Releasing the White Heat of Charism: The Corporate Stance
A Corporate or Public Stance is a position taken by a Religious Congregation in response to a specific issue, external to the Congregation, of current importance. A corporate stance must be consistent with the values of the Gospel, the teachings of the Church and the charism and mission of the Congregation. Religious communities have developed their own processes of coming to a corporate stance. The process typically involves an individual or group raising the issue; a process of study, reflection, prayer and dialogue by which the Community educates itself on the issue and sparks interest. A statement of the corporate stance is developed to which the members of the Congregation, and sometimes its associates, are invited to indicate support or opposition. Usually a high percentage of support of the responding members is required for the Congregation to take a corporate stance. After the corporate stand is taken, the Congregation communicates the stand in a variety of ways to members and associates, to collaborators in ministry, and to the general public. Often the corporate stance is celebrated in ritual in which the members commit themselves to action around the stance: through prayer, advocacy, education, art and music.
Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB expresses well why Congregations take public stances:
Religious congregations must release everywhere in society, at every level, through every individual member – wherever those members are, whatever separate things they do – the white heat of the Congregation’s charism on the hard, cold questions of the age in one great corporate mind and one easily seen communal heart. Otherwise, what are the charism for in this day and age?” ( The Fire in These Ashes: A Spirituality of Contemporary Religious Life, Sheed and Ward, 1995, 168).