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Presentation by Janet Hauter,
Co-Chair, American Catholic Council
on receiving the
21 April 2012

I am deeply grateful for this award honoring the work done for the Detroit event of the American Catholic Council and my gratitude can best be expressed from the pew Catholic’s viewpoint.  I do not have the theology degrees that John Hushon has and I believe that is what made our work together as successful as it was.  Our goal from the onset was to model Vatican II principles and spirit.


I thought of an analogy that best describes the work and it is akin to preparing for a cruise.  We brought together a group of dissimilar reform groups and individuals asking them to leave their organization’s mission at the door to help us celebrate Vatican II.  We developed by genuinely listening to the people through listening sessions across the country where around 2,000 people were engaged.  We left our future, if there was to be a future, totally undefined confidently believing the sensus fidelium would drive this endeavor.  In attempting consensus around a theme for the event, there was unanimity around governance as the root cause of the dissent in the Church now.


We set out to design and develop this celebratory cruise with Vatican II as our theme.  It became crucial to develop possibility thinking and set a tone through plenary speakers and breakout sessions that reform was indeed possible through grassroots initiatives exercising their rights.  For years many reformers have tried to change the clerical culture by appealing for change directly to them; in time many have come to the realization that that culture has too much to lose to support these efforts.  The event was designed to be deeply spiritual connecting us all to solutions thinking through the call of The Spirit and the exercise of conscience.


A product of the event was The Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, a document which defined what rights Catholics already possess along with associated responsibilities that it brings.  The document underwent five revisions by the Planning Team and it was subsequently adopted and universally acclaimed at the event of just under 2000 attendees.  Truly an inspirational moment!


The event was criticized by Archbishop Vigneron as promoting issues like women’s ordination and other fantasies, all untrue and clearly un-researched.  Despite the caution that no priests of the diocese were to attend, there were 100 priests all registering as dead theologians demonstrating further the belief of many attendees that the blueprint for the Catholic Church of the future lies squarely in Vatican II!  The greater the pre-event criticism was, the higher our registration numbers spiked!  The diocese attempted to book the same hotel for a competitive event, Call to Holiness, but was unsuccessful and we learned after the fact that their event brought in 35 attendees.


Attendance and event reviews were exceedingly high given this being a first time open-ended event and following Detroit, we received an inordinate number of proposals, ideas and suggestions to continue the ACC defining many different, innovative forms of action. 


Wading through these recommendations was like a cruise menu because the recommendations were well-thought out, energized, and proposed a great diversity in thinking.  We waded through these documents after a little R&R following Detroit to realize that the eclectic nature of these recommendations had little commonality.  After some deliberation, we realized that undertaking any of these initiatives would require focus and common direction.  We embraced the need to develop a foundational methodology through an online Nonviolent Resistance in Church Reform Institute beginning in August and concluding in November with a conference in Washington, DC to develop a Grand Strategy that would underpin all actionable initiatives.


With consensus building around this institute, other themes were emerging from the feedback that we have adopted for 2012/2013.  There was an imperative to keep the national listening sessions initiative an ongoing venture because of the richness of these events and how they nearly all resulted in an empowerment spirit toward action among attendees. 


Because of the strong interest and attendance in Intentional Eucharistic Communities breakout sessions, we contacted Dr. Bill D’Antonio to discuss the website on IECs which had gone dormant recently partly because of Bill’s illness.  Bill consented to an update and expansion of the site and we have just received support from the nation’s largest IECs to assist in this project.


Overall the cruise ship, ACC, took on many passengers and supporters with active grassroots exchanges ever present on our website,  We were totally responsive and sensitive to their needs and the menu of options for sessions re-emphasized the Spirit’s influence.  We found that by listening to the passengers we co-collaborated in an event that honored their voices, respected them as Church and recognized them collectively as the People of God.  They became spiritually connected for a future of change.   We thank you for this award; we believe it was without a doubt Spirit-inspired and we see an exciting future ahead.  We sail into a future bolstered by reversing the pyramid of Church and helping Catholics become “thinking Catholics”.  Thank you again. 

Janet Hauter
Co-chair, American Catholic Council