My New Ventures with 'CORPUS'
It has been a while since I posted anything to my blog. This is due in part to the fact that I have been busy preparing for my new venture.
My three-year elected term as national secretary of CORPUS (www.corpus.org) is coming to an end. Beginning in November, I will be the 'media liaison' for CORPUS. In this capacity, my writing will continue and I hope to have some interesting material to add to this blog.
Before giving you the final article I wrote as CORPUS Secretary, I thought I would share with you the unfortunate censhorship that currently exisits in the Rochester Diocese. Sadly, I am no longer able to send e-mails to employees of the diocese, because new restrictions block out any messages dealing with reform initiatives.
I don't blame Bishop Matthew Clark for the censorship policy, because he has been consistently friendly toward me and fair-minded in his response to my work in the church reform movement. I therefore blame certain administrators.
The following is my article that was published in the September/October edition of 'CORPUS Reports.'
Some Reflections As I Leave the CORPUS Boardby Ray Grosswirth, CORPUS Secretary
Although this will be my final ‘Ray’s Musings’ column as CORPUS Secretary, this will certainly not be my farewell to CORPUS. I consider all of you to be the equivalent of an extended family, so don’t expect me to recreate the scene of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans riding into the sunset, singing “Happy Trails to You.” On the contrary, I look forward to serving CORPUS in other ways, such as continuing to write occasional articles, being a media contact and continuing to be a thorn in the side of some of our more pesky bishops.
I want to take this opportunity to thank my cohorts over the past three years. Russ Ditzel, our President, has been a wonderful motivator, and I thank him for the creativity and enthusiasm he brought to the Board, which was inclusive of his reaching out to other reform groups and multiple mainstream Catholic organizations. Bill Wisniewski, our Treasurer, was very meticulous in his working toward a balanced budget and was a consistent driving force behind many of the initiatives we tried to forge as a team.
As you know, working with a three-member elected Board was a new experience for CORPUS. There were certainly challenges along the way in terms of the many responsibilities. However, I am extremely grateful for the friendship and good working relationship that existed between Russ, Bill and myself.
It is an understatement for me to articulate the fact that Russ Ditzel, Bill Wisniewski and yours truly could not have managed alone. So, I also want to thank our staff, inclusive of David Gawlik, Stu O’Brien, Joe Cece and Anthony Padovano. Their time and devotion to CORPUS have been, and will continue to be, invaluable to our community. Beyond our Board and staff, I am extremely grateful to Allen and Sylvia Moore for all the time they have invested in the outstanding conferences many of us have experienced. (Putting a conference together is not an easy task, and I admire all that Allen and Sylvia do for us.) I also want to thank Bill Manseau for his passion and devotion to pension advocacy initiatives and for the creativity he has demonstrated in his efforts to draw those called to ministry together in new and exciting ways.
There are so many other people I need to thank, but naming all of them would amount to a very long article. So, I will simply state that I am extremely grateful to all the support staff and CORPUS members who have shared their time and talents with us. I hope everyone will continue to assist the new Board in November.
Having said my thank-you’s, I want to close with a short wish-list, which amounts to a few changes I would like to see in the Roman Catholic Church - changes that would give more input to people in the pews. My list includes three items: 1.) Diocesan Newspapers; 2.) Ordination Policies; 3.) Relations with Persons of Other Faiths.
If we look for a single identifiable source of church-related news that is available to most mainstream Catholics, it is safe to say that we need to look no further than a typical diocesan newspaper. While I prefer a publication such as the National Catholic Reporter to a diocesan newspaper, we must recognize the fact that NCR is read by a very small percentage of Roman Catholics. (Of course, I would love to have editions of ‘CORPUS Reports’ in the hands of all Catholics in the United States.)
Sadly, many used to subscribe to the old saying, “I only know what I read.” Apparently, our bishops still feel there is wisdom in this outdated slogan. So, for the average Catholics in the pews, all they see is the top-down filtered news that is featured in our mediocre diocesan publications. This leaves little or no room for people in the pews to articulate their feelings on important matters, such as parish closings, parish consolidations, the clergy shortage, women’s issues, ordination policies, etc. Reform groups are also excluded from diocesan newspapers; furthermore, reform groups are prohibited from circulating literature in parishes.
Diocesan newspapers have no potential, unless bishops who control them allow their editors to explore all sides of divisive issues. Our bishops need to understand that our laity have become increasingly educated, and there will come a point when collective wisdom will result in diocesan newspapers finding such uses as fish-wrappers or garbage can liners.
It is time for bishops to stop the censorship of church-related news. Diocesan newspapers are a good place to start.
I truly believe that the Roman Catholic Church will continue on a path to self-destruction, unless our hierarchy wakes up to the fact that mandatory celibacy simply does not work. Furthermore, as long as the Roman Catholic Church continues to exclude women from the priesthood, it will be the last of the large institutions to practice the sin of sexism.
Many political pundits have predicted that two of the leading candidates for the 2008 presidential election will be Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton. Just imagine: two women running for the highest office in the land, while the Roman Catholic Church continues to treat women as second-class citizens.
During my three years on the CORPUS Board, I have come to know a multitude of holy men and women who should, by all accounts, be the current leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. Instead, I have become increasingly frustrated over the fact that the faithful are being led by a hierarchy whose members are inclusive of many sexually-frustrated and paranoid bishops and cardinals. In fact, I would dare to say that Jesus might ask the following question: “How can such a group of inept men be placed in positions of leadership?”
Jesus challenged the religious authorities of his time. We are called to do no less. At a time when parishes are either closing or clustering, people in the pews need to realize that they need not be passive pawns in the game of chess in which bishops have taken on the role of kings. At the very least, we have a God-given right to demand that our bishops be pastoral in their practices. We also have the right to demand that all who are called to the priesthood (regardless of gender, marital status, or sexual orientation) should have their calls validated, as opposed to being shown the exit door by the powers-that-be.
RELATIONS WITH PERSONS OF OTHER FAITHS
Many of us have grown up with the teaching that there is no salvation outside of the Roman Catholic Church. Fortunately, Vatican II opened the door to a new understanding of ecumenism, whereby hope emerged for dialogue with our Anglican, Protestant, Eastern Rite, Orthodox and Evangelical brothers and sisters. Furthermore, we came to embrace the Jewish people as our biblical ancestors and we found paths to dialogue with the Muslim community as well.
To be fair, some progress has been made since Vatican II. In fact, it is encouraging that Pope Benedict XVI has indicated that he wants to continue dialogue with non-Catholics. However, it is my hope and prayer that in the spirit of true dialogue, there will be some listening on the part of our pontiff, for he just might learn the wisdom of other faiths that practice inclusivity on a regular basis. For example, he might find out that marriage works just fine for priests in the Eastern Rite, just as it does for Protestant ministers and Jewish rabbis. Perhaps in such a dialogue, he would even be impressed with women ministers who are wearing clerical collars.
As stated in my introductory remarks, I look forward to my continued membership in CORPUS. I want to thank all of you for the opportunity I had during the past three years to serve our community in the capacity of an executive Board member. The rewards have been many.
Let us continue to pray for a church that truly models the ministries of Jesus Christ.