Newsletter, October 27, 2014

Eye on Francis
Fr. Tony Flannery is touring the US for the next month with his message about promoting dialogue in the Church and respecting conscience.
Visit the CTP website to find the location closest to you.
If you cannot make one of these dynamic discussions, then take a moment to participate in the action that accompanies this tour:  writing a postcard to express your support for Catholic rights and responsibilities.
Sheila Peiffer, ACC Coordinator (3rd from left) with Fr. Tony Flannery and other organizers in NYC.



On November 5th and 6th, ACC will be represented at the biannual Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR) meeting that precedes the CTA conference in Memphis, Tennessee.  Janet Hauter and Sheila Peiffer will be participating in two days of discussion and planning, mostly focused on forming a collaborative action approach to the Synod on the Family.


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.…is there some awareness, openness, influence of the Spirit that might be helping us, in total continuity with our past practice, to find a new direction today?”

— Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington

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IEC 2015 Gathering
June 26-28   St. Paul, MN
ACC will be leading a breakout session !


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 ACC Strategy Meeting
     A small group of dedicated ACC supporters will meet at a retreat center in Tampa, FL during the weekend of November 21-23rd to pray for, discuss and plan the future of the American Catholic Council.        Please join us in prayer as we discern a direction for ACC going forward!  We look forward to sharing our conclusions with all of you in the next issue of our newsletter right after Thanksgiving.  May you and your families enjoy the blessings of gratitude and togetherness!
 Don’t forget the CTA Conference coming up in Memphis, TN!

Making sense of the Synod

Greetings to all!  I returned from Rome both exhilarated and exhausted.  The trip was one of the marker moments in my life.  Oh, it’s not what you might automatically deduce: It’s not because I was where the action was nor being in a unique immersion experience nor the influential players we met.  It was something entirely different.  It was akin to watching a beloved Church function like a little helpless bird peck away in a desperate act to break out of its shell.

Janet Hauter (holding hat) with other reformers in St. Peter’s Square during Synod
For too long we have been in a church turned in on itself changing the liturgy, creating Welcome Home programs to entice Catholics who voted with their feet to return…well, you get my drift.
In this Synod, a new Pope offered a new process that was both scary and tense with predictably negative reactions of blame, anger, insults and condemnations by some bishops.  Papa Francesco, however, stood his ground.  His goal was to have the Synod participants experience a human Church where change is the mantra of the day (given that we live in highly dynamic times that create some level of disorder for all.)  Some people thrive on change while others “not so much”.  Even given the Pope’s call for “parrhesia” (speaking boldly), the critical drama that unfolded, bursting with negativity for Francis, the process and the Pontificate, was surprising.
At first, I will admit to shock at the blame seeking, the bitterness, the threats.  But as I reflected further I felt an emerging sign of health.  After all, if we use the analogy of the Church as a family, we see that change can be painful when one has behaved entirely in a different mode.  Catholics, on the whole, do not disagree well.
The media had a field day playing up this picture of a Church forced to look outside itself.  Watching the bishops struggle, insult one another and name call was a clear demonstration of what growing up in this Church looks like.  Papa Francesco called the bishops to be real, to be authentic in speaking among themselves-no longer speaking from their clerical role but human-to-human.  Simultaneously sad and comical, Cardinals Burke, Dolan and Mueller played to the audience in their roles, condemning much in their 15 minutes of fame.  Yet, there seemed to be a silent majority affirming the change prompted by Francesco’s brilliant requests to listen to the families present and truly hear their stories or when he asked the bishops to silently reflect on fond memories of their own families.  The sour faces began to soften.
Through all the confusion and vituperation, Francis simply and silently held his ground.  The Extraordinary Synod was called to set an agenda for the 2015 Synod, but it has now had the second and equally important result of demanding a change in the way bishops interact with one another and with the challenging issues of our time.  To me, this stealth leadership Papa Francesco displayed was truly akin to a loving yet firm paternal figure balancing the human element with the difficult decisions ahead.  He left the problem in the hands of the gathering, demonstrating that he would not make decisions alone or in a vacuum. He introduced a collaborative model where input would come from many sides: the families who spoke, the faithful who will be asked to make recommendations in the coming 12 months,  and dialogue among the bishops themselves.  All would engage in developing this concerto.
There was open disagreement around two major decisions in this Synod:  divorced/remarried receiving Eucharist and same sex relationships.  Some perceive these issues as immovable, but now the door to dialogue has been opened.  Although historically the Church has presented teachings on these subjects with a strong, punitive element of control, we know that many are urging considerations of mercy:   Did Jesus teach with a punitive edge?
My takeaway from this Synodal experience is that now the Church is ready to grow up and tackle issues together.  After all, growing up can be less painful if we all put the Spirit in the driver’s seat and let her drive as crazy as the Romans do—it’s worth the thrill!
To get a good snapshot of what the adventure looked like, see the blog I wrote where you will see more about all our encounters following our Forum on the Family. We made many strong contacts that will help us continue to build our circle of influence as we move forward.  This information will all also be valuable as we go to Tampa in late November with a dedicated group of ACC supporters to determine next steps.

Janet Hauter

With hope in the Spirit,

Janet Hauter, National Chair, ACC


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Pope Francis

An      on 

 We continue with our feature from Reyanna Rice, Board member of Concerned Catholics of Montana and ACC supporter.  She is actively following and analyzing Pope Francis’ statements and actions and will offer a reflection each month to inspire us to integrate reform into our own lives and communities.

“This is the time at which we willingly return home to find ourselves at the same table, surrounded by affection, the good we have done and received, the encounters that have warmed the heart or helped it grow, the good wine that offers us a glimpse in our days of the feast without end. It is also the most difficult time for those who find themselves face to face with their own solitude, in the bitter twilight of shattered dreams and unfulfilled plans: how many people pass their days in the blind alley of resignation, neglect, even rancor; in how many homes is there a lack of the good wine of joy and thus of the flavor, the very knowledge, of life.” (Prayer vigil for Synod on Family, 10/5/2014)


I had the great and good fortune to be present at this Prayer Vigil held in the Piazza San Pietro, Vatican Square….only it is round….when these sentences were spoken.  It was evening, with its soft light, and gentle breeze, an almost perfect backdrop to his opening sentence.  The above quote, to me, summarizes what Pope Francis is trying to do for the church.  Not only our homes but also our faith communities, need to reflect this statement.  Many of us do have homes that are as the first sentence describes.  I know I was lucky to grow up in one, even when there were times, as Pope Francis has said, that the plates flew. Many homes are not and that is why the pope called the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops that just finished on October 18.   I think the action we need to take from this quote is to really work very hard at making sure our own homes achieve this kind of atmosphere.  Nobody is saying they need to be perfect and nobody is saying it will be easy, especially Pope Francis.


Even if the home does not include the Norman Rockwell image of family, with mom, dad, kids and apple pie that is OK.  We all need home.  We need to make home for ourselves and all those around us and that extends to our faith communities.  Ask yourself, does my home and my faith community reflect the first sentence or does it more reflect the second sentence? Ask yourself if you contribute “the good wine of joy and thus of the flavor, the very knowledge of life”? Once you have the answer, then get to work either making sure it is present or making sure if it is, that nobody takes it away, in either your home or your faith community.  Pope Francis has worked hard with the recent Extraordinary Synod of Bishops to move them towards building a renewed vision of church, one that really reflects the first sentence of the quote.  Next year will be the completion of the process.  We are the ones who will bring that vision into our parishes and faith communities, not bishops and not priests.  Our own homes will benefit if that vision is realized.

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