These social justice conferences are really the gift
that just keeps giving! If you have not yet read 2009 Social Justice Conference: Part 1 posted yesterday, please do check that out, as well as last weeks post on the 2006 Social Justice Conference. Now, on to our next speaker, Sr. Terry Rickard of RENEW International.
RENEW’s 3-year “ARISE: Together in Christ” program was brought to the Boston Archdiocese to help “enliven parishes and build small Christian communities. ” RENEW International, based in New Jersey, was founded by a group of Call to Action people who wanted to remake the Church, but lets talk about Sr. Terry first, and we’ll get to RENEW in a few moments. You may want to grab a strong cup of coffee before continuing.
Sister Terry Rickard, OP, is a Dominican sister who doesn’t wear a habit from the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt. I assume of course that Bryan Hehir first invited the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Sisters of Life, the Missionaries of Charity, and the Daughters of St. Paul but they were all busy that day so thats why they ended up with a representative from an order associated with both the liberal Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the liberal social justice group, NETWORK (who the USCCB’s head, Cardinal Francis George just slammed for their position on the abortion-funding national healthcare legislation). The website of the Dominican Sisters talks about their social justice work and “Creation of a Blauvelt Dominican Land Ethic based on the belief that the earth is the primary sustainer of life.” Their links of interest have nothing going to the Vatican or USCCB or a diocese, but instead go to organizations like American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker organization with an extensive LGBT rights and recognitation program who opposed the Federal marriage amendment and supports gay marriage), and United for Peace and Justice, (which has a working group focused on attacks on human/civil rights including those of women, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered [LGBT] people, people of color, and ethnic and religious minorities). But I digress…
Sr. Terry earned a Masters of Divinity at the multi-denominiational Union Theological Seminary (“with roots firmly planted in the Protestant, Reformed tradition, the Seminary continues to reform itself in response to the changing needs of the world and an evolving understanding of what it means to be faithful”). She also is a graduate of Aquinas Institute of St. Louis, which, according to CatholicCulture.org is “a hotbed of Dominican dissidents in America, whose previous president openly defended ‘gay’ priests and seminarians. The Aquinas Institute is affiliated with St. Louis University, a ‘Jesuit University’ which was one of the first to abdicate itself to lay leadership in the “spirit of Vatican II” in 1967.” Nice.
To Cardinal Sean (who opened the conference with morning prayer and opening comments) and officials of the Archdiocese and the Vatican, is this really the kind of background for a speaker want at an official Catholic archdiocesen-sponsored event?
But thats just Sr. Terry. Lets talk about RENEW. When I heard Cardinal Sean was bringing RENEW’s program to Boston, I wanted to believe this was a different RENEW than the one I knew of back in the late ’70s and ’80s, and I assumed the Cardinal had thoroughly checked them out, and they had cleaned-up their act. Maybe they have, as some reports would indicate, but I am just not so sure so we’ll share the information out their for you to digest yourselves as educated readers and observers. In the interest of time, I will simply offer some references, and you can reach your own conclusions about them.
Renew International was founded by a coalition of Call to Action AmChurch types bent on remaking the Church in their own image. This can be seen from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Critique of the Original Renew Program (the original Renew Program was produced in 1986), as well as from the background check of Renew 2000 contributors that came out with the subsequent program: Background Check of Renew 2000 Contributors Reveals Renew 2000 Texts Laced with Call to Action Names. An index of links critical of the heterodoxy of Renew 2000 can be found at Revealing the Truth about Renew 2000, and Dr. Regis Martin, S.T.D., Professor of Theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville (who was one of this year’s speakers at Lenoir-Rhyne College’s annual Aquinas-Luther Conference), in a review of one of the leader’s manuals, concludes that it is “seriously impaired in its content, and in its tone or spirit, alien to the ancient and Catholic faith we profess in the Creed.” First, he says, it fastidiously avoids mention of the Fatherhood of God. Second, there is a persistent tendency to divorce the Christological significance from the historical Jesus, so that the ‘Christ of faith’ has nothing to do with the ‘Jesus of history.’ Third, there is no mention of Original Sin and its treatment of the whole subject of human sinfulness is woefully inadequate. And much more (see Renew 2000 Commentary by Regis Martin, S.T.D.).
About RENEW’s Why Catholic? Program
designed by revisionists whose devious aim is to use their small group approach to refract ecclesial focus, to undermine magisterial authority, to democratize the Catholic message, to continue the AmChurch decentralization of Catholic Church in America, to continue the process of protestantizing and revising the Church and detaching her from the only moorings she has in her own traditions…
But one could argue that “ARISE: Together in Christ” is different. Its roots are in small group faith-sharing around scripture, and it was pioneered by people from our own Boston Archdiocese’s Office for Spiritual Development. So, what could possibly be wrong with small group faith-sharing and small Christian communities? I don’t honestly know if ARISE is good or bad. Read on and reach your own conclusions…
What is to be made of Small Christian Communities? Do they serve or threaten the Church? Their history presents cause for concern. Small Christian Communities (SCCs) are known, among Latin American Marxists, as “base” or “basic” communities: comunidades des base. They were fostered as vehicles of “conscientization” in liberation theology. In their book, Dangerous Memories, Bernard Lee and Michael Cowan write: “The strongest support for this movement [of SCCs] came from the Medellín conference of Latin American bishops in 1968, which faced the Church in the direction of liberation theology and basic Christian communities.”
Programs such as RENEW were also designed to be seedbeds of SCCs. The original RENEW program was developed a generation ago under the auspices of Archbishop Peter Gerety of Newark, New Jersey, one of the initial Call to Action organizers. Implemented in 1978 (soon after the initial 1976 Call to Action Conference in Detroit) it called for formation of “small communities in worship, prayer, study, evangelization and apostolic service.”
The US bishops conference examined the RENEW program in 1986 and found several areas in which the program gave cause for concern. The bishops’ report said it contained, “a definite bias toward the community model of Church,” resulting in “an imbalance which can be doctrinally misleading.”
Although the program was revamped, many of its echoes of liberation theology remained. Social action and evangelization are deliberately confused with one another. “Truth” is understood as a product of a “conscientized” people. Judgments are derived, according to RENEW’s literature, “from the collective wisdom of the group as consensus emerges from their sharing. This wisdom obviously involves the wisdom of the Spirit, alive in the community members.”
The first step is to form base communities, which is simply the regrouping of a larger structure into smaller sections. While such restructuring may serve many useful and legitimate purposes (bible study, fellowship, prayer support, etc.), such base communities encouraged by Alinskyian organizing isolate its Catholic members from their parishes, replacing their loyalties with loyalties to the group. The group can be led toward a preset conclusion by the discussion leader/organizer. There are dangers for any such group that severs itself from the full and unequivocal teaching of the Church — as is frequently, though subtly, encouraged in the various facilitator manuals made available to small Christian communities through USCCB publications (such as RENEW) or USCCB associated organizations (such as CCHD or MACC). If the members are not well educated in their faith, they can easily be led to misinterpretations of Catholic teaching.
That tightly structured training and implementation of a program closely identified with notable dissidents sparked a brushfire of concern. Parish leaders conversant with national “We Are Church” demands and methodologies were alert to those same dissident themes and tactics embedded in RENEW 2000 materials. It has been pointed out that “small faith communities” (SFCs) are the strategic hallmark of Call to Action and its satellite groups, which adapted the format from socialist political agitator Saul Alinsky and his liberation-theology-style “ecclesial base communities” (see “Inside Call to Action”). The small faith community format was also used by Marxists to subvert the Church in Latin America.
So folks there it is for now on Sr. Terry Rickard and RENEW. I have never met her or attended a RENEW program so Sr. Terry may be a very nice and competent person. ARISE: Together in Christ might be fine program, though I know pastors who have decided to not offer it in their parishes for some reason. (If any pastors/priests are reading this and want to comments on RENEW, feel free to). I am sure I will get flack from supporters of RENEW and if I am wrong, I’ll come out and admit it. All I can say is that Sr. Terry’s own background, that of her religious order and of RENEW just don’t feel all that solid to me. Can’t a Catholic archdiocese responsible for sharing the gospel and evangelizing society find speakers with less controversial background for a conference they officially sponsor? Or, is this just another example of the kind of folks and organizations attracted to the “light” of Fr. Bryan hehir? Stay tuned for more on the third speaker tomorrow.