Council of the Baptized logo
in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
August, 2017


This summer at CCCR-Council of the Baptized we have been talking SYNOD, an opportunity for the whole Archdiocese to take stock and plan for the future--to discern where the Holy Spirit is leading us as a local church. The  U.S. bishops are calling for revitalization of the U.S. Church, and an Archdiocesan Synod here would be a step in that direction.

The Council of the Baptized has published a position statement calling on Archbishop Hebda to convene a Synod as soon as he can.  He has said he wants to do that, most recently in the last paragraphs of his Catholic Spirit interview on his first year here as Archbishop.  You can read our position statement here.
First, we are hoping that the Synod will include a broad spectrum of participants, clergy and lay. When we say "diversity" we mean ethnic diversity, but we also mean representation of different understandings of Church.  We see Catholics--clergy and lay--operating out of different understandings of what it means to be Catholic.  Each person thinks his/her understanding is the correct or "Catholic" one.  There are some labels for these differences--conservative/liberal, pre-Vatican II/ post-Vatican II, orthodox/heterodox, traditional/progressive, but the labels divide us when what we want is unity.  

CCCR and Council of the Baptized would like to work as a united local Church toward being a church of mercy and service, toward being a priestly people, open to the Spirit's working in the world.  We believe that is the way that Jesus taught, the point of the renewal instituted by Vatican II, and the direction Pope Francis is leading.  But how can all the labeled people agree on strategy when our views of Church are so different?  

For example, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Convocation to revitalize the U.S. Church, held in Orlando, July 1-4, looked to be diverse as to ethnicity, but not diverse as to understanding of Church.  Do the U.S. bishops really believe that all Catholics get their news from EWTN?   It reportedly looked different on the floor where table talk and break-out sessions allowed people to express their views, but the live-streaming on EWTN focused on programming representing the EWTN understanding of Church. Can we all buy in to strategies coming out of that understanding?  We have to face this question as committed Catholics.

What is the basic question that divides us? One possibility: To whom does the Holy Spirit speak?  Does the Holy Spirit speak only through the magisterium or through all of us in communion with each other?

Who is talking about those questions?  Join us on September 12 at the Council of the Baptized Open Forum.  Three delegates from this Archdiocese to the July convocation will present their perceptions, and we can discuss how the USCCB expects to revitalize the Catholic Church in the U.S.  The panelists will be Carolyn Puccio, CSJ, Larry Martin, Anishinaabe (Ojibwe), and Peter DeMarais, St. Paul's Outreach, a movement for Catholic youth on college campuses.  The Open Forum is held at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 700 S. Snelling, St. Paul, starting at 7:00 p.m.    

Second, our understanding of Church will determine an Archdiocesan Synod agenda.  Many of us have been thinking and talking for years about how our institutional Church can be more supportive of the Church of Spirit, the Church as sacrament, the Church as community, the Church as servant.  We are hoping that Archbishop Hebda takes up the suggestions we have made about our needs in the 2016 Pastoral Recommendations Project: we need structures of ongoing, two-way communication among all of us, clergy and lay; we need our pastors to be trained in seminary in leading us as a priestly people and in a coherent understanding and practice of Church; we need recognition of the destructive influence of patriarchy and clericalism on women in the Church. 

So the Synod agenda will be important. We hope our leadership will not define the role of laity narrowly for us. A narrow view would be that our role is to accept without question the bishops' teaching and convey it to the world  Yes, we believe that bishops teach and lay people work in the world, but we also believe we all have the baptismal mandate to hold each other accountable.  That takes communication to make our baptism effective.

Chris Lowney describes the decline of trust in the Church as institution in his new book, Everyone Leads: How to Revitalize the Catholic Church, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. He also has some good ideas about what to do about it. Many of you are already leading in revitalizing efforts. Tell us what you are doing and how we can help.

Besides Synod, we have been grappling with the Church's teaching that women can not receive the sacrament of Holy Orders.  There are seven sacraments for men, six for women.  The arguments for and against the prohibition are presented in the Council of the Baptized position paper, Catholic Women and Holy Orders:The Time is Now.  Get a group together in your parish and ask "What is the role of the priest?"  "Why are women excluded from the sacrament of Holy Orders?"   Email Bob Wedl at for copies of the position paper and for help in setting up the discussion.

CCCR Board Members tell why they are involved.  This from Bruce Leier:

We all have to expand our contacts if we are to help create the open growing spiritual world we claim to want as Catholics. We need to change how we communicate with our clergy and Archdiocese.
We at CCCR are incubating some of ideas within our lay network development team. They revolve around our parishes and the development of a Pastorial Council and we want to share them with YOU. If you think your parish could gain from such an effort, give Bruce Leier a call at 651-592-9719 and start a conversation. LET'S ORGANIZE!

Still in joyful hope,
CCCR Board and Council of the Baptized