Blueprint for Vatican III
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Catholics worldwide map church future

This is the request NCR’s 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 name.

We want the voices weighted toward Asia, Oceania, Africa and Latin America/Mexico.

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 people’s 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 be:

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 Christianity’s 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 Matthew’s 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 Blueprint respondents.

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 NCR’s Web site: www.natcath.org)

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 leadership’s 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 clarity.

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).
1) 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 fundamentalisms/extremism.
Another Three Issues (all related to the above)
1) Gender Justice: The democratization of the church, option to live with the rejected and openness to God’s 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 necessary conclusions.
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 conferences.
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 concerns.

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, said:

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 God’s 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 priests.

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 questions.

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 alone.”

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 decision-making.

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 behaviors.

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 participation.”

7) Catholics want a new language that explains the church’s 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” needs.

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 world’s rich and poor.

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 politics.”

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 God’s 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 division.”

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 Cosmology.”

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 re-envisioning.”

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 law.

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 it.

The Blueprint

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.

Council Preparations

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 don’t have properly facilitated listening sessions with the laity and if laymen and laywomen do not have agency.

The next council’s 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 didn’t 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 don’t 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 subservience.

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 active.

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 husbands.”

Let’s not focus on problems. Let’s address life-giving, community-sustaining, God-invoking, God-provoking, justice-based positive initiatives.

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 to be.
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 council’s 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.
Many 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 spokesperson.

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 church’s 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 sufficient.

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 bishops.

Collegiality and its structures: Starting with the episcopal college and reflected in the other levels of the church’s life, we must have structured expressions for collegial deliberations and actions.

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 bishop.

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 their people.
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 aren’t learning, they have no business teaching!

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 corporate sector.

The entire unfinished agenda of Ut Unum Sint [Pope John Paul II’s 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 unity.

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 children.

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 ordained.

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 situation.

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 we’re 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.
However, in 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 the world.

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 importance):
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.
Ordination of 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 church.
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 doesn’t 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.
Catechesis of 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.
Interreligious 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 dioceses.
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 purpose.
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 individual.

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 Church.”

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 time.”


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 item.
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 theology’s 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 theology’s 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 don’t see the need to really argue much more. Frs. Jon Sobrino and Edward Schillebeeckx have said what needs to be done, but we’re still a bourgeois religion, why? Because Rome and bishops have decided that eucharistic theology doesn’t matter, bad theology of ordination does.

Human Sexuality

The church’s position on contraception is untenable. Because the church’s 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 wrong.

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 questions.

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 church’s 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 law.

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. There’s 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 church’s 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 I’m 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 can’t believe Rome’s stridency and intractability on the need for celibacy at all costs, even if it means that some Catholics won’t have access to the Eucharist because of the shortage of priests.)

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 choices.


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 experiences.

The “average” Catholic’s 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 world’s peoples and their diverse situations simply must be given wider expression in preaching, in sacramental life, in organizational forms of church community and ministry.


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 reality.

The official church’s 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 can’t 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 woman’s ordination; it is also the question of how women must have an effective voice in the life of the church at all levels.

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 up.

And, finally:

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 world’s 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.

From Pakistan:

1) Mission. The church has always been “mission-minded” but not always “other-centered.” This has meant that mission often served the church’s agenda rather than God’s, 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 God’s 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 Christian’s identity, and without it no Christology is possible (Jesus carrying on the Spirit’s 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.

Agenda items:

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.
3) 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 better?
5) History! A serious, not a biased reading, as Owen Chadwick wrote, “can save us from the tyranny of the present moment.”


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.
We must 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 religious sensibilities.
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 diversity.
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? I’m a dreamer. I don’t 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 essence.

Other excerpts:

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. Eliot).

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 environment.


Is it not time for the church to abandon the “just war” theory and repudiate all violent means of settling disputes?

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 God’s 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 beings.

Interreligious dialogue

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 disingenuous.

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 world’s 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 God’s creation?

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 mission-receiving.

How can the church do justice to those who know themselves equal when other cultures within the church authentically deny women’s equality -- reference women as in Christ’s full image.

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 sanity.

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 today’s Christian community.

Naming the sins of today’s world: greed in the first world is destroying the good and positive aspects of Western civilization. Globally, organized crime is destroying more people’s 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 reflections.

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 globalizing world.

The church can continue to call for a more just distribution of the world’s 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 couple’s ability (financial, spiritual and emotional) to care for an additional child.
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.
It also suggests that the sacrament of matrimony should give top priority to a couple’s 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 newspaper’s 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 NCR’s 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