Saturday, July 4, 2009

Catholic church investigates U.S. nuns

I'm trying to understand this. According to Cardinal Hummes, we still have a pretty large number (not percent, number) of pedophile priests in the Church and the Church is investigating nuns??? Oh, well, I guess the priorities of the Vatican are a mystery to us ordinary Catholics in the pews. If vocations to the priesthood have declined, more so those to the consecrated life. The number of nuns nationwide has plummeted from 179,954 in 1965 to 61,855 in 2008, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. That 66 percent decline is more than double the 31 percent drop in the number of priests during the same time period. The average nun in the United States is in her mid-70s, according to CARA.

The reasons for the decline don't require a PhD to figure out. There is absolutely nothing that a nun does that cannot be done by a lay woman without having to give up the possibility of marriage, motherhood, and career choice and advancement. And you don't have to be silently obedient to a male hierarchy that may have only a fraction of your intellectual ability and education. Many nuns in America have, in fact, stopped silently acquiescing. And women religious superiors have been very willing to defend their congregations' traditional decisionmaking autonomy. So that has put the women's religious orders on the Vatican radar screen...

WASHINGTON, July 2 (UPI) -- The Vatican is investigating the conduct of U.S. nuns through two "visitations" of religious orders and an umbrella organization.

Several nuns told The New York Times they fear the church is trying to restore old traditions such as wearing habits, living in convents and working in church institutions.

"They think of us as an ecclesiastical work force," said Sister Sandra M. Schneiders, who taught at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, Calif. "Whereas we are religious, we're living the life of total dedication to Christ, and out of that flows a profound concern for the good of all humanity. So our vision of our lives, and their vision of us as a work force, are just not on the same planet."

The more extensive Apostolic Visitation is being done by Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a U.S. native now living in Rome.

The other visitation is an assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization that says it has 1,500 members from most U.S. orders. Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told the conference it has failed to promote church teaching on homosexuality, the men-only priesthood and holding the Catholic church to be the only means to salvation, the newspaper said.


On a related subject. Belly Girl Films (Rebecca Alvin) has a new documentary profiling nuns in a variety of roles from contemplative to activist. The film is called "Women of Faith". Here is a clip from the film featuring Sr. Pat Murray, a Maryknoll nun who did substantial missionary work in El Salvador during the civil war. The photo above is also from that film.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Coming out in the Roman Catholic church

I'm sure that by writing on this theme I'm going to alienate a lot of readers but I live by the labor movement maxim that "an injury to one is an injury to all". I am not an immigrant but that doesn't stop me from speaking out for their rights. I am not gay, but I am offended at the way our Church demonizes and discriminates against gay people. When I wrote the column about Reverend "Big Mama" Capretta, I said that highlighting him did a disservice to the many gay Roman Catholic priests who are trying to balance their faith and their sexual orientation.

One of those men is Fr. Geoff Farrow who will be a homilist at Dignity USA's biennial convention this weekend. Fr. Farrow came out in October 2008 during the height of the debate in California on Proposition 8, that defines marriage as being exclusively between a man and a woman. The Catholic Church told its clergy to push for a "YES" vote. Farrow made the costly decision to tell his parishioners at St. Paul Newman Center in Fresno that he was homosexual and that he was going to vote "NO" on Proposition 8. Realizing he could not continue after that revelation, Farrow took a leave of absence and was promptly suspended a divinis and fired from his post. Twenty-three years in the priesthood ended with this decision to tell the truth no matter what. I have been exploring Father Farrow's blog and I would encourage other readers to do the same. He is thoughtful and strategic.

At the moment there is a lot of outrage at Farrow's proposal to boycott the Knights of Columbus and undermine their funding since they financed much of the Church's opposition to Proposition 8. Before getting outraged, one should bear in mind that Farrow suggested this after hearing from a number of fellow priests who agreed with his position but didn't have the courage to come out as he did. Also bear in mind that the Catholic Church has acted vindictively against Fr. Farrow. Not only did they suspend him, but the Archdiocese of Los Angeles threatened to withdraw funding from Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice when Farrow applied to be executive director of that organization. The organization capitulated and terminated the interview process with Farrow.

As a reminder of what real courage is, here is the October 2008 homily that cost Fr. Farrow his standing in the Roman Catholic church:

As most of you know, I was appointed pastor here at the Newman Center on April 15th of this year. When I arrived, I set out to address a series of various projects to repair our facilities. To date, most of these deferred maintenance items have been addressed. In the middle of dealing with contractors, the parish finance committee, the building department of the diocese, neighbors, etc., I received a FAX from the bishop’s office on the 30th of June. It was the bishop’s pastoral letter for the month of July.

This single FAX threw my whole summer, and in fact, my whole life into a turmoil. Recently, I was speaking with some of our parishioners who advocate for the ordination of women. In the course of our conversation, a question arose which has haunted me: “At what point do you cease to be an agent for healing and growth and become an accomplice of injustice?” By asking all of the pastors of the Diocese of Fresno to promote Catholics to vote “Yes” on Proposition 8, the bishop has placed me in a moral predicament.

In his “Pastoral,” the bishop states: “Marriage is much more than simply two persons loving each other. Marriage is naturally, socially, and biologically, directed to bringing forth life.”

Actually, there are TWO ends to marriage: 1) Unitive and 2) Procreative. The unitive end of marriage is simply a union of love and life. The Procreative end is, of course, to create new life. It is important to understand that the unitive end of marriage is sufficient for a valid marriage. The Church sanctions, and considers a sacrament, the marriage of elderly heterosexual couples who are biologically incapable of reproduction. So, if two people of different genders who are incapable of reproduction can enter into a valid marriage, then why is that two people of the same gender, who are incapable of reproduction, cannot enter into a valid marriage.

The objections which are raised at this point are taken from Sacred Scripture. Scripture scholars reveal the problematic nature of attempting to use passages from the Hebrew Scriptures as an argument against same gender relationships. Essentially, these scriptures are addressing the cultic practices in which sex with temple prostitutes was part of an act of worshiping Pagan gods. With regard to the Pauline epistles, John J. McNeill, in his book: “The Church and the Homosexual,” makes the following point: “The persons referred to in Romans 1:26 are probably not homosexuals that is, those who are psychologically inclined toward their own sex-since they are portrayed as ‘abandoning their natural customs.’” The Pauline epistles do not explicitly treat the question of homosexual activity between two persons who share a homosexual orientation, and as such cannot be read as explicitly condemning such behavior. Therefore, same gender sex by two individuals with same sex orientation is not “abandoning their natural custom.”

In 1973, as a result of a greater understanding of human psychology, the American Psychological Association declassified homosexuality as a mental illness. In 1975, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the Church’s watchdog for orthodoxy) produced a document entitled: “Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics.” In this document, they made the most remarkable statement. They stated that there are “homosexuals who are such because of some kind of innate instinct.” While these statements are hardly glowing affirmations of gay and lesbian persons, they represent a watershed in human perception and understanding of gay and lesbian people.

These new insights have occurred as a result of the birth and development of the science of psychology and understanding of brain development in the 19th and 20th centuries. The California Supreme Court cited and quoted an amicus brief filed by the APA in the Court’s opinion issued on May 15, 2008 that struck down California’s ban on same sex marriage. Specifically, the court relied on the APA’s brief in concluding that the very nature of sexual orientation is related to the gender of partners to whom one is attracted, so that prohibiting same sex marriage discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, rather than just imposing disparate burdens on gay people.

In directing the faithful to vote “Yes” on Proposition 8, the California Bishops are not merely entering the political arena, they are ignoring the advances and insights of neurology, psychology and the very statements made by the Church itself that homosexuality is innate (i.e. orientation). In doing this, they are making a statement which has a direct, and damaging, effect on some of the people who may be sitting in the pews next to you today. The statement made by the bishop reaffirms the feelings of exclusion and alienation that are suffered by individuals and their loved ones who have left the Church over this very issue. Imagine what hearing such damaging words at Mass does to an adolescent who has just discovered that he/she is gay/lesbian? What is the hierarchy saying to him/her? What are they demanding from that individual? What would it have meant to you personally to hear from the pulpit at church that you could never date? Never fall in love, never kiss or hold hands with another person? Never be able to marry? How would you view yourself? How would others hearing those same words be directed to view you? How would you view your life and your future? How would you feel when you saw a car with a “Yes on 8″ bumper sticker? When you overheard someone in a public place use the word “faggot?”

I remember the first time I heard that word, faggot, I was hanging out with my cousins. They all played on the football team of the Catholic high school in our town. One of them spat out the word in the form of a curse. I was just a kid in the 5th grade, I’d never heard the word before, and so I asked: “What’s a faggot?” A faggot is a guy who likes other guys, was the curt reply. Now pause. Think. What would those words mean to someone in junior high school who discovers that he/she is attracted to people of their same gender? The greatest fear that he/she would have is that they would be rejected by the people they love the most-their family. So, their solution is to try to pass as straight, deceive, and in effect-lie. Of course, this leads ultimately to self loathing. It should come as little surprise that gay teenagers have elevated suicide rates. According to the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (1999), 33% of gay youth will attempt suicide.

The bishop states: “The Church has spoken out constantly that those with a homosexual orientation must be respected with the dignity of every child of God. Every individual is created in the image and likeness of God and should never be subjected to prejudice or hatred.” A pious thought uttered by a cleric, robbed of any substantive meaning, as the executioner begins his work. Only a few select people actually read those documents. What most Catholics hear about being gay or lesbian at their parish church is–silence. A numbing silence, which slowly and insidiously tells them, “You don’t belong here, this is not for you, and you are not welcome.” It is not the crude overt vulgarity of some churches. But rather, it is the coldness of a maitre d’ who simply won’t seat you, or the club which has put you on a waiting list with no intention of allowing you to join. And simply asks you to wait in polite almost, apologetic tones.

In effect, the bishops are asking gay and lesbian people to live their lives alone. Why? Who does this benefit? How exactly is society helped by singling out a minority and excluding them from the union of love and life, which is marriage? How is marriage protected by intimidating gay and lesbian people into loveless and lonely lives? What is accomplished by this? Worse still, is to intimidate a gay or lesbian person into a heterosexual marriage, which is doomed from its inception, and makes two victims instead of one by this hurtful “theology.” This “theology,” which is parroted by clerics in polished tones from pulpits, produces the very prejudice and hatred in our society which they claim to abhor.

When the hierarchy prohibited artificial birth control, most of the faithful in the United States, Canada and Europe scratched their heads in wonderment and proceeded to ignore them. There is an expression in theology: “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” If your son or daughter is gay/lesbian let them know that you love them unconditionally. Let them know that you are not ashamed or embarrassed by them. Guide them as you would your other children to finding true and abiding love. Let them know that marriage is a union of love and life and is possible for them too.

I do not presume to tell you how to vote but I do ask that you pray to the Creator of us all. Think and consider the effects of your vote on others, especially minorities in our society who are sitting next to you in church, and at work. The act of casting a vote takes you a few minutes but it can cause other human beings untold happiness or sorrow for a lifetime. It can grant them hope and acceptance, or it can cause them to lose civil rights. It can be a rebuff to bigotry and hatred, or it can encourage bigotry and hatred. Personally, I am morally compelled to vote “NO” on Proposition 8. It is my hope that the people of California will join with those others around the world such as Canada, Europe and South Africa who welcome their gay and lesbian family members fully into society by granting them the civil right to marry.

I know these words of truth will cost me dearly. But to withhold them, would be far more costly and I would become an accomplice to a moral evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights but of their human dignity as well. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” He didn’t promise that it would be easy or without personal cost to speak that truth.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Church in Honduras rejects coup, but asks Zelaya to respect the Constitution

We have been waiting for an accurate statement of the Catholic Church's position since the coup in Honduras when democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya was forced into exile on June 28th by the Honduran military, who were supposedly serving a supreme court order, and Roberto Micheletti took the reins as interim president. The world has been in an uproar over the coup and many of the countries have either withdrawn their ambassadors or pulled them back for consultation. Both the United Nations and the Organization of American States have insisted that Zelaya should be restored to his position.

In that environment, the silence of Honduras' Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga was surprising and some even interpreted it as a sign that the Catholic Church might be supporting the coup. This interview with Maradiaga's close associate Father Germán Calix may help put those rumors to rest.

Also, in a separate interview with Vatican Radio, Mons. Rómulo Emiliani, auxilliary bishop of San Pedro Sula, emphasized that the Church is exhorting the Honduran people to peace and dialogue lest the country fall into violence. Said Emiliani: "No queremos que esto (la situación actual) sea el detonante que active una guerra civil. No queremos eso nunca. Queremos que Honduras siga viviendo en paz, en armonía; pero en justicia social y que todos aprendamos la lección". ("We do not want this (the current situation) to be the detonator that activates a civil war. We do not want this, ever. We want Honduras to continue to live in peace, in harmony; but in social justice, and that we might all learn the lesson [from the bloody civil wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala].").

For the record too, many of the populist social movements immediately opposed the coup d'etat. A good summary of their positions can be found in this
article on Adital. They are skeptical of the Catholic Church's call for dialogue -- probably because Micheletti acted swiftly to order the arrest of a number of their leaders, including: Rafael Alegrón (a peasant leader of Honduras and member of the Comisión Coordinadora Internacional de Vía Campesina); Juan Barahona and Carlos H. Reyes (leaders of the Bloque Popular); Andrés Padrón (Movimiento por los Derechos Humanos); Luther Castillos (labor leader); César Han, Andrés Pavón, Marvin Ponce, Salvador Zúñiga, and Berta Cáceres (all from Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras - COPINH, the main group that has protested the coup).

By Patricio Downes
Religión Digital
30.06.09 14:25

Buenos Aires - The executive secretary of Caritas in Honduras, Father Germán Calix, said that the Catholic Church rejects the coup against the constitutional government of his country, while demanding that the deposed president Manuel Zelaya comply with the constitutional requirements for the plebiscite and referendum, required for constitutional reform. This is an issue that had created friction between the bishops and the Honduran president.

Speaking to Religión Digital by telephone from Tegucigalpa, Calix, a close associate of Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, rejected the accusation against the Catholic Church in Honduras of complicity in the coup. "Neither one nor the other", he said,"because ten days before the coup, it [the Catholic Church] called for dialogue and supported that the people be consulted." Father Calix added that the bishops are willing to join a commission for dialogue, convened by the de facto government, but felt that the arrival of Zelaya, scheduled for this Thursday [Trans. note: since this interview appeared, Zelaya’s return has been postponed], could be "catastrophic" before any agreement is reached.

While Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga has been holding constant meetings to prevent the coup from ending in a blood bath, Calix said that the Church holds the same position as that expressed in its document of last June 19. The cardinal, president of Caritas worldwide, was unlocatable even for his staff, fully occupied with facilitating.

In that document, the Honduran bishops said: "The participatory democracy that we want will only be possible if certain conditions occur. Therefore, we urge the authorities that have been chosen to safeguard the rule of law to find, through dialogue, solutions to the current conflict, and guarantee to the people of Honduras the regulation of constitutional means of recourse, such as the plebiscite and the referendum that, along with other instruments, such as the Citizen Participation Law, allow the people to be consulted on major issues."

Would the Church now participate in the dialogue, despite the de facto government?

If it were called now, the Church would be willing to participate even though it has been quite criticized -- especially the hierarchy -- because people don’t think it stood up for the deposed government and because it didn’t speak out in favor of the fourth ballot-box –- the process that Zelaya had inititated, they accuse it of being a participant in the coup, which has no sound basis.

The priest is referring to the possibility of a dialogue commission, as the de facto president Roberto Micheletti has called it. The latter belongs to the Liberal Party, the same one through which Manuel Zelaya came to power. But as of last night that dialogue to which the Catholic and Evangelical churches would be invited, in addition to the business, worker and peasant sectors, had not been established. Calix said that the coup leaders did not take into account the international front and the strong rejection by the European Union, as well as ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas), the OAS and the Rio Group.

What does the Church think about the coup?

Even before the coup, on the 29th of this month, it issued a statement saying that one cannot create democracy against democracy. And at the moment the Church has done nothing more than to repeat that. And before the coup it had suggested, and even called for all sectors of society to sit down in dialogue and find valid and rational ways out of this situation. That there would not be an arrangement among politicians but a consensus among different sectors of the population and that it was necessary to take into account that the political crisis had been dragging along because the democratic system had not been able to make the move towards social justice for the whole country.

Did you tell Zelaya that you opposed his proposed re-election?

Yes. About 10 days before the coup the bishops met with President Zelaya to tell him that the Church agreed with his wish for people’s participation and that people's participation in public functions and setting public policy should not be limited. But that it should be done within the existing legal framework of the country, as there are mechanisms such as the plebiscite and the referendum with which there has been extensive experience in South America. And the president was asked to set aside any personal desire for continuation or re-election, a message he had already received from the Church and he had given his word that he would hand over power in January, which could be true as the word of a president, but the movement that he was generating around a national assembly called into doubt his claims, because the assembly would have the legitimate right to choose him as president and, in that case, he would have the option to remain in power or change the constitution to be re-elected president.

The slogan was “neither one nor the other, neither re-election nor coup”?

Neither one, since the Church believes that the coup is not a way out for life in a democracy. The coup does not solve the political problem that has dragged on for more than a decade in a weakening of the party system in Honduras, where there has been a traditional two-party system since the last century, since 1920 or so, even in some cases and still remembering the ideals of that era. These parties need to reform but the reforms can not come from the caudillo, from authoritarianism, much less from a coup, but rather it is necessary to make room for the renewal of the parties, open more opportunities for participation and seek political solutions to domestic problems. The peculiarity is that the parties who were supposedly in this coup – of which the military are only the visible and fleeting hand, just a moment, because they then handed over power to civilians…is that it has taken place between members of the Liberal Party.

How do you view the return of Zelaya scheduled for Thursday [sic]?

There is already commotion, because yesterday and today have been days of clashes between the social sectors, especially the working-class ones, and they say there have been 70 injured, though no fatalities so far, thank God. A return of President Zelaya would be disastrous because it would mobilize all these people to receive him, cheer him on and escort him and there would be a clash with police and government forces. It would not be a solution unless, because of international pressure, the current (de facto) government also decided to negotiate with Zelaya. But, definitely, the position in which he was is hardly going to be accepted by most of population.

Goodbye and good riddance

Rebel Girl is grateful for the news that two less than exemplary prelates have stepped down and their resignations have been accepted by Pope Benedict XVI.

1. Francisco Domingo Barbosa Da Silveira, bishop of the Diocese of Minas, Uruguay, submitted his resignation after admitting to having sexual relations with two prisoners, Gerardo Enrique Bentancor and José Martín Britos, whom he had hired to do some work for the diocese. The encounter was captured on one of the men's cellphone and they used it to blackmail the bishop until he outed himself and denounced them to authorities.

2. José Cardoso Sobrinho (76), Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Brazil, also submitted his mandatory resignation under the Church's age restrictions. For those who might have forgotten, he is the Archbishop who excommunicated the mother of a 9-year old girl who had a medically-indicated abortion after having been raped and impregnated with twins by her stepfather. Cardoso Sobrinho also excommunicated the medical personnel involved. The decision was criticized both inside and outside of the Church as lacking in charity, given the circumstances.

Monday, June 29, 2009

"Pastoral Terrorism"??

My friend Fr. Hoyos is fond of quoting that Spanish maxim, occasionally attributed to Cervantes' Don Quixote: "Los perros ladran, señal de que vamos avanzando." ("The dogs are barking, which means we are advancing"). I was thinking of it today as I read the news that Jean-Pierre Moreau, the conservative Catholic editor of Permanences has a new book coming out next month improbably titled Le Terrorisme pastoral. Résurgence de la théologie de la libération ("Pastoral Terrorism: The Resurgence of Liberation Theology", Atelier Fol'Fer, 2009). Moreau, a former reporter for Figaro Magazine, is also known for his earlier role as co-producer of "Dieu et Marx" for Sygma TV in 1986.

Before sharing our translation of Vincent Pellegrini's interview with Moreau that appeared in Le Nouvelliste, we have to express a certain admiration for the chutzpah of his publishers who embedded the cover art from the digital liberation theology classic Getting the Poor Down from the Cross: Christology of Liberation into the cover of Le Terrorisme pastoral. I wonder if our friends at Servicios Koinonia know about this?

The French journalist Jean-Pierre Moreau, a former major reporter at Figaro Magazine, produced a documentary film in 1986 with this magazine and Sygma TV titled "Dieu et Marx" ("God and Marx") that showed the actions of priests at the side of guerrillas in the various liberation movements of Latin America. For a year, he crisscrossed all of Latin America with his TV crew to show this aspect of liberation theology. Today he's back with a book -- at Editions Fol’fer – on the resurgence of said liberation theology. We met him in his hometown, Troyes, and asked him what was left of this liberation theology that was fought against by John Paul II and the man who in those days was Cardinal Ratzinger. It is a current theme since the Pope is getting ready to publish a major social encyclical.

What did you discover when you were producing your film in 1986?

That a number of priests -- including Europeans -- were active agents in the revolutionary guerrilla movements. They were certainly not always part of the military apparatus but they collaborated directly with the guerrilla on other levels, including logistics.

For five years, at Figaro Magazine, we investigated and gathered information showing that Action de Carême Française (French Lenten Action) and its national branch, CCFD
(Comité contre la faim et pour le développement -- Committee Against Hunger and For Development) were financing revolutionary groups with the faithful's money. I was even sued for defamation for a book I devoted to the subject, L’Eglise et la subversion ("The Church and Subversion" -- Trans. note: The book was written in 1985 under the pseudonym Guillaume Maury) but I won.

What is liberation theology, theorized about by Leonardo Boff and other liberationist thinkers?

Up until the Third Internationale, the Marxist Leninist dialectic targeted the labor movement. After the Second World War this class opposition was coupled with struggles for national liberation. Not only were workers set against the bourgeoisie but the colonized against the colonizers. It is a line that seduced some priests and a religious became Fidel Castro's biographer [Trans. note: We haven't been able to corroborate this assertion], for example. As Benedict XVI has said, there was "ideological manipulation of religion". And this process was initiated in Latin America by priests who had come from Europe. They turned Christian thought to the left to make it a socialist ideology of conquest of power. They kept the Marxist dialectic by systematically setting the rich against the poor, the local churches against the Church of Rome, the base communities against the Church hierarchy and the authority of the bishop. In a word, liberation theology created a parallel hierarchy to the Church in the parishes, mainly thanks to the base communities.

However, liberation theology is weaker today.

After the fall of the [Berlin] Wall, the Soviet Union basically stopped financing revolutionary propaganda around the world and the guerrilla gradually died out or, at least, slowed down considerably. In 1986, Cardinal Ratzinger published a note condemning the essence of liberation theology. In the same year, John Paul II had stigmatized that same liberation theology in a letter to the Brazilian bishops. That was the period when Cardinal Arns, the Archbishop of Sao Paulo, congratulated Fidel Castro on the anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. In a word, the Church launched a counter-attack through the Latin American bishops' conferences. Bishops and clergy who were close to liberation theology were gradually sidelined. Liberation theology came out considerably weakened and Leonardo Boff left the Church. In a word, the movement failed to take control of the Church structures, including in Europe.

So why are you devoting yourself to a book on the resurgence of liberation theology today?

Because the French CCFD (Comité contre la faim et pour le développement), an official organ of the episcopate [sic] which has a monopoly on the collection of Action de carême in France, continues unabated in line with liberation theology, notably through meetings such as the World Social Forum and the World Forum on Theology and Liberation. During my investigation, I discovered that CCFD is even more powerful twenty years later, that it works hand in hand with the CFDT union [Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail - French Democratic Confederation of Labor], and the neo-Trotskyist group, ATTAC [Association pour la taxation des transactions pour l'aide aux citoyens - Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens], to promote the ideology of the 4th or 5th Internationale. Its president Guy Aurenche comes from the left. Today, the Marxist dialectic is applied to globalization. Thinkers like the Belgian priest and professor at Louvain François Houtart are the promoters of this new liberation theology.

But isn't it just a Catholic progressive social sentiment?

No, because the old class struggle scheme is being applied to ecology and to globalization. Liberation theology opposes multinationals and countries that destroy nature, because it is the only resource of the poor. It is a new political step which is calling on civil society to take power against the powers that be as represented by the politicians, the hierarchical Church, economists, etc...The new liberation theology want to radically change society but is not being steered from a Christian perspective. It's a double slogan: Another world is possible; another Church is possible. The evangelizing mission of the Church is completely replaced by a utopic development that will save the people.

This new liberation theology hasn't gained an entry into the Vatican...

No, it really hasn't regained a standing in the Church but it is trying to reconquer lost ground in the political sphere, notably through international meetings like the World Social Forum. This year, in Belem (Brazil), for example, there were lots of Christian associations and NGOs. There were also five Latin American leftist chiefs of state and this World Social Forum consecrated a sort of revolutionary Christianity without Christianity.

However, some liberation theologians have quoted John Paul II as saying that there is a "useful and necessary" Christian liberation theology.

That is a falsification. The latter said that liberation theology, in the Catholic sense, was necessary, and comes through the conversion of hearts and evangelization. He carefully explained in his writings that it is not the one advocated in Latin America. Benedict XVI has explained that without the Holy Spirit and the viewpoint of faith, the Church is only a type of humanitarian agency.

So now you know what the opposition is saying. Please take time to examine the Web site of CCFD. You can also look at Aid Watch's report on the organization. Judge for yourself if it is "Marxist" or not. And by the way, for those who speak French, CCFD has an excellent dossier on "L'Eglise en Amérique Latine: Une voix pour la justice" (The Church in Latin America: A Voice for Justice).

I personally view the fact that Moreau is taking us on again as a positive sign that liberation theology is gaining new currency. Arf! Arf! Arf!...We must be on the right track if we're being tracked by the right!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Martini: Church needs a council on divorced people

Last week, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini gave an interview with La Repubblica which was picked up by Periodista Digital (6/27/09). Here is the article in English.

Italian journalist, politician and writer Eugenio Scalfari has interviewed the Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini in La Repubblica. Martini proposes a council to take up “the relationship of the Church to divorced people” and acknowledges the problems of the Church in matters such as “the election of bishops, priestly celibacy, the role of the laity, and the relationship between the Church hierarchy and politics.”

In the interview, the emeritus cardinal of Milan spells out a series of problems that complicate the relationship of the Catholic Church to society. “The first,” Martini states, “is the attitude of the Church towards the divorced, then the election of bishops, the celibacy of priests, the role of lay people, and the relationship between the Church hierarchy and politics. Do those seem to you to be problems that are easily solved?”

A voice of hope in the midst of a society ever less Christian and ever more indifferent. “Indifferent with respect to what?”, asks the interviewer. Martini answers: “There is no longer a single view of what is good. The dominant tendency is to defend one’s personal interest and the interest of one’s own group. Perhaps we think we are good Christians because we go to Mass sometimes or we let our children receive the sacraments. But Christianity is not that, is not just that. The sacraments are important when they are the culmination of a Christian life. Faith is important if it goes along with charity. Without charity, faith becomes blind. Without charity, there is no hope and no justice.”

A few days before the Pope publishes his new encyclical devoted to charity and globalization, Cardinal Martini defines what he means. “To do good, to help the neighbor is an important aspect, but it is not the essence of charity. We need to listen to others, understand them, include them in our affection, recognize them, break through their solitude and be their companions. Love them, definitely. Charity is not almsgiving. The charity that Jesus preached was to fully participate in the fate of others. A communion of spirits and a struggle against injustice.”

In his book, Jerusalemer Nachtgespräche (“Nocturnal Conversations in Jerusalem”), Martini states that there are many sins and that the Church has made a very long list of them but, in his opinion, the real sin in the world is injustice and inequality. “Jesus says that the Kingdom of God will be for the poor, the weak, the excluded. And He says that the Church ‘s mission ought to have been to be close to them. That is the charity of the people of God that His Son, who became man for our salvation, preached,” the cardinal states.

"And who are the People of God?" “The whole Church is the people of God: the hierarchy, the clergy, the faithful…” "And the faithful? "“They certainly fulfill a role, but they should occupy it much more fully. Too often it is just a passive role. There have been periods in the history of the Church when the active participation of the Christian communities was much more intense. When I refer to growing indifference, I am thinking precisely of this aspect of Christian life. Here we have a gap, a silent desertion, especially in Europe and Italy.”

On a future Council: “I am not thinking of a Vatican III. It’s true that Vatican II has lost a lot of its impulse. It attempted to get the Church to face modern society and science, but this confrontation has only been marginal. We are far from having dealt with this problem and it even seems like we have turned our gaze backward rather than forward. We need to take the initiative again and for this we don’t need a Vatican III. That being stated, I do support another council and even believe it is necessary, but one on specific and very concrete issues. It also seems to me that it is necessary to put into practice what emerged , and what has even already been decreed in the Council of Constance: Convene a council every twenty to thirty years on a single theme, two at most.”

"But that would be a revolution in the way the Church is governed," the interviewer points out. “It doesn’t seem so to me. The Church of Rome is called “apostolic” and that is not a coincidence. Its structure is vertical but, at the same time, horizontal. The communion of the bishops with the Pope is a fundamental organ of the Church.” "And what would be the theme of the council you are proposing?" “The relationship of the Church to divorced people. It affects many people and families and, unfortunately, the number of families involved is ever greater. It needs to be confronted with intelligence and foresight. Another subject that the next council should take up: the penitential journey of life itself. Look, confession is an extraordinarily important sacrament that is bleeding to death. Fewer and fewer people practice it but, moreover, it has become something that is almost mechanical: you confess your sin, receive forgiveness, recite some prayer and everything ends there, almost nowhere. We have to give back to confession its truly sacramental nature, a route to repentance and a new life, a constant relationship with the confessor, definitely, spiritual direction.”

Being a Myth

This poem was written back in graduate school. I had just come back to my group house from a long and tiring political meeting. A party was underway and I saw the man I was in love with dancing with another woman. I slipped quietly back to the kitchen to get a beer to take up to my room, to just drink and try to forget what was going on downstairs.

In the kitchen, a person I did not know approached me and asked my name. When I told him, he exclaimed: "Wow! You're a myth!" Well, I didn't feel like a "myth"; I felt like a loser. I took the beer up to my room and wrote the following poem. It comes back to me every now and again and it came back to me tonight.

You see, I can feel when a touch is loving or possessive and controlling. When I came up to speak with you, all you cared about was that bloody contest. It didn't matter that we were almost all present (unlike any of the other groups except the host one), and this in spite of the fact that several of our families lost their homes and had to move recently. You didn't see us and yet our presence and unity beyond the losses we have endured is a greater testimony to what you have achieved than this contrived publicity stunt. In the end, ego and love cannot co-exist. Eventually you have to choose which one matters to you.

Being a myth is a trip and a half
Like worshipping God while you're the gold calf.
This is your life so you might as well laugh.
They think you're the wheat when you know you're the chaff.

Being a myth is just fine for a while,
Watching your fans with a slow, knowing smile
And a mind that keeps names in an orderly file.
Why change your life? Why not just change your style?

Being a myth means that you must uphold
Your reputation as stories unfold
And work to improve on the image you've sold.
Being a myth makes you "hot" when you're cold.

Being a myth, you're too good to be true
Just like a mirror that no-one sees through.
People will watch their reflections in you.
You take no risks while your kudos accrue.

Being a myth, you are free to be crass.
Making the papers each week gives you class.
All of your friends become part of the mass.
Being a myth is a pain in the a**.