2017 May 22 – Strategy Team Meeting

Here is the Church Reform Strategy Team meeting summary for May 22. Present on this week’s ST call: Don (U.S.); Christina (New Zealand); Virginia (India); Rachael (India); Peter (Kenya); Reena (India); Clyde (U.S.); Rene (U.S.)

I’m also including a summary of the follow-up meeting on May 23 with Fr. Joe from Nairobi.

I’ve yellow highlighted areas where we are seeking your input or assistance.

Film Production:

We opened the meeting with Ruth and Margie, two women from CTA, being introduced to the team. They are considering making a film about the reality of an unjust, abusive relationship between the clergy and laity into a broader topic to contrast this with models of small Catholic communities around the world that are trying to structure themselves in ways that are more faithful to the Gospel model of community. Everyone on the call had a situation to share where they had experienced abuse from the Church. Ruth and Margie are seeking contact names of others whether church workers, volunteers, or former priests who have suffered at the hands of the Church. Likewise, they are also seeking contact names of those who are in a small faith community and would share their positive experience.

Creating Sub-committees:

We then took up the discussion of setting up CCRI subcommittees as proposed by Paul Hwang (Korea). Peter (Kenya) stepped forward and volunteered to lead the interaction of SCCs, CEBs, and IECs. With his connection to Fr. Joe Healey, this seemed a natural. Paul had proposed that Virginia and Kochurani (India) might want to take the lead on gender issues. However, Virginia said that she didn’t feel inclined to separate out these issues. We need sub-committees not on issues but on projects – like the one on the youth and the one on small faith communities.  Christina also clarified that right now there is enough information out there on gender issues, LGBTQI issues, married priest issues etc. Rather, sub-committees should be created as and when required or we would tend to get compartmentalized. As Rachael suggested, we also need to engage with or join our voices with the other groups from around the world and not be perceived as working in competition with them.  There are already several women’s groups worldwide: there is Women’s Ordination Worldwide, Wijngaards group, theologians’ groups, the Austrian Priests initiative, etc.  We could have a sub-committee that would help reach out to these various groups and draft statements and letters of support for the work of other reform groups. Rene encouraged the value of having sub-committees working simultaneously on diverse issues and reporting back to the full Strategy Team. Little can happen without work being done in between our regularly weekly meetings.

Youth Sub-committee:

Reena and Rachael shared that they felt their youth committee members are quite new to these ideas and means of working towards reform. They felt it is difficult for them to gauge the implications and effectiveness of their actions. It has helped for them to have learned these last few weeks from the past experiences of older and more experienced reformers. But they don’t feel ready to stand on their own yet and continue to look towards the Strategy Team for guidance.

Rachael indicated her reservations about putting out a questionnaire:  1. If the Vatican Youth Questionnaire does indeed come out, it will be widely publicized around the world through archdioceses, dioceses, deaneries and parishes. We do not have that kind of reach yet. Can the quality of the CCRI Questionnaire results (with its small sample size) be comparable with the results of the Vatican Questionnaire?
2. How do we balance the quality of respondents…. The number of conservatives and liberals? We cannot control that on an online survey. How can we gauge whether conservative groups (like homophobic groups) have created fake ids to respond to our questionnaire just to tip the scale? In today’s world (knowing how the authenticity of elections in India and USA are being questioned) and the increasing presence of (and also violence by) conservative Christian groups in the western world, we have to give this some serious thought. Also, the liberals in Asia, though they do exist, are fewer in number.
3. An online survey is not considered an acceptable representation of a region.
4. Being a small sample, our results could be discarded.

Meeting scheduled with Fr. Emmanuel Chimombo, Nairobi, via Zoom:

Peter reported that a meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, May 23rd with Clyde, Rene, Fr. Joe, Peter, representative young adults, and Fr. Emmanuel Chimombo, Chief Executive for matters of pastoral coordination for the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA). It is a Catholic service organization for the National Episcopal Conferences of the nine countries of Eastern Africa, namely Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Sudan. The purpose of the meeting is to seek Emmanuel’s support in our work with youth. 

We have now had this meeting as of this morning. As it turned out, Fr. Emmanuel’s internet connection was down and he was unable to join the call. In a telephone call with Peter while we were all on the Zoom program, Fr. Emmanuel expressed eagerness to hear the report of our meeting and to try again to schedule a meeting with us. However, the remainder of the meeting was fortuitous. Rachael and Reena had an opportunity to meet Fr. Joe Healey. Rene shared with Fr. Joe the overall reservations of the Strategy Team and young adult committee with believing that the Bishops would listen to voices of young people who had other issues of concern that didn’t fit within the traditional perspectives of most bishops. Rachael then shared her reservations as listed above. Fr. Joe said that, based on his inside contact with the Synod office, a monsignor who is on the drafting committee, he has been assured that all concerns sent into the Synod office will be incorporated into the instrumentum laboris, the working document that will serve as the basis for the agenda being prepared for the 2018 Youth Synod.

Fr. Joe said, in surveying African youth about the issues of concern to them, (no surprise) sex was at the top of the list. Rachael added that contraception was also a major issue for youth in India. After some discussion, Fr. Joe agreed that comments being sent in on these and other related issues would have as much if not more impact than a questionnaire. We need your involvement in sending in comments to the Synod office: These could be position papers on key issues or reports from gatherings sharing their views like that being held in Jakarta in July, or small faith communities (and focus groups as Reena often references that are occurring in her parish in India). This could also include other national reform groups who want to address youth related issues to the Synod office. Compared to the previous day’s ST meeting, there was a clear increase in the energy level at this point in the meeting.

Rene raised the matter of the position papers prepared for the 2014 Family Synod by a CCRI committee led by John Buggy from Australia. https://www.catholicchurchreformintl.org/documents/CCRIntlRecommendationstotheSynodMay2014.pdf One suggestion raised in the paper entitled “Fulfilling Relationships” was to reinstitute the concept of a betrothal ceremony (page 9 of the position paper) that would address the issue of co-habitation but with the Church’s blessing for couples seriously considering marriage. Fr. Joe said this is the kind of thing they are proposing in Africa – stages of marriage with a betrothal ceremony being one phase of the process.

While we had Fr. Joe present on our call, Rene asked if there was a way to have a few of his SCCs interact with Sr. Socorro’s CEBs in Mexico and others in Latin America along with Christina’s faith group in New Zealand and Clyde’s IEC Nova Community in Virginia, U.S. He said they are already doing this through a process called “twinning.” As part of the SCC mission, it states:

To encourage global “SCC Twinning” so as to form mutual, reciprocal relationships to exchange knowledge on a local, personal, and pastoral level, allowing each SCC partner to enrich our Holy Catholic Apostolic Church.

We concluded that it would be more effective if CCRI could support and join with this program rather than to reinvent our own.

I strongly encourage CCRI Advisors and especially those new to us to take the time to read the position papers referenced above: https://www.catholicchurchreformintl.org/documents/CCRIntlRecommendationstotheSynodMay2014.pdf.

Much work went into the writing of these by ten members including our new deceased co-founder, Robert Blair Kaiser. And much of the content would fit with comments that should again be sent to the Synod office for the 2018 Synod on Youth.

Thanks to all,


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