Newsletter, March 11, 2012

American Catholic Council  NewSpringBuds
Reclaiming the Promise of Vatican II

Beyond Detroit & Toward a New Catholic Spring 
NEWSLETTER                                           March 11,  2012               

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Hauter and Hushon to Receive Hans Kung Award in Chicago

The Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC) invites those in the Chicago area to the presentation of the 2012 Hans Küng Award, to be given to John Hushon and Janet Hauter, co-chairs of the American Catholic Council. The event, on Sat., April 21 at 1pm at O’Hare Best Western, includes a presentation and Q&A about the Catholic Bill of Rights & Responsibilities (CBRR) adopted by ACC last year.  Reception follows. Though there is no cost to attend, please register online. For more info, Click Here.
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More On Conscience, Power and Obedience

Birth Control, Bishops and Religious Authority

New York Times
(Gary Gutting)

On Listening & Obedience
(John Chuchman)

Catholics, Contraception and the Moral Authority of the Church

(Podcast: John Frank, ACC Communications Coordinator PBS Radio, Jacksonville FL)

The Blinding Light of Conscience

(Posting by Tim Cronley on the ACN Discussion Forum)
Give us your Feedback
on ACC’s new project on Intentional Eucharistic Communities (IECs)

IEC logo

ACC has determined that it can serve as a resource for IEC development and communication. We have established a workgroup to begin this process to create a central repository for information.  


We invite you to first review the IEC Proposal and then post your comments to our new IEC Proposal Discussion Forum. If not already a subscriber to the Assemblies Community Network, you will first be prompted to sign-up.

Listening Sessions   

A great study focus for your small group, house church or prayer group. Similar in design to ACC’s pre-Detroit “Listening Sessions,” you will find this a helpful resource to unpack the Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilties.

Misguided Missal

In case you missed this in last month’s newsletter, we want to encourage your collaboration with other reform initiatives around action steps to resist the new translation of the Roman Missal used in liturgy and now imposed on the US and other English speaking countries. Learn more at  Misguided Missal.
Detroit Proceedings now available in MP3 format for Instant Downloading
Our AV vendor has recently advised us that all American Catholic Council talks from last June’s historic gathering in Detroit  have been converted to MP3s and are now available for instant downloading. CD’s and DVDS continue to be available for shipping. For a Ress Commlisting of all presentations in multiple formats, visit Resurrection Communications, click on year “2011” and scroll to American Catholic Council.

Financial Report (2011)
Finance Report
ACC has filed its 2011 return with the Internal Revenue Service. A copy of the complete return along with supporting documents may be found on our website by clicking 2011 Financial Report.



As long as I can remember, the Church has taught us to be sensitive to the voice within, the voice of conscience. That voice, we were taught, was God’s voice inviting us to a moral path. We then face a choice. I get that.


David DeCosse’s piece on the Bishops’ Conscience Model (National Catholic Reporter, 1/23/12) puts our bishops’ approach to conscience in full view. They see obedience as directly connected to moral law which they themselves develop. The controversy with the Obama Administration surely illustrates this point. They invalidate experiential and scientific reasoning. Their thinking is circuitous and challenges our past learning about the relationship between obedience and conscience.


I find this deeply disturbing. The article further states that the bishops favor obedience to moral law rather than appeals to practical reason. As Americans, we have been criticized because we live in a democracy and are accused of relativistic thinking and SIN, apparently making us incapable of attaining moral truth. Now, REALLY? Let’s mull on that thought for awhile.


It’s all about power, isn’t it? Power by its very nature assumes one entity is bigger, more knowledgeable, more powerful, while “the other” is smaller, less equipped and dependent. What if we looked at the issues of conscience and obedience in another way? Power in the institutional Church will be studied in ACC’s forthcoming  Institute for Nonviolent Action for Church Reform, mentioned further below. There are three principles that give insight (and hope!) to an analysis of power wherever it exists, including the institutional Church:

  • People PowerAll hierarchical structures depend on the obedience of another;
  • Obedience is always voluntary;
  • If enough of the governed resist for a long enough period of time, the structure will invariably change or collapse;

Perhaps in this season of Lent, this can be food for thought because if the Church is to change (and we have been told since Vatican II that we are the Church), then WE must change how we think, how we behave and how we live in relationship to the institutional Church.


Janet HauterIn gratitude and humility,

— Janet Hauter
Chair, ACC National Planning Committee


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ACC Institute on Nonviolent Action & Church Reform
Planning continues in anticipation of the Institute’s launch in mid August, continuing through mid-November, 2012. Using the political techniques of nonviolent action, this ACC initiative aims to enable leaders in the church reform movement to do the difficult but necessary work of social analysis of Church power systems. The curriculum will be grounded in the seminal writings of Dr. Gene Sharp in hopes of yielding learning outcomes that can begin to shape a coordinated strategic plan for Nonviolent Action to effect change in governance and leadership structures within the institutional Roman Catholic Church.


Dr. Gene Sharp is founder of the Albert Einstein Institution, whose mission seeks to advance the study and use of strategic nonviolent action for conflict transformation and social change. He is Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth. For nearly thirtyGene Sharp years he held a research appointment at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs. He has authored numerous books, including The Politics of Nonviolent Action (1973) and From Dictatorship to Democracy (1993). His most recent book is Waging Nonviolent Struggle: Twentieth Century Practice and Twenty-First Century Potential.


This newsletter’s focus around the theme of obedience reflects three foundational premises in Sharp’s writings: (1) hierarchical institutions depend on the obedience of the governed; (2) obedience is voluntary; (3) if enough of the governed resist for a long enough period of time, the structure changes or falls; The experience of nonviolent action in the political arena shows us shows us that such tactics can succeed because they attack the institutional dictatorship where it is weakest. We believe the same applies to “ecclesiastic dictatorship” that often defines the power systems within the institutional church. The church “institution” must be studied to determine its weaknesses. And from that, a “Grand Strategy” might surface to hasten the day of a new Catholic Spring, born of the power of the Holy Spirit unleashed among the People of God.

The Institute will be delivered largely online beginning in mid-August and will continue over 3 months, consisting of the following components:

  • an initial live 1 hour conference call to conduct a “technical tutorial” on how to use the Institute’s online “Blackboard” and how to participate in related webinars;
  • 7 bi-weekly sessions when all participants “meet” at the same time online (synchronous) and participate in a live webinar that includes interactive “chat”. Each of those 7 sessions are preceded with “homework” tasks including select readings from Professor Gene Sharp and other sources, as well as participation in related online discussion boards that can be done at the convenience of each participant;
  • a closing face-to-face conference the weekend of November 16-18 at Washington Theological Union in Washington DC.

Curriculum and pedagogy are being designed by a team headed up by Dr. Caridad Inda, who is a Sister of Mary Humility (Davenport, Iowa) and serves as Caridad IndaExecutive Director of CIRIMEX, the Center for International Resources, in Guadalajara Mexico where she coordinates programs in bi-lingual and bi-cultural education. She holds a doctorate in political science and has taught at St. Louis University and The American University. Caridad also teaches courses and workshops based on Sharp’s approach to nonviolent action campaigns. She has been deeply invested in the theory and practice of liberation theology. Her translation credits include The Medellin Documents and the Theology of Liberation by Gustavo Gutiérrez.


We anticipate the Fall Institute to be a pilot run, limited to less than 30 persons, with expectations to offer subsequent cohorts. Applications will be distributed via our April Newsletter. At that time, we will publish the specific dates for the online sessions as well as criteria for participation. Though there is no registration fee planned at this time, participants will be expected to participate in all sessions, do the required readings (estimated to be fairly substantive), and underwrite their travel as well as lodging and meals to attend the closing conference in DC. We project that cost to be approximately $275 per person, exclusive of travel. Watch for more details in next month’s  newsletter. Prospective participants may want to read a short primer by Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy (free download) to capture a sense of his methodology as it will provide a good frame for the developing curriculum.

ACC Launches SWOT Analysis of Institutional Church

In tandem with the Institute on Nonviolent Action, American Catholic Council is also launching an effort to create a “SWOT” analysis of the institutional Roman Catholic Church. SWOT stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.” The plan is to have that analysis focus on the Vatican, but may include application to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as well as local bishops (ordinaries) in local dioceses across the US. We are hoping that the SWOT Analysis can provide the Church Reform Movement a helpful “reality check” on mission statements, operating plans, and future action proposals. Though we see it as a stand-alone initiative, we are also hopeful that the SWOT analysis can surface data that informs the forthcoming “strategic estimate” that will be an outcome of the Nonviolence Institute discussed above.


SWOTThis technique is taught in most business schools today, and is routinely done by many for-profit businesses and not-for-profit organizations, generally in context of developing a business plan. Managers identify realities and perceptions that can impact operational success of the organization in the future, both positively and negatively. Our analysis will differ in one major respect: we will need to consider the intangible factors of the “consumers,” i.e. WE, the Faithful, the People of God.


We seek to engage persons who have particular knowledge and expertise regarding the inner workings of the institution, especially in the context of the Vatican and the Vatican’s “men” within the US hierarchy. In particular, we are looking to engage the following:

  • Academics, including theologians, ecclesiologists, historians and sociologists, especially those grounded in the teachings of Vatican II;
  • Journalists, especially those who have covered “politics” in the Roman Catholic Church and the progressive reform movements;
  • Knowledgeable Clergy, Religious and Laity who serve in active ministry within the Church;
  • National Leaders in the US and Canadian Church Reform Movements;
  • Local Leaders in the Church Reform Movement in the US and Canada;
  • International representatives of the Church Reform movement;

Participants will be invited to respond to a series of open-ended questions via an online Questionnaire. Prospective participants can self nominate. Alternately, readers of this newsletter can put forth names of persons whom they feel can positively contribute to this initiative. If you do, be sure to provide the nominee’s contact information, preferably an email address and phone number. Nominations (and self-nominations) should be sent via email to Sheila Peiffer, ACC Administrative Coordinator at Nominations should be received by March 27th. Selected participants will be provided a link to a secure online questionnaire. Respondents will have the option to declare whether or not they wish to have their names listed among the participants in the final report. For more information, go to  ACC SWOT ANALYSIS.

Inaugural Assembly of Association of US Catholic Priests Gathers to Celebrate Vatican IIAUSCP Logo

ACC congratulates the AUSCP, formed in late 2011, as it prepares to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the opening of Vatican II with its inaugural assembly June 11-14 at St. Leo University outside Tampa Florida. Though participation is limited to priests, we commend this effort and ask our readers to encourage their local priests to consider participating in this historic event.

AUSCP was organized last August to provide a support system for canonical priests who share many of our values in ACC and and to give collegial voice to their concerns. The theme of the assembly is Keeping Alive the Vision and Passion of Vatican II, with particular focus on the Council’s first declaration, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. The program features an an extraordinary line-up speakers, including plenary speakers Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, liturgical theologian, and Professor Richard Gaillardetz of Boston College. For complete program details and to register, Dowload Brochure and visit AUSCP.

American Catholic Council, Inc.
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