CCCB's letter on why the bishops are leaving KAIROS

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2016-10-17 17:01 || Canada Canada

Here is the letter from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops explaining why the bishops chose to leave KAIROS. Présence obtained this letter, and had it confirmed.

October 7, 2016

Dear friends in Christ,

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am writing to you on behalf of my brother Catholic Bishops concerning our involvement as participants in KAIROS. During the past fifteen years of our common ecumenical pursuit of justice, we have appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with you in numerous life-giving and grace-filled initiatives.

We have likewise been in sincere and open dialogue with our friends and partners on what has until recently been the KAIROS Board (now the KAIROS Steering Committee). After careful reflection and prayerful soul-searching, the Catholic Bishops of Canada at our Plenary Assembly, September 26-29, 2016, have decided that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) end its membership in KAIROS. You can understand that this has been a difficult decision for us to make, though we are certain it does not come as a surprise to you. On a number of occasions over the past years, our Conference’s representatives to KAIROS have indicated our concerns about various aspects of KAIROS structures, policies, strategies and functioning. Our decision does not affect our Church’s and our Conference’s ongoing commitment to ecumenism, social justice, and interchurch collaboration. The CCCB continues to see great value in working ecumenically on justice and peace initiatives which are in keeping with fundamental principles of ecumenism. Indeed, the CCCB is grateful that Catholics will continue to be officially represented on KAIROS in a variety of ways. Furthermore, we would hope that in the future there would be not only a continuing exchange of information between KAIROS and our Conference, but also consideration about occasional cooperation on a project to project basis.

In the conversations leading up to this decision, our Permanent Council, our Executive Committee, our Commission for Justice and Peace, and our Commission for Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews, and Interfaith Dialogue have noted our gratitude for much of the work and witness undertaken by KAIROS. A number of its initiatives resonate with Catholic social teaching, as well as with the ongoing efforts and commitment of our Conference and of Catholic dioceses and eparchies to reach out to the marginalized. We appreciate particularly that KAIROS is giving special attention to Indigenous rights and to the environment, even while we also acknowledge that KAIROS’ approaches and ours often differ significantly.

Our Conference has underscored on previous occasions to the representatives of the other churches and of KAIROS itself the difficulties we have experienced as one of its members, given its incompatibility with our nature, structures and role as the national assembly of the Roman and Eastern Catholic Bishops of Canada. Without providing an exhaustive list, our key concerns include: 1) the paramount emphasis it gives to projects, advocacy and immediate action, without what we consider sufficient attention to searching for a common understanding of the underlying biblical and theological principles involved; 2) an approach to “consensus” which often effectively translates into a decision made by the majority, in contrast to our understanding of ecumenism in which the concerns of each participating church are fully taken into account; 3) the lack of a mechanism by which a participating member can opt in or out of specific KAIROS projects. Regrettably, however, efforts over the years by our Conference and representatives of KAIROS have failed to find a means to address these concerns meaningfully. A number of our difficulties had already been articulated soon after KAIROS was formed; they and others have continued to be brought forward at regular intervals over the years.

We have come to the understanding that these concerns are largely unavoidable given the nature of KAIROS, in which the members provide broad policy direction whereas the programming is carried out by staff members. While this is a valid way of operating, it is nevertheless incongruent with the type of oversight and consultation required by Catholic Bishops engaged in a given ecumenical venture.

Most recently, our Conference has found itself uncomfortable with the new Memorandum of Agreement and has decided not to sign on as a participant in a venture in which it and the other churches are simply participants in what corporately and legally has become a project of just one particular church. We find this approach, while admittedly the only available one, is difficult to square with our Conference’s understanding of ecumenism. For these reasons, the Catholic Bishops of Canada have decided that this is an opportune moment for our Conference to cease its membership. In light of this, and in order to facilitate a smooth transition, our General Secretary and his staff will be happy to work with the KAIROS Executive Director on the practicalities involved.

We remain open to collaborating on any specific future projects in which it might be mutually opportune for our Conference to participate, especially when such initiatives in common would resonate with our own pastoral priorities.

Sincerely in the Lord,

(Most Rev.) Douglas Crosby, OMI
Bishop of Hamilton and President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops


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