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Contemporary Catholic Belief and Action

 

The mission of ARCC is to bring about substantive structural change within the Catholic Church by seeking to institutionalize a collegial understanding of church where decision making is shared and accountability is realized among Catholics of every kind and condition.
 
Once people start to believe change is possible, 
the drive to achieve it accelerates. 
                                          -   Patrick Sullivan, ARCC President
 
 
 
President’s Message 
 
Patrick B. Sullivan, DPA, MDiv
ARCC President Emeritus
 
 
 
 
This past month I relinquished the presidency of ARCC, after 12 years of service. I am proud to have been able to serve in this capacity. I always tried my best to represent ARCC as favorably as possible. I still believe in the mission. Despite the practice of former presidents usually leave the board when their terms are done, I have consented to remain on the board. I do have some final thoughts:
 
The sad truth is that the mission of ARCC should not even be necessary. If the leadership of the church truly followed the Way of Jesus of Nazareth, they would focus only on compassion and generosity. There would be no need to advocate for rights in the church in that case. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The emphasis, instead, has been on rules and who is in and who is out. Practices such as denying communion or any of the sacraments runs contrary to the gospel in so many ways. Remember that Jesus gave the bread and wine to Judas (Matthew 26:25-27). He did not include any qualifiers on who was to receive. He also washed the feet of all the disciples, instructing them to do the same (John 13:1-17). The emphasis was on being servant leaders. Instead, we have leaders who are hell bent on enforcing rules and controlling the people. This has resulted in a great deal of pain for many people. How does this make any sense for the followers of Jesus?
 
The most common calls I got over the years concerned the struggles of divorced and remarried Catholics. There were real tears and pain over being denied the sacraments. The truth is that the provisions for divorce in scripture are really not all that clear. The laws that were enacted much later were intended to bring sanctity to marriage. However, they were also created when people only lived into their 40s on average. It is fairly well-known that there are abusive marriages. A compassionate church would recognize that and err on the side of charity for a potential victim. I cannot see how a marriage can be seen as sanctified if two people are making each other miserable. Compounding the pain of the divorce, the church then expects that there should be no subsequent marriage, condemning them to live alone for the rest of their lives. People should be able to discern for themselves the sacramental nature of their marriage, whether it be the first or second. After all, it is the couple who confers the sacrament on each other.
 
Many of the other calls or letters I received involved priests who behaved as an autocrat in the parish. It was very common to hear of the pastor controlling all the finances or dictating what will happen with the parish facilities. So many of these parishes were literally built by the people of that community. It is ironic that anyone should be called pastor and then behave in such a non-pastoral fashion. It is ordinarily extremely difficult to get the bishop to take any action in these cases. More likely, the bishop is interested in protecting his priests. We have written and spoken of clericalism several times in our publications. This is just one glaring example in which it causes so much hurt.
 
Finally, I firmly believe in the possibility of the church advancing the Reign of God. I am totally committed to the gospel and have a deep faith that we can and will bring about that reign. If we can move away from legalism and judgment, I know we can advance much further. I hope for a church that demonstrates to all how the power of love can overcome any obstacle. I live in the confidence that God is all-loving and that we are all connected. It has been my privilege to serve you as president. You all remain in my prayers.
 
Peace and all that is good,
Patrick B. Sullivan, DPA
 
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