Saturday, July 14, 2018

Save the Date: 3rd Continental Theology Conference - Amerindia



This conference will be in Spanish and this year's theme is "The Cries of the Poor and the Earth Challenge Us / 50th Anniversary of the Medellin Conference". Additional information in Spanish can be found on the conference web site.

  Date: August 30 - September 2, 2018

Place: Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas – UCA, Bulevar Los Próceres, Antiguo Cuscatlán, La Libertad, San Salvador, El Salvador

Registration: Registration fee is $100 regular / $70 theology students. You can register electronically on the conference web site and pay your fee via PayPal. See that page for what to do if you don't have a PayPal account.

Accommodations: Conference organizers have compiled a list of hotels all within a 20-minute walk from the university. Participants must make own lodging arrangements. Most hotel room rates include breakfast.

PROGRAM

Thursday August 30
  • 7:30 Accreditation and materials distribution
  • 8:30 Spirituality Moment - Amerindia El Salvador
  • 9:00 Opening - UCA Rector Andreu Oliva and Amerindia Continental Coordinator Socorro Martínez Maqueo
  • 10:30 Snack break
  • 11:00 Testimony of Cecilio de Lora
  • 11:30 Generating memory of Medellin - Pablo Bonavia
  • 12:15 Contributions of participants
  • 12:30 Lunch
  • 14:30 Workshops (choose one 2-day workshop and an alternate when you register):
    1. New church ministeries for a new model of Church - Serena Noccetti and José Antonio de Almeida
    2. Youth for a different possible world in an outgoing church - Carlos Eduardo Cardozo and Francisco Bosch
    3. The PanAmazonic cry demands a new face of the church - Mauricio López and Roberto Malvezzi
    4. Present and future of the option for the poor, CEBs, and liberation theology - Geraldina Céspedes and Manoel Godoy
    5. Communication for the encounter culture in the digital era - Susana Nuin and Oscar Elizalde
    6. Synodality: source of inspiration for the way of the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean - Victor Codina and Maria José Caram
    7. The criminalization of the poor and victims of violence in Latin America and the Caribbean - Benjamin Schwab and the UCA Team
    8. Lay men and woman: strength and hope of the Church in the world - Cesar Kuzma and Alejandro Ortiz
    9. Mysticism: force that pushes joy and hope in the midst of conflict - Rosa Ramos
    10. Justice and prophethood in the most unequal continent - Juan Hernández Pico
    11. Migration and human trafficking - Maura Verzeletti and Carmela Gibaja
    12. The cry of the earth and whole ecology - Tania Avila Meneses and Afonso Murad
    13. Inside the system - Mons. Reginaldo Andrietta and Juan Luis Hernández
    14. History workshop on Medellin - CEHILA
  • 16:00 Break
  • 16:30 Cultural time - Teatro del Azoro
  • 18:00 Global analysis of the current Latin American and Caribbean moment - Elio Gasda
  • 19:30 Questions
  • 19:45 Return to lodging

Friday August 31
  • 8:30 Spirituality Moment - Amerindia El Salvador
  • 9:00 Testimony of Maria López Vigil
  • 9:30 Address: Cries and resistance of the poor since Medellin - Francisco Aquino Junior
  • 10:15 Contributions of participants
  • 10:30 Snack break
  • 11:00 The Medellin event from a historical perspective - Silvia Scatena
  • 11:45 The Latin American episcopate and its difficult propehtic mission since Medellin - Rodolfo Cardenal
  • 12:30 Lunch
  • 14:30 Workshops (same as on August 30)
  • 16:00 Break
  • 16:30 Young Theologians Panel: "50th Anniversary of Medellin: What are our dreams now?"
  • 18:00 Testimony of Roberto Malvezzi
  • 18:30 Address: From Medellin to Laudato Si' - Leonardo Boff
  • 19:30 Questions
  • 19:45 Return to lodging

Saturday September 1
  • 8:30 The legacy of the martyrs - Jon Sobrino and Martha Zechmeister
  • 9:15 Contributions of participants
  • 9:30 Pilgrimage organized by the UCA Teaching Team: Crypt of Mons. Romero, home of Mons. Romero, Hospital chapel (where Mons. Romero was killed), the UCA martyrs
  • 12:30 Lunch
  • 14:30 Testimony of Rogelio Ponseele
  • 15:00 The strength of the little ones in the Bible - Elsa Tamez
  • 15:45 Contributions of participants
  • 16:00 Break
  • 16:30 The strength of the little ones in the experience of women since Medellin - Pilar Aquino
  • 17:15 Contributions of participants
  • 18:00 Cultural time - Yolocamba I Ta
  • 19:45 Return to lodging

Sunday September 2
  • 8:30 Spirituality Moment - Amerindia El Salvador
  • 9:00 Liberating mysticism: urgency of the essential for the task of Christians today - Maria Clara Lucchetti de Bingemer
  • 10:00 Contributions of participants
  • 10:30 Snack break
  • 11:00 Structural changes for a poor church committed to the poor - Carlos Schickendantz
  • 12:00 Contributions of participants
  • 12:30 Lunch
  • 14:30 Closing: Proposals from this Conference for the future of Christians in Latin America and the Caribbean - Manoel Godoy and Paola Polo
    Message from Gustavo Gutiérrez

Save the Date: 38th Theology Conference of the Asociación Teológica Juan XXIII

You can find information about this conference in Spanish on the conference web site. This year's theme is "Mysticism and Liberation."

Date: September 7-9, 2018

Place: Actos de Comisiones Obreras, calle Lope de Vega 40, Madrid, Spain

Registration: 30 euros for adults/20 euros for youth. Fee can be paid in cash at the door on the first day of the conference or via a bank transfer made before 9/5/2018. For details on how to make a bank transfer, see conference web site. Lodging and meals are not provided.

PROGRAM

Friday September 7
  • 18:30 Introduction of the Conference - Asociación Teológica Juan XXIII
  • 19:00 Mysticism and Politics - Adela Cortina, University of Valencia

Saturday September 8
  • 10:00 - 11:30 Salvation and Liberation: A Sufi Perspective - Halil Bárcena, Institute of Sufi Studies
  • Break
  • 12:00 - 13:30 In the Waters of the Spirit: Mysticism as Overcoming Fundamentalism - María Toscano, Pontifical University of Comillas
  • 16:00 - 16:30 Spirituality and Youth - María Isabel Herrera and Mario Picazo,Young Christian Workers
  • 16:30 - 18:00 Roundtable: Models of Mysticism:
    • Christian Mysticism - Ángela Muñoz, Castilla La-Mancha University
    • Eastern Mysticism - Javier Ruiz Calderón, Hindu philosopher
    • Simone Weil: Mysticism and Justice - Alejandro del Río, Editorial Trotta
  • Break
  • 18:30 - 20:00 The Contribution of Silence to the Fight for Justice - Mary Hunt, theologian and co-director of the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER)

Sunday September 9
  • 10:00 - 11:30 Mysticism and Liberation - Mercedes Barrio, historian and professor
  • 12:00 Eucharistic Celebration and Solidarity Collection - LGTBI Christian Collective

Friday, July 13, 2018

Freeing Jesus

By Victor Codina (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Blog de Cristianisme i Justícia
July 12, 2018

In the March 2013 conclave that preceded the election of Pope Francis, Cardinal Bergoglio made interesting interventions, one of them somewhat curious and little known.

When commenting on the text of Revelation 3:20 where it says that the Lord is at the door and knocking, Bergoglio stated that obviously the text refers to Jesus knocking at the door from outside to come in.

But he added that he was thinking about the times Jesus knocks from within for us to let him out.

Undoubtedly this interpretation might scandalize many Biblical scholars but it is an interesting idea because, as Bergoglio adds, the self-referential Church seeks to retain Jesus within itself and doesn't let him go out.

To put it differently, we have enclosed Jesus in doctrines, laws, rites, temples, episcopal palaces and structures of the past. We have held Jesus prisoner for centuries in the Western, medieval, feudal, inquisitional, colonial, diplomatic, powerful, anti-modern, absolutist, bourgeois, patriarchal, centralist and elitist church of Christendom. Jesus has been locked in ecclesial structures that distance him from the poor and simple people, from children and women, from peasants and fishermen, from migrants and refugees, from all those who in all cultures and religions seek the truth.

Jesus wants to go out to the street, to not be a prisoner of the past, to travel new roads, tread the soil, go to the borders, smell like sheep, like dust, sweat and tears, hear the cry of the people, converse, embrace, kiss, give a hand, heal, bless, speak words of encouragement, forgive, console, proclaim the Kingdom, generate hope and joy, give life, since only he possesses the Holy Spirit without measure.

We must free Jesus from the many prisons in which we have locked him over the centuries, recover the freshness of his gospel, return to Galilee, listen to his prophetic voice against the current hypocrites and exploiters of the people, against the new merchants of the temple, regain again Jesus the Nazarene craftsman, dangerous and disconcerting, able to trust his Father, to die and rise.

But freeing Jesus doesn't mean saying "Jesus yes, Church no," rather it implies forming a Church that is not self-referential but outgoing, evangelical, transparent, in sandals or barefoot, poor, missionary and paschal, detached from all temporal power, involved in the liberation of people and of creation, challenged by the pain of the victims, joyful with the joy of the Holy Spirit. The Church cannot substitute for Jesus; it must foster a personal encounter with him.

Only when we have freed Jesus from these prisons and have let him go out into the world of today to listen to the people, will we be able to open the door to him, let him enter our home, dine with him and he with us.

Bergoglio in the 2013 conclave was already announcing his future pastoral road map and the style of an outgoing Church. Perhaps because of this he was elected Pope and perhaps for the same reason others reject him today. But what is certain is that the Lord keeps knocking at the door. Does he want to come in or does he want to go out?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Catholic and priest out of obedience

by Christina Moreira Vázquez (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Iglesia Viva
No. 274, April-June 2018, pp.101-105

Signs of identity

On June 29, 2002, aboard a boat on the Danube, seven Roman Catholic women were ordained priests according to the Catholic rite by a Catholic bishop who, one year later, would transmit the apostolic succession by consecrating the first women bishops. Since then, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, ARCWP-RCWP 1 has not stopped growing until reaching 250 women in  2017, scattered across various continents. From the hands of a woman bishop I received diaconal ordination (2013) and priestly ordination in March 2015. In both cases, I devoted my ministry first to my Christian community Home Novo in A Coruña.

We know that the institutional Roman Catholic Church does not welcome our ordinations since its Code of Canon Law (Can. 1024) stipulates that "A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly." Therefore it did not take long to respond with the corresponding excommunications. We have not been asked about our motives, nor heard in defense, nor have we felt on ourselves the caring shadow of an arm that rests on your shoulder and seeks to love and understand you. Before such a legal display, the commandment to love is a poor and homeless relative.

1. Obedience from spirituality and the gospel: prophetic obedience

These and other displays of little or no empathy towards us make us often wonder what is lost to a woman in this Church.

A vocation is not chosen. It comes where and when it is least expected with its own forms and manners. The Bible gives a good account of some of them. It breaks in in the midst of daily life, it catches you working, studying, caring for sheep. Many will understand me. With a bit of luck it goes on insinuating itself until it becomes obvious; for others it manifests itself with an unbearable glare like an "event." 2. Sometimes this bears a certain similarity to those occasions when Jesus, passing along the seashore, challenged some who "at once left their nets and followed him."(Mt 4:20). That was my case. Without going into detail, I can say, like Jacob at Bethel, "The Lord is here, and I did not know it." No one who has experienced this type of encounter can remain indifferent to so much effort of seduction, much less resist obeying. When Grace enters life, the sacred duty exists to care for it, be grateful for it and share it. I would also add that it is a legitimate aspiration that it be welcomed into your family of faith as a gift for the community and not as a curse. What to say when that encounter results in deep healing-metanoia, as happened with Zacchaeus? After the "get up" comes the "walk." Staying standing and quiet like a statue is the fate dictated for countless women since the first was spoken. Honor to them. When the Church invites us to "pray for vocations," I suggest that it also ask God to limit Himself to fulfilling the Code so that nobody ever again has to die with empty hands and without hope.

And I would add, stop baptizing women now if God cannot freely address them, if they cannot freely answer Him. At some point in history, those who disregard the third petition of the "Our Father" will have to be held to account for this sin against the divine.

I suggest the same to well-meaning people who assess and judge my discernment and condemn me without even knowing who I am. I emphasize that obeying love is the first commandment. It is in force and no theologian able to refute it has been born yet.

2. Obedience from personal conscience and mind

My colleagues and I usually repeat the phrase of Peter and the other apostles -- among whom were women apostles 3 -- "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29), without forgetting the martyrial context in which many righteous people have had to speak it since their Master. When a person risks their life for a vocational commitment, it imposes respect. No one in their sound mind takes on the penalties of the caliber that the Holy See reserves for us women priests if they haven't put their lives in the key of radical following. 4

"Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of the human being5. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths...," says Vatican II (GS 16). To this conscience we appeal, those of us who decide to step forward and say, as Abraham responded to God even before knowing what would be asked of him, "Hineni, here I am." Twice I answered Him, first in Galician before my community, second in English in my global community. I do not know what the theological discipline has ascertained about human perception in the face of transcendence made manifest Presence, but I could write treatises about it.

The moment in which the mind is setting the steps to build the action, it produces a deep humanization rooted in ancestral generations; it produces a person on their feet and ready to go out to be who they are and offer themselves to the world. It produces a joy known only to those who have tasted it. No one should be deprived of experiencing the Grace that God has reserved for them under its own non-transferable form, for their sake and that of the whole community.

Being allowed to take the step on your own path should be a human right; that each person can get to say "I am ..." in freedom and without obstacles, is essential. If you are not you, who is breathing within you? Being fully human and enjoying that which we call dignity depends on it. Hence the special effort Jesus put into raising people up. The recovered vertical position was equivalent to forgiveness and healing. Various scenes in the gospels bear witness to this. Being fully individual seemed to be his motto first of all.

Promising to go forward without looking back and promising to accompany those who are traveling in step with me with the testimony of the gospel and the table set, is nothing but what every conscious baptized person promises. Obeying the Lord's charge to "remember him" should not depend on the permission of an excluding structure that does not take into account the totality of the people of God and allows itself to put obstacles to their choice. They should not be punished just because of the gender or sexual preferences of the baptized person. Our human nature has already been assumed in Christ and not partially, but in its totality. There is no small print at the foot of the Cross.

I did not allow myself to disobey any longer; 30 years had already been a long time. No man I know had to discern so much to be ordained a priest. I was not moved by "fads" or "principles of the social order of any historical period" 6 but by the Holy Spirit herself. Equality is not a fad, it will not pass. It is not a worldly whim, it is the will of the Creator.

When we hear that they want to make pass for infallible doctrine the assertion that the Church cannot ordain women, I postulate as an infallible doctrine that injustice and discrimination is a sin in the category of serious violence. They will end, God willing, just as slavery ended despite Church support in its time.

3. Obeying the Church

The Church should have the sacred mission of promoting the personal and community path towards the fulfillment of the will of God. We are daughters of the Church. It could be that we love her more than is reasonable since, although mistreated, we remain because she is ours and of our communities, because our baptism made us hers and we await a warm and respectful welcome from her. She is "the people of God," the Council said. We know she can change, that sometimes there are surprises, that someday she will listen to her old married priests, to the exhausted communities that no longer even know how to answer at Mass, as it once heard the voice of the indigenous people and slaves in songs of the human soul.

When the urban communities of the first world -- and not just them -- are already self-sufficient with Eucharists without priests. When the dominant idea in many environments is that the clergy get in the way, perhaps it is urgent to listen to those who describe other ways to be Church. Communities now exist where we can perform different roles and tasks without creating submission or abuse. They will not have to step down from the altar nor will we have to go up if it is at floor level; all the people will be equidistant.

And the people will not be starved for the Eucharist. This is, first and finally, what most propels me and comforts me in my decision. Having personally witnessed countless situations of communities separated for years from the Lord's table, I swore that that would not occur while I had these hands. These are my vows, this is my obedience, not celibacy since I have chosen to love and under all forms within my reach.

Women deacons -- this fully current theme -- were a thoroughly proven reality, as other evidence shows that women had leadership in the early days. Archaeology, epigraphy, and the texts support both common sense and the sensus fidei. Christian women give equal faith testimony, their blood flows red in martyrdom just like a man's, and always has. And we haven't waited for any commission or ordinations for that. And if our ministries are to be legalized in the end, I would ask that rose-colored formulas with bows not be invented, non-sacramental forms that set us apart from the holy orders, because the Ruah blows just as holy when she encourages us. Today many underground forms of women's ministries are taking place that require light and knowledge. God willing, we will free ourselves from fear and our light will be put on the mountaintop like a beacon.

When it comes to naming things, we must attend to the absolute criteria of justice proclaimed by Jesus for his Kingdom. Obedience is first to him, to the commandments of the Holy Spirit, to conscience. Service is not blind servitude to laws and mandates but collaboration of adult human beings on an equal footing, with audible and heard voices. Serving at the altar can not be for some coming with the table set and speaking the holy words, keeping for themselves the priceless gift of collaborating with the Savior in his saving task that I now know and value more than life, and, for others, changing the altar cloths, scrubbing the stones, replacing the vessels and cloths...and vanishing to the back pew.

Conclusion

If we are to give witness to the world about the dignity of women, and I do not doubt that both Pope Francis and most of my brothers and sisters have this intention, the times we are experiencing in our world are decisive. Feminism is not a fad of these times, it will not pass nor should it pass as long as our full humanity is not acknowledged in words and in action. We don't want to break with anything but to enter into what exists, slowly and carefully, to bring our charisms, our voice specialized in weakness and pain, our arms sculpted by years of care and our capacity to sleep with one eye open. Everything shared in the common heritage where we, in turn, will take the symbols, clothes, rites, and words accumulated for centuries and finally everything will be fully of the multitudes. Yes, we even take responsibility for the rabid anticlericalism that we are already bearing without deserving it ... we have endured too much and in the end it's time to raise our heads, balance the forces and, for the wounds that have been caused, band aids are not enough. We're all needed.

I ask the authority structures what is creating "the inability of the Church to ordain women." Because you and I know that there is not a single serious biblical or theological argument against laying hands on us. Let's seek dialogue, let's seek the holy exercise of compassion rather than coercive medieval mechanisms. With all due respect, saying to an adult person that what she wishes cannot be "because I who am your father says so," does no good now.

It damages ecclesial communion and, moreover, it harms the image of the Church. It damages an urgent witness we must give to the world at a time when we are being killed, raped, and denigrated everywhere. It's urgent. As the Kingdom is urgent when the Word burns within you. Meanwhile there is one single enemy, a murderer: sexism. I don't want to think we have it in the house. God doesn't want it.

Footnotes:

1. http://arcwp.org/en/

2. María Elena Garmendia, Porque soy hija de Abrahán. Sacerdocio femenino ¿un clamor del espíritu? Desclée de Brouwer, Bilbao, 2017.

3. M. Perroni-Cristina Simonelli, María de Magdala, una genealogía apostólica, San Pablo, Madrid, 2017.

4. Cf. Normae de gravioribus delictis Decree

5. The inclusive language is my contribution; the original says "man."

6. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19951028_commento-dubium-ordinatio-sac_en.html

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Pérez Prieto: "Ladaria's veto on female priesthood and intercommunion is shutting doors against the wind"

By Victorino Pérez Prieto (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
June 6, 2018

The cardinal prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, Luis Ladaria, has recently made two statements with which I disagree and that have stirred up immediate controversy.

In the first -- in an article in L'Osservatore Romano -- he tried again to close the door on the priesthood for women: "The Church has always recognized herself bound by Christ's decision to confer this sacrament on men," he wrote. In the second -- in a letter as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- he states that intercommunion, or communion between Catholics and Protestants, "is not mature enough" to become the norm of the universal Church, particularly in the case of communion of non-Catholic spouses in mixed marriages. In both cases, his words are like shutting doors against the wind since you can't go against history. But moreover, there are powerful arguments against them.

1. Beginning with the second of the statements made -- the one on intercommunion -- another colleague in the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Marx, archbishop of Munich and president of the German Bishops, declared himself "surprised" after the publication of the letter, recalling that in a conversation held in Rome last May, "the participating bishops were told that they should find, as far as possible, a unanimous result, in the spirit of ecclesial communion," and that this was surprising before they had found that consensus... And, what is more serious, the German cardinal pointed out that the question has effects on ecumenical relations with the other churches and ecclesial communities "that are not to be underestimated."

The controversy is coming now because of the pastoral document of the last Plenary Session of the German Bishops' Conference, "Walking with Christ -- In the Footsteps of Unity: Mixed Marriages and Common Participation in the Eucharist." (February 2018). Over three quarters of the members of the Bishops' Conference were in agreement, but the half a dozen bishops who weren't complained to Rome.

In fact, intercommunion refers to much more than communion between Catholics and Protestants in mixed marriages; it is the participation of Catholics in a Eucharist celebrated in a Christian community of a confession different from their own, or in a Catholic Eucharist with the participation of non-Catholics. The question is old and for years, both on the Protestant and on the Catholic side, the voices that cry out for "Eucharistic hospitality" have increased. It is about all those of us who are confessing Christians praying, speaking, serving and being able to celebrate together, despite our differences.

But in this, much more progress has been made in the field of praxis and theology, than in the field of ecclesiastical norms.

Intercommunion has been going on for decades, but in the theoretical doctrinal field there is still a long way to go. When you have participated in Eucharistic celebrations with brothers and sisters of a different confession, you see that there is no problem. I remember the Masses in Taizé more than 30 years ago, in which I participated with other Catholic priests and Protestant pastors. And more recently participation in the Eucharist in Skära Cathedral and in a small rural church with brothers and sisters of the Swedish Lutheran Church. Their celebrations of the Eucharist are very similar to ours, including consecration and communion (http://www.alandar.org/hemeroteca/cantar-en-tierra-extrana/una-semana-ecumenica-en-suecia/). We understood that the sacramentalized Jesus was as "present" in these masses as in what a Catholic priest would do. This can no longer be prevented; it is already a beautiful ecumenical reality.

The priesthood of women, again at the center of the debate

2. With regard to the theme of the priesthood for women -- better than "female priesthood," as an aside -- Ladaria stated that he considers the "no" to women's priesthood "definitive" -- "Christ wanted to confer this sacrament on the twelve apostles, all men, who, in turn, transmitted it to other men. The Church has always recognized herself bound by this decision of the Lord, which excludes that the ministerial priesthood can be validly conferred on women." And to the cardinal "it is a matter of serious concern to see the emergence in some countries of voices that question the finality of this doctrine,"  that "it is a truth belonging to the heritage of the faith."

But what is a matter of "serious concern" to many other theologians and non-theologians, priests, men and women religious and lay Catholic men and women is this stubbornness of the Church in stopping women from being able to access this responsibility in the communities like men and being able to function as ordained priests in them. It is not true what the cardinal prefect says that "the difference of roles between men and women does not imply any subordination," because the possibility of accessing positions of more responsibility in the service of the Church such as it is organized today -- an organization that is more than debatable and that does not come from Jesus of Nazareth -- necessarily passes through the sacrament of Holy Orders. If women can not access it, they will not be able to be pastors or bishops or -- why not? -- popes. Many small base communities have already solved the problem their own way, although sometimes at the expense of the value of the sacrament of Holy Orders in presiding at the Eucharist, especially in the consecration, which is questionable.

Theologian Jesús Martínez Gordo recently recalled in Religión Digital that the most recent position of the Magisterium with respect to the (im)possibility of women accessing ordained ministry is found in three documents "of unequal value": the Inter Insigniores Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1976), the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis of John Paul II (1994) and the Responsum on the authority of said Apostolic Letter signed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the following year (1995).

The first is a document in which infallibility or unreformability is not involved, therefore, it does not belong to the deposit of faith. The Responsum on the authority of the Apostolic Letter is a text of the Congregation, its authorship is the responsibility of the Congregation and the Pope is limited to authorizing its publication. In short, the Apostolic Letter of John Paul II aims to "dispel doubts" about it and express a position against the female priesthood, but it does not have dogmatic authority either. This theologian states something obvious: "The degree of authority is lower in John Paul II's text than in those of Pius XII or of Pius IX on the Assumption of Mary and the Immaculate Conception," concluding with all the reason in the world that "seldom in the history of the Church has there been a dogmatic and canonical mess like the one laid out."

Jesus and women

The truth is that in the New Testament we have no clear statement against the priesthood of women. In fact, Jesus did not ordain men or women as priests. Rather, we find evidence - corroborated by other extra-biblical writings of the early Christian churches and frescoes in the catacombs - that women also presided at the Eucharist.

And the truth is that women have been and have returned to being priests in the Church. Not only in non-Catholic Christian confessions, where even bishops abound -- despite the rejection of some sectors that came to "move over" to the Catholic Church because of it, as was the case of some Anglican priests -- but also in the Catholic Church itself. This is the case of the ARCWP and RCWP (Association of Catholic Roman Priests and Roman Catholic Women Priests), which already have about 300 priests and about a dozen bishops who joyfully tend to numerous communities, especially in North America but also in South America and in European countries. It is not that they want "power" like men, but to do what they have felt called to do.

Christian communities are demanding this female service as soon as they hear about it. And the vocations of many women, responding to a well-discerned interior calling -- at least equal to that of men, and in some cases quite a bit better -- show that the priesthood of women is a reality in the Catholic Church, and that it is no more than a matter of time before it is accepted by the hierarchy.

It is true that news like this, which comes from a man named by Pope Francis, bewilders many women and men and they question the renewal of the Church that he has been proclaiming. Above all, they still have to mourn in silence this discrimination in their Church. Others are already beginning not to be silent and to shout aloud in a prophetic voice what they consider legitimate and evangelical. "If they keep silent, the stones will cry out," the Master said.

Friday, June 1, 2018

"Christology and Women": A new book by theologian Consuelo Velez

By Consuelo Vélez (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
April 25, 2018

The Javeriana Theology Faculty has just published my book "Cristología y Mujer. Una reflexión necesaria para una fe incluyente" ["Christology and Women: A necessary reflection for an inclusive faith", Javeriana Teologia Hoy No. 79, 2018]. It was the fruit of a sabbatical semester but above all it is fruit of my theological and existential experience of recent years. As a woman theologian, I have not been able to be distant from a reality that is easy to verify in society and in the Church: the situation of women has changed lately but much is still needed so that, everywhere, it would be reality that because of the fact of "being women" we are not considered in a subordinate position or in second place or, worse, as sexual objects or someone's property.

Hence the concern to contribute to keeping on changing that situation and specifically from the field of theology and faith experience. In fact Christian revelation has not propitiated this situation -- in the book of Genesis the fundamental equality of men and women is affirmed: "God made them in His own image, male and female He created them" (1:27) -- but it has allowed it and has maintained it by a bad interpretation of the Biblical text and by an accommodation to social patterns where the model has been the masculine.

As the book cover says, it emphasizes the Christological because it's a central field in theology and, therefore, from a good Christological understanding that promotes women, a transformation of all other theological fields can emerge.

Many aspects can be treated in Christology; in the book, I look at some that I consider relevant. First of all, I pause to contextualize the perspective from which Christology is approached. We call that perspective feminist theology. This statement has some prejudices. The word "feminist" is often identified exclusively with positions against life or with the loss of femininity.

But we must repeat it "many times" to see if it can be understood: there are many feminisms and we are referring to the fundamental -- that movement that allowed women today to be citizens and hence we can study, occupy positions reserved for men for centuries and bring everything we are to the building of society and the church in true conditions of reciprocity and fundamental equality.

Once this perspective is put forward, I define some fundamental terms: feminist movement, sexism, patriarchy, androcentrism, kyriarchy, femininity and gender, and then I linger on the developments that have already taken place in so-called "feminist Christology," an already long history, of decades, but quite unknown in our context. One of the values of this book is to approach with a simple language -- as is my style -- the work already done in North America and Europe but, as I have just said, very unknown in our theological centers.

Second, I return to what is closest to our reflection and to which many theologians already refer: Jesus' attitude towards women in which his option for them and their inclusion in the group of his own is recognized quite significantly. Later I refer to inclusive language that allows naming God in masculine and feminine. That is His true face and the language -- as a living entity -- has to express it. In this sense, the title "Wisdom of God" that was left aside, privileging masculine titles such as Logos, Lord, Savior, etc., can contribute to enriching an understanding of God revealed in Jesus, inclusive of both genders.

Another chapter in the book refers to the masculinity of Jesus. No one is denying that Jesus was male, without a doubt, and no one is claiming to change that. But you need to liberate that masculinity from an exclusively male vision to allow us women to identify with Jesus too and be able to be in his image, without being told that because we are not men we can not occupy the places that men occupy because Jesus was male. It is an interesting discussion because it greatly enriches the Christological vision and new horizons of understanding for men and women emerge.

The last chapter refers to the cross of Christ, a theme so central to the experience of the Christian faith, but while it ought to be a redemptive and transforming sign, it has sometimes been a sign of passive resistance and resigned acceptance of the violence that is suffered. In the case of women, it has been a repeated story of the call to forbearance to save family members -- be it father, mother, brothers, husband or children --without taking into consideration that women have the right to their own lives and not for that do they stop being a good mother or a good wife or much less a good Christian. We recover the cross of Christ in its most authentic sense, showing how the cross denounces all violence against women and at no time contributes to their resignation and denial of their fundamental dignity.

In the postscript of the book it is said that it is aimed at women who already conceive of themselves in a different way, capable of questioning traditionally assumed roles and proposing another way of being and acting. But, of course, the book is also aimed at men because, in face of women's new way of positioning themselves, they need to rethink their identity and feel called to contribute to this new social configuration that breaks with the established roles due to biological sex and builds inclusive gender identities and authentic reciprocity between the sexes.

The invitation, therefore, is to read this book but especially to fully understand this patriarchal and sexist reality that has constituted us and of which today we are all still debtors - as Pope Francis affirms - and look for ways of transformation. Hopefully these reflections, which are limited and only explore some fields, can continue to be deepened but, above all, can be lived out to build a truly inclusive, liberating society and church, creator of communion and reciprocity among all.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

"If secularism is reducing faith to the private sphere, this weakens the public space": An interview with Teresa Forcades

By Jonatán Soriano (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Protestante Digital
May 15, 2018

With Teresa Forcades (Barcelona, 1966) one could talk about many subjects. Degree in Fundamental Theology from the Faculty of Theology of Catalonia, which did not validate her theological studies in the United States because of being partly Protestant, and later a doctorate with a thesis on the concept of person in classical Trinitarian theology and its relationship to the modern notion of freedom as self-determination, the Benedictine nun and doctor in medicine too has experience in public life. Specifically through the Procés Constituent platform, presented in 2013 in Catalonia with the aim of establishing a popular debate to decide what political, economic and social status is wanted for Catalonia, from a pro-independence and anti-capitalist base.

Between 2013 and 2015, Forcades enjoyed a large media presence in the territory, while presenting the platform on a tour together with its other very prominent representative, the economist Arcadi Oliveres. In addition to her demanding discourse, she stood out at the image level, since she appeared in long pants and a veil.

The movement was about to enter the elections to the Parliament on September 27, 2015, but an internal vote resulted in not doing so. "We lost a great opportunity," she states now.

We're reviewing from the Faculty of Theology of the University of Humboldt (Lutheran, by the way), where she teaches, that moment of greatest public exposure.

Question: You've had a Protestant formation.

Answer: Here we aren't so accustomed to it because the Spanish State is one of the most negative examples of Christian ecumenism. Protestantism has not had the recognition that it has in other countries and, therefore, the formation is viewed as dichotomous. I have moved a lot through the United States and Germany and that doesn't occur to them because the theological formation is incorporated in the university and the easiest thing is that you have professors who can be Catholic as well as Protestant, and not even know it. My training is first extra-academic, because of the interest I had while studying medicine in Barcelona and through the Cristianisme i Justicia studies center. That was before the official formation. Then I went as a doctor to the United States and there I began to study at the Catholic seminary of Western New York. I completed the first two years of what would be the degree, which is known there as "Master of Divinity." At the end of those two years I got a scholarship to go to Harvard, which has considered itself non-denominational (not ascribed to any religious confession) for years, despite having been founded in the seventeenth century by Methodists. They are interested, above all, in the possibility of Christian ecumenism and interreligiousness. At Harvard, the formation was divided into three blocks. The first was philosophy, the second was focused on the Bible, and the third on interfaith dialogue. There were Catholic teachers but they were a minority. In fact, I think I only had two. We are talking about the years between 1995 and 1997, and at that time the Harvard Divinity School was part of the Theological Institute of Boston, along with the Episcopal Theological School, the Holy Cross Orthodox School of Theology, the Jesuits' Boston College and the Weston Jesuit School of Theology. This, in practice, meant that in all of them you could do cross registration, that is, they gave you the degree of the institution with which you had 50% of the training and in my case it was Harvard, although I took classes in all the others because I had a very big interest. Therefore, my first degree in theology is non-denominational.

This caused that, when I returned to Barcelona to enter as a nun and I wanted to do a degree specializing in Catholic theology and then a PhD, the Faculty of Theology of Catalonia told me that they couldn't validate my studies because they were from a Protestant university. My reaction was to do a medical doctorate, because I didn't want to sit down again in the first course to be taught who Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were . Later there was a change in the Dean of the Catalan faculty and a Jesuit took office, so I wrote to the Jesuits with whom I had studied in the United States so that they would inform those in Catalonia that they would indeed recognize my degree. Finally, the faculty did not recognize the degree but I had the right to take an exam to demonstrate my knowledge. I'm explaining all this to make clear the difficulties of theological dialogue that we still have. In the end they agreed to give me an exam for which I had to prepare 50 subjects, although I would only have to be examined on one between two chosen at random, which were "Easter" and "justification by faith." I chose "justification by faith" because I had studied in a largely Protestant faculty. From there, I was able to do a specialized degree in Fundamental Theology, which deals with the dialogue between faith and philosophy, with contemporary thinking and all those questions that aren't limited to dogmatic discussion but have to do with apologetics.

Q: How has that Protestant formation influenced you?

A: The perspective that I found at Harvard didn't have the ecclesiological institution element as something central, so important in the Catholic tradition, but the search for the sense of faith at the individual level, which has been characteristic of Protestantism throughout the years. That confronting, asking what you think, how you live and what God is for you. These questions have also existed in the Catholic tradition but have not characterized its perspective. To me this seemed liberating, very appropriate for a 21st century Christian faith that, inevitably, should have that personal component.

Also the study of biblical languages so in depth. In Catholicism it is also studied, but the mastery of Greek and Hebrew isn't presupposed in Catholic theology if you don't devote yourself to being a biblist. This preponderance of the original languages is something that I would not have today had I not studied at a Protestant faculty.

When I was working as a doctor in New York, I decided to attend a Protestant Episcopal church instead of a Catholic one. It's not that I had a crisis of faith, but that I wanted to open my mind. There I attended three years and one of the great novelties was to see a woman presiding. I looked around to see what faces the men were making, in case they were upset, but no one seemed to be because it was normal. In addition to being a pastor, Susan was a clown in the children's section of a hospital, so she had an intense communicative capacity, and for me it was very important to know her.

Q: But you have not considered being a Protestant.

A: No. At fifteen, I read the gospel and for me it was an experience of conversion. Then I read Leonardo Boff and Liberation Theology and Las Moradas by Saint Teresa and I was completely in love, and am up until now. It's like feeling in continuity with a whole tradition that has been one of political commitment to social justice and, later, the mystique of having your eyes open and touching the ground with your feet. In just one case I thought about becoming a Protestant. Specifically a Quaker. I was moved by the actions of Margaret Fell and George Fox in the 17th century. I have never known a Quaker community but that trajectory of pioneers in the field of pacifism, in humanizing prisons, in community instead of individual biblical interpretation without being mediated by some power structures that are distant, in the rights of women ... all this impressed me, although it didn't provoke a serious consideration of the abandonment of Catholicism, which I have rooted in my heart.

Q: Change of subject. How has the Procés Constituent experience been to date?

A: From the beginning it has been a cause for controversy because I was dressed as a nun and with a veil. Controversy between some members of Procés Constituent but, above all, with other groups with whom we entered into alliances or political conversations. There were people for whom the fact of being dressed as a nun -- and being one -- was a factor of trust, and for others, it was a contradiction due to the fact of being on the left. In our country, there are people who think that, because of being on the left, we should be against religions in general, but very specifically oppressive religions, which is the view that has been held about Catholicism because it has had, and still has power. The most acute part of this tension was experienced at the time I said I would go up for the elections (to Parliament on September 27, 2015). There were people who didn't accept it because they thought that going up for an election was something unlike a nun. It's not that I considered it proper for a nun, but it was an exceptional and temporary event. In fact, this had already happened during the democratic transition with parish priests who became mayors of towns. In my case, it was not only the factor of belonging to a religious community but also the factor of being a woman and a religious.

Q: And now, would you fit into politics?

A: No. But I didn't fit then either. It wasn't about entering the party game, but about promoting a popular constituent process. I'm very skeptical of party politics. A democracy reduced to parliament seems to me a shame. It's not about which party you like or which one you feel good in. The motivation, in my case, was the conviction that in Catalonia there was an opportunity to promote a reflection at the popular level about the definition of a new constitution and the relationship that one wants to have with the Spanish State. But we didn't want to take advantage of it. The idea of participatory democracy instead of an exclusively representative democracy is advancing in some countries but it's one of the main challenges for Western democracies.

Q: How do you perceive the current approaches of secularism?

A: When I was at Harvard, public theology had become fashionable, which has to do with theological reflection taking place in the public space. And I totally agree with this approach because I was also trained in it. If secularism means relegating faith to the private sphere, not because the person chooses so but because that's how it's regulated, I believe that this is incompatible with Christianity and the other great religions. If it is believed that the condition to have a plural society is that faith is reduced to the private sphere, I think that this weakens the public space and implies a violation in terms of rights. But it is also impossible for there to be cohesion and social development because this is a substantiation of non-religiosity. That is to say, from a point of view of ethical and political reflection, an artificial identity of the citizen is being constructed. The citizen is allowed to be in the public space according to the criteria that the State says. This is closer to totalitarian thought.

In the United States, I was in consultation with a colleague who wore a yarmulke, another with a Sikh turban, and a colleague wearing a veil. That was normal and we were visiting a public hospital. We were showing our beliefs in the public space and, for me, it was an enrichment.

Q: What do we have to move towards?

A: I'm arguing for the public character of theology and religion in a secular context conceived as a separation between religious institutions and the State. I'm interested in the arguments of John Locke about what the separation between Church and State means. Locke defends this separation, but reaffirms that the State can "judge religions" even if it is to declare them all equally valid. Maybe they are or maybe they aren't, but it's not the State that should determine it. How can a representative of the State argue with philosophical consistency that all religions are equal? The State can't be put above religions but it must guarantee that this debate can take place without favoring one religion to the detriment of the others. I think this is the idea that can help us most today.

On the other hand, we have the French Revolution and the Goddess of Reason who substantiates, in the name of the State, a notion of good. And the notions of good we must build among all, in a plural society, but avoiding the possible imposition of some over others. If we need something at the social level, it's the motivation toward personal sacrifice for the common good, but that's not so easy to achieve. It can't be presupposed. Throughout history there have been national or nationalist motivations or religious motivations that have led to facing up to injustice. Religion has played a role in the capacity for social cohesion. Getting to that is the challenge of 21st century society, but it's not done by relegating religion to the private sphere.

Q: But the reality is not very hopeful at this time.

A: In our context there is a struggle of privileges, still established, of the Catholic Church with the Spanish State. There is still the 1953 concordat with the Vatican. There is a government that gives medals to the Virgin and that shapes the public presence in such a way that it reminds us of that alliance of the past. On the other hand, there are city councils and political representatives who rebound against this and act in a prepotent or discriminatory way against religions in general and, very particularly, against Catholicism.

It's an interesting moment because it's a moment of transition. It's necessary to find a way to make this debate public and alive because it's a moment in which, as a society, we can orient ourselves in a new way. After 40 years of National Catholicism that was about disparaging other religions and Christian traditions, then came the rebound, a relative one because the concordats are still there, and now we're in a moment where there are voices for a secularism that I don't I think is positive because it aims to promote and defend from the institutions a model of an areligious citizen.