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August 16, 1996     The Message
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6 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana August 16, 1996 I Cardinal Bernardin launches unity initiative By ANGELA APTE Catholic News Service CHICAGO (CNS) -- Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin of Chicago has announced a major initia- tive to help U.S. Catholics move past what he called a dangerous polarization in the church. The initiative, called the Catholic Common Ground Pro- ject, is to include national con- ferences to draw Catholics into constructive dialogue on church issues, he said. At a news conference intro- ducing the initiative Aug. 12, the cardinal said an advisory committee of seven other bish- ops, including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles, and 16 other Catholic leaders from across the nation will assist him in the project. "I have been troubled that an increasing polarization within the church and, at times, a mean-spiritedness have hin- dered the kind of dialogue that helps us address our mission and concerns," he said. "The unity of the church is threatened" by the polarization, he said, and "the great gift of the Second Vatican Council is in danger of being seriously un- dermined." Cardinal Beruardin released a 3,000-word statement, "Called to be Catholic," which he said will be a framework for the ini- tiative. It asks Catholics of diverse perspectives to come together and approach current church issues with "fresh eyes, open minds and changed hearts... to pursue their disagreements in a renewed spirit of dia- logue." Cardinal Bernardin told re- porters that the initiative's first conference, tentatively slated forChicago next year, will ad- dress culture and its influence on the church. He said the group is not yet clear on who they will invite to the conference or how, but he "would be happy to see anyone" attend who is interested in being in dialogue. His advisory committee will iron out details of the form of such conferences and how to fol- low up on them afterward, he said.. Cardinal Bernardin, who is still receiving chemotherapy fol- lowing surgery for pancreatic cancer last year, said that com- ing "face to face with the real- ity of death" through cancer has made him reflect more deeply on what is really important in the church. He said he was particularly disturbed by what appears to be "a great deal of distrust" among Catholics today "The faithful members of the church are weary, and our wit- ness to government, society and culture is compromised," he said. He said the discussions lead- ing up to "Called to be Catholic" began three years ago. He stressed that the project is not a response to specific groups or recent events in the church, such as the church re- form calls of Call to Action and We Are Church or the legisla- tion last spring by Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lin- coln, Neb., excommunicating Catholics who belong to certain non-Catholic or dissenting Catholic groups. "This precedes all of that. It is not a response to any of those initiatives," he said. He also said it is not his in- tent to form "a teaching group, a dogmatic group" or some form of "official" dialogue group in the church. "Our hope is with dialogue to come to a better understanding of church teaching and doctrine. .. The world needs our Catholic faith more than ever," he said. He said there is evidence all over of the polarization in the church. "To deny that, as some people do, is to deny reality," he said. Among advisory committee members with Cardinal Bernardin at the news conference was Sister Doris Gottemoeller, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Ameri- cas, who said one of her concerns was "ecclesial minimalism." "There is a tendency to con- fine the church to one or an- other aspect . . . to make all judgments in light of that lim-' ited view," she said. "The council mandated a pro- cess of change and renewal and we've had to deal with labels like faithful and unfaithful, au- thentic and unauthentic religion ever since that time," she said. Another committee member, Pittsburgh attorney and phi- lanthropist Thomas J. Don- nelly, joined the cardinal in ex- pressing concern about young people and the little relevance that religion, especially institu- tional religion, seems to have on their lives. "For the past several decades my Catholic activity has been centered on Catholic higher ed- ucation," he said. While many young people are very committed to the church, he said, "there also exists a sub- stantial, pervasive attitude of indifference" which he believes is largely a consequence of the polarization described in the statement Among church issues that the statement says ought to be ad- dressed openly and honestly are: Changing roles of women. The eucharistic liturgy as most Catholics experience it. The meaningof human sex- uality and the gap between church teaching and the views of many Catholics on some moral issues. The way decisions are made in the church. Cardinal Bernardin said he has sent correspondence and copies of his statements to the Holy See but has not heard yet from Vatican officials. He said he also contacted Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland, president of the Na- tional Conference of Catholic Bishops, to inform him that the project "does not in any way im- pinge upon the responsibilities of the conference." Contributing to this story was Bill Britt in Chicago Accot CHICAGO (CNS)  One key to t Project to restore Catholic vitality life theology, unhistorical have The project aims at getting beyond have polarized many U,S. Catholics in z placing "Our discussion must be accountable to revelation, QUILTS Over 80 Homemade Quilts Applique Embroidery Patchwork and Baby Quilts