Report on meeting of Steering Group for Lay Association (ACI)

Report on meeting of Steering Group
The Steering Group met on Thursday the 19th July 2012. The following are the main points arising from the meeting.
 ·         The recent meeting with the ACP was discussed, in particular the agreement to establish a separate and independent lay organisation.
 ·         It was agreed that the interim ‘working title’ for the new lay organisation would be ‘The Association of Catholics in Ireland’ (ACI).
 ·         A draft ‘Statement of Objectives’ was agreed – see below.
 ·         It was agreed that this draft ‘Statement of Objectives’ would form part of the report on the meeting to be posted on the ACP website and to be circulated to those who have provided their email addresses to the Steering Group.  It is hoped that this will initiate a vibrant discussion on the ‘Statement of Objectives’.
 ·         ACP Regional Meetings ( Galway 6th October & Cork 13th Oct ) – the ACP have offered to facilitate discussion on the ‘Statement of Objectives’ at both Regional Meetings. It is hoped that these discussions (both ‘on line’ and at the Regional Meetings) will provide  the impetus for agreement on the key issues at a General Meeting to be held in the Autumn. The Steering Group would like to acknowledge and express appreciation to those who have contributed to the ‘on line’ discussion to date. This process is a vital ingredient in developing the profile and policies of the ACI  and  all those interested in the formation of the new lay organisation are encouraged to participate in this process in the coming months. It is the view of the Steering Group that, having drafted the ‘Statement of Objectives’, the Steering Group should allow the discussion to proceed without further comment until the Regional Meetings.
·         In the meantime the Steering Group will continue to work on drafting proposals on a range of issues such as organisational arrangements,  media & PR policies, establishing a website, financial considerations, etc.  

Association of Catholics in Ireland

[‘Opening Pathways to Communication’]

           Statement of Objectives [DRAFT]
The Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI) is committed to the pursuit of a reform and renewal agenda in the Irish Catholic Church based on the letter and spirit of Vatican II. We are committed to helping to re-build (through words and deeds) a unified Church based on the teachings of Jesus Christ – a Church that acknowledges failures, that is inclusive, compassionate and one which accepts the equality of all believers by virtue of their baptism.
 The ACI is committed to the renewal of the Catholic faith in the changed and changing circumstances of the 21st Century and to the reform of the institutional Church which, at this time, is experiencing conflict, crisis, and lack of credibility. 
The ACI believes in particular:  
·         That the Spirit speaks through the voices of all the baptised (clerical, religious and lay).
·         In the consequent right of all the baptised to have their voices heard (Sensus Fidelium) in the formation of church teaching and to participate fully in the life of the Church, including decision-making at parish, diocesan, national and international levels.
·         In the need for new and appropriate structures at parish, diocesan, national and international levels to facilitate the full involvement of the baptised lay faithful as ‘partners’ in the renewal of our Faith and the reform of our Church  in the 21st Century.
The ACI is committed to working collaboratively with all who share these values to bring about:      
·        A renewed understanding of the primacy of the individual conscience.
·       The full participation of women in every aspect of the Church.
·       A recognition of the wisdom of God’s people in the shaping of Catholic teaching especially in the areas of sexuality, ecumenism and ecology.
Membership of the ACI is open to all who share the above objectives – including members of existing lay groups, ‘non-aligned’ individuals and members of religious orders/congregations.
If you believe in the concept of a new lay organisation please engage in the consultation process ‘on line’, through organising discussions in your local parish and by attending the ACP Regional Meetings.

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  1. Eddie Finnegan says:

    “The Association of Catholics in Ireland”(ACI) seems an almost excellent title. If it is to be a voice for all the baptised, then the title claims too little. If it seeks to be a voice for the lay faithful, then the title claims too much. If “the consequent right of all the baptised to have their voices heard” is to be equated with the “Sensus fidelium”, how will the Spirit’s still, small voice be discerned “inter clamores fidelium” or even in the “Vox Populi”? I think Newman in 1859, though out on a limb in the minds of Pius IX and the English bishops, was more careful in invoking both “sensus fidelium” and the primacy of the individual conscience.
    And even +Diarmuid Martin (who occasionally gets a mixed reception on this website!) seemed to me to have quite a bit worth listening to in his MacGill Summer School address in Glenties yesterday , including:
    “There are certain ambiguities as to what ‘being Catholic’ means in contemporary Irish society. . . . . In some cases people live out a sort of cultural Catholicism. In other cases what is called Catholicism is really a type of civil religion, a social spirituality without dogma, with blurred reference to a Jesus of ones own creation.
    “In other cases there are appeals for a sort of de-institutionalisation of the Church. There are those who would wish an Irish Church separate from Rome. There are those who would speak rightly of the role of lay people in the Irish Church, but really want a Church in which Office and Order would be radically emptied of their theological meaning. One can talk about how office is exercised, but Office – including the office of the successor of Peter – is an essential dimension of Catholic teaching.”
    Maybe “The Association of Catholics in Ireland”, even in a draft of its agenda, should mention not only Jesus Christ, the Spirit, Individual Conscience, the Vatican Council, but also (even if in minuscule lower-case) words such as “priest”, “bishop”, “pope”, “rome” . . .?
    Finally, having attended the excellent ‘Regency Day’ in May, I don’t think the planned “Towards an Assembly for the West” and “Towards an Assembly for the South” are just routine ACP Regional Meetings, grateful as we are for the ACP’s initiative and hosting.

  2. Mary O Vallely says:

    Am in total agreement with these aims and Eddie,I think they have covered “pope,” “bishop” etc; by stating that they are inclusive. Thank you to all on the steering committee of this ACI for the work and commitment so far. It is appreciated!
    I feel a little sadness as a northerner that there is no demand for a “Towards an Assembly for the North.” Maybe it’s that heavy barometric pressure we suffer from and our lack of sun and maybe too we are heartily tired of “talks” and “assemblies” here and want others to put their shoulders to the wheel for us.
    A little sadness also to think that we will soon have two separate websites and fora for discussion but I hope that the ACP and ACI will be true partners, as in a marriage of equals, giving of our own experiences and talents and listening to the Spirit that shines in each person.
    “The heart of our Divine Lord has no law more pleasing than gentleness, forgiveness, humility and charity.” Padre Pio’s beautiful words I saw on a wall at the Capuchin Friary in Ards. (just thought I’d share)
    Mary V

  3. Laura Kuntz says:

    From the U.S. —
    You Irish are cool!!

  4. David Walsh says:

    A very good start. I agree with much of Eddie’s observations and would be more explicit in declaring a wish to work with the bishops; assuming that they will want to dialogue with us. It will be a rough ride if we cannot get the local episcopate to at least dialogue.
    I look forward to seeing a website of our own. An ACI website is necessary for easy access to on-line discussion.

  5. Jim McCrea says:

    I hope that a concerted effort is made to attract and give voice to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholic communities.

  6. John O'Loughlin Kennedy says:

    Whatever happened to the Umbrella Body?
    The “Regency Meeting” welcomed proposals for such a body to co-ordinate the efforts of reform groups and hopefully give them a more effective voice. The “All Hallows” meeting approved this and people volunteered to serve on an interim committee. The meeting provided a rare and valuable forum for members of a wide variety of groups, all of whom are seeking reform of one kind or another. Many speakers stressed the need for charitable inclusiveness and the twin foundations of dialogue and prayer.
    Nobody was questioning the basic tenets of the faith. It was implicitly accepted that solidarity in the quest for reform would not require that every constituent organisation would support every proposed reform. It would be up to the steering committee to propose a structure that would facilitate this and express it clearly.
    In my view, a confederation harnessing the wisdom, knowledge, strength and membership of its constituents might have some hope of participating in dialogue with Rome, which is the only place where meaningful change can occur in Catholicism.
    Reform is not an Irish or even a Catholic problem. Making disciples of all the nations is a challenge for the faithful of the universal church and their immediate pastors. Higher clergy know better than to suggest significant change. We should be thinking internationally and inter-denominationally. We should plan to work closely with EN/RE, the European Network: Church on the Move and other like-minded groups that will doubtless emerge in the future.
    However, what seems to be emerging at this stage, while laudable in itself, is not an umbrella group. It is yet another association of reform-minded Catholics; this one with a proposed name that could be seen as unnecessarily provocative by Rome. Not only does the name parallel that of the unloved ACP, but it could even be considered a synonym for the Church itself!
    The structure and the name should at least leave the way open to broader approach, both geographically and denominationally. How about “Semper Reformanda”? This phrase from Vatican II could scarcely evoke disapproval from establishment figures in the Roman Catholic Church or, indeed, from those of the Reformed tradition.

  7. Des Gilroy says:

    Thank you very much to the Steering Group who have put in so much time and effort to launching the proposed Umbrella Group for the non-ordained baptised who are committed to work for reform and renewal in the Church in accord with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Progress has been made since the All-Hallows meeting with the posting of the Draft Statement of Objectives on this, the ACP website.
    To be welcomed also is the invitation to interested parties to submit their comments and to suggest any additions which might be included in the draft document prior to the next General Meeting to be held in the Autumn.
    It would appear that the only way at present for people to comment is publicly on the ACP website. I would like to suggest to the Steering Committee that they establish an email address to facilitate those shy people who would like to communicate directly and privately to the committee rather than publicly on this site.

  8. Jim McCrea says:

    How about coming up with an alternative term to “non-ordained.” Being a “non” anything is putting one on the outside begging to be let in.

  9. I would love the ACI to urgently take up the issue of an inclusive Eucharistic table and to incorporate this into its list of objectives. We are primarily a Eucharistic people as Catholics and as followers of Jesus. How can it be OK to partake of a Eucharist which is not inclusive of anyone who wishes to come to the table in the spirit of love for ones brother and sister. As things stand I feel that my presence at Mass colludes with this kind of apartheid. If I am invited to a meal and the host refuses to serve my friend, how can I sit there partaking of the food myself? The very act of coming to the table presupposes a disposition of openness and welcome—-of being open to the work of dialgue and really building the Body of Christ.Do we have that in the Church at present? Reception of the Eucharist is not a matter of worthiness—nobody is worthy anyway. Neither is it a matter of conforming to belief in various dogmas. Who fully plums the depths of meaning in the Real Presence anyway? The Jesus I believe in gives Himself indiscriminately and lavishly to any human being who desires his presence. There are no tests of worthiness. There is no need to prove the depth of our understanding. I see this as one of the biggest and most urgent matters that the Church must address before it can truly call itself Eucharistic. I was greatly surprised that these points did not seem to get any airing during the Eucharistic Congress. What do others think? Could the ACI make any progress on this issue—most particularly for the members of our Church who are in second relationships, who are in gay or lesbian relationships, or who are of another Christian denomination.

  10. Soline Humbert says:

    I wholeheartedly support Anne’s call for an inclusive Eucharistic table which embodies Christ’s radical inclusiveness. After all it was Jesus’ open table fellowship which was His hallmark and which was considered scandalous by the good religious authorities of his time.

  11. A very warm welcome, and all credit for trying. After the optimism of Vatican 2 was followed by nearly sixty years of despair as the Council’s guidance for the church has been increasingly undermined or ignored by those with the care of that church I have almost given up – the current government of Christ’s church is clearly not fit for purpose. Do I dare to hope again?
    It is hard to select from all the points I want to make, but here are a few:
    The church is not a democracy. True, but neither is it an oligarchy. It is a theocracy, inspired by the Spirit who is active at every level.
    The doctrine of ex opere operato, however encouraging, has resulted in a distortion of true religion because it reduces people, clergy, and even God, to automata and leads to passivity.
    The great mark of Christ’s church should be Joy. Where is this in the Curia, or the local hierarchy, or the local clergy?
    The church should be one body, not divided by rank or title. Each member has one calling: to bring about the kingdom here and so complete Christ’s work.
    The church, particularly in Ireland, is rife with superstitious beliefs and practices, which obscure the brilliance of God’s creation.

  12. @ john rowe
    When we see a Pope Mendicant then we’ll know salvation is at hand.
    I wouldn’t entirely dismiss superstitions and the like. They might be a better alternative than the bureaucracy.

  13. Elizabeth Byrnes says:

    I agree with all the comments to date and wish to register my firm support for all the efforts being made by both the ACP and the ACI.
    I, too, hope that all the valiant and ver commendable efforts made so far will not result in two very seperate organisations working away, albeit in parallel towards the same ends. I would like to see very close ties maintained between the ACP and ACI for the simple reason that, given the enormity of the task ahead, the stronger the ties and the greater the numbers there are the more hope there will be of creating a strong insistent voice and forum for the very many catholics who wish to see reform, a return to the spirit and letter of Vatican II, and to the church envisioned by Jesus Christ.
    Many of those people are so frustrated and disillusioned that they have either given up on church or may be heading that way. Many others remain in the church not knowing where else to go but are equally disillusioned.
    Everything we are saying here applies, I think, equally to very many of our priests who also wish for reform and a return to the hope that Vatican II gave.
    Well done to all and let’s hope for large attendances at the forthcoming meetings on 6th and 13th October.

  14. Sincerest thanks to all concerned for the work you have undertaken on behalf of all baptised. Two inputs in your draft that delighted me were “A church that acknowledges failures,that is inclusive, compassionate and one which accepts the equality of all belivers by virtue of their baptism. Also “The full participation of women in EVERY aspect of the Church. After two centuries you are finally trying to break down the divisions which have been put there by MEN. Will be travellig to Cork in October, hopefully I will then have the privilege of meeting some of you. Thank you.
    On a different issue it is great to see the name Laura Kuntz pop up on this website. A few months ago Laura opened her heart to us on an issue that was troubling her. I sincerely hope Laura that the support you received from this side of the pond helped. You should remember that we are all made in God’s image and likeness. Also remember the great Tommy Makem song which was mentioned by a Priest at the May meeting in Dublin, “All God’s creatures have a place in the choir, some sing low and some sing higher”. The biggest issue for you Laura is, are you a Suprano or Alto? Me, I am off to my singing teacher to find out if I am a Tenor or Bass. Keep smiling Laura. Keep the Faith. We do have a few problems but we really do have a great Church. Worth working for.

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