'We Are Church'- dead at the (grass) roots

Peter Fournier and Catherine Fournier

This was submitted by a friend and visitor to Domestic-Church.Com. His comments are in square brackets. [ ]


Ecumenical News International New York - The We Are Church campaign that sought a million signatures in the United States on an internationally promoted petition for major changes in the Roman Catholic Church ended up getting only 37,000, according to Sister Maureen Fiedler, the U.S. co-ordinator of the petition.

The petition called for the ordination of women, optional celibacy for the clergy, lay participation in the selection of bishops, primacy of conscience on issues of sexual morality, and other changes in Roman Catholic policy.

The petition was launched in Austria in 1995 before spreading to Germany and other countries. Internationally, there were 2.5 million signatures to the petition … but 2.3 million of these have come from Austria and Germany.

Sister Fiedler, a nun of the Sisters of Loreto, told ENI that organizers of the campaign had lacked sufficient resources to reach large numbers of church members, and "most Catholics didn't know the petition existed."

[I find that a little hard to swallow given that all the major U.S. and Canadian TV networks as well as many major newspapers gave the story a lot of coverage. If I were a cynic, I might wonder why the same news organizations that gave the petition such extensive and positive coverage at the beginning have failed to report on its failure.] (Editor's Note: Also, it is interesting that while lacking 'sufficient resources' We Are Church supported a colourful web-site, an unusual choice given the still relatively limited market exposure of the Internet).

The Roman Catholic Church in the United States reports a membership of 61 million, or 23 percent of the population.

Some who were asked to sign the petition, especially those with church-related jobs, had been "paralyzed with fear" that signing might bring repercussions, Sister Fiedler said. Many others, she said, had felt it was hopeless to press for such far-reaching changes, and so had not wanted to risk personal conflict with clergy or others in parishes for the sake of something they expected to bring "zero" in return.

Sister Fiedler said the U.S. was not the only country that had fallen short of its goals. Canadians had set a goal of 100,000 but had only collected 5,900. (Editor's Note: in Canada, Catholics make up about 40% of the population.)

[It's funny how movements to reform the church on the grounds that it needs to appeal to the grassroots almost always turn out to be run by elitists with very narrow support in the community.]

[It would be wrong to gloat too much, but some of the rationalizations for the petitions failure advanced in the article are pretty ridiculous. Sister Fiedler brings a whole dimension to sour grapes.]

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