A group of Vermont Catholics says the time is right for more dialogue between members of the church and the Roman Catholic Diocese Of Burlington.
Concerned Catholics Of Vermont plans to organize a forum to talk about the issues facing the church.
According to organizer Gary Chicoine, communication between the Church and parishioners has largely been a monologue: The Church speaks, laity listens.
“As a lifelong practicing Catholic, I'm concerned about lack of opportunity for true dialogue within the church between members of the laity and the clergy,” he says.
The group hopes to convince the diocese and Vermont Catholics to come together to talk about issues like declining church attendance and the shortage of priests. The group hasn’t taken positions on controversial social issues.
Chicoine says the idea for the group predates the departure of Vermont Bishop Salvatore Matano for the Diocese of Rochester in New York, but he sees the vacancy at the Burlington diocese as an opportunity.
“We look to the future with renewed hope for a bishop who will bring fresh ideas and perhaps a fresh openness to the initiative that we’re putting forth,” he says.
Concerned Catholics Of Vermont has written to church leaders asking them for a bishop who will listen to the laity.
Monsignor John McDermott is currently the senior administrator at the Burlington diocese.
In an email, McDermott said in the absence of a bishop, the diocese isn’t in a position to endorse the group’s proposal for a forum.
McDermott said the appointment of a new Vermont bishop could take a year or longer.
Chicoine says the forum won’t be scheduled until a new bishop arrives in Vermont. At that point he hopes the diocese will agree to participate in the forum.
“Ideally, we would share in the planning of the event with the diocese, but assuming there is widespread positive response we would be prepared to proceed with or without the diocese,” he says.
Chicoine doesn’t expect the fundamental teachings of the Church will change under Pope Francis, but sees him as a someone who will bring more openness to the Church.