Minneapolis/St. Paul CRC

Group leader: Gene Audette
Contact: ejaudette@comcast.net

Next Meeting:

When: Thursday*, April 10, 1:30-3:30 PM

Where: The home of Gene and Marjorie Audette, 2145 Hartford Ave, St. Paul, 55116 (between Cleveland and Cretin Aves).

What: This is date accommodates the celebration of the Triduum the following week.  The topic: Terry Eagleton's essay, "An unbelieving age," in the March 21 issue

*We agreed for this spring, our meetings will take place on the third Thursday of the month, and the Audettes are glad to host at their home. 

Past Meeting Minutes:

March 20th, 2014

Our discussion was spirited and wide-ranging beginning with reactions to Pope Francis as he is becoming known via various media, interview comments that are read or heard that are sometimes in, sometimes out of context; analyses by various journalists and commentators in the know, or not so much; and biographies. One article from the Commonweal website by David Gibson quoted a Jesuit as saying that Francis "talks and acts like a Franciscan, but thinks like a Jesuit."  

One member had recently read Henri Nouwen's book, Gratias about his time in Bolivia in the early 1980s, noting that that was the era when Francis was growing in stature in the So. American Church, the boldness of the So. American bishops challenging U.S. president's Reagan's policies re: Central American governments as well as the U.S. Bishops public statements re: nuclear arms.  These were different times with much different concerns for the Western Catholic Churches than we see bishops' conferences anxious and verbal about in present times.  We noted that one reason that Francis may be getting the "press" that he does is that his choice of words and ways of speaking makes for more quickly understood sound bites that say a lot in a few commonly understood phrases. 

A few had also read Sr. Katarina Schuth's article in America that just came out this week that describes how Francis is changing the focus of what "church" is to be about in the world, appealing to the core role to care for the world reminiscent of the 1960s song "We will know they are Christians by their love, by their love.  We will know they are Christians by their love."  Remember?!

We then sampled the reading about the Amish communities in the U.S. and noted parallels of the Amish worldviews to more conservative Catholic worldviews regard the crucial role of tradition and salvation being possible only within the religious community and the role it plays in one personal salvation journey..."outside the Church there is no salvation."

The "supersessionism" essays addressing the profound question of the relation of the Jewish and Christian covenants and the subsequent question of who is Jesus, the Jesus of history, the Jesus of faith, and the connection of the two as theology evolved over the two millenia since His time on earth.  One member who has been teaching on course on scripture reminded us of how we interpret the Gospels through the lenses of the post-Resurrection and post-council (Nicea, Constantinople, Chalcedon) eras, noting that we can't help but read those testaments with our contemporary understandings.   Also, we wondered how contemporary rabbinical Judaism is influenced by current anthropological, historical, and revisionist tendencies as it contemplates its covenant life. Mert Lasaonde reccomended "The Story of the Jews" by Simon Shama for further reading. 

We agreed that grist for the discussion topic for the April 10 meeting will be the essay about Neitzsche in the March 21 issue and the likely reactions that will probably get published in the next issue as well as at the Commonweal website. Those who gave Eagleton's essay a cursory look said that it will take considered, careful reading. Sounds like a good time!

January 16th, 2014

We had a lively and warm discussion on a frigid evening addressing three articles/topics:

1) K. Kaveny's Dec. article about the ACLU's suit against the USCCB regarding alleged malpractice at a Michigan Catholic hospital and the USCCB's guidelines regarding abortion;

2) to what extent mainline Catholics accept the literal resurrection of the body; and

3) raising kids in a Catholic family milieu.

Though the topics were distinct, we seemed to have found some thematic lines that related each to the other by the time we finished the discussion and then dove in to Corinna's fine cookies (lemon, and gingerbread) accompanied by some mixed fresh fruit and warm cider.

The "open mic" format tried this time allowed us to tap topics of interest to us that were found in recent editions of Commonweal. 

Minutes from November 7th, 2013

The meeting began with a short review of Prof. Caveny's presentation at St. Katherine's University in mid October that was attended by several members and coordinating by Kathry Lien.  Then, we had a formal reading of a poem by one of the CRC members on our list, Mr. Zach Zcaia, who had a poem published in the Oct. 25 issue of Commonweal titled "Saint Paul Lives Here (in Minnesota)."  The poem was rendered by Marjorie Audette.  Congrats to Zach!

The main focus of the night's discussion was ostensibly "The Potential for Reform of the Vatican Curia." We did stay on topic some by describing the organizational and administrative structure of the curia as we could ascertain it by sharing knowledge of same from comments and inputs from several of us.  By referencing some of the archived articles that were pulled together by Commonweal's HQ staff, particularly two articles by Fr. Andrew Greeley written 40 years apart, we agreed that the current structure is inadequate to garner information for decision making, especially pertinent to selection of church leaders (bishops), and strategic governing in general.  Contemporary models of organization development and leadership and management would find the current curial model antiquated, naïve and not conducive to a core rule of effective leadership: subsidiarity.  Our discussion then lead us to the pope's call for a new focus for the world Church and especially by its local leaders, the bishops.  We were aware that the USCCB was meeting out East even as we were meeting, and the announced agenda for that meeting was found wanting by us as we compared it to the challenge that the pope gave to the Brazilian hierarchy this summer, and by implication to all the world's hierarchy.

This, in turn, brought us to the very visible and publicized troubles and pain in our archdiocese this year that offered parallels to the weaknesses found in the curia's handling of charged issues like the persistent sex scandal that point to what many in our group perceived as weak, misguided and insensitive leadership by the local ordinary.  The fact that these issues have been literally front-page news in our local press made the perceived inadequacies all the more prominent.  One local organized group of lay Catholics, the Council of the Baptized, are even calling for the archbishop to step down because of a loss of confidence in his leadership by many quarters of this archdiocese, among them several pastors and "deep-pocket" contributors who have stated that they will publicly withdraw financial support.  The discussion was at times sobering, but still animated.


Minutes from October 5th, 2013

Our first content meeting's topic of the "Syria" editorials seemed to go well enough.  No consensus was reached as to the best or better options that the U.S. and/or the community of nations, or the UN as a body should take.  Each editorial had at least one apologist in our group.  Cases were made both for the necessity of a military action by the U.S. with UN support; but also about the necessity to seek nonviolent peaceful solutions only.  While the group felt that both editorials were well argued and written, we were struck by the absence of any overt reference to or reliance on recent or historical Church teachings, pronouncements or similar about, e.g., "just war" theory and its tenets that could be applicable to this situation.  One member noted that it would be difficult for a reader to identify the editorial(s) as having a specifically Commonweal flavor.  Another said that the editorials could have easily been found in a news source like the New York Times, Washington Post, or Chicago Tribune rather than from a Catholic publication of some stripe.

Our next discussion session will be on Thursday, Nov. 7. Our topic will be "The Revamping of the Curia."  That topic caught our attention by the pope's forming of a council of 8 cardinals to investigate the current purpose and structure of the Vatican curia and to make recommendations to the pope for changes to that body.  Our Commonweal CRC resource person in NYC, Kaitlin Campbell has identified some readings that were put together for a topic such as the one we chose for November (See Attachments: Vatican II, Church Structure).  See also "The revolutionary event of Vatican II," Andrew Greeley, Sept. 11, 1998; Commonweal editorial of Oct. 12, 2012 titled "Vatican II continued," and "Praying with the council," by Rita Ferrone, April 12, 2013--this is a review of two new books by the U. of St. Thomas's own Prof. Massimo Faggioli that deal with Vatican II 50 years on.

A new member joined the group: Michael Blandford.  Welcome!


Minutes of the First Meeting September 5, 2013

Welcome and personal introductions:
Members Present: *
Gene Audette
Marjorie Audette
Don Eldred
Mary Ann Kish
Kathryn Lien
Bob Loftus
Corrina Moncada
John O’Donnell
Paula Ruddy
Paul Wojda
Grant Gallicho, Guest

*Names also were read of several members of the original 27 that were submitted by Commonweal who were not able to be present but asked that they be identified to the group.

I. Grant Gallicho, Commonweal associate editor: Comments, vision sharing
Grant Gallicho, Commonweal Associate Editor, introduced the experimental program of local conversations among Commonweal readers named Commonweal Readers Communities (CRC) to extend the community from print, to web, to real-time-and-space interaction among readers.  He spoke about the Commonweal culture and his personal history in becoming one of the three associate editors currently on staff.

Gallicho, from Chicago, was educated in high school by the Holy Cross Fathers, and then went on to Jesuit-run Fordham to pursue journalism.  He interned with Commonweal while going to school at Fordham. After graduating from Fordham and doing post-graduate work in theology at the University of Chicago, he went back to New York where he was hired by Commonweal and has been there ever since.

The Commonweal culture, among the 10 full time staffers, under publisher Thomas Baker and Editor Paul Baumann, is an informal community with a strong identity.  Commonweal’s self-understanding is that of a gatekeeper, a steward of an intellectual tradition led by lay people whose tone is civil and whose interests are broad—national politics, history, theology, church policy, and general culture. 

The associate editors are in their 30’s so the staff is young relative to the readership.  Gallicho is 37.  With the editor, they take editorial positions together, coming to agreement but at the same time keeping individual facets of “the editorial mind.”  Rarely, disagreements are unresolved.  But such a case is coming up on the question of a possible U.S. military strike In Syria. In the next edition of the magazine there could be an editorial position taken but with a dissenting editorial voice expressed (per Gallicho).

They take articles “over the transom,” they solicit articles on issues they want covered, and each editor works with particular authors.  Gallicho gave the example of an article recently offered to them, the one by Joseph Bottum, the editor of First Things, rationalizing his acceptance of gay civil marriage.  It caused controversy because some people objected to the subject matter’s being published with funding from the Henry Luce Foundation.

To Kathryn Lien’s question about the relation of Commonweal to the institutional church, Gallicho answered that in taking editorial positions the editors do not argue from authority.  The reasonableness of the argument controls, rather than the authority of the churchman making the argument.

The mission to carry that tradition into the future is undergoing change.  Down from its heyday of 80,000 subscribers in the 1960s, circulation has been flat for around 25 years at 19-20,000 subscribers to the print edition.  The free college subscription program, about 3000, feeds new people into the readership.  The decision to extend the magazine to the web was made carefully to maintain the tone of civility while allowing free access for readers to express opinions.  The web edition and blog now bring in 3 times the number of readers as the print edition.  In a show of hands, most people in attendance received the print edition and also logged onto the web edition and blog. 

Grant invited us to email him with questions or comments at any time grant@commonwealmagazine.org  The staff will support the local Readers’ Groups by providing archive material on topics the groups have chosen to discuss, and facilitating nationally known speakers who happen to be in the region.  (On Monday, September 9th, Kaitlin Campbell from the Commonweal staff identified that she will be our new liaison.  Her email address: kaitlin@commonwealmagazine.org )

II. Outcomes and benefits desired by group; what would the members expect from the group?
Corinna Moncada, Don Eldred: read and discuss one or more current and recent articles from Commonweal.
Kathryn Lien: attend and discuss plays, speakers, cultural events
Paul Wojda: look at current events from a Christian ethical perspective; intelligent engagement with contemporary culture without the anti-secular bias; chance to examine recent cultural events and trends in light of and juxtaposed to the Catholic intellectual tradition
Paula Ruddy: explore ideas presented in articles with application to local church policies.

III. Topics of interest:
Bob Loftus: the evolutionary theology of Ilia Delio, OSF, Georgetown University, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being
Kathryn Lien: the meaning of religious freedom—political philosophy
Corinna Moncada: relationship between new evangelization and liberation theology; Priscilla Pope-Livingston, doctoral thesis online
Gene Audette: liturgy and liturgical changes and resulting tensions locally: relationship between Church doctrine and public policy; doctrine and political position; Christian vision and how to relate to society and to other religious constituencies

The Commonweal website dedicated to supporting the CRCs emerging across the U.S. is found at http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/local  Note the blue topics bar header near the top of the page that lists several topics, and the link “and more…” at the far right of the blue bar that leads to many more topics of archived material that we can use.

IV. Decisions on follow-up: 
The group decided to have rotating volunteer conveners/leaders, and possibly rotating venues for future sessions.  Also, decisions about varying the weekday meetings will be decided on going forward.

The group will meet monthly.  The next meeting will be Thursday evening, October 3, 7:30 to 9:30 PM, at the University of St. Thomas, probably the St. Paul campus.  Paul Wojda volunteered to convene the next meeting.   The topic: Our reactions and reflections regarding the Commonweal editorials about Syria due out in the September 12th issue.  Details about location and parking will be sent later as plans come into place.

Of Interest
Cathleen Kaveny, U. of Notre Dame law professor and frequent Commonweal columnist, is slated to speak at St. Catherine’s University in October.  More information will be forwarded as it becomes known.
Corrina Moncada recommended a recent dissertation that addresses the concept of evangelization.  See http://research-repository.st.andrews.ac.uk/handle/10023/1006:
Paula Ruddy brought brochures about the Synod titled “Cocreating the Living Church” that will be held in Bloomington on September 28.  Contact Paula for details.

Minutes taken and submitted by Paula Ruddy, with additions by Gene Audette and Marjorie Audette