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Steering Group reports back on the new lay ‘umbrella organisation’

The Latest News on the Proposed New Lay ‘Umbrella Organisation’
Following the agreement at the All Hallows meeting on the 30 May to establish a Steering  Group to develop a Policy Framework, the Steering Group met for the first time on Tuesday 26 June. The group is comprised of eight volunteers (four female and four male members) representing a number of the established lay groups and also includes individuals who are not aligned with any group. In establishing the Steering Group every effort was also made to secure age and geographical balance.
The meeting made considerable progress in reaching agreement on a number of key issues which will underpin the Policy Framework. In particular:
– The new organisation will be structured along the lines of an association or alliance (of Irish Catholics) open to both members of existing groups and individuals who are not aligned to any group – lay or religious.
– Establishing a formal and structured working relationship with the ACP was identified as a very important policy principle.
– The  Policy Framework will include  a statement of objectives which will broadly advocate a  ‘Reform and Renewal’ agenda in our Church  based on Vatican II.
– There was support for the idea of organising a number of regional meetings in late August -early September to promote the new organisation in advance of holding the proposed General Meeting in September/October which will consider the Policy Framework.
The Steering Group have requested an early meeting with the ACP to initiate discussions on issues of mutual interest identified at the first meeting.
Other News.
In the interim, since  30 May two individuals who attended that meeting have agreed to establish ‘study groups’  to work on drafting documents on Faith Development and Youth Issues.
Another volunteer is compiling an email list to facilitate communication with individuals who have declared an  interest in the initiative.
Your comments on the above will be very important in terms of the on-going work of the Steering Group which plans to meet again following the proposed meeting with the ACP.
[Submitted by the Steering Group]

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  1. Mary Cunningham says:

    Below there is a link to Gene Sharp’s guide to Self-Liberation. These are a few thoughts based on its application for those of us who are working towards reform and renewal in the Catholic church.
    A pragmatic and strategic approach requires study, reflection and the dissemination of knowledge and understanding to counteract any possible tendency toward elitism.
    Three types of knowledge
    1. Knowledge of the conflict situation, the opponents, the society and its needs.
    This first one I think is critical. As applied to the institutional CC what exactly are our ‘conflict’ interfaces? We would need a clarity of vision, precise knowledge of what people really want from a coming together in a larger group. What are the key issues?
    2. In-depth knowledge of the nature and operation of the technique of non-violent action.
    Rushing into action without careful study and preparation may be counterproductive. Much of the Sharp document here focuses on actual non-violence from a civil strife perspective. An adaptation of this strategy, the acquisation of in-depth knowledge, could, for example, include a compiling of a ‘book of evidence’ ranging from Scripture,Vatican II documents, theological arguments, (so many that have been ‘buried’ passed over, Rahner, Schillebeeckx, Congar, Fagan,Chittister, and many more great women close to home), advances in knowledge, science, psychology etc.
    This could form a sound theoretical base for action. There are, of course, a range of arguments that could be advanced from a different perspective.
    But I have a sense that the inspirational work of many could be synthesised and utilised to build into a powerful argument for a humbler, loving Church of Jesus.
    3. The ability to think and plan strategically.
    How do we think strategically, calculate how to act realistically, in ways that can increase the possibility of change? There are many historical examples of tactical planning.
    Basic strategic considerations.
    Any long-term goal should include a series of limited actions that can contribute to its achievement.
    Learn how to counteract opponents who want the struggle to fail. These are the ‘pillars of support for the regime’ to use Sharp’s analogy.
    Do campaign objectives aggravate weaknesses of system? For example, the misogynistic CC institution is on very thin ice re the basic dignity and equality of all.
    Initiative is important —–resist being relegated to primarily reacting to actions of the regime. This, I think is where many of us find ourselves, particularly in relation to clerical sexual abuse, women’s issues etc.
    Plan how to initiate the struggle——-limited goals can be identified and targeted.
    Selected issues should be ones that have some chance of success or at least being noticed.
    Long term struggle almost always proceeds in phases, each building on preceding efforts.
    Steps towards the possible
    Despite the difficulties, these actions are within the capacity of so called ordinary people.
    Study, reflect, build up base and prepare competently.
    Then courageous action is required.
    A tall order then, am I only dreaming?!!
    Mary Cunningham

  2. Gene Clarke says:

    I am very much encouraged by this initiative in the Irish Church. It is abundantly clear to me that no change of great worth will ever come directly from the Church Hierarchy….I think it is important that this Umbrella Organization establish some ongoing liaison with the Hierarchy while at the same time being abundantly clear that it is not seeking approval or agreement on each and every item under consideration as well as decisions made….It seems abundantly clear to me that Bishops in general have lost credibility with the Faithful….and lets all remember that the Faithful play a significant role in the Catholic Church. In fact most real and meaningful change comes from the Faithful…. Our situation in the States by and large is ” We have become a “Cafeteria Church” Most, not all, of the Faithful follow their own conscience as far as issues such as “Family planning” Confession, and Mass attendance is concerned to mention just a few.
    I wish every blessing on this new initiative…..let’s remember, ” Where two or three are gathered in MY Name, there am I in the midst of them” May God be With this effort.
    Gene Clarke

  3. Jerry Slevin says:

    It will be important that the new organization not become a captive of the ACP. Active and continuing support must be sought from both (1) lay theologians from Irish universities not affiliated with the Church and (2) Irish human rights lawyers who are experienced in systematically resisting powerful oppressors. Otherwise, the organization will quickly revert into another irrelevant and ineffective complaint bureau.

  4. It would be wonderful to see a Vatican II Church as envisioned by Pope John XXIII. BTW: No one at the Vatican has ever promoted his sainthood, have they? Is it any wonder WHY, with the current Papal Administration and that of JPII? One of the most successful steering groups in the United States is Voice of the Faithful out of a small city near Boston, MA. It is an international organization, I would bet that they would help or assisting in giving advice when it comes to structuring by-laws, missionary statements, etc….. Great group of people, who have just celebrated their 10th anniversary! Getting back to Ireland: It’s great that there’ll be a lay organization to support the ACP. One of the things that VOTF does is “Support Priests of Integrity!”

  5. Steve Edward says:

    @Jeannie the VOTF “Support priests of integrity”! Wonderful! But what about the priests without integrity? You know, the ones who took vows to obey their bishops and the Magisterium but then changed their views and demand that the Church changes in lock step with them towards the New Church that looks very much like the Episcopalian church in the US that has less members now than it had in 1935?

  6. Joe O'Leary says:

    Steve Edward, what you are attacking is simply the Church of Vatican II.

  7. Joe O'Leary says:

    Jeannie Guzman, the Vatican have not only promoted the sainthood of John XXIII, they have beatified him, so that he now Blessed John XXIII.

  8. Stop worrying Steve. Change has taken place within our Church over the last 2,000 yeare. We do not burn heretics at the stake anymore. And of course the churching of women after childbirth, and Limbo are also gone out the window. It is the Bishops and Magisterium who have destroyed our Church by their cover up, in relation to the sins committed by a FEW RELIGOUS, against our brothers and sisters. Yes Steve, the Priests “Without Integrity” (Your description)will give us leadership into a Church where honesty, equality, integrity, and the dignity of each person,will be core values.
    If we are thinking about numbers, I think we should concentrate on our own Church and let the Episcopalians look after themselves. Talking to a Parish Priest recently he told me that his church was doing quite well, with about 30% of the faithful attending. He also advised me that he concelebrated in another part of the country recently, where he was advised that about 10% of the parish was supporting the church. In my native city of Limerick, two city centre churches have closed down in the last few years due to lack of Priests, and people coming through their doors. Being present at the wonderful ACP assembly in Dublin recently, I heard many parents sadly state that their children do not now practice their religion. These are just some of the problems that are facing us in Ireland, and regardless of the opinion that some may have of the ACP and their supportors, they cannot be accused of sitting on thier hands, doing nothing. It would be good if we all tried to become part of the solutions, rather than continue to accept the continueing problems.

  9. David Walsh says:

    I don’t much like the tone of “Them and Us” in some of those responses. There may well be an anti lay revolution syndrome shown by some members of the Church hierarchy. There is undoubtedly a retrenchment from Vatican II among Vatican officials. But renewal of the Church in Ireland from the bottom up, which is what I sensed was needed from our first meeting, can only succeed with the help of the Irish bishops. They may be distrustful of us, afraid themselves to be seen to be too liberal, too ready to accept dictates from Rome, but only through bishops can we transform our Church.
    And, the Irish Bishop’s Conference is not doing nothing. I was very pleasantly surprised to discover the number of commissions/councils working within the Bishops Conference. They admitted at the Eucharistic Congress where they produced a informative booklet that they had been reticent in the past in showing their work. Parish Pastoral Councils are currently studying a document “Living Communion: Vision and Practice for Parish Pastoral Councils in Ireland To-day”, from Commission for Worship, Pastoral Renewal and Faith Development. They too are not telling anyone what they are at . This is just one initiative of the Bishops’ conference. Having attended the workshop of that same Commission at the Congress I have great hope of change and indeed of listening. The forthcoming National Pastoral Conference on Communion and Co-Responsibility in the Church shows a positive approach to lay involvement. It will take an awful lot more to get some of the reforms we think are so badly needed. In the meantime let us keep working within the structures we have. We are not yet, or should not be in a conflict resolution situation. We are all working for the same Leader Christ our Lord.
    If the Catholic Church is misunderstood to-day it is due to three things.
    1. It communicates very badly. It’s PR is poor.
    2. Change takes time. Work behind the scenes may have to be kept quiet. Premature leaks don’t help. (True also in politics and elsewhere)
    3. Many of the disaffected have in fact defected and are not listening anymore.
    We must help with humble witness, patience and support, while keeping our vision intact. With Christ at our side we cannot fail.

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