Friday, October 29, 2010

Statement of the Asociación de Teólogos/as Juan XXIII about Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming trip to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona

English translation by Rebel Girl. For the record, I think this message is a bit harsh, especially their 4th point, but I do agree that it is time for the Catholic Church to stop being treated as a "state" and for it to stop enjoying any special benefits that are not given to other faiths. God should not be in Caesar's pocket. -- RG

The Association of Theologians John XXIII want to make public the following reflections on Benedict XVI's visit to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona on November 6th and 7th of this year.


1. Even if the Pope's trip is presented as a pastoral and religious visit, one can not ignore its political nature as he embodies the dual role of religious authority and head of state of Vatican City. The role of religious authority is exercised undemocratically, and the one of head of state seems like an oxymoron, it is in opposition to the Gospel and is a counter-sign that, far from bringing nearer, draws away from faith in Jesus of Nazareth.

2. We believe that this journey has little to do with the apostolic journeys of Paul of Tarsus, whose purpose was to proclaim Jesus Christ the liberator and the Good News of liberation, to create new Christian communities and strengthen the faith of existing ones at risk to his own life because of threats from civil authorities. The pope now travels as a pilgrim, a pilgrim with other believers and nonbelievers to make the way to Santiago as a religious experience. The trip is scheduled as a mass phenomenon to acclaim his figure in an act of papolatry, without any contact with living Christian communities much less the least advantaged sectors of society. It is very folkloric and only minimally an expression of authentic and genuine faith.

3. We view the high costs of the trip paid for from public funds -- several million euros -- in the middle of an economic crisis, with more than eight million poor people, including four million unemployed, cuts in social services, reduction in pensions and workers' wages, as scandalous, anti-gospel and lacking in solidarity. Such disproportionate costs show the insensitivity of the Pope himself, the public institutions and the Church itself towards the working class sectors, especially the immigrants, who personally suffer the consequences of the crisis more acutely.

4. We consider the motive of the visit to be debatable: to win the Jubilee for the Compostela Holy Year and dedicate the Church of the Sagrada Familia and make it a basilica. These are both acts of sacralization, contrary to the evangelical maxim that God is to be worshiped "in spirit and in truth."

5. The Pope will meet with political and religious authorities in a "holy alliance" to ratify the privileges of all kinds that the Catholic Church receives from public authorities: fiscal, educational, social, economic, etc. when what it should do is give up these privileges and support the equal treatment of all religions by public authorities.

6. It is possible that the church hierarchy is offering the Pope an idyllic image of the Spanish Catholic Church and the vitality of the Christian faith in our society. We believe that the image does not correspond to reality. The Spanish Church is undergoing a profound crisis of credibility in most sectors of society, especially among the young and working class sectors, and among Catholics themselves, because of its neoconservative positions on moral issues, the alienating of the poor, the lack of communication with youth and the exclusion of women from leadership and ministry. Two samples of the lack of credibility are, among others, the huge decline in the number of those who call themselves Catholic and increasing apostasy.

7. We recall that John Paul II, the most traveled pope in history of the Church, left the Church plunged in one of the most serious crises of Christianity. We believe, therefore, that papal trips do not contribute to a credible presentation of the Gospel in our time. They are only applauded by people and Christian groups who use them as a platform to lean on the Pope and spread his neoconservative vision of Christianity. Given its political, social, economic and even negative folkloric implications, we believe that other means of announcing the liberating message of Christianity must be sought.

Madrid, October 29, 2010

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