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...'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.


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.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Truth and its violent consequences

by Ivone Gebara (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Carta Capital (em português)
July 5, 2018

"Do you swear to tell the truth and only the truth?" I swear. "Do you swear by God, by the homeland, by the family, by your honor, by the Bible?" I swear. What would be this truth to which one must swear and often risk one's own life?

 According to the Greek origin of the word, truth -- aletheia -- has to do with what is not occult, the unconcealed, the unmasked. It extends through diverse knowledge, situations, emotions and personal and social actions. In other words, it gambles on the possibility of the human person revealing something that only she knows, something that she has discovered, something she is hiding about facts, people, situations or about herself.

Truth would be a kind of clarity about a fact, an event, a feeling, and therefore a belief that we are able to reach into the depth of ourselves and even reveal it to others. Such behavior means to many that it is possible to find 'something', 'a thing', 'an emotion' free from deception or lies, as if it were a nugget of gold, or pure love.

Some ancient philosophers believed that there was a truth of things, that it was possible for the word to be identified with the object and the object with the word. They believed in an adequation between thought, essence and thing, and vice versa.

We moderns and postmoderns find that this quasi-coincidence does not exist, but that truth is a personal and even collective point of view on interpretations of life. A thick cloud envelops us and prevents us from reaching the place indicated by our desire. Reason and desire are in conflict.

We contemporaries are lovers of circumstances, of changes and we believe in the mutation of truths, in their multiple conditionalities and consequently we live in their social belligerence.

Truth is in social movement, in its multi-faceted personal and collective reality. This is why all attempts, whether from politics or from religion, to unify the truth have led and lead to totalitarianism and violence. And both one and the other in their historical diversity and in the diversity of their forms of truth have tried the way of unification of truth and have used weapons to defend it.

Both of them from their authority have wanted to impose their truths without perceiving the truth of diversity and the impossibility of a unification by force. However, we are well aware that the foundation of political truth expressed in the forms of government and the authority of leaders is visible, whereas the foundation of religions and in particular of monotheisms, is invisible. The legitimization of religious power is done through divine invisibility that is presumed to be represented by the clerical hierarchy.

Today, we are experiencing a certain failure of the traditional foundations of the order of truths. We understand the world differently. What we see in fact is the difficulty of total agreements from affirmations called 'truths', especially those emanating from political and religious powers.

Moreover, empirically we experience the cruelty of truth every day. When we denounce the lie and want to affirm something of the truth, of the real, we are condemned. Therefore, the truth we know in history is the mother of pain, the mother of suffering, the mother of injustice, the mother of murders. Mother in the sense of being generative, of giving birth.

If we reveal it, we are brought to court, we are expelled from parties, synagogues and churches, crucified, imprisoned, condemned to death, forced to drink hemlock and tortured by those who think they have the power over truth.

If we tell the truth we have our works burned, our teaching interrupted, expulsion from our land to guarantee the truth of those who claim to be its owners. Truth is cruel! It saves no one from accusations, from prisons, from the many Gulags in history!

In 1837, Hans Christian Andersen published a story called "The Emperor's new clothes." In it, a king is deceived by two astute tailors who make him believe that they would weave him beautiful clothes that only the intelligent and capable ones would be able to see. They spend weeks weaving and making the king try on the clothes by making flattering remarks to him.

The king himself, wearing the invisible clothes, does not admit to being either incapable or unintelligent. He decides to wear the clothing and introduce himself to his subjects. They all look at it and admire it, but no one is able to reveal the truth about the king's nakedness because it would reveal their own ignorance. In this, a child in the crowd shouts, "The king is naked." The truth came out of the mouth of a child who was not afraid of being ridiculed or called incompetent or unintelligent.

She said what her eyes saw. The truth was stated by a child. It is she who reveals the hidden, it is she who says what everyone sees but is unable to say. Revelation is dangerous, truth is threatening.

The everyday story continues to show the cruelty of truth. Donald Trump's violent 'truth' is that he does not want more foreigners in the United States. He separates the children from their families and puts them in prisons. The numbers are scary. More than 2000 children are imprisoned! The truth about immigrants is that they are seeking to save their lives, to get out of hunger and go to a place where there is work and decent survival.

The conflicts show and the cruelty of some is evident over the fragility of others. The violence and hatred of some contrasts with the fragility of others. How to live with so many 'truths' and so many lies? Is there a way to negotiate them?

There might be another way when, according to the Book of Genesis, we disobey the all-powerful Father, and, seduced by the serpent of freedom that inhabits us, we transgress orders and are expelled from Paradise ...

Truth makes us wanderers in search of our bread with the sweat of our body and the abundance of our tears. Truth makes us without a fatherland, without a motherland, without family, without the friends of our childhood, without the smell of our land, without God. Might this be the freedom of truth?

Deep down it is the lie that protects us, it is the one that teaches us juggling to carry out our intent. It is the lie that hides our face from the face of others who judge and persecute us. That is why we love lies more, although we say that we swear by the truth and seek the truth.

The fact is that we are wanderers, and in this situation and condition, we can only count on the companions of that long journey. Like the child who cried out the king's nakedness, we need to welcome each other's cry of helplessness and realize that deceit about ourselves leads us to premature death, kills life, kills forests, rivers ... It kills the planet and us with it. This tragedy is an aspect of truth.

Along these lines, we are witnessing today wandering from the truth and lack of rights from different human groups. Thousands and thousands of homeless, landless, and stateless, each seeking the most important truth -- "protecting your life and that of your neighbors." To have the right to your own life is the first written truth, inscribed in our own bodies, in our breathing in search of air.

That is why one leaves his land occupied by others who are extracting precious metals, wood, water and gold from it. They kill the earth and its population in the name of their truth called progress, human development ... It is boundless greed. Conflicts are inevitable when those who have not died go out in search of a land to live in.

And where they arrive, they are not welcomed; on the contrary, they are expelled and remain wanderers. For all this, the idea of a total integral humanism and a pure truth that harmonizes us in a single vision is not only ambiguous and deceptive but unlikely.

Perhaps the way out is not to solve problems through a single social, political or religious truth since the very truth of human history is plurality. And this plurality or diversity manifests itself in all human activities and in the whole flow of life where the unforeseen and foreseen mingle, attract one another, cancel one another, and coexist.

One step would be to promote respect for the real complexity of truth and the need to continually unmask our multiple temptations to reduce the world of others to our own truth, to eliminate the lives of others to affirm our economic, political, and religious truth. Educate ourselves at all levels for diversity to avoid totalitarian dogmatisms.

Diversity costs. It is not just a spoken word, it is an external and internal modification of ourselves when in fact we want a world where all will fit with dignity. Everything is allowed, but everything is not good for the maintenance of life, human dignity and the whole planet. Respect for the diversity of life and its total interdependence must be part of our common creed.

It is what opens us to the hope of unity in real diversity. This unity is made of a continually renewed dialogue and it is in our image, fragile and helpless, always open to betrayal and communion. It is hope, in the uncertainty of the journeys. And on these journeys, the luminous truth that stubbornly inhabits us lives and will live, mixed with the many stones of the way.

The last battle of the activist nun: "I'm going back to the cloister"

by Paolo Rodari (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La Repubblica (in Italiano)
July 16, 2018

"The constituent process in Catalonia will end on the first of September. On that day I'll return to the normal life of the monastery, ever more convinced that the Catalan movement for independence from Spain is an opportunity to deepen democracy and tackle some fundamental issues of exclusion and social abuse. This has opened the eyes of many people to the insufficient nature of our democracy and to the fact that in the globalized twenty-first century, political power is subject to economic power."

A feminist theologian and Benedictine nun, Teresa Forcades left her cloister two years ago to engage in politics, fighting for the independence of Catalonia. In a month, she will return to the monastery where she will continue her battles, but in another way. Among the most read writers in Spain, engaged against the pharmaceutical industry lobby, for gender rights and for the LGBT world, she tells La Repubblica about these two years "outside the walls" and the challenges of the future, all with a look beyond the Spanish borders.

On Italy, for example, Forcades has precise ideas: "Lega ["The League"] is a far-right movement. All extreme right-wing movements are dangerous for democracy because they are by definition authoritarian, enemies of pluralism and suspicious of critical thinking. I believe that the widespread success of current right-wing authoritarianism in Europe is a reaction to the frustration created by capitalist democracy -- it is impossible to have political democracy without economic democracy. One can't be expected to act as a responsible democratic citizen after spending ten hours a day working in degrading conditions for a poor salary. The book Hired by James Bloodworth opens one's eyes in that sense and so does Il mondo deve sapere ["The world must know"] by Michela Murgia."

For Forcades the political ideal is the United Nations, "but not the one we have today, with the right of veto, nor the European Union we have today, designed to favor economic powers." "The economic powers," she says, "have more power than politicians, more power than voters. I see this as the main problem."

In the Church, Forcades is always an active nudge. In fact, there are many subjects on which the Church is struggling to have a new view. Among these, homosexuality. The catechism preaches acceptance, but at the same time asks that homosexual persons live in chastity. Says Forcades: "I think it's deeply inhuman. I believe that homosexual marriage should be recognized as a sacrament because what constitutes the sacrament of marriage is what this particular human bond has in common with the life of the Trinity and the life of the Trinity has nothing to do with gender or sexual complementarity and nothing to do with having children. Homosexuality is not a problem, homophobia is." And again: "On some issues, such as social justice, the Church's doctrine and some of its practices are prophetic and ahead of our times. On other matters, the Church is really behind. It is particularly behind on sexual morality (such as prohibiting contraception) and on the role of women and I think this is most likely a consequence of having only celibate males who govern the Church."