Momentum Building Milestones in Eucharist Synod Petition Campaign
August 2003 -163 Milwaukee priests publicly call for open discussion of mandatory celibacy rather than lose access to the Eucharist. Over the next year,1000 priests from six dioceses join them.
September 2003 - FutureChurch (FC) and Call To Action (CTA) launch Corpus Christi Synod Petition Campaign with endorsements from CORPUS and the Women’s Ordination Conference. CTA and FC support a spontaneous letter writing campaign to Bishop Wilton Gregory asking for discussion of mandatory celibacy.
Fall 2003 - the U.S. the National Federation of Priests Councils publicly supports Milwaukee priests call for discussion of mandatory celibacy.
Summer-Fall 2003 - the Association of Pittsburgh Priests sponsors a three part workshop on the priesthood. Collects over 1000 petition signatures and letters to Bishop Gregory asking for celibacy discussion.
March-July 2004 - Welcoming Vocations, a Minneapolis St. Paul group, collects 6500 signatures from 25 parishes in support of optional celibacy.
April 2004 - over 1,000 U.S. priests launch Priests Forum for the Eucharist who support the public call for open discussion of mandatory celibacy made by the Milwaukee priests .
January-September 2004 -Call To Action and FutureChurch conduct a massive survey of priests in 53 U.S. dioceses. Sixty seven percent of responding priests (2,589 of 3,846) support open discussion of mandatory celibacy. Many priests also called for discussion of women's ordination to the diaconate and priesthood. Survey results.
Fall 2004 - Pope John Paul II finally acknowledges that “the decline in priestly vocations represents a stark challenge for the church in the United States” and proposes that U.S. Catholics set aside a national day of prayer for priestly vocations. (We will honor the Pope's suggestion on the Feast of Corpus Christi (May 29) this year!)
October 2004 - Surveys of Irish and Australian priests find that 60% of Irish priests and 55% of Australian priests believe celibacy should be optional.
October 8, 2004 - The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece votes in Athens to restore the female diaconate. This provides support for the restoration of the female diaconate in the Catholic Church, which has acknowledged the validity of Orthodox sacraments and orders. According to Dr. Phyllis Zagano: Despite the distinction in Canon 1024-“A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly” -one can presume the possibility of a derogation from the law, as suggested by the Canon Law Society of America in 1995, to allow for diaconal ordination of women. (The history of Canon 1024 is clearly one of attempts to restrict women from priesthood, not from the diaconate.)” (Note: both FutureChurch and Call To Action are committed to the full ministerial equality of women in the Catholic Church. We see petitioning for women deacons as a doable next step and one way of reopening the conversation about women's roles in the Church. See article Women Deacons: Why Now?).
November 2003 and November 2004 - the campaign delivers 15,000 letters to Bishop Wilton Gregory asking for discussion of mandatory celibacy. In the Fall of 2004 over 4,000 postcards pour into the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy giving input to synod preparatory documents. Cardinal George and bishop Michael Pfeifer both supported discussion when questioned by reporters in 2003.
December 2004 - the Australian National Priests' Council (NPC) sends a letter to the Synod urging an end to mandatory celibacy. The NPC represents half of Australia's priests and includes 42 bishops and three cardinals. The statement expressed concern - as we did in our November post card campaign -that there are no questions in the Synod Preparatory documents about the serious shortage of priests. They write:
... we are scandalized when the gnat of (liturgical) abuse is so carefully strained out while the camel of dying communities is being swallowed. )
This unprecedented act is significant because it makes it more likely that the priest shortage will actually be on the Synod agenda. (for the full text, go to www.ncp.catholic.org.au/members/index.htm)
Jan- March 2005 - Virginia parish collects 300 petition signatures. Another holds a parish mission where a workshop on the future of the priesthood is given and the petition is circulated. Activists from several other parishes are considering programs.
March 2005 - Activists from six parishes in the Cleveland Diocese commit to circulate the petition, pray for the synod and do educational programs. Thirteen parishioner house meetings held with more scheduled.
2004-2005 - Parish closings in Boston, Toledo, Cincinnati, St. Louis and many other dioceses are awakening ordinary Catholics to the need to take action. This continues to energize petition campaign.
35,000 signatures are collected for the petition to the International Synod on the Eucharist. The petition asks for discussion of optional celibacy and the ordination of women to the diaconate.
The signatures and results of the survey of over 15,000 priests in 55 U.S. diocceses are delivered to the US bishop delegates by Call To Action and FutureChurch members in their respective cities.
Chris Schenk csj, Executive Director of FutureChurch, delivers the petition and survey results to synod officials in Rome.
A packet of materials containing the petitions and survey results is sent to the Pope’s personal secretary with a cover letter requesting a meeting with the Pope or his delegate.
Sr. Chris Schenk is interviewed and quoted in stories by the Associated Press the New York Times, the BBC, National Public Radio, Catholic News Service, the National Catholic Reporter as well as Spanish and Swiss Television.
Over 30 prayer services are held throughout the US to pray for the synod.
With the synod concluded, it is up to the writing committee of bishop delegates and the Pope to write the final synod document. FutureChurch and Call To Action encourage Catholics to email the Pope, Bishop Wuerl (on the Synod Writing Committee), Bishop Skylstad (President of the USCCB) and their local bishop requesting further study and discussion of married priests and women deacons in the life of the Church.