BACKGROUND CHECK OF RENEW 2000 CONTRIBUTORS REVEALS RENEW 2000 TEXTS LACED WITH CALL TO ACTION NAMES
PROGRAM BRINGS THE FAITHFUL INTO CONTACT WITH HETERODOX AND LIBERAL EXTREMIST WRITERS
As I understand, a large number of dioceses in the United States have adopted the RENEW 2000 program as a way to invigorate parishes. Unfortunately, the program, upon investigation, appears to be laced with the names of Call To Action affiliates and other writers who represent dissident theological positions, some in serious conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church. This report sets forth the findings of over 600 hours of independent research, findings which here are carefully linked to citations for easy confirmation by readers. This report's goal is simply to set forth facts about the RENEW 2000 materials sufficient to show that there is a significant number of dissident, heterodox, and or/ Call To Action- associated names in the RENEW 2000 materials. In its present form, the RENEW 2000 program may represent an unacceptable risk to the Catholic faithful because of the combinations of the following factors.
This report recommends that the RENEW 2000 materials be immediately examined to confirm these findings and that, if these findings are confirmed, the program should be recalled and revised.
What is Call To Action?
For readers who are unfamiliar with Call To Action (CTA), a brief preliminary overview of that organization and its heterodox/heretical ideology is in order. CTA is a Chicago-based liberal extremist group which annually holds nationwide conferences and many smaller ones. The group, run by a staff, board, and volunteers, may be relocating to the Milwaukee area soon. CTA publishes an illustrated newsletter (Call to Action News [CTA News]), a progress report on Catholic Church reform (Church Watch), and a reflective journal (Spirituality/Justice Reprint) as well as maintaining an online bulletin board. According to the most recent information available, CTA is co-directed by Dan and Sheila Daley.
CTA's goal appears to be to decentralize, disassemble and "re-invent" the Catholic Church so as to institute novel teachings which break with 2,000 years of Catholic teaching. These novelties would significantly change historical understanding of the Sacraments, greatly reduce the authority of Holy Scripture, revise the Priesthood, change the Name of God to include female names, promote a variety of practices which are mortal sins, including lesbianism and homosexuality, abortion and euthanasia, and to integrate pagan chants and rituals into the liturgy. And CTA is not the only culprit. CTA as an organization is merely the ideological icon for a whole generation of dissident theologians and teachers whose standard operating procedure is to take practices and terms which are acceptable to Catholics on the surface and to re-structure those practices and terms to their own ends. For example, "small faith communities" is a concept that used in conjunction with correct Church teachings AND adequate pastoral supervision, can be a healthy resource for revitalizing parishes. Dissident theologians, however, such as those in CTA, are well aware that Catholics trust the notion of small faith communities. Therefore, they have taken the small faith community concept and, like poisoning an apple, have laced it with a deadly innovation: using small faith communities as a technique to decentralize Church authority and slowly wean lay people's reliance away from correct Church teachings and a divine hierarchy to turn instead toward a new heterodox gospel of defiance and sin. This theology of defiance finds an unlocked door where lay people, uneducated in true Church teaching, trust blindly in the title, "Catholic" which title some theologians and teachers inaccurately claim for themselves. The end result can be theological derailment wherein Catholics are seduced into accepting false teachings which promise a broader and easier path, but which in fact comprise error, disobedience, sin, eventual de facto excommunication and death of the soul.
"If the institutional church won't meet our needs, we'll do it ourselves. We're not asking permission anymore," snapped CTA speaker Anthony Padovano, president of CORPUS, a CTA-affiliate organization, in his opening address to a 1996 CTA conference (Crisis Online, Feb. 1996, "Inside Call TO Action, " Mary Jo Anderson). CTA's goal is "the surrender of all ecclesial authority" (Crisis Online). "Podavano insists that CTA members are called to heal the Body of Christ wounded by structures of 'dissatisfaction' and 'systems of hierarchies' imposed by 'pathologic' popes Podavano himself has a pathologic dislike for Pope John Paul II and has suggested initiating an 'impeachment process'" (ibid.) A priest contributing to CTA News expresses "so much anger about [Cardinal] Ratzinger and our Pope." "They [CTA members] are vein-popping mad with John Paul II, whom they regard as a pre-Vatican II troglodyte" (Crisis Online). CTA members view the Vatican with suspicion and find it "intimidating" and "obsessive." "Anything Vatican based needs to be looked on warily at this time," a CTA leader wrote to me. The Vatican uses its role "to intimidate" and "sacrifices everything to its obsession with restricting access to contraception and abortion," stated Francis Kissling, head of a CTA -affiliate organization, Catholics for a Free Choice, a pro-abortion group which calls itself Catholic.
Call To Action grew out of the 1976 U.S. Bishops' "Call To Action" Conference in Detroit. Dan and Sheila Daley, two of CTA's co-founders and coordinators, took the conference title as a name for their grassroots networking organization. But soon, the U.S. Bishops Conference began to distance itself due to the issues CTA began to raise.
CTA's purpose appears to be to reinvent "church" with their new gospel of sexual and homosexual freedoms and other theological novelties. "We encourage our members to 'rebirth' the Church," CTA states in its online directory. In 1997, CTA speaker Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit called for "gay and lesbian church members, including bishops, priests and nuns" to "take courage" and to "come out" and publicly declare their sexual orientation"; and he "pleaded" for the Church to "create the community in which this can happen," so that the Church can "much more fully and quickly appreciate" homosexuality (CTA News, April 1997). CTA News boasts of having created such a community at one of its conferences: "One woman told a CTA board member that she is a lesbian who 'came out' at a CTA event: "It's the only place I felt safe enough'"(CTA News, Mar.-Apr. 1996). Mary Jo Anderson writes this summary of what she witnessed at a CTA conference: "The final plenary session speaker was Sister Sandra Schneiders [RENEW 2000 writer] (who spoke on) 'Feminist Interpretation of Scripture' If she, or her confederates, were made a Popess whole chapters of 'problematical texts' would be jettisoned All of Scripture is recast to fit feminist theology, complete with sacred sodomy." In 1996, cameras for EWTN recorded a CTA conference in Detroit in which (I have viewed this video) feminist abortion "liturgies"-designed to support women as they prepare to have an abortion-are promoted by lesbian speaker Diann Neu (RENEW 2000 writer; see below) along with consecrations of bread and wine by women. The video shows the CTA women using the Priest's words of consecration and holding their hands toward "harvest bread" and wine, consecrating it and administrating the "eucharist" to each other; it shows the women reciting a revised Nicene Creed, now called Women's Creed; it shows Neu addressing Catholic women from a podium, stating that "there is power in darkness."
Call to Action's 1998 Annual Meeting: Halloween in Milwaukee
A topical look at CTA's upcoming 1998 (Oct 30-Nov 1, Milwaukee) conference brochure (http://www.call-to-action.org/confbindepth.html) gives a good sampling of the latest CTA ideology: Renew 2000 and small faith communities: "Imagining Future Church": Renew 2000's Diocesan Director from Illinois will speak on the small faith community process, the expected result of which is to replace the Church with a "community of communities" and non-male leadership. Art Baranowski, who is cited in Renew 2000 materials (see below), will also speak.
Abortion: A day of "dialog" is planned in which pro-choice participants will share their position-not to "debate" but rather to "increase understanding." "Ground rules of respect and confidentiality" will allow pro-abortion CTA members to "speak our own values and beliefs." CTA's formal dues-paying affiliate, Catholics for a Free Choice, publishes a guide ("Abortion: A Guide to Making Ethical Choices") which identifies its five basic beliefs, including these: "The decision to abort can be a moral decision justified by many circumstances," and "Abortion must be legal for women."
Lesbian lecturers: Lesbian life partners Mary Hunt and Diann Neu (abortion proponent) (see Catholic World Report cite below) will discuss the Women-Church movement. In a Chicago Tribune report on Women-Church activities, the following quite appears: "Comparing themselves to early Christians who met secretly in catacombs, women gathered in Dierks' dining room read scripture and discussed their individual interpretations. Then they passed around a loaf of homemade bread and a good bottle of wine after blessing them, either using the words a priest says during mass--'This is my body, this is my blood, do this in memory of me'--or using their own variation. 'I felt awestruck after it was over,' Dierks says 'The church's official position is that we are breaking the law but the wisest people I knew were joining me'" (Feb.15, 1998, 13:8).
WICCA/witchcraft: Several workshops feature the topics that are explained on witchcraft internet sites (see below). Sample topics: "Triple Image," "maiden, mother, crone," prayer to the "four directions," "Sacred Circles," Halloween, "Samhain," and the healing of auras.
Formerly excommunicated theologians: Tissa Balasuriya, whom the Vatican once excommunicated, will speak. Paul Collins, currently under Vatican scrutiny for alleged errors in his book about the Papacy (per CTA brochure) will also share.
Catholic Lesbian and Gay Agenda: Past and present presidents of the Gay/Lesbian group Dignity/USA will speak out for "lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered persons" in their "quest for equality in the Church." Topics will include "domestic partner rights" and will refer to the Holy Spirit as "Sophia Wisdom." Also, a "woman-only" workshop will teach Catholics about "Women-to-women relationships," including that of "lover," so as to "honor the diversity of women-spirit."
Jesus' "sacred marriage"; Necessity of dissent: In other workshops, Catholics will learn about "the sacred marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene"; the meaning of the Eucharist will be re-thought; the question, "Can a Male Savior Save Women?" will be raised; "Inclusive Jesus" classes be Chris Schenck will proclaim that "The male chauvinist Jesus currently proclaimed by Rome is biblically untenable"; and Robert McClory, co-founder of CTA News and veteran CTA board member, will teach on the "Necessity of Dissent."
CTA conferences have a long-standing reputation for weird, often occult, workshops. In Chicago, 1995, participants at Matthew Fox's "Seven Chakras" workshop were present with a "ritual" in which a priestess-prostitute guided people into self-impregnation to recreate the self as a goddess or god (Crisis Online). The cover of Fox's book of Creation Spirituality features a picture of a squatting black woman in African garb, legs spread open, from between which emerges a globe on an umbilical cord. She is surrounded by a Native American woman, a Hindu woman, and a huge black raven which stand looking up to where the globe is being birthed. The three women and raven are encircled by a huge rattlesnake holding its tail in its mouth.
Many Catholic theologians agree with the notion most often attributed to Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz (Lincoln, NE) that membership in Call to Action constitutes a de facto excommunication from the Catholic Church in that, by joining CTA, members participate in the rejection of essential Catholic teachings
RENEW 2000 and Call To Action/dissident authors
I affirm all whose hearts were right and whose intents were holy and pure in recommending the RENEW 2000 program for the good of our Church. In their defense, I assure you that it is virtually impossible to realize the true nature of this program without very extensive research.
A study done with even scrupulous rigor would not be enough to uncover RENEW 2000's hidden cargo to a pastor blessedly unfamiliar with CTA names.
RENEW 2000 teachings: "Feminist consciousness," feminine God, "reverencing" earth, sexual intercourse as a means of "grace"
The Renew 2000 materials that I reviewed (Small Christian Communities and Called to Lead, and several shorter texts) looked orthodox at first glance. The name "Call to Action appeared nowhere in the materials. I was first tipped off by the section entitled "Feminist Spirituality," which states: "The foundations of feminism are basically religious ", "Many Christian women and men who recognize the relationship between many feminist goals and the realization of God's reign are developing a spirituality which integrates a feminist consciousness There has been an exclusive emphasis on male imagery when talking about God. When God is imaged as only masculine, we lose the particular expression of God that is feminine." God is then described in the text as a homemaker, midwife, baker-woman, and mother hen. Then, in direct conflict with the Catechism and the Magisterium, the text states, "To refer to God exclusively in masculine pronouns like he, him, and his or in masculine images like father and king is to limit our perception of the divine."
The text then goes on to promote "integration of feminist consciousness," arguing that attitudes that are contradictory to feminist spirituality can be found in the church [small c], that such church practices are "disturbing and painful," and that enlightened feminist-minded people are "challenging" the church (Called to Lead, book 2, pp. 130-31).
The following section promotes an "Ecologically Sensitive Spirituality," another big CTA/dissident theme (one which exploits the otherwise good notion of ecology, misusing it to lead Catholics to dabble in paganism). Herein, the text tells Catholics that we are to profoundly "reverence" the planet; that earth reverence is even a "moral priority"; and that feminist consciousness and earth reverence are linked and essential for "all Christians."
Next I noted that RENEW 2000 materials undercut the authority and reliability of Scripture, guarding against "too narrow" an approach to Scripture (Called to Lead, book 1) (despite Christ's teaching that "narrow is the way" that leads to salvation.). Deactivating the warnings, protections and truths of the Bible by undermining its reliability is another fingerprint of dissident theology. The sacraments are similarly de-throned: "There is a more fundamental or primordial way in which God is with us" than merely "the seven sacraments," because "all of life is sacramental" and we should realize that such things as sunsets are also God's presence in our midst (my emphasis). Catholics are taught that marriage as a sacrament was once "doubtful" and that theologians have considered " the question of how sexual intercourse could be a means of grace" (Called to Lead, Bk. 1, pp. 5-9).
Next, I began to spot names of CTA-associated feminists and other CTA or dissident authors listed as RENEW 2000 contributors or in citations. For example, RENEW 2000 quotes CTA Feminist Sandra Schneiders (see "sacred sodomy" reference above); Schneider's photo appears on a CTA News' cover, receiving a standing ovation at a CTA conference for her speech promoting female priests. Other RENEW 2000 names which raised my suspicions include: Monika Hellwig, Joann Wolski Conn, Elizabeth Johnson, Michael Crosby, and Thomas Berry.
Next I noticed, with dismay, that the small-faith community teachings in RENEW 2000 cite the writings of Art Baranowski, another CTA hero (speaker at the October, 1998, CTA conference). CTA News praises Baranowski, who says the goal of establishing small faith communities is to "reinvent the church, refound the church-with a different structure and leadership." Utilizing this method, parishioners can be weaned away from traditional parish life, de-centralizing into small faith communities which then elect leaders and maintain superficial ties to the parish; such groups, also called "house churches" can develop their own beliefs, prayers and rituals (Crisis Online). A primary goal of RENEW 2000 is to institute small faith communities. "The RENEW process is a stepping stone" to small faith communities and has already produced some 360,000 such groups (Small Christian Communities, p.14). "The great majority of those who had participated in RENEW said that it was one of the important influences on their decision to join a small community following their participation in RENEW," claims William D'Antonio in his "Forward" to RENEW 2000 Small Christian Communities.
Hellwig and Murnion write the Forwards for RENEW 2000 Materials
One RENEW 2000 Forward is by Monika Hellwig, whose is promoted in CTA News as an upcoming speaker. Hellwig's book, Understanding Catholicism, re-thinks the meaning of the Eucharist and even the Resurrection. Another Forward is by Philip Murnion. Murnion authored a highly controversial document, "Called to be Catholic," which orthodox Catholic theologians have criticized sharply, suggesting that it masks a deeper agenda and supports teachings which depart from official Church teaching. (catholic.net/RCC/Periodicals/OSV/96nov17.html) Both Hellwig's and Murnion's Forwards strongly recommend the RENEW program.
CTA Lesbian pro-abortion Feminist's Prayer to the Four Great Spirits Is Part of RENEW 2000
RENEW 2000 materials (Called to Lead, Book 2) require participants to stand in a circle, arms outstretched, and pray to the "Great Spirits of the Four Directions, North, South, East, and West" and "to the Great Spirit of All that is Below," a prayer which is actually in the text of RENEW 2000, along with its author's name: Diann Neu, the lesbian-feminist CTA Speaker (see above, EWTN video: abortion liturgy, "power in darkness," women consecrations). Alarmingly, the idea of prayer to "Four Directions" which Neu teaches RENEW 2000 participants is also an intrinsic part of WICCA (witchcraft) worship of the goddess, Gaia, according to WICCA websites. ( NEVER view a witchcraft website without consulting a spiritual director.)
RENEW 2000 Authors Head Organizations the Pay Dues to CTA. Attend CTA Meetings, and Profess Agreement to CTA-authored Statement
CTA found a 30-member group called "Catholics Organized for Renewal"(CTA-COR). CTA states online that to be a COR member a group must (1) be in agreement with CTA's written statement about renewal, (2) attend meetings, and (3) pay $150 per year to benefit CTA in part (igc.org/cta). My research turned up two names which appear frequently on the RENEW 2000 materials; the same names listed as heads of CTA-COR dues-paying group: John O'Brien and William Thompson (also editor for CTA News). Please note the issues represented by the following list of groups which are among the 30 CTA-COR groups: Conference for Catholic Lesbians, Dignity (gay/lesbian group), Catholics for Free Choice (pro-abortion), Chicago Catholic Women (all-female small faith communities that celebrate Mass in their homes without a Priest), Creation Spirituality (sponsored the "Seen Chakras" workshop above), New Ways (gay group).
RENEW 2000 Materials Feature CTA-linked "renewal" Groups
Diann Neu (of the prayer to the "four directions") is the founder of WATER, (Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual), a group which CTA lists in its online link [my term] directory (www.call-to-action.org/resfulldirectory.html). WATER appears in the RENEW 2000 materials, as do many other CTA -link groups. What types of groups are listed in CTA's link list? One is Catholics for a Free Choice, an outspoken pro-abortion group whose brochure includes a liturgy for women planning to kill their unborn children (see Clowes, all to Action or Call to Apostasy, below). RENEW 2000 even recommends that Catholics join some of these groups, such as Pax Christi (SCC, p. 254); Pax Christi appears 13 times on the CTA list. Another example: "Join Global Education Associates [GEA]," says one RENEW 2000 booklet. But is this good advice for Catholics? GEA works with UN agencies (see website) to create "human world order" (RENEW Conversion booklet, p.42). GEA founder, Pat Mische, is promoted in Call to Action's calendar of events (call-to-action.org). Further, GEA's own website address is igc.org/gea which should be significant to Catholics in that the igc.org title page (IGC stands for Institute for Global Communications) features this statement: "ALERT: Protect Minors' Access to Abortion" (igc.org/igc). Despite these alarming associations, Pat and Gerry Mische are nonetheless quoted in RENEW 2000 texts.
A brief sampling of other CTA-associated names in RENEW 2000 materials include Patrick Brennan (national level CTA speaker); Michael Crosby, (national keynoted speaker for CTA); Mary Hunt (CTA celebrity and frequent CTA speaker, also lesbian life companion of RENEW 2000 prayer author Diann Neu [Catholic World Report, Jan.96, p. 30]); Peter Gerety, while not in the RENEW materials, is allegedly a developer of the RENEW program and an organizer of the first CTA convention (Brian Clowes, Call to Action or Call to Apostasy, Human Life International).
ChristSophia a female Christ with pierced nose, is promoted in 1992 video series featuring RENEW 2000 Coordinator and co-author of primary RENEW 2000 text
Margo LeBert is Coordinator for RENEW 2000 and has been "American coordinator for the International Office of RENEW in Plainfield, New Jersey." She co-authored the primary RENEW 2000 text, Small Christian Communities. A few years ago, LaBert was featured in a video series called "Inner Action." Inner Action and Call to Action are associated with many of the same theologians, writers, and groups. Most disturbing however, is that the Inner Action program in which RENEW 2000 Coordinator and author LaBert appears with approval a large, full-color icon of "ChristSophia," a female Christ with a pierced nose holding a naked, faceless fertility goddess doll with huge bare breasts. The program recommends " to the Christian community" a new "ritual," including 16 "special chants" to the earth, to plants, to the "sisters" (special powers that help people). To powers that bring rain, to the Four Being Powers, and to the Spirit of Handsome Lake, none of which deities I could find in the Catechism (Inner Action Cultural Blessings participant magazine, p. 8 and 27).
Another presenter in RENEW 2000 Coordinator LeBert's InnerAction series is Richard Rohr. He also heads a CTA-associated organization (Center for Action and Contemplation) and founded another (New Jerusalem). Rohr writes books about "enneagrams." Since "enneagrams" and their concomitant "enneagram trances" are not in the Catechism. I did an internet search of the word. I discovered that enneagrams are a part of (again!) the "WICCA"(witchcraft) and "paganism" websites. According to one Catholic catalog commentary in which Rohr's books appear, "Enneagram style is a type of trance Leading scripture scholars say that a parable is a literary form that breaks trances...I studied which enneagram trances would be broken by which parables."
RENEW 2000-Call to Action/Dissident Links Hard to Detect
We cannot blame our leaders for missing these elements in their review of RENEW 2000. Indeed, RENEW 2000 materials have sweet words mixed in, mentioning the Holy Father, Mary, etc. Well-meaning leaders and laity would understandably trust and easily embrace a program containing the name, "RENEW," a word used properly by our beloved Holy Father, John Paul II.
Bishop Bruskewitz has written that the Call to Action movement "is often disguised as a sincere effort to 'renew' the Catholic Church" but masks a "hidden agenda and poison fruit which the noisier dissenters never tire of offering to their unsuspecting victims." And years before, LeBoulluec wrote: "All the heretics' power of seduction rests on the art of simulation, on the way in which they disguise their doctrines beneath the most fashionable ornaments."
Notes: Many CTA name links can be found in Call to Action news. Vol.18, No.1 (Mar.-April '96), which lists past and future CTA celebrities and speakers. Some RENEW 2000-CTA names can be found at www.renew-intl.org/catalog.htm. CTA's online site includes hundreds of CTA-affiliated names (www.call-to-action.org.) Other links: Use a web search combining names and terms.
This report was created for Women for Faith and Family, for publication by them.