By Beth Roney Drennan
(Editor's Note: Imagine a Catholic spiritual renewal program that teaches participants to pray pagan prayers to a female Jesus with a ring through her nose, to meditate using the techniques described by an Indian Jesuit the Holy See has judged a "grave danger to the faith," to read the works of a feminist Scripture scholar who speaks of "sacred sodomy," to commit sacrilege and blasphemy by creating their own liturgies, and to become involved in parish-based "social action" programs manipulated by the world's most powerful forces for secularism, materialism, and hedonism. (Imagine such a program having an imprimatur: It does, that of the archbishop of Newark, N.J.. Theodore E. McCarrick.) (For many Catholics across the United States, this very program is being pushed by their chancery apparatchiks and parish leaders, as this special two-part report by Beth Roney Drennan makes clear.) ------------------------------------------------------------------------ BABARABOO, Wis. ? The Diocese of Madison, Wis., along with many other dioceses and archdioceses in the United States, is now in the midst of a major "spiritual renewal" ? ostensibly designed to prepare Catholics for the Church's third millennium and to "revitalize parishes" ? utilizing the Paulist Fathers' RENEW 2000 program.
An extensive review of the contributors and promoters of RENEW 2000, however, reveals that the program is in serious conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
This review of RENEW 2000 materials, based on more than 600 hours of research, is sufficient to show that there are a significant number of dissident, heterodox, and/or Call to Action-associated names in the RENEW 2000 materials, and, in its present form, the RENEW 2000 program represents an unacceptable risk to the Catholic faithful due to a combination of factors.
The Paulist Fathers' "evangelization" project RENEW 2000: ? 1) Utilizes reference names or writers whose work has been hostile to and in direct conflict with Catholic teaching; ? 2) Requires extensive research to discover the background of its contributors; ? 3) Will reach and influence a vast number of Catholic faithful for a significant length of time; ? 4) Will reach faithful who have been told by their pastors and bishops that the program is entirely safe and who have not been put on notice that the program harbors any dangers; ? 5) Will reach many laypersons who are not sufficiently educated in Catholic teaching to be able to identify or recognize dangerous theologians and passages; This report recommends that the RENEW 2000 materials be immediately examined by the American bishops to confirm these findings and that, if these findings are confirmed, the program should be recalled and prohibited.
Background Call to Action (4419 N. Kedzie, Chicago, IL 60625) is a Chicago-based dissident organization which takes its name from the U.S. bishops' 1976 "celebration" of the bicentennial of the United States. At the meeting in Detroit's Cobo Hall, Oct. 21st-23rd, 1976, orchestrated by Bishop Joseph L. Bernardin, then general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, CTA delegates (predominantly Church bureaucrats, many of whom still retain their chancery positions or posts in Catholic institutions) produced an agenda that would transform the Catholic Church in the United States into an Alinsky-style, socialist "people's organization" and set in motion a plan to radically upend the Church's moral teachings, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline.
CTA annually holds a national conference and many regional ones. The group, run by a staff, board, and volunteers, is rumored to be relocating to the Milwaukee area soon. CTA publishes an illustrated newsletter (Call to Action News [CTA News]), a "progress report" on Catholic Church reform (Church Watch), and a reflective journal (Spirituality/Justice Reprint). CTA also maintains an online bulletin board. Its directors are longtime Catholic dissidents Dan and Sheila Daley.
CTA's goal is to decentralize, disassemble, and "reinvent" the Catholic Church; to mainstream heretical teachings in the Catholic population which break with 2,000 years of Catholic teaching.
These novelties would significantly change the historical understanding of the sacraments, greatly reduce the authority of Holy Scripture, destroy the priesthood, change the name of God to include female names, promote a variety of practices which are mortal sins (including lesbianism and homosexuality, abortion and euthanasia), and integrate pagan chants and rituals into the liturgy.
One can correctly state that Call to Action is the "ideological icon" for a generation of dissident theologians and teachers whose standard operating procedure is to take practices and terms that are acceptable to Catholics on the surface and restructure those practices and terms to their own ends.
For example, "small faith communities" is a concept that, used in conjunction with correct Church teachings and adequate pastoral supervision, can be a healthy resource for revitalizing parishes. Dissident theologians, however, such as those in CTA, are well aware that Catholics trust the notion of small faith communities. Therefore, they have taken the small faith community concept and, like poisoning an apple, have laced it with a deadly innovation: using small faith communities as a technique to decentralize Church authority and slowly wean lay people's reliance away from correct Church teachings and a divine hierarchy to turn instead toward a new heterodox gospel of defiance and sin.
This theology of defiance finds an unlocked door where lay people, uneducated in true Church teaching, trust blindly in the title "Catholic" ? which title some theologians and teachers inaccurately claim for themselves. The end result can be theological derailment whereby Catholics are seduced into accepting false teachings which promise a broader and easier path; but which, in fact, comprise error, disobedience, sin, eventual de facto excommunication, and the death of the soul.
Hear Them "If the institutional Church won't meet our needs, we'll do it ourselves. We're not asking permission anymore," snapped CTA speaker Anthony Padovano, president of CORPUS, a CTA-affiliate organization, in his opening address to a 1996 CTA conference (Crisis Online, February, 1996, "Inside Call to Action," Mary Jo Anderson).
CTA's goal is "the surrender of all ecclesial authority" (Crisis Online). "Padovano insists that CTA members are called to heal the Body of Christ wounded by structures of 'dissatisfaction' and 'systems of hierarchies' imposed by 'pathologic' Popes. . . . Padovano himself has a pathological dislike for Pope John Paul II and has suggested initiating an 'impeachment process' " (ibid.).
A priest contributing to CTA News expresses "so much anger about [Joseph Cardinal] Ratzinger and our Pope." "They [CTA members] are vein-popping mad with . . . John Paul II, whom they regard as a pre-Vatican II troglodyte" (Crisis Online). CTA members view the Vatican with suspicion and find it "intimidating" and "obsessive." "Anything Vatican-based needs to be looked on warily at this time," a CTA leader wrote to this reporter.
The Vatican uses its role "to intimidate" and "sacrifices everything to its obsession with restricting access to contraception and abortion," stated Frances Kissling, head of a CTA-affiliate organization, Catholics for a Free Choice, a militant pro-abortion group.
"We encourage our members to 'rebirth' the Church," CTA states in its online directory. In 1997, regular CTA speaker Thomas J. Gumbleton, an auxiliary bishop of Detroit, called for "gay and lesbian church members, including bishops, priests, and nuns," to "take courage" and to "come out" and "publicly declare their sexual orientation"; and he "pleaded" for the Church to "create the community in which this can happen," so that the Church can "much more fully and quickly appreciate" homosexuality (CTA News, April, 1997).
CTA News boasts of having created such a community at one of its conferences: "One woman told a CTA board member that she is a lesbian who 'came out' at the CTA event: It's the only place I felt safe enough' " (CTA News, March-April, 1996).
Mary Jo Anderson writes this summary of what she witnessed at a CTA conference: "The final plenary session speaker was Sr. Sandra Schneiders [a RENEW 2000 writer] . . . [who spoke on] 'Feminist Interpretation of Scripture'. . . . If she, or her confederates, were made a popess . . . whole chapters of 'problematical texts' would be jettisoned. . . . All of Scripture is recast to fit feminist theology, complete with sacred sodomy."
In 1996, cameras for EWTN recorded a CTA conference in Detroit in which (see box for transcript) feminist abortion "liturgies" ? designed to support women as they prepare to have an abortion ? are promoted by lesbian speaker Diann Neu (another RENEW 2000 writer) along with "consecrations" of bread and wine by women.
The video shows the CTA women using the priest's words of consecration and holding their hands toward "harvest bread" and wine, "consecrating" it, and then administering the "eucharist" to each other; it shows the women reciting a revised Nicene Creed, now called Woman's Creed; it shows Neu addressing Catholic women from a podium, stating that "there is power in darkness."
Forward, Now Call to Action's 1998 Annual Meeting: Halloween in Milwaukee. A topical look at CTA's upcoming 1998 (Oct. 30th-Nov. 1st, Milwaukee) conference brochure (http://www.call-to-action.org/ confbindepth.html) gives a representative sampling of the latest CTA ideology: ? "RENEW 2000 and small faith communities: Imagining Future Church' ": RENEW 2000's diocesan director from Illinois will speak on the small faith community process, the expected result of which is to replace the Church with a "community of communities" and non-male leadership. Fr. Art Baranowski, a Detroit priest who is cited in RENEW 2000 materials, will also speak. ? "Abortion: A Day of 'Dialog' " is planned in which "pro-choice" participants will share their position ? not to "debate" but rather to "increase understanding." "Ground rules of respect and confidentiality" will allow pro-abortion CTA members to "speak our own values and beliefs." CTA's formal dues-paying affiliate, Catholics for a Free Choice, publishes a guide (Abortion: A ? Guide to Making Ethical Choices) which identifies its five basic beliefs, including these: "The decision to abort can be a moral decision justified by many circumstances"; and "Abortion must be legal for women." ? Lesbian lecturers: Lesbian "life partners" and theologians Mary Hunt and Diann Neu will discuss the Women-Church movement. In recent months, several major city newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post, focused on the growing practice of women celebrating home liturgies. The Tribune report on Women-Church activities included the following-quotation: "Comparing themselves to early Christians who met secretly in catacombs, women gathered in Dierks' dining room, . . . read scripture, and discussed their individual interpretations. Then they passed around a loaf of homemade bread and a good bottle of wine after blessing them, either using the words a priest says during mass ? 'This is my body, this is my blood, do this in memory of me' ? or using their own variation. "'I felt awestruck after it was over,' Dierks says. . .'The church's official position is that we were breaking the law but the wisest people I knew were joining me' " (Feb. 15th, 1998, 13:8). ? WICCA/witchcraft: Several workshops feature topics that are explained on witchcraft Internet sites. Sample topics: "Triple Image," "maiden, mother, crone," prayer to the "four directions," "Sacred Circles," Halloween, "Samhain," and the healing of auras. ? Formerly excommunicated theologian Tissa Balasuriya will speak. Paul Collins, currently under Vatican scrutiny for his heretical writings about the papacy (per CTA brochure), will also speak. ? Catholic lesbian and gay agenda: Past and present presidents of the gay/lesbian group Dignity/USA will speak out for "lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgendered persons" in their "quest for equality in the Church." Topics will include "domestic partner rights" and will refer to the Holy Spirit as "Sophia Wisdom." ? Also, a "woman-only" workshop will teach Catholics about "woman-to-woman relationships," including that of "lover," so as to "honor the diversity of woman-spirit." ? In other workshops. Catholics will learn about "the sacred marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalen"; the meaning of the Eucharist will be rethought; the question, "Can a Male Savior Save Women?," will be raised; "Inclusive Jesus" classes by Christine Schenk (of Cleveland-based Future-Church) will proclaim that "the male chauvinist Jesus currently proclaimed by Rome is biblically untenable"; and Robert McClory, cofounder of CTA News and a veteran CTA board member, will teach on the "Necessity of Dissent." McClory, an ex-priest and a longtime friend of the late Cardinal Bernardin, was presented with an award by Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., at the Archdiocese of Chicago's May 5th, 1998 Media Recognition Luncheon. CTA conferences have a longstanding reputation for weird, often occult, workshops. In Chicago, 1995, participants at Matthew Fox's "Seven Chakras" workshop were presented with a "ritual" in which a priestess-prostitute guided people into self-impregnation to recreate the self as a goddess or god (Crisis Online).
The cover of Fox's book on creation spirituality features a picture of a squatting black woman in African garb, legs spread open, from between which emerges a globe on an umbilical cord. She is surrounded by a Native American woman, a Hindu woman, and a huge black raven which stands looking up to where the globe is being birthed. The three women and raven are encircled by a huge rattlesnake holding its tail in its mouth.