Fundamental Rights in the Church

Goal of Working Group on Fundamental Rights in the Church

At the Network of Reform Groups conference in Chicago last October, one group, of which I was a member, agreed to work together to produce a Charter of Fundamental Rights for all members of the Church.
Below is an outline of the goal we have set ourselves.
I would be more than happy to hear from anyone who might have some ideas on this fairly major topic.
Day by day the faithful in our Roman Catholic Church are experiencing the withholding of their fundamental rights by those who lead the church. On all levels of the church the People of God are excluded from a guaranteed participation in decisions although they must bear the consequences of these decisions (nomination of bishops, suppression of parishes, change of pastoral and theological concepts by parish priests etc.). The People of God receive no accounting from those who are leading the church (refusal of requests concerning the reform of the church, handling of cases of sexual abuse in the church, use of the financial contributions of the faithful etc.). Groups of members of the church are excluded from the sacraments without an individual, transparent, appropriate and just assessment of the situation of their life. The faithful are suffering sanctions without a transparent, fair and just process. In the absence of a right to be treated with respect, or the right to follow one’s own informed conscience, real injustice results and real pain is caused. There is no separation of legislative, executive and judicial power in the church and recourses are not handled in a transparent and fair procedure.
The Second Vatican Council has put the People of God back into the centre of its teaching about church. Pope Paul VI wanted to give back fundamental rights to the People of God and commissioned the creation of a Lex Ecclesiae Fundamentalis, a constitution for the church. That project was stopped by Pope John Paul II. But a church without respect for the conscience of each of its members, without appropriate participation on decisions in the church and without an obligation for those who are leading the church to give account, such a church lives in contradiction to the message of Jesus Christ and of the bible concerning each human being and to its own teaching about society.
It is high time to give back to the People of God the fundamental rights they have lost over the centuries and to allow the charisms of the Holy Spirit, with which all the baptized faithful are gifted, to be recognized and to flourish. There is a long history of trying to define and assert fundamental rights in the church. Therefore, based on previous efforts to establish a constitution for the church which respects the dignity of all the baptized, we wish to start a broad movement of the citizens of the church asking for their fundamental rights.

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  1. Padraig McCarthy says:

    Tony – perhaps you already have these.
    The American Catholic Council has a “Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities”, available at http://americancatholiccouncil.org/bill-of-rights/.
    The Association for Rights of Catholics in the Church have a Charter at http://arcc-catholic-rights.net/arcc_charter.htm.
    They also have an essay by Leonard Swidler on creating a constitution for your parish.
    The 1971 Synod of Bishops on Justice in the World (Par.40) said:
    “While the Church is bound to give witness to justice, she recognizes that anyone who ventures to speak to people about justice must first be just in their eyes. Hence we must undertake an examination of the modes of acting and of the possessions and life style found within the Church herself.”
    There has been some study since Vatican II on the question of a “Lex Ecclesiae Fundamentalis”, something like a “Constitution” for the church.

  2. Mary Vallely says:

    Paul VI, despite his rather austere appearance, was actually quite a remarkable and admirable man. I never could understand the celebrity status of John Paul II. I guess we humans are easily taken in by charm and good looks. Not that I’m castigating JP II who, being a saint now, is beyond criticism, I suppose. He did a lot of damage however especially in his failure to deal with Marcial Marciel Degollado.
    Who could argue with these fundamental rights? The sad thing is that those in a position to implement them won’t even read them. There will be no forum for discussion. Full stop. Pat Buckley ( don’t groan -he is still a good priest in many ways) has a similar creed. Unfortunately neither he nor Tony Flannery will be afforded a listening ear. Prophets rarely are. People shouldn’t be dismissed or disrespected because one or two of their views are not to your liking. It is not the Christian way, is it?
    As regards those who are ” excluded from the sacraments” and we’re really talking about the number one sacrament here, the Eucharist, unless one is scrupulously honest and obedient to the Magisterium many Catholics will continue to receive the Eucharist in good conscience which they believe is the final arbiter.
    I wonder, by the way, if the ACP is continuing to pound the doors of episcopal palaces to insist on a proper hearing. You must persist until deaf ears are opened. It’s the Christian way to keep asking politely and to never give up.

  3. Phil Greene says:

    There will be no forum for discussion. Full stop.
    Mary’s words echo in my ear …
    If we did meet up , if we had a discussion , if we felt we understood each other , if we found ourselves energised , ready to take on the Catholic world here in Ireland, found truth , meaning and empathy in our inner search to give meaning to our Faith and find helpful ways to pass it to another generation… then what?
    Who do we go to next – the ACP represents 1/3 of the clergy in Ireland.. how do the silent majority feel? who are they? will they support the people of God in their quest, in their parish, enable them?
    If we get the support we need , who next ? do we know the bishops that will support us ? can they see long-term? are they working on something with Pope Francis that we are not yet aware of that may change the landscape? How would they view this charter? Forgive my bluntness Tony , but would it stand less of a chance of success bearing in mind its source..?
    Also. why do the bishops think they will have our unquestioning support in the future when the native priest is a thing of the past and the new priests need us more than ever …
    Hope springs eternal , my choice would be that this charter would form the basis for talks which are facilitated and supported in our parishes, priest and people together, us and us, I can see from this website that this is already happening, clusters can then gather together to help one another and it might progress(slowly) from there…
    I wonder though with the pace of life that in general this is one more thing to add to a long list of things to do in the <50 year olds , and so these talks becomes the domain of "the older ones",as they have the time.. – I may be completely wrong of course in my thinking, actually hope i am..
    My cynical view is that the only way to get the(certain) bishops to listen to the public is for the public to stop putting money in their pockets!! Hush my mouth!!

  4. Phil (3): This is not my project. I am only one of a group of about a dozen from various different countries. And judging by what I am hearing from the others, I am probably the least knowledgeable on this particular subject. If we do manage to produce something original (clearly other people have worked on this before us) I don’t expect we will waste much time on the Irish bishops. We will hope to have bigger fish to fry!

  5. Padraig McCarthy says:

    Among the “Fundamental Rights” in the church which we need are clear procedures for “due process” when a priest wishes to address a grievance.
    Perhaps there may be some helpful information on this from our colleagues in the Church of Ireland. Their website, under Parish Procedures / Dignity in Church Life, offers “Clergy Grievance Guidelines” and “Clergy Grievance Procedures.”
    Links can be found at https://www.ireland.anglican.org/parish-resources/people-community#section-90

  6. The Church does not seem to have updated its terms and conditions for several hundred years. We would not accept surgery or dentistry from the middle ages…so why do we accept this? The problem is that the church has had so much power of people it could manipulate them with a mixture of fear and guilt, lies and deceit. The days are long gone when the only educated people are the clergy. Through the internet we all have access to information. Most of the laity do not think..at all. Those who do rapidly realise that the Church is dysfunctional, unethical and abusive…and it has been allowed to get away with it. Doctors and lawyers would never be able to do this. This king of Church cannot function in the third millennium.

  7. Phil Greene says:

    Thank you Tony for your reply @4.
    I subsequently looked up the meaning of Charter and found this definition of the noun: A written grant by a country’s legislative or sovereign power, by which an institution such as a company, college, or city is created and its rights and privileges defined.
    Put in the context of the Church then the sovereign power would be Rome if i am not mistaken…. until then it would be a document… and there are many such documents, reports etc. about that are, as we know, largely ignored! So i am keen to understand what makes/will make this document different from those other documents/summary of rights requested by the Faithful, both clergy and lay, that can bring about real change..

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