Trojan Horses: Catholic Dissidents Network

The Catholic Left, includes, among other groups, the following organizations that are committed to ecclesial and political action. Exact numbers are difficult to assess, as memberships frequently overlap. Spokesmen do not give membership figures or rosters. A reliable estimate is that fewer than 3 percent of American Catholics belong to, or are sympathetic with, any of these groups. The Catholic Left, although unable to build a statistically significant membership, has power beyond its numbers because many members are employed by dioceses or Catholic colleges and universities. The membership of all groups is heavily weighed with former priests and nuns who are often given positions as liturgists, catechists, RCIA coordinators, and pastoral associates.

Dissidents are drawn to these groups in order to defend homosexuality, women’s ordination, abortion, and gender-adjusted language in the liturgy. A few join with sincere hopes of bringing justice to the poor, and are typically anxious to maintain government entitlement programs. Catholics concerned with a single issue often are not welcome unless they give assent to the “rights” of the entire spectrum of the leftist agenda.

The organizations listed in this directory are nationally recognized or exert strong regional influence. Many smaller grass-roots groups are in coalition with national organizations but are too localized to be included in this compilation.


Association of Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC)

Calls for elected pastors, bishops, and pope. Promulgates a “Catholic Bill of Rights.” Sample “rights” include self-determined divorce and remarriage, contraception, and homosexual relationships. Part of the task force of the We Are Church referendum. Most members also are members of CTA (see below). Membership draws heavily from ex-clergy, and disaffected nuns. Member of COR (see below). Est. 1980. Delern, NJ. Mary Louise Hartman, president. [see article in Crisis 9/96]

Call To Action (CTA)

A movement of laity and religious seeking to reform the “sinful structure” of the “patriarchal” Church. Most visible dissenting Catholic group—infamous since its 1994 conference coverage on the CBS news program 60 Minutes. Promotes women’s ordination, homosexuality, creation spirituality, married priesthood, and liturgical reforms. Subject of the Bruskewitz excommunication warning. Many members belong to local cell groups called “small faith communities.” Membership draws heavily from former clergy, feminist nuns, and homosexuals. Members staff COR (see below). CTA serves on the national task force for the We Are Church referendum. Est. 1976. Chicago, IL. Dan Daley, president. [see article in Crisis 2/96]

Catholics For A Free Choice (CFFC)

Promotes contraceptive “rights,” including abortion. Specific focus is the “intersection of Catholic teaching and public policy.” Published A New Rite: Conservative Catholic Organizations and Their Allies, a project funded by the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, and the Albert A. List Foundation. CFFC was subject to Bishop Bruskewitz’s excommunication warning. Member of COR. Est. 1973. Washington, DC. Frances Kissling, president.

Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR)

Draws various dissident organizations into coalitions to promote events or activities such as the 1992 Gallop poll of Catholics. COR claims thirty national, regional, and Canadian member organizations. Very few Catholic dissident groups of any size are outside of the COR umbrella. COR has no specific issue; confines focus to promoting the joint efforts of member organizations. Est. by CTA in 1991. Melrose, MA. Bill Thompson, coordinator.

Catholics Speak Out (CSO)/Quixote Center

Pursues the full range of “peace and justice” issues. The Quixote Center, a broad-based “peace and justice” organization, promotes liberation theology in this hemisphere. The Quixote Center, opposed to U.S. foreign policy, frequently poses as the “Catholic” voice to the media on U.S. involvement in Latin America. Catholics Speak Out is the Quixote Center’s most visible project. Directed by Maureen Fiedler, who is also a member of the Loretto Women’s Network (see below). Catholics Speak Out is a member of COR and serves on the national task force for the We Are Church referendum. Hyattsville, MD. Quixote Center est. 1976. Bill Callahan, codirector. CSO Est. 1982. Maureen Fiedler, coordinator.

Celibacy Is The Issue (CITI)

Promotes active sacramental ministry for former priests, now married. Administers “Rent-A-Priest,” a program providing former priests for parishes without a priest, to perform marriages not sanctioned by the Church and to conduct illicit Masses. Member of COR. Est. 1992. Framingham, MA. Louise Hagget, founder.

Center for Action and Contemplation

Not an organization, but a conference center for seminars and workshops in Albuquerque, New Mexico, founded by Richard Rohr, OFM. Rohr is a consultant to dioceses throughout the U.S. for the Enneagram—an occultic system of personality assessment. The Center is publisher of Radical Grace, a nationally distributed “spirituality” newspaper. The Center features dissident speakers at its seminars and training workshops. Active in fostering dissident networking: “We envision CAC as a faith alternative to the dominant consciousness.” Est. 1987. Albuquerque, NM. Wendy Corry and Shari Sommers, codirectors.

Core Of Retired Priests United for Service (CORPUS)

Former priests, most now married, who perform illicit priestly ministries. Founded by former priest Anthony Padavano, who is also V.P. of an international group of married priests. Padovano is also a prominent figure in Call To Action. CORPUS was instituted to provide support and fraternal affiliation for former priests. CORPUS has regional chapters and a Canadian affiliate. Member of COR and national task force for the referendum. Est. 1974. Milford, PA. Anthony Padovano, president.


National movement for homosexual rights, including “marriage” within the Church. Major activity is forming local chapters that provide “spiritual” support for practicing homosexuals who want to pursue full sacramental participation and ministerial duties. Vehemently opposed to COURAGE, the homosexual support organization promoting abstinence. A member of COR and the national task force for the referendum. Est. 1972. Washington, DC. Maryanne Duddy, president.


A regional parish-based coalition seeking to address the priest shortage. An outgrowth of the closing and consolidation of Cleveland area parishes, FutureChurch was established in 1990. In response to the decision by the U.S. Bishops to hold Sunday worship without a priest (the SWAP protocols), FutureChurch claims the remedy is the ordination of married men and women. FutureChurch engages in educational presentations to parishes, grass-roots organizations, and the media. Its current project is a nationally-promoted dialogue on an “inclusive priesthood.” Member of COR. Est. 1990. Cleveland, OH. Christine Schenk, C.S.J., executive director.

Loretto Women’s Network

A national network of militant feminists demanding the Church address “women’s place” within the institutional Church. Founder Mary Luke Tobin, now in her eighties, was an observer at Vatican II. The Loretto network began with nuns of the order, founded in 1812 as a teaching mission, and is open to women in concert with their goals. Maureen Fiedler of WOC (see below) is a member. The Loretto Women’s Network is a member of COR. Est. 1981. St. Louis, MO. Led in committee by Mary Louise Denner and Jenny Williams.

National Center For Pastoral Leadership (formerly Time Consultants)

A forum of dissenting speakers and consultants who travel to dioceses and parishes with workshops and seminars focused upon training ministers to implement new “structures in keeping with the spirit of Vatican II.” Sponsors Future of the American Church conferences, featuring Richard McBrien, delivering an address entitled: “RE-Imaging the Church in the Year 2000.” Other speakers have included Anthony Padovano and Rosemary Rathford Reuther. This group targets religious educators with two major conferences: The East Coast Religious Education Conference each spring, and the Ministry Renewal Network Conference in October. James Cardinal Hickey of Washington required Msgr. Raymond East to resign from his board membership on NCPL. Board members of NCPL include Bishop Raymond Lucker, New Ulm, Minnesota. Est. 1992. Annapolis, MD. Tim Ragan, president.

National Coalition Of American Nuns

Bills itself as a “grassroots” organization for nuns concerned with “sinful structures” of society and church. Members work as advocates for social justice causes and promoting equality of women. Promotes gender-adjusted language, women’s ordination, etc. Spearheaded by Jeannine Gramick, a co-founder of New Ways Ministry, (see below). A member of COR. Est. 1969. Chicago, IL. Sisters Jeannine Gramick and Beth Rendler, codirectors.

New Ways Ministry

Militant homosexual advocates demanding ordination and ministry for homosexuals. Primary effort is educational workshops and seminars to identify and eliminate “homophobia” in the Church. A member of COR and the national task force for the referendum. Founded in 1977 by Jeannine Gramick (see above). Est. 1977. Mt. Ranier, MD. Frank DiBernardo, executive director.

Pax Christi USA

This fifty-year-old Catholic peace movement may be the most widely recognized leftist organization to American Catholics. Long a proponent of nonviolence, Pax Christi promotes “action to transform structures of society.” Aligned with lib¬eration theology, “ecological justice,” and the usual litany of modernist demands, Pax Christi boasts the membership of Bishops Gumbleton, a founder, and Hunthausen, as well as Rosemary Radford Reuther, and Sandra Schneiders. A member of COR. Est. 1972. Erie, PA. Nancy Small, national coordinator.


A small group devoted to support women intimately involved with a Catholic priest. A member of COR Est. 1992. Alexandria, VA. Catherine Mercier, director.

Priests For Equality

Priests promoting women’s rights—particularly an asserted right to ordination. A project of Quixote Center/Catholics Speak Out. Est. 1975. Hyattsville, MD. Fr. Joseph Dearborn, director.

Women’s Alliance for Theology Ethics and Ritual (WATER)

Primary emphasis is liturgy and re-interpretation of the Scriptures. Est. 1983. Hyattsville, MD. Mary Hunt and Diann Neu, cofounders and codirectors.

Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC)

The Women’s Ordination Conference most recently solicited media coverage for its role in initiating the We Are Church referendum, which seeks to gather one million dissident signatures by Pentecost 1997. Next to Pax Christi, WOC may be the oldest identifiable dissident organization in America. The thrust of WOC is to achieve ordination of women, notwithstanding the recent papal document, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. WOC is characterized by strong language denouncing “the patriarchal church” and the papacy of John Paul II. WOC leaders have suggested “new” sacraments that mark stages in a woman’s life. Example: “Sacrament of Crowning” at age fifty to herald the coming of “Wisdom.” A recent WOC confer¬ence claimed ordination meant subordination; consequently, ordination needs to be deconstructed. It is not unusual for WOC meetings to begin with an invocation to a goddess, and may feature a ritual meal. WOC is a member of COR. Est. 1975. Fairfax, VA. Andrea Johnson, executive director.

European Network

This is the six-year-old European coalition of various dissident organizations seeking a reform of the institutional Church. The list of demands is the same as that of American liberal leaders: elected bishops and pope, women’s ordination, homosexual rights, contraception, abortion, married priests.

Affiliated European groups: Catholics for a Changing Church, UK; Eighth Of May, Netherlands; Droits et Libertes dans Les Eglises, France; Kirche von Unten, Germany; Vroumens, Netherlands. European Network/Church On The Move stays in close contact with ARCC in the United States via Leonard Swidler, who drafted the Catholic Bill of Rights. A protégé of Hans Kling, Swidler administers ENI (Ecumenical News International), a World Wide Web religious progressives’ exchange. The Church on the Move coalition promotes a similar referendum to the We Are Church referendum currently being pushed by U.S. dissidents, led by ARCC. The goal is to combine these petitions in order to “March on the Vatican” at Pentecost of 1997: a tacit dare to John Paul II to excommunicate five million Catholics from the U.S. and Europe. The European group effectively uses the Internet to collect electronic signatures. American Catholics have not responded to the We Are Church referendum in significant numbers. This is due in part to the NCCB’s (Anthony Pilla) characterization of the referendum as “divisive,” and the prohibition of pastors against collecting signatures on church property.


  • Mary Jo Anderson

    Mary Jo Anderson is a Catholic journalist and public speaker. She is a board member of Women for Faith and Family and has served on the Legatus Board of Directors. With co-author Robin Bernhoft, she wrote Male and Female He Made Them: Questions and Answers about Marriage and Same-Sex Unions (Catholic Answers Press, 2005).

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