Oblate Partnership Explores “A Pathway of the Heart”

Missionary Oblate Partnership

By Arthur A. Pingolt, Jr., president, Missionary Oblate Partnership

Edited by Will Shaw

The annual De Mazenod Conference was held at Oblate Renewal Center in San Antonio over the weekend of February 15-17, 2019. Sixty-five attendees gathered for the special speakers and discussions around the theme: “A Pathway of the Heart”: Renewing the Catholic Church.

The weekend of reflection and feedback was co-sponsored by OST and the Missionary Oblate Partnership, a ministry of the US Province of Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.  The Catholic audience was very diverse:  young and old, ordained and lay, religious and diocesan, academic and pastoral, progressive and conservative, married and single.  The goal of the weekend was to listen, reflect, and then offer feedback to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on the topic of Church renewal in the midst of the present crises.

President of the Partnership, Arthur A. Pingolt, Jr. in his opening remarks, sought to anchor the weekend in the love and the mercy of Christ. Framing the multitude of emotions and consequences resulting from the sexual abuse and other Church crises, the lens of love and mercy was offered as foundational to a dialogue that is hopeful. Pingolt encouraged the group to be the Church “Conversant” in the call to dialogue amidst adversity.

In order to inspire productive dialogue around the topic, an impressive lineup of speakers provided context for the discussions that followed:

Kerry Robinson, Global Ambassador for the Leadership Roundtable provided the keynote address: Crisis As Opportunity. Robinson identifies that out of the sexual abuse crisis opportunities exist:  to create a new culture of servant leadership, to implement a new managerial paradigm, and to create a genuine partnership in co-responsibility between the laity, vowed religious, and ordained clergy.

Reverend Séamus Finn, OMI presented the first mini-key-note address. Finn is the Chief of Faith Consistent Investing for the Oblate International Pastoral Investment Trust, consultant to the Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation office of his congregation and Chair of the Board of Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

Finn presented a reflection on Church Governance highlighting the historical and organizational structure of the Holy See and the Vatican City State inclusive of the Roman Curia, the political and theological challenges to governance, and the impact and aftermath of the Second Vatican Council upon Church Governance.

Reverend Ronald Rolheiser, OMI presented the second mini-keynote, Consecrated Life and Ordained Ministry: Naming the Present Moment. Rolheiser is the President of Oblate School of Theology, a distinguished spiritual author, and a world-renowned speaker. 

Rolheiser framed the 2018 sexual abuse crisis in terms of a diagnosis, a prophecy, and as a call to conversion. Highlighting the present moment as a crisis of the credibility of a clerical culture rather than of faith, Rolheiser distinguishes the crisis of abuse and a crisis of the handling of the abuse.

Rolheiser offered that the task today for religious and clergy is to carry this scandal biblically, to name the moment and respond in compassion in the imitation of Christ, and to prioritize healing, not self-protection as one’s essential intentionality. Clergy are called to carry this crisis not as a distraction to their ministry, but as their ministry. It is the task of the clergy not to distance themselves from the issue, but to accept the painful humiliation as a graced opportunity.

Julie Craven presented the third mini-keynote: Renewal at the Local Level. Craven is the Director of Communications and Strategic Initiatives at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is a retired Vice-President of Corporate Communications for Hormel Foods Corporation.

Sharing wisdom gained from the journey of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Craven holds dialogue and communication in high regard. The Minneapolis-St. Paul clergy sex abuse crisis which revealed hundreds of abuse cases with allegations against numerous clergy, resulted in the bankrupting of the Diocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis, both financially and spiritually. The fallout from this crisis impacted the Catholic faithful profoundly. The response of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish provides a best practice for rebuilding, healing, and thriving. Craven credits effective communication at the parish level as a critical component of the parish’s recovery.

The fourth mini-keynote: Restorative Justice was co-presented by Reverend Daniel Griffith and the Honorable Janine Geske. Griffith is pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a faculty member of the St. Thomas University School of Law and has taught as an adjunct professor at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity. Griffith has served as an Archdiocesan of St. Paul and Minneapolis delegate for Safe Environment. Geske is an emeritus Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice and Marquette Law School Professor who has led conversations on Restorative Justice at the Vatican and throughout the world. Geske has served as a Distinguished Professor of Law at Marquette University Law School and Director of the Law School’s Restorative Justice Initiative.

Following a summary account of the St. Paul-Minneapolis sexual abuse crisis, Griffith focused on the theological and biblical underpinning of Restorative Justice, addressing the harm and offering notes of hope. Application of Restorative Justice in the wake of the Catholic sexual abuse crisis centers on the biblical ideals of conversion, restoration, and justice. Restorative Justice initiates a counter-cultural approach which turns away from rampant individualism toward communal healing.

Geske built upon the work of Griffith through the discussion of case studies and personal reflections to illustrate the healing power of the Restorative Justice process and the utility of its application. Geske defines Restorative Justice as a theory of justice that addresses the harm by answering three questions: 1) Who was harmed? 2) What was the harm? and 3) How do you work at repairing the harm?  Restorative Justice seeks to address harm and promote accountability by bringing people together in dialogue who have been affected by crime or misconduct.

The attendees posed for a group picture at conference’s end

At the end of the conference, nearly 30 primary and secondary recommendations were assembled to pass on to the USCCB, here are the top five:

  • Offer an authentic and heartfelt apology for the sexual abuse crisis.
  • Create a new culture that embraces the teachings of Vatican II, specifically in regards to engagement of the laity.
  • Create a new model of parish and diocesan governance through the revision of Canon Law.
  • Promote a new culture that values diversity and embraces the gifts and talents of the laity through structures of co-responsibility.
  • Create a new culture through embracing diversity and integrating diversity across all levels of the Church’s governing structures.

The purpose of the recommendations and the hope of the conferees is well summed up in Partnership President Arthur Pingolt’s report to the Bishops which provides a summary of the conference and the recommendations:

“While we make several and specific recommendations to the USCCB, we do so with a belief in the virtue and hopefulness of continued and broad-based dialogue about the crisis affecting our Church. Further, to borrow from another great movement for healing  that began in the U.S., we believe that this should be ‘a fearless and searching inventory’ of what has brought us to the present moment. In the simplest of terms, the need for this will not cease until it has taken place.”

CLICK HERE to see the entire report and all of the recommendations from the De Mazenod Conference