A Future Schism? Really?


Our guest  columnist today is Janet Hauter, current Vice President and Co-Chair of the American Catholic Council (held in Detroit, Pentecost Weekend, 2011). Janet has been dedicated to working in the Church in leadership roles throughout her adult life.  As a cradle Catholic, she grew up being “religious” following Church’s leadership until issues of conscience raised her consciousness to new issues about the God voice within developing an “adult spirituality” since.  With a background in organization development, Janet has attempted to marry her academic experience with critical issues in the Church today.

 Questions for our conversation: How do reform minded Catholics influence the average Catholic into understanding its mission and its message? Is challenging and questioning the church hierarchy an act of schism? How does the reform movement attract the younger Catholic in their 20’s and 30’s to understand the need for reform? Please also raise your own questions. This posting site is meant to be a conversation and a listening opportunity as well. The wider the opinion base, the better. Looking forward to your participation.

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A Future Schism?  Really?

Co-chairing the American Catholic Council (ACC) in Detroit was the culmination of a three-year planning effort with a number of reform groups to define whether we could find common ground across our individual missions.  After dialogue and deliberation, governance was seen as the root cause of the troubling, converging crises of the day (clerical sexual abuse, financial malfeasance and innumerable power abuses).  These crises are symptoms of a systemic problem, i.e., a monarchical system that is focused on control and a narcissistic need to manipulate the image of institutional Church at the expense of lives psychologically brutalized and lost, donations abused and a return to the Church of the 50’s to maintain  power and control of its followers.

The event was a celebrative, inclusively “big tent” event calling Catholics to acknowledge Vatican II and embrace the spirit it gifted the People of God with in an era where Church’s leadership is actively moving us back to more obedient, mute and passive times.  Many solutions were proposed by attendees and are being currently analyzed for trends to proactively and positively address the triple-threat crises we face today. 

Attendee evaluations were incredibly high with strong requests for next steps to be defined.  To present a balanced approach, detractors have offered the following criticisms:

§  The ACC had an aging population in attendance.  While true, the reason for a dominant  “Wisdom Generation” attendee base was that this generation lived through Vatican II and understood the promises that it held out to a believer base.  Younger Catholics could not have had that experience clearly missing that perspective.

§  The ACC should have had a major pivotal emphasis on the clerical sexual abuse crisis.  The Council, designed to be celebratory, hope-filled, solution-based and empowering to Catholics for realistic change. 

§  The ACC is a vehicle for schism.  We requested our critics to offer specific information where we were being schismatic but our accusers were mute. 

Matthew Fox, a presenter at the ACC, dealt with the schism issue head on by saying that we are already, now—in current day, in schism created by the Vatican through all the symptomatic issues that have come to light in the last decade.  While many will attack this statement because Fox is no longer Catholic, let us evaluate the comment on its own merit or flaw in total objectivity, as much as that is possible.

Recognizing that Jesus did not come to establish a new Church but rather to challenge the existing practices of his own religion, how are we different?  Change is inevitable and ongoing on all fronts of life; this cannot be denied.  Catholics are at a crossroads moment as the signs of the times indicate and  evidence abounds that this time in history reflects a” black swan moment” where high-impact events converge to awaken Catholics to the huge magnitude and consequences of these events.  Some believe remaining in the Church tolerates the injustices occurring and refuse to remain; others believe this is the very moment to respond to the Church’s call to work for justice but this time within the Church.

I believe change is indeed possible and probable NOW but it would demand that movement in that direction would demand that we rid dialogue exchanges of polemic positions that offer no innovation or solidly entrench us in old arguments that didn’t move us forward in the past.  We must bear in mind that we are the Church and for the Church to change, we must change!

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3 Responses to A Future Schism? Really?

  1. Speaking-Up says:

    An extract from the above-mentioned article: “….. where high-impact events converge to awaken Catholics to the huge magnitude and consequences of these events. Some believe remaining in the Church tolerates the injustices occurring and refuse to remain; others believe this is the very moment to respond to the Church’s call to work for justice but this time within the Church.” End of the extract.

    There are many meanings to the term “practising catholics”. For some it infers that these people are church-goers, who actively participate in the ministries, pay into the collections, pray the novenas, obey unquestioningly. For others, this term may refer to church-goers who are working for reform within the church, while participating in the ministeries etc. Then they are others who have left the church and continue to have a personal relationship with God with the help of the Scriptures. What many of these catholics have in common is a reluctance to speak-up against church-abuse. Is it the fear of hell that causes this? Perhaps a lack of conscience or moral courage? Or the fear of losing one’s job, benefits, pension? Or the loss of tuition-subsidies for children in catholic schools? Medical attention from a catholic clinic? Food from a church-ministry? Perhaps a loss of reputation through community-shunning, as is occurring in the case of Sister Jesme of India who spoke-up against the religious and sexual abuses of her Order, the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel.

    When an institution encompasses all aspects of a person’s life namely: spiritual, emotional, physical, sexual, financial, educational, social, judicial etc., it is no wonder that there is a reluctance to speak-up for church-reform. In the ‘abused women-syndrome’, women are unable to understand their situation till they have distanced themselves from it. This syndrome also applies to men and children. So where am I going with this line of thought? Simply, that those on the outside may be better able to take an objective stance on church-renewal because of their broader perspectives. Those on the inside are in the ‘fish-bowl’ and are kept very busy with the novenas and litanies of the saints, the pilgrimages, the relics, the learning of the new missal, the difficult reading of the church-documents, the focus on global issues such as social justice etc. Amidst these distractions, some persons manage to find a personal relationship with God … find the mystic within … attain adult spirituality … understand the Scriptures. Imagine a team rowing with precision and speed towards their goal which is to reach the other side of the river, while the bird’s eye view of an eagle sees them heading towards the disaster of a waterfall.

  2. Janet Hauter says:

    Thank you for such an enlightened and profound response, Speaking Up. Fear has the greater Catholic community in chains bound up remaining in the prison of the past when we were taught to be mute, obedient and passive. What is the antidote?

    Objectivity and rational distance is an antidote for those who left the institutional Church to embrace their own spiritual growth but when will the thunder bolt awaken the fish? There must be an antidote for these…

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