Call to Action

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the Christian organization in the United States. For other uses, see call to action (disambiguation).

Call to Action (CTA) is an American organization that advocates a variety of changes in the Catholic Church. Call to Action's goals include 1) women's equality, 2) an end to mandatory priestly celibacy, 3) changes in the church's teaching on a variety of sexual matters, a 4) change to the way the church is governed, and 5) racial justice.[citation needed] Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re of the Congregation for Bishops said in 2006 that some of CTA's views are "in contrast" with Catholic faith, and there has been considerable controversy about the organisation from the start. [1] The Diocese of Lincoln has placed the group under the ban of excommunication within the diocese, and several other bishops have censured the organization.


In 1971, Pope Paul VI wrote that the laity of the Catholic Church should "take up as their own proper task the renewal of the temporal order". He further wrote that, "it is to all Christians that we address a fresh and insistent call to action."[2] In response to this, the bishops of the United States put together the Call to Action Conference in Detroit, Michigan in 1976 .

At the conclusion of the three-day conference, the 1,340 delegates voted that the Catholic Church should "reevaluate its positions on issues like celibacy for priests, the male-only clergy, homosexuality, birth control, and the involvement of every level of the church in important decisions," though they never explicitly proposed changing the Church's position on these issues. They also called for an end to racism, sexism, and militarism in the United States.[3]

Although many of the United States bishops were sympathetic to the political aims of Call to Action, most of them disavowed or avoided discussing the conference's demands for changes to doctrine and organization within the Catholic Church. As a result, the Call to Action organization that was born out of the Detroit conference was run by laity. By 1978, it had been securely established in Chicago, and by the 1980s it had spread throughout the United States.

Controversies involving Call to Action[edit]

Ideological aspects[edit]

The Call To Action community seeks to empower lay Catholics to use their beliefs and lived experiences for change within the Catholic Church. This approach, however, is opposed by many Catholic groups.[4] Call to Holiness, founded by Mother Angelica in 1996, was formed specifically to counter Call to Action,[5] seeking to advance a Catholicism deeply rooted in the Magisterium.

The Call to Action Conference also highlighted a potential rift within the "liberal" wing of the U.S. Catholic experience, what Father Andrew Greeley described in anticipation of the conference (which was only one part of the Catholic American Bicentennial Process), as a demarcation between the “old" Catholic social action and the “new" or the “pre-Berrigan” and “post-Berrigan” approaches to activism. (c.f.Daniel Berrigan and Philip Berrigan, 2 well known priests and activists). In “Catholic Social Activism – Real or Rad/Chic?”, Father Greeley saw the old social- justice action in labor schools, worker priests, and community organizing that “mastered the politics of coalition building with the system.”[citation needed] On the other hand, the “new” Catholic action came out of the Berrigan brothers' experience during the Vietnam war and the peace movement, and was thus involved in confrontation and protest. Call to Action, it would seem represents that "new", tradition. "[6]

Reactions from the Catholic hierarchy and theologians[edit]

Catholic church leaders have also criticized Call to Action, primarily because they believe that the moral and juridical positions of the organization run counter to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Some, however, have given public support. At the 1995 Call to Action conference, for example, the titular bishop of Partenia, Jacques Gaillot, the auxiliary Bishop of Detroit Thomas Gumbleton, and theologian Hans Küng (whose authority to teach theology in a Catholic institution was rescinded), were among the featured speakers. Other theologians, such as Charles Curran and Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister are also supporters of the organization.[7][8]

In recent years, Bishop Gumbleton (now retired) has been the only member of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy to publicly support Call to Action. When Call to Action sponsored a speech by Gumbleton in Tucson, Arizona in February 2007, the Bishop of Tucson, Gerald F. Kicanas, refused permission for it to be delivered on diocesan property.[9]

Excommunications in Lincoln, Nebraska[edit]

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 several organizations within his diocese, including Call to Action.[10] The excommunications did not apply beyond the 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."[1][11] The Congregation for Bishops was not issuing a doctrinal statement here but rather a juridical statement saying that Bishop Bruskewitz had acted properly within his own jurisdiction as ordinary of the Diocese of Lincoln. However, Cardinal Re's statement did include strongly worded doctrinal criticisms as well, even to the extent of saying that " be a member of this association or to support it is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic faith."[12] Yet the organization has continued with a wide range of activities including annual conferences and regional groups, and in 2013 it attempted to broaden its appeal under the tagline, "Inspire Catholics, Transform Church".[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hansen, S.L. (December 8, 2006). "Vatican affirms excommunication of Call to Action members in Lincoln". Catholic News Service. Retrieved January 14, 2015. 
  2. ^ Octogesima Adveniens, Apostolic Letter of Pope Paul VI, from the Vatican on May 14, 1971, paragraph 48. Available at
  3. ^ See the Call to Action website at
  4. ^ c.f. George A. Kelly, The Battle for the American Church (Doubleday, 1979), and Joseph Bottum, "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano", First Things, October 2006, pp. 30-31
  5. ^ "Call To Holiness". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  6. ^ Andrew Greeley, "Catholic Social Activism: Real or Rad/Chic?" The National Catholic Reporter February 7, 1975.
  7. ^ "Loyal Dissent". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  8. ^ "Chittister: One of a kind at Call to Action gathering". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  9. ^ Arizona Daily Star, Jan. 30, 2007, online at [1].
  10. ^ The bishop's statement can be found here [2]. Under canon law (including canons 1323 and 1324 §3), automatic penalties (including interdict and excommunication) require certain conditions to be fulfilled, and thus members of Call to Action in the Diocese of Lincoln would not necessarily be excommunicated by this edict.
  11. ^ Associated Press, "Vatican Upholds Neb. Excommunications", at [3].
  12. ^, "Vatican confirms excommunication for US dissident group", at [4]; Catholic News Service, "Vatican affirms excommunication of Call to Action members in Lincoln", at]
  13. ^ 'Mission', Call to Action website

External links[edit]