2. Community: Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to participate in a faith community and the right to responsible pastoral care.
Sounds harmless and non-confrontational, right? That's because you're reading it with the eyes of a faithful Catholic. When you understand what the ACC means by it, though, the 'right' takes on a different meaning.
Just what exactly is a faith community? It's a deliberately vague expression. More and more of these Catholycs are joining "intentional communities", where non-ordained individuals lead their worship - in other words, so-called women priests. They can't say "local parish", or even "Catholic community", because it's too limiting. It's not inclusive enough. But say "faith community", and all sort of folks will show up.
"Participate" goes beyond merely singing along, or responding to prayers, or dancing in the pews. To them, it means that reading the gospel and delivering the homily is not restricted to a priest or deacon. To them, it means anyone can confect the Eucharist, because we're all priests by virtue of our Baptism (which is true, but there's a major distinction that they conveniently ignore). To them, it means including rites and rituals of other faith expressions - like Eastern mysticism or Native American spirituality or New Age divine femininity - during worship, in the name of ecumenism. In other words, anything or everything goes.
There's more to "participate", and we'll come to that in a moment.
"Responsible pastoral care" is a loaded expression as well. To Catholics, it means access to the sacraments, and a baseline level of orthodoxy in all areas of parish life, especially when it comes to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
To Catholycs, however, "responsible pastoral care" means more than that. To them, it means not being subjected to homilies concerning sin. To them, it means that there should be no consequences to divorce and remarriage sans annulment. To them, it means gender-neutral language in the liturgy. And so on and so on.
In other words, "responsible pastoral care" means "Father, let us do what makes us happy - you just say the magic words at the altar".
There's another meaning to the phrase, as well, and it dovetails with "participation". According to the ACC's website, on a page titled CBRR Applications:
- Ministerial decisions would be based on the needs of communities for the "Word of God" and the Sacraments as a first priority;
- All the faithful would be involved in decisions relating to closing of parishes.
Closing and clustering parishes, in my mind, has to be one of the toughest jobs for any bishop. I don't believe they make their decisions in a bubble, though, without any input from others. I have to believe they seek the advice and counsel of numerous people, both within and without their dioceses, before coming to a final decision. I'd like to believe that the decisions are based on real data, such as declining attendance, expenditures and demographics. I'm not naive to think that that is the case in every circumstance and in every diocese - for example, read the excellent Cleansing Fire blog for detailed reporting and analyses on how the Diocese of Rochester (NY) is being decimated by poor decision making on the part of its bishop (I'm being generous with describing it as poor - I'm sure the CF team would choose much stronger terminology). A bishop's personal ideology ought not factor in how his diocese get restructured - after all, a bishop shouldn't act like a political party while redrawing congressional districts to favor their party.
But to have the expectation that "all the faithful" participate in parish closings decisions is unrealistic. Especially when you consider that only 30% or so attend Mass on Sundays.
No, what the ACC is seeking is power on the diocesan level that is neither deserved nor warranted. Their goal is not to seek fairness, but to protect their own.
And when Catholycs don't get their way, they often times do silly stuff (like hold an American Catholic Council, for instance). Consider the situation that took place in the Diocese of Cleveland: a group of disaffected parishoners decides on their own, after their bishop has closed their parish, that they will meet as an independent Catholyc "faith community" in defiance. These folks get praised for their bravery by the media, but I dunno. When my kids throw a hissy fit when they don't get their way, the last thing that crosses my mind is "My, how brave!"
"Deal with it!" is my usual answer to the Sons. In case of the ACC, I'd add "...like adults."
Part Four will look at Right #3: Universal Ministry. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to proclaim the Gospel and to respond to the community's call to ministerial leadership.