As the Catholic hierarchy becomes ever more firmly entrenched in a conservative retreat from the reforms of Vatican II, recent events in Minnesota offer a microcosm of the rift that widens with those who dare question the top down policies that emanate from the Vatican. 

Synod of the Baptized On Saturday, September 18th, the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) organized an event entitled Synod of the Baptized in Minneapolis.  The title implied the theme: that all the baptized, both lay and clergy, are coequal and a hierarchical model of governance in which clergy alone dictate church policy must be reformed.  Organizers planned for up to 400 participants, but registrations exceeded expectations and were cut off at 500 in the weeks before the event, and the facilities included both a main ballroom that was crowded to full capacity and an adjacent overflow room with closed circuit TV that was also nearly full.

The morning session included a keynote address by Paul Lakeland director of the Center for Catholic Studies and the Aloysius P. Kelly Professor of Catholic Studies at Fairfield University in Connecticut.  His address paralleled his ideas in his recently released book entitled Church, and also his earlier work, Catholicism at the Crossroads: How the laity can save the church.  I was present at the Synod, working with the bookstore of St. Martin’s table, and his books were clearly the hot item and sold out quickly.  I spoke with Professor Lakeland after his keynote address.   Noting the absence of folks browsing at the bookstore while the Synod was in session, Lakeland suggested that these folks were seriously devoted to their cause and faithfully listened to the speakers. 

Paula Ruddy, one of the key organizers, stated:

If signs of the Holy Spirit’s action in a group are joy and hope, Saturday’s Synod of the Baptized was a Spirit-filled place. Most of us were not able to see tongues of fire, but we heard voluble talk and shining eyes while people spoke of their experience of oneness.

And the official response from the St Paul Archdiocese?

CCCR is not “in union” with either the Archbishop nor the Archdiocese in any way, shape or form. That fact has been posted on our Archdiocesan web site since this past August and has been printed in the Catholic Spirit.

Please read the blog Progressive Catholic Voice for full treatment of this event and the critical comments of the Archdiocese.

Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Bishops of Minnesota announced on September 20th that they would mail thousands of DVDs to Catholic parishioners encouraging resistance to political efforts in the legislature to enact marriage equality laws in Minnesota.  One notable dissenting voice to this official entanglement of the Roman Catholic Church in secular politics is artist Lucinda Naylor.  When Naylor announced plans to create a sculpture out of these DVDs as a protest against the actions of the Bishops, she was promptly suspended from her part-time job at the Minneapolis Basilica of St Mary.  According to the article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune,

“I suspect suspension is a kind word for termination,” Naylor said. “I’ll miss the income. But there’s times when people need to stand up for what they believe.”

One blogger commented,

The Basilica of St. Mary is a monumental church in downtown Minneapolis. Part of their mission? To “preach justice,” and to “contribute to the celebration of the sacred arts” in the Minneapolis community. Yet despite this core identity, the Basilica of St. Mary has decided to discipline Naylor because she supports marriage equality. Art it seems, at least within the confines of the Basilica of St. Mary, is now only suitable if the artist making it believes that homosexuality is icky.

Finally, blogger Terence on Open Tabernacle notes the study in contrasts between the Roman Catholic hierarchical response to progressive impulses in Minnesota versus the official ELCA involvement in the Rites of Reception that have welcomed LGBT clergy onto the rosters of ordained clergy.