Maureen Fiedler reports in the NCR about the American Catholic Council that just met in Detroit:
1. The issue of women’s ordination, and gender equality generally, has risen to a new level of prominence on the roster of reform. It is at the top of many reformers’ lists — men as well as women. It’s clear as never before: the denial of women’s equality just makes no sense to most Catholics anymore, especially these Catholics.
2. The issue of gay and lesbian rights has become mainstream in the movement, just as in society at large. It’s not a “fringe” issue for Dignity or New Ways Ministry; it’s everybody’s issue. And of course, over the years, Call to Action has had a lot to do with that.
3. New and independent communities are flowering as never before. If the Church is a garden, new sprouts are proliferating. There have always been tall trees and shrubs (cathedral and parish communities) in the church. But now, there are new flowerings: intentional communities — lots of them, the communities of the Roman Catholic Women Priests’ movement, the “Ecumenical” and “American” Catholic churches and dioceses, even new religious orders like Green Mountain Monastery in Vermont. Most of these are outside the purview of the hierarchy.
4. The “priesthood of the faithful” was visible. When the celebrant at the Pentecost Sunday mass said the words of consecration, hundreds of people in the congregation chimed in without prodding or instructions in the program. Why? I suspect that many do it routinely in their intentional communities, and they believe that they have the power, along with the priest, to call for the presence of Christ.
It is hard to see how these people can remain in the Catholic Church: they are on a collision course with Rome. They want women priests, married homosexual priests, and lay celebration of the Eucharist.
Their theology puts them outside the bounds of historical Catholicism. Rome might ignore that, but their practice threatens the integrity of the sacramental system, at least as Rome sees it.
Sociologically, this movement is aging. I have noticed that as people age their minds sometimes get stuck. My late father-in-law (a Harvard, Harvard Law graduate) could never believe that Communism had really ended in Europe – he continued to fight the battles of his youth.
Similarly, I think these people are fighting the battles of their youth, not realizing that conditions have changed. They also are very parochial geographically and historically – they seem to have no concept that unity with the Orthodox is the highest priority in healing the unity of the Church , and that their proposals would end any possibility of unity. They lack any historical perspective of the post-Enlightenment feminization of Christianity and the chronic lack of lay men in the Church; and they have no sense of the needs and culture of the Hispanic community which will be the Church in the United States.
Also these small, intentional communities (read splinter groups) are susceptible to manipulation by narcissistic con artists, even more than communities that have a structure of accountability and discipline – however much they have been ignored by the hierarchy.