through Jesus]. There was a cardinal from a developing country who called
for openness to Eastern and other religions; a woman religious who wrote,
the world is dying; an Asian priest who asked, Please excuse
my English, then in very good English wrote that the issues should
The concept of Revelation: God reveals himself and his will
in the Old and New Testament, also in human nature (according to the Roman
Catholic tradition). What about in the other religions? Those other religions,
as a path to salvation? Again, as in Vatican II: the role of the conscience.
The authority of the magisterium. A complete rethinking of the sexual ethics in
every aspect. Maybe also a reflection, prior to that, about the pleasure of the
body and a theology of the body.
There was no litmus test for respondents. A Venezuelan candidly
warned we might not like his views. The Western World must urgently be
re-evangelized as it is quickly falling back into paganism,
throwing away 15 centuries of Christianitys civilizing work, he
wrote. And continued, Catholics must get rid of the ridiculous
democracy mindset for the church. They must reestablish
pride in being a Catholic and Christian, abjuring stupid
self-deprecation, apologetic attitudes while establishing a
strategy to frontally combat secularism and the enemies of religion all over,
especially politicians and the press.
Another writer asked, examining evangelization in an age of
pluralism and religious diversity -- how does the church respond to Jesus
command in the Great Commission at the end of Matthews Gospel in a global
village reality where followers live side by side with others of different
beliefs and no beliefs?
The need to reform church governance was the primary focus of the
As will be seen, ordination and human sexuality issues were major
topics. Immediately opening ordination to married men was seen as essential, en
route to ordaining women, because of the general lack of availability worldwide
of the Eucharist. (This was a constant point among the respondents.) Equally,
practically every respondent mentioned at some point that the Catholic church
has not dealt openly and realistically with human sexuality in the light of
21st-century understanding. (The leadership crisis over sexual abuse was
directly linked to the limits on who may be ordained coupled with the lack of
shared leadership, shared responsibility in decision-making.)
Writers wanted addressed what one called some
fundamental questions: What is the church? Who is part of the
church? What do the insights into culture and identity have to say to who we
are as human family and who we are as church. What is the mission of church in
the 21st century?
At the core of this debate, another writer suggested, arises the
question of whether the church is fundamentally local or fundamentally
universal. It is a pressing question demanding an answer, particularly if
addressed by the developing, postcolonial world. This Two-Thirds
World, he said, has the insights into the importance of culture and
identity the church needs.
The editors usually did not know those from whom we heard. We
initiated connections, for we asked Catholics we knew in religious
congregations, in mission and international and volunteer organizations, in
academic and pastoral and social service organizations, to invite their
worldwide contacts to respond. With no disrespect intended, the presumption was
that such a council would not be held during this pontificate, put possibly in
the first decade of the next one.
About 40 percent of the respondents seemed to be Americans, most
either in developing countries or returned from mission work there. Critics
might contend that the issues raised in the Blueprint are foregone conclusions,
given who asked the question. That is a little simplistic if they do. This was
not a statistical survey, and the responses were more chance and serendipity
than anticipatable. The editors know that several hundred people were contacted
worldwide, though among us we know the names of only a couple of dozen of them.
Bishops in several countries apparently chose to refer the Blueprint inquiry on
to others rather than respond themselves. Everyone knew there would be
anonymity. Excerpts from replies and commentary are in italics below.
(Additional respondent comments, plus the items they wanted added to a council
agenda beyond their three main points, can be read on NCRs Web
There was almost sufficient material for a second, smaller
companion article on the situation in the United States, but the editors
decided the focus was on world church. Much of the commentary specific to the
American situation is on the Web site.
It became evident as the e-mails began to arrive that the
respondents see a Catholic church straining to move away from its Western and
Eurocentric model to a regional and inculturated local church with collegial
connections to the center. This is in the face of the current Rome-based
Vatican leaderships determination to retain its 19th-century European
structures and models of church.
Here is one letter, in full, from Indonesia. Only the greetings
and signature have been removed, and some spellings have been changed for the
sake of consistency. In other entries, there was minimal editing for
Three key issues for the upcoming Universal Council of the
Catholic Churches (not yet ecumenical -- Orthodox, Protestant, Pentecostal and
Independent churches not yet present as full participants).
Democratization of the network of Catholic churches -- return to the
eccelesiology of the First Millennium at the start of the Third in line with
collegiality, solidarity and subsidiarity. Become a true communion of local
churches. Everything depends on this.
2) Radical option to live with and be
in solidarity with the poor and oppressed as the United States lurches into a
new phase of its imperium -- having colonized the world economy and media and
militarized its own economy and government, now it is colonizing the more
important earth resources that it intends to control via militarizing space.
The communion of churches must make a clear option.
3) Interfaith Encounter:
Which God do we believe in? A tribal sectarian god or the God of
the nations? Utterly vital as the world moves at an ever quickening pace
through post-modern to whatever, through secularism to
Another Three Issues (all related to the
1) Gender Justice: The democratization of the church, option to live
with the rejected and openness to Gods revelation outside the
Judeo-Christian tradition all need to be filtered through female and male
experience -- and clear markers laid down so that individual churches can draw
2) Ministries for Mission: The above would
necessitate the revamping ministerial service for mission, whether ordained or
not. Away from a celibate caste for ritual and toward collaboration for
dialogue in love and truth. Again: principles and markers by the council, all
practical consequences by local regional federations and national
3) Faith and Cultures: The above implies that we become a
communion of multicultural churches. This key issue needs spelling out. And so
the ending of the last session of the council should be the funeral
of the mono-cultural curia and its canon law.
The respondents see the Spirit is calling. Yet they have deep
There is genuine anxiety about a two-tier church, separate and
unequal; genuine concerns expressed about the environment of fear
in the church, particularly as it affects bishops and theologians.
Rome and a hierarchy, some respondents imply, have lost two-way
contact with the lives and hopes of the People of God.
Another concern was both spiritual and pragmatic. In less than a
generation from now, the Catholics of color, Catholics of the non-Western
world, will either have taken on the challenges, joys and burdens of shaping
the church -- because these Catholics are openly and enthusiastically
encouraged to do so -- or these same Catholics will have left for other faiths
and denominations where the welcome is more genuine, and the opportunities to
minister and serve not subject to limitations.
A Nigerian lay leader, speaking of the church in general,
The Catholic church is not charismatic enough. We need to be
free to sing, to dance, to clap our hands, to praise God. That is what God
wants us to do. That is part of the Nigerian culture. People are not interested
if the church is not exciting, and men are not interested in becoming priests.
My older sister joined the Pentecostal church. Only three of my seven brothers
are still going to the Catholic church.
The Vatican does not believe in
ecstasy, does not believe in the gift of prophecy. But everybody has a gift. I
believe some people have the gift of prophecy.
I believe we can make the
Catholic church grow, make it incorporate all cultures. Let the people dance
and shout and sing and be filled with the Holy Ghost!
To serve as further introduction there are excerpts from 10
correspondents missives immediately below.
The request for the top three issues produced three headings:
Governance, The People of God, and The Church in the World. The latter two
headings are quite familiar from the major documents of the Second Vatican
Council (1962-65). Governance is self-explanatory.
1) The respondents want the church, as one person phrased it, to
take to heart what St. Paul wrote to the Galatians: Christ freed us so
that we may be free.
The next council must take seriously the question of freedom in
the church. We need a new style of papacy that will reform present structures
and present a type of decentralization that emphasizes the life of the people
of God. Vatican II presented a theology of the people of God that has been
ignored in practice in the life of the church. Clerical power must be
inculturated and the church enter into the conflicts of the modern world.
2) Respondents wanted the widest possible participation of all the
church in the next council, laity -- single and married -- and women religious
and priests present as a group in proportion to the number of bishops present.
A cardinal in a developing country wrote that all religions should be invited
and have the right to vote.
The process and system being put in place for a council,
prior to a Vatican III, would need to be radically different from and not just
follow the patterns of previous councils.
3) They want their church to prophetically and actively recommit
itself to the poor, and on behalf of peace.
A priest in Latin America called for the Catholic church to be
a sacrament of globalization, a true sign (but not the only one) to the
nations of the unity of the human family as Gods will for human
history. A second priest there, a liberation theologian, said,
The option for the poor must lead the church to face globalization and
preach a universal ethic.
4) Catholics want the Eucharist made readily available to all
Catholics in a Eucharist-starved world.
Man-made rules can be changed. We immediately need a married
clergy to make the Eucharist available to everyone, to help make priests more
human in how they relate with people, to make a more horizontal and less
hierarchical church, to make a greater understanding of women and elimination
of discriminatory practices and attitudes, and to eliminate unnecessary
conflict in those who want to be priests, to eventually open the doors to women
How do we as a eucharistic community keep alive eucharistic
and vibrant communities of faith when we cannot choose leaders from among all
the faithful with shared beliefs? From this springs many other
5) They want the church to re-envision its relationship to the
world, and creation.
The cardinal wrote, The West has to make stronger
efforts toward the integration of the East and all its religions. The time has
passed when the world could be understood or directed by Western heads
A woman religious whose congregation is in more than 100
countries, and whose focus is keeping in contact with them in person -- she was
recently in the Middle East and North Africa -- wrote by e-mail: The
world is dying. It is dying, she said, from war, violence, sickness,
neglect, the unequal distribution of resources, and the mindless exploitation
of the planet.
6) They want the church to restructure itself, to alter the means,
style and content of its governance coinciding with a gospel
transparency in its actions, along with widely shared
I would like to see a discipleship of equals. The issue goes
to the heart of the patriarchal and hierarchical structure of the church and
the false holding of one person above another. It means opening all church
offices to women. It means shifting the weight of power away from Rome and
church pulpits to the people of God. It means getting rid of all parent-child
terminology like Father (Holy and otherwise), and attendant
The style of governance implied in this, a Catholic in Asia
wrote, stems from the perspective of radical equality of all baptized
people and in terms of transparency, accountability and
7) Catholics want a new language that explains the churchs
sense of sacramental relationships. A language that will inculcate in Catholic
Christians the understanding of why Christians are called to take on the
demanding, risky prophetic witness that a dying world
There is a need for greater pragmatic clarity and
understanding of what is the mission of Jesus Christ and the church in the
world among all the baptized, an urgent need for a greater understanding and
articulation of the prophetic vocation of the church and all the baptized in
view of the growing disparity between the worlds rich and
The condition of the poor in every country is the
thermometer of the faith and the vitality of the church in that
country. The Vatican has to take this seriously and stop being ambiguous.
National conferences should not be warned to stay out of
8) There is a need for interreligious dialogue, respondents feel,
taking place in the midst of science and technology.
The church, said another respondent,
must face the reality that religious pluralism is part of Gods plan
for humanity, and it is time to enter into more serious and extensive dialogue
with other religions, and to understand Christianity as one of many. Jesus is
the great reconciler. He came to unite, to heal wounds of
This equality should itself be rooted in a critical
historical and cultural analysis of the church -- universal and local -- from
the perspective of evangelization and inculturation in the context of
globalization: dialogue among civilizations and religions, particularly with
Islam and the religions in Asia.
9) The church needs to open up the word to the New
Wrote a Latina: This issue goes to the heart of the
stories we tell in the liturgy. If we are going to find meaning in stories that
assume the universe was created some 4,800 years ago and the Earth was at its
center -- in the context of what we now know is a universe some 12-15 billion
years in age, the Earth a speck in the far reaches of one among billions of
galaxies -- we need to infuse these magnificent understandings into the
readings/teachings. The sacraments lend themselves beautifully to this
10) The people of God have clearly recognized that sex was
designed by God for far more than procreation.
We must search for a coherent and persuasive moral stance in
dealing with sexual morality: in marriage and its support systems, in family
planning, in reconciliation after divorce, in homosexual activity, in natural
In some places (countries in Africa were mentioned) the new church
could emerge quite clearly and uniquely a generation from now. Currently, some
non-Western Catholics in those countries still prove their loyalty by being
more Roman than Rome. If the next generation -- once the Western
influences have dissipated -- does step into leadership through their own
churches, they are eager to show they have more to give to the universal church
than they take from it.
With this in mind, there was some feeling expressed that it is
Catholics from the poor lands of the world, with their fresh insights and
lively sense of Christian community, who should be the new missionaries --
welcomed to the consumerist Eurocentric Catholic First World to re-evangelize
Given that respondents appeared to not weight one way or the other
their first three choices, all three were regarded as equally important. The
order of the categories below recognizes how many of the respondents listed the
topic in their first three choices. Except for occasional lines of organization
and commentary, the views below (in italic) are those of the respondents.
It is vital to the respondents that the laity has an equal
presence, voice and vote with the hierarchy at the council on the reforms and
direction of the church. One cardinal from the developing world suggested all
religions be invited to the council, and with the right to vote.
Another writer suggested the council should be planned jointly with the World
Council of Churches and have all Christian denominations represented. Writers
felt keenly the isolation of Catholic Christians from the community of faiths
worldwide. With no sense of sacrificing what is unique to Catholicism, many
decried the lost opportunity to grow with, as we learn from, other Christians
and other believers in the world religions.
In this sense, the call was for a World Council preponderantly
Catholic and church-wide in makeup yet worldwide in welcome and participation.
And they wanted all this built in at the start.
The process is just as important as the content. How
will/should discussion/conversation at the next council happen? A key part of
the bishops role is listening. No Vatican III will be worth its salt if
the bishops dont have properly facilitated listening sessions with the
laity and if laymen and laywomen do not have agency.
The next councils delegates ought to have some form of
immersion while attending the council in developing countries, lodged with and
amongst the people. On the composition of the delegates, if we have a bunch of
balding celibates solely empowered to decide on the future of the church, there
is little hope.
The principal issue immobilizing the Catholic church today is
fear. Fear in the hearts of bishops, particularly. Fear of their more
powerful or more intellectually gifted colleagues. Fear of their
increasingly educated and independently minded flock. And fear of Rome -- in
some instances without foundation. But only in some. Pride is another name for
the fear, of being afraid, or of being seen to be afraid. Jesus was afraid in
the Garden of Gethsemane. But didnt hide it. He spoke of it, in prayer to
God his Father. To his own disciples, his fear, his terror of what was
ahead, was evident. Sometimes church leaders mistake compassion for weakness.
And deny weakness at all costs. Like us all, bishops need to learn honestly to
say, I dont know, when that is the case.
Alternative strategies for selecting delegates ought to be
implemented, say, all of the active international Catholic organizations ought
to have a role, likewise, the various theological schools, universities, etc.
Provide a forum that will stand with, not behind, the bishops for a call
for a council emphasizing a solid scriptural base, i.e., body of Christ that
announces that we want an accountability not based on fear, compliance and
It is essential to include both women and married men in the
next council, and in all future ministries and roles of authority, as the
absence of the insights of laywomen and laymen have grievously impoverished all
decision-making in the life of the Catholic church for centuries. It seems very
clear that in the contemporary world it is here that the Holy Spirit is most
The old joke is still relevant: Did you hear about
Vatican III? The bishops are bringing their wives.
Did you hear
about Vatican IV? The bishops are bringing their
Lets not focus on problems. Lets address
life-giving, community-sustaining, God-invoking, God-provoking, justice-based
One critical issue requires a council to resolve it. We have
reached a point at which we are pulled toward two centers in the one church,
centers with radically different understandings of what church is -- or ought
In broad terms we have people who have internalized Vatican II and
people who have repudiated it. In the starkest terms (which slightly overstates
the case) there are two groupings. They have as their centers: church as
community of love, church as legal structure.
The councils task would
be to develop structures adequate to this reality. This would mean a
redefinition of the terms clerical and lay, if not the
elimination of these distinctions within the body of the faithful. It would
mean election of leadership at all levels and clear definitions of roles and
responsibilities, in a word, a constitution defining rights and duties.
important things would automatically follow. We would be able to admit our
errors as a church, such errors as the teaching that outside the church there
is no salvation and the teaching inside the church on issues such as
Humanae Vitae (the 1968 papal continuation of the ban on artificial
contraception use by married couples).
There are three elements of governance most evident among the
selected replies. They concern the implication of a monarchy that demands
obedience, and the accompanying style and trappings no longer relevant or
defensible; authority; and church management.
Our collective understanding of authority is changing as the human
family grows in its understanding of human dignity and equality. It picks up
the insights of democratic thought in the postcolonial world and applies these
to the use of authority in the church today. The fundamental aim is to make
church teachings more credible in the context of modernity and post-modernity.
Our authority structure continues to be built on one that emerged in an
agrarian era. Without addressing what the human family has learned about
authority and its place in institutional structure, the church will continue to
be severely crippled and will fail to speak credibly to generations growing up
-- particularly those of our children who operate from and live in a modern and
postmodern environment, where there is little tolerance for rigid hierarchical
schemes, secrecy and authority exercised as fiat.
Monarchy and Style
What are the implications for the people of God of retaining
a monarchical form of governance and what are the implications of dismantling
the monarchical structure of Vatican governance and replacing it with a
governance structure that reflects a more democratic process? I believe we need
creative thinking to discover the best blend of participation and the positive
influence that is exercised by a common position or public
The uniformity of practice and procedures sought by the
current Roman authorities ultimately undermines the union of mind and hearts
that is the work of the Spirit and hallmark of the church.
This trend is
further exacerbated by a pope who apparently does not hesitate to impose his
own theology and piety on the entire the church.
The churchs centralized hierarchical leadership model
focuses on maintenance and blind obedience at the expense of the primacy of
loving relationship. Thus the church remains increasingly unresponsive to the
struggles of the poor and marginalized throughout the world, the majority of
whom are women and children.
There needs to be a serious questioning of imperial,
patriarchal governance. There must be genuine dialog calling for the
possibility of conversion at every level; advice-giving and consultative
committees are not enough. 1,700 years of a Roman Empire-style governance is
There is a need to eliminate all worldly titles from the
church such as eminence, excellency, holiness, etc. The only proper New
Testament title is brother or sister. Titles inhibit egalitarian dialogue; the
church might be hierarchical in ministries but it is egalitarian in its basic
existence, which comes through baptism. Why could we not address a bishop
simply as Brother Bishop?
The elimination of all the triumphal folderol associated with
prelates. Watered silk, lace blouses, billowing capes, little beanies, jeweled
crosses and rings, etc., are counterproductive to the gospel values the gospel
calls on us to try to live.
The whole question of infallibility and the role of the
magisterium needs to be looked at. Both of these issues can be like nuclear
weapons in the wrong hands. Adequate respect and reverence for the sensus
fidelium. Gaps, chasms exist.
The issue: bridging the gap between the powerful and the
powerless of the church. Now, only the hierarchy has real power. Others are
merely tokens. This accounts for all the ills of the church, from pedophilia to
financial abuse to theological violence. If the gap is bridged, then priests
and bishops will no longer be perceived as gods and invincible by the powerless
laity. Theological education for laity, new ways of appointing prefects of
congregations (e.g., the prefect of evangelization has to be someone with
missionary experience, could be a laywoman, the prefect for education, someone
with school experience, etc.)
Just because the Catholic church is not a business corporation,
the respondents said, does not mean organizational examples from elsewhere are
not apt. When a critical mass of educated people -- in an organization to which
they voluntarily belong -- no longer fully believes that their teachers have
all the relevant answers, or that their leaders sense of direction is not
unerring, two things happen (other than people simply leaving): They demand
change, or the leadership presides over a continued disintegration.
In a healthy Christian organization -- and despite its governance
problems the writers regarded the church overall as healthy -- the people
should not need to demand a voice in the teaching and the leadership.
Managerially speaking, some writers maintained that if governance changes are
not forthcoming, the organization, already seriously divided, becomes more and
more markedly divided and less and less effective. Their recommendations looked
at everything, from parish councils to redefining the role of the papacy.
Essential: revise the process for the selection of
Collegiality and its structures: Starting with the episcopal
college and reflected in the other levels of the churchs life, we must
have structured expressions for collegial deliberations and
Complete the work of Vatican II on the nature of the church
(ecclesiology), and develop the image of the people of God through a dialogue
with the Eastern churches -- to a more fully developed Communio rendering. That
will provide basis for reforming church governance.
Restructuring the hierarchical/clerical systems of the church
is No. 1 priority. Of course with full inclusion and participation. Roman
centralization -- liturgy, theological expression, procedures, organizational
structures, seminary training -- has become an obstacle to unity within the
church. The council needs to promote a genuine respect for local churches and
the leadership of those churches, including national conferences and the local
Leadership within the church: Sad to say, too many of our
bishops are more worried about having good relationships with the Vatican,
obeying without question what is decided there, than about the real needs of
Synods should take on the character of genuinely consultative
bodies with decision-making responsibility, rather than carefully staged comic
operas. The responsible exercise of the teaching charism requires lifelong
learning. If they arent learning, they have no business
Perhaps the simplest but most potent reform would be the
non-transference of bishops from one see to another and achieving
accountability/transparency in the institutional church with a system of checks
and balances -- using the examples of need for institutional reform in the
The entire unfinished agenda of Ut Unum Sint [Pope
John Paul IIs 1995 statement defending the centralizing power of the
papacy] -- with open discussion of the nature of the Petrine ministry/office in
the church and how it can be exercised in a way that will truly serve Christian
Governance from the perspective of the radical equality of
all baptised people, and in terms of transparency, accountability and
participation (subsidiarity and solidarity) of particularly women, youth and
A structure that trusts and affirms local bishops
conferences to guide the church in their jurisdiction regarding teaching,
liturgical practice, inclusive language and social teaching. The Roman curia is
an outmoded and out-of-touch structure that is intent on its own survival and
is suffocating the energy of the Spirit.
There is a major disconnect. Laypeople and women especially
continue to be excluded from active participation in national and international
synods and from diocesan commissions such as tribunals, personnel boards for
priests, presbyteral councils.
Require and empower parish councils.
Broaden church governance and inclusion of the laity in
governance: If, as recent papal teaching has insisted, participation in
decision-making is a requirement of human dignity and part of the development
of human persons, then all the baptized should participate in church
governance, which is now limited by canon law to the
The People of God
Again the segment opens with a full accounting from a single
respondent (with some minor editing). The respondent in this case is American
who uses some U.S. examples to amplify the discussion into the universal church
This is followed by short excerpts from other responses, grouped
in categories: priesthood, sexuality, liturgy. Understandably, there is some
overlap between the categories the people of God and the church in the world,
for were dealing with the one church.
De-clericalization of the Church:
If the church is the
people of God as a whole, with all functional differentiation inside the church
only serving the common end and mission of the people of God as a whole, then
the question of whether the church can fulfill its mission is the question of
whether the people of God as a whole are aware of their collective mission and
willing to do their share.
The hierarchy of the church may produce wonderful
documents, but if they do not either express the sensus fidelium or
engage the people of God, of which laypeople are the absolute majority, the
documents remain merely documents empty of consequences.
When the church is
facing many grave issues, the question is compelling whether the laity are
educated and empowered enough to engage those issues. The grave issues are
matters of agenda, but the empowerment of the laity is a matter of the agent,
those who will actually do something about the agenda. In this sense, the
problem of educating and empowering the agents is more important than agreeing
on the agenda or things to be done, which is relatively easy.
the Catholic church, even in the post-conciliar era, we still have a long way
to go in empowering the laity. Clericalism is still very much alive all over
Continuity and Change:
Many changes have been occurring,
and the church has to respond to them in a timely and relevant way. The
compelling question is whether the church can maintain a tension between its
fidelity to the tradition and its witness to the contemporary world. Fidelity
means constant meditation on the depth and riches of the tradition;
contemporary witness means readiness to respond in a relevant way. The first
requires continuity, the second readiness to change. What we need is neither
blind traditionalism nor mindless change but the virtue or habit of being able
to maintain a tension between fidelity and relevance rather than complacency in
either being traditional or being progressive. Complacency in either position
means one-sidedness. We should learn to be progressive while also being mindful
of the tradition so that we do not go to one extreme in a complacent way, and
the same way with being traditional. The ideal result of this consciously
cultivated tension will be to nourish relevance itself on the riches of
tradition to which we must be faithful, and to deepen and enrich fidelity
itself with a careful appropriation of the new. I propose the cultivation of a
theological tension between the old and the new as a basic attitude underlying
all our positions on particular issues in the church.
Additional Issues (not in order of
Multicultural Reality: How to cultivate a sense of human
unity despite our multicultural diversity in the world and a sense of Catholic
identity despite our multicultural diversity in the church, a new consciousness
of una, sancta, catholica, et apostolica ecclesia.
Women and Married Men: This is not a panacea but still necessary as a matter of
equity and empowerment of more people to work for the mission of the
Liturgical Revival: We need a more lively liturgy and better
liturgical music, a combination of the old with its sense of the sacred and the
new with its sense of contemporary relevance. The Gregorian chant, for those
who grew up on it, was a marvelous source of inspiration and spirituality. Do
we have a contemporary equivalent? Why doesnt someone put the Credo to
music so we can sing our creed as a community? I find most of contemporary
liturgical music too flat, introspective, therapeutic.
Youth: Admit it or not, Catholicism is intellectually under attack from all
kinds of sources, secular press, antireligious academics, the liberal
establishment. Catholicism is being pushed to the fringes of culture. We need a
program of religious education for Catholic youth and young adults to show them
that their faith is intellectually defensible.
Dialogue: Coming to terms with the reality of non-Christian religions at the
theological level and providing appropriate education to Catholics in this
regard so as to clarify the position of the church in this perplexing area and
avoid needless confusion among Catholics. This will become a more pressing
issue as times goes by.
Care for the Family: For all sorts of
reasons, families have been disintegrating, and people are more and more
alienated. We need a concentrated pastoral concern for strengthening the family
as a basic unit of society.
Strengthening the Parish Council: The
parish pastoral council was the tool used by the Second Vatican Council to
empower the laity to participate in the church at the local level. As it has
turned out, however, the operation of the council varies so much from diocese
to diocese, often left to the judgments of bishops and pastors. An active
operation of the council should become mandatory for all
Preferential Option for the Poor: This should be our
priority in all our theology and practice. How are the church, the parish, the
individual Catholic doing in this matter?
Expand Opportunities for
Theological Education of the Laity: If the laity is going to do its share in
engaging all these issues and activities, the laity must be educated, which
means largely theological education. We need institutional encouragement and
financial assistance to enable as many interested laypeople to get the
necessary level of theological education as possible. This is especially urgent
as the number of parishes without priests increases. The talk of empowering the
laity in the church is empty unless we give them help in getting the
appropriate kind of education to do what they are expected to do. Each parish
should be encouraged to set aside scholarship money for this
Promoting Vocation to the Religious Life: Empowering the
laity should not be construed as excluding this traditional emphasis on
promoting religious vocations. The religious bear a different kind of witness
to the kingdom of God, which we continue to need, as a special genius of
Catholicism, the loss of which would be an erosion of the integrity of
Catholicism. The religious life is an important religious value that we cannot
simply let disappear lightly.
Intellectual Revitalization: As an
intellectual and public force, Catholicism has been being pushed to the fringes
in both Europe and North America. It is time that the church should find a way
of making its witness count as an important force in modern life by
revitalizing its presence in the media, government, business and the academy.
Learn from the Jewish people! In Southern California, for example, with over 4
million Catholics, there is not a single credible intellectual forum or
publication to express the Catholic voice.
Terms of Office for
Bishops and Popes: No bishop or pope will remain in office for more than 15
years, or beyond their 75th birthday. The fortune of the people of God should
not be made so contingent on the fortune of a single
These analyses strongly suggest that the critique exists that can
help provide the direction and action for the church of the new
millennium. This does not mean there is total agreement or unanimity of thought
or approach among the respondents, rather that there is no denying that these
are the issues that a council must face. A primary task for a new council would
be figuring out how to carry the work forward in the light of these issues.
As was apparent in the Governance correspondence, many writers in
these next two segments seem to feel that the millennial enlivenment that John
Paul II so strongly advocates for the Catholic church (see also The Church in
the World, Page 17), paradoxically has its direction and action impeded by
barriers he has raised, or helped construct or permitted to be erected.
The cry of the people of God is given a special place in one
sense as we open ourselves to this response from a rural Salvadoran village:
We want to be a local church that is a community of
communities, including all sectors of society and church. We want to be a
local church that shows a preferential option for the poor, not just in word,
but in action, imitating Archbishop Oscar Romero, that responds to the special
needs of youth, that forms its people and helps them to defend their faith in
an environment of attacks against Catholic praxis, that responds effectively to
poverty as a focus for putting in practice the Social Doctrine of the
This heartfelt message from El Salvador underlines, as one
respondent said, that the need is for a new ecclesiology which focuses
in on the sinfulness of the church -- the church as a community of sinners
saved only by the grace of Jesus Christ. That is the great mystery of God: that
so much good can be accomplished by such a sinful church. We have emphasized
too much the holiness of the church, but we have failed to bring out what the
Fathers used to bring out: the mystery of the church that is at one and the
same time holy and sinful; virgin and prostitute; source of inspiration and of
scandal. This is the real church: a community of sinners struggling for
holiness. The great saints of the Bible were equally great sinners. We want a
church without sin, but that will only come about at the end of
The meaning of priesthood needs to be explored anew with
21st-century glasses on. So much trouble has emerged that springs from
inadequate understanding of human sexuality that this must be a priority
Attitudes toward women and sexuality put at risk the fundamental
centrality of the Eucharist by maintaining criteria for the priesthood that are
exclusive, untenable and too often psychologically unhealthy. Issues of
ministry and authority in the church include such questions as to who is able
to receive the sacrament of holy orders (deacon, priest, bishop); how authority
and jurisdiction are exercised in the church and by whom. This would include,
of course, the whole question as to how people are called to orders (including
episcopal orders), and by whom.
Because of the shortage of priests, the sacramental life of
the church has suffered. What should be done to make the Catholic church a
sacramental and eucharistic community again?
Deal with theologys contribution to building up the
body of Christ and acknowledge the requisite freedom of inquiry necessary for
theologians to make the contribution that only they can make. Rome seems to
have back slipped into a pre-Vatican II understanding that theologys
principal task is to defend current church teaching rather than the more
traditional fides quaerens intellectum.
My fundamental disquiet is my growing awareness of how
Catholicism is not a religion where cultural or intellectual currents are
primary. They have influence, but the controllers of the centralized and
deployed structures of communications dominate.
So I read all of this talk
of the tired retreads of graying liberals and of the need for the liturgical
establishment to get with the times, and they miss the point. I read theology
from the 1970s and early 80s and dont see the need to really argue
much more. Frs. Jon Sobrino and Edward Schillebeeckx have said what needs to be
done, but were still a bourgeois religion, why? Because Rome and bishops
have decided that eucharistic theology doesnt matter, bad theology of
The churchs position on contraception is untenable.
Because the churchs leaders lack a true understanding of women and the
struggles of family life, its teachings are no longer challenging but simply
dismissed by most Catholics who have concluded that the church is
I feel inadequate to respond, but of course I have a couple
of ideas. The vibrant communities of faith when we cannot choose leaders from
among all the faithful with shared beliefs? From this springs many of the other
Reconsider the situation of divorced Catholics and dismantle
annulment-granting procedures and structures.
The church does not understand marriage, let alone the
complicated cultural, psychological and spiritual conditions that make a
marriage no longer viable. The churchs position on divorce places many
believers effectively outside the sacramental life of the church and therefore
meaningful participation in the community. The present muzzling of theologians
prevents the development of theology to meet the needs of new situations in the
church. This is true in both the developing world (inculturation) and the
developed world -- in addition to denying due process to individuals (e.g.,
the mandatum process).
We must search for a coherent and persuasive moral stance on
sexual morality: marriage and its support systems, family planning,
reconciliation after divorce, homosexual activity, natural
Rework the whole theology of marriage as a sacrament and a
special vocation that is not simply ruled by canon or civil law, dispensations,
divorces masquerading as annulments, etc. The dead legalist weight of centuries
must be cleared away to give a new foundation of support, spiritual and social,
to the survival of the human family. The human family, which is the sum total
of the millions of human families (nuclear or unitary) struggling to grow and
survive in loving and supportive unity.
Some people remain in dead marriages because of church law.
This is not life-giving for them and their children. Theres also the
issue of couples cohabiting before marriage, widespread among young people in
the United States and Europe. When they come to the rectory, how are they
treated? Scolded, sent away unless they agree to live apart until the wedding
day, or is that visit seen as an opportunity for evangelization and
reconciliation? The same applies to those married outside the church who seek
to have their children baptized.
Do long-held presuppositions about natural law, particularly
in the area of moral theology, hold up under new knowledge about the nature of
the human person, particularly the nature of sexual orientation and the call to
intimacy (physical, emotional and spiritual) experienced by all human beings?
Can we in conscience forbid the use of condoms to avoid the spread of a fatal
disease? The teaching is disingenuous and deadly.
Reform of the churchs fundamental teachings on human
sexuality, which are at the root of a host of problems, from the celibacy rule
to the proscription against contraceptives. Natural law arguments against
contraception make no sense, are causing great pain to many families, are
taking a toll on the environment and the economic well-being of poor people
around the world, contributing to the HIV/AIDS problem and undercutting any
legitimacy the church has in opposing abortion. (While Im on the subject,
I grew up in the Byzantine rite of the Catholic church with a married clergy.
All the pastors I knew and loved as a child were married; their wives were a
wonderful part of our lives. I cant believe Romes stridency and
intractability on the need for celibacy at all costs, even if it means that
some Catholics wont have access to the Eucharist because of the shortage
How can the church embody the primacy of the final
forum of the individual conscience as more fundamental than patriarchal,
hierarchal authority, put in full parabolic tension the sensus fidelium
with the now-overbearing magisterium?
Marriage and divorce -- does it make
sense that the second largest denomination in the United States is unchurched
Catholics, mostly because of irregular marriages? The European
churches are empty. People are voting with their feet. We should not give up on
the vision of until death do us part but recognize that we are
humans, vulnerable and imperfect in our judgments and
In liturgical renewal, dialogue and evaluation is essential,
both top-down and bottom-up. Liturgical renewal should proceed involving
regional culture, language and meaning systems without the Roman, total-control
system hamstringing all legitimate experiments and adaptations before bishops
and their people on site can properly evaluate them from real and practical
The average Catholics understanding of the
faith is woefully deficient. This lack of understanding will quickly evolve
into a lack of participation in the liturgical and sacramental life of the
church. The Vatican Catechism has not done the job.
The role of language and symbol in liturgy and prayer -- the
recent debacle on ICEL [the International Committee for English in the Liturgy]
and gender-inclusive language suggests that Rome still sees the Eurocentric
form of prayer and liturgy as definitive. The church is global, more than ever.
People pray in the language of their hearts and need a liturgy that includes,
not excludes, inculturation: The worlds peoples and their diverse
situations simply must be given wider expression in preaching, in sacramental
life, in organizational forms of church community and
Look and discover the role of women (or the lack of decisive
involvement) in the church -- understanding that church is a community of
disciples and we are all called to reflect and be responsible for and to that
The official churchs pronouncements on and treatment of
women as second-class members will increasingly cause more women and young male
adults to seek ministry opportunities in other Christian communities. This
situation will have a major negative impact on the sacramental life within the
Catholic community in developed countries, as well as further exasperate
vocations to the priesthood.
Respect for the equal citizenship of women in all aspects of
church life, including ordination. The church cant go on dissing half of
the people of God and justifying discrimination. (I am also embarrassed and
tired of the Vatican teaming up with Islamic extremists, like Iran and Sudan,
to oppose international efforts to advance women.)
Without them how will the church carry out its mission? It is
not simply the matter of womans ordination; it is also the question of
how women must have an effective voice in the life of the church at all
Priesthood needs to be renewed and the elitism and
clericalism fall by the wayside never to be seen again. This may result in a
totally different form of priestly ministry. Seminaries need to be closed and
modeled after the experimental seminary training proposed by Brazilian
Archbishop Dom Helder Camara and some Protestant types of training such as
Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge and Berkeley Feminist D. Min courses.
Apologies are long past due to women and others. Celibacy is not a gift! It is
a rule put in to keep money in the church instead of scattered among
priests sons. Just adding women to the priesthood and stirring as in a
cake mix will not be the answer to the struggle to get women priests. Children
must be loved and lead us, even if it is to places we would rather not go. No
more decisions made by old supposedly celibate white men in red dresses. They
had their chance and they messed up. Give the rest of us a chance to mess
What can the churches do to foster in us again wonder and delight
in beauty, truth and goodness and put us in touch again with the deepest
sources of joy?
The Church in the World
As Catholics look at the entire world the reason why a Catholic
Reformation is essential becomes obvious: The world is indeed dying. The
poor are getting poorer. The disparities are growing. The
worlds resources, especially water and food sources, are
dwindling. The oppressed still are oppressed.
The world needs the Catholic church, and the energy, direction and
application of its social justice teaching. At the same time, the Catholic
church needs the world for its own salvation. The Catholic church is not alone
in this charge to save Creation. As the Blueprint respondents are quick to
explain, the church needs to be open to the world religions. In all the world
religions rests the collected hope for the world. Each religion provides to the
others insights, guidance and a focusing on the one center.
The material, following the opening letter, is arranged under the
headings Globalization, Interreligious Dialogue, and Teaching and Acting.
1) Mission. The church has always been
mission-minded but not always other-centered. This has
meant that mission often served the churchs agenda rather than
Gods, and mission became something to do rather than immersion in the
mystery of God at work in the world.
2) The Other as Hermeneutic. A
necessary task if contextuality has any meaning. In Pakistan, for
example, Islam (96 percent of the population) has to be seen as a tool whereby
we examine everything -- all our fundamental beliefs -- in order to discover
who we are here (and what Christian identity really is: incarnation and
emptying) and, with others, to discover Gods mysterious purposes. The
most valuable and promising inquiry going on now is in the theology of
interreligious dialogue. In 1990, David Tracy wrote that the time is fast
approaching when we cannot attempt a systematic theology except in relation to
the great religions. The time has arrived.
3) The Revival of
Trinitarian Theology. Rarely preached about, the Trinity has to be seen as the
motive and model for Christian activity. It provides the reason for interfaith
dialogue (broadening the relationship), is at the heart of the individual
Christians identity, and without it no Christology is possible (Jesus
carrying on the Spirits mission, not the other way around). It also
offers an ecumenical consensus from which progress can be made on contested
issues such as church, sacraments and ministry.
1) Training for Ministry: The whole seminary structure needs
to be thrown out. Separating young men from the people, training them in a
seminary -- as we learned here in Pakistan -- and then expecting them to go
back to the villages has proved unrealistic. Training has to be contextual:
rooted -- not Roman!
2) Church Government: A thorough reform of the
Vatican curia, more subsidiarity and genuine collegiality. Get rid of all the
timid bishops, who agree with you in private but never publicly! We need to
look at the way some Protestant churches are organized: much more
representational, much more democratic. Herbert McCabe said it 40 years ago,
regarding the Charles Davis affair: The church is quite plainly
corrupt. The system has not changed much in 40 years.
Ordination of Women and Married Men: If context is a locus theologicus
then we need to take seriously what the Spirit is telling us today. To forbid
discussion on this is to stifle the Spirit.
4) Pastoral Conferences,
not bishops, as the official church body in a country, which can determine for
themselves matters like translations, language, rites, etc. Who knows
5) History! A serious, not a biased reading, as Owen Chadwick
wrote, can save us from the tyranny of the present
Right now globalization in the sense of increasing global
interdependence, economic, political, and cultural, is going on without
resistance largely under the leadership of U.S. capitalism.
critically examine and respond to the comprehensive implications of such
globalization on the environment, creation of rich and poor among and within
nations, concentration of political power on the elite nations, and
commercializing trivialization of all areas of life, including our moral and
We may also judiciously examine the positive
implications of globalization in terms of bringing different peoples and
cultures together and preparing the material conditions for the unity of
humanity, which is also the ideal of all religions. The problem is how to steer
the direction of globalization so as to minimize the negative consequences and
promote the positive, the unity of humanity without destroying their
This is not just a Catholic issue but an issue for all
religions and cultures.
Globalization, whether we like it or not,
defines the basic context for human existence in its totality today, and
deserves a careful examination and response, in much the same that Gaudium
et Spes did in the context of 40 years ago. We need a new Gaudium et
Spes for the 21st century.
From New York: The world is dying. The Jubilee
Justice of the new millennium was only rhetoric and requires the clothing
of reality. We must go far beyond documents and even beyond critique to
supporting models that demonstrate alternate economic development consistent
with human rights and full human/social development. The earth is dying, and
Jubilee Justice requires conversion. Is the church capable of this? Im a
dreamer. I dont think I am the only one.
From Madrid: How to educate the faithful around the world in
the social and economic teaching of Jesus Christ. The church needs to figure
out why the economic and social teaching of Jesus is not followed, and
come up with a worldwide education campaign. Perhaps the larger discussion is
which teachings of Jesus Christ are essential? -- what must
one believe and practice to be a faithful Catholic? I believe these are of the
Needed is a strong focus on sustainable development in the
broadest sense, which must include both reverence and love for the cosmos, the
Earth with its life-support systems, and recognize the immense damage done by
extractive industrial development. The church must embark on serious planning
to deal with the greed and callousness that is causing growing destitution
among millions of people in the Two-thirds World. We must develop completely
new economic and political structures for democracy, and for protection of the
vulnerable -- a new code of global ethics, revising radically our recognition
of serious sin, yet not fall into the trap of Dreaming of structures so
perfect that no one will need to be good (T.S.
Church must be engaged in activism worldwide to challenge the
power and agenda of the profit-driven transnational corporate vision for the
global economy. The church must use its wealth and influence to force a moral
agenda upon the global economy to insure labor standards and protection of the
Is it not time for the church to abandon the just
war theory and repudiate all violent means of settling
Work to end violence in all the ways it manifests itself and
develop a culture of peace in church and society. If we would put as much
energy and resources into strategizing for peace as we give to waging war and
committing acts of violence, the church and world would begin to look more like
the dream of God for creation.
Serious and profound dialogue with
other religions. I believe this is a fundamental issue. Religions have to get
together to appreciate and share the gifts that Gods Spirit has given to
them. And they have to give a clear message of nonviolence in a world where war
seems to be one of the preferred ways to deal with or solve problems, and where
God is used too often to justify the killing of human
What is required is a critical historical and cultural
analysis of the church -- universal and local -- from the perspective of
evangelization and inculturation in the context of globalization. Dialogue
among civilizations and religions, particularly with Islam and religions in
Asia. This is one with inculturation and indigenization. The whole unfinished
set of issues from the Asian Synod. Included with this, of course, is the whole
matter of unity/uniformity: How can we be one church without having to walk in
lockstep? In which areas can/should there be legitimate diversity? And how can
we honor the fact that the church is first of all a local reality -- one that
lives in a myriad of cultures?
The church does not have good (enough) documents affirming
other religions. Nostra Aetate is good but not nearly good enough.
Dominus Iesus was awful. A serious coming-clean is needed on
anti-Semitism. Everything the church publishes still sounds self-defensive and
This is a time for a careful discernment of needs and the
pastoral mission of the world church for postmodern times in widely different
climes and cultures.
The church must everywhere offer and insist on a radical
reassessment of the unjust distribution of the worlds finite resources.
The Jubilee Year of Leviticus on forgiving debts was barely a cosmetic start on
restoring the balance of five centuries of colonial rape of the developing
world, which still continues through the Bretton Woods Institutions and the
World Trade Organization.
A renewed Catholic church could make a huge contribution to
the inevitable and ongoing process of globalization in the 21st century, but
will wealthy Catholics and the supinely dormant among the church leaders accept
such a challenge? On the other hand, without accepting the challenge, what does
the church of Jesus have to say to 80 percent of the world population now
systematically excluded from the banquet of life in Gods
Reform the new exchange of missionaries and the interchange
of local church pastoral agents without creating a brain drain (or a
social-climbing clergy and religious elite) between rich and poor churches
around the world. Develop international sister parishes.
Create new forms of international exchange and collaboration,
not only of mission-funding, but of real cultural and faith exchanges. These
should be a regular part of world church life in the dioceses and parishes of
the future. The world mission of the future must be greatly expanded and it
must go far beyond the old missiology of European colonial times with some
countries being mission-sending and some
How can the church do justice to those who know themselves
equal when other cultures within the church authentically deny womens
equality -- reference women as in Christs full
How should the church position itself vis-à-vis the
other world religions? Present claims to fullness of truth seem arrogant and
lacking in credibility. On the other hand, there are forms of fundamentalism
and of popular religiosity that seem dangerous to human health and
Teaching and Acting
First is the need for a new creed that fills in what Nicea
and others have left out: the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as basic
to our Christian-Catholic identity.
How can we follow his way if we do not
know him? We have way too many dogmas and doctrines that are life-draining and
not enough story that is life-giving.
Under this new creed the issues of
growing world poverty need to be addressed. Jesus came as poor to the poor. The
church is more and more the church of the rich.
The marginalization of the
poor nations from the new global economy (the giants are mostly the
Christian countries) is the very opposite of Jesus invitation
to the poor and the marginalized. The question of our relation to the poor must
be a primary issue in todays Christian community.
Naming the sins of todays world: greed in the first
world is destroying the good and positive aspects of Western civilization.
Globally, organized crime is destroying more peoples lives than the
terrorist attacks on 9/11.
As church, we think too small and are more concerned about
law, suppression of gifts and control, when we could be leading and inspiring
others to action for wholeness. We could all live by the vision: I have
come that they may have life and have it to the full.
What does it
mean to be Catholic in the best sense when economic policies and political
lines are all focused on hegemony not cooperation? The gospel seems to point to
radical equality through resource sharing. This demands new
Church needs to speak out against the present
globalization/free trade that makes corporate profit the top priority and
governing value and is destroying the environment, and all social and political
ties, and concentrating wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands, hands that
are not accountable to anyone.
We need an unwavering and radical option for the poor that
would give birth to a global campaign to arrange church financial and people
resources toward the eradication of poverty, conflict, the oppressions of
global capitalism and the destruction of the environment. The church in the new
millennium must take the risk to shed the trappings of wealth and power. To do
this the church will have to challenge others who hold the wealth and power
that keep others down.
The church of the poor: This very important theme was just
mentioned during Vatican II by a few participants, but it remains a fundamental
issue in our world. The church has to make clear its unconditional option for
the poor, meaning for those who have been and are being excluded and ignored by
the neoliberal politics that almost dominate our planet.
Is there anything that the institutional church can and
should do to counter the economic and political forces that are widening the
gap between the rich and the poor, both within nations and between the North
and the South?
The growing disparities in wealth and income not only consign
hundreds of millions of people to abject poverty, but leave many of us who are
relatively well-to-do in a disquieting state in which our lifestyles are
inconsistent with our religious convictions.
The church must provide an
ethical, moral and spiritual perspective of the stewardship of all the faithful
in relation to creation, environment and the poor in a globalized and
The church can continue to call for a more just distribution
of the worlds resources while calling couples to responsible parenthood
on a planet that is finite. There is a balance between a preference for
materialistic acquisitions and a total disregard for an individual
couples ability (financial, spiritual and emotional) to care for an
It is incredibly irresponsible for the church to
condemn artificial but effective methods of birth control, especially in
countries with high infant and child mortality rates.
suggests that the sacrament of matrimony should give top priority to a
couples growth in love over procreation. Right now they are equal, but
there is ample evidence that married love is life-giving in more ways than the
procreation of children, even in the absence of them.
Set a framework so Catholics understand a sacramental view of
the world and how each sacrament connects us to the mission of the church. This
would be a document aimed at revitalizing the sacraments, helping to bring
fresh language and energy to living Christian lives.
Just to give one
example: Eucharist, the Bread of Life. What does it mean to participate in the
Eucharist when two-thirds of the world is hungry on a daily basis and one-third
is not eating enough to sustain life? Fresh words, fresh ideas, fresh
connections are desperately needed to reconnect deep Catholic belief and
spiritual life with the wider living experience.
Each sacrament must be
reexamined through the lens of wider Christian commitments to forgiveness,
mercy, justice and peace. Not just words, but real commitments, calling upon
experts, the best minds offering the best pictures of life on the earth and in
the universe today.
The discussion is now open. The forum is these pages and the
newspapers Web site. The editors invite Catholics from across the
orthodoxy spectrum and from around the world, to make themselves heard. We will
publish no direct or veiled ad hominem attacks on individuals. We ask only that
you limit the length of your replies to under 500 words -- the shorter the
response, the greater the likelihood of publication. Letters unpublished in
these pages will be placed on the Web site. www.natcath.org
|About this Blueprint
It was compiled by NCRs editors out of their
conversations and communications with Catholics throughout the world.
Particular weight was given to the voices from Africa, Asia and Latin America
and Oceania, and to the voices of women. The lead writer was Arthur Jones,
NCR editor at large.
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National Catholic Reporter, May 3, 2002