Catholic Spirit: Area clergy gather for pilot program on religious freedom

(by Barb Ernster)
June 4, 2013

A select group of clergy from nine dioceses in the province encompassing Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota gathered for the first Freedom Academy, hosted by the Minnesota Catholic Conference, June 2 and 3 at the Nicollet Island Inn.

Participants came to explore and discuss the importance of religious freedom and the challenges facing the Church, and to help them identify the relevant issues from legal, philosophical, ec­clesial/theological and social ministry standpoints.

Presenters included Helen Alvaré of George Mason University School of Law, James R. Stoner, Jr. from Louisiana State University, Father Raymond de Souza of the Diocese of Kingston, Ont., and Deacon Kevin Sartorius, executive director of Catholic Charities in Tulsa, Okla.

Jason Adkins, executive director of the MCC who co-organized the event with Father Dan Griffith, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas, said this was a pilot program and hopefully the first in a number of educational initiatives aimed at fostering greater knowledge of the issue of religious liberty, Catholic social teaching and the Church’s role in the public arena.

“The purpose of the event was to help them identify the issues so they can deepen their study and provide some context to help form the laity on these issues,” Adkins said. “If we can train advocates in the various dioceses, that’s a real value-add for those local churches to have experts on this issue. To help people even spot the issues and know what to look for is an important first step.”