ACTA - A Call to Action

A Timefor Dialogue!  icon Summer 2014

        A very warm welcome to all our new members and many thanks to everyone who already joined in the work of spreading our Mission Statement: 


          Congratulations to everyone for doing everything you can to bring in more members. We are in a very exciting time for the Church, with every hope that Pope Francis will bring about new possibilities. The laity may be taken seriously as never before. They’re building new office space in the Vatican for the Synod!  Times are changing. We need to be ready to step up to the responsibility of contributing to the consensus fidelium. As you well know, this is not about some sort of opinion poll among Catholics on contentious issues. It’s about a deeply informed, serious engagement in our faith. By  prayer, study and by sharing our life experience in relationships, in families and in parishes with each other,  we inform our conscience and gain insights  which can enrich the structures, governance and teaching of our Church both through a Synod of the Laity – and through more collaboration at national, diocesan and parish levels.

          The extent  to which we will be afforded those sorts of opportunities by our hierarchy is directly related to our numbers. So every time you go to an ACTA meeting - please try to find more people to bring with you – or send new people to go when you cannot go yourself. It’s always worth reminding oneself what we’re about:- 


A Call to Action  ACTA - Mission statement 

We are a group of Catholics, many of whom are ordained, brought together by our love of Christ's church and our anxiety about its future. Still inspired by the Second Vatican Council, we want to contribute fully to the life of our church so that we may be a more effective sign of the Kingdom of God. To do this, we believe that an atmosphere of openness and dialogue both with each other and with our bishops needs developing. We desire to help create a climate of trust and respect for all where this dialogue may be fostered. 


We have now supplemented that Mission Statement with a brief description of the theology which underpins ACTA:  


ACTA is a movement built from below by clergy and laity alike in every diocese in England and Wales. It exists to give those people an effective voice. It aims to establish and promote ways of dialogue within a hierarchically structured people’s Church.                                                                                                        ACTA is committed to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council as the only way forward for mission to modern society. It is not a small chapel of selected followers; it sees the Church as a “big tent”, with open doors. As a free and representative association of believers, it seeks to liberate their expertise, so as to bring added energy and witness to the Church in the world. 

The Leadership Team hopes you will find this extra statement helpful when you explain about ACTA to new people. 


          In the last newsletter (March – in the Latest Downloads column on the website) I finished the round-up of area news.  Of course the numbers are still growing. We now find it hard to specify the exact membership number as the varied patterns of record keeping in different diocesan areas do not necessarily mesh together. Although around 1,500 members  have submitted details on joining ACTA, there are hundreds more whose details are kept locally, or who stay independent of any diocesan area. One Google group has around 21 talkative participants who, one would think, were all in ACTA – but on checking records it turns out that only two are actually “on the books”. If that kind of interest or commitment was replicated around the country we could probably be claiming well over 10,000 supporters! There’s no way of being sure, but the picture looks very good.  


        The National Delegate Council (one delegate from each diocese and two from the large Archdioceses) met in Birmingham on May 10th.  News of meetings with Bishops is very good – certainly more than a dozen have occurred and more are in the pipeline. One Bishop on our first approach refused outright to meet his local ACTA because he was “too busy making contact with the Laity” but our members politely approached him again – he agreed – a most congenial meeting took place – their next meeting is planned. If we want our Bishops to be open-minded about ACTA, we also have to put aside preconceptions about them. We are church – and so are they! 


          The NDC also discussed our new initiative on the web-site which John McLorinan is kindly running: – a Recommended Reading list on the Home page of the website. This is a great way to find or share recommendations of books or articles on Spirituality or Theology. Please consider contributing to it. Contact  with suggestions or queries. 

If you’ve been following the website, you’ll know of the various


ACTA  interviews on BBC radio channels and the article in the Times – there’s one on its way shortly in the Catholic Herald and another new one in the Furrow. Please think about offering an article yourself to your own diocesan newspaper. We all need to be ACTA-vists! 


          The NDC is urging each ACTA group to consider having one member whose job is to take a specifically theological lead in the steering group, to help the Coordinator and Delegate to mark up the centrality of theology in ACTA. The research paper on Theology which the Leeds ACTA produced is on the web-site under “documents”. It’s excellent and highly recommended. It’s worth having a regular dip into those documents – especially for papers by distinguished theologians who support ACTA like Tom O’Loughlin, John Sullivan and David McLoughlin. 

          The NDC sub-committee is still busy with the Constitution – the issue became more complicated at the start of the year when the Charity commission introduced a new category of organisation called a Charitably Incorporated Organisation. 


          The NDC need your help about parish pastoral councils in your area. The Vatican’s International  Theological Commission has recently put out a paper 

 Sensus Fidei in the life of the Church” 


Paragraph 125 : Such public exchange of opinion is a prime means by which, in a normal way, the sensus fidelium can be gauged. Since the Second Vatican Council, however, various institutional instruments by which the faithful may more formally be heard and consulted have been established, such as particular councils, to which priests and others of Christ’s faithful may be invited,[140]diocesan synods, to which the diocesan bishop may also invite lay people as members,[141] the pastoral council of each diocese, which is ‘composed of members of Christ’s faithful who are in full communion with the Catholic Church: clerics, members of institutes of consecrated life, and especially lay people’,[142] and pastoral councils in parishes, in which ‘Christ’s faithful, together with those who by virtue of their office are engaged in pastoral care in the parish, give their help in fostering pastoral action’.[143] 

Paragraph 126: Structures of consultation such as those mentioned above can be greatly beneficial to the Church, but only if pastors and lay people are mutually respectful of one another’s charisms and if they carefully and continually listen to one another’s experiences and concerns. Humble listening at all levels and proper consultation of those concerned are integral aspects of a living and lively Church. 


Most ACTA members would not recognise the picture of full consultation and dialogue painted in paragraph 125 & 126. Indeed ACTA would never have arisen if that was the reality. But we might be wrong – you might have local experience of wonderful pastoral councils where dialogue has been happening fruitfully for years. The NDC wants to collect data on this issue. In Birmingham we have 224 parishes but only a handful of parish pastoral councils, as far as we know. Please let your Coordinator know about your experience so that the NDC can build up a national picture of how many “institutional instruments” currently do exist for dialogue with laity. 


          You might be interested to read the preparatory document for the Extraordinary Synod coming up in October. Christopher Lamb has an excellent analysis of it in the Tablet. It’s covered online fully too by the National Catholic Reporter. Here are some links: 




Finally – do come and meet together for our National Annual Conference in Liverpool at Hope University on Saturday, October 25th if you possibly can – and tell everyone about it too! Our speakers are excellent and are addressing three vital issues– The Joy of the Gospel, Justice for Women and Remarriage and the Eucharist. All the details about the Annual Conference are there at   Register now online or e-mail for help getting it sorted.

See you there! 

God bless and love,  

Jean Riordan. 

Chair of ACTA National Leadership Team.