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Thursday, July 21, 2011

On life supports?

Fr. Jim Noonan, former superior general, addressed a gathering of 32 Maryknoll Brothers, Fathers and promoters last night in the Founders Room, reporting on the recent meeting of the American Catholic Council in Detroit in June.

In the first hour, Jim went through the two documents that came out of the Council: Soundings of the Faithful and Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

More than 4,000 people attended the Conference from 38 States and several Canadian Provinces. Participants discussed what makes them happy about being Catholic (Why People Love the Church) and why are they still a Catholic? They also discussed the desire to have a Church that better witnesses to Gospel values as well as what they find disturbing or disappointing about the Church today.

The results of the survey were interesting but hardly surprising, and many Maryknollers might agree with them.

Fr. Marty Lowery expressed his hope that we here at the Center might do something to surface our own opinions of the issues facing the Church. Mr. Greg Darr, promoter from Chicago, expressed some disappointment of the demographics of both the conference and the survey: fully 96 percent were 45 years of age and older, with 63 percent being more than 65 years, Caucasian and college educated.(Coincidentally, this mirrors Maryknoll magazine readership.)

After an hour, Jim gave us a small break and invited any who wanted to remain for informal discussion of what we can do to safeguard the seemingly fading spirit of Vatican II. Surprisingly, 29 guys stayed for what I feel was one of the most spirited and energetic discussions we've had in ages.

I offered that in the Korean parish where I help out, these areas of concern (married priests, women priests, non-communicative and authoritarian bishops, lack of accountability, lack of lay participation and in-put) do not seem to be high priorities. Plus, the growing populations of the Church in the United States (Hispanic, Vietnamese, Korean and Haitian) don't seem to share our concerns. Are these immigrant parishes keeping the Church here on life supports? My hometown (Amsterdam, N.Y.) once had seven parishes; it now has three. Brooklyn is in the process of closing or combining 40+ parishes.

Several men reported that younger relatives or parishioners they know share our concerns that the present structure of the Church is seriously flawed, a fact made painfully obvious in the continued bungling of the scandals around the world.

What came out was a desire to keep our conversation going, perhaps in preparation for the meeting of all Society members in 2013. To that end, our next session here at the Center will be August 10 at 7:30.

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