Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI): UPDATE

Jan 2, 2018 | 4 comments

In his four plus years, Pope Francis has had a profound impact on the church. True, he has not changed the church’s position on birth control, celibacy, women priests and gay marriage, but he has fundamentally changed how we see the church in five ways as outlined by Fr. Thomas Reese.

(1) the pope has called for a new way of evangelizing. He tells us that the first words of evangelization must be about the compassion and mercy of God, rather than a list of dogmas and rules that must be accepted…. His message is the message of the Gospel – it is about the Father’s love for his people and their responsibility to love one another….

(2) Pope Francis is allowing open discussion and debate in the church. He is not scandalized by disagreements, even over doctrine. It is impossible to exaggerate how extraordinary this is. Only during Vatican II was such a debate possible…. During the last two papacies, dissent was roundly condemned and suppressed. The theologies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI could not be questioned…. Under Francis, synodal participants were encouraged by the pope to speak their minds boldly and not worry about disagreeing with him….One no longer hears of theologians being investigated and silenced. This is extremely important if theology is to develop and deal with contemporary issues in a way that is understandable by people of the 21st century.

(3) Cardinal Burke and the pope’s critics are right; the pope is presenting a new way of thinking about moral issues in Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia. He is moving the church away from an ethics based on rules to one based on discernment…. Under this approach to moral theology, it is possible to see holiness and grace in the lives of imperfect people, even those in irregular marriages. Rather than seeing the world as divided between the good and the bad, we are all seen as wounded sinners for whom the church serves as a field hospital where the Eucharist is food for the wounded rather than a reward for the perfect….

(4) the pope has raised environmental issues to a central place in the Catholic faith. He recognizes that global warming may be the most important moral issue of the 21st century. In his encyclical, Laudato Si’, the pope tells us that ‘Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience….’

(5) the pope has moved to reform the governance structures of the church. True, reform of the Roman Curia has proceeded slowly, but it is happening….More importantly, he is trying to change the culture of the clergy, moving them away from clericalism to a vocation of service. He wants bishops and priests to see themselves as servants of the people of God, not princes. Most important for the protection of his legacy, he has broken with tradition and seized control of the process for appointing cardinals….He has reached into the college of bishops for cardinals that reflect his priorities and values. This increases the chances that his successor, elected by these cardinals, will continue his agenda and not roll back the changes that he has made.”

While the Holy Father may not be moving as quickly as some of us would want, let us take pride in what Francis has accomplished. When he comes under attack, we have chosen to offer him our support. Go now to to sign two letters in support of Pope Francis: the first “Pro Pope Francis,” begun in Vienna, Austria and Prague, Czechoslovakia and the second “Pro Pope Francis,” begun in Spain. Pope Francis has gained the love and respect of so many – both Christians and non-Christians around the world.He has reached out across international and ecumenical borders. He has encouraged young people to “make some noise” and has urged all of us to “bother our pastors.” He has said to the LGBT community: “Who am I to judge?” He has envisioned the governance of the Church as an upside down pyramid with the people at the top. He has created a Dicastery for the laity opening the way for the Faithful to have a greater role in the Church.He is seriously opening thee possibility of married clergy.

We are grateful for your continued support and are fully aware that, unless we the People speak out, reform of our Church will never happen. As you consider making an end-of-the-year donation, we would appreciate any support you may offer. CCRI is fully committed to these series of Forums of the People of God and all contributions we receive this year will go toward this cause. 

As we say goodbye to the old year and welcome in the new, let us continue to pull together to work for the reform of our Church. While it may seem that Pope Francis is moving slowly, he is clearly advancing the Church purposefully toward a more welcoming, inclusive, and merciful Communion of us all. Although there are members of the hierarchy who speak out against him accusing him of heresy, all the more reason that he needs our ongoing support and why we appreciate your personal and financial support in our ongoing work to bring about reform in our Church. As our Jesuit adviser, Gaston Roberge, reminds us: “Alone, the pope cannot change the Church. A pope for the people needs a people for the Pope.” Much is happening in 2018 to bring about needed renewal in our Church.

Following on the two Synods of Bishops Francis has called, CCRI has joined with the Brazilian Conference of Bishops in declaring 2018 the Year of the Laity. We are pleased to have joined with other reform movements to foster the role of the laity in encouraging people to speak out. We encourage everyone to join or start a small community of your own. We are working closely with Fr. Joe Healey in Nairobi, Kenya to work (1) through the Small Christian Communities asking those in attendance to let their needs be known and (2) calling periodic Zoom meetings with young people to support the Synod on Youth called by Pope Francis in October of this coming year. 
We have joined with Global Council Network to support their forthcoming series of Forums for the People of God. They have planned two international People’s Forums: one in Aparecida, Brazil in 2018 and one in Africa in 2021. And two additional national People’s Forums/Synods are planned: one called by the American Catholic Council (ACC) in October in a suburb of Dallas, Texas in 2018 and one called by Call to Action (CTA) in San Antonio, Texas in November of 2018. For any kind of reform to come, the people must have a voice. These Forums will provide a place for the People to speak out.
We will keep you posted on the details of these gatherings. But even if you cannot physically attend, you can be virtually present by visiting this website: As part of the preparation for these Synods, we have created this place in cyber space where you can make your voice heard and explore with others the reforms you’d like to see presented to the Vatican on behalf of the People of God.
There you can make your views made known:
1. By joining in the discussion on our blog.
2. By gathering people together in your community and exploring the changes you want to see in the Church. Click here to help you get started.
3. And most importantly, by sharing the outcomes of your discussions so that they can become part of the agenda of the various Forums. 
Let us offer our support of Pope Francis and give thanks for him
While our Holy Father has been accused of heresy and come under attack from members of the hierarchy and other right-winged groups, we have given him our support: Go there now to sign two letters offering him your support.The first Pro Pope Francis , begun in Austria and Czechoslovakia, has gained over 66,000 signatures to date. The  second Pro Papa Francisco, begun in Spain. We know Francis appreciates this support since we received a notice that Pope Francis likes our Facebook page.

Wishing you every blessing for this New Year,
Rene Reid
CCRI director


  1. soconaill

    This is a truly useful summary of the ‘Francis Programme’. Point 1 is exactly the point made by Aidan Hart in his 2015 article for ACI ‘First comes the experience of God’s unconditional love’,

    Most important: no one needs the permission of anyone else to implement that evangelical priority right away. Ireland is fertile soil for what the Pope is likely to teach next August, and we in ACI can be spreading that message right now.

  2. Lloyd Allan MacPherson


    How does one spread that message?

    • soconaill

      I can’t be directive in that regard, Lloyd Allan. I can only direct myself – to be positive, affirmative, encouraging in my engagements with others these times, as those others will be, like myself, inclined to be too self-critical in regard to the ‘fine mess we have gotten ourselves into’. I constantly need to remind myself that after all the Lord is still with us: that’s prayer rather than analysis and planning, but it is key to positivity and to countering that anxiety that lies at the root of all futile endeavour and acquisitiveness.

  3. Anthony Neville

    It is difficult to see how we can spread the message. We are in a mess and how can I do anything about it? We are the leaven in the pews, we have to be the change we want to see. It is only by taking some small action that we can start to overcome the fear and inadequacy we feel when facing the problem.

    Join the ACI.
    Add your name to the Support Francis Movement.
    Speak to like minded people in your community.
    Join community groups if they exist in your area.
    Speak to your parish priests, ensure there is support shown for Francis’ efforts.


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