Remember back in July 2003, when the public kvetching over the Scandal was at full steam, a group of powerful liberal lay Catholic leaders convened a secret meeting in Washington, DC, with some bishops in leadership at the USCCB, including the then-president, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, Illinois; then-vice president and now president, Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, and Bishops Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg and William B. Friend of Shreveport, Louisiana.
The lay side of the table read like a who’s who of liberal Catholics. (See that blog entry for the list.) This was supposed to be a secret meeting, but when word got out, some conservative Catholics complained about the exclusive access and demanded equal time with the bishops. It was granted and another meeting was planned, but honestly it doesn’t mean they wanted to be there or bothered to listen.
And what was on the agenda of the original gathering of “very important people”? According to the Boston Globe article on it:
Another conference attendee said a number of tough issues were raised, including the role of women in the church and the restriction of the priesthood to celibate men, but that those topics came up largely in breakout sessions among smaller groups.
“This is a group trying to influence the decisions of the church in terms of the role that’s going to be played by the laity, what are some of the obstacles to a broader representation in the clergy in terms of married men and women, and what is going to be the vehicle for dialogue,” said another participant.
We hadn’t heard from this group in a while, but now …. they’re baaaacccckkk.
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus writes in the August/September issue of First Things that the group, now calling itself the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, is once again planning “the future of the Church in America.” I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but it’s hard to refute the kooks when the usual suspects keep giving the appearance of planning a national schism. Fr. Neuhaus describes it thusly:
As it stands, the Roundtable is a collaborative effort of wealthy East Coast Catholics, academics, editors, and Church activists who are determined to devise a strategy for establishing a major role for the laity in the governance of the Catholic Church in this country.
A revolutionary coup or a hostile takeover?