From: "Brian R. Corbin" <>

I found Wood's analysis to be very helpful in understanding how religious institutions can and do provide "powerful" resources in a community, and could provide such resources across communities. As we are now starting up

such an organization here in the Youngstown, OH area, Wood's insights are being shared with such religious leaders to help better understand the roleof community-congregation based organizing.

His analysis of the Catholic Church needs a bit more refinement. Though itis "priest" centered, the teachings of the Church regarding lay leadership,participation and social apostolates since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) are not articulated in his work. Further, one of the major funders of these local groups, and national networks, is the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. It would have been nice to have seen some aspects to that funding and organizing source, since 1971.

Wood's paper brings up some excellent points, and we hope to use it here amongst religious judicatory leaders to help explain whatcommunity-congregation based organizing is all about. Thanks for the hard work and conrtibution.

Brian Corbin

Diocesan Director, Catholic Campaign for Human Development/Office of Social Action


From: richard l wood <>

Thanks to Brian Corbin for his appreciative comments re: "Faith and Power." I would wholeheartedly accept his suggestion that more attention could be paid to the role of CHD in sustaining this kind of work for 25 years, as well as to the changes in lay leadership since Vatican II. Those things are left out in the brief paper on COMM-ORG solely for space reasons, and doing so may well have created a tone in the paper that didn't accurately reflect what goes on in Catholic parishes. I WOULD suggest that the interface of priestly and lay authority in the Catholic Church continues to be a "social space" requiring lots of negotiation and growth on both sides; but that is so precisely because Vatican II called the church to real change in this area.

For fuller treatment, look for my book _Faith in Action_, hopefully out in 1999. Even there, though, I don't do anything like a full account of CHD's role. Other good places to look include Steve Hart's and John Coleman's forthcoming books (the latter with a chapter on community organizing that I co-authored), and the work of the other authors of the current papers posted on COMM-ORG.

Richard L. Wood

Department of Sociology

University of New Mexico

1915 Roma NE, SSCI 1078

Albuquerque, NM 87131-1166

phone: 505-277-3945

fax: 505-277-8805



From: "Dr. Michael Byrd" <>

Brian Corbin speaks to an important dynamic within the Catholic Church that none of us--researchers or organizers--can afford to overlook. One researcher who is paying particular attention to the role of laity in the Catholic Church is James D. Davidson (Professor of Sociology at Purdue University and Director of the Catholic Pluralism Project). I cited his co-authored study, _Laity, American & Catholic: Transforming the Church_ in my paper and I also understand that he is currently working on a research project on the Campaign for Human Development. It might be helpful to try and bring him on board in this discussion in some way.

Another helpful source on Vatican II movement among Catholic laity is Castelli's and Gremillion's _The Emerging Parish: The Notre Dame Study of Catholic Life since Vatican II_ (also cited in my paper). My dissertation advances the claim originally made in these Catholic studies that Vatican II theology is no longer simply explicitly advanced by reform-minded clergy/theologians, but has become integral to laypersons. I employ Rhys William' categories of ideology and culture (see "Religion as a Political Resource," _Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion_, December 1996, 35:4:368-378) to articulate this shift from theology as ideological commitment to theology as everyday culture in North American parish and diocesan life. More significantly, I argue that Vatican II cultural assumptions constitute a "cognitive" dimension that facilitates an interface between post-Vatican II Catholic groups and neo-Alinskyite organizing principles.

Also worthy of mention is Gene Burns' _The Frontiers of Catholicism: The Politics of Ideology in a Liberal World_, which Mark Warren mentions as a primary source for his own views of the relations between the Catholic Church and the Texas IAF (see his dissertation). Rather than approaching liberalization from the lay perspective as these other studies do, Burns' considers it from a politico-ecclesial point of view.

--Michael Byrd


From: (Mexico Service & Education Project)


In Mexico the Catholic laity group "CENCOS" (Center for Social Education) had been closely affiliated to the Catholic hierarchy since its foundation in 1964 by Mexican Episcopate during the development of Vatican 2. Orginally intended as a 'social communications' public relations medium for Catholic hierarchy in Mexico.

When the bishops refused to condemn the Mexican government's killing of an estimated 500 demonstrators in 1968, CENCOS realised that the Catholic laity had to speak independently on human rights. Because the Catholic hierarchy was closely affiliated to the government line, despite being formally excluded from politics, education, and property ownership since the Revolution in 1910. CENCOS made public the massacre when government stifled press. CENCOS broke its connection with Mexican Episcopate. and became independent.

CENCOS ratified it commitment to the most vulnerable social sectors of the country. It has become one of the leading human rights activist groups in Mexico since 1968, and has been key to the development of the democratic reform and civil rights movement in Mexico. CENCOS promotes the strategic use of civil communications and supports the visibility of civil society organisations in the national and international mass media.

This coincided with the Base Community and Liberation Theology movement that spread through Latin America in the 70's-80's.

In 1990s CENCOS works on democractic reform, citizen participation, and human rights. It gives public relations and media access to civil rights, community, and minority organisations.

For example it supports the peace process in the Mexican state of Chiapas. The indigenous people of Chiapas have been seeking autonomous government since 1994. The rural communities suffer repression and displacement by government military forces and the government supported para-military groups. In December 1997 paramilitaries killed 45 displaced pacifist indegenous persons during their mass, while the police threw an exclusion cordon around the community and did not respond to emergency calls for 3 hours.

For more information on CENCOS communicate with or see

See also Mexico at the Crossroads - Politics, the Church and the Poor - by Michael Tangeman - Orbis Books, Maryknoll (Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America), New York 10545 - 1995.

This note was prepared by Robert Sellick - Casa de los Amigos - Service and Education Project Coordinator.

Casa de los Amigos

Calle Ignacio Mariscal 132

Col. Tabacalera

Mexico D.F. 06030


Tel: (52 5) 705 0521/705 0646

Fax: (52 5) 705 0771


Visit our Web page:

HELP! Would you like to donate 1-12 sheets of tri-plywood to a group of women who are building their own houses with the assistance of Casa volunteer labor?


From: "Dr. Michael Byrd" <>

I mentioned James Davidson in a post the other day re: Catholic laity. I just received an advertisement for a new study he has co-authored entitled, _The Search for Common Ground: What Unites and Divide Catholic Americans_. The ad's description calls this book the "most extensive study of the beliefs and religious activity of currently practicing, as well as non-practicing, Catholics." It goes on to say:

"By investigating the extent of diversity and similarity among American Catholics, Professor Davidson and his team discovered that the single most important attribute contributing to pluralism in today's church is not race, ethnicity, or gender, but birth cohort--whether a person's formative religious experiences came before, during, or after Vatican II"

Not having read the study myself, I can only say that preliminarily it would seem to support the significance of laity in North American parishes.

--Michael Byrd


This comment is in respect to Part B. Democratic skill:

In Part B. it is mentioned that it may be that "democratic skills" are a relatively small component of what make churches effective participants in community organizing.

Idon't think the analysis went far enough in considering the opportunity the auxiliary and ministry structure within churches, in general, provide for community organizing in the public domain. While democratic skills is a good broad descriptive category of skills, I think a broad but specific descriptive category as "community organizing/development skills" would be more instructive. I example the following scenario which I have found in many churches, both denominational and post-denominational:

1. Many churches, old and new, have auxiliaries and ministries which carryout work to meet the daily "brick, bread and thread" issues of its members and the community in general.

2. Within churches that have an auxiliary and ministry structure there is an opportunity for the transference of basic community organizing/development skills. While I posit auxiliaries and ministries as organized entities, however limited, they are prime targets for more community organizing training, as they have identified self-interest in which they could organize a larger core group, inside and outside of the church with the Pastor's blessings.

3. Generally speaking, a pastor's self-interest is around a growing membership, and incidental to increased membership is the increase of tithes, offerings, and public relations.

4. The basic community organizing/development skills that fit these types of entities and self-interests are: how to hold effective meetings, group process, strategic planning, developing a mission, writing goals and objectives, critical path visioning, issue analysis, power analysis, and how to do one-on-one self-interest relationship building.

5. This type of training should be introduced to pastors and other church leaders in the context of ways and means of meeting the whole needs of its members and community.

6. Essentially, this strategy takes church structures where they are along with the self interest of the pastor and forge a broader agenda in respect to how auxiliaries and ministries can further enhance the development of the church and meet the needs of its members, and demonstrate its power in the public domain via developing appropriate relationships with elected officials and corporate heads.

I submit these comments to encourage further consideration of what makes churches effective participants in community organizing.


Minister Ari S. Merretazon, M.S.CED