By William McDonough
RAYMOND A. LUCKER (1927-2001): Bishop-herald of catechesis for conversion in an adult church. Lucker earned two doctoral degrees - one in sacred theology and the other in education. He came to national recognition when he was appointed director of the Office of Education of the United States Catholic Conference in 1968. He organized the two-year consultation that eventually produced the US Bishops' 1972 "Pastoral Message on Catholic Education"; and he is credited with developing the consultative process by which the American Catholic bishops functioned for at least twenty years after issuing that statement. In 1971 he was ordained auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and in late 1975 was appointed bishop of the rural Minnesota diocese of New Ulm. He served 73,000 Catholics of the fifteen county area from 1976 to 2000. He died of cancer just nine months after his retirement as Bishop of New Ulm. His date of death is September 19, 2001.
Introduction - Lucker and the upheavals of Catholic education/catechesis
This essay traces the development of Raymond Lucker's thinking about catechesis in the church through three chronological periods of his ministry. No doubt dividing his contribution into periods oversimplifies his life and thought. But doing so also demonstrates how (and how well) both he and the American Catholic hierarchy in general faced the huge change in the church's status during the twentieth century - its move from being a church of immigrants focused on educating children to being a church of adults at the center of American culture. Raymond Lucker's life in religious education is the story of a man trained to focus on the religious education of children becoming a passionate advocate for the church as the place of adult catechesis for conversion.
1972 provides a context-setting point for the essay. That year saw the publication of the American bishops' "Pastoral Message on Catholic Education" (To Teach as Jesus Did). We start here because Lucker was one of the key figures behind that message, the organizer of the process that produced it. And this document was really the first national contribution he made to the American church, beginning his almost thirty years as a major and controversial voice in catechetical renewal in the American Catholic Church.
As a religious education theorist's critique of the 1972 document shows, Lucker came into leadership in American Catholic religious education in a time of huge upheaval, with a renewal begun but not yet clear in its direction. In 1971 the Vatican produced its own educational statement - the General Catechetical Directory -to which the 1972 "Pastoral Message" was the American bishops' response. We will see Lucker's direct role in the document later. But for now the following critique of it is more important, since it captures both the upheavals of the time and the uncertainty of the bishops' response to them:
The dialectic of the Pastoral Message seems to recapitulate and reflect the history of the American Catholic educational effort. For nearly a century 'Catholic education' or 'religious education' … meant the systematic work which went on in the schools…In recent times, opportunities and occasions of learning expanded in the Church: the vernacular, and fuller lay participation in the liturgy, flexibility and options in planning and conducting liturgical and para-liturgical rites, involvement of the laity in parish life. These new learnings are the basis of the argument of the Message…
[But] even when an argument for new forms of education is made, it frequently happens that the school model is carried over in the mind. Religious education, even for adults, is conceived of almost exclusively in terms of schooling and formal lectures. The Pastoral Message does not avoid this trap… Something is lost … when catechetics is considered under the rubric of education. (Heath, 1973, 285, 287)
Lucker - a priest trained in the catechesis of young people, who then became director of a diocesan youth religious education program for more than a decade and superintendent of Catholic schools in the same diocese for half a decade - found himself in 1968 in Washington, directing the newly reorganized Department of Education of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops: "Lucker's prime task was to coordinate programs and services of previously autonomous offices of the …schools, campus ministry, CCD, adult education, and youth ministry" (McManus, 1973, 281).
This biographical essay summarizes how Lucker approached this "coordinating" task for which neither he nor his church had been prepared, both while he was in Washington and in his thirty years as a bishop in two dioceses in Minnesota. The three successive steps by which we will outline Lucker's approach to his task as catechetical leader are: first, his recognition that the educating mission of the church is primarily aimed at conversion rather than at simple instruction; second, his growing realization that if conversion is at the center, then catechesis is primarily directed to adults, not children; and, third, his increasingly clear and controversial articulation of the structural-institutional implications for a church - and especially its bishops - that wants to educate adults for conversion.
The story will end with Lucker's death to melanoma on September 19, 2001 - by then, paradoxically, a man both deeply admired by his brother bishops and no longer in the mainstream of their views. For, unlike Lucker, the bishops of the United States would finish the century unable to free themselves from the "trap" of trying to fit an adult catechetical renewal into a traditional "school model." So will this intellectual-biographical sketch argue.
This sketch's three sections are arranged chronologically around Lucker's three successive recognitions. Within each section, Lucker's writings are taken - with just a few exceptions - in chronological order. This sketch ends with a summarizing conclusion, which briefly brings together the contribution of this great Catholic herald of catechesis in an adult church.
Period One - 1952-early 1970s: Lucker comes to understand the principal aim of catechesis as conversion
Raymond Lucker calls Archbishop Edwin O'Hara (1881-1956) the "modern founder of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine" in the United States, and a primary influence in his own life in ministry: "I knew him and I was challenged by him. He had a strong influence on my development as a priest" (Lucker, 1994, 2-3; see Lucker, 2000, 140-143).
Born in rural Minnesota where he attended Lutheran summer bible schools and ordained a priest from the St. Paul Seminary in 1905, O'Hara came to see as wishful thinking the often-expressed dream of "every Catholic child in a Catholic school." Instead he thought that "the greatest need in the Church was [for] an educated laity, people who were committed to their faith and were interested in handing it on to others. He called for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine to be organized in every parish" (Lucker, 1994, 12).
Unlike O'Hara, Raymond A. Lucker was not a farm kid. A city kid, born in St. Paul on February 24, 1927, he was the third of six children. His father (Alphonse) worked for the railroad, but "died quickly and without warning in the middle of the night, at the age of forty-two, the day before [Lucker] began the eighth grade" (Lucker, 2000, 263). Lucker's mother, Josephine Schiltgen Lucker, was a farm girl (and almost outlived her son, dying at the age of 100 barely a year before him - see Lucker, 2000, 547). Much of Raymond's young life was spent working summers on the Schiltgen farm east of the Twin Cities.
So by the time he entered high school seminary at the age of fourteen, Lucker was ready to be influenced by the church leader who tied the renewal of Catholic education to the renewal of the land. O'Hara's vision quickly became Lucker's vocation. After completing six years in the "minor seminary" (four years of high school and the first two years of college) Lucker entered St. Paul Seminary - from which O'Hara had been ordained in 1905. The seminary had been granted authority to award M.A. degrees in church history in the 1940s, and Lucker's 1952 unpublished M.A. thesis, Some aspects of the life of Thomas Langdon Grace, second bishop of St. Paul, is still in the library there. Like O'Hara (and, ultimately, like Lucker), Grace was a rural bishop: he came to St. Paul in 1849, when the diocese encompassed all of Minnesota and the Dakota territories east of the Missouri River. Grace served for thirty-five years, writing more than a dozen pastoral letters and hundreds of "circular" letters to the people of his diocese.
Lucker's thesis on Grace began a life-long passion with Grace's letters, and he published as complete a collection of the letters as could be assembled in 2001 (they appeared just a month before Lucker died), with the request for anyone who might know of other "pastoral letters …to contact the St. Paul Catholic Historical Society" (see Lucker, 2001, iii.) During his own time as bishop of New Ulm, Lucker would publish about 205 informal pastoral letters in the diocesan newspaper and one more formal letter co-issued with the bishop of a neighboring diocese. His own informal letters have been collected and published and form much of the basis of the present essay. (There are two collections: Lucker's complete letters are published in chronological order as Prairie Views: Twenty-five years of pastoral letters, 2000; some of his earlier letters appear in a slightly edited and not completely chronologically ordered form in My experience: Reflections on pastoring, 1988.)
Ordained a priest in 1952, Lucker was immediately assigned as assistant director the Office for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for the Archdiocese of St. Paul. By 1958 he was director of that office and professor of catechetics at the seminary (see Athans, 2002, 215-218). In 1957 Lucker began doctoral studies in education at the University of Minnesota. A history of the seminary puts it this way:
In the midst of his other obligations, he completed his doctoral courses in 1963 and began his dissertation on the church/state controversy regarding released time for the religious education of students in public schools. Before he could complete the dissertation, however, [the new archbishop of St. Paul] sent him to the Angelicum in Rome to pursue a doctorate in theology. (Athans, 2002, 423)
Before he went to Rome, Lucker was beginning to write about the changing face of religious education in American Catholicism. He co-wrote an essay in 1964 summarizing (what a number of theorists were already calling) "three periods in the maturation of catechesis since 1900, namely instruction, formation, and encounter" (Lucker and Stone, 1964, 241). Lucker was very excited about this third, emerging catechetical emphasis:
[T]he present-day emphasis in the American catechetical movement on leading students to personal faith is part of the developing stream begun by religious educators during the past sixty years… [This historical development] might give the impression that first comes instruction, then formation and finally the personal meeting between God and the student. The reverse however is more correct. Communion with God ordinarily does not take place at the end of the religion lesson, but rather whenever God approaches through sacred signs (biblical, liturgical, witness or doctrinal signs) … to transform his mentality. Instruction and formation then are not so much conditions as concomitant effects of a meeting with God. (Lucker and Stone, 1964, 247)
Lucker's 1966 doctoral thesis in theology in Rome, The aims of religious education in the early church and in the American catechetical movement, was clearly well thought of since it was published by the Catholic Book Agency. The book is a long, painstaking history of how catechesis, especially after the reformation, became concerned with "knowledge of what we must believe to get to heaven. And for the next four hundred years one of the most important aims of religious education will be to equip the child to defend his faith against the attacks of the heretics and to answer their objections" (Lucker, 1966, 110).
Lucker concluded his study along the same lines he had outlined in the 1964 article:
Today, the United States is witnessing a new revival in catechetics. The fundamental aims of teaching religion to children and youth according to today's leaders are: to develop a living personal faith, to bring the students to a complete conversion of life, to inspire commitment to Christ, and to help them enter into communion with God. The writer of this paper is in full accord with these aims. (Lucker, 1966, 222
As beautiful as this is, something of the uncertainty described in this paper's introduction was already occurring to Lucker, for his thesis does not propose specifics about how catechesis develops such "living personal faith." In fact, he immediately acknowledges that "there is a danger that these beautiful and lofty statements… may have little effect on the classroom teacher" (Lucker, 1966, 222). And though he wants all this to "apply to adults as well," he limits his study to "children and youth…examin[ing] religion text books which have been used in elementary and high school classes" (Lucker, 1966, 6, 223).
One is tempted to borrow a reviewer's response to a 1961 talk (now lost) given by Lucker - "The paper delivered by Rev. Lucker, The school of religion in the space age, was more novel in its title than its content" (Quinn, 2003, 42) - as descriptive also of this thesis. At this point, it was not yet clear where Lucker's thought was going on what it means in practice for catechesis to have "encounter" as its principal aim.
After his Roman studies, Lucker was back in St. Paul as the archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, but remained there just long enough to finish writing his second doctoral thesis at the University of Minnesota- this one for the Ph.D. in education that he had begun in the early 1960s. The dissertation, Some presuppositions of released time, focused on a topic that he acknowledged was of more interest in the early 1960s than it was at the end of the decade when he finally had time to complete it: "Released time rarely is an issue in the news. It is no longer debated in the journals and on public platforms" (Lucker, 1969, 4). And "today, interest in weekday church schools is diminishing" (Lucker, 1969, 314). But he proposes also that "an objective study of the philosophy of released time may assist educators to understand more clearly the broader question of the place of religion in American education" (Lucker, 1969, 4).
Most of all, this second doctorate served to further credential Lucker for his role as the director of the Department of Education of the United States Catholic Conference. Lucker went to work for the bishops in 1968, when the whole administrative structure of the national bishops was being changed in the wake of Vatican II. Through an intense conversation, the Council had decided against preparing a universal catechism, asking instead for a directory, then to be accompanied by more specific directories prepared by the bishops of each nation (see Marthaler, 1972). Most specifically, the Council called on bishops to compile "a special directory … for the catechetical instruction of the Christian people" (Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops, 1965, par. 44.).
Lucker's department would participate in compiling that catechetical directory, and it especially needed to be reorganized. For, according to a 1966 article, its role was to "direct its resources to the growth and development of Catholic schools… It must also safeguard the interests of Catholic schools, particularly in matters relating to Federal legislation" (Hurley, 1966, 227). The bishops had a "school model" for a task that went way beyond schools.
We have already seen that Lucker's time in Washington was spent both preparing for and then preparing the bishops' Pastoral Message on Catholic Education. More needs to be said about the limitations of the document, but first more also needs to be said about what was shifting both in Lucker's and the church's understanding of education.
Lucker published only two works during his time as director of the bishops' education efforts. One of them comprises a set of religious educator training guidelines formulated by a committee under his direction for the ecumenical Religious Education Association, appearing in the group's journal in 1970. The guidelines express both a theoretical uncertainty and a practical resolve:
The meaning of religious education is a terribly general direction for a group to take, perhaps more than we could handle… We were at length able to set a goal but we could not define [religious education] because… in the process of rapid change and evolvement it is nearly foolhardy to say 'This is what religious education is.'
BE IT RESOLVED: That the focus of religious education, in curriculum, methodology and relationships within parishes, schools and agencies be revised toward the goal of fostering life and freedom through social change. That religious educators accept the principle that faith nurture involves confronting the human crisis like racism, war and poverty with the possible historical reality of life and freedom. That religious leaders acknowledge that the power of religious faith is real and effective only when it produces a change in social behavior. (Lucker, 1970, 208)
In the spring of 1971, the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy released the long-awaited GCD. Because he was so involved in the educational mission of the American bishops, Lucker was invited to participate in a congress called by the Vatican on the new document to be held later that same year. He addressed the Congress on "Catechesis and the Media of Social Communication." His address is largely a digest of what he had written earlier on the aim of catechesis as conversion, and it remained largely focused on "schools…not conveying ideas to the children, but rather developing attitudes, values which are the result of daily Christian living" (Lucker, 1971, 82). In other words, he was still conceiving of catechesis as "schooling."
But something was changing. His tone was becoming more personal than in anything he had written before, and almost imperceptibly (maybe even to himself) an adult seems now to be the real subject of catechesis:
We are discussing today the nature and aims of catechesis… The aim of religious education is faith, that is, the total human response to the living Word of God. …God, our loving Father, reveals Himself through his actions in human history, through the world around us, through his prophets, through one another, and above all through his beloved Son. Moved by the grace of God, man responds to the Word of God in faith. Indeed, faith is the response.
The believer turns himself totally and unconditionally to God in confidence and trust. Each day he says, 'Lord, I believe. Help my lack of trust' (Mark 9.24) … Today we are coming to understand again the importance of conversion, of commitment, of a response to the living Word of God. (Lucker, 1971, 80-81)
Lucker seems to have found his reference to the father in Mark's Gospel who asks healing for his epileptic boy in the directory itself, in its section on "the development of the life of faith":
…the one faith is found to be more or less intense according to the grace that is given to each one by the Holy Spirit, grace which must be constantly asked for in prayer (cf. Mark 9.23) … Moreover, the life of faith passes through various stages, just as does man's existence while he is attaining maturity. (Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, General Catechetical Directory, 1971, par. 30)
After he was named a delegate to the Congress, but before it was convened, on September 5, 1971, Lucker was called home to St. Paul from his job in Washington, D.C., and ordained as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. So greatly had the text from Mark (whether because of its printing in the directory I do not know) affected Lucker that he chose it as his unofficial Episcopal motto. It seems that both bishop and learner in faith must pray: "Lord, I believe. Help my lack of trust."
Though his rather traditional training in the "school model" has not prepared him for it, already in this early period of his writing Lucker's view of catechesis was shifting, becoming less intellectual and somehow more personal-existential.
I want to finish this section by suggesting that this shift was evident in both his life and his ministry. Personally, something was happening for Fr. (and then Bishop) Lucker during these years. Much later, near the end of his life, Lucker looked back at these years and particularly his years of study in Rome as the most significant time of his life. He had arrived in Rome in the summer of 1964, just a couple months before the Second Vatican Council promulgated its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. (Coincidentally, his 74 years are evenly divided between 37 years lived before the promulgation of that document and 37 years after it.) Lucker wrote:
Twelve years after I was ordained I was sent to Rome to study theology. I was there during the Second Vatican Council. It was the most profound experience of my life. I went through a personal conversion. My faith became a personal relationship with God as well as an assent to the truths that God has revealed. The Council called the whole church to reform and renewal, for an active, informed and committed laity… and invited every member of the church to work for the transformation of society… I saw in the Second Vatican Council a fulfillment of all of my dreams. (Lucker, 2000, 545)
With respect to his ministry, Lucker's "personal conversion" may not yet have been immediately apparent. For, as we have seen, the American bishops' 1972 statement on education in which he played a major role was itself largely a "school" document. But even here something was shifting. For in overseeing the preparation of the document, Raymond Lucker is widely credited with an innovation in the manner of preparing bishops' statements - an innovation that looked for a while like it might (and perhaps may still) change forever the way bishops teach. The bishop who oversaw the document's content summarizes Lucker's contribution:
Father Lucker… organized a group of consultants, who put together a huge outline… Despite my grumbling about being embarrassed by repeated delays in getting a manuscript ready for the bishops' approval, Father Lucker adamantly held to his position that the pastoral would be effective to the extent that all who have a stake in Catholic education had been consulted about it. We should have, he insisted, not only a message from bishops to educators and to the general public but more of a message in which bishops articulate our people's convictions and hopes…
This process turned out to be extraordinarily successful - in a way, almost too successful. Within two months the United States Catholic Conference Washington office had received over 500 pages of comments, suggestions, and proposed changes. (McManus, 1973, 281-282)
Almost twenty years later, that same bishop said: "Wide consultation during the drafting of important documents has been a hallmark of the U.S. bishop's conference… It was Ray Lucker… who conceived the process that has now become standard for drafting a document, and getting it out in the field" (McManus, cited by Reese, 1992, 126).
Such is the first period of Lucker's developing understanding of catechesis in the church. He had come to see clearly that catechesis is for conversion - for bishops as well as for everyone else. In a second period Lucker's understanding developed to see catechesis as focused primarily on fostering adult faith in the communion of the church.
Period Two - mid 1970s-1985: Lucker focuses on adults as the primary recipients of catechesis
Into the church's (and Lucker's) "school model" of catechesis dropped some words of the Vatican's 1971 GCD so surprising that they seem, at first, barely to have been noticed. The GCD proposes:
[Bishops] should remember that catechesis for adults, since it deals with persons who are capable of an adherence that is fully responsible, must be considered the chief form of catechesis. All the other forms, which are indeed always necessary, are in some way oriented to it. In obedience to the norms of the Second Vatican Council, shepherds of souls should also strive to "reestablish or better adapt the instruction of adult catechumens." (Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, General Catechetical Directory, 1971, par. 20)
Even though the claim that adult catechesis is the "chief form of catechesis" is now recognized as the central claim of the whole document, two things are noteworthy about it. First, it goes significantly beyond anything the modern Catholic Church had yet said on catechesis: though the directory refers to two texts from the Second Vatican Council (the text quoted at the end is from Vatican II's Decree on Bishops, par. 14), I can find no direct sources in the Council for this assertion of the document. The directory is much more explicit about the centrality of adult catechesis than anything the Council said. Perhaps someone has detailed how this assertion came to be made in the directory, but all I have seen is one commentator's summary that the GCD "presses the point" made by the Council to emphasize adult catechesis (Horan, 1996, 4).
The second point is more immediately relevant to our concern here. It is that the documentation from the international congress called to celebrate the new directory suggests how little the congress's participants, Bishop Lucker included, took note of this paragraph when they gathered five months after its promulgation. Pope Paul VI's remarks at the Congress made no reference at all to adult catechesis, centering instead on "children receiving first communion or confirmation" and the church's "joy in giving birth to new children" (Tobin, 1971, 9-10). The cardinal prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy which issued the document did mention this paragraph (see Tobin, 1971, 20-21), but like the pope he also focused mainly on the catechesis of children and ended his address recounting a visit to a Mexican-American parish in Texas "on fire with the glad song of children… For a moment, I thought I had died and gone to heaven" (Tobin, 1971, 26). And the new bishop Lucker did not even mention the paragraph.
In this section of our intellectual-biographical sketch, I want to show how it took just five years for the paragraph to become the center of Bishop Lucker's understanding of catechesis. Then, in the third section, I want to show how this understanding of catechesis changed his whole understanding of the adult relationships of bishops and laity in the church.
That the American bishops' 1972 "Pastoral Message" tried to fit the new wine of adult catechesis into the old wine skin of a "school model" is seen in the weakened form in which the GCD's affirmation about adult catechesis appeared in the U.S. bishops' statement: "Religious education for adults is the culmination of the entire catechetical effort because it affords an opportunity to teach the whole Christian message. Catechesis for children and young people should find completion in a catechetical program for adults" (National Conference of Catholic Bishops, To Teach as Jesus Did, par. 47).
The earliest area of Bishop Lucker's pastoral work was on implementing the U.S. bishops' statement, and it too focused at first on schools. For Lucker was soon promoted from his role as auxiliary bishop in St. Paul to presiding bishop in the small rural Diocese of New Ulm, MN. As I noted in the introduction to this essay, for his next twenty-five years in New Ulm, Lucker would write over two hundred informal "pastoral letters" to the people of his diocese. They demonstrate the evolution of his thought. One of his first such letters (in April, 1976) was on "Catholic schools," in which the bishop is clearly focused on the school model.
His April, 1977, letter indicates the beginning of a shift. This letter addresses the "Diocesan Mission Statement," recalling his own work on the 1972 document To Teach as Jesus Did and calling attention to the bishops' affirmation: "The educational mission of the church is an integrated ministry embracing three interlocking dimensions: the message revealed by God (didache) which the church proclaims; fellowship in the life of the Holy Spirit (koinonia); service to the Christian community and the entire human community (diakonia)" (National Conference of Catholic Bishops, To Teach as Jesus Did, 14). Lucker found in this statement a basis for the entire mission of the diocese:
As the work [on To Teach as Jesus Did] gradually unfolded the three ideas came forth and became the theme that bound the whole document together… Message, community, service. 'Yes!' I found myself saying, 'This is it.' It so clearly expressed what we were supposed to be about. So many things began to fit together… I am planning to re-organize the diocesan offices and agencies in order to serve the parishes with this vision of the church… The primary objective of diocesan programs is to help parishes strengthen their ministries of the word, of worship, and of service.(Lucker, 2000, 41)
We will see that for the rest of his life, over and over again, Lucker would repeat this three-fold summary of the mission of the church. For now, though, we should see that this summary was Lucker's bridge from a "school model" of catechesis to one squarely focused on adults. In a series of interviews with Catholic magazines at the beginning of the 1980s (America, U.S. Catholic, New Covenant) Lucker repeats the threefold schema as organizing the ministry of the diocese. In the America interview he goes on to say that these ideas had led him to turn the chancery of the diocese into a pastoral center in which he would live in community with any heads of diocesan offices who wanted to share the space. Ultimately, three priests and seven nuns would live in the diocesan center with him. Lucker said they were living together "in community for the sake of the church's mission to announce the Good News… Christ is calling us to holiness, to develop a personal relationship with Him and through Him a Spirit-filled relationship with one another" (Green, 1983, 301).
His living in community with others seems to have brought the GCD statement on adult catechesis to a more and more central place in Lucker's life and convictions. In 1975 Pope VI announced that he would call together a regular synod of the world's bishops in 1977 to focus on the catechesis of children and youth. (The Vatican had still not internalized its own belief in the centrality of adult catechesis!) Some participants were "disturbed" by the focus chosen by the pope, because they felt "it gives the impression that catechesis of children and youth can somehow be divorced from the rest of the community" (Editors, 1977, 262). For their part, the American bishops elected Lucker as one of their four delegates to the synod because, as one bishop is quoted as saying, "Lucker had earned the respect of the bishops during his time in the Education Dept. of the national bishops" (Reese, 1992, 71).
In two pastoral letters to the people of his diocese, one written from Rome, Lucker let them know that his interest lay much more in adult catechesis than in that of children (see Lucker, 2000, 48-53). Lucker said he would be allowed only one formal speech addressing the synod for six minutes or less, but could speak freely in the English language conversation group. Origins, which gathers important Catholic texts of the moment, published Lucker's formal speech as "Needed: Adult Catechesis." He told the gathered bishops:
[T]he most pressing need in the church is the evangelization and catechesis of adults [as] the General Catechetical Directory so forcibly reminded us… We have neglected the central goal of catechesis which is to strengthen faith. And we have almost totally ignored the evangelization of the Catholic people… I say to you that the key to the catechesis of children and youth is the catechesis of adults. Young people need adult witnesses, people who express their beliefs in the daily lives by what they do and say and love. (Lucker, 1977, 276-7)
Lucker pushed further in his speech, distinguishing (in a way that parallels almost exactly what he had written in his 1966 doctoral thesis) three temporal stages in coming to a mature faith:
First… people come to an initial faith. They accept Jesus as Lord… and in a general way respond… we call this evangelization. Then comes catechesis, which presupposes this initial faith and is concerned with nurturing it, strengthening it, and making it mature. Theology a further step is faith seeking understanding, the systematic and scientific investigation of the truths of faith" (Lucker, 1977, 276-7)
While Lucker's first point was simply calling the Church back to its own teachings, his second point giving chronological priority to a general response before catechesis was in danger of setting up a "false polarization" that Cardinal Basil Hume of London had warned against in his speech a day or two ahead of Lucker's:
False polarization is possible between those who hold that the chief aim of catechetics is the learning of doctrinal statements and the laws of morality, and others who hold that the emphasis should be on the formation of a mature personal faith. But doctrine without the experience of Christian living is sterile, and an attempt to live as a Christian without attention to doctrine will lead to confusion.
Doctrine is best learned within the experience of Christian living, and Christian living must be inspired by and rooted in authentic Christian doctrine… A true catechesis will both inform the mind and effect a radical transformation. (Hume, 1977, 263)
Lucker was on more solid ground with his first point than with his second, and he could also find strong justification for his position on another disagreement that arose during the synod. The next issue of Origins records Lucker's disagreement in the English-language group when two Filipino bishops spoke of the need for a universal catechism:
Lucker… acknowledged that some priests and people in the church are confused, upset and polarized. But the solution, he said, is not a new source book for catechesis or a universal catechism. The General Catechetical Directory of the Vatican, national catechetical directories, the documents of Vatican II, and other texts already indicate what is to be taught, Lucker said. But they have not ended the confusion.
Lucker suggested a different approach. He said there are people who are not upset, whose faith is not shaken by the speculations of theologians. "They are those who do not merely know about God, but who know God: people who do not merely say prayers but who in prayer come into contact with the living God. They listen to the teaching church because of heir unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ as savior and Lord…They know the difference between faith and theologies." (Editors, 1977, 296-297)
Lucker continued to have disagreements with other churchmen about the relationship of evangelization and doctrine through the rest of his ministry. We will come back to this issue in the next section and the paper's conclusion. But it should not overshadow the more central point Lucker was to insist on for the rest of his ministry: catechesis is first and foremost adult catechesis.
When he came back from the synod, Lucker had more opportunities to make the point. First, another task national task awaited him at home. Along with Archbishop Whealon of Hartford - who was chairing a committee overseeing the final revisions of U.S. bishops' own National Catechetical Directory, finished in 1978- and another bishop from that committee, Lucker oversaw the publication of a "short form" of the new directory for use by catechists. It was published in 1980 under the title Norms and Guidelines for Catechetical Planners, with a forward by Lucker and the other two bishops. It arranges the directory by themes, placing the theme of "adults" second only to the theme of "catechesis" and giving it more ink:
Every form of catechesis is oriented in some way to the catechesis of adults. The primary reason for adult catechesis - its first and essential objective - is to help adults themselves grow to maturity of faith as members of the Church and society… Adults should play a central role in their education… Adults should teach and learn from each other. (Lucker, Whealon, Gracida, 1980, 5-6)
Later that year, Lucker wrote another pastoral letter to the people of his diocese, this one entitled "Religious education ministry":
…the first question is not how do we recruit teachers, but rather how do we as a parish community hand on our faith… We must begin with the evangelization and catechesis of adults; that is, the conversion and growth in faith of Catholic adults.
Every parish … needs opportunities for adults to come together to pray, to witness to God's gifts in their lives, and to grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus…If this means that classroom instruction has to be suspended for a time while the teachers are being formed, so be it. Nothing can replace adult growth in faith. (See Lucker, 2000, 142-143)
In 1981, Lucker became a member of the bishops' committee on the laity and participated in "a national consultation with about a hundred lay people involved in various forms of ministry." He was most concerned to communicate to the people of his diocese his growing sense "of lay men and women being adult members of the church" (see Lucker, 2000, 162). That fall, Lucker committed the diocese to a "three year intensive process [of implementing the Renew program for adults] whose purpose is to help bring about the spiritual growth of all of us. We all need it" (see Lucker, 2000, 169).
In the first ten years of his tenure as bishop of New Ulm, Lucker was deepening his understanding of the Vatican's own 1971 conviction that adult faith formation was the central catechetical concern of the church. And his fellow bishops were surely in theoretical agreement with the conviction. But Lucker was moving away from the body of bishops in his conviction about both of the urgency of the task and the church's slowness in supporting adults for the task it was asking them to do.
In the early 1980s, Lucker's concern for laypersons adequately prepared for adult faith led him to take stands that increasingly put him outside the mainstream of American bishops. First, in October, 1981, he and Victor Balke, the bishop of the neighboring diocese of Crookston, MN, issued a joint pastoral letter, Male and Female God Created Them. The two bishops noted that Jesus asserted "the full humanness and dignity of women and their equality with men…as witnesses." They noted that many persons are "disappointed, frustrated, and even angered by the hesitancy or the refusal of some leaders within the Church to acknowledge the just and rightful place of women in the mission of the church." And they declared their own resolve to "raise to a new level of awareness the issue of Christian feminism and the sin of sexism. [We write] also in the hope that it will lead to a greater and fully just participation on the part of women in the life of the Church" (Lucker and Balke, 1981, parts I and VI).
Second, in May, 1982, Lucker wrote his people a pastoral letter explaining why he was in favor of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. That pastoral letter appeared in the national Catholic news summary Origins:
One can be a good Catholic and be either for or against the Equal Rights Amendment. One cannot be a good Catholic and be against equal rights for women… I do not claim this as official Catholic teaching. Nor do I wish to impose it on others. I am speaking from my own heart (Lucker,1982, 38).
In a March, 1984 pastoral letter to his diocese on Catholic education, Lucker showed how far he had moved on the relationship between the education of children and the catechesis of adults: "Yes, Catholic schools are part of the education mission of the church. But they are not all of it… we are reminded by church teaching that the most important form of religious education is that which aims at strengthening the faith of adults" (Lucker, 2000, 228).
He put the urgency of the task of adult catechesis most bluntly in a short statement in 1985:
The idea of faith calling us to respond as a whole being has become central in my ministry. The biggest single problem facing the church today is that we have so many people who call themselves Christians but who don't really believe, who haven't in their adult lives made an adult commitment of faith. That's why the whole witness of that man in that story [of the father of the epileptic son in Mark chapter nine] is very important to me." (Lucker, 1985, 38-39)
However rooted in the church's own teaching Lucker's views were, they were becoming less in step with those of his fellow bishops. At the November, 1984, meeting of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, Lucker sought to be elected chair of the bishops' committee on the laity, having been a member of it for some years. He was defeated in the election by Bishop Stanley Ott of Baton Rouge, LA (see Reese, 1992, 113).
In the final section of this biographical-intellectual sketch I want to show how Lucker continued to follow out his conviction about adult catechesis and its implications for church structure, even as the institutional church backed further away from the same conviction.
Period Three - 1986-September 19, 2001: Lucker on the dialogical nature of the church as teacher
I suggest we think of the third and final period of Lucker's understanding of catechesis as beginning with an address he gave to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops at the bishops' June, 1986 meeting at St. John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, MN. Along with four other bishops, Lucker was invited to present a paper to the group on vocation. One of the tasks before the group was electing four bishops to represent the body at the Synod of Bishops announced by Pope John Paul II for fall, 1987, and set to address "the vocation and mission of the laity." Lucker and Bishop Stanley Ott, still chairperson of the committee on the laity, were candidates for one of the positions.
Lucker's speech was on the vocation of the laity and it essentially made two points. First, he developed the theme we saw to be central in his teaching beginning at the 1977 bishops' synod. He told his fellow bishops at Collegeville: "In my opinion, the most serious problem facing the church is the need for conversion among adult Catholics." He continued on this point, chiding his fellow bishops for not doing enough to help lay people begin seeing themselves as evangelists, co-teachers of other adults and sharers in the bishops' teaching ministry:
Throughout the country there has been a veritable explosion of people accepting the call and the challenge to exercise ministries of all kinds within the church… Where we have not done so well is in recognizing, affirming, encouraging and supporting people in ministries affecting the transformation of society… By 'we' here I speak especially of bishops and church leaders…
All members of the church are called to share in the teaching function (office, task) of the church and this is broader than the teaching function of the hierarchy. All of us share in the task of better understanding the gospel message and all share in the prophetic and teaching office of Jesus. Bishops must be in touch with the experience of the faithful. The hierarchical teaching office has a God-given role of protecting the church from heresy. Nevertheless every member of the church has a role in not only learning but in teaching and sharing their faith…
All of the faithful contribute to the development of doctrine that is understanding and more deeply penetrating into the mysteries of faith. There is energy in the body of the faithful, the sensus fidelium. We, as bishops, need to learn how better to listen to the laity…They need to be encouraged and taken seriously. But this is not enough. We need to listen on their turf, in their living situations…The bishop plays a special role in promoting this listening process. (Lucker, 1986a, 149, 151)
As at the 1977 bishops' synod, Lucker pushed on to make a second point; this further point, like the one he had made at the synod, was more controversial and even debatable. Lucker suggested a kind of "lay ministry" independent of the ministry of the hierarchy:
We need to support the laity in their ministry, namely in their role as church in the world… Let them go with it… [I]t is properly the ministry of the laity to be involved in political, social and economic life. They are involved in the apostolate of the laity by right, not by our permission. There is a real issue of power and control here. (Lucker, 1986a, 151)
As at the 1977 synod Lucker did not remain unchallenged. Cardinal Bernadin was asked by the bishops to give a summary and response to the five papers presented at the meeting. In his brief summary response to Lucker, Bernadin says:
Without this understanding (of the difference between the universal priesthood of the faithful…and the ministerial priesthood…), there will be only confusion when we speak about the mission of the laity to the world, lay ministry, the unique ministry of the ordained, and the relationship that exists among these three.
Bishop Lucker's paper on lay leadership elicited a strong, positive response… [especially his distinction] between the vocation (or responsibility) of the laity to transform and renew the world and their call to participate in ecclesial ministries. The word 'ministry' seems more appropriate for the latter; the former is more properly called discipleship, witness, etc. (Bernadin, 1986, 144-145)
The response of the assembled bishops to Lucker's paper might also be indicated in their electing Ott instead of him as delegate to the 1987 Synod of Bishops (Kuenz and Huebsch, 2003, 310).
This section's title calls the last phase of Lucker's thinking a "dialogical view" of catechesis. Both "sub-points" outlined here are specifications of the general view.
Again, the two sub-points are: first, Lucker came more and more clearly to see that the church's declared commitment to adult catechesis required changes in the way the church operated. He told his brother bishops: "It is essential for us to listen… For right or for wrong, we bishops are perceived as inattentive to women's concerns and women's issues. We are perceived by some to be enemies, as patriarchs, and even as frightened of women" (Lucker, 1986a, 151-152).
Second, perhaps out of frustration at being agreed with in theory without being engaged in practice by his fellow bishops, Lucker began speaking about a lay ministry conceived both very broadly and as fairly independent of church hierarchy.
In this section I want to show how the two points come up over and over again in the last fifteen years of Lucker's life. In the conclusion of this sketch I will suggest that Lucker's first point is a more lasting contribution than the second. The first text we'll look at here fits into Lucker's second "sub-point." At right about the same time as his speech to his fellow bishops, Lucker was invited to address an audience in Brooklyn, New York on his diocese's implementation of a plan for non-clergy "pastoral administrators" in parishes as a way to face up to the worsening shortage of priests. He told the crowd:
A pastoral administrator is a person who is not ordained but is responsible, nevertheless, for the pastoral care if a parish. The term is ours. We were the first, as far as I know to use that term… Now, after almost five years, we have seven pastoral administrators…
We have come to see and to recognize that this is a special call from God. There is a shortage of priests, yes… [But] I believe that the appointment of nonordained pastoral administrators has been for us an occasion, an opportunity to recognize the gifts that God is giving to the Church in calling all people of faith to ministry. (Lucker, 1986b, 38, 40-41)
A year later, Lucker was invited to contribute an essay to a book on the theology of marriage. Here, the first "sub-point" was on his mind, namely, that the institutional church must take its adult members seriously: "As a pastor, I welcome the appeal to listen to the experience of married people in the Church. All of us, in one way or other, are both teachers and taught" (Lucker, 1987,169-171).
He was clearly striking a chord with many in the church. In 1988, a major Catholic publisher released a collection of forty-seven of Lucker's informal pastoral letters to the people of his diocese, My experience: Reflections on pastoring.
Lucker was in the news again in 1989 in a very public disagreement with the Vatican's Cardinal Ratzinger over the state of catechesis in the USA. Two different journals published Lucker's April, 1989 address to the annual convention of the National Conference of American Diocesan Directors of Religious Education (for which group Lucker was serving as episcopal moderator). Lucker had been scheduled to speak only informally to the conference, but just days before he learned of remarks by Cardinals Ratzinger of the Vatican and O'Connor of New York at a meeting in Rome. Ratzinger was reported to have said: "…the developments in catechesis in the post-conciliar period, to a large extent, [have] been turned over to the so-called professional. This, in turn, has led to an excess of experimentation… making it all the more difficult to recognize that of the Gospel." And O'Connor said "basically confusion and diversity in catechetical materials have left an entire generation in a state of ambiguity. Some bishops are bludgeoned into compliance…and some bishops are browbeaten by directors of religious education so that bishops' feelings of inadequacy are heightened."
"With a heavy heart," Lucker said to the group:
Now, that's really devastating! …If what the two cardinals say is true, then there is no catechetical renewal and we have to go back to the '50s . Or, if it is not true, then we have an enormous communications problem with our own bishops and with many other people… I really think that this puts before us an agenda which we can't ignore… I think we need to recognize that if we are misunderstood, if we are criticized, if we are looked upon as leading the church astray… the Lord is giving us difficult issues to deal with. (Lucker, 1989, 791-792)
What agenda did Lucker urge on his hearers? He wanted to work with his hearers on better communicating the "lifelong process and importance of continual adult religious formation. All religious education has to take place within a community of believing, worshiping, praying, caring people" (Lucker, 1989, 790).
In a 1990 essay, Lucker again criticized Cardinal Ratzinger, this time upon hearing that the Vatican would give the world's bishops five months to express concerns about its draft of a universal catechism for adults:
A textbook is not the center and the focus of catechesis…Some people have made textbooks the central problem in catechetics, but what is called for is a renewed people of God, a people converted to Jesus and committed to living the message he taught…
Five short months does not give enough time for individual bishops to conduct even a minimal consultation on the catechism. A preliminary reading of the provisional text indicates that major changes are needed…Each bishop needs to say to the Commission for the Catechism, "Slow down; consult broadly; give us more time to consult pastors and lay people. The Catechism for the Universal Church can then be expressed in language that people can understand, mistakes can be avoided, and people will be prepared to receive it when it is finally published." Otherwise, the whole project can surely fail. (Lucker, 1990, 216-217)
Lucker's contribution to a collection of essays marking the hundredth anniversary of Pope Leo XIII's great "social" encyclical, Rerum Novarum, pushed further his insistence that the church must not block its own credibility as a teacher of adult faith. He cited church canon law's "list of rights [of] the people of God":
The Christian faithful are called to holiness (canon 210), to proclaim the message of God and to spread the Gospel (canon 211) … All the Christian faithful 'in accord with the knowledge, competence and preeminence which they possess… have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to their sacred pastors their opinions on matters which pertain to the good of the Church' (canon 212) …Every member has a right to participate in the mission of the Church (canon 216). (Lucker, 1991, 93)
Lucker's essay next said that sexism is harming the church, and then it got very specific by claiming that the church's refusal to talk about the ordination of women is a misuse of its teaching authority: "It is necessary that this issue be open to discussion. The very fact that we are not able to openly teach about it or even discuss it is a sign of injustice in the church. This is such a critical issue that it deserves full and open study by the best minds in the church" (Lucker, 1991,100).
The following year brought national press attention to Lucker and his concerns about sexism in the church once again. Through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, the US bishops were involved in a long consultative process in order to write a "pastoral letter on women's concerns for church and society." Beginning in 1983, and having written three drafts, the bishops had numerous disagreements about the content of that letter; in addition, the Vatican was insisting that some issues - like the ordination of women - not come up for discussion. The pastoral letter was stalling out. Just ahead of the June, 1992 summer meeting of the bishops, Lucker wrote another pastoral letter to his people (one that was also published in the National Catholic News Agency's Origins):
From the beginning of this long, complex process their have been serious difficulties… The most difficult aspect of the pastoral was applying the basic Catholic teaching that all men and women are created equal, all are equally redeemed and called to holiness, all ore one in Christ Jesus, to the daily life of the church itself…
We should drop the pastoral, but continue to dialogue… The process itself has been a valuable one and each of us has learned from listening, discussing and struggling with an issue that if not resolved will further polarize the church… We should recognize that there has been a consensus on the notion that sexism is wrong, is sinful. (Lucker, 1992, 91-92)
Again, he was calling for engaged dialogue in the church. The next year, in 1993, Lucker addressed a pastoral letter to his people about sexual abuse by the clergy and the response to such abuse by bishops. He entitled his letter "We Are Being Forced to Our Knees":
I would like to focus on one issue: public scandals by the clergy and others in the church, especially over the issue of sexual abuse of minors … I believe we are being forced to our knees, forced to recognize that we are not in charge, but rather God is in charge of the church … I believe this applies especially to bishops, who for so long have carried the trappings of feudal lords… It seems to me that we are being forced to recognize that we do not have much power, and that is all right. We are called to be ministers of the word, of the worship of God, and the service of others … I hope and pray that through the grace of God we will be able to respond to the present scandals in the church, reach out in love and healing to victims, reach out in forgiveness and reconciliation to perpetrators, and come before the Lord as a community of believers to recognize our need. (Lucker, 2000, 398-399)
Lucker wrote these words almost ten years before the summer of 2002 when American bishops' failure to take seriously the sexual abuse crisis blew up in their faces. Lucker was asking us all - bishops included - to "recognize our need." That is, he was asking us to be an adult church.
We have seen that Lucker had opposed the idea of a universal catechism for the church; nonetheless, the Catechism of the Catholic Church went forward, receiving it first English edition in 1994. In 1995, working in collaboration with a team of priests, nuns, and lay leaders, including a married couple, Lucker and two other editors oversaw the publication of a "people's" catechism "for adults." Lucker and his fellow editors wrote in the introduction:
The CCC …is a gift to the Church adding foundational clarity to the essence of the Catholic expression of Christianity, thus fulfilling this mission [called for by Pope John Paul II] of 'new evangelization.'
The People's Catechism is yet another tool to assist in the Church's evangelical-catechetical mission… [It] attempts to bring life and a fresh understanding of the truths of faith contained in the CCC. A catechetical methodology is followed in each chapter, with relevant passages from Scripture; stories from contemporary human experience; the teachings of the Church presented in popularized, understandable, existential language; questions for discussion and faith sharing; suggestions for putting faith into action; and shared prayer… The truths of faith are presented in a style and format that makes it a useable tool in adult faith formation sessions, small groups or Christian communities, ministry training programs, and personal enrichment or study.
The People's Catechism is designed to be of service to the ongoing growth of faith of Catholic adults… [T]ruth and our ever-deepening understanding of revelation emerge from the entire people of God in dialogue and communion with each other and with those who have the responsibility for safeguarding the truths of faith… Collaboration… is the rout that the Church as to travel if it is to remain at one with the vision of the kingdom and the lifestyle of Jesus Christ. (Lucker, Brennan, Leach, 1995, 1-3)
His call for a dialogical form of teaching in the church went forward. Also in 1995, Lucker gave a talk that reiterated his second "sub-point" during this time, lay ministry. There is no published manuscript of the talk itself, just an extended reference to it in a 1998 document of the National Association for Lay Ministry. That document comprises "a perspective on ministry," and takes its title - "No Turning Back" - from Lucker's 1995 address:
'No turning back,' challenged Bishop Raymond Lucker of New Ulm, Minnesota as he delivered his June 1, 1995, address at the National Association for Lay Ministry's 19th annual conference. Urging lay minister to continue their dedication to a renewed understanding of the church's mission, Bishop Lucker insisted that grassroots renewal of the church 'is here to stay' and that 'radical reform continues to be necessary now and in the future.' (Marcheschi, 1998, 5)
In 1998 Lucker was back in the national news for another pastoral letter written to his people, "Ordination of Married Men." The national Catholic newsweekly America highlighted sections from the letter in the magazine's "Signs of the Times" column. Lucker himself wrote:
I believe we ought to change the law and have the option of married clergy… I bring up this issue because of my concern for the church, because of my love for the church and because I believe the Eucharist and the celebration of the sacraments is at the very heart of what we are as a church. We need ordained clergy for that…
I am close to retirement as bishop of this diocese. I have no illusions that there will be any change in this church law during my time as bishop. Nevertheless, I think we need to pray over the issue, discuss it, and see if there wouldn't be some way to begin to have the ordination of married men. (See Lucker, 2000, 514-515)
In the last years of his ministry, Lucker was saying that the issue of ordination was about dialogue in the adult church. Lucker had become crystal clear and articulate on this point: the church has to be true to its own mission of engaging adult faith.
I will end this review of Lucker's writing with a look at the last pastoral letter he wrote to the people of his diocese, his November, 2000 letter called "Looking Back." Having announced his retirement to become effective at the time of his twenty-fifth anniversary as bishop of New Ulm - he was appointed on December 23, 1975 - Lucker begins this last letter by saying he "look[s] back on those years with peace and joy, remembering the wonderful things that God has done through his people and the pastoral leaders of the diocese." Then he lists "five highlights" of his time as bishop:
First, I have continually held before the people of the diocese a vision of the church and a vision of the renewal of the church as outlined by the Second Vatican Council. I proclaimed to all that the mission of the Diocese of New Ulm is the same as the mission of Jesus: to build the kingdom of God…
Second, I committed myself to pastoral planning which involves listening to the people… in formulating diocesan goals… This planning process identified spiritual renewal as the first priority of the diocese. We began our first celebration of RENEW and chose RENEW 2000 as our vehicle for celebrating the millennium…
Third, I called the diocesan staff to be of service to the parishes of the diocese… Several diocesan assemblies were held bringing parish leaders together from all over the diocese on common themes, especially renewal, evangelization, and parish leadership… Fourth, I have fostered the ministry of the pastoral leaders of the diocese… The national movement to have non-ordained pastoral administrators to serve as leaders of parish communities started in the Diocese of New Ulm in 1981.
Fifth, I have taken seriously my responsibility to proclaim the Word of God. I have written over two hundred pastoral letters…expressing my views on parish renewal, spiritual, life, my own personal spiritual journey, and on issues of concern in the diocese and in our church… The motto I chose when I was appointed a bishop was, 'I believe. But help my lack of trust.' That has guided all of my ministry in these years. (Lucker, 2000, 567-569)
This, Lucker's last publication as a church official, highlights both "sub-points" so central to the last period of his life - for dialogical structures in a church committed to adult faith, and for freeing up lay leaders in the church.
Lucker did complete one other project in his short retirement. He oversaw the publication of his fifty-year old project of gathering and publishing the pastoral letters of Bishop Thomas Grace, the subject of his Masters of Arts thesis in 1952. The book went to press in August, 2001.
Conclusion: Will the church join Lucker in taking seriously its commitment to adult faith?
Raymond Lucker did not live a year beyond issuing his last pastoral letter, dying of melanoma at the Our Lady of Good Counsel Cancer Home in St. Paul, his home town, on September 19, 2001.
This essay has suggested that his contributions as a catechetical leader can be divided into three periods: first, from 1952 through the mid-1970s, during which time Lucker came to see that the aim of all catechesis is conversion. Experiencing a significant conversion experience himself while studying in Rome during the Second Vatican Council, Lucker grew increasingly dissatisfied with the "school model" of religious education. During this period of his life, Lucker's views were like those of the church around him: he and it were clear that an overly intellectual approach to catechesis was failing. He and his church were just not yet clear on what approach should succeed it.
In a second period of his life and ministry - which I have suggested begins with his talk on "adult catechetics" at the 1977 Roman Synod of Bishops - Lucker became recognized as a leader among his brother bishops both in calling for and then in developing dialogical, consultative methods that fit the church's main educational mission in supporting adult faith development. During this period Lucker sometimes spoke as if adult faith began with an "encounter" that was personal and affective and only became an intellectual process in a second stage of the process. This essay has suggested that his first point is more convincing than his second.
By any account, the third period of his life and ministry - which this essay suggests begins with his address on "lay vocations" to his fellow American bishops in 1986 - must be seen as the one in which he made his greatest contribution to adult catechesis. What comes through clearly and convincingly in this period is Lucker's insistence that if the church is to catechetize adults for conversion in a dialogical way, then its own structures must be dialogical. Over and over again, he pointed out that the hierarchical church was blocking its most important teaching role in its disinclination to listen.
To be sure, Lucker extended beyond this point to a less convincing one on the independence of lay ministry in the church. Catholic theologian John N. Collins, no ally of the hierarchical church in its unwillingness to dialogue about ordination, thinks reformers have taken the wrong road in advocating a wide use for the term ministry covering all the actions of lay people in the world: "Are all Christians ministers? Yes, says the movement from reform. No, say the following pages of my book" (Collins, 1992, 13).
Collins argues convincingly that ministry is a specific office in the church in service of "an experience of encountering God [and] their fellow Christians in their institutional worship. The job for ministry is to help people be with their sisters and brothers." But the Roman hierarchy's continued exclusion of women and married men from most ordained ministries is a "disastrous… pastoral strategy…overseeing the passing of hundreds of thousands of believers" out of the Catholic Church (Collins, 1992,153, 155-156).One could wish that Collins and Lucker had sat down and talked, each helping sharpen the insights of the other.
In the end, any incompleteness in Lucker's argument for lay ministry points less to problems in his approach than to the slowness of his fellow hierarchs to follow out their decision to make adult catechesis the "chief form" of all catechesis. At the end of his life, Lucker's strongest arguments were for reforming ordained ministry in the Catholic Church so that its mission to adult faith could go forward. We saw just above that Lucker was publicly asking for more dialogue about sexual abuse ten years before the American bishops were forced - for a while - into that dialogue.
The following anecdote may be a fitting place to end our sketch. The Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the man who serves as a contact between the American bishops and the pope, was in Minnesota for the installation of Bishop Lucker's successor in the Diocese of New Ulm in August, 2001. After the installation, Montalvo came to the cancer home to visit Bishop Lucker less than a month before Lucker died. I was not present at their meeting, but one of the clerics who accompanied the apostolic delegate told me that the delegate walked out of the cancer home saying, "That is a very holy man."
In the end, the institutional Catholic Church put Raymond Lucker's intellectual-spiritual talents to great use, it recognized his holiness, but - at least so far - it has not decided to follow him into living out the implications of its own renewed focus on catechesis for conversion in an adult church. Raymond Lucker was a bishop-herald of catechesis for conversion in an adult church. This essay is written in gratitude and great respect for his ministry; it is written also in the hope that the institutional Catholic Church may yet hear his call.
References: other than those by Lucker or directly about him (see Lucker bibliography for those)
Athans, M.C. (2002). "To work for the whole people" - John Ireland's seminary in St. Paul. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Bernadin, J. (1986). Marginal notes. Origins, 16/7,140-147.
Collins, J. N. (1992). Are All Christians Ministers? Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.
Editors. (1977). Marginal notes on synod '77. Origins. 7/17, 262-263
Editors. (1977). Marginal notes on synod '77. Origins. 7/19, 295-298.
Heath, M. (1973). To teach as Jesus did: A critique. The Living Light, 10, 279-283.
Horan, M. P. (1996). Overview of the GCD: Historical context and literary genre. In M. Horan (Ed.), The catechetical documents: A parish resource (pp. 2-6). Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications.
Hume, B.(1977). The role of doctrine in catechetics - synod, '77. Origins. 7/17,263-4.
Hurley, F.T. (1966). National Catholic Welfare Conference. In The New Catholic Encyclopedia vol. 10 (pp. 225-229). Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press.
Kuenz, G.B., Huebsch, B. (2003). New Ulm, Diocese of. In The New Catholic Encyclopedia (2nd ed.), vol. 10 (pp. 309-310). New York: Thomson Gale.
Marcheschi, G. (Ed.). (1998). No turning back: A lay perspective on ministry in the Catholic Church in the United States. Chicago: National Association of Lay Ministry.
Marthaler, B. (1972). The origin, context and purpose of the directory. The Living Light, 9/2, 7-20.
Marthaler, B. (1980). Sharing the light of faith: An official commentary. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference Department of Education.
McManus, W. (1973). To teach as Jesus did: A chronicle. The Living Light, 10, 284-295.
National Conference of Catholic Bishops. (1973). To teach as Jesus did - A pastoral message on Catholic education - November, 1972. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference.
National Conference of Catholic Bishops. (1979). Sharing the light of faith: National catechetical directory for Catholics of the United States. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference.
Quinn, J. (2003). National CCD congresses shaped catechesis in the United States. The Living Light, 39/4, 28-47.
Reese, T. (1992). A flock of shepherds: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Kansas City, MO: Sheed and Ward.
Sacred Congregation for the Clergy.(1971). General Catechetical Directory. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference.
Second Vatican Council. (1996). Decree on the pastoral office of bishops. In Austin Flannery, O.P. (Ed.), Vatican Council II: Constitutions, decrees, declarations - A completely revised translation in inclusive language (pp. 283-315). Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Co.
Tobin, W. (Ed.) (1971). International catechetical congress, September 20-25, 1971 - selected documentation. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference.
Bishop Lucker's major writings
- (1952) Some aspects of the life of Thomas Langdon Grace, second bishop of St. Paul Unpublished manuscript, The St. Paul Seminary.
- (1964) (With T. Stone). Formation and training of lay catechists. In J. Hofinger and T. Stone (Eds.), Pastoral catechetics (pp. 239-262). New York: Herder and Herder.
- (1966) The aims of religious education, in the early church and in the American catechetical movement. Rome, Italy: Catholic Book Publishing Company.
- (1969a) Some presuppositions of released time. Unpublished manuscript, The University of Minnesota.
- (1969b) Changes in Catholic education policy. Modern Society, 12/5, 66-67.
- (1970) Guidelines for training religious educators for fostering religious learning. Religious Education, 65, 207-209.
- (1971) Catechesis and the media of social communication. In W. Tobin (Ed.), The international catechetical congress, called by the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, Rome, September, 1971 - Selected documentation (pp. 80-85). Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference.
- (1977) Needed: Adult catechesis. Origins, 7/18, 276-277. -Also published as: Evangelization and catechesis. In (2000) Prairie views: Twenty-five years of pastoral letters (pp. 48-50). Waite Park, MN: Park Press.
- (1980) (Ed., with J. Whealon and R. Gracida) Sharing the light of faith: Norms and guidelines for catechetical planners. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference.
- (1981) Male and female God created them - A pastoral letter issued jointly with Bishop Victor Balke. New Ulm, MN: The Diocese of New Ulm.
- (1982) Minnesota bishop backs ERA. Origins, 12, 37-38. -Also published as: Equal Rights Amendment. In (2000) Prairie views: Twenty-five years of pastoral letters (pp.186-188). Waite Park, MN: Park Press.
- (1986a) Linking church and world; vocations of the laity. Origins, 16, 146-152. -Also published as: Vocation to lay leadership in the church and the world. In (1986) David Byers (Ed.). Vocations and the future of church leadership: The Collegeville papers (pp. 23-37). Washington, D.C.: National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
- (1986b) Assessing the shortage of priests: Nonclerical alternatives to ordained ministry. In D. Corrado and J. Hinchey (Eds.). Shepherds speak: American bishops confront the social and moral issues that challenge Christians today (pp. 34-41). New York: Crossroad.
- (1987) Catholic marriage: An Episcopal perspective. In W. Roberts (Ed.), Commitment to partnership: Explorations of the theology of marriage (169-177). Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
- (1988) My experience: Reflections on pasturing. Kansas City, MO: Sheed and Ward.
- (1989a) Criticism of catechetical renewal received as challenge. Origins, 18, 790-792. -Also published as: Bishop Lucker challenges critiques of catechetical renewal. In (1989) Living Light, 25, 320-324.
- (1989b) Review of Virgil Michel: American Catholic, by R.W. Franklin and Robert Spaeth. Worship 63/4, 374-375.
- (1990) Bishops and the catechism. In T. Reese (Ed.), The Universal catechism reader: Reflections and responses (pp. 210-217). New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
- (1991) Justice in the church: the church as example. In J. Coleman (Ed.), One hundred years of Catholic social thought (88-100). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. -A shortened form also appears as: Justice for all: Church should lead by example. In (1993)U.S. Catholic, 58, 34-36.
- (1992) Women: Drop the pastoral, but continue the dialogue. Origins 22, 91-92. -Also published as: A modest proposal for the pastoral on women. In (2000) Prairie views: Twenty-five years of pastoral letters (pp. 378-380). Waite Park, MN: Park Press.
- (1994) Archbishop O'Hara: A Man of Vision for the Church. Unpublished manuscript, St. Paul Seminary Centennial Papers, Department of Special Collections, University of St. Thomas.
- (1995) (Ed., with P. Brennan and M. Leach). The people's catechism: Catholic faith for adults. New York, NY: Crossroads.
- (1997) Review of The catechism yesterday and today: The evolution of a genre, by B. Marthaler. Catholic Historical Review, 83, 287-288.
- (1998) Bishop Lucker: Ordain married men. America, 179, 4-5. -Also published as: Ordination of married men. In (2000) Prairie views: Twenty-five years of pastoral letters (pp. 513-516). Waite Park, MN: Park Press.
- (2000) Prairie views - Twenty-five years of pastoral letters. Waite Park, MN: Park Press.
- (2001) (Ed.) The pastoral letters of Bishop Thomas Langdon Grace, bishop of St. Paul, 1859-1884. New Ulm, MN: Diocese of New Ulm.
- (2003) (Ed., with W. McDonough) Revelation and the church: Vatican II in the twenty-first century. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Press.
- (2003) Introduction: The beauty and challenge of divine revelation. In (2003) Lucker and McDonough (Eds.) Revelation and the church: Vatican II in the twenty-first century (pp. 1-10). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Press.
Interviews with, stories about, and responses to Bishop Lucker
- (1980) Editors. The normal life of the church - An interview with Bishop Raymond Lucker. New Covenant, 10, 22-24.
- (1983) Greene, P. The bishop of New Ulm - The Story of a Christian Community. America, 148, 301-302.
- (1984) Editors. The bishop who tends the little church on the prairie - The editors interview Bishop Raymond Lucker. U.S. Catholic, 49, 25-31.
- (1987) Editors. The vocation of lay leadership in the world - An interview with Bishop Lucker. Our Sunday Visitor, 76, 7.
- (1991) Cunneen, S. What if the church is a mother? America, 165, 407-410.
- (2000) Editors. A strong leader, a holy man. National Catholic Reporter, 36, 21.
- (2000) Editors. U.S. Bishop resigns. Inside the Vatican, 8, 32.
- (2001) Unsworth, T. Raymond A. Lucker, 1927-2001: Obituary. National Catholic Reporter, 37/42, 21.
- (2002) Roberts, T. Reason for hope. National Catholic Reporter, 38/30, 3-4.
- (2004) McClory, R. Bishop takes issue with late predecessor. National Catholic Reporter, 40/27, 5-6.
- (2004) Roberts, T. When having all the answers is not enough. National Catholic Reporter, 40/27, 24.
Some reviews of Lucker's writings
- (1995) The people's catechism: Catholic faith for adults -Gorun, J. In (1996) Emmanuel 102, 511-512.
- (2000) Prairie views - Twenty-five Years of pastoral letters. -Wood, S. The bishop as teacher: Proclaiming the living word of God in the church. In (2003) Lucker and McDonough (Eds), Revelation and the church: Vatican II in the twenty-first century (pp. 86-102). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
- (2003) Revelation and the church: Vatican II in the Twenty-first century, -Heiser, W. In (2004) Theology Digest, 50/4, 383.
- (2003) Revelation and the church: Vatican II in the Twenty-first century, -Massa, J. In (2004)The Thomist, 63/3, 479-482.
- (2003) Revelation and the church: Vatican II in the Twenty-first century, -O'Collins, G. (2006).Living Vatican II: The 21st council for the 21st century (p. 236). New York : Paulist Press.
- (2003) Revelation and the church: Vatican II in the Twenty-first century, -Richard, L. In (2003) Catholic Library World, 74/2,128.
- (2003) Revelation and the church: Vatican II in the Twenty-first century, -Sloyan, G. In (2004) Worship, 78/3, 284-285.
Excerpts from Publications
Lucker, Raymond A., and McDonough, William C. (Eds.). (2003). . Revelation and the church: Vatican II in the twenty-first century. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books
Introduction: The beauty and challenge of divine revelation
For a long time, I have wanted to write a book about two ideas and their connection with each other. First, I have wanted to express something of the beauty and attraction of divine revelation. Students in theology classes helped lead me here. Some have had negative experiences. They would come to class and say: "I defy you to show me that this faith stuff means anything." They have had these experiences, and I tried never to deny that. I tried to listen to what they said, and often it was hard stuff. Often enough, after hearing them, I would add something like this: "That surely is a real part of your life experience. Have you had other experiences?" And then I would listen again.
In the last few years of my teaching, I grew bold enough to ask the students a more direct question. Often at the beginning of class, I would ask the whole group: "Was there a time when you felt closer to God recently?" It would take some time for students to begin, but they would answer with statements like "when I held my baby," or "when I was out walking and noticed how beautiful the world is." When this happened I thought we were starting to do theology. I'd say, "Well, maybe there are things and statements in our history as a church that will help us think about these and other moments in all of our lives."
Then I would bring out the text of the Second Vatican Council on revelation. I would tell them that theology seeks to investigate the God who, "from the fullness of His love, speaks to men and women as friends." It seeks to investigate the "deeds and words" by which "God provides constant evidence of himself in created realities" (DV 2,3).
I talked about revelation recently with Tom Roberts of the National Catholic Reporter. That article was, for some reason, one of those things that hit it right (Roberts, 6-7). It picks up as well as anything what I have to say about revelation, about how it is God's self-communication. I emphasized there the text from Dei Verbum that "God, from the fullness of his love (his, I am going to have to use âhis' here; it is very difficult. No matter what you do you have a problem in this context.) addresses men and women as friends." God wanted to communicate because God is a community. God is a communion, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in their very essence. Their very essence is loving mercy. The very essence of God is faithful love, everlasting love. And so from all eternity God is communicating with Son and Spirit, and loving and showing how to love. From that communication God calls forth love. This is how Vatican II understands creation: an act of love by God. We try to explain it humanly and we can't do it. The very love that God calls forth is the Spirit of God. The very love of God is the Word of God. God is love, and God wants us to love in return.
God revealed himself to us, and wants us to love him. And what does God reveal?: "I love you; I love you and want to be one with you." And I say, "Yes, Lord, how do I show my love for you? Just tell me." But then we can't do it without being moved by God, which is itself a gift. Moved by the grace of God, we are able to say, "Yes, Lord, I love you and turn my life over to you. I want to live the way you want me to live. How do I do that?" By loving one another, and by loving God with all our heart, all our mind, all our strength and all our soul. And we do that by using the gifts that God gives us.
Our own official teaching says that God is a person, not primarily an idea. Studying theology with students has helped me see that what we are trying to do as the church is help each other understand more deeply the communication that God has always wanted to share with us. So, this book is about the beauty of divine revelation.
The second idea I have wanted to write about is the challenge that divine revelation is to all of us. The idea is expressed in another text from Dei Verbum that also got quoted in my interview in The National Catholic Reporter:
The tradition that comes from the apostles makes progress in the church, with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about through the contemplation and study of believes who ponder these things in their hearts (see Luke 2. 19 and 51). It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who, on succeeding to the office of bishop, have received the sure charism of truth. Thus, as the centuries go by, the church is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth, until eventually the words of God are fulfilled in it (DV 8).
We are always advancing toward the full truth. We do not yet have the fullness of truth. None of us does. I personally had a deep experience of this. It happened sometime around Pentecost, 2000, while I was celebrating the Eucharist. During the preparation of the gifts I was saying the words "By the mystery of this water and wine, may we share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity…" and something happened. The words evoked something in me I had never experienced before. I was already sick and thinking about my illness, and after I recited those words I added to myself: "Yes, Lord, this is what I want, to share in the divinity of Christ. And I want to bring my whole life here, now, just as it is." After forty-eight years of celebrating Eucharist I felt I was understanding something for the first time.
Where the beauty and challenge of revelation come together is in the church. After mass, on that same day, a young woman whom I know well - a spiritually active person who, I would say, has a deep sense of practical faith - walked up to me and said: "Something happened to you during the presentation of the gifts. I could see it in your face." I said, "Yes, it did." She said "Thanks." She was able to break through and see something. This is what we need to be for each other, support for growth in our response to God's revelation. This is not something I understood when I was first ordained; I have learned it in the church, from people.
It is that way with revelation: the beauty of God comes first, but we only experience it in the church. The four constitutions of the Second Vatican Council are usually listed in this order: first comes the document on the church (Lumen Gentium), then the one on revelation (Dei Verbum), then the one on liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), and last the one on the church in the modern world (Gaudium et Spes). First, the church; then revelation. Lumen Gentium explains why this is:
The holy people of God shares also in Christ's prophetic office: it spreads abroad a living witness to him, especially by a life of faith and love and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips confessing his name. The whole body of the faithful who have received an anointing which comes from the holy one cannot be mistaken in belief (LG 12).
This means it is the church's prophetic charism of truth that allows God's deeds and words to be understood in the world. We carry on Jesus' mission as God's prophet, and we become the way for God's revelation to continue to be understood and lived in the world. The beauty of revelation is that it enlightens our whole lives; its challenge is that it we bear responsibility for communicating it to the world.
And so this book we want to write about the beauty and challenge of revelation is one about church teaching and changing formulations of church teaching. This is the way it has always been, since the beginning. Through the centuries the church has been able to formulate its teachings and apply them in such a way that we are all able to come up with a consensus, and are able to say: "Ah, yes, of course… Of course, we are against slavery…" But that was the consensus of the church over finally free discussion, after a long time, in some cases kicking and screaming, with weeping and gnashing of teeth, in some cases a more gradual development over a period of time.
This was the case even in the development of the Gospels, that they first were remembered sayings of Jesus and the basic faith of the church, the kerygma (Greek for "preaching"). Then there was the collection of the infancy and passion narratives, and then the parables or whatever else came in. And then finally these were written down in stages, without coming out of one evangelist. After almost a hundred years they said, "Well this is what Jesus did and said." And there were further developments later.
No expression of faith may contradict Jesus, or the basic meaning of Jesus as Son of God, as beloved. If you come up with something that does, why then there is something wrong. Revelation has been going on since the beginning. I suppose in the early church the Fathers and Doctors of the church had to deal with the most fundamental issues. They were dealing with controversies about Jesus as Christ, about the Trinity, about things of that scope. They had to deal with "things that were of the essence." The challenge of coming up with language had to be dealt with, and we still have to deal with that but not as much. We have come to accept words that have come out of a Greek philosophical tradition. We have come to accept those as somehow participating in this whole thing. This language has almost been taken over in the language of faith. I don't know exactly how to deal with this fully, but maybe it will come to me someday or maybe we will simply have to accept that we will not fully know this until the Last Day.
Still, you can take anything the church teaches and have the attitude that I want us to go into our book with. It is an attitude of reverence for the "deeds and words" of God. The development of doctrine is the life of the church. The development of doctrine is ongoing because the ever-given charism of the church as prophet (which is given to the whole church) is ongoing.
God gave the gifts of prophecy to Jesus first. God gave this gift of the Spirit of wisdom to Jesus, first. And God shares with us the gift of prophecy. The prophet is God's mouthpiece, but action-piece, too. That is why revelation is always "words and deeds." It is words and deeds through which God communicates himself to us in his everlasting love. So we are called to share that.
God gives that gift of prophetic ministry to every member of the church. Bishops are given it by their very ordination. Priests, too. But the special charism of priests is not prophecy, but holiness, as it says in the ordination prayer for priests. The special sign-gift of deacons is servant. I don't want to get off on that now, but God shares the gift of prophecy with every single member of the church. Therefore not only do priests and bishops, and the holy see, and the curia and the pope share in the gifts of prophecy in having special roles in the church. All people, everybody, shares in the gift of infallibility. Lumen Gentium is based in the notion that God reveals himself to us and shares the gift of prophecy with us, and we are called to be part of that.
There is much to do here. The practical part of our book could begin with revelation, with the beauty of revelation. I think it is fair to do this as long as we do not imply that revelation is separate from the life of the church. Only in our shared prophetic charism can we receive revelation. To speak of the church is in a sense to talk about the essence of who we are. And then in Dei Verbum we are talking about communication of who we are. In this way, Lumen Gentium comes first and then Dei Verbum comes next. This goes along with the adage that what we do flows from who we are: agere sequitur esse. That is, the church is the prophetic presence of God on earth and what it does is enable people to experience God's revelation. So, there is a doubling up between these two documents: what the church is and what it does.
By the way, this doubling up happens again between the constitution on the church and in the constitution on liturgy. Sacrosanctum Concilium doubles up with Lumen Gentium, which talks about the essence of the church as sharing in the very being of God, the very divine nature of God. In Sacrosanctum Concilium on liturgy, we are now proclaiming and expressing that mystery. And in the process we are sharing in that divine life through the sacraments, the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, eucharist), the sacraments of reconciliation, the sacraments of social order. So we have the church; we have the liturgy; and then we have the church in the modern world.
All of this comes together in the Eucharist: we have the proclamation of the word and the offering of the gifts - taking the bread, breaking it, blessing it and giving it to his disciples. We are being told: "Take this… this is my body… and then bring this with you, bring my body into the world." We have here all the action of human life wrapped up into the divine liturgy, the divine action. We don't usually see our life this way, though, since we are so word-oriented and rational.
My own approach is to understand the other three major constitutions as related to the one on revelation. They are reflections on Christ's threefold way of revealing God. Christ reveals as prophet (Lumen Gentium), as priest (Sacrosanctum Concilium), and as king (Gaudium et Spes).
So, you may surely begin the book by looking at our understanding of revelation. I think it would be good to talk about our church's changed understanding of its relationship with science. Notice that Dei Verbum speaks of revelation even before it speaks of the creation of human beings. This has real implications for our need for a greater appreciation of science. The document says: "God, who creates and conserves all things by His Word, provides constant evidence of himself in created realities. Furthermore, … he manifested himself to our first parents from the very beginning" (DV 3).
In this part of the book, you could also look at how the church's own approach to the Bible has changed. When we talk about the Bible, it is more than a debate about Bible translations. I think this includes thinking through what is in the Bible, just as the Bible itself is a process of thinking through God's revelation. For example, the Bible itself records the prophets re-thinking some of the stories of the conquest of the promised land. How do we use the Bible in the same way for our own life as a church?
Then, next, take up the whole question of the church. Look at the church and how our understanding of what it is to be a church has grown and changed. In the chapter on the church, on Lumen Gentium, we are looking at Christ as prophet. I think we can look at the issue of the relation between the local and universal church. I was on a panel at the Catholic Theological Society of America in the mid-1990s on the this (see Wood, 1993, 148). I was just one of the panel. This is not too controversial for the book. Right now, this summer, we are in the midst of that issue. It has been opened up by the conversation between Cardinals Ratzinger and Kasper. Once an issue gets to this level it is out. There may be some people who would say we have to stop it for a while, but really there is no way of stopping it in a true and real sense. Cardinals are involved. The debate about the synod is going on. So, there is very much there right now that I think we can say is on the table for conversation.
In this section on the church, why not look more at how we come to differentiate what is definitive from what is authoritative teaching in the church? I have worked on understanding tsix levels of teaching in the church (see Wood essay in this book). I have also prepared some informal lists of changes in church teaching (see Appendix).
Lumen Gentium 25 is where the Council makes the distinction between definitive and authentic teaching. In the thirty-five years since the Council we have had this further reflection on the secondary object, on those things not revealed in Scripture but necessary in support of what is revealed there. Now we are trying to figure out what belongs in that secondary object. There was never a debate about changing definitive teaching. Theologians, we, are asking how you know what goes in the secondary object and so is definitive. In the old days, everything kind of floated around the notes, theological notes. And so you had finer and finer and finer demarcations.
We want to look at another question, namely the difficulty in coming to know what is a definitive (unchangeable) and what is an authoritative (not unchangeable) teaching. I think this is how we should address the whole issue of the ordination of women, not as a doctrinal issue itself but as an issue of how we determine what definitive teaching is. I wrote my own position down in the margins of a recent article in The Tablet. Let's add those words in here: "My own position is to call for a free and open discussion … let all bishops, all theologians, all members participate, if it is a free discussion. Then one (I) could discuss favoring a dissenting position. If after open, free discussion over a period of years, the Church came down on the side of non-ordination, I would bow to the collegial discussion. I would not go against the Church. Nor would I today" (Marginal notes of Bishop Lucker on the essay "Women raise their voices," July 7, 2001).
Earlier, I thought all this was getting pretty clear to me, up until when the pope came out with the teaching that we can't talk about ordination of women. The new instruction then started moving toward saying this teaching is definitive, so closely connected with revelation that you cannot change it.
In light of all this, I want us to look from a different perspective. Our book should not address women's ordination as a doctrinal issue to be critiqued. Instead, we are interested in how the church knows what is a definitive teaching; we are interested in the church as a discerning teaching. Maybe ultimately it is going to come down as a definitive teaching. If that is the way it is and I don't accept it as a definitive teaching, then I am about to start my own church. And then we have a problem! I don't want to do that; we don't want to do that; you don't want to do that. So, if the discussion turns out - after free and full discussion - that we have come the conclusion that this is definitive, then we get to a point of saying: "In the end, we bow in the face of definitive teaching."
I think there is a lot of conversation to have about this secondary object, about its meaning. And that might give us an opening to my second list, my list of teachings that have not yet changed, but perhaps could change (see the Appendix).
I think it would be excellent to handle the recent papal apologies - for torture, for the Crusades, for anti-Semitism, for discrimination against women, and for many other things. This is an ecclesiological, and it is about poorly handling our task of being the church.
The third section of the book that takes up questions about liturgy reflects on Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium. Again, I read this constitution as reflecting on Christ as priest. We need to think so much more about the Eucharist. Pope Pius X's decree on frequent communion was certainly a good thing, but so centered us on first communions that we forgot about life. The text I spoke about earlier - "Through the mystery of this water and wine…" - is about the holiness of daily life. We need to think more deeply about the relationship between the Eucharist and our social life together as human beings.
There is also the issue that we say the Eucharist is the primary sacrament of healing. Godfrey Diekmann has identified those prayers in the Sacramentary that thank God for forgiving our sins through the Eucharist. Godfrey has identified about one hundred of them. Just read the prayers after communion, especially during Lent. I don't have the words memorized, but the themes are all like this: "We thank you, God, for taking away our sins in this Eucharist." "We thank you for this source of healing." So, the Eucharist is the sacrament of healing, which has changed the way we celebrate penance.
In the fourth part of the book, you could take up changes in our understanding of the church's way of being in the world. In Gaudium et Spes we are reflecting on Christ as king, on Christ as ruler of the world. There is so much there. One group of issues could surely be those related to the pope's idea of "a culture of life" and Cardinal Bernadin's idea of a "consistent ethic of life."
The challenge here is that the pope has so far identified only abortion as definitive; not capital punishment and not nuclear war. So, there are different levels of teaching operating here. On the other hand, John Paul II's recent acknowledgment (in his encyclical on the "Gospel of Life") that the church itself must do more to model respect for life could help us all think more deeply: "We need to begin with the renewal of a culture of life within Christian communities themselves" (EV 95; emphasis is in the original text). The pope is asking us all to develop a "culture of life." He is asking us to think about how the church affects public life.
Our whole changing understanding of marriage is also a good issue to look at here. I like Ann Wilson Shaef's book about Women's Reality. She says women tend to see love as an infinite cycle (Shaef, 124-125). I accept that; I also think this is a wonderful image for God. This is a description of the giving and receiving of love in the Trinity, in a very human way. You see, we get nervous about speaking of God in sexual terms. Maybe that is why we have such a tough time in Humanae Vitae; we have such a hard time accepting that sexual love is sacred, in accepting that married couples in expressing their love are expressing the worship of God.
This is what Gaudium et Spes said in claiming that married love is "assumed" into God (GS 48). That is what we said, but we haven't followed through on it. So the beauty, the sacredness, and the holiness of all God's teachings do not get fully understood by any of us. If teaching is expressed in heavy-handed ways it comes off as though we do not believe it; it does not come off right. We need to look at our understanding of marriage.
In the end, we must not undermine our own understanding of revelation. God started all of this, and just wants us to return it. God just wants us to respond. And think of that, wow! It is amazing, that God has first loved us, that we are the beloved, that God has called us into being… Oh boy. Or, as Godfrey Diekmann says, we start at the top. He is quoting that gruff western church father who wasn't canonized … Tertullian. Quote Tertullian!
Be flexible in putting all this together. You may end up dealing with different issues. We are just trying to figure out how to be a church. I am not trying to start my own church; we are just trying to figure out together how to be a church. How to be a good church. How to be a renewed church, and how to touch the hearts of people.
Talking about the beauty and challenge of revelation is not only something for the beginning of the book but something that would be in every chapter. We would return to this in every chapter to integrate the book. Anything we do as a church has meaning only as it helps us be attentive and responsive to revelation. The only point for the church is to lead us to respond in faith and love to the love of God for us. "Yes, Lord, I believe." Revelation is always going to lead to, or can lead under the grace of God to a deeper response to God. The question is always: How can this lead us to a deeper experience of God and God's love and presence?
OK, that is enough for now.
From recorded conversations with Bishop Raymond Lucker. (Some transitions and textual references were added by William McDonough). Our Lady of Good Counsel Home, St. Paul, MN, July and August, 2001
Roberts, Tom. (May 25, 2001). "Lucker's final certainty: God is here" National Catholic Reporter 37, 6-7.
Shaef, Ann Wilson. (1992). Women's reality: An emerging female system in a white male society, third edition. San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco.
(July 7, 2001), Women raise their voices, The Tablet, 255, 1001.
Wood, Susan, (1993). Seminar on Ecclesiology. The Catholic Theological Society of America: Proceedings of the Forty-Eighth Annual Conference, 48, 146-148.
The following are must must reads to understand the development of Lucker's thoughts on catechesis:
Lucker, R. (October 20, 1977). Needed: Adult catechesis. . A speech to the 1977 Vatican Synod of Bishops on Catechesis. Origins, 7, 276-277.
Balke, V. and Lucker, R. (October 24, 1981). Male and Female God Created Them A Pastoral Letter Issued Jointly by Bishops Victor Balke (Crookston, MN) and Raymond Lucker (New Ulm, MN)
Lucker, R. (July 3, 1986). Linking church and world; Vocations of the laity . Origins, 16, 146-152. (A speech to his fellow American bishops.)
Any of the 205 pastoral letters written to the people of the Catholic diocese of New Ulm between 1976 and 2000 - and collected in Lucker, Prairie Views - Twenty-five Years of Pastoral Letters. (Waite Park, MN: Park Press, 2000.) The following might be good letters to begin reading:
April, 1977: "Diocesan Mission Statement" (37-41)
December, 1979: "Our Pastoral Center Community" (112-114)
May, 1982: "The Equal Rights Amendment" (186-188)
March, 1984: "Catholic Education" (227-230)
October, 1985: "Thoughts about Death" (263-264)
October, 1991: "To Teach as Jesus Did" (360-361)
June, 1992: "A Modest Proposal for the Pastoral on Women" (378-380)
May, 1993: "We are Being Forced to Our Knees" (397-398)
September, 1998: "The Simplicity of the Gospel Message" (511-512)
October, 1998: "Ordination of Married Men" (513-516)
November, 2000: "Looking Back" (567-569)
Lucker, Raymond A., and McDonough, William C. (Eds.). (2003). Revelation and the church: Vatican II in the twenty-first century. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
Read his introduction to the book: "Introduction: The beauty and challenge of divine revelation." This introduction was written from tape-recorded conversations with Bishop Lucker in the two months before his death. It appears in the "Excerpts from Publications" section of this entry.
William McDonough is associate professor of theology, College of St. Catherine, St. Paul, MN, where he teaches ethics and courses on Christian faith. He taught a course with Bishop Lucker at St. Catherine's in the summer of 1999. With Bishop Lucker, he edited the book Revelation and the Church: Vatican II in the Twenty-First Century (2003).