Part II: Paulists' RENEW 2000 Is Just a Front For Call To Action
BARABOO, Wis. — In reviewing the RENEW 2000 materials, it became clear that, while the program had a "Catholic" shine to it and employed a vocabulary vaguely enough Catholic to deceive the unwary, a cursory examination of the "sources" behind the program reveals its insidious, even diabolical, agenda.
RENEW 2000-CTA Connections
The RENEW 2000 materials that I reviewed (Small Christian Communities, Called to Lead, and several shorter texts) appear orthodox at first glance.
The name "Call to Action" appears nowhere in the materials. But the section entitled "Feminist Spirituality" is unadulterated CTA anti-Church agitprop. In it, one reads:
"The foundations of feminism are basically religious...."; "Many Christian women and men who recognize the relationship between many feminist goals and the realization of God's reign are developing a spirituality which integrates a feminist consciousness.... There has been an exclusive emphasis on male imagery when talking about God. When God is imaged as only masculine, we lose the particular expression of God that is feminine."
God is then described in the text as a "homemaker, midwife, baker woman, and mother hen." Then, in direct conflict with the Catechism and the Magisterium, the text states: "To refer to God exclusively in masculine pronouns like he, him, and his or in masculine images like father and king is to limit our perception of the divine."
The text promotes "integration of feminist consciousness," arguing that attitudes contradictory to feminist spirituality can be found in the church (small c), that such practices are "disturbing and painful," and that enlightened, feminist-minded people are "challenging" the church (Called to Lead, book 2, pp. 130-131).
The following section promotes an "Ecologically Sensitive Spirituality," a major CTA/dissident theme (one which exploits the otherwise good notion of ecology, misusing it to lead Catholics to dabble in paganism).
Herein, the text tells Catholics that we are to profoundly "reverence" the planet; that earth reverence is even a "moral priority"; and that feminist consciousness and earth reverence are linked and essential for "all Christians."
RENEW 2000 materials also echo the CTA mission to undercut the authority and reliability of Scripture, guarding against "too narrow" an approach to Scripture (Called to Lead, book 1).
The sacraments are similarly dethroned: "There is a more fundamental or primordial way in which God is with us" than merely "the seven sacraments," because "all of life is sacramental" and we should realize that "such things as sunsets are also God's presence in our midst." Catholics are taught that marriage as a sacrament was once "doubtful" and that theologians have considered "the question of how sexual intercourse could be a means of grace" (Called to Lead, book 1, pp. 5-9).
Throughout the RENEW 2000 materials appear the names of CTA-associated feminists and other CTA or dissident authors listed as RENEW 2000 contributors or in citations.
For example, RENEW 2000 quotes CTA feminist Sr. Sandra Schneiders (of "sacred sodomy" fame); Schneiders' photo appears on the cover of CTA News, receiving a standing ovation at a CTA conference for her speech promoting female priests. In the RENEW material, Schneiders is cited in Small Christian Communities ("A Vision of Hope"), pages 280 and 290, quoting from her book, New Wine Skins: Reimagining Religious Life Today (Paulist Press). Her books are also listed in the bibliographies for additional reading.
Other CTA names which appear in RENEW 2000 materials are: Monika Hellwig, Joann Wolski Conn, radical feminist Scripture scholar Elizabeth Johnson, rabid anti-Catholic Franciscan priest Michael Crosby, and New Age guru Thomas Berry.
The materials promoting so-called small faith communities (really, "no faith communities") recommend the works of Fr. Art Baranowski, a regular speaker at CTA conferences, including this year's in Milwaukee.
CTA News praises Baranowski, who says the goal of establishing small faith communities is to "reinvent the church, refound the church — with a different structure and leadership."
Utilizing this method, parishioners can be weaned away from traditional parish life, decentralizing into small faith communities which then elect leaders and maintain superficial ties to the parish; such groups, also called "house churches," can develop their own beliefs, prayers, and rituals (Crisis Online).
A primary goal of RENEW 2000 is to institute small faith communities. "The RENEW process is a stepping stone" to small faith communities and has already produced some 360,000 such groups (Small Christian Communities, p. 14).
"The great majority of those who had participated in RENEW said that it was one of the important influences on their decision to join a small community following their participation in RENEW," claims William D'Antonio in his foreword to RENEW 2000 Small Christian Communities.
Hellwig, a well-known modernist and dissenter, and Msgr. Philip J. Murnion, a disciple of the Marxist theoretician Paulo Freire, write the forewords for RENEW 2000 materials.
Hellwig's book, Understanding Catholicism, "rethinks" the meaning of the Eucharist and even the Resurrection. Hellwig, who is of Georgetown University and who is a foe of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, will speak at this year's CTA conference.
Murnion, a disciple of Call to Action instigator Msgr. John Egan, has been the U.S. bishops' major "expert" in "parish revitalization" and "development" for more than 20 years — a period of unprecedented decline in American Catholicism. He is also a principal author of the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin's controversial document, Called To Be Catholic, which was even repudiated by four American cardinals.
The CTA/lesbian pro-abortion Feminist's Prayer to the Four Great Spirits is also part of RENEW 2000 materials (Called to Lead, book 2). In this prayer/exercise, participants stand in a circle, arms outstretched, and pray to the "Great Spirits of the Four Directions, North, South, East, and West" and "to the Great Spirit of All That Is Below" — which is actually in the text of RENEW 2000, along with its author's name: Diann Neu, the lesbian-feminist CTA speaker.
Alarmingly, the idea of prayer to the "four directions" which Neu teaches RENEW 2000 participants is also an intrinsic part of WICCA (witchcraft) worship of the goddess, Gaia, according to WICCA web sites. (For example: http://members.aol.com/haheinz/gc10.htm#enneagram, p. 2. Warning: never view a witchcraft web site without consulting a spiritual director.)
RENEW 2000 Authors CTA Dues Payers
Call to Action was the spearhead for a 30-member group called Catholics Organized for Renewal (COR). To be a COR member, a group must: 1) be in agreement with CTA's written statement about renewal; 2) attend meetings; and 3) pay $150 per year to benefit CTA in part (igc.org/cta).
In researching RENEW 2000 materials and CTA/COR documents, two names are frequently seen and listed as heads of CTA-COR dues-paying groups: John O'Brien and William Thompson (also editor for CTA News).
O'Brien, a leader of CORPUS, Baltimore, an association of dissident ex-priests led by Anthony Padovano, is quoted in RENEW 2000's book on Leadership and ministry, and his books are listed on the RENEW web site in the section on small Christian communities.
Thompson, staff coordinator for COR, appears in RENEW 2000 in the leadership manual Called to Lead, book 1, p. 146.
Note the issues represented by the following list of groups which are among the 30 CTA-COR groups:
• Conference of Catholic Lesbians, Dignity (gay/lesbian group);
• Catholics for a Free Choice (pro-abortion);
• Chicago Catholic Women (all-female small faith communities that celebrate "mass" in their homes without a priest);
• Creation Spirituality (sponsored the "Seven Chakras" workshop mentioned in the previous article);
• New Ways Ministry (homosexualist group).
RENEW 2000 materials also feature CTA-linked "renewal" groups.
Neu (author of the prayer to the "four directions") is a cofounder of WATER (Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual), a group which CTA lists in its online link directory (www.call-to-action.org/resfulldirectory.html).
WATER appears in the RENEW 2000 materials, as do many other CTA-linked groups.
RENEW 2000 even recommends that Catholics join some of these groups, such as Pax Christi (Small Christian Communities, p. 254); Pax Christi appears 13 times on the CTA list. Another example: "Join ... Global Education Associates (GEA)," says one RENEW 2000 booklet.
GEA works with UN agencies (see web site) to create "a human world order" (RENEW Conversion booklet, p. 42). GEA's founder, Pat Mische, is promoted in Call to Action's calendar of events (call-to-action.org).
Further, GEA's own web site address is igc.org/gea, which should be significant to Catholics because the igc.org title page (IGC stands for Institute for Global Communications) features this statement: "ALERT: Protect Minors' Access to Abortion" (igc.org/igc). Despite these alarming associations, Pat and Gerry Mische are nonetheless quoted in RENEW 2000 texts.
Pat and Gerry Mische's GEA, according to their own web site (http://www.igc.org/gea), is "a partnership of individuals and organizations in 90 countries working to enable people to understand and respond constructively to the crises and opportunities of today's interdependent world. Emphasis is on the development of global ethics, values, and systems related to peace, economic well-being, ecological balance, human rights, and democratic participation.... Project Global 2000, a global partnership for a humane and just world order. PG 2000 is an international partnership of United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations....
"GEA affiliates, partners, and associates are linking their personnel, expertise, and institutions in partnership with four UN agencies on behalf of Education for ALL (EFA).... EFA was launched at the 1990 World Conference on Education for All with the cosponsorship of UNICEF, UNESCO, the United Nations Development Program, and the World Bank."
A brief sampling of other CTA-associated names in RENEW 2000 materials shows Fr. Patrick ("the old Church is dead") Brennan (Chicago, national-level CTA speaker); Fr. Michael Crosby, O.F.M. Cap. (Milwaukee, national keynote speaker for CTA); Mary Hunt (CTA celebrity and frequent CTA speaker, also the life companion of RENEW 2000 prayer author Neu [Catholic World Report, January, 1996, p. 30]); retired Archbishop Peter L. Gerety, while not in the RENEW materials, was the archbishop of Newark when the RENEW program was launched.
ChristSophia, a female Christ with a pierced nose, is promoted in a 1992 video series featuring RENEW 2000 coordinator and coauthor of the primary RENEW 2000 text Margo LeBert.
LeBert is coordinator for RENEW 2000 and has been "American coordinator for the international office of RENEW in Plainfield, N.J." She coauthored the primary RENEW 2000 text, Small Christian Communities.
A few years ago, LeBert was featured in a video series called InnerAction.
InnerAction and Call to Action are associated with many of the same theologians, writers, and groups. Most disturbing, however, is that the InnerAction program in which RENEW 2000 coordinator and author LeBert appears approvingly features a large, full-color icon of "ChristSophia," a female Christ with a pierced nose holding a naked, faceless fertility goddess doll with huge bare breasts.
This program recommends "to the Christian community" a new "ritual," including 16 "special chants" to the earth, to plants, to the "sisters" (special powers that help people), to powers that bring rain, to the four being powers, and to the spirit of Handsome Lake (InnerAction Cultural Blessings participant magazine, pp. 8 and 27).
Another presenter in RENEW 2000 coordinator LeBert's InnerAction series is Fr. Richard Rohr. He also heads a CTA-associated organization (Center for Action and Contemplation) and founded another (New Jerusalem).
Rohr, who has presided at the "weddings" of same-sex couples, also writes books about "enneagrams." "Enneagrams" and their concomitant "enneagram trances" are not in the Catechism, but an Internet search of the word reveals that enneagrams are a part of (again!) the WICCA (witchcraft) and paganism web sites.
Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., has declared that the Call to Action movement "is often disguised as a sincere effort to 'renew' the Catholic Church" but masks a "hidden agenda and poison fruit which the noisier dissenters never tire of offering to their unsuspecting victims."
RENEW 2000 fits this description perfectly.
If RENEW 2000 is in your diocese, please consider copying this article and asking your bishop to make specific comments on the documentation above.
Note: Many CTA name links can be found in Call to Action News. Vol. 18, n. 1 (March–April, 1996) lists past and future CTA celebrities and speakers. Some RENEW 2000-CTA names can be found at www.renew-intl.org/catalog.htm. CTA's online site includes hundreds of CTA-affiliated names (www.call-to-action.org). Other links: Use a web search combining names and terms.
([Elizabeth] Roney Drennan is an attorney in Baraboo, Wis. Much of the research found in this report will also appear in a separate review of RENEW 2000 to be published by Women for Faith and Family.)
© The Wanderer, 201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107, 612-224-5733.
This item 530 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org