In 1996, the Catholic Common Ground Initiative was founded in an effort to lessen polarities and divisions that weaken the communion of the church. At the origin of the Initiative, the National Pastoral Life Center released a charter statement, “Called to Be Catholic: Church in a Time of Peril,” proposing guidelines for dialogue within the church.
The Initiative begun fifteen years ago by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin continues today. The Catholic Common Ground Initiative is committed not only to facilitating dialogue but also to exemplifying a process of communication that values varying perspectives and works to foster faith and understanding.
Through lectures, conferences, and programs in Catholic parishes, schools, and organizations, the Catholic Common Ground Initiative continues to promote dialogue within the church on a variety of theological and social issues, including the changing roles of women, human sexuality, healthcare reform, and immigration—challenges facing not just the American Catholic Church but the United States as a whole.
In the Spring of 2009, the Initiative created a new strategic plan, “A Living Witness.” The Initiative moved to The Bernardin Center for Theology and Ministry at Catholic Theological Union in November of 2009.
The Catholic Common Ground Initiative, inspired by the call to be one in Christ, invites Catholics with differing views about critical issues in the church to engage in prayerful dialogue for the sake of building up the communion of the church.
The Catholic Common Ground Initiative is guided by an Advisory Committee and is composed of clergy, religious, academics, business leaders, and others dedicated to intrachurch dialogue.
Timeline of the Initiative
- February 1992: Cardinal Bernardin issues a statement: “The Parish in the Contemporary Church”
- Spring 1992: Conversations between Cardinal Bernardin and Rev. Philip J. Murnion about pastoral concerns and polarization
- December 1992: Meeting of a group to discuss concerns
- 1993 to 1996: Five more meetings are held with varying participants.
- 1995 to 1996: “Called to Be Catholic: Church in a Time of Peril” statement is developed.
- Spring 1996: Decision by Cardinal Bernardin to establish the Catholic Common Ground Project. The committee is formed. The secretariat of the Initiative is established at the National Pastoral Life Center in New York.
- August 12, 1996: Press Conference is held by Cardinal Bernardin to announce the project and to release the statement.
- October 24, 1996: First meeting of the Initiative Committee. Public Address by Cardinal Bernardin spelling out the purposes of the Catholic Common Ground Initiative.
- November 14, 1996: Cardinal Bernardin passes away.
- November 1996- November 2009: National Pastoral Life Center provides leadership for furthering the Initiative.
- November 14, 2009: The Initiative moves to The Bernardin Center for Theology and Ministry at Catholic Theological Union, and undertakes a new strategic plan, “A Living Witness.”
The Catholic Common Ground Initiative maintains its identity and programming through the hard work and dedication of four staff members, some of which work at Catholic Theological Union and others who serve the wider church in different capacities.