Thursday, June 19, 2008

USCCP -- United States Conference of Catholic People

Bottom of Form

In the fall of 2002, when I was jumping in to write about the  Church, I got upset at the alphabet soup of lay people activity. There were so many groups: ARCC, CTA, VOTF, et al. But, there was no spokes-group or -person for the laity. In a frustrated mood, I wrote a piece later on March 25, 2005, about starting up a United States Conference of Catholic People – USCCP. It was to be fashioned on the USCCB. I even wanted USCCP to have its offices in the same building with USCCB in Washington. We the people would pay for it, because we were already paying for the USCCB.  And we the people would have a central office, in which all the alphabits could find a home and start talking to each other and working together. It would be one powerful organization, the USCCP would. For, then, the Sensus Fidelium would have its own platform from which to vitalize and make real The Magisterium itself, of which it is an essential partner.  The piece written then went on and on, as is usual for me.

That article was in a former blog, Paul of Pine Point, and I am re-postging here in this blog, because VOTF had just called for a National Peoples Synod, and that has awakened that old dream. We the people need to come together in a central place under a central umbrella, to shelter our national spokespersons and feature writers. I think the USCCB would sit up and say "Welcome, People, we were hoping you would come join us. We need you so much." A dream? Perhaps. But so was Christianity when Jesus spoke in parables. The People's Synod looks exciting, the perfect vehicle in which we can all fit to travel together and rebuild our Church. It may or may not evolve into a USCCP, but it will surely bring us together. And even the USCCB will listen up. And then we become a genuine Church, people and clergy, clerical and lay. We might even succeed in abrogating the adjective "Roman" before "Catholic," so that we have an authentic Catholic Church.

First, then, the VOTF announcement received today:

People's Synod

By Susan Vogt

Periodically, Popes call Vatican Councils and Bishops call Diocesan Synods. Sometimes the voices of lay people are heard through these forums but too often it is a gathering of church professionals and clerics with a tightly orchestrated agenda and predetermined outcomes. It is a breath of fresh air when this doesn't happen (like Vatican Council II) but that was over 40 years ago. The time has come for a different kind of council – a people's synod. This is consistent with VOTF's philosophy of being a vehicle for the voices of the faithful and working toward common ground together.

A national gathering of Catholics has also been on the minds of many Catholic organizations  for awhile and VOTF has taken the role of midwife. Thus, a National People's Synod
potentially transformative project for the Church in the U.S. – is ready to launch. Although we are walking into an unknown future, one thing we do know is that a synod will happen best if it is not solely a VOTF project but rather a collaborative partnership with the support of a wide spectrum of Catholic leaders and organizations.

We are, therefore, now at the point of transitioning from a VOTF planning committee to forming the Synod Planning Partnership (SPP). VOTF will be the convener, but it is time for us to join our energy with that of other national groups. Don't get too attached to these initials, however, since we've also played around with calling it a National People's Council (a la Vatican II). The newly formed Planning Partnership will make the final call on the name and all accompanying logistical decisions.

So who will make up the Synod Planning Partnership? It will be 25 prominent Catholics and/or their organizations who are willing to put time into making this dream a reality. The date and location of the Synod are tentative although we are aiming for 2010-2011 in a large Midwestern city with proximity to an international airport and facilities large enough to accommodate the numbers we are looking to attend.

Guiding principles of the synod are:

  • In the spirit of Vatican II we want to renew the Church through adding many voices to the decision making process.
  • VOTF will act as a catalyst to convene other groups which, together with VOTF, will prompt those who care about the future of our Church to plan and participate in this history making movement within the Church.
  • It will afford time and opportunity for the Spirit, to define our role in renewal.
  • The foundation of such a gathering will be respect, including assenting and dissenting voices, in the belief that truth emerges when all sides of an issue are explored and different perspectives are represented.
  • An atmosphere of co-ownership and responsibility.

A challenge and a goal of the synod will be to bring together a broad spectrum of Catholics and to really listen to their concerns and ideas for reinvigorating the Church we love. Given this listening, we trust that strategies and actions will evolve to move us closer to the church Jesus inspired. Over 25 Planning Partners have been invited and we are in the process of finalizing the Partnership. Stay tuned for ongoing progress.


And now the article on USCCP

Paul of Pine Point

To engage the future of the Church in the 21st Century.

Friday, March 25, 2005


The Roundtable and Other Groups

On March 14, The National Leadership Roundtable On Church Management released its Final Report as the launching of a new group of lay persons, religious, clergy and hierarchy, to render assistance to the church.
The web site for the NLRCM is
The 88 page report is available at:
For the last three years, many groups of Catholics have been hard at work to help those harmed by the sexual abuse of minors by some deviant Catholic priests, aided and abetted by some covering-up bishops, and to make sure that such crimes against humanity never happen again.
These groups are many. ARCC, CTA, Survivors First, Future Church, VOTF, SNAP, BishopAccountability, CORPUS, CITI, and so many, many others. Many of them are banned and barred from church property. Some CTA people have been formally excommunicated. The most accurate term for depicting the relationship of those groups to those bishops is Polarization. A few have called it The Roman Church Civil War.

A Stalemate of Silence
The bishops of those dioceses have decreed A Stalemate of Silence to the repeated request from those groups for dialogue in this time of perhaps the most serious crisis in the history of the Roman church.
The bishops will not talk, despite the exhortations of a dying Pope to his priests and bishops throughout Christendom. Here are a few words from the spokesman, Cardinal Hummes. Why do American bishops ignore these words in their hostile treatment of their own people?

Dialogue Seen as a Tool of Church's Service
Cardinal Hummes Addresses Congress on "Gaudium et Spes"

The Church must constantly exercise dialogue in its commitment to serve people and protect their fundamental rights, says Cardinal Claudio Hummes. . . .

The prelate spoke of the Church's role in relation to the world, expressed in "a dialogue with courage -- open, frank, sensible and humble. A dialogue with contemporary man, with human reason, the sciences, the progress in biotechnology, with philosophies and cultures, with politics and economics, with everything that refers to social justice, human rights, solidarity with the poor. A dialogue with the whole of society and its segments." . . .

"The Church supports and favors all the present efforts to seek the full development of the personality of every human being and to promote his fundamental rights, dignity and freedom," said Cardinal Hummes.

Our bishops gave no heed to these words, but they seek relief in the courts, against the charges being made for their mismanagement of church affairs. It is as if they and their institution were corporations and citizens of the states and country, where they have long reigned as entities above the law. They refuse to release information about who and where the predator priests are, even today. Our children, thousands upon thousands, over 100,000 in some estimates, were and still are at risk. The bishops seem not to care.

Bishops and Knights of the Roundtable
There is only one thing about which the bishops of America do care, and with ferocity: The Roman Church, the institutional church. Each one of the bishops has taken an oath never to break secrecy lest scandal or harm come to the church. Truly, Omerta! The institution is more important than the people, be they little children or any of the non-ordained.
And yet and yet, it now appears that bishops have talked and will continue to talk to a high-powered group of 225 leaders from investment banking, the corporate world, professions, and other successful business persons in America. It is The Roundtable—NLRCM. The banned and barred lay groups are wondering where they got the clout and why the bishops chose to dialogue with them.
A friend wrote on reading info from John Moynihan of the VOTF National Representative Council

". . . it seems that this group is accomplishing in a very short period of time all that we have been working towards . . . [T]his self described group of "influential" people has caught the attention of even the most reluctant bishop. Where do we go from here? Is the Roundtable group now taking the lead?"

Questions worth asking and deserving an answer, not only from the NLRCM but also from the USCCB. These prompted more:

• What's the big secret?
• What's happening?
• Who is taking our church somewhere?
• Why are we being told two years after the bankers and the bishops started their private dialogue?
• Will the USCCB grant formal recognition of the NLRCM at the June meeting this year?
• Are any members of the NLRCM also members of a lay group which is currently banned and barred and standing?
• How come the bishops are talking with you?
• Is the NLRCM aware that we People are standing still in A Stalemate of Silence, yet trying to realize that we may have to Toss the Gantlet that we will go it alone as the People of God sanctioned by Vatican II?

Can Grown-Ups Make A Tree Out Of Splinters?
For two and a half years now, suggestions have been urged, that lay organizations should think about bringing all their groups together, so as to speak with one voice.
The Roundtable, nicer sounding than the forbidding acronym of NLRCM, pronounced reverently as Enn-el-er-see-um, made its announcement just two weeks ago. It was obvious that those people got together, and with the clout they have, got bishops interested. While nobody has said yet that they have episcopal approval, it looks as if their group is going to be considered at the June meeting of the USCCB.
The program they offer is astounding. Were any of us to make a similar announcement, we would be instantly dismissed as wallowing in dissidence and usurping authority. The Knights of the Roundtable seem to have avoided that. Perhaps we should have named ourselves something with a Camelot in the title. Instead we came out as VOTF, SNAP, ARCC, CORPUS, CTA, pronounced, in snarls, as Vote-uff, Sh-nap, Arc or Arch, Core-poose, and See-tee- yeah!
Each one out loud is better than USCCB – Us-ku-ka-bub. Surely better than the one I will shortly propose: USCCP – Us-ku-ka-pee.

Roundtable and Us -- Dialogue or Silence?
Leaders of our groups ought to be asked, whether we should get in touch with Roundtable, or they with us. They might prefer to stay self-contained, like the Jesuits, especially when they started up in 1540, almost as a personal prelature of Pope Paul III, or Opus Dei, actually a personal prelature of Pope John Paul II.
The Roundtable is intent on solidifying their relationship with the USCCB in June, and from the looks of their 88 page report, will go it alone. Not sure yet, if they will be puppets of the bishops, or friends, advisors, perhaps even equals in every respect. Unlike the National Lay Review Board, selected by the USCCB, it looks as if the Roundtable selected the USCCB.
Common sense suggests that there were a few bishops as pretty good client/investors, or moles within investment banking, With the number of people disclosed so far in Roundtable, the quality of their reputations in business, schools, professions, their obvious success and know how, it's easy to see how they have come so far in such a short time. They know how to operate in marble halls and the corridors of power.
The Knights are successful people, as America judges success: Their demeanor and vestments manifest wealth and power. They could be called, pardon the pun, Lay Bishops. They are definitely not from our common herd. You might see them after Mass on Sunday; they're the ones shaking hands with a beaming celebrant, deeply pleased they waited to say, "Nice homily, Father." Perhaps, they usually attend a bishop's Mass, in the Cathedral or private chapels.
One account did say that a bishop was pretty noncommittal about them, his reserve indicating that they may not be granted favored treatment by the USCCB, on the age old shibboleth of absolute power, which is absolutely never to be delegated to any inferior.
Almost every bishop is prickly about his authority, except when the Pope or a Curial Cardinal treats him like the altar boy he actually is, notwithstanding his grey hair and the paunch, accompanying him as time wends into eternity. Wonder whether any bishop ever thinks of that Judgment Day prior to eternity. Common folk do, and they call it Conscience.

Dialogue -- Dialogue -- Dialogue
More information from Roundtable is needed. We should always be leery of contempt without examination. Intuition, though, may whisper: Why not go straight to the Roundtable leaders and ask them, "What's up? Are you people going to go it alone. Do you have any interest in rounding up all the lay groups and bringing them into one tent? Would you prefer that we stay out of your way?"
We might, I suppose, ask the bishops, but that would probably engender more disdain, contempt, silence. Simon and Garfunkel could have written their immortal The Sounds of Silence, with us and the bishops in mind.

Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping, Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain,
Still remains, within the sound of silence.

In restless dreams I walked alone, Narrow streets of cobblestone,
'neath the halo of a street lamp, I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night, and touched the sound of silence.

And in the naked light I saw, Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening,
People writing songs, that voices never share.
And no one dared, Disturb the sound of silence.

"Fools" said I, "You do not know, Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you, Take my arms that I might reach you."
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed, In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed, To the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning, In the words that it was forming.
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls." and whisper'd in the sounds of silence

That haunting song should be our hymn in The Stalemate of Silence, as we back off a bit from our relentless daily work, think, then pray, for a while, gather our collective breath, find a way to come together as one group for one People.
What would ever happen in and to the Catholic Church in America, were we to announce the formation of a new organization: The United States Conference of Catholic People?
The USCCP. With an office in trendy Washington, DC, an executive director or President, an educated and qualified staff. Funding is no problem. Just change the name of The Bishop's Appeal to The People's Appeal. There are 67 million of us, at $0.10 per person, for a total of $6,700,00. That's a start with clout. The kind that should awaken our American bishops to become aware of the simple reality that the days of absolute power are over.
For those concerned about underwriting the USCCP, ask just one question. Who underwrites the USCCB? The church does not earn money. It collects it. From us. Most Sundays now we have a series of Collections -- First, Second, Third. We support each of the 195 dioceses and each agency and parish and ministry within them. We do, in fact, pay for the entire Roman church in the United States, including the USCCB. When the money gets low, we are asked to donate more in Special Appeals. When that is gone, as it is now in three dioceses so far, they file for bankruptcy protection. It is exquisitely sad to hear the accusations that the blame for poor financial conditions is, believe it or not, due to the claims of the Survivors, the victims of ecclesiastical crimes. Jesus himself has promised to lay the blame on those who harmed the children, with a punishment far worse than a great millstone.
It's crazy that money talks, and bishops won't. And it seems like going down on their low level of silent disdain, when we threaten to withhold funds needed for the ministries of our church, particularly to the marginalized. We must never forget that our church does much good, truly helps those unable to help themselves, is based on and does live in the three great theological virtues: Faith, Hope, Love. How much better it would be to let the bishops become aware that that we will continue to support the church, provided funds are allocated to the establishment and maintenance of the USCCP.
If they refuse, or if the silence continues, then with the advice and consent of enough of the People to assure us we are on the correct way, we establish a National Trust Fund for a USCCP and donate our $0.10 per person there, while continuing to meet our obligations to the church, which is, of course, the People of God.
With the One Voice of the USCCP being heard, the dialogue can begin. Soon, the tyranny will end. No more brutality from: absolute power and its twin, absolute corruption; the feudal remnants of thralls in thralldom; authoritarian control of our lives and our minds and our hearts and our souls. Gone. All gone. It will be over. It will be all over. Inalienable rights and dignities will be honored not squelched. Together, we are the People of God and we are Church.

A Spiritual Guide On Splinters
Long ago in law school, we used to spend many afternoons with Father Tobin, officially the Spiritual Father for us students, actually a Jesuit elder allowed to relax a bit in pasture, well earned after years of managing the Science Department at B.C. and placing thousands of graduates in medical schools or doctorate programs in the sciences. As fledgling lawyers-to-be, we were blessed to have as our guide a humble Jesuit priest, who was also a genius and a saint.
One day we talked about Israel surrounded by Arab countries, with millions of men and boys ready to kill the heathen. We felt Israel was outnumbered and would be obliterated in the next all-out war. Fr. Tobin told us not to worry, explaining that the Israelites knew well that the hostile countries were little splinter groups, each one powerful and zealous, but so splintered there was no way they could ever come together and defeat Israel. That was 1957. It's 2005 now, and Israel is still here. It might even have a neighbor soon, a democracy exported mightily into the splinters.
The last few years have demonstrated that American bishops, as wise as Israelis, think the same way about us. We are so splintered. As the People, we do have a few standouts like Tom Doyle and friends; old-timers such as ARCC and CTA; a couple of strong, new groups in VOTF and SNAP; many skilled and moving writers in the new books coming out. But like the Arabs, we're splintered splinters. I don't even think we talk with each other, let alone with the bishops. We can, through a USCCP.

No Splinters When United In A Conference
The United States Conference of Catholic People -- USCCP -- will not only end the splintered weaknesses inherent in scattered groups, but it will also afford the People their proper place in the church as members. The USCCP will be equal to the USCCB, and People will be side by side with Priests and Hierarchy, without petty banning or barring, free from The Stalemate of Silence, all polarization abolished. We will all be living and breathing and walking and working together to engage the future of the American Catholic Church in the 21st century.
The groups -- ARCC, CORPUS, VOTF, just to name three -- will remain and grow in wisdom and grace, more easily dedicated to their precise missions. Those groups are like the numerous Orders and Congregations of Religious and Clergy -- Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans -- again a symbolic three, each with their unique missions.
The USCCP, as a counterpart to the USCCB, will speak for all of the 67,000,000 People. They now speak in a cacophony of splintered voices. They should have the timbre and clarity and resonance of One Voice. They have received the Faith That Dares To Speak. With the USCCP, they will find and claim the courage and humility to stand and speak. And be heard.
When that One Voice speaks, no bishop will dare to pout in A Stalemate of Silence. When that One Voice speaks, the process for accountability will begin for those bishops responsible for the cover-upping and criminal negligence and malfeasance in their overseeing duties. They will have to lay down their crooked Croziers and doff their two-faced Mitres. They will be called for an accounting. And they will be held accountable. When that One Voice speaks, the confessions will come, the amends will be made, and we will be the American Catholic Church.
Survivors and their families, friends and supporters will have hope that Justice will be rendered in this life, and their healing may continue in peace. Whether People or Bishop, we know well that another accounting is coming, the one reserved for each and every one of us, and in particular the one about the Great Millstones for those who have harmed a child. We cannot pass into the transition from this life to eternal life without standing for our personal Final Judgment. In that accounting, may we be judged with mercy. May we remember that mercy now, as we are judging others around us, particularly in their response to the Church's need for reformation and renewal in this 21st century.
In time, the USCCB and the USCCP will merge into the USCPG -- The United States Conference of the People of God. And we will be one, apostolic and holy.
May we imagine the Holy Spirit telling us,

"It could be done, you know, if you come together as equals, not as favored groups or prelatures. If you really become a Catholic Church. If you are the People of God."

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