Submitted by Marianne Duddy-Burke
I am sorry to report that Anthony Padavano, who has represented WACUSA faithfully and brilliantly since the earliest days of IMWAC has been dealing with serious health issues that prevent him from traveling to this convening. I know that Anthony and his family appreciate the prayerful support so many have already given, and ask that we all continue to pray for his recovery.
We have been proud to host two European Reformist priests, Fr. Helmut Schüller and Fr. Tony Flannery, for national tours of 15 and 18 US Cities in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Both speakers were very well received, and having a new perspective energized the Church renewal and reform movement in many locations. At least one session from each tour was live-streamed for people who did not live near a tour site but who wanted to participate in the Question and Answer segment. Media coverage was very good, especially for Schüller, when he was banned from speaking in Catholic Churches at two sites early on in the tour.
Much of our other collective work has focused on the Synod on the Family and the US bishops’ campaign for expanded exemptions from many laws under the guise of “religious liberty,” as well as preparing to host the World Meeting of Families and Papal Visit in September 2015.
Prior to the October 2014 Extraordinary Synod, few US bishops made any form of input accessible to their dioceses. Many US reform groups joined in disseminating a survey based on the one developed by the Catholic bishops of the United Kingdom. We received over 16,000 responses, many with thoughtful and passionate reflections. The survey was analyzed by a renowned social psychologist, and the final report was widely disseminated to Church officials, the news media, theologians, and interested Catholics.
Prior to, during, and following the Extraordinary Synod, public interest was very high in the proceedings. Numerous reform leaders were called on by the media to explain and comment on what was happening. Some groups sent representatives to Rome to be part of international actions, which were also reported on in the US.
As the 2015 Synod approaches, we launched a petition, signed by over 5,000 people, calling for wider representation by the laity in the Synod. We developed a list of suggested Consultors who could represent diverse US Catholic/interreligious families. We have just sent packets with the petition, list of endorsing organizations and individual signers, and the list of Consultor candidates to all of the bishops who will represent the US in the Synod, as well as others such as Cardinal O’Malley who are expected to be present. A few days after the initial mailing, copies were sent to all US bishops. We are seeking a meeting with the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to discuss this proposal.
Many groups are also working to counter claims by many US bishops that implementing certain laws, including the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), state marriage equality provisions, nondiscrimination in employment statutes, and some state laws about access to contraception and abortion violate the religious freedom of Catholic institutions. We have written to Congressional leaders, the Department of Labor, the Obama administration, and sponsored a Congressional briefing outlining the Catholic majority objections to expanding exemptions from such laws for Church-affiliated organizations. This is a major priority of the USCCB, so we expect this work to continue for some time.
In preparation for the Papal Visit to the US this September, in conjunction for with the World Meeting of Families, we are collectively working on a media messaging guide, to facilitate getting the progressive/reformist Catholic message out effectively. We will be providing professional media training for approximately 30 movement leaders. In addition, a coalition of LGBT groups is sponsoring a pilgrimage to the World Meeting of Families, with 16 families planning to attend under the banner of “Equally Blessed.”
We also look forward to hosting the third international Women’s Ordination Worldwide conference on Gender, Gospel, and Global Justice. This exciting gathering will be in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania September 18-20, 2015, just prior to the other events described above. We would be thrilled to welcome colleagues to these events!