The Contemporary Challenge for American Catholics

For the next couple weeks, I am on vacation; but still processing the events in Detroit on Pentecost week end. For me the events of the American Catholic Council were clear signs of the times for a great number of American Catholics. We are not a bunch of obedient children following papa’s every command.

Some years ago, the American educator, Malcolm Knowles, stressed that anyone who would like to work effectively with adults should understand the six characteristics of adulthood.

I would stress that anyone who would be an adult believer or who would work with adult believers must understand and pay attention to these characteristics.

(1) Adults are autonomous and self-directed.
When making decisions about faith and action, adults draw from their formation and their lived experience and then decide how to live and act. (I suspect many bishops do this as well but often do not want “the faithful” to behave in a similar self-directed way.)

(2) Adults have accumulated a foundation of life experiences and knowledge.
This deserves deep respect and thoughtful consideration. It is what the Council fathers at Vatican III meant by reading the signs of the times.

(3) Adults are goal oriented.
Adult believers are concerned with what it’s all about…..coming to a fuller and more satisfying appreciation of the Divine presence in our lives and world…..developing a sense of mission within and to the world around us.

(4) Adults are relevancy-oriented.
We are concerned about human life TODAY not yesterday.

(5) Adults are practical.
The great tradition of the church says that ortho-praxis comes before ortho-doxis: the LIVED FAITH lays the foundation for theological and doctrinal formulations. Many contemporary church leaders try to work the other way around……this results in using yesterday’s formulations to solve today’s problems. Often a very unhappy solution. The “new” liturgy that will be imposed on us in November is a good example.

(6) Adults need to be shown respect.
This of course goes both ways. Church leaders must show respect to and for church members. Church members must respect as well church leaders. BUT respect is earned!

The American Catholic Council

One week ago, during Pentecost week end in Detroit, nearly 2,000 people gathered for the American Catholic Council. It was a marvelous experience: positive, faith-filled, and Catholic in every good sense of that word.

I am on the road right now, visiting family and friends but do want to jot down some quick reflections. First of all there is absolutely no reason that any bishop (or archbishop!) should be or should have been anxious about this gathering. The council participants were mature, adult Catholics, and open to bridge-building and dialogue. They were not, as a journalist (who I understand was not even there) observed: a bunch old 1960’s dissidents and trouble-makers.

Now we need to see what kind of follow-up will capture and promote the spirit of this Pentecost gathering.

Some reform organizations, like my favorite ARCC: the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church, have an ambitious and realistic concrete action program. More about this In a future posting…..

His Milwaukee History Haunts Archbishop Dolan

Bankruptcy judge in Milwaukee

Blasts Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s program for sex abuse victims

Statement by Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director    contact 414.429.7259/

On Wednesday, June 1, 2011, Judge Susan Kelly told attorneys from the Milwaukee archdiocese that the church’s so-called victim “mediation” program
established by archbishop Timothy Dolan in 2004 to address child sexual abuse by priests was “completely inept” and “not at all what had been described to
her” by archdiocesan officials.  The archdiocese was asking Kelly to allow the program to continue while they seek bankruptcy protection from the federal court.

Dolan testified before state lawmakers before leaving Wisconsin in 2009 to become the archbishop of New York that his mediation program, which had never been reviewed by outside investigators, rendered changes in the Wisconsin sex abuse statutes under the proposed Child Victims Act, and other institutional reforms, completely unnecessary.  Under Wisconsin law, until recently, any civil claim against abusive clergy and their bishops have been barred due to a set of controversial state supreme court decision in the mid 1990’s, which ruled any such case filed against clergy violated the 1stamendment of the US constitution. Wisconsin is the
only state with such a provision.

Shielded by these rulings, Dolan and his attorneys devised the mediation program criticized by Kelly today, where victims received a nominal financial settlement in exchange for signing a release and dropping any chance, no matter how remote, of legally obtaining information, records, and testimony concerning the clergy who sexually assaulted them as children or what church officials knew about the abuse.

Clergy sex abuse survivors who testified before Kelly detailed how, instead of receiving healing and assistance from Dolan’s program, they were re-traumatized by it.  One victim, for instance, described in painful detail how, if she was to receive any assistance through Dolan’s program, she was forced to travel to the church grade school where she had been repeatedly sexually assaulted and point out to a diocesan official each room and every hallway where she had been molested by the priest.

Dolan conveniently brokered his promotion to New York just in time to leave Milwaukee before the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy.  Now that we are beginning to see the results of his seven years as CEO of the archdiocese, the questions Dolan needs to return to answer under oath in Milwaukee are mounting, including evidence that he moved at least 130 million dollars into bogus financial entities before the bankruptcy filing and claiming that he was selling the archdiocesan headquarters while concealing its ownership under a school that has not operated for 30 years.  Now, as Judge Kelly has determined, we can add a bogus mediation program to this
growing list, where abuse victims had no choice for desperately needed therapy and assistance but to crawl back to their abusers and those who covered up
their crimes.



Firsthand Report about the American Catholic Council  in MOTOWN…..