Monday, December 3, 2018

José Ignacio López Vigil: "Saint Paul invented the homophobic and sexist Church"

by José Manuel Vidal (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
November 16, 2018

Translator's Note: I have many questions about López Vigil's assertions in this article, which don't seem to me to be supported by the Bible or standard Biblical scholarship but his perspective is interesting.

"Paul of Tarsus, who didn't know Jesus of Nazareth, invented Jesus Christ and, moreover, since he was misogynist, proslavery, and homophobic, he created a Church in his image and likeness." He says it all in one fell swoop and, when finished, asks those present, "Have I spoken many heresies?" And the truth is that, with his long beard, gray hair and glasses, José Ignacio López Vigil seems a holy father rather than a heretic. Of course, he speaks and writes very clearly, as he has been demonstrating, for years, on his radio programs and in his books.

Yesterday, specifically, he presented his latest work ¡Frente a frente! San Pablo Apóstol, el que inventó a Cristo y María Magdalena, la que conoció a Jesús ["Face to Face! Saint Paul the Apostle, the one who invented Christ, and Mary Magdalene, the one who knew Jesus" -- Ediciones feadulta.com, 2018], before a large audience which filled the auditorium of Chaminade High School. A new book that, like all the previous ones, is written in four hands with his sister, María López Vigil, who is also a journalist.

The introduction of the table, which included the author along with theologian Xabier Pikaza, was given by Africa de la Cruz, professor emeritus of psychology at the Autonomous University of Madrid, who began by recalling "the important role that the two sibling writers played in my spiritual evolution." With several of their works, but especially with Un tal Jesus, the most famous and the most controversial one, but that served as food for generations of believers, who, from their hand, "made the mortal leap from the Jesus of the Creed to the 'brown man from Nazareth,' from a God to be feared and basically hated, to the God of love and only love."

Of the new book, the object of the presentation, the professor praised its "casual and irreverent style, its apparent simplicity and its simplification and, even, its sense of humor and its engaging narrative form."

Then, a video of theologian José María Castillo, author of several books on the subject, who says that "the problem started with Paul," was screened. After greeting those present, he described the López Vigil siblings as "people of significant gospel depth and remarkable intellectual competence."

Regarding the work, Castillo wanted to emphasize that the expository simplicity is not at odds with the depth, although "there are people who confuse the simplicity and clear-sightedness of direct communication with lack of intellectual depth." In his opinion, to speak plainly and clearly like Jesus, "is not to lower the level of reliability" and, in addition, one reaches many more people that way.

"There are mentalities formed in high speculation that give more value to theories, but Jesus spoke in parables and his teaching was narrative theology, a theology that is as valuable as the purely speculative and, in many cases, goes further and reaches to what is deepest in the faith of the simple," concluded the theologian, asserting that the authors "have that gift of the narrative theology." A gift "that few have."

After thanking Castillo, who appears in the series initially composed as radio chronicles, one of the authors, José Ignacio López Vigil, jumps into the arena, picks up the microphone and with his accent a mix of Asturias Spanish passed through Latin America for many years (and he is still there), goes straight to the point from the beginning. As if he wanted to shake up and provoke those present who, on the other hand, came wanting to be shaken up.

And he launches a series of clear and emphatic statements: "Paul wrote his letters knowing nothing, absolutely nothing about Jesus. He neither knew Jesus nor ate fish with him. He just had a revelation on the way to Damascus and began to write, without even going back to Jerusalem to speak with Mary, his mother, or with Mary Magdalene, his companion."

Therefore, "in Paul's letters there is no geography nor history." So much so that Paul, the traveler, the intellectual of the Pharisaic school of Gamaliel who knew three languages (Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek) and knew how to write while "the other disciples and Jesus himself were illiterate," that Paul "invented Jesus Christ."

Moreover, "Paul of Tarsus was not only homophobic, misogynist and proslavery, but he also invented the theory of original sin and, as a consequence, the thesis of expiation." To redeem the world from that terrible sin, God, enraged, sends his own Son to be killed and with his blood he washes away the sin and God is quiet. Terrible."

The opposite face of nascent Christianity is offered, according to López Vigil, by Mary Magdalene, "the founder of Christianity, who proclaimed 'he is alive and his project did not end on the cross'." The one who is opposed in the book, to the homophobia of Paul of Tarsus. Among other things, because "all those who go to communion have prayed before the prayer of a gay man, the Roman centurion, who says to Jesus, 'Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter my house (to heal my partner), but one word of yours will be enough to heal him.' " *

The worst of these two opposing forms of Christianity is, for López Vigil, that "the Church opted for that of Paul of Tarsus and completely marginalized that of Mary Magdalene." Therefore, in his opinion, "it is crucial to recover the gospels and Mary Magdalene."

After the author's first intervention, Xabier Pikaza, like the great biblist he is, wanted to clarify López Vigil's statements a little and said that, contrary to what is usually thought, "the Paul of whom you speak is the popular Paul, to whom are attributed some assertions that are obvious interpolations, such as what he says about women."

According to Pikaza, "Paul did admirable things and, most important, he said that Jesus was God." The biblical scholar acknowledges that "it seems that Paul had a misogyny problem, but in his Church women were equal to men." And he ended by stressing that "Paul was fundamental and, without him, Christianity would not have been able to move forward" and by asking the authors for new installments of their work on the authentic Paul.

López Vigil accepted the challenge to keep on discussing and writing about Paul of Tarsus in new books, to then submit to the questions of those present. In his answers, he recalled for example that he wrote Un tal Jesús "in the beautiful days of Liberation Theology, which John Paul II busied himself ruining."

Asked again about Magdalene, he asserted that "although the Church, to marginalize her, characterized her as a prostitute, she was really a fish seller who fell in love with Jesus and Jesus with her, an extraordinary woman, a fighting Galilean." Therefore, in his opinion, "you have to reclaim her, because she was the apostle of the apostles."

To connect the current Church to Mary Magdalene's Christianity, López Vigil asked the Pope for "a Church that abolishes celibacy and a Church with women leaders, not women priests, because if the Church doesn't have a feminine face, it isn't the Church of Jesus."

Asked about the relationship between celibacy and clergy abuse, López Vigil denied a direct relationship but he stated that "the Church prohibited priests from marriage to defend its heritage and imposed celibacy so that priests' wives could not inherit anything," and he proclaimed that "celibacy is an anti-natural law that can cause anti-natural reactions and, therefore, it must be abolished."

Contrary to what is usually argued, López Vigil said that "Jesus was a happy and talkative peasant, who liked to tell jokes and riddles, as well as someone radically revolutionary, although he couldn't write and could barely read, stumbling."

And he ended by proclaiming that the Church must "remove fear and guilt, because, if you believe in hell, you don't believe in God," and inviting to hope, because "another God is possible," as the title of another of his works says.

* Translator's note: For a summary of the scholarship behind the interpretation that the Roman centurion was gay, see Jay Michaelson's 2012 article "When Jesus Healed a Same-Sex Partner."

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

For a new Pact of the Catacombs

By Marcelo Barros (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Encontro com Marcelo Barros Blog
November 15, 2018

This is the second year that the Pope has proposed that all the local Churches in the world dedicate the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time as the "World Day of the Poor," that is, a day in which the commitment of the whole Church, pastors and faithful, to the poor of the world is celebrated and intensified.

Certainly, the Pope's intuition comes from his experience when he sees that the path of present society causes an enormous increase in poverty, social inequalities and a mass of migrants and refugees who challenge the luxury islands of the First World. The Pope has been moved; he has gathered with hundreds of poor and homeless at the Vatican for meals. And he proposes that bishops in their diocese and priests in their parishes do the same thing. I know many who are willing to follow all canonical rules concerning ecclesiastical discipline, but I know of almost no one who is willing to follow the example of the Pope on this path of solidarity with the poor.

Undoubtedly, in establishing this Day of Communion with the poor of the world, the Pope recalls that on November 16, 1965, 42 bishops who were in Rome at the last session of the Second Vatican Council met to celebrate in the Catacombs of Domitilla and there signed a document of commitment to simplify their lives, renounce all signs of ostentation of power and wealth, and put themselves and their diocese at the service of the poor. In the following days, some more bishops who could not be at the initial celebration joined the first ones and signed the document.

In fact, the Pact of the Catacombs that was not taken up by the Council or by Pope Paul VI, had a profound impact on the diocese and especially in Latin America. Personally, just over a year ago, I myself was questioned in Dom Helder Camara's beatification process and I was asked about a point of accusation. Dom Helder was accused of being a poor administrator of the diocese. When he resigned as archbishop, his accusers said, the archdiocese was in a bad economic situation. The process judge asked me if I agreed with this charge. I answered "yes" and I explained that Dom Helder had taken the Pact of the Catacombs seriously and had always lived as a poor man and impoverished the archdiocese. I noticed that the judge had difficulty understanding this and concluded, "In fact, only Jesus can understand this well and defend him."

At the time the Pact of the Catacombs was taken up, the challenges were proper to the times. Today, we need to ask pastors and faithful for a new Pact of the Catacombs, no longer just in relation to the sobriety of the lifestyle (which is still important), not only renouncing the signs of religious triumphalism (unfortunately, in recent decades, bishops and priests have regained the worst of liturgical triumphalism in pompous medieval ceremonies, in gestures and signs of narcissistic self-celebration during Jesus' Supper, and other similar sins). A new Pact of the Catacombs is needed to restore the right to a simpler, more prayerful liturgy, a more sober and gospel one as an expression of a discipleship of equals. God must touch the hearts of ministers and faithful, men and women, all in witness of the divine plan for the world, which is not to return to the monarchy and extravagance of medieval courts.

The new Pact of the Catacombs must free us from clericalism which the Pope denounces as the sickness of our Church. It must persuade the new priests that God is God and is Love and can not be socially and politically right-wing or reactionary. A new way of commitment to the poor is needed, not just taking on poverty as a way of life, but a commitment of defense of and solidarity with the struggle for liberation of the organized poor. The new Pact of the Catacombs will continue the meetings of Pope Francis with social movements and will fight for an outgoing Church and resistance to a false use of God that legitimizes very bad things for the impoverished. We need a new Pact of the Catacombs which will no longer be just the Roman catacombs of persecution of the first Christians, but will be the catacombs of today, of a society that buries justice and human rights as if these had nothing to do with faith. Those who do this proclaim themselves as Christians and unfortunately many bishops and pastors, evangelicals and Catholics, approve and bless them. A new Pact of the Catacombs is needed in reaction to this fascist and anti-gospel Christianity.

Thanks be to God, we still have brothers and sisters who continue the path of the Pact of the Catacombs today. Recently, I went to Bahia and met suffering street people and lay missionaries who live with them as a gospel choice and they gave me news of Brother Henrique Peregrino of the Trinity who for decades has lived with street children in the ruins of a church in Salvador. Today I give thanks to God for the witness of some of the diocese here in Brazil that continue this line of the Pact of the Catacombs and remain totally dedicated to serving the poor. Today I thank God for the witness of our dear brother Father João Pubben. He left from Holland for Brazil on the same day the bishops signed the Pact of the Catacombs in Rome (November 16, 1965). He worked with us here for nearly 50 years, accompanied Dom Helder and assisted him in the last years of his life as his guardian angel. And now, sick but still very firm in the mission, even from Holland, he continues to accompany us in the same spirit of the Pact of the Catacombs. For all this, we praise you and thank you, Lord.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Félix Cepeda: "The Pope should have an advisory council of women and another one of oppressed people"

by Cameron Doody (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
November 4, 2018

The Dominican ex-Jesuit Félix Cepeda is one of the leaders in the fight for social justice in the Church in the United States. To the point where he has been arrested several times for his demonstrations for the most oppressed. In this interview with RD, the young social activist analyzes the challenges of the North American bishops before their fall meeting of November 12 to 14, for which one of his main petitions is that the prelates ask the Pope "to change canon law to allow us lay men and women to be able to make decisions in the parishes."

The US media have described you as a "one man social justice mission." What does "social justice" mean to you and what are you doing to achieve it?

For me, justice is that no one is discriminated against for any reason -- their sexual orientation or gender, their skin color, their social class, their religion or for being an atheist -- in Church and in society. That we can all have housing, education, health care, a job with a decent salary, be able to take vacations, enjoy good food, art, music...

To achieve this in the United States and in the Dominican Republic, I work with many people and social movements, where we try to think, pray and act for justice. And we try with the little we have -- music, food, knowledge, etc. -- to share with our needier brothers and sisters. We have even been arrested for defending the rights of the most vulnerable and I think you have to risk your freedom and life if necessary.

You were a Jesuit brother before becoming a social activist. Does your social activism involve as much of a vocation as being a Jesuit?

God has called me to learn and struggle together with our most oppressed sisters and brothers. For a time I did it as a Jesuit and now I'm doing it as a layman. The way of serving might change, but never the call to fight for justice in and out of the Church.

From November 12 to 14 the US bishops will meet for their fall gathering in Baltimore. In your opinion, what should they do at this meeting to respond to the sex abuse crisis?

I think the main thing during those days is to invite the victims, listen to them, and put their suggestions into practice, such as the one that the Catholic bishops ought to stop fighting against the laws that the victims want approved that would be beneficial to them.

I think the bishops agree that there should not be a limitation period from now on, that is that current victims can accuse their abuser when they're ready, no matter if a lot of time has passed since the abuse. But the bishops don't agree that laws be changed so that past victims can sue their abusers and institutions. Past victims are fighting for this to change, but the bishops are fighting against them.

What should the US bishops do for the migrant caravan that's currently crossing Central America?

I think the day that caravan gets to the border, all the US bishops should be there to receive them and offer them their homes and churches, and to receive those who need a place to sleep and support them in everything they need.

Is there any other urgent matter in your opinion that the US bishops should address at their gathering?

I think the bishops should ask the Pope to change canon law and allow us lay women and men to be able to make decisions in the parishes. Parish councils are currently there to advise the pastor, but the priest has the last word. This should change. In the Protestant churches, laypeople can fire a pastor if he doesn't suit them. I think that in our Church too we laypeople should have more power to serve our communities, jointly with the priests.

Did you follow the recent Vatican synod on youth? If so, what sticks with you?

I'm very pleased with the women and men who, in the streets of Rome and in the Synod, protested to demand that women be able to vote in the Synod.

I think the time has come now to protest and get organized. We laywomen and laymen, women and men, should be together with the cardinals and bishops, priests and the Pope as equals. Likewise, we should be able to govern our Church together, to be able to better serve our most oppressed brothers and sisters.

What's your opinion of Pope Francis? Do you feel motivated as an activist by the emphasis on social justice in his papacy up to now, or would you like him to go further in his ideas?

I admire Pope Francis a lot, but I think he has to listen more to the most oppressed women and men in Church and society, as well as put his suggestions into practice.

I was arrested in Washington, DC, when Pope Francis was here in the United States. With other women and men, we committed civil disobedience and nonviolently blocked the entrance where the Pope's car was passing. The police arrested us. The Pope looked at us and read our signs where we were calling for women's ordination to the priesthood.

Just as Pope Francis has a council of cardinals, he should have one of women and of oppressed people who are struggling against their oppressors. These people could help the Pope be braver.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Ivone Gebara: "The Church is going to lose thinking women"

by Jesús Bastante (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
October 1, 2018

"To say that the Virgin Mary is more important than the apostles, only serves to keep everything the same. That doesn't come from the Gospel." Brazilian theologian Ivone Gebara is one of the greatest representatives of feminist theology in the world.

From Comillas, where this afternoon she participated in some conversations organized by the Asociación de Teólogas Españolas [ATE - "Association of Spanish Women Theologians"], Gebara criticizes the "Patriarchal Church" that, she asserts, runs the risk of "losing thinking women." We're talking with her exclusively.

In your presentation, you talk about alterity, difference and equality. What do you mean by all that?

They're concepts that are very connected with feminism and that's why some feminist philosophers, and I too, have worked these concepts that weren't born with feminism but from other philosophical reflections like those of the French Jewish philosopher Levinas who talked a lot about the other, about who the other is. My contribution is raising suspicion that the reflections on alterity have placed women as "the other." And when speaking of difference, it is done within a context, where male universality is quite strong.

Are we experiencing a sexist ethic?

Not necessarily sexist. I mean that they're not always connected with an ethic but also with a way of reducing the other, of not taking the difference into account. These concepts become theoretical, almost empty in practice. Equality, alterity, difference ... are related to something. Same as what, different from what. In that sense I want to talk about something that is connected with the life of women, which is beauty. A single beauty is manufactured, which is actually the products that are sold. The same brands produced for different label...

This is a spiderweb into which we all fall because that beauty is something external and it is very self-sacrificing. We have to sacrifice ourselves a lot to have the ideal weight, the wrinkle-free skin...thousands of bondages. Finally, I speak of the female body from Christianity. And it's interesting that Christianity -- and when I speak of Christianity I speak of theology, not of Jesus' time -- the ideal of feminine beauty is a "spiritual" ideal, but it's the beauty of service. The woman who is good is the one who serves, the one who is a very good mother ... For example, all these women who go out to the street to talk about the rights of women, are betraying the ideal of women as mothers, caregivers, submissive, housewives, cleaners of the Church, servants of the priests. They are the women who cook for them, clean the seminaries ....

Doesn't the Church realize that the day women say "Enough already" to being servants, slaves...and nothing else within this Church, the Church might remain empty?

It's that up until now they see this women's project as very far off, especially in Latin America. They're aware, but they act as if the problem doesn't exist. I know some priests who pay measly salaries and, at the same time, talk about social justice. These contradictions exist because poverty exists, which women experience. Material poverty, in the first place, but there's also a "compensation", because sometimes the priest is a good guy, polite, not like the drunken husband. That's the consolation...

Yes, but if women don't change their role, they're still submissive...

But the submission is different. The priest doesn't hit her, the priest thanks her, he says he'll pray for her. There's an idea of the priest as representative of Jesus. That symbology, in a certain way, delays the process.

Here, that is called "micromachismos," unwittingly...

...you're fomenting injustice. The day the priest realizes it, the relationships are going to change. But they're relationships more of friendship.

When will the Church recognize women as disciples of Jesus too?

The first thing that must be said is that if we say "disciples", we are now establishing a hierarchy. I prefer to speak of the "Jesus Movement." In that movement, Jesus didn't always have the last word. Male theologians have underscored an infused wisdom in Jesus, as if he would never have had to learn anything from anybody, to the point of saying that Mary was the first disciple of her son. This can't be sustained. Jesus had to learn, be contested, respond, make mistakes. I think we have a very romantic idea of Jesus of Nazareth and speaking of a movement, we're coming down to the reality of life. In the Jewish world, women have a very important role as mothers, educators who are listened to. The patriarchal world, Christianity since the 2nd and 3rd centuries is connected with the Roman Empire idea of power, and there things start to change. Women's public authority is totally lost.

Is the Church sexist?

I prefer not to use the word "sexism" because that word has a very negative connotation of subjectivity and emotionalism. Not all men are sexist, nor are all bishops sexist, so I prefer to speak of a patriarchal foundation. Here the man is in charge because he's the representative of Jesus and I'm not. So, I could be more right than you, but the last word is yours. The patriarchal world doesn't just exist in the Church.

Is it in the gospel that only men can be priests, that women can't have a sacramental role in the Church?

That doesn't come from the Gospel. The priests want to see the 12 apostles, men, as Jesus' choice. I don't see that. Feminist biblical hermeneutics sees other things, but unfortunately they don't read us, they don't listen to us, and they throw us out of the formation institutions. The few women theologians who teach in Theology schools have to adapt to the norms.

How do you interpret the fact that the Pope has included three women on the International Theological Commission, and that he has opened a commission on the female diaconate?

I'm very critical. I'm not the only one who thinks that way. First, who elected these women theologians as representatives? They could be representatives of the feminine, but not of Catholic feminism. Because what bothers the Church isn't the feminine, it's feminism. Because feminine is saying, like the Pope says, that the Virgin Mary is more important than the apostles -- this is romantic discourse that serves to keep everything the same.

The Pope puts three women, among them there's a nun, two German theologians. Why didn't he ask the different women theologians' organizations -- the Spanish ATE, for example -- what names they would indicate?

Do you think it's more a matter of quota, and not of conviction?

Sure, and then you get two old cardinals who have nothing to do with it. They say they're studying it, but they won't come to any conclusion. Already in advance, he has already said no to priestly ordination. Now he opens a small gap for the diaconal one, but there's no need to have much hope.

What do we feminist Catholics, men and women, who understand that the Church should be a place where equality is practiced, have to do?

I think men talk very little about this. They might do it in closed circles, but they don't speak at the congresses, they don't write to the Pope. They are satisfied, although it could be done differently. There are no male voices. There are Dominicans, Jesuits, who speak of respect for women, against violence, there are very nice texts about this. But between this and saying "We must change theology," until the moment we talk about the apostles, about God the Father Almighty, about the sacraments only connected with the male figure of Jesus ... then there are no changes. And if there are changes, I'm sure it will not be now, but you have to start changing.

Where should we start?

Every community, in every group, in every country, has to start from their own reality. I would invite the women to meet, to study, for their part, and the men to reflect on their side.

What future awaits the Church if it doesn't break from the paradigm of men with power and women servants?

I can't speak to the future, but presently what is happening is that many women are leaving the Church. The Church has already lost the reserves, it has already lost the peasantry, and it's going to lose thinking women. Thinking women and leaders of popular movements. The Catholic Church says almost nothing to them now. In the indigenous world, the Church's manner with communitarian feminism doesn't say anything to them. Yes, some will stay, but they will lose many.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Mary E. Hunt: "All priests are complicit in the abuse crisis"

By Cameron Doody (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
September 16, 2018

The American reference point on feminist theology, Mary E. Hunt, may not believe in the institutional Church of abuses and cover-ups, but that doesn't mean that she doesn't believe in God. She simply recognizes, with an unusual lucidity, that "we are maturing in post-modernity towards a different kind of faith." That is why -- because she is faithful not only to the Gospel example of Jesus Christ but also to people -- she implores that, from the hierarchy, this new model of Catholicism that has already begun to bloom be allowed to flourish.

First, your impressions of the Congress of the Asociación de Teólogos y Teólogas Juan XXIII that just ended.

I considered it very interesting and coherent with the kind of issues that the group has been addressing so far. I was here in '92, and back then we also worked on the divine and that kind of thing. I think you can see the development, the thinking of people and the expectations of people about what religion can provide, coming from the Catholic tradition -- the limitations of this tradition and what we can do creatively to develop other options. I think all that was evident this weekend.

I think it was very important to have the presentation on the Sufi perspective, that it was very important to have a younger person for the last presentation ... and that it was very important to address both the content of mysticism and what it could mean for people. There was a common thread, as usual in this group, of serious commitment to social justice and also to spirituality.

I've probably never focused in these terms on mysticism or contemplation or meditation, whatever one may call our spiritual dimension. I thought it was very useful -- I found it personally very useful and I met many interesting people. I found the presentations very stimulating.

What exactly did you address in your presentation?

I gave it a rather curious title: "The power of silence and working for justice." Things that aren't usually juxtaposed: either you're committed to spirituality or you're doing the work of justice. But my point of view, my experience and my practice are that it has to be both at the same time, and I tried to explain, given the sad situation of institutional Catholicism -- and, coming from the United States, the sad situation of our government -- that many people are very discouraged, and it's a difficult time to not have the usual resources that people often turn to in their spirituality.

But what are we going to create that is new? Also with the Catholic Church in the United States in ruins, many Catholics are looking for something else, and I think that using some of the roots of our tradition -- Hildegard of Bingen or Nancy Sylvester (from the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue), for example -- we can bring the contemplative practice to the work of social justice, and include social justice in the practice of contemplation.

It's community contemplation; it's not simply what one does gazing at one's navel, but what one does accompanied by other people both physically and non-physically, and I tried to describe some of the ways in which that happens.

Going back to the idea of the "Church in ruins". The sex abuse crisis -- how did we get here and how can we get out of it?

I don't have a magical way for us to get out of this, but I understand how we got here. I think there are two main factors.

The first, the studied duplicity that has been rampant in the Catholic Church. I'm talking about the Church in the United States and the Roman Church. I don't want to say anything about the Spanish Church, although I think there are similarities in that situation.

Duplicity has grown up around a false anthropology, which is that in some way there is a differentiation, a degrading differentiation, between people.

Once you start with a structure with a division of clerics-laity, in which the clergy have all the power and the laity have all the responsibility to make it work, and once you decide that only men can be part of the clergy, that homosexuals can't be part of the clergy ... What Rosemary Radford Ruether called "hierarchical dualisms". That God is above the world. That people are above animals. Men over women. Whites over people of color. Heterosexual people over homosexual people ... Once you establish that habit of thinking, it's devastating.

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza gave it a name: "kyriarchy." When you take structures of racism, sexism, xenophobia, economic disparities, etc., you put them all together and they're intertwined -- so that a poor, black lesbian woman finds herself in a much worse situation than a heterosexual white man -- once that is structured, there are very few ways out.

The relationship between this "dominion" and the sex abuse crisis is twofold: the colossal and culpable ignorance of most clerics about sexuality in general and the types of prohibition in the Church. No to contraception, to masturbation, to other forms of sexuality, to priests practicing sex due to the vow of celibacy ... The stage is set and those involved will have to find a way out, which in this case has been sex with children. But it's a single perspective.

What we're seeing now is the abuse of power by clerics with those they're in charge of. Seminarians and other priests, as in the case of Theodore McCarrick. How ironic and sad that the worst thing that could happen to him is that he is "reduced" to the lay state, like the rest of us.

What came out about the McCarrick case was that not only was he habitually going to bed with seminarians, and that the work and future of those seminarians depended on their compliance, but that everyone knew it. How could it happen that this guy committed abuses and, on top of that, extrajudicial compensation was reached with some victims?

Why do you think?

It's this duplicity of the Church. That the institution protects its own and lies about it -- there's a lack of transparency. And then there are McCarrick's pedophilia cases...Someone had to know something.

There are stories about McCarrick in New York...He went out to dinner with men, he took them to a Catholic hospital where he had a flat...

Or the beach house.

The beach house was another place...but a hospital? It's extraordinary. Many people must have helped him do it, and meanwhile he's rising in rank to become not only an archbishop but a cardinal, and in Washington, DC to top it off.

He got very close to the rich and famous and to people in politics, and he raised a lot of money. But now, Viganò, the former papal nuncio, has written his allegation... It's a complicated situation, because there are factors on both sides: right and left, pro-Pope Francis and anti-Pope Francis ... But Francis must have known something ... Either he's lying or he's stupid, those are the only two options. And now with the new letter from Sandri ... it seems they're all lying.

What I gather from this are two things: one, that apparently all this is "nothing is happening here," all normal. If you want to rise in rank, you do it by sleeping with people. And two, that this is a disaster that has left many people -- good people, laity -- with enormous difficulties. Difficulties that can be attributed to specific people who didn't do their jobs correctly and who would be dismissed if it were a secular organization. Dismissed and replaced, but not with more bishops who were raised in the same system ...

I consider every priest an accomplice: they know how the system works. All are complicit spectators at best. We need a new system! To get rid of the bishops, the clergy and have a Church run by laity, where people who have expertise in particular areas form committees in each region or diocese. I don't think that in a year anyone will miss a bishop, and I don't think most parishes miss a priest.

We've just left the final liturgy of the Congress, carried out by the LGBTIQ community ... Very, very well done, and the role of the ordained priest was minimal in the best of cases. The whole community participated, and nobody missed anyone wearing robes similar to Halloween ones. I think we're maturing in post-modernity towards a different kind of faith.

But why are there Catholics who continue to resist this new model of the Church?

I think there are many people who don't think about these things for a living, like you and I, and they take it as something they learned when they were children, and for them religion is what they learned in school. Many people leave it there. And I think many people just don't have models ...

My experience has been, especially in light of this scandal -- a scandal of proportions that we haven't seen before -- that we still don't know how much it will cost.

The report from Philadelphia, a report about three hundred abusive priests and more than a thousand victims -- and made by the state, and not by the Church -- made it clear that not even half of the crimes have come out. And now we have 49 more states that must make their reports.

New York has just cited all the dioceses there, and I don't think any of them can resist any more. It's the law that's coming for them. It's sad to see that a religious institution has to be modified by the legal system, but we live in a society where the safety of children and workers is now a common value. So my feeling is that, although there are some who are resisting -- like Opus Dei and extreme right groups who are using this for their purposes, saying, for example, that homosexuals are to blame, which isn't true -- many people who are in touch with postmodern values are looking for something more. I think the resistance will erode, especially as the financial picture becomes clearer.

There is no money in the Catholic Church in the United States to pay for these abuse cases. Truly, every diocese must be bankrupt. Not only morally, but also financially. And the Church is a business, after all. When people realize that when they put money in the basket, a percentage of that goes to the diocese, and that's what pays the lawyers and compensation to victims, they won't want to pay the fees of those lawyers and they won't want to pay for cover ups. People aren't stupid; they're happy to share, but they don't want to be taken advantage of.

They'll vote with their pocketbooks.

That's it.

And this future Church...Will it be ecumenical? Interfaith?

I would hope so.

I belong to a Women Church group -- "Women Church" is the name that's been given to the feminist groups that have been meeting over the last thirty years. We understood that the word ekklesia has to do with the regular assembly of free male citizens, and since we were not free male citizens, only when you put the word "woman" next to "Church" can you really have something inclusive. It's an irony.

We've had small home-churches for the last thirty years, and there are many intentional Eucharistic communities... Our Women Church group has Jewish women, Protestant ministers...It started as a group of nuns. So I think there will be many new configurations and many new forms of worship.

At WATER, for example, where I work -- Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual -- when we have rituals or meditations, we don't check identification at the door. You just come. So that's already happening, but that the Roman Catholic Church as we know it is going to change into that, no one knows, and in any case probably not in my lifetime. But the more general trend is in that direction.

And your opinion of Pope Francis. Has he brought fresh air to the Church? Or is he more of the same?

Well...Recently I made a presentation about Pope Francis from the feminist perspective, in Brazil, at the UNISINOS conference. And I was a minority voice -- the people at the conference supported the Pope very much, some of his biographers being there and more. But I made a very strong case, I think, for why Pope Francis should be considered a poisoned gift, in the best case scenario.

I think he entered a situation in which the bar was very, very low, after 37 years of John Paul II and Ratzinger ... Progressive people, in particular, were so disappointed that Francis was seen as something wonderful.

It turns out that I lived in Argentina for two years, living and teaching in Buenos Aires during the time when he was the superior of the Jesuit community. I never met him, and we had an interreligious group, Protestants, Jews and Catholics, who met regularly to reflect on the Dirty War -- how to support young people, especially, who were part of the resistance to the Dirty War ... But I never saw a Jesuit.

I also followed him [Bergoglio] in Argentina on the question of same-sex marriage, and in the end he came to a Jesuitical equilibrium by saying that it might be good to have domestic unions. Well, no, Bergoglio: we wanted marriage. And he [Bergoglio] has been terrible with regard to the problems of women in all areas; he jokes about mothers-in-law and is largely a product of his environment.

His only feminist source is his abuelita Rosita, his grandmother Rosa, who's been dead a long time. He simply has no idea how half -- or maybe a bit more than half -- the Church is doing.

So I've been disappointed and frustrated with him from that perspective. That said, I think his work on the environment, on the fight against poverty, the death penalty...on those things I agree with him completely. But with respect to women's issues in particular -- not just the issue of ordination but also birth control and abortion -- on queer issues in general...I think his "Who am I to judge?" statement was lamentable. Even though people did the impossible to praise him.

"Who am I to judge?..." Well, let me tell you: You're the Pope, you're a Catholic, you're a person, you're a pastor...Your work is to judge: judge where love is. So I was very disillusioned with that statement even though most people saw it as a very important opening. As a person, as a Catholic, as a feminist, as a woman, as a lesbian, I don't want the question. I want the statement. Not because we are -- I have a woman partner and a daughter -- but because it's love.

The other thing is that making that declaration as a Jesuit is quite hypocritical, because in my experience the Society is mostly gay. Therefore, he [Francis] has many gay brothers. So at least he could be honest and say: "Here we have a problem with sexuality, and we have to get out of that."

It's not my problem and I'm not going to solve it for them...and in fact I'm very skeptical of women coming and being ordained -- I don't want to ordain anybody. I'm very skeptical of turning to people who haven't created the problem. I've seen that this has already happened -- for example, in a Catholic university, with a woman president and lawyer, trying to fix the McCarrick case. It's a nightmare that these women are the ones who have to fix it.

I don't have a solution and I'm not looking for a solution beyond that of love and caring towards the victims and survivors [of abuse]. Anything we can do in their name is a solution, but the institutional questions...the men are alone, unless they're open to these new serious models of community run by lay people, and not just open to them.

Their time is up.

Photo: Mary Hunt (holding up the paten) participating in the closing liturgy of the Asociación de Teólogos y Teólogas Juan XXIII Congress.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Letter from the 3rd Continental Congress on Latin American and Caribbean Theology to Pope Francis

This is an English translation of the letter that was issued. The original Spanish version can be found on the Amerindia website.



Dear brother Francis:

In this harsh time of trial, we want to make you feel our closeness and support because we know of your fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus. To tell you that your proposal for a poor church for the poor is also our quest and commitment.

Amerindia, in its forty-year journey on the continent, seeks to present the essential challenges of the Second Vatican Council and the Latin American magisterium from a liberating theology. In the Third Continental Congress on Latin American and Caribbean Theology, more than six hundred of us participants are gathered -- men and women theologians and Christians involved in various areas of social and ecclesial life to delve into the 50th anniversary of Medellin and its actualization today.

These lands bear witness to prophecy and martyrdom as a consequence of following Christ in the search for justice and the preferential option for the poor, as attested to by Mons. Romero, the UCA martyrs, and so many others. From this context, we are reading this "your hour" and because of it, we believe and affirm that the blood of martyrs is the seed of life and hope. We are aware that a new spring is emerging in the Church and is taking place in the complexity of the transforming processes.

In these times of celebration of the 50th anniversary of Medellin under the powerful beacon of Vatican II and the great movement that second Conference conceived, you have emerged as a genuine son of that Church.

We know that your gospel fidelity implies discernment and the courage of prophetic denunciation, an affectionate embrace of the disinherited of the earth and the victims of human cruelty, in and out of the Church.

As daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, we are fully with you and assume the co-responsibility this means, praying that you be able to carry forward the work God has entrusted to you.

"The cries of the poor and the earth challenge us" on the 50th anniversary of the Medellin Conference - El Salvador, August 30 - September 2, 2018.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

"I am Agustina Gamboa and I will no longer keep silent"

Fathers and teenage daughters at loggerheads over a political issue isn't news. Imagine if the father in question is a prominent priest in the archdiocese who holds traditional views on reproductive rights and you, his daughter and guilty secret, are a feminist. Agustina Maria Gamboa Arias, did not reveal her biological father's identity for 18 years, but when she saw Fr. Carlos Gamboa, a member of the Archdiocese of Salta, Argentina, on the TV program La Otra Campana speaking out against the bill to legalize abortion that her nation's government is considering, she knew she could no longer keep silent. On July 29th, Gamboa Arias issued the following statement on her Facebook page, revealing her father's identity, his past actions, and her opposition to his views:

"Priest and point of reference of the Catholic Church of Salta Carlos Gamboa was interviewed on the program "La Otra Campana" about the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy Act to be dealt with soon in the nation's Senate. On the occasion, Carlos Gamboa appealed to the slogans "Yes to life", "Yes to all life", "All life is worthy." Those were his statements. However, reality contradicts his words since he has systematically neglected and disregarded me, his daughter Agustina María Gamboa Arias, born in May 2000.

I bear the last name of my progenitor, but originally I was noted in the Public Registry as Agustina Arias since he refused to acknowledge me legally, denying me also the right of every boy and girl to their identity. On August 16, 2002, at the behest of a lawyer, I was able to be recognized as is recorded in the annotation on the margin of my birth certificate. Even though I am alive, if it were for him I would be in complete abandonment.

I have always known everything about my identity, who I am and where I come from, but this reality was inconclusive. As I grew up I needed not only to know it but also to understand what was happening. Why was my father absent?

In the interview in which he appeared, Gamboa talks about "accompanying the woman who is in the dilemma of continuing or interrupting a pregnancy." He also talks about "supporting the kids who are alive." Being his daughter, I went through many abandonment issues because Carlos Gamboa never cared to  know me.

Based on my insistence, we were able to coordinate some meetings that became more and more complicated. We would see one another at service stations far from anyone who might recognize him. In the meetings he would repeat the argument that he loved me but that he couldn't be my father. In those days for a girl of 6 or 7 years, it was a very confusing story since I didn't have the emotional tools to understand what he was saying in such a contradictory way. I was a girl who believed my father loved me; I waited for his calls on important dates like birthdays and holidays or any show of interest that never came.

There were never any initiatives on his part, despite the fact that my mother and my heart father [stepfather] offered him many options to facilitate our bond like meeting in other provinces or paying his fare to the Federal Capital, the place where I live, so he could come see me. He never agreed and with the passing of time, the silences were longer and longer.

I understood a lot later, in my adolescence that my father didn't love me so I sought affection in other members of my paternal family. Through the social networks I started to look for everyone with the last name Gamboa who might be a relative. There were many and I was even able to meet a cousin who with her parents and brothers, received me with joy. However, that unleashed a storm that manifested itself in verbal and psychological abuse over the phone by Gamboa towards me and my mom.

Carlos Gamboa's family lined up behind him, protecting him and preventing me from knowing them and completing part of my identity and my life -- what Gamboa says he's defending. In this very unfortunate episode, Víctor Gamboa, Carlos' twin brother, had a terribly violent and destructive role, being that at the beginning he seemed to be a trustworthy person and a good father.

In this struggle to achieve recognition, space, a little affection and to complete my story, I ended up confronting the Catholic Church of Salta which, as we know, has a lot of power and through a lawyer defended its interests, going completely against my rights.

So, when my progenitor talks about "respecting both lives" I must say that he did not respect the life of his daughter because of defending his image and his economic privileges. The church covered it up and helped hide me. No one was to be aware of my existence.

I was the victim of all these manipulations that affected me psychologically. The abandonment of the child who was born is so destructive for the personality that it makes it still hard for me today when bonding or shaping my personal relationships to the point that I came to think that I didn't deserve to be loved.

Carlos Gamboa in the interview says the Church should form and respect people but he never did that with me; his actions affected my way of being, the way in which I bond with people and how I've developed emotionally, having experienced so much emotional manipulation, having heard so many empty words that have affected me forever. I've been going to a psychologist as long as I can remember. How to trust others if you can't trust your biological father? That's why, when in the interview he says he's "for both lives" and says "let's not harm it more with another abuse," I must state that the damage he did to me is irreversible, harm that also manifested itself in relation to child support since for him to comply with his obligation, a private agreement had to be concluded. On numerous occasions he fell behind on the support payments and abused my mother when she requested what was due me, so that situation was very violent.

So when Carlos Gamboa and the Church he represents talk about "yes to life", "yes to all life", and "every life is worthy," I ask myself what does he mean by that? Why does he feel he has the moral authority to say it so lightly? Imposing with this argument a way of thinking on society, knowing that his words have a lot of weight but his actions contradict him. I have to say that all this seems total hypocrisy to me.

Against my father's position, my family and I are in favor of the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy Act without modifications because we know that this Act will help women and gestating bodies that are at risk or want to decide about their future. We also think that abandonment is death and that the dogma of the Church should not be interposed in republican life and that women's decisions should be respected.

To conclude, I would add that this letter was very hard to write and that there have been months of preparation, analysis and removing issues that hurt or are troublesome, but it leaves me somewhat clearer, it frees me from the stigma the curia imposed on me at birth. Now I can proudly say that I participated in the vigil at the [Chamber of] Deputies, that I've had an ideological life formation oriented towards human rights and those of women and dissident sexualities and that is why I'm making this letter public. My name is Agustina María Gamboa Arias and I have decided on my own -- and with my family's support -- to stop being an accomplice in the moral double standard of the Church of which my biological father, Carlos Gamboa, is a part.

I am expressing myself because I want abortion to be LEGAL SAFE and FREE and that there be SECULAR SEXUAL EDUCATION WITH THE GENDER PERSPECTIVE in ALL educational institutions in the country, and because I want ALL women and gestating bodies to have FREE CHOICE over our bodies and our lives.

LONG LIVE THE FEMINIST STRUGGLE!"


Gamboa Arias' public statement caused a huge uproar. On July 31st, Msgr. Mario Cargnello, the Archbishop of Salta, issued a communique asking God's forgiveness and that of the faithful for the pain caused by this news, by the scandal it has caused. While he did not apologize directly to Ms. Gamboa Arias, Msgr. Cargnello did say that he wants to "staunch" her wounds and would be launching a canonical investigation into her allegations.