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Kaiser, Robert Blair

kaiserrbApril 2, 2015
Phoenix, AZ

This memorial website was created in the memory of our co-founder, Bob Kaiser, who was born in Arizona 03 December, 1930 and passed away on 02 April, 2015 at the age of 84. We at Catholic Church Reform Int'l will carry on his legacy for the reform of the Catholic Church. Robert Blair Kaiser, journalist and inveterate church lover and critic, died at the age of 84 in a hospice center in Phoenix on Holy Thursday, with daughter, sons, and grandchildren at his bedside. Just a year from ordination into the Jesuit order, Kaiser left and returned as a journalist, soon moving to Rome to cover the Second Vatican Council for Time magazine. His writing and passion for church propelled him forward. He pressed for reform to the last breaths of his life, a computer on his chest while hooked up to oxygen. Lecturer and author of 16 books, included two novels, one about Cardinal Roger Mahony called "Cardinal Mahony," Kaiser found every vehicle he could to fan the flames of church reform, often focusing on the need for lay men and women to elect their bishops as they once did a millennium or more back.

Throughout the 80s, Bob Kaiser was chair of the University of Nevada, Reno School of Journalism, established with his friend, Warren LeRude. He was co-founder of, a web community of American Catholics whose stated mission was to seek “ownership and citizenship in the people's church envisioned at Vatican II.” More recently, he co-founded Catholic Church Reform International with his lifelong friend, Rene Reid. Kaiser’s reform activities also included a speaker’s bureau he formed in Phoenix. Supported by friends, including current and former Jesuits with whom he had stayed in touch, the bureau for years gave progressive Catholics a forum to share ideas and hopes, allowing Vatican II Catholics to keep these ideas alive in dark times. It was during the council years in the mid-1960s that Kaiser formed his progressive and eventually radical vision of church: collegiate, even democratic, in nature, open to the world, and endlessly pursuing justice. It was a compelling vision and it stayed with him throughout his life, passionately shaping his values and writings. For his supporters, he was a one of a kind energy source, courageously combative and a spokesperson for a church of service and the poor, one that kept the needs of ordinary people foremost in mind, a “peoples’ church.” For his critics, he was an unyielding and arrogant ideologue.

Kaiser spent 12 years in the Society of Jesus as a novice and scholastic before leaving to marry. Once in Rome as a young journalist, his Sunday evening dinner parties became a hot ticket item and the scene for lively conversations among journalists, priests and prelates. He published Pope, Council and World: The Story of Vatican II, in 1963, telling the story of the struggle between progressive clerical forces and old guard-bishops as the council took shape. If Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI were primarily responsible for thwarting the winds of conciliar reform in Kaiser’s eyes, Pope Francis, now two years into his pontificate has been its principle prelate conveyor of fresh hope. Last year, Kaiser published “Inside the Jesuits: How Pope Francis Is Changing the Church and the World,” a work in which the author argued that Francis’ “Jesuit DNA” is central to understanding his vision of church and its place in the wider world. Throughout the book Kaiser emphasized not only that Francis is different from his predecessors, but also that the nature of this difference lies precisely in the fact that he is a Jesuit.

Kaiser was among the last of the journalists to have reported the Second Vatican Council. With his death, a rich and lonely living memory of that epic church event is being silenced, the reforms Kaiser sought still remaining to be fulfilled. Bob Kaiser is survived by three children – Polly, John, and Bill – and six grandchildren. The family announced on Kaiser's Facebook page that a wake and celebration of his life will be held at 6:30 p.m., Thursday April 9 at Santa Lucia Yaqui Church, 5445 E Calle San Angelo, in Guadalupe, AZ 85283. A Mass will be celebrated at 1:30 p.m., Friday April 10 at Francis Xavier Church, 4715 N Central Ave., in Phoenix, AZ 85012. [This bio taken in part from Tom Fox’s National Catholic Reporter article.]