Call To Action Dissent Group Meetings

'And if you be unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River; or the gods of the Am'orites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.' —Joshua 24:15
A Call to Action (ACTA) is an organisation that advocates dissent, albeit under a pretext of reasonable dialogue.

Red Maria tipped me off to the fact that in 1996, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska issued, under certain conditions, an automatic interdict (which escalates after one month to an automatic excommunication) on members of the organisation within his diocese. The group appealed, but the excommunications were affirmed by the Congregation for Bishops in 2006. The congregation's prefect, Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re, wrote to Bishop Bruskewitz that his action "was properly taken within [his] competence as pastor of that diocese."

The Congregation for Bishops was not primarily issuing a doctrinal statement regarding Call to Action, but rather making a juridical statement saying that Bishop Bruskewitz had acted properly within his jurisdiction as ordinary of the Diocese of Lincoln. Although this does not have direct impact outside of Lincoln, it almost certainly means that any other bishop who performed similar acts would be supported by the Roman Curia.

However, Cardinal Re's statement did include some doctrinal statements regarding Call to Action's activities. He wrote that:
"The judgment of the Holy See is that the activities of ‘Call to Action’ in the course of these years are in contrast with the Catholic faith due to views and positions held which are unacceptable from a doctrinal and disciplinary standpoint.... Thus to be a member of this association or to support it is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic faith."
ACTA advocates for a variety of liberal causes to change the Catholic Church. It's goals include women's ordination, an end to mandatory priestly celibacy, a change in the church's teaching on a variety of sexual matters, and a change to the way the church is governed. Apart from the important statement above, many more Church leaders have criticised ACTA because the moral and juridical positions of the organisation run counter to the established teachings of the Catholic Church.

Deacon Nick Donnelly, a fellow Maryvale Alumni has drawn my attention to the fact that this organisation has meeting planned in the dioceses of Westminster, Birmingham, Nottingham and Shrewsbury, as well as my diocese, Brentwood, during November and December.

The Brentwood meeting drew all of 25 people from the whole diocese, which leads me to agree with CCFather that the reality is 
'these poor deluded souls are quite panicked as their sell-by date has come and gone, and they remain rotting, unwanted, on the back of the shelf...'
But there is a serious issue here that needs addressing. Fr. Ray puts his finger on it when he asks:
'What makes me a Catholic?
It is surely that I adhere to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith; in short the faith handed on to, by and from the Apostles.'
What shocking hubris to consider that the Church founded by God has gone astray, and that you are the one who knows the direction it should take.

Let's have a closer look at ACTA...

ACTA have been vocal in their public condemnation of the Magisterium. ACTA claims to exist in order to promote dialogue. The question begs to be asked, ‘dialogue with whom?’ After reviewing their website and promotional material, the forums for ‘dialogue and discussion’ seem to consist of members of ACTA and…no one else. I fail to see how the mission statement of ACTA is an accurate reflection of its objectives when it fails to embrace any aspect of any healthy and open discussion or dialogue…namely respecting differing opinions and views. ACTA appear to be an arena for like-minded individuals to gather and condemn the Church, the Magisterium, the Holy Father, and anyone who may dare to disagree with ACTA’s outlook. Personally, I would have more respect for members of ACTA if they had the wisdom to achieve that which they set out to do, namely, to dialogue with those who have a different view than their own.

If ACTA were, for example, able to invite a speaker to address their gatherings, someone who could articulate in an accurate, educated, and balanced way, why the Church guards and upholds the deposit of faith, then I could possibly value their contribution. At present, this group portrays itself as an isolated entity actively promoting dissent and one which is fiercely opposed to anything and anyone who ‘looks to Peter and the Apostles’ for guidance, for governance, and for sanctification.

The present views of ACTA, a group which is absolutely not in communion with the Catholic Church, do nothing but promote confusion, rather than encourage people of faith to seek understanding.

As faithful Catholics, we are called to pray for and love the members of ACTA. There is no doubt in my mind that the members of this group are well intentioned. This intention is however, misguided and manipulated by a select few with a darker agenda, namely, to lead people away from Christ and His Church. Ultimately, the crisis experienced by members of this group stems from a lack of understanding, a lack of formation, and a lack of good solid catechesis, all of which is increasingly vital for the new evangelisation. This ‘lack’ is something that we can all share some blame in because of our failure to place the right and proper importance on catechesis. Our universal call to Holiness and also to evangelisation is something our Holy Father repeatedly highlights as paramount in an increasingly secular world. What the world needs today, are faithful members who are well formed and educated in their faith. There is an evident and sincere hunger for Truth amongst the faithful, evidenced by the fact that, for example, in contrast to the attendance at ACTA's Brentwood meeting, over one hundred parishioners from Leigh-on-Sea attend the Catholicism Project I have been running each week. The last thing the Church needs today is a distorted, manipulated or watered down version of the Truth which is fuelled by a utilitarian, relativist, even hedonistic philosophy.

Blessed Pope John Paul II articulated this perfectly when he stated "The person who becomes a disciple of Christ has the right to receive 'the word of faith' not in mutilated, falsified or diminished form, but whole and entire in all its rigour and vigour.” (Catechesi Tradendae, 30).

In this blog post, I have highlighted the opinions of the members of ACTA which are published on their website. I have sought to respond to these published statements in a balanced and pastoral manner, in order to defend that which ACTA appear to seek to destroy. Namely: TRUTH.
‘A Call to Action: We are a group of Catholics, many of whom are ordained, brought together by our love of Christ's church and our anxiety about its future. Still inspired by the Second Vatican Council we want to contribute fully to the life of our church so that we may be a more effective sign of the Kingdom of God. To do this, we believe that an atmosphere of openness and dialogue both with each other and with our bishops needs developing. We desire to help create a climate of trust and respect for all where this dialogue may be fostered.’
The mission statement of ACTA indicates that members of this association carry ‘Anxiety about the future of the Church’. Further reading and exploration of their website (which is poorly constructed and difficult to navigate around) illustrates that these anxieties are primarily centred around their desire to see an end to celibate priesthood, their desire to see the ordination of women to the presbyterate, their resistance to papal infallibility, their disagreement with Humane Vitae and disagreement the Magisterium on contraception, their desire to embrace gay marriage, their desire to discourage loyalty to the Holy Father, his Petrine ministry and respect for his authority and leadership and its frustration and disappointment at the use of Latin in the liturgy and the revision of the new translation of the Roman Missal, to name but a few. The mission statement also claims that members of this group are ‘still inspired by the Second Vatican Council’ implying that this is the reset of the Catholic Church is not.
‘Chris McDonnell, head teacher, spoke of the dream of Vatican II, which had not come true’.
The statement that the ‘dream’ of Vatican II which ‘has not come true’ again illustrates the false belief that those outside of this groups membership, i.e. the rest of the Catholic communion, have not embraced the documents of the Second Vatican Council. This constitutes a shocking and fundamental ignorance on the part of the members of ACTA. It is an ignorance which highlights the misguided belief that there is a movement amongst so called ‘conservative’ members of the Church to undermine, disassociate or deny the fruits of the Second Vatican Council. This misguided belief could not be further from the truth. Faithful, orthodox Catholics see the Second Vatican Council as a great gift to the Church which has and continues to be embraced. It is a council which was guided by the Holy Spirit and the grace which has come as a result of this allows one to open any of the documents or constitutions produced, and see them for what they really are. The beauty, truth and goodness in each of these documents is evident. Lumen Gentium, Dei Verbum, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Gaudium et Spes, Christus Dominus, Presbyterorum Ordinis, Apostolicam Actuositatem, to name but a few, each reflect a richness and vitality in our Church which I constantly refer to and quote in this blog, yet which sadly, due to the efforts of a select few utilitarianists, have been misrepresented by an agenda which is soaked in relativism. 
‘Humanae Vitae, 1968, was a big stumbling block to the vision of Vatican II. Many priests felt unable to comply, and its issues remain contentious still with many people following their consciences.’
Again, a lack of understanding and appreciation for the Magisterium, and a resistance or lack of wholesome catechesis has promulgated a mutilated truth. The suggestion that the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI is a ‘big stumbling block’ to the ‘vision’ of the Second Vatican Council is once again an example of the misguided understanding of the Magisterium, which is upheld by members of groups such as ACTA. Humanae Vitae sought to re-affirm the teaching of the Church regarding married love, responsible parenthood, and artificial contraception. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI called this topic "so controversial, yet so crucial for humanity's future". Humanae Vitae became "a sign of contradiction but also of continuity of the Church's doctrine and tradition... What was true yesterday is true also today.” 

In 2009, the then Fr. Philip Egan, now Bishop of Portsmouth, in an address at St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Soho, said: 
“It seems to me that there is a persuasive case for believing that the doctrine of Humanae Vitae, regardless of the pastoral difficulty it causes, regardless of the philosophical and theological arguments thrown against it, regardless of the historical conditioning of its Neo-Scholastic framework, has been, and is being taught infallibly, that is, irreversibly and without error, by the Church’s ordinary universal magisterium.” 
While the First Vatican Council defined papal infallibility in 1870, one must understand that the date on which a doctrine is officially defined is not the date on which it becomes true. Rather, it was always true. It is simply the case that different aspects of the Faith are challenged at different periods of history, and when a challenge occurs or a serious concern or question arises, then the Church will settle the difficulty by formally stating what the truth of the matter is, to end the confusion. So papal infallibility has always been true, and, moreover, was accepted and practised from the earliest times.

The evidence that papal infallibility is part of the Christian Faith comes from three sources, namely Scripture, History, and Logic. In Sacred Scripture, we see on numerous occasions the gift of papal infallibility is demonstrated: 
“Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church; to you I give the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven"
"Do you love me, Peter. Feed my sheep"
"I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail. You in turn must confirm your brethren"
...have always been taken to refer to a special role for Peter in the establishment of the Church, and special divine protection for Peter in the exercise of his authority.

From the earliest of times in the history of the Church, the successor of Peter has had special authority. An example of this is illustrated in how pontiffs always had the decisive word at general councils, as when the Fathers of the Council of Chalcedon said in response to the Papal definition of the two natures of Christ, "Peter has spoken through Leo", and accepted it unhesitatingly. It is clear even from Scripture that Peter had a special commission and special powers from Christ to care for the flock of Christ, to bind and loose, and to confirm his brothers in faith. Indeed he had the very powers of the keys to the Kingdom. Obviously, these powers were essential to the Church as constituted by Christ. And Christ promised to be with the Church always to the end of time, and said that the powers of hell would not prevail against it.

When the Pope (1) intends to teach (2) by virtue of his supreme authority (3) on a matter of faith and morals (4) to the whole Church, he is preserved by the Holy Spirit from error. His teaching act is therefore called "infallible" and the teaching which he articulates is termed "irreformable".
‘Women are still not sufficiently involved in the real life of the Church (i.e. beyond flower arranging and cleaning)’.
One has only to visit any parish community, any hospital or hospice, or any Catholic school, to see how the vast majority of people in leadership roles such as Ministers of the Word, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Catechists, Teachers, Pastoral Workers, Lay Chaplaincies, and School Governors are women. Indeed, without women in these ministries, our Church would be crippled, and unable to be faithful in its mission, falling short of the first vocation of all the baptised, which is to evangelise. To belittle the vital and valued ministry of women in the Church is insulting and misguided to say the least. 

This statement also causes me to be mindful also of those who joyfully give so much of themselves to create beauty, stillness and comfort in the house of God, for the benefit of others. I am constantly humbled in admiration for women of faith who are involved in flower arranging and cleaning and feel we should all challenge the small minded opinion that their contribution is not valued.
‘The second question asked whether the Church should know more about the role of women in the early Church... Tom noted how we are all creatures of the times in which we live, and how in the first days of the Church it would have been unthinkable for anyone but a man to be host at a dinner; (he would be the presider). But our understanding of host and presider has changed radically and there is space to bring this to the question of an ordained woman presider at Mass.’… ‘Their argument begins by pointing out that the claim by JP II that his ruling is firmly rooted in scripture is simply false. It continues by pointing out that the claim this ruling should be considered infallible, is equally suspect - as the conditions for infallibility had not been met….‘The majority of Catholics…in fact support the ordination of women - and of those who do not, many would agree that the subject deserves discussion. For this reason, we who have the freedom to discuss it without fear for our careers and livelihoods should do so. Our message is that we believe the sensus fidelium is that the exclusion of women from the priesthood has no strong basis in Scripture or any other compelling rationale; therefore, women should be ordained. We have heard the faithful assent to this in countless conversations in parish halls, lecture halls and family gatherings. It has been studied and prayed over individually and in groups. The brave witness of the Women's Ordination Conference, as one example, gives us assurance that the faithful have come to this conclusion after prayerful consideration and study -- yes, even study of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.’
The language used here speaks volumes. ‘Dinner’, ‘woman presider’, ‘host’…again this demonstrates a deep lack of understanding of the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our lives as Catholics. It also illustrates the need for catechesis and formation in understanding the precious gift of priesthood. ACTA argue that Blessed Pope John Paul II ‘freely chose to ignore the pontifical biblical commission’s recommendation to ordain women to the presbyterate’. Again, this is an example of yet another ‘mutilated truth’. In 1977, the Pontifical Biblical Commission was asked to study the role of women in Sacred Scripture in the course of research being carried out to determine the place that can be given to women today in the Church.

The study by this commission, under the presidency of Franjo Cardinal Seper, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation For the Doctrine of the Faith, concluded that ‘It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate.’ From this statement, the ACTA agenda has misrepresented the truth. Blessed Pope John Paul II thankfully received the report of the commission, and rightly declared in 1994 that the Church does not have the power to ordain women. He stated,
"Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgement that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful" (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 4).
The authority of the Church has been absolutely consistent on the issue of the male-only priesthood. Theologians have thought through the centuries that it belongs to the deposit of faith, and that's what the late Holy Father made crystal clear. The “deposit of faith" is the body of unchangeable teachings, found in Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, entrusted by Christ to the Apostles and handed on (this is where we get the word tradition from: trader—to hand on) by them to the Church.

The Church's most explicit explanation of its teaching on women's ordination, recounts that beginning with early Church leaders such as St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen and St. John Chrysostom, and extending through the middle ages down to the recent popes, the male-only priesthood was an unquestioned tradition.
‘At the time of Vatican II there was the great notion that the Spirit was breathing everywhere and on everyone. This squared well with subsidiarity and with local solutions being the best. But our over-centralised Church does not help this.’… ‘Authoritarianism is rife in the Church, and it is the enemy of truth. Fear keeps the lid on things.’… ‘We need to lose fear and how blind loyalty to the pope is not healthy… ‘A "No to Peters Pence" campaign might be an idea to consider …. I doubt Rome is interested in our opinion but it will be interested in our pounds, shillings and pence . . .’
This statement is another misguided understanding of ecclesiology. The Catholic Church, whilst it is universal and salvific, it is centred on Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, which is the deposit of faith, visibly protected and upheld by the successor of St. Peter, who appointed by Christ Jesus Himself, is succeeded in his Petrine ministry by our present Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ on Earth, who is called to ‘teach, govern and sanctify’ the faithful, with his appointed co-workers, the college of bishops, as successors to the apostles.
'How can a foreign country impose a translation of the Mass on the English- speaking world?'
A misguided and distorted understanding of the universality of the Church. The revision of the ‘new’ translation of the mass sought to emphasise this universality, following the introduction of the liturgy in the vernacular following the council. It is right and proper that the liturgy celebrated is consistent across the world.
‘Concerning the appointment of a bishop, the people of a diocese should have a major say… The Vatican has the power to impose by coercion its own vision on bishops and approved Catholic theologians, but not on the rest of the faithful.’
Following every vacant see, there is a consultation amongst the laity, where the nuncio requests the faithful to contact him with their thoughts on appropriate candidates. 

The Brentwood meeting has been led by Tony Castle who is well known in my area, I know him, he taught my wife RE at her secondary school. He was ordained for Southwark Arch-diocese in the sixties and was vocations director at one point. He left the priest hood, was laicised and got married. He has written lots of material of catechesis, I have a couple of his books, they are well intentioned, he is a nice man, but they are perhaps best described as exactly what you would expect. Tony is living in the sixties. He walked away from his ministry and has never gotten over it. He needs to stop leading people away from the Church of Christ, he needs to stop trying to raise dissent and problems, and use his not inconsiderable talents to build up the Church.

It is much easier to criticise and tear at authority than it is to build something up. 

The picture in this blog is of Monday's visit by the Holy Father to the VEC. Offerimus Tibi Domine offers this wonderful antidote to this blog post here, which accentuates zeal for the faith and loyalty to the Apostolic See. The Pope's speech is a real gem, well worth a read. I hope Tony and co. read it and reflect on their role in our Church.


  1. As a woman, I do get rather fed up with people talking about the Church denying their right to be ordained and citing cleaning and flower arranging as the only paths open to them in the Church. Firstly, cleaning and flower arranging are extremely important ways of serving God and one's parish community, and secondly the vocation of the laity is a beautitful one and an equally valid path to holiness as the priesthood and consecrated life. /rant (sorry!)

    The Women's Section of the PC for the Laity has an interesting editorial on their website this month which relates to this:


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