From Martin J. Leahy, Ph.D.
Years ago I concluded that my dysfunctional church family would never change. But, along came Catholics 4 Change, people here gave me new hope. The courage of many (I could name names) inspired and challenged me to act.
I have been active for the last year in the American Catholic Council. Just like C4C focuses exclusively on protecting children, ACC has a single focus: changing church governance – how we are led, who holds power, and how decisions are made. Unless we have a new leadership model and new ways of decision making none of the other issues that matter will change. We are also different in that our energies are directed toward the grassroots – the baptized not the bishops. Reform and renewal groups have tried tirelessly to effect change through appeals to the bishops for 35 years with few results. We leave it to Francis to challenge the bishops; some are already unhappy (see Archbishop Chaput’s Right-Wing Funk). We do not see ourselves replacing any reform group rather we want to support them by, as Father Michael Doyle would say, “doing our bit,” in our case — changing who holds power.
Two initiatives are being rolled out this Fall.
The Leadership Development Weekend will strengthen the leadership competencies of anyone who identifies as a leader or feels called to leadership in Church reform/renewal. A leader is someone who influences; he or she might or might not fold a formal leadership position. This is also an opportunity to bring people together with diverse causes in a movement whose power is weakened because it is fragmented. The first weekend is taking place in Chicago on October 25-27. Given my day jobs as leadership development professor and consultant, ACC leaders have asked me to facilitate this weekend. Future weekends are planned for NY, FL, and CA. If interested in attending, see ACC Launches Leadership Seminars Across US.
Listening Assemblies are two/three hour gatherings of people who identify as Catholic to include everyone from those who attend daily Mass to those of us who have not been to Church in years. This is an opportunity for people to share how they have been hurt or disappointed by the Church and suggest actions they believe are needed to change the local and universal church. It is a chance for them to be heard without being judged. Some who attend will choose to create an action plan for local change and carry it out. If you would like to host a Listening Assembly, see Listening Assembly template.
Is anyone interested in working together to plan a couple Listening Assemblies in Philadelphia and the burbs with one or two that focus on this topic – what changes are needed in the church to protect children? There will be an organizing meeting at my home (New Hope) on the night of September 6. Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or join the local Meetup group to keep posted on when Listening Assemblies are being offered.
Thanks to Susan and Kathy for allowing me to share these opportunities with you.
PS I know that for now the courts and legal changes are the best bet and quickest way to protect children in the RCC. The efforts above are a secondary strategy.