The three day annual Conference of Call to Action (CTA) in Milwaukee is over. I was unable to attend as I had planned, but Thomas C Fox, editor of National Catholic Reporter, offered several sympathetic blog posts over the weekend, and I pass on his insights here.
Call to Action seeks to reclaim the spirit of Vatican II in the face of a church that has tilted strongly toward the right since those heady reform minded days of the early 60’s. Fox’s first post speaks to the need of these progressives to come together to rekindle their energy but especially to be healed:
The folks who come here have been hurt, really hurt, in many ways by their church, a church that has turned on them as they have tried to live out its call faithfully, a clergy who have virtually banished them for their care and compassion. Some CTA types have literally been driven out of parishes, others forced out of ministries and careers. Hurt, really hurt. And they come here, recognizing it or not, in need of healing. And the CTA weekend provides this healing. CTA as healer. I like it. Think of it.
Call to Action has a new executive director, Jim Fitzgerald, and he offered his inaugural address, which Fox reprinted in toto. Here is a portion:
“I don’t think I would be Catholic if it weren’t for Call To Action.” It is a comment I have heard so many times in my 12 years with CTA. While I was a college student at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, I voiced my doubts about remaining Catholic to Sister Nancy Langhart, a Franciscan sister who was my campus minister. I told Nancy that I feel Catholic in my spirit, but I have such difficulty staying in the Church when the Vatican says other religions are deficient, that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are intrinsically disordered, and that the priestly women in my life are not suitable to be ordained or serve in official leadership because of their gender. Regardless of what the Vatican said, I knew in my heart and soul that it is not one’s sexual identity or gender that is disordered; it’s homophobia and sexism in the name of Jesus that’s disordered!
Nancy smiled compassionately as if she knew exactly what I was feeling, leaned over and asked, “Have you ever heard of Call To Action?” In 1997, Nancy drove me to Detroit and introduced me to the Call To Action conference experience and I was home! Tonight, I’m thrilled to say Nancy is here and once again we get to share together this wonderful gathering. Thank you Nancy for bringing me home.
The role of women in the church, including women’s ordination, is of prime importance to Call to Action. Speakers and presenters at the Milwaukee conference included many Catholic feminists. Fox blogged about a couple of them.
Sister of Charity Louise Akers filled in for scheduled keynoter Roy Bourgeois Friday evening because Bourgeois’ father took ill. Fox reports that “Akers last August was told by Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk to publicly disassociate herself from the issue of women’s ordination or lose her ability to continue making any presentations or teaching for credit in any archdiocesan-related institution.”
Akers remained defiant, and her address claimed that it was she, not Pilarczyk, who was following church teaching.
Fox also blogged about the Biblical reflections of Sister Dianne Bergant on Saturday. Using the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi, Bergant suggested we find the the ways God will bless us through the immigrant.
Finally, Fox blogged about Bob and Margaret McClory, founders and mainstays of Call to Action, and their recent visit with reform theologian Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx of Holland who is nearing his 95th birthday.
As the conference came to a close on Sunday, over 2,000 attendees unanimously approved a resolution of support for American nuns who are under pressure from the Vatican. The resolution is reprinted below (from CTA’s press release):
Since January of 2009, the Vatican has investigated and sought to silence Catholic sisters in the United States. They have set a deadline of November 20th for the women religious’ communities to respond to its probing questionnaire. Now more than ever we must speak out against the few bishops who continue to wield the sword of division, rather than extend the hand of unity.
To our fellow Catholics in the United States and around the globe, women religious have taught us how to live the gospel and open our arms until they embraced all of God’s people. It is now our responsibility to put into action the lessons we have learned and ensure that our sisters in faith are not ripped from the church’s embrace,
To our courageous sisters, you who have been the bedrock of our church and country, know that the people you have faithfully served stand beside you as you have stood with us.
To those who are doing the investigation, your actions do not reflect the welcoming and embracing love that Jesus demonstrated in the gospels. We invite you to have a conversion of heart and join us in standing with the women religious.
In every generation God raises up prophets to point the way towards the gospel vision of inclusion. Women religious are these prophets. Today we stand not with those who cling to the gates of exclusion but with the prophets who open the gates and call us to live as one.