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Presentation by John Hushon on being awarded the
Hans Küng award for the
Rights of Catholics in the Church.
April 21, 2012


John Hushon

Thank you for this wonderful honor—I accept it on behalf of the dozens of folks who toiled so long and hard to bring about the American Catholic Council.

I am relatively new to the reform movement compared with so many of you—because I had the privilege of finding small communities with which to worship over many years—e.g., Pax in north Virginia, Rice in Houston. Like so many cradle, culture Catholics, I could ignore what was happening in the greater church—because my day to day experience of church was with Vatican II priests, trying to model our worshipping communities on the ideals of that Council. We had liturgy committees, parish councils, finance councils, lay ministries of various types—we really knew we were Church in the fullest sense. The hierarchy, if not supportive (and many were), was at least passive—probably for fear of losing more of their valuable priests. In a sense we were lulled, perhaps naively, into thinking that the engine of Vatican II was stoked and moving at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

I didn’t think much about where our Church leadership was trying to take us as the Vatican Curia used the immense popularity of JP2 to reverse V II: to ignore collegiality and the calls for periodic national synods with authority to act for regional churches, to expand notions of infallibility, to move an unprecedented concentration of power in the Roman curia, and to pack the episcopacy with obedient-above-all orthodox clones—because our small communities were somewhat insulated from the practical consequences where the “rubber meets the road”—the local parish.

However, in the last ten years, I was shaken out of my lethargy with a combination of theological education, the necessity to worship in a large “modern” parish, the advent of the restorationist pastors in our parishes, and exposure to injustice in our Church. Now I wonder, “How could anyone worship in this Church and not see the injustice and the failure to follow the Gospels?”

B16 has continued this trend with a reversal of ecumenical outreach, further “infallible” pronouncements (particularly with respect to expansion of ministry and infallibility itself), pronouncements that put the laity in their place in the pseudo-Dyonisian pyramid of his view of church, and a frontal assault on the Vatican II liturgical reforms—while he ignores the evils of neo-clericalism and shames the Church’s social justice purpose with his red Prada shoes, his ermine trimmed copes, and his never ending series of gold and jewel encrusted mitres and tiaras. And now his critique of the American nun’s focus on the gospel message of the preferential option for the marginalized appears in the same week as the announcement of “next steps” in the re-institution of the Lefebvrist heretics who rejected V II from the beginning.

And, as recent reports have indicated, those ordained to the priesthood in the last 20 or so years are very different men—comfortable with the clerical culture, suspicious of lay leadership, orthodox in the extreme.

This could indeed be a time for dark thoughts and despair.
But it is not.

For isn’t the “church” really about bringing us closer to God?

For millennia, our church has used mystery, incense, brilliantly robed presiders, gothic arches, glorious music, candles--to raise us up—to give us a glimpse of the ineffable.

But these are pretty worldly techniques and they don’t last long—particularly among a growingly educated, mature and sophisticated membership.

Simultaneously, the enlightenment, the progress of scientific knowledge, and the recognition that social humanism can replicate most of the moral foundations for the human experience and impetus to justice have caused us to question to the core.

Karl Rahner, one of the greatest theologians of the 20th Century, has proposed the way we experience God—and do justice.

For Rahner, we experience God in superlatives, in deeply felt emotion
When we reach for the stars—or watch another do so
When we gasp at the magnificence of a painting, a symphony
When we step outside ourselves for others

And this is where we experience the Holy Spirit
In tears of joy or sorrow
In emotion without boundary

And we begin to glimpse this evolution in the words of Vatican II and the movements that it awakened—a new spirituality that serves the whole person, demanding commitment to justice in the world while recognizing our place as part of the community of God working for this justice. A vision that is entirely compatible with the intellectualism of modernity.

The Holy Spirit has caused many of us to call out the injustices and to continue the restoration of our Church to the one which Jesus left behind.
--a Church where baptism is the sign of membership and ministry
--a Church where the voices of all are recognized as inspired
--a Church where leaders are servant leaders, called out by their neighbors because of exemplary lives lived in community
--a Church which does justice inside itself and calls for justice in society
--a Church where love is the sign and the reality of life
--a Church where the poor, the ill, the homeless, the abused are genuinely cherished and put first.

This church is the people; our communion is community; our experience of God is at the extremes of human striving.

And if we sincerely believe the Spirit is guiding and calling us in this movement—how can we possibly despair? And you are proof that this is so. We can’t afford to become lost sheep to this Church. We must continue the campaign of standing for what is right and authentic.

The Detroit meeting of the American Catholic Council was indeed an important event in the history of our Church—and it has had fruits, and will continue to bear fruit. We believe the Spirit was there. Janet will be talking to you about the initiatives and ideas that emerged from the Council.

Thank you again for this honor. I think I can say without fear of exaggeration that the day which I spent with Hans Küng and Anthony Padovano in the summer of 2010, filming his talk for ACC was the highlight of my life. I think you for granting us this award named for him.

John Hushon,
Co-Chair, American Catholic Council