Initial takeaway: Archbishop Hebda reflects on listening sessions

| November 17, 2015 | 30 Comments

Archbishop Bernard Hebda, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, spoke with The Catholic Spirit Nov. 10, less than a week after the final listening session, to share his initial impression ahead of a forthcoming comprehensive analysis. The following has been edited for length and clarity.


Q. What was your goal for the listening sessions?

A. The first goal was getting more information. It helped me get a better sense of the archdiocese and provided that information for the process of choosing the next archbishop. The second was to have the opportunity for people to come together in a very positive way and to begin thinking about the future.

Q. Do you think you achieved it?

A. The number of people who came and the information that was given was very helpful. I do think that we had some good, thought-provoking opportunities for people to begin to consider the future and what it is that we hope will happen, what we want to be part of when the next archbishop is named and when our local Church is in a better position to move forward, maybe post-bankruptcy.

Q. What is your main takeaway?

A. My main takeaway is the high level of commitment that people have to this local Church and how easily they speak of their love for the Church, especially as they talked about their parishes and their priests. I came to get a glimpse of a diocese that is very much alive and certainly thrives at the local level.

Q. What surprised you?

A. Certainly the intensity. People feel passionately about the liturgy and diversity in liturgy. I was a little surprised by how articulate people were in expressing their thoughts about the Church. They really demonstrated for me that we have a very well-educated laity. Things were described not in just personal likes and dislikes, but in terms of theology and ecclesiology. That impressed me very much.

Q. What challenged you?

A. The question of how do we reach out to people who have left the Church or feel marginalized is a challenge that we’re feeling not just all over the country, but all over the world. That’s where Pope Francis is really challenging us as well — to make sure we’re reaching out to those on the peripheries.

At many of the sessions they spoke concretely about people who are divorced and remarried, people who are experiencing same-sex attraction and feel like the Church doesn’t want them or care for them, people who have been hurt in the midst of the pedophilia scandals. There’s a real sense that we have to be proactive in reaching out to people and giving them the same sense of belonging that Pope Francis does.

Q. How do you plan to use the information you received?

A. We’re forwarding the summaries to the nuncio, and Msgr. [Michael] Morgan is going to share the information he received. I also know that it’s going to be hugely helpful for the next archbishop. It’s a pretty fresh indication of what people are thinking in the archdiocese, what they see as being priorities. It’s something that usually takes a long time to gather, especially when a new archbishop comes and there’s so much excitement and so many things to do. This will be of great assistance to him right off the bat.

Q. What convinces you that all this work will matter?

A. I’m really confident that it will be used, first of all because of the [nuncio’s] extraordinary effort in sending Msgr. Morgan to be part of this. It gives us great indication that the nuncio is open to receiving information like this. Secondly, I think the quality of what was gathered seems to ring true to what I’ve experienced in the life of this local Church. Because there was such cohesion, I think we have fairly reliable information that will be readily credible. That makes it more likely to be usable and used. It did involve a fairly broad cross-section of archdiocesan life.

Obviously, we had people of all walks of life at the public listening sessions. I think we also got an interesting perspective from those in consecrated life and Hispanic leadership. They helped complete the picture. I’ve just been getting very good input as well from all of the deanery sessions where priests and deacons had a chance to really discuss [the same questions].

Q. You heard a lot of opinions, including many opposing views. How do you expect the nuncio to sift through that?

A. You hope that the information that you heard most often and seemed to resonate across the broadest cross-section is a good place to start. That doesn’t deny that you might get a prophetic voice, but when you look at the areas that were most commonly mentioned, they would give the next archbishop a blueprint for beginning to respond. I also think that sometimes, even when people had very different opinions, they were very much addressing the same issues. So, when people spoke about having priests who are prepared to address the problems of the day, even though people may have a different sense of what those problems are and what being prepared means, there was a real common emphasis on the importance of our two archdiocesan seminaries.

Q. What do you make of the comments that questioned or challenged Church teaching?

A. We certainly tried to help people to understand that our task was somewhat narrow, in terms of being helpful in that process of the selection of the next archbishop, but we did get a sense that some people really struggle with some Church teachings.

So often we can fall into misunderstandings, mischaracterizations of Church teaching, but on the other hand, we may fail to see the impact of Church teaching in somebody’s life, or how they might be hearing what the Church is saying. The listening sessions were very helpful in giving the next archbishop some idea of the vocabulary that he’s going to need to be able to address some of these issues.

Q. How do you think the listening sessions are shaping people’s expectations?

A. There’s a great tradition here of people speaking their minds and offering their opinions, and it seems to me that there’s an expectation that any good pastor, any good bishop or archbishop would want to know what the Lord is doing in the hearts of his faithful. There’s an expectation that that process of listening will continue. As people look to Pope Francis, who is engaged on so many levels in consultation, they rightly see that’s part of Catholic life in 2015. Whether that be Pope Francis pulling together very quickly a ‘kitchen cabinet’ of eight cardinals and meeting with them, or whether it be in the two synods that he’s led in the short time that he’s been successor of Peter, all of those are opportunities for people to express those things that are most important in their hearts.

Q.Where do we go from here? How do we apply this information to helping the archdiocese heal and move forward?

A. A lot of it will take place once the new archbishop is named. The new information will be helpful in that selection process, but we really should leave it to the next archbishop to give us our marching orders on the information that was received. Of course, he would be in dialogue with the leadership throughout the archdiocese, but that will be the moment when we really see the utility of the information that was provided.


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Category: Welcome Archbishop Hebda

  • raymarshall

    I attended the last of the “listening sessions” at UST. Thank you for the opportunity.

    My small group included an executive from UST and three staff/volunteers from a Catholic high school that gets a lot of publicity. I didn’t know any of these individuals.

    In terms of the biggest challenges, I submitted (1) the fact that retiring priests are exceeding the number of those being newly ordained. We will be needing a large number of parish staff and volunteers to maintain parish life. And (2), the loss of our priests is probably directly responsible for the fact that Catholics are no longer attending Mass regularly.

    I could tell from the looks I got from my group that they had no idea what I was talking about. In fact, I asked one of them when she first sat down with me what parish she was attending and she really didn’t know. I suggested a name and she agreed that that was it. Then her husband sat down (he had been getting her a glass of water) and he gave me the name of a totally different parish.

    I came away from the session feeling that those enraptured with “the Spirit of Vatican 2” dominated those in attendance. The “attributes/characteristics/qualities” that they sought in a new archbishop were “humility”, “cooperation” and “not a conservative.” And “women priests” and “remarriage for communicants” seemed to be popular wishes.

    • Charles C.

      Dear Raymarshall,

      Thank you for attending a listening session for those of us unable to get to one. I always look for good news, as it seems to be in short supply. I know your intentions were good, but perhaps there was no good news to be had.

      “I came away from the session feeling that those enraptured with “the
      Spirit of Vatican 2” dominated those in attendance. The
      “attributes/characteristics/qualities” that they sought in a new
      archbishop were “humility”, “cooperation” and “not a conservative.” And
      “women priests” and “remarriage for communicants” seemed to be popular

      Given time, they may very well be able to create a church more to their liking. I wonder if they’ll change the name “Catholic” or keep it just for sentimental reasons.

      Again, thanks for being there. (Priestesses? Really?)

      With respect,

      • Michael D. Anderson

        Yes, the spirit of Vatican II is the motivating force for many in the Catholic Reform movement and, indeed, a Church more to their liking might include humility, co-ooperation, communication and shared decision making. It might even include discussion about ordination of women, remarriage after divorce and the common Catholic practice of using contraception. Bear in mind that these are the committed Catholics who haven’t left the Church yet. Best not to suggest they should.

        • Charles C.

          Dear Mr. Anderson,

          I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. I will not assume that you, personally, support any of the things you write about, as you clearly point out that it is a “Movement” that wants these things. Now, a movement can’t want anything, it’s the people in the movement who want something.

          Of course, everybody wants all of the Faithful, from the laity to the Pope, to be more holy and all of the other things people mention. No one has to be part of a “movement” to desire that.

          What we have is a group of people who want to change the Church so as to be, in your words, “More to their liking.” I can think of no goal less worthwhile than that. Besides, as times and customs change, what people like will change, and every generation (or more often) there will be calls to make the Church “more to their liking.” That church is a shadow that we can chase forever.

          So a group of people would like the Church better with priestesses, a rejection of the indissolubility of marriage, and a repudiation of Humanae Vitae which isn’t even 50 years old?

          I don’t wish anyone to leave the Church, and I’m delighted when I hear that people are committed to it. But, if they’re committed to the Church, are they committed to the Church, or to the idea of the Church which is more to their liking? If they were told that none of those changes would ever occur, and they were convinced of it, would they stay?

          The test of the Church isn’t whether it’s liked or has umpty eleven members. Actually, if the world “likes” the Church, that’s a sign we could be in real danger. The test is, is it true? Is it the Church Christ founded? Whether we like it is of much less importance, especially since the more truly we understand and love it, the more our “likes” fade to insignificance.

          But it is always possible that I misunderstand you. Please, if you think that I do, clear up the confusion I might have.

          With respect,

          • CatholicCrusader

            You said it Charles….100%. These aren’t “Catholics” — they’re secular modernist liberals who are so unsure of themselves they want even a Church to reflect their deviant POVs.

        • CatholicCrusader

          Sorry, but the left-wing slop that you want the Catholic Church to adopt has already been done by Anglicans and Episcopalians.

          I suggest you head over there if you want female priestesses, divorce, sodomy, and abortion, Mike.

    • CatholicCrusader

      “Not a conservative” means someone who won’t defend Church teachings. In other words, they want Protestantism.

      The fact that they want priestesses and toleration of adultery (which is what remarriage without an annulment is) shows what they really want.

    • CatholicCrusader

      Ray, any ideas on the DEMOGRAPHICS of the attendees: young vs. middle age vs. old…..lower vs. upper middle class (or rich)…..couples with kids vs. couples without kids or who have grown up….singles vs. marrieds ?

      • raymarshall

        Good question. The room was pretty full, third floor “Woulfe Auditorium?” over at UST’s St.Paul campus. 300+? [capacity 400 in tables of 8]

        Generally over 50’s, smattering of college students, no identifiable kids, my table of 8 were all over 60’s. A very good sampling of parishes but it seemed to be loaded with “Spirit of Vatican Two” fans who weren’t on the conservative side.

        It seemed to me that an effort was made to pack the attendees with those sympathetic to the “progressive” sides of the issues. Nobody from St. Agnes, for example.

        • CatholicCrusader

          I’m not from the area so some of your references go over my head. But I get the gist, thanks for the feedback.

          My feedback if I had been able to attend would have been to place the interests of Catholics first, both in the Church and in society. The Catholic Church has spread itself too thin by worrying about too many non-Catholic interests (the poor, race relations, ecumenism, etc.) while a cancer eats away at our moral fabric and our institutions. The sex abuse crisis was a reflection of that, not the cause. The fact that some of the leading critics of the Bishops handling of the crisis (and it did stink, don’t get me wrong) are liberal ‘reform’ groups in disguise (like Paula’s) is part of the problem.

          When you have even Cardinals at the recent Synod spouting heretical views that wouldn’t even be tolerated decades ago by a priest or nun, then you have serious problems.

  • Paula Ruddy

    Thanks for the thoughtful responses to the people of the Archdiocese, Archbishop Hebda. And thanks to Maria Wiering, Catholic Spirit editor, for the good coverage. We seemed to value our diversity of views highly, and I am hoping that we can retain the diversity in unifying this Archdiocese behind the mission of the Church. Diverse views are necessary for growth, but maybe the mission of the Church is one thing we have to be on the same page on. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have some dialogue on what the mission is? I’m thinking the mission is the same as Jesus’s mission: to manifest the Kingdom of God. Pope Francis is spelling that out some, I think.

    • CatholicCrusader

      Sorry, Paula, but as Archbishop Nienstedt told you in a letter several years ago, as long as you hold the views you do and belong to the anti-Catholic groups you belong to, you are on the outs. I am afraid that a post-Vatican II retread like yourself does NOT have the right to have any say in anything happening at the parish level, let alone choosing a bishop.

      No offense, but you have shown yourself to be brazen, obstinate, and a heretic and those of us who love and support the Church will not allow someone like yourself to remold it in her image simply because you are an apostate narcissist.

      • Paula Ruddy

        Dear Catholic Crusader, whoever you are. Tsk. Tsk. Does the CCC say it is ok to call people venomous names? I’m glad you brought up the goals of post-Vatican II retreads like myself so maybe we can gain some clarity on that issue. I don’t think we want to “remold” the Church. I think we accept the diversity of views within the Church that are surely there, hoping for on-going dialogue about what will serve the mission of the Church. Calling each other “heretic” is so 16th century. It is a scandal for Christians not to be working together to do what Jesus did. Don’t you think so too?

        • CatholicCrusader

          No, I do not. And just as there was a ‘diversity’ of opinions on racial segregation in the Church in the 1960’s but those who supported Jim Crow would never be expected to lead the laity, I do not believe that an abortion-loving, SSM-loving, female priestess-loving leftist like you and the CTA retreads have any place in the Catholic Church.

          As for the CCC, it also doesn’t say anything about supporting amoral positions like you and your group have. As Abchp. Nienstedt told you, there are plenty of Protestant denominations that believe the leftist slop you are so enamored with.

          So why don’t you head on over to the Episcopalians or Anglicans, where at least you can stem their membership declines ?

          • Paula Ruddy

            In another try at reasonable conversation, Catholic Crusader, may I ask you to stop with the angry accusations and banishments? The Catholic Spirit has provided this opportunity for us to talk. I hate to send others away because you and I are exchanging insults. Do you agree with that?
            Question for you: Hasn’t the Church through the ages changed its teachings in areas of Church governance, like ordination, and morality (usury, slave holding, interracial marriage)? I recognize that change requires constructing theological rationales, consulting the faithful, and preparing the faithful by careful catechesis. It should never be a result of whim, fashion, or insufficient reflection. The magisterium–bishops and theologians–and the faithful have to listen to the Holy Spirit and to each other. To find out if change is right or not, we have to grapple with the questions. Don’t you think that the laity should give the magisterium the benefit of their faithful experience? Obviously, you don’t see us retreads doing that in good faith. But what if we are, along with you and out of love of the Church, trying to grapple with the questions? Can you tolerate us?

          • CatholicCrusader

            “May I ask you to stop with the angry accusations and banishments? The Catholic Spirit has provided this opportunity for us to talk. I hate to send others away because you and I are exchanging insults. Do you agree with that?”

            I don’t even know what you are asking, but assuming you want a civil discussion, we can be CIVIL but there can be no DISCUSSION. The issues you want to dialogue on are CLOSED in the Catholic Church and have no place for discussion.

            If someone suggested that women in your parish wear veils and sit at the back of the parish, or that the local Catholic schools segregate by race, I am sure you wouldn’t be open to those suggestion on the grounds that sometime in the last 2,000 years the Church had black-and-white parishes or had women at the back of the church. Or that they were open for discussion because the Pope hadn’t declared opposition to hardcore racial and gender discrimination ‘infallible.’

            “Question for you: Hasn’t the Church through the ages changed its teachings in areas of Church governance, like ordination, and morality (usury, slave holding, interracial marriage)?”

            No, it has not — at least not as you define it.

            First, those are not ‘core’ teachings of the Catholic Church like the Virgin Birth, Divinity of Christ, Papal Infallibility, or even issues of sexual morality which ARE at the CORE of what it means to be a Catholic (or even a Christian). What you are proposing is a radical change, like saying that we should embrace atheism as compatible with belief in God because we now allow ‘usery’ where once we didn’t.

            Of course, usury was different 2,000 years ago compared to today. It is an arms-length transaction, in which money is bought and sold no different than a car, a house, or a dozen eggs. If you are a loan shark or payday lender charging 20% a week, you still might be violating usury morals, if not state lending laws.

            I am not aware of any formal practice against interracial marriage and any attempt to equate it to SSM is preposterous. The Church did encourage various geographic and ethnic groups to marry to maintain Church and family strength and this continued until the 1960’s in America when local parishes and neighborhoods started to break down.

            Slavery was the economic norm and far different millenia ago than in the 1850’s in the American South. No, slavery was NOT immoral 2,000 years ago since the economic system was in its infancy and there was no difference between a slave, indentures servant, or subsistence farmer. There was no middle-class back then, Paula.

            “I recognize that change requires constructing theological rationales, consulting the faithful, and preparing the faithful by careful catechesis. It should never be a result of whim, fashion, or insufficient reflection.”

            I can make a case for ANY practice based on a couple of sentences in Scripture, the Bible, or history…statements of philosophers or theologians or the clergy or Popes….heck, I could probably make a case for the Designated Hitter. It could be a current Church teaching or another one 180-degrees opposite. Theologians are to Scripture what lawyers are to the Constitution: they can twist it any which way.

            The point is that the Catholic Church’s teachings are under assault on only 1 front: from the LEFT. It is the LEFT and LIBERALS who want to junk the church’s teachings on sexual morality not based on “we got it wrong a few decades or centuries ago” but because they believe the Catholic Church should follow the modernist nonsense of The New York Times (or for you, The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

            Why would the Catholic Church suddenly do a 180-degree U-turn and embrace prenatal infanticide ?

            Why would the Catholic Church suddenly do a 180-degree U-turn and allow birth control?

            Why would the Catholic Church suddenly do a 180-degree U-turn and allow divorce ? And by extension, adultery for divorced-and-remarrieds ?

            Why would the Catholic Church suddenly do a 180-degree U-turn and embrace prenatal infanticide ?

            Why would the Catholic Church suddenly do a 180-degree U-turn and say that homosexual acts were moral ?

            In all these questions, folks like you give the same answer: it’s too HARD. We have to accommodate society and forget what the Church taught us based on Jesus, the Gospels, the Ten Commandments, and Scripture.

            The wife got abused. The couple have 3 kids already, give ’em a break and let ’em use The Pill. Homosexuals are no different than you and me. Single girl has a great career ahead, why should she be saddled with a kid at 21 ?

            It is instructive that liberals like you NEVER WANT TO JUNK THE CHURCH’S SOCIAL JUSTICE MANTRA — no embracing of Darwinian free markets, survival of the fittest, etc. No, you just want the Church to change on faith and morals, particularly those regarding sex.

            I’ll venture that you are one of those post-VC2 Humanae Vitae dissenters who thought the Catholic Church was going to go all Free Love in the late-1960’s and embrace The Pill and birth control and when the Church held fast — contrary to what your misguided sources at The Times, Start-Tribune, and National Catholic Register told you — you got all huffy at the Church. How dare the Vatican condemn me to 6 kids — I have a career as a _____________ (fill in the blank).

            “The magisterium–bishops and theologians–and the faithful have to listen to the Holy Spirit and to each other. To find out if change is right or not, we have to grapple with the questions. Don’t you think that the laity should give the magisterium the benefit of their faithful experience? Obviously, you don’t see us retreads doing that in good faith. But what if we are, along with you and out of love of the Church, trying to grapple with the questions? Can you tolerate us?

            If the Holy Spirit comes down, makes an appearance, and blesses The Pill, I’ll give it some thought. Short of that, I trust the Church over horny guys and gals looking to have their guilt assuaged by having the Church tell them married couples can use BC so long as they have a big family. And then married couples can use BC even if they don’t want a big family — or ANY family. And then single people in a monogamous relationship can use BC. And then even the sexually adventuresome can use BC — because to deny them would be to discriminate, and that’s the greatest evil in the world, discrimination. LOL

            Yeah, the Church should listen to your experiences. And then it should reiterate Church teaching when it has realized it can’t accommodate your views. You haven’t even gotten HV repealed for married couples, why you would think you are going to get female priestesses or SSM or divorce or other policies reversed is beyond me. Maybe you just like playing the part of the subversive, I don’t know.

            You may be a nice lady, Paula, I will grant you that. But the VIEW you hold and the groups you associate with have nothing but contempt and hatred for the Catholic Church. The policies you want already exist in various Protestant denominations so why you think you have the right to turn the Catholic Church into Anglican East or Episcopalian Lite is beyond me.

            The Church has spoken on issues. Talk about dialogue, and the Holy Spirit, and conscience, etc. etc. etc…..are all fine…but they are nothing more than loopholes to dissent. We saw the same stuff with heresies in the South where segregationists attempted to hurt the Church and maintain segregation. I think you got off lightly with Arch. Nienstedt, and nobody around the country who is loyal to the Catholic Church is dumb to the fact that Finn and Nienstedt got railroaded by people like you on misdemeanors while liberal heretics like Flynn, Weakland, and Mahoney got free rides from the media.

            To be blunt, you need to decide if you want to be a Catholic or some other religion. I have no problem with what you decide but those of us who support the Catholic Church and try and live by Her rules are not going to have you dumb it down to the lowest common denominator of moral filth so the bar is low enough for everyone in your ‘reform’ group.

            If you want low bars, you know who has them: various Protestant denominations.

          • Paula Ruddy

            Catholic Crusader, you are so well informed and appear to speak for the Church, I wonder if you are ordained or certified in some way–priest? deacon? lay catechist? I will take your admonitions seriously. I have thought long and hard about leaving the Roman Catholic Church. I do not want to be an obstacle to its mission. So far I have hoped the so-called “left wing” and “right wing” could decide to work together.

          • Charles C.

            Dear Ms. Ruddy,

            I find that interesting, sad, but interesting. Why would you leave? I understand leaving if you believed it was a false church, but if it is true, doesn’t conscience require you to stay, however difficult it may be?

            And if you left, which church do you believe to be more faithful to the Gospel and the teachings of the early Fathers?

            I understand leaving a church that is false, but not leaving a church that is true.

          • CatholicCrusader


            I don’t think they really believe it is THE CHURCH but more of A CHURCH. If you really believed in Sin and Salvation, why would you care if the Church had women priests ? Why would it matter if the church was sexist or mysognystic or too hard on BC, etc. etc. etc.

            Simple: secular and political and personal concerns are what motivate people like Paula (not saying her per se but people like her) and they feel better about themselves if they stay and whine/complain rather than leave and be happy in a liberal Protestant denomination that accommodates their non-religious viewpoints.

            What is especially dangerous is that the sex abuse crisis is allowing some so-called ‘reform’ groups to sneak their noses under the proverbial tent. Many of these groups are in opposition to settled Church teaching on matters of faith and morals.

          • CatholicCrusader

            No, you give me too much credit. Nothing but CCD training decades ago, no Catholic schools or colleges whatsoever. I just understand that if I want to be or stay a Catholic I am supposed to follow the rules. If I don’t want to, then I leave. Or stay — but shut my mouth. It would be the height of arrogance for me to say that the Church should allow me to use BC so I can bang some stripper I met at a party and then go around publicly accusing the Church of ‘discriminating’ against me.

            There isn’t a “left” or “right” wing in the Catholic Church. There are orthodox and modernists. The modernists though are almost always political liberals who want to incorporate that into the Church. Most — but NOT ALL — of the orthodox are conservatives, though you have some non-conservatives including traditional liberals in that bunch. But you had to know that, right Paula ?

            Nobody can force you to leave the Catholic Church — well, I guess the bishop or archbishop can — but you really need to take a look at yourself and the groups that you belong to. The free ride many have gotten will not be given in the future. The internet is a great equalizer, as we have seen with individuals belonging to groups that are decidedly anti-Catholic who were told to leave them or resign.

            I guess the choice for you and your allies is this: fish or cut bait.

      • raymarshall

        People who write venomous attacks under the protection of an anonymous name are cowards. And I probably don’t agree with Paula Ruddy on many things. But I disagree with your vile attitude even more.

        • CatholicCrusader

          What was vile ? I was hard-pointed, I agree. But I merely reiterated what the Archbishop of Minneapolis told her (and her supporters) in a letter several years ago.

          I can assure you if I was in her parish I would tell her the same thing to her face. Perhaps with a different choice of words, maybe…but the same message, Ray.

          Paula and I engaged in a fairly civil back-and-forth in this forum (see below). There is no personal animosity on my part to her, just her ideas.

    • Charles C.

      Dear Ms. Ruddy and Mr. Crusader,

      To the extent I fostered an atmosphere of confrontation, I am heartily sorry. I try my best to avoid attacking someone who is writing here and I’d like to encourage others to do the same. We are to be fishers of men, our bait must be truth and love. But that does not mean we have to be tolerant of certain ideas.

      It may be a fine line, but we can (and must) love homosexuals while condemning homosexual acts. We can (and must) love Islamic terrorists while we condemn their acts and even while killing them to protect innocent lives.

      I hate to admit it, but I’m too lazy to put together a finely crafted essay covering all of the points that have been raised. I hope you won’t mind if I just address some of the points raised.

      Dear Ms. Ruddy. Do we really need dialogue on what the mission of the Church is? Your words are correct that we need to manifest the Kingdom of God, but there seems to be some difference in what various people think the Kingdom of God is. From section 782 of the Catechism:

      —Its mission is to be salt of the earth and light of the world. This people is “a most sure seed of unity, hope, and salvation for the whole human race.”

      785 “The holy People of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic
      office,” above all in the supernatural sense of faith that belongs to
      the whole People, lay and clergy, when it “unfailingly adheres to this
      faith… once for all delivered to the saints,” and when it deepens its understanding and becomes Christ’s witness in the midst of this world.

      Yes, there are things which were not delivered once for all, but your list isn’t quite accurate. I don’t know of any time when Church teaching opposed inter-racial marriage. The rules on usury changed, not because of a change in morality, but because of a change in the understanding of money as society changed.

      I may be misinterpreting you, but when you say ” I recognize that change requires constructing theological rationales,
      consulting the faithful, and preparing the faithful by careful
      catechesis.” It sounds as though you believe that any change is possible which goes through those steps.

      At that point, I must disagree. There are things which were delivered through the scriptures once for all, or else through solidly established Church teachings. The indissolubility of marriage, and the condemnation of homosexual acts, come straight from the Bible. The ordination of women?

      On the solemnity of Pentecost, Pope John Paul II signed Ordinatio sacerdotalis,
      an apostolic letter in which he stated that “in order that all doubt
      may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which
      pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my
      ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) I declare that the
      Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on
      women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the
      Church’s faithful.”

      And that settles that.

      I would be much more comfortable with your positions if you made the distinction between which doctrines were settled and which were not. Again, I might be misinterpreting, but you create the impression that absolutely anything is up for change, and that drives me instantly out of your camp. Any Catholic should reject that position, which is why I think I must be misinterpreting you. If everything in the Church can change, then there is no Church.

      By the way, what was meant by “Archbishop Nienstedt told you in a letter several years ago, as long as
      you hold the views you do and belong to the anti-Catholic groups you
      belong to, you are on the outs.” On the outs? Does that mean you have been excommunicated? If CatholicCrusader is correct in what he says, I hope that in the years since that letter you have returned to the Church.

      The labels “Heretic” and “Heresy” are still appropriate and in use. Modernism is one such.

      Dear CatholicCrusader,

      I find much to agree with in your views. My difficulty is in how you express them. I don’t understand why you take the approach that you do. Yes, Jesus flipped out, trashed the money changers’ work space, whipped them, called them names, and threw them out, but do you think that is what is called for here?

      Some random thoughts on the subject.

      If, as you suggest, Archbishop Nienstedt attempted to correct her and she wouldn’t listen, why do you think she’d listen to you? Of course, for that matter, why would she listen to me or anyone with a different opinion.

      Geez, man, talk about ripping someone a new one! Some of the things you said are pretty harsh. Honestly, they make you look bad. Granted that the positions Ms. Ruddy are taking are very questionable, discussing those positions in a calmer way may prove to be more effective for those who might be watching this conversation. Some might be attracted to Ms. Ruddy’s position solely out of sympathy for the poor little woman who is being abused. That’s stupid, of course, but it does happen.

      You raised a number of good points. May I encourage you to surround them with kinder words? Unless, of course, the Spirit of God is clearly calling on you to rip her apart. I can’t judge that.

      With respect,

      • Paula Ruddy

        Thank you, Charles. I appreciate your kindness. I have been hearing the Holy Spirit in this difficult conversation. Truth means a lot to all of us. I think Catholic Crusader has put his finger on the crucial distinction in what he calls “orthodox” and “modernist”. We could get side-tracked talking about “modernism” and “post-modernism”, but let’s not do that here. I have been influenced by the 19th and 20th century turn in thinking and talking about “truth.” In the Western culture we are much more modest in declaring absolute truth and saying that we know something to be “essentially” this or that than we were in a pre-modern era. The magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church is having to come to grips with that philosophical turn, and our conversation here is symptomatic of it, in my view. For example: the official magisterium wants to say that marriage is “essentially” between one man and one woman. That is what “marriage” IS. But many theologians, clerics, and laity ask, ‘Is that really true?’ They look at marriages in actual existence and inductively describe marriage. Is there any reason why marriage has to be only between one man and one woman? Of course, in taking this inductive view lots of empirical questions arise: Is it better for society? Is it better for children? We have to use our reason and our ability to dialogue a lot more. I am very much committed to listening to the ancient wisdom of the Catholic Church. I think it will hold up in dialogue with the post modern age and that our biggest mistake is to avoid the dialogue.
        The “position” I have been trying to advocate here is that the polarized Catholic community should start talking together and you have been gracious in responding.

        • Charles C.

          Dear Ms. Ruddy,

          I appreciate your words, but kindness should be the bare beginning of a conversation. We are all God’s creation, and deserve a certain amount of respect for that. Further, we are humans, called to Eternal Life, something that no other being is privileged to be offered. Finally, in one form or another, we are Christians, which raises our dignity to a high level indeed. There is no other way I should treat you, but with dignity and respect.

          Ideas are in another category entirely, some are holy, some fairly neutral, and some are damnable. Love requires that we help each other to adopt holy ideas whenever possible.

          Forgive the levity, but when I saw your emphasis on the word “IS,” I was irresistibly reminded of President Bill Clinton. I believe he would welcome and make use of your distinction.

          “For example: the official magisterium wants to say that marriage is “essentially” between one man and one woman. That is what “marriage” IS.”

          They not only want to say it, they do say it, and have said it basically forever. There hasn’t been any room for change in that area since the New Testament.

          It seems, and I might be wrong, that your position is that since many people in the Church (and the world) are taking marriage to mean something different from what the Church teaches it is, then the Church should change it’s definition to accommodate the practices of the people.

          The people of Sodom had different practices from what God taught, He was, quite flamboyantly, not interested in changing His definition.

          Abortion is now accepted by large number of people, but I can’t imagine the Church saying that since a large number of people believe it to be not a sin, we will declare it to be not a sin.

          And, in the same way, if many people believe marriage is a temporary partnership between two or more people of varying sexual preferences, the Church will, and should, stand up and say “That may how you see it, but it’s not the way God and His Church see it. World, you better get your act together.”

          I understand your desire to talk with the World, but to what end? To reach a compromise where the Church changes a little? Will the World compromise and change it’s behavior? Of course not. And, I suspect, people will demand the Church compromise first.

          What does the Church have to say in any dialogue? Not too much. All she can say is “This is the Truth handed down by Jesus and preserved by the Church. It may be hard to follow, but we will be here to support you. Our job is to bring you to Heaven where you will be full of Joy forever, not help you to feel happy for a few brief years on Earth.

          The Church can speak with the World to help determine how to best reach individuals, or to more clearly see the problems people are facing. In either case, the goal is to share Truth and Love with them. Once the Church “dialogues” away the truth, it has nothing to offer and becomes a meaningless organization.

          Oh, and yes, there is Truth. “I am the way, the truth and the light. No man comes unto the Father except through me.”

  • Charles C.

    I have to admit to feeling very frustrated. We are having a lengthy and involved discussion on an very serious issue. There have been no comments from any member of the clergy, not even from someone on the staff of the paper. It’s entirely possible that only five people in all the world have seen this discussion.

    Some time back, I E-mailed The Catholic Spirit asking for comments from clergy, the paper’s staff, or both. The E-mail was not acknowledged.

    Some possible reasons:
    “We didn’t get your E-mail.”
    “It takes us more than two weeks to respond.”
    “Nobody cares to add to the conversation.”
    “Talk all you want, it doesn’t matter to us, we’ll just keep doing what we do.”
    “We had our listening session, you weren’t there, tough.”

    So, Ms. Ruddy, how is this “dialogue” supposed to occur?

    • tschraad

      Charles C. –

      “Your “some possible reasons”

      In my opinion, ring with a lot of truth. I have occasionally made my point with an article and have had no replies, even though I felt my opinion was very debatable.

      So I somewhat feel that “Nobody cares to add to the conversation.” and “Talk all you want, it doesn’t matter to us, we’ll just keep doing what we do.”

      Yesterday, our Priest friend came to our home and we discussed basically the same topics and our Priest friend has the same feeling “Nobody cares to add to the conversation.” and “Talk all you want, it doesn’t matter to us, we’ll just keep doing what we do.”
      So, your efforts may only be heard by a few, but they are never wasted as long as one person hears the truth and he or she may become a faithful Catholic. This was the conclusion that we agreed after we poured out our frustration to each other about our Church from a lay person and from a devoted Priest.
      We have over 49,000 various Christian Churches trying to appeal to a group that agrees with the teaches of the Minister. We agree with the teaching of Jesus Christ. In my opinion, these so called “want to be ” Catholics know in their heart that the true Church is the Catholic Church otherwise they would of been long gone.
      Jesus Christ laid down his teachings, he did not ask his followers what changes he should make so they all could be happy. Even many who heard Jesus speak, never accepted his message.

      • Charles C.

        Dear Tschraad,


        The editor of The Catholic Spirit wrote to me to explain that the real reason for the non-response was choice number 1, “We didn’t get your E-mail.”

        We have exchanged preliminary E-mails on the subject and I am hopeful for improved discussions here.

        • tschraad

          Thank you for the update.
          It seems strange that I can get your message and their communications system doesn’t have any notification of comments. I sure would not want them to run my business.

          • Charles C.

            Dear tschraad,

            I think they have a more laissez faire attitude towards comments. That is, of course, their choice. It may be that the subject hasn’t come up often before, but I certainly can’t blame them.

            I suspect, however, that this subject may be of interest only to you, me, and the staff at the moment. For a further discussion, if you’d keep our ensuing conversation private, I’d be happy to post my E-mail address.

            Otherwise, may I suggest patience? Things may be happening.