Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Church of the Poor

Pablo Ospina (translation by Rebel Girl)
El Telégrafo (Ecuador)

Like every October, for three years, delegates from organizations of nearly ten provinces of Ecuador held a meeting. There were both lay people and religious, but the main players were the former. That is the first novel feature of this reunion of the survivors of the popular church after twenty years of retreat: it does not owe allegiance to any clerical structure.

In the first meeting in 2006, theologian José Comblin called attention precisely to this weakness in liberation theology. In the sixties it was thought that the structure of the official church could become a "community of communities" -- in the image and likeness of the first underground Christian communities made up of slaves and other excluded people. But, said Comblin, that's impossible. A structure built over 1,500 years ago on the basis of hierarchy and power, can not be transformed into its opposite. As a result, base ecclesial communities devoted themselves to taking on religious duties like organizing the celebrations, rituals and worship, forgetting the message of Jesus. That message was not to praise Him in the sanctuaries, but to build His kingdom on earth. Celebration has its place in the Christian world, but is far from being essential in the sacramentalized and disembodied way we have become used to. In the end, then, the base communities reproduced the clericalism and subordination that the message of Jesus repudiates.

The annual meetings of the Church of the Poor are still small. But they continue to grow and consolidate. They begin by analyzing the social and political reality of these changing times. In the end, they always make a public statement summarizing the discussion about this shared reality. This year, the manifesto recognizes the positive changes that the Government is promoting, but deplores the fact that they want to do it without the organized leadership of the poor. The theme this year was "With community protagonism, we the poor build the revolution." In one of the key sections of the message, it says: "The civil revolution of this government has not favored the organized protagonism of the poor. Rather, many times such as now, ignoring the historical process of organizations, it wants to replace it and acts as if it wants to destroy it. It opposes bigger and stronger organizations, such as CONAIE, closing the door on dialogue and much more concerned with the principle of authority than with the justice of the popular demands. Other important organizations, such as the teachers unions or public sector unions, are also treated as enemies. It does not view the demands of organized people as a contribution, but as a sad opposition. The greatest danger is, then, that without the involvement of people no changes will be lasting and no transformation will be really deep." I hope there are ears that are open to this cry.

Hell Hath No Fury: In France, the "Skirts" take to the streets to get their Church back

by Henri Tincq (translation by Rebel Girl)
Sunday, 11 October, 2009

About a year ago, a calamitous dash of humor from the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris sparked a mini-tornado in the small Catholic world. Asked in November 2008 in a radio broadcast about shutting women out of positions of responsibility in the Church, Msgr. André Vingt-Trois delivered a sentence as unfair as it was stupid: for access to decision-making power, "it is not enough to have a skirt. You also need a mind." In protest, a "Comité de la jupe" ("Committee of the Skirt") was created at once, which has since gained ground and is organizing its first "march" on the streets of Paris in the district of Saint-Sulpice on Sunday, October 11th.

If the heart of Catholic feminists had only marked a beat - a complaint was filed against Archbishop Vingt-Trois before the church courts and then removed after a word of apology from the archbishop - the front of the protest was expanded to include other discontents and the "Comité de la jupe" will soon have to change its name. It is run by theologians who are not newcomers: Anne Soupa, editor of Biblia, a major journal of exegesis, and Christine Pedotti, publisher, former head of chaplaincy in the Latin Quarter. They do not define themselves as activists or extremists. They claim no power. These "emmerdeuses de bénitier" ("irritants in the baptismal font") as they humorously call themselves, only seek to respond to the expectations of ordinary Catholics who, faced with the monopoly and machismo in the words of the clergy, bristle and shout: "Enough."

Their blog, launched in January 2009, has enjoyed an unexpected success. It has unintentionally benefited from the cascade of decisions at the beginning of the year that have put the Church at odds with public opinion: the lifting of the excommunication of four fundamentalist bishops by the Vatican; the Williamson case; the excommunication of a child mother who had an abortion in Brazil [Translator's note: In fact the child, who was a minor, was not excommunicated but her mother and the medical team that performed the abortion were]; the pope's statement condemning condoms. Faced with the growing and partly justified process of the return of fundamentalism at the head of the church, a rebellion has been born among the Catholic ranks, not only among the most progressive. Some have given back their certificates of baptism. Others left slamming the door. The "Comité de la jupe" arrived at the right time, becoming unintentionally, a kind of outlet -- "Many came to see us," says Christine Pedotti, "as a way to tell the Church they are giving it one last chance."

How to harness this flood of discontent related to new forms of authoritarianism, the contempt suffered by women in a mysoginist institution, the irritation of many lay people engaged in the task of animating parishes or as chaplains (prisons, schools, universities, hospitals), but who still feel like auxiliaries, rarely or never listened to, excluded from decisions that are always made by the clergy? The "Comité de la jupe" seeks to welcome the different forms of discontent, make them known, open dialogue with the institution to try to answer them, but for now, unlike the leftist Catholic movements, it does not want to start thinking in terms of demands and systematic challenges to authority.


It has made known its intentions in a letter to all the bishops of France. Only four of them have cared to respond. "But we're not here to overburden them or the Vatican," the two founders say. We just want to find our place as "Catholic citizens" wishing to be heard, to discuss, to give birth to public opinion in the Church, meaning that they are no longer willing to accept everything." They are already a few hundred strong, mostly activists and lay (non-clerical) parish leaders, but also from the loyal base -- priests, men and women religious, etc.. To demonstrate the non-political nature of the movement and its rejection of any regimentation and recovery, the "Comité de la jupe" defines itself as "neither traditional nor progressive".

Despite this cautionary language, its birth brings color back to a critical Catholicism that seemed endangered, marginalized by the rise of a conservative Catholic identity that has the wind in its sails. For a long time, protesting Catholics seemed to have become silent, withdrawn into purely internal struggles, grouped around tiny newspapers and magazines such as Golias or international networks, as utopian and aging as they are small, with names like "Nous sommes aussi l'Eglise" ("We Are Church"), "Réseau Européen Eglises et Libertés" ("European Network Church on the Move"), "Femmes et hommes en Église" ("Women and Men in the Church"), "Droits et libertés dans les Eglises" ("Rights and freedom in the Churches"), etc ...

Without managing to make themselves heard, these newspapers and networks advocate for the ordination of women, the rights of homosexuals, for questioning the Church's teaching on sexual matters, for it to give a new impetus to its social commitments. For them, the salvation of Catholicism will come through profound structural reforms: more modest and collegial exerting of authority by the pope and the Roman Curia, a real decentralization of church government, the end to mandatory celibacy for priests, the ordination of married men, opening new ministries to women as priests and deacons, greater responsibilities given to the laity.

They denounce Rome's attempts at seduction to bring the traditional right-wing clientele back into the fold, they protest against the encroachments of the Vatican on local churches to put them back in step. According to them, the laity are not playing their part and the priests no longer know where they are going. These Catholic protesters are not far from thinking that the Church has not finished settling all accounts from post-Vatican II (1962-1965). Or that it has not come out of the depression of May 68. They are not resigned to the decline of Catholic intellectual vitality in many countries, the weakness that has stricken theological research supervised and controlled by Rome, the disaffection of militant activity under episcopal supervision. And they deplore the fact that the public discourse of the Church is monopolized by the clergy, the pope and a few cardinals, that the laity are excluded from the media, that Catholic intellectuals are no longer playing their role as leaven.

These progressive Catholic movements seem to have settled for shadowy isolation. The "Comité de la jupe", by its novelty, proposes something else: getting off the beaten paths of protest, getting out of depression and resignation, making room for dialogue with the institution. For the latter, it is perhaps a last opportunity.


Photo: Christine Pedotti and Anne Soupa

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ivone Gebara: The Church Hierarchy -- An Obstacle to Women's Empowerment

Interestingly, this lengthy interview with Sr. Ivone Gebara, possibly Brazil's best known woman theologian, has come out just before Sr. Gebara is scheduled to give the Koch Chair Fall Lecture at College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota, on the evening of October 19th. She will be speaking on “Longing for Running Water: Ecofeminism and Liberation.” Her speech is free and open to the public.

Adital (English translation by Rebel Girl)
October 9, 2009

It's a fact: the hierarchy that predominates in the Church and in traditional religious culture owes a very large debt to women. Strong in the Christian faith, hard-working, revolutionary, critical thinkers, this public is finding an echo in feminist theology and beginning to try a new way of being and experiencing the Church and faith.

In an interview with Adital, Ivone Gebara, nun and theologian, talks about the roads along which feminist theology must travel and also how difficult it is to still have to deal with the values of the hierarchy that remain increasingly distant from the reality of Christians.

Incisive and coherent, Ivone is clear about the role of theologians in facing the challenges raised by daily life. "Rather than an association of theologians, we should commit ourselves to, support and dialogue with the different movements in search of meaning and experience of human values," she says.

Adital - How do you analyze the status of women in the Catholic Church today? Are there real opportunities for positive changes for women in the Church?

Ivone Gebara - I confess that at this juncture I think the issue is complicated because the feminist movement is an issue that touches on power — the power of visibility of women in political, in economic leadership, for example, in the unions, the popular movements ... And that kind of leadership, unfortunately, is rejected not only by the hierarchy, but by the religious culture in the churches.

That culture, including women who are the majority, who are devout, let's say, has a sort of collective emotion around the figure of the priest. The priest performs several functions, not only the role of leader of the Church. In general, priests are more educated than the husbands or fathers themselves. It's like they also represent a male ideal, a respected man. And he also serves as an authority, a point of reference.

That is why there are women who are on the side of maintaining a hierarchical patriarchal image, but there is also the side of men, of the hierarchy itself. So I see the possibility of change within the institutions of the Church in the very long term. In the short term we will have some gains at the level of civil society and politics. The religious society is much more closed, more traditionalist. The points of reference have more of a, well, religious basis that goes so far back in history, that I find it difficult. But that does not mean one mustn't work at it. One must try to work.

Adital - Within all this hierarchical context, how is feminist theology asserting itself?

Ivone Gebara - It is asserting itself in Brazil, because in other countries like the U.S. and Canada, it's different. In Brazil it is consolidating itself, unfortunately, starting in the marginal areas. Starting with small groups of religious congregations who are interested in feminist theology. There are also some students from theology or philosophy schools or even in sociology who are interested in the sociology of religion.

Some social, popular movements, such as the Movement of Rural Women, the Movement for Housing, the Women's Movement Against Famine. Not the movements in their entirety, only some groups, some nuclei of seekers. Some groups of women who were educated in the Catholic Church or the Lutheran Church who, because of their feminism, feel distant. They see in feminist theology a chance to regain some values and Christian points of reference they had in the past. I think that's how it's going.

Adital - The feminist movement dawned within the social movements. How is the dialogue between feminist theology and the social movements?

Ivone Gebara - In today's conference [the Seminar on Feminist Theology, held on October 2nd and 3rd in Fortaleza], Isabel [Félix, a theologian] reminded us that it was necessary to resume that dialogue. I don't know how. I can only say that, for example, I am requested by feminists of different persuasions to make a contribution, to give an interview, to give a lecture. But I have the impression that because of the somewhat retrograde position of the Catholic Church in relation to the challenges proposed by women, feminists have lost interest in Bible study.

They are left wondering: how is a Bible study going to serve our cause?, and they end up being interested only at a critical moment, such as the termination of a pregnancy when it comes to certain anencephaly. Then everyone is in search of tradition, the Bible. Almost two years ago, when there was a debate and the Federal Supreme Court presented this problem, several judges began to argue. All of them used biblical texts and they used theologians, the priests of the Church as well as medieval theologians.

The interesting thing is that nobody used feminist theology. This is something that catches my attention, since even in those struggles that are feminist causes, feminist theology is not used very much. It is as if the authority came from theology done by men. I draw attention to this to say that I am not pessimistic about the work I do and the work that some companion women theologians have accomplished. But one notices that, in the current environment, any alternative that is open to something beyond a hierarchical conception of the world does not find adherents easily.

Adital - Feminist, as well as black and indigenous theology aims to bring the Church closer to different situations ...

Ivone Gebara - The point is that we do not consider the Church to be only the hierarchy. And when people, including politicians, speak of the Church, they consider it to be only the hierarchy. It may be a local or an international community of people who are connected by the Christian faith, by Gospel values, without necessarily being linked to the orders of the Vatican hierarchy. This is a new phenomenon. And I don't know what the delineations will be in the future. I think it's a new phenomenon to be a Christian without the Church. A Cristian without an institution, but like a community made up of friends who are reference persons without that worry of being a member of an institution governed by a hierarchy.

Adital - How do the communities in which you work perceive or assimilate this issue of feminist theology?

Ivone Gebara - I work with several popular groups. The working groups in which I am working now have, let's say, a political consciousness. They are aware, for example, of the relationship between socio-economic and political oppression and religious oppression. Just as they also realize that there are liberating policies and that there are dimensions of liberation in religious institutions. I see, for example, when I visit rural women, that they are seeking autonomy -- the desire they have to study and become empowered. They do not resonate with the Catholic Church. It's somewhat like what Mary Daly says -- they have the impression that in the Catholic Church they only need to be part of the procession, they have to follow what the priests and bishops say. They [the priests and bishops] are the ones who lead. And they [the women] don't want that anymore. They refuse to acknowledge that anymore. They want to be the leaders of their own searching.

Adital - Feminist theology places the problem of abortion in line with these important issues, the one with the most visibility. How do you view it?

Ivone Gebara - I would say that the issue of abortion is not the primary cause for feminism. It's one cause. Today we are dealing with extreme issues such as sexual violence against women in situations of war or in domestic situations. We are bringing up a tragic problem of the sexual exploitation of girls. It's horrifying, the large number of girls who have come to public hospitals as victims of violence within the home, of violence by parents, stepparents, or grandparents, or uncles, or brothers. Facts like these have become causes.

Another issue has been the education of women. Not just a social and political education, but also sex education. Abortion -- its decriminalization -- is also one of the issues.

What happens is that people come and ask, "But why are you so polarized? I think the polarization comes more from the media and also a kind of denial of the problems for open discussion created by the various churches and various social institutions.

Then it appears that the feminist movement is polarizing. But what I mean is that the polarization comes from conservative groups who use the abortion issue to waste energy, to throw stones at the women's movement.

Adital - Today we have different theologies. Is there a link between them?

Ivone Gebara - The link is small. There was a time when the Asociación de Teólogos y Teólogas del Tercer Mundo (EATWOT) sought a greater coordination in this work. Today I feel that in all parts of the world there is a kind of weariness of the organizations that were born in the past. The National Brazilian Bishops' Conference, the Confederation of the Episcopal Conferences, the CRB, the Latin American Conference of Men and Women Religious, the Associations of Theologians ... there is a weakening of these institutions. Why? I think the situation itself is leading to this, a kind of urgency to start a different kind of organization of a different mould and from other reference points. This is being discussed.

Adital - We have been talking here about all the hierarchical weight that still dominates the Church. In this scenario, what would be the path of feminist theology?

Ivone Gebara - Unpredictable. Very difficult. Efforts have been made to gather the women theologians again, to hold meetings on feminist theology, on new directions. I would say I'm supportive but wary. I put a lot more on theologians linking with social groups, with populist groups. I put a lot more on thinking about faith with the group of domestic workers, on thinking about faith with women's groups seeking alternative employment. I think many more of us theologians should be embedded in the social movements. Rather than an association of theologians, we should commit ourselves to, support and dialogue with the different movements in the search for meaning and living out of human values.


Catholic Bioethics and the Dignity of Women - Ectopic Pregnancy

This week, the Catholic Herald printed one of those columns that presents the kind of Catholic bioethical argument that makes me see red. The author, Father Tad Pacholczyk, is Director of Education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center. He is a priest with a PhD in Neuroscience. The column is on management of ectopic (tubal) pregnancies -- a condition that, according to standard medical opinion, is potentially life threatening if left untreated. While an estimated half of such pregnancies end in a spontaneous natural abortion, leaving the pregnancy in place puts the woman at risk for life-threatening complications such as rupture with massive internal bleeding. This is why doctors usually intervene surgically.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must add that one of the reasons this column struck a nerve is that one of my best friends was rushed to the emergency room following the rupture of an ectopic pregnancy that she was not aware she was carrying. The rupture occured as she was driving with her teenage daughter who, fortunately, had the presence of mind to get help for her mother. Thanks to her daughter and the prompt actions of the EMTs and doctors, my friend is alive today but the episode heightened our sensitivity to how dangerous this can be.

There are three common types of medical treatment for ectopic pregnancies, which Fr. Pacholczyk outlines: 1. Administering methotrexate early in the ectopic pregnancy to disrupt the growth of the developing embryo causing the cessation of pregnancy; 2. A salpingostomy, wherein only the part of the Fallopian tube containing the pregnancy is cut out and the tube is repaired so as to preserve the woman's fertility; 3. A salpingectomy, wherein the entire Fallopian tube is removed thereby reducing the woman's future fertility.

Fr. Pacholczyk argues that option 3 is the only morally acceptable approach, even though all three interventions end in the death of the embryo. "In this situation, the intention of the surgeon is directed towards the good effect (removing the damaged tissue to save the mother's life) while only tolerating the bad effect (death of the ectopic child). Importantly, the surgeon is choosing to act on the tube (a part of the mother's body) rather than directly on the child. Additionally, the child's death is not the means via which the cure occurs...It is tubal removal, not the subsequent death of the baby, which is curative for the mother's condition." Option 3 would be the last option that doctors would recommend due to the consequence of reduced fertility but in Fr. Pacholczyk's opinion, this is a secondary consideration.

This is the kind of bioethical teaching we get when the Catholic Church's bioethics are determined by celibate men. Given that we do not yet have the capability of saving an ectopic pregnancy, would not a loving God want everything possible to be done to preserve the mother's (the couple's) ability to have children so that we don't end up with two tragic outcomes -- the loss of the child AND the loss of fertility?

As a woman, I find this kind of teaching an affront to my dignity. My fertility doesn't matter as much as a philosophical argument about whether I "intend" or "don't intend" the end of a pregnancy that will not end in a live birth no matter which option I choose. If I make a treatment choice that preserves my option to have more children, that choice is morally problematic according to the Church. Will we get to the point where we will be debating how many centimeters of Fallopian tube on either side of the embryo have to be removed before we will not be considered to be targeting the child?

I wish that Fr. Pacholczyk could witness the anguish of women who suffer infertility, something we have seen in the charismatic healing Masses where many women come to ask for prayers for this condition. Why, in God's name, would the Church recommend to a woman a treatment choice that would decrease her ability to conceive a child when other options are available? This is making an idol out of an embryo, not reflecting the compassion of a loving God.

This is why we need voices like Sr. Teresa Forcades in the Church -- a woman with both medical and theological training who can inject some common sense into these debates.

Sr. Teresa Forcades told by Vatican to toe the line

From her May 2009 TV3 interview (see earlier post for video) to an official rebuke and order to proclaim her loyalty this month, Sr. Teresa has quickly joined the ranks of fine Catholic theologians who have had their wrists slapped by the Vatican. And while she clarifies her position, she doesn't back down.


Cardinal Franc Rodé CM, prefect for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, has sent a letter to the abbess of the Benedictine monastery of Sant Benet de Montserrat, in which he asks that Sr. Teresa Forcades be required to publicly express her commitment to the doctrinal principles of the Church. Forcades last June granted an interview on TV3 in which she argued for the mother's "right to decide" on abortion and favored the distribution of the morning-after pill. The nun has responded in an article in Foc Nou ("Un aclariment sobre l’avortament", October 2009), asserting that she respects the Magisterium of the Church but has the right to express opinions contrary to it. Furthermore, she reaffirms her position on abortion.

A Clarification on Abortion

by Teresa Forcades
(English translation by Rebel Girl, as reviewed and approved by Sr. Teresa)
Foc Nou
October 2009

On May 16, 2009 the program 'Singulars' on TV3 aired an interview on various topics, during which the journalist asked me my opinion as a theologian and physician on the morning-after pill and on abortion.

Reacting to the answers I gave to those two questions, some people criticized me publicly, calling into question my loyalty to the Church and its legitimate teaching. People of goodwill who take very seriously both the issue of freedom of expression and thought in the Church and the issue of abortion have expressed also publicly their perplexity about these criticisms. My abbess received a letter from Cardinal Rodé, prefect for the Congregation for the Consecrated Life, demanding that I express publicly my commitment to the doctrinal principles of the Church, something I am ready to do immediately while clarifying more precisely than one can do in a television interview my position regarding this issue.

The Roman Catholic Church, unlike other Christian Churches, has a magisterial function, the head of which is the Pope, who is responsible for ensuring the authenticity of the interpretations and applications of the Gospel message. The magisterial role is to be respected by all baptized Roman Catholics, and in particular by all Roman Catholic theologians, but this respect does not exclude the public demonstration of reasonable hypotheses that could advance the Church's teachings according to God's will. Throughout the history of the Roman Catholic Magisterium, the importance of this theology 'from below' has been expressed on various occasions, most notably regarding the Marian dogmas.

No Roman Catholic -- whether a theologian or not -- should be afraid to publicly express reasonable doubt about a point of doctrine, with the trust and freedom that belongs to the children of God, as one who feels and knows that he or she is among family, without fear of being denounced or discredited. To express one's doubt in a prudent and reasonable manner is a sign of loyalty and trust. It is also a sign of humility and it is taking seriously one's own membership in the Church and the co-responsibility that it entails.

Now I will set out my doubt regarding the topic of the morning-after pill and abortion.

My doubt does not question the principle of defense of life as a gift from God. I totally agree with that principle: the sanctity of life as a gift from God must be respected from conception until natural death (Benedict XVI). My question is whether it can be right according to Roman Catholic morality to violate the mother's right to self-determination in order to save the life of the child.

The right to self-determination is a fundamental right that protects human dignity and prohibits absolutely and under any circumstances that a person be used as an object, as a means to achieve good, even when that good is saving the life of another person or even all of humanity. The right to self-determination so-conceived is as substantial and absolute as the right to life; in fact, the right to self-determination is the right to spiritual life -- it is what allows us to recognize human life as something more than biological life. Nobody, neither the State nor the Church, has the right to violate it under any circumstances. Nor does anyone, not the State or the Church or the mother, have the right to violate the right to life of the fetus. Under no circumstances. The right to abortion does not exist. What exists is a collision, a conflict of two fundamental rights: the right to self-determination of the mother on the one hand and the right to life of the child on the other.

Three clarifications about what I just said:

1. In relation to self-determination: According to Christian theological anthropology the right to self-determination does not mean that we as humans are in a neutral position between good and evil, nor does it imply that what is good can be identified with what is decided without external coercion; for Christians, Good is ultimately identified with God Himself and His loving will for each person; the right to self-determination is nothing more and nothing less than the condition of possibility for answering Yes to God without that Yes being empty; human freedom can not be identified with the right to self-determination because we are free only to the extent that we say Yes to God and to His plan of love for us and for all Creation. Points 8 and 9 of the Declaration on Procured Abortion of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1974) affirm the right to so-conceived self-determination and they particularly emphasize that human beings can not be treated as a means to achieve a good, however lofty that good might be.

2. Regarding the validity of raising the issue of abortion as a conflict of rights: This is the approach of Professor Johannes Reiter, a moral theologian who specializes in bioethics and is a member of the international theological commission to which he was appointed by John Paul II in 2004 and reappointed by Benedict XVI in 2009 (cf. Reiter J, Keller R, ed.: Herausforderungen Schwangerschaftsabbruch. Freiburg 1992, pp. 74-75); after raising the issue of abortion as a conflict of rights, Professor Reiter concludes that the right to life always has precedence over the right to self-determination.

3. In what sense can the precedence of the right to life over the right to self-determination be considered problematic? This precedence can not be considered problematic in the sense of what is the will of God (God wants us to use our freedom for the sake of life), but only in the sense of whether it is a precedence that might be imposed from the outside.

To illustrate the conflict between the right to life and the right to self-determination we can take as an example the case of kidney transplants. There are hundreds of thousands of people around the world (just over 75,000 in the U.S. alone, more than 3,000 of whom die each year) whose lives could be saved by a kidney transplant. Why not pass a law requiring people whose kidneys are compatible to donate them to those patients to save their lives? The state could pass such a law and the Roman Catholic Church could excommunicate potential donors who refuse to undergo the surgical removal of the kidney, as well as all the people who provide support to them in the name of an alleged right to self-determination or self-possession of one’s own body which would collide with the right to life of an innocent patient. Please note that today the removal of the kidney from the donor can be done by laparoscopy thus leaving a scar that is much smaller than an episiotomy scar, and bear in mind that it is proven that living with one kidney does not shorten the life expectancy of the donor. If God has given them a compatible kidney that they do not need and that can directly save an innocent life, on what principle can Roman Catholic moral teaching consider legitimate their refusal to save an innocent life? If there is a moral principle that legitimizes this refusal, why not apply this principle in the case of pregnant women, especially if the mother's life is in danger or if the pregnancy was the result of rape?

My conscience brings me to raise this question with confidence and in all honesty.

My faith brings me to express my allegiance to the current Magisterium.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Immigration Rally - October 13

Because of work, I arrived a little late to stand among the 3,000 people who came to the Capitol to rally for immigration reform yesterday. Although I caught the speeches of a couple of Congressional representatives including Reps. Mike Honda and Xavier Becerra of California, I missed the main speech by Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois. You can see some of that speech below in the CSPAN video. Rep. Gutierrez laid out his core principles for a comprehensive immigration reform bill that he will be introducing this year.

The rally mixed political speeches from various constituencies with direct testimony from individuals affected by the immigration situation, prayer, and music. Although I missed most of the clergy as well (I did hear a Catholic priest from Chicago interviewed on the news that night), I was there for the final blessing given by Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church -- the first Hispanic woman elected to the UMC episcopacy. She and Gustavo Torres of CASA de Maryland co-chaired the rally.

I missed Robin Ferschke, whose moving story of trying to get citizenship for the Japanese wife of her son Sgt. Michael Ferschke who was killed in Iraq, has already inspired members of Congress to introduce a private member bill to help solve her situation. But I did hear a Navy veteran from Washington state tell the crowd that he would give back all his medals if justice could be done for an immigrant friend of his who was recently deported.

The rally followed a day of lobbying and we will need more rallies and more lobbying if we hope to see a comprehensive immigration reform bill any time soon.

Virginia General Election: More reasons to vote AGAINST Ken Cuccinelli for Attorney General

The Iglesia Descalza blog is encouraging our readers in Virginia to go to the polls on November 3rd and if you care at all about our immigrant brothers and sisters, please vote for Steve Shannon (against Ken Cuccinelli) for Attorney General.

We said that Cuccinelli is extremely anti-immigrant and here are three more reasons -- bills which Cuccinelli introduced when he was in the Virginia Senate that, fortunately, did not pass:

1. Petitioning the U.S. Congress to convene a constitutional convention to amend the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to state that in order to qualify for U.S. citizenship, a child born in the United States must have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen. Such a provision would not only deprive children of undocumented immigrants of their citizenship rights but would also affect children of legal permanent residents who, for whatever reason, have not applied for citizenship. (2008)

2. Allowing businesses to sue any other competing business that hires an undocumented worker. In addition to economic damages, a successful plaintiff would also be allowed to recover $500 per undocumented worker employed by the defendant. We're not thrilled with businesses that illegally hire undocumented workers either but, as far as we can see, the business community had nothing to gain from this bill that would have allowed private enterprise and trial lawyers to do the job of the Department of Labor of enforcing our nation's hiring laws. (2006)

3. Establishing the inability or unwillingness to speak English in an "English only" workplace as "misconduct" for which an employee can be fired with cause, thereby disqualifying that person from receiving unemployment benefits. Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw called the bill "the most mean-spirited piece of legislation I have seen in my 30 years" in Richmond. Cuccinelli defended his bill by saying "the point is to allow circumstances to give employers their own ability to hire and fire people who may not speak English." State and national immigrant rights activists said the bill, as written, could result in some people being fired for speaking to a colleague during a break or over the phone to relatives in a language other than English, causing some critics to wonder whether the measure violates federal law prohibiting discrimination based on national origin. (2008)

Again, NONE of these bills passed, but they do give us an insight into Ken Cuccinelli's thinking about immigrants, our cultures and languages. Not to mention his command of the law. This man does not belong in the Attorney General's office.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Diocesan Pilgrimage: A Spiritual Zombie's Perspective

7:30 AM: Started out on the series of buses and trains that would get me to the Shrine on time. Wind through the poorest parts of inner-city Washington, listening to Mano Negra and trying to get a few more minutes of sleep.

9:30 AM: A multilingual rosary with reflections about the priesthood written by some nuns. Turn around and see the "dynamic duo" sitting behind me, looking less than dynamic. Recite the rosary mechanically with beads in one hand, camera in the other. Most of the decades start in Vietnamese/Korean/Tagalog but end in English. On the Spanish one, there are enough of us, we are loud enough, and we are used to following Marlene and so we pray the whole thing in Spanish. End with the Salve Regina sung in Latin, something I haven't done since Mike Kirwan's old Catholic Worker houses.

10 AM: Confessions -- bilingual upstairs, English only downstairs. Padrecito has reserved the Guadalupe chapel for himself. If I have any sins to confess (I'm sure I do and there are some who would consider this blog to be one of them), I'm too tired to remember what they are or be able to put them into words, so I just wander around the Shrine taking photos, with a stop to buy some lunch from the vending machines to eat later.

11:15 AM: Keynote address by Fr. David Thayer, the Sulpician coordinator for intellectual formation at CUA's Theological College. It's a little surprising to me and I wake up and start to take notes -- a) because it seems to be directed primarily at the priests and b) because it is pretty critical in a Year For Priests that has generally produced more ego-stroking and self-congratulatory rhetoric than usual.

Thayer tells his fellow priests that they have to start listening to the laity, stop complaining about them and start collaborating with them, accompany them on the path Christ has chosen for them even if it isn't the one the priest would have chosen. Several times he stresses that the Church should work to include rather than exclude people. He suggests that an appropriate bumper sticker for priests would read "Remember John 1:20" ("I am not the Messiah").

Reflecting afterwards, I wonder at this choice. The speech is not intended for the average lay person (too theologically and linguistically complex), the priests who are there probably don't want to hear it, and the diocesan priests who most need to hear this message are not even present.

12 PM: Go outside on the Shrine's steps to scarf down the sandwich, chips and soda I had bought earlier. Padrecito and his priestly entourage come out. They are looking for the location of their catered lunch, provided by the bishop. I do not see them again. When I go back inside, I see the priests' exclusive lunch room, their buffet table and heaped plates. I see the cafeteria where the lay people wait in long lines for limited table space, and I remember our people, sitting on the stairs outside, eating their bag lunches.

1 PM: Mass. Aside from the pomp and circumstance, the most impressive feature of this service was its serious attempt at multiculturalism. Both the responsorial psalm and the second reading were done in Spanish. The prayers of the faithful were read in seven different languages and at the end, Bishop Loverde even made a few remarks in his Italian-accented Spanish.

4:30 PM: Home at last and time for reflection. The day was such a strange mixture of pre- and post-conciliar theology and images. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. My hermanos/as in the Renovacion? Mostly absent. The diocesan social activists? Mostly absent. Another gig over and done with. I'm a spiritual zombie, just an outside observer, and my camera and I are tired.

I recharge its batteries, eat a leftover burrito, pray for Padrecito to have a safe trip to Puerto Rico, and go to bed.