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Liberal Catholics to discuss future of church

By Chris Boyette, CNN
  • American Catholic Council hosting conference in Detroit
  • Goals include greater transparency, recommitment to social justice
  • Detroit archbishop urges Catholics to stay away from conference
  • More conservative group will meet in nearby Livonia

(CNN) -- Left-leaning Catholics from around the globe will convene in Detroit this weekend for a meeting to discuss what they believe to be the need for reform, openness and greater democracy within the church, according to the American Catholic Council, the organization hosting the convention.

The council is a coalition of more than 30 Catholic reform groups dedicated to opening discussion about the current state and future of the church.

Calling the conference "a weekend of worship, education and dialogue," convention organizers intend to call for financial transparency and democratic decision-making within the church, a recommitment to social justice, marriage options for priests and greater roles for women, possibly including the priesthood.

To arrive at these discussion points, conference organizers held forums with Catholics across the country.

"We've held 'listening sessions' all over, asking Catholics, 'what does being Catholic mean to you?' 'What issues within the church are important in your geographical area?' and 'How do we resolve current conditions causing problems within the church?' " said Janet Hauter, co-chairwoman of the council.

According to Hauter, the conference expects 1,500 to 1,800 people Friday through Sunday.

Some Catholics do not agree with the American Catholic Council's views. Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron sent a letter to local priests and deacons Friday, warning Catholics to stay away from the conference, especially the Mass scheduled for Sunday.

"To confirm the legitimacy of what they had planned, the ACC had been asked to provide details regarding this liturgy," the letter read. "The response received was ambiguous, and there are good reasons for believing forbidden concelebration will take place by the laity and with those not in full communion with the Church."

Vigneron cited a lack of communication on the part of conference organizers for failing to gain the blessing of the church.

"The idea that we are a schism is a farce," Hauter said. "Our liturgy will fall within the norms and rules of the church."

She continued, "A year ago, we sent a copy of everything we had to the diocese and heard nothing back.

"Every time the diocese released another statement against the conference, our registration went up, so that must tell you something," she said.

According to the Archdiocese of Detroit, it will support a more conservative conference the same weekend in Livonia, Michigan, promoting church doctrine and traditional views.