Saturday, February 6, 2010

"New Ways" vs. "Old Ways"

I think if Cardinal Francis George, president of the USCCB, had his way, all gay people would get back in the closet and stay there. His Eminence somehow feels he has to continue to attack New Ways Ministry, a group which has been trying to help the millions of gay Catholics in this country find a way to live within the homophobic institution into which they were baptized. And Whispers in the Loggia doesn't think the witch hunt will stop with New Ways. Here is the latest statement from the Cardinal:

New Ways Ministry is an organization based in Mount Rainier, Maryland, that describes itself as "a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian and gay Catholics and reconciliation within the larger Christian and civil communities." From the time of the organization's founding in 1977, serious questions have been raised about the group’s adherence to Church teaching on homosexuality. In 1984, the archbishop of Washington denied New Ways Ministry any official authorization or approval of its activities. At that time, he forbade the two co-founders of New Ways Ministry, Sr. Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Fr. Robert Nugent, to continue their activities in the Archdiocese of Washington. In the same year, Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent were ordered by their superiors to separate themselves from New Ways Ministry. Although they resigned from leadership posts, they continued their involvement in New Ways Ministry activities until 1999, when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared that because of errors and ambiguities in the approach of Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent they are permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons.

In reference to his decision not to grant any approval or authorization to New Ways Ministry in the 1980s, Archbishop James Hickey of Washington cited the organization's lack of adherence to Church teaching on the morality of homosexual acts. This was the central issue in the subsequent investigation and censure of the founders of New Ways Ministry, Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent. This continues to be the crucial defect in the approach of New Ways Ministry, which has not changed its position after the departure of the cofounders.

New Ways Ministry has recently criticized efforts by the Church to defend the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman and has urged Catholics to support electoral initiatives to establish same-sex "marriage." No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice. Their claim to be Catholic only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination. Accordingly, I wish to make it clear that, like other groups that claim to be Catholic but deny central aspects of Church teaching, New Ways Ministry has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church and that they cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.


I would encourage people to visit the New Ways Ministry Web site and see the resources that this group offers. Among other things you wlll find a guide to gay-friendly parishes (my parish, Our Lady Queen of Peace, is one of them -- Alleluia!; Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago -- surprise, surprise -- isn't, but there are several parishes in that city where gay Catholics can find welcome and avoid having to deal with their Archbishop). The group provides a similar list of gay-friendly Catholic colleges and universities. It offers retreats and workshops for gay Catholics, their families and those who minister to them, and a small collection of documents on homosexuality from a Catholic perspective and pastoral ministry to gays and lesbians, as well as a bibliography and links to other resources that could be helpful to gay Catholics.

This campaign against New Ways is like an elephant picking a fight with a flea. Imagine putting the weight of the U.S. Catholic Church with its budget in the millions, if not billions, of dollars against a little nonprofit that, in its most recent 990, claimed a gross annual receipt of $186,479 and net assets of $368,909. New Ways' highest paid staff member, its director Francis DeBernardo, received less than $50,000 in total compensation.

But, as Christians, we know that might does not always make right, that God looks out for the little ones, and that God did not send us His Son so that we could stay mired in our "old ways" of discrimination and bigotry but so that we might find a "new way" of living together as brothers and sisters following in His light.

Disclaimer: This blog does not have approval or recognition from the Catholic Church and cannot -- nor claims to -- speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Thinking about the human being after Auschwitz

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at LeonardoBoff.com.

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)
2/5/2010

This year we remember the 65th anniversary of the Holocaust against the Jewish people perpetrated by the Nazism of Hitler and Himmler. The inhumanity demonstrated in the extermination camps is terrifying, especially in the one of Auschwitz (Poland). The event came to shake the faith of Jews and Christians who wondered: What to think of God after Auschwitz? The answers given so far, whether from the Jewish side, or by J.B. Metz and J. Moltmann on the Christian side, are insufficient. The question is even more radical: what to think of human beings after Auschwitz?

It is true that the inhumane is part of the human. But how much inhumanity can fit into humanity? It was a project conceived calculatedly and without any scruple to redesign humanity. At the top was to be the Aryan-Germanic race; some races would be placed in second and third categories; others simply enslaved or exterminated. In the words of its formulator, Himmler, October 4, 1943: "This is a page of glory in our history, which has never been written and is never to be written." The National Socialism of Hitler was well aware of the total inversion of values. What would be a crime became for it virtue and glory. Here traits of the Apocalypse and the Antichrist are revealed.

The most disturbing book I've read in my life and that I could never finish digesting is called Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess (1958). During the 10 months he was imprisoned and interrogated by the Polish authorities in Krakow from 1946-1947, before finally being sentenced to death, Hoess had time to describe very precisely the details of how he sent about two million Jews to the gas chambers. A factory producing thousands of corpses daily was set up there that scared the executioners themselves. It was the "banality of death" that Hannah Arendt talked about.

But what is most frightening is his human profile. Let us not think that Hoess united mass extermination with feelings of evil, diabolical sadism and sheer brutality. On the contrary, he was gentle with his wife and children, conscientious, a friend of nature, in short, a normal petty bourgeois. In the end, before dying, he wrote: "Public opinion may think I'm a bloodthirsty beast, an evil sadist and a murderer of millions. But it will never understand that this commandant had a heart and it was not bad." Evil is more perverse, the more unconscious it is.

This is what is disturbing: how can so much inhumanity coexist with humanity? I don't know. I suspect that the power of ideology and total submission to the leader come into play here. Hoess the person identified with the commandant and the commandant with the person. The person was Nazi, body and soul, and radically faithful to the leader. Upon receiving the order of the "Fuhrer" to exterminate the Jews, he must not have even thought about it: we are going to exterminate them (der Führer befiehl, wir folgen). He confesses that he never questioned the order because "the leader is always right." The slightest doubt was thought to be treasonous to Hitler.

But evil also has limits and Hoess felt them in himself. There is always something human left. He himself tells of two children who were busy playing. Their mother was pushed into the gas chamber. The children were forced to go too. "The mother's pleading look, begging mercy for those innocents," says Hoess, "I will never forget it". He made a brusque gesture and the guards threw them into the gas chamber. He confesses that many of the executioners could not bear so much inhumanity and committed suicide. He remained cold and cruel.

We face an extreme fundamentalism that is expressed by totalitarian systems and blind obedience, whether political, religious or ideological. The result it produces is the death of others.
This risk is also around us, because today we have been given the means to destroy ourselves, to throw the Earth system out of balance and to destroy much of life. Only by empowering that within the human being that makes us human, such as love and compassion, can we curb our inhumanity.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How I learned to love the Rosary

Before I ventured into Hispanic ministry, it would never have occurred to me to pray the Rosary. I came up as a convert in Catholic social activist circles and the Rosary was at best a boring distraction from the urgent work of changing the world and at worst something we associated with the most conservative elements of our Church. I knew a couple of Catholic peacemakers who would walk around the Pentagon with their rosaries, hoping that it would tumble down like the wall of Jericho, but that was all.

Then I joined the Renovación and the Rosary came along with it. Our spiritual director, Fr. Hoyos, imposed it on the prayer groups to make sure that with all the aleluias and alabanzas, the speaking in tongues and resting in the Spirit, nobody would ever mistake his flock for Pentecostalists.

At first, I approached it like a typical gringa. Because we had a lot of folks in our prayer group who didn’t know the Rosary, I set out to write a pamphlet that would codify the way we recited it at Santa Ana, which I assumed was the way everyone recited it. As I got to know the Renovación at the diocesan level, I found out that no two prayer groups recite the Rosary the same way and, for that matter, no two Hispanic Catholics do either. I gave up on the pamphlet and struggled with my personal frustration at the lack of any “standard”.

I searched the Web in vain for one “right way” to pray the Rosary in Spanish, but Hispanic Catholics do not approach the Rosary in a definitive way. Anything written down is treated merely as a suggestion, a skeleton on which they embroider like a talented pianist adding ornamentations to a Bach partita. In the case of the best rezadores, the add-ons can be quite elaborate, gathered over a lifetime of experience. And the source? “Pues, así lo rezaba mi abuelita…”

Gradually I learned to appreciate this diversity. The fact that there is no right or wrong way to pray the Rosary is actually liberating; I could develop my own individual style and it would be OK. And so I found my voice – a voice that evolved as I listened to others, adopting variations that resonated with me and discarding those that I didn’t care for.

Our group starts with the basic Rosary pamphlet from marianos.net, either begged from the local Legion of Mary or bought in bulk at a discount. But this is just to remind us which mysteries to recite on which days and to provide a crutch for those of us who haven’t quite mastered the standard prayers.

At the end of each mystery, we have a choice of Fatima prayers. One is supposed to either say “O Jesús Mio perdona nuestros pecados y libranos del fuego del infierno, etc…” or “María es madre de gracia, madre de misericordía, en la vida y en la muerte ampáranos gran Señora, etc…” but our group does both for good measure and I tack on “Madre de Dios y abogada nuestra” behind the final “Virgen Santísima” because I can identify with this image of Mary as an “advocate” or “lawyer” (Our Lady as working mother and professional!). Then I’ll throw in three “Ave María purísima sin pecada concebida”s , which I learned from Fr. Hoyos, between each mystery.

Most people state their prayer intentions all at once at the beginning of the Rosary. I prefer to state an intention with each mystery and try to correlate them thematically, e.g. praying for couples while meditating on the “Wedding at Cana” (2nd Luminous Mystery). My prayers are a bit to the left of the Renovación. For example, the daily prayer for my priest friends (of which there are many) not only asks that they be faithful to their vows and free from temptation, but that God will give them the courage to always walk with the people. The rosary pamphlet suggests meditating on personal sin and conversion along with the “Proclamation of the Coming of the Kingdom”; I prefer to pray that God will raise up more prophets and that we will find and use our own prophetic voices.

I move the three “Ave Maria”s to the end of the Rosary and use the wording suggested in "Palabra, Vida Y Fe” (also online here) that specifies Mary’s relationship to each Person of the Holy Trinity, links them to the three theological virtues – faith, hope and love – and honors Mary’s virginity “antes”, “en”, y “después del parto”. It is reassuringly orderly like the numbered paragraphs in which I learned to write essays as a schoolgirl in France.

The herman@s customarily offer the final Salve only for the intentions of the Holy Father but that’s a bit too limited and patriarchal for my taste so I usually say “por las intenciones de TODO el pueblo de Dios, especialmente del Santo Padre…”

All this has changed the Rosary from a dull 15-minute race through the basics to a languid half-hour of contemplation every morning. I continue to listen for different variations, looking for ways to make “my” Rosary more beautiful and meaningful. The herman@s have taught me how to turn a tedious task into a treasure and for this I am thankful. Ruega por ellos y por mí, Santa Madre de Dios, para que seamos dignos de alcanzar las promesas y gracias de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo. Amén.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Msgr. Leonidas Proaño: The "Bishop of the Indigenous People" is remembered by his own

Diario Hoy (Ecuador)
1/31/2010

On the same land where he was born, the body of monseñor Leonidas Proaño is buried, in the chapel of Pucahuaico, in San Antonio, Imbabura province.


A century after his birth, which occurred on 29 January 1910, a series of activities are being held around the country not just to commemorate him but to remember the work that the "bishop of the indigenous people" took on during most of his life for those whom he called "the poorest of the poor", as he referred to the indigenous people.

The Simón Bolívar Andean University held a symposium last Friday called Pachamama Pueblos Liberación y Sumak Kawsay, with speakers from Guatemala, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Belgium, Mexico, Spain, Venezuela and Ecuador.

In Imbabura, the birthplace of Bishop Leonidas Proaño, events unfolded such as: the Sumak Kaisaypak Aknai ritual, which began yesterday. For today, a walk for life is scheduled, which will tour the house where Proaño was born and end at the Centro de Misioneras Indígenas (Center for Indigenous Missionaries) in Pucahuaico, where his remains lie.

Personalities of national politics, such as the president of the Ecuarunari, Delfín Tenesaca, who had the opportunity to meet and work alongside Leonidas Proaño, highlighted his thoughts and work. "Monsignor appeared as a light in the midst of so many shadows that obscured the indigenous people," he said.

Tenesaca stated that one of the main legacies of the work of Leonidas Proaño is having taught the indigenous people to "have very big eyes to look at reality and wide open ears."

His colleague in the Ecuadorian Bishops Conference and current archbishop of Cuenca, Monsignor Luis Alberto Luna Tobar, highlighted the work done by the "bishop of the poor" throughout his life.

"He is the greatest man in the whole history of the Church in Ecuador," he stated.

Luna Tobar also noted that thanks to his work with Leonidas Proaño, he learned what it means to give your life for good and above all for the well-being of the neediest.

Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Lourdes Tiban stressed his influence on indigenous peoples. "Although he did not live in my province (Cotopaxi), he is a regional and national symbol. The work that started with community radio, for example, was inspired by Leonidas Proaño," she said.

Leonidas Eduardo Proaño Villalba was born on January 29, 1910 in San Antonio de Ibarra (Imbabura). On October 1, 1930, he entered the Seminario Mayor de Quito to study philosophy and theology, in 1936 he was ordained into the priesthood.

On May 26, 1954, he was consecrated bishop of the Diocese of Bolívar, named to that position by Pope Pius XII. Leonidas Proaño died on August 31, 1988, in Quito.

POEMA SOLIDARIO

Por Leonidas Proaño

Mantener siempre atentos los oídos
al grito de dolor de los demás
y escuchar su llamada de socorro,
es SOLIDARIDAD.

Mantener la mirada siempre alerta
y los ojos tendidos sobre el mar
en busca de algún náufrago en peligro,
es SOLIDARIDAD.

Sentir como algo propio el sufrimiento
del hermano de aquí y del de allá,
hacer propia la angustia de los pobres,
es SOLIDARIDAD.

Llegar a ser la voz de los humildes,
descubrir la injusticia y la maldad,
denunciar al injusto y al malvado,
es SOLIDARIDAD.

Dejarse transportar por un mensaje
cargado de esperanza, amor y paz,
hasta apretar la mano del hermano,
es SOLIDARIDAD.

Convertirse uno mismo en mensajero
del abrazo sincero y fraternal
que unos pueblos envían a otros pueblos,
es SOLIDARIDAD.

Compartir los peligros en la lucha
por vivir en justicia y libertad
arriesgando en el amar hasta la vida,
es SOLIDARIDAD.


SOLIDARITY POEM

by Leonidas Proaño (English translation by Rebel Girl)

Keeping our ears always open
to the cry of pain of others
and hearing their call for help
is SOLIDARITY

Keeping our eyes always open
and watching over the seas
for a drowning person in danger
is SOLIDARITY

Feeling as our own the suffering
of brothers and sisters near and far,
making ours the anguish of the poor
is SOLIDARITY

Coming to be the voice of the poor
Uncovering injustice and evil,
denouncing unjust and evil people
is SOLIDARITY

Letting ourselves be led by a message
of hope, love, and peace
to take the hand of our neighbor
is SOLIDARITY

Becoming messengers ourselves
of a sincere brotherly embrace
that one people sends to other peoples
is SOLIDARITY

Sharing the dangers of the struggle
to live in justice and freedom
and for this love risking even our life
is SOLIDARITY

Related:


Monday, February 1, 2010

Sr. Teresa Forcades i Vila: The "Women First" Interview on Feminism and Gender

This is an English translation of the interview with Sr. Teresa Forcades i Vila from Sílvia Cóppulo's book Dones de Primera: 47 vides excepcionals ("Women First: 47 Exceptional Lives" -- Ara Libres, 2009). Those of you who read this blog and speak Catalan -- and there are lots of you! -- are encouraged to find and buy the book as there are interviews with many important women in it.

You see her on TV, debating gently but firmly with the bishop or dealing freely with difficult issues such as the sexuality of men and women religious. She always does it with respect and from personal commitment. It is interesting to read her book "Feminist Theology in History," for the research and interpretation effort and the audacity to rigorously tackle subjects that are taboo for traditional Christianity. But when I went to visit her in Montserrat, I discovered the more human side of her. After getting lost on those roads that are off the GPS, I arrived at the Monestir de Sant Benet late, very late. I was offered a glass of water and some cookies while she made sure I calmed down. I was listening to someone who has come to live with complete interior freedom.

Is being a theologian and a feminist contradictory?

It may seem so, because it is unusual, and also because theology is perceived as a conservative field and as a defender of traditional roles, and the feminist field by definition questions these roles and aims for them to cease to exist.

It is indeed a contrast, but in both my experience and how I do theology, I try to be faithful to the Gospel in suggesting that gender stereotypes are not God's will.

You give a different interpretation to Sacred Scripture?

For me it is very important to emphasize that feminism and feminist theology are not purely modern phenomena. There are realities that had not received those names yet, that can be identified as historical constants and also appear in the Bible. The word "feminism" was coined in the late 19th century, and the expression "feminist theology" is from the sixties in the 20th century. However, the reality that the word feminism addresses refers to little fulfilled potential, narrower and more limited social expectations and standards for women.

If I as a male, can devote myself to a very wide range of things, why can't my partner -- she who also thinks for herself -- do so?

Already in the 4th century bishop and theologian Gregory of Nazianzus said that laws against adultery are unfair. If it's the husband who sins against the woman, nothing happens. However, if it's the woman who sins against the husband, the full force of the law falls upon her. God does not want this. God made us equal and we are commanded: "Honor father and mother." Gregory of Nazianzus asks: "If inequality is not God's will, then where does it come from?". And he himself, in his Prayer 37, answers: "It comes from males who have made the laws for their convenience." Gregory of Nazianzus's testimony makes it clear that males, even if they are theologians and bishops, can also be feminists.

Is God a feminist?

If by feminist we mean someone who does not accept the fact that because of being a woman, certain social roles belong to you that you have not chosen and that you can only get out of by accepting exclusion, it is obvious that yes, God is a feminist just as He is an abolitionist. God does not want any person to be subject to another or stop making the most of the talents he or she has been given for reasons of race or gender.

Then how come the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church is so sexist?

The first wave of feminism is identified as the "feminism of equality." It affirms that nothing in nature leads women and men to act differently and believes that gender roles are cultural inventions. From this standpoint, it is clear that if the roles were no longer promoted, they would just disappear and every man and woman would lean freely towards what they wanted to be without problems. This is the feminism that is prevalent in North America.

The feminism of French and Italian origin, however, is the "feminism of difference" and it affirms that it is obvious that there are natural differences between men and women, that women have more sensitivity and therefore more capacity for empathy, less competitiveness, that we don't need to assert ourselves as much before an audience, and often knowing and being told that we are loved is sufficient for us.

What feminists of difference want is for feminine values such as complicity or absence of competitiveness to have as much social prestige as masculine values.

You were talking about how Rome views all this today.

It has now been 20 years since John Paul II's encyclical "Mulieris Dignitatem". In this letter, the Pope unambiguously affirms the equal spiritual dignity of women and men, and then emphasizes the particular vocation of women, specifically motherhood and a particular "disposition" for giving oneself to others. This means in practice that God wants women to remain in the background on a social level and reign in the home. I'm not going there. I believe that gender roles are not invented but neither are they God's will, rather they are the result of our emotional immaturity. For women to move from the background to the foreground socially involves a process of personal maturity. And for men to move from foreground to background, too.

Would it be possible for the Vatican to accept what you say?

It can't accept it without a profound structural change, and this can only happen when the majority of Catholics want it. It is therefore interesting to ask these questions and work on them personally and in small groups. In the intimate personal life one should not fall into inconsistency. The personal life does not allow for making blunt statements as much.

I do not believe in victimism. I think if we women had wanted it, gender roles would have changed long ago. If certain things do not change, it is because we have our identity based on this traditional formula. There are mothers who feel displaced if the father is emotionally too close to the children. If the child cries and calls out for daddy instead of looking for her, many mothers feel bad.

You have written that we start out from difference but that we can arrive at equality?

I think there is a differential anthropological starting point that explains why gender roles are so prevalent and so difficult to change, but the eschatological point of arrival is equality or, rather, the disappearance of roles because personal fulfilment makes each person unique in his or her gender (in his letter to the Galatians, Paul says that in Jesus Christ we are all transformed and there are no distinctions between masculine and feminine).

For me it is clear that this business of roles is not all cultural, because otherwise it doesn't explain to me why it is found in so many different cultures.

I think Nancy Chodorow's observations and theories are useful both for understanding where the roles come from and for trying to overcome them. Chodorow assumes that small children become individualized by taking the mother as reference. Between 6 and 18 months of age, the child begins to become aware of being someone different from the mother and at two and a half years of age begins to use the first person singular pronoun "I". This process is known as the "individuation process" and involves a primary rupture of the maternal bond. This rupture occurs differently depending on whether we are boys or girls. If the girl asks the mother "Mama, when I grow up will I be like you and have children in my tummy?" or says "Can I have a ponytail in my hair like yours?", the mother quite happily says "yes". But if it's the boy who asks that, the mother answers "no". And she says it in a firm tone, so that it is clear to him that he is very wrong and that there is danger here. The girl understands that "being herself" is to be like the mother. The boy, however, sees that to "be himself" he must be different from the reference person who is the mother. Individuation through continuity leads girls to feel themselves insofar as they resemble the people they love.

Boys, however, feel themselves insofar as they distinguish themselves from the people they love (individuation through discontinuity). The father as a referent is very important, but can't take the place of maternal reference. The one who carried you in the womb is the mother and not the father, and it is the voice of the mother and not the father that you felt during the nine months you were gestating. Even before the ear is formed, the cells of the embryo vibrate with the harmony and cadences of the maternal voice.

In adult life, as we perceive that women's self is associated with continuity and men's with discontinuity, we arrive at the false conclusion that women know how to love more and men know how to be freer. In reality this is false, because love and freedom are inseparable and nobody can have more of one than of the other, but this is the sense that we normally have and that creates gender stereotypes: we confuse women's "fear of loneliness" with love and men's "fear of dependency" with freedom.

But to the extent that the stereotypical role is lost, aren't we condemning women to feel more alone?

No, because the fears on which stereotypes are based always lead to what they want to avoid: being afraid of loneliness leads to loneliness and being afraid of dependency leads to dependency. We see, for example, that there are men who are unemployed, whose wives work outside the home, however, they can't do housework because it is depressing to feel that they have lost their role. The men have it harder today because society looks favorably on a woman who performs male tasks, but it doesn't look the same way on a man who performs traditionally female tasks.

This process is harder for a man?

With regard to social expectations, yes, but it is necessary for him to do it and he will only do it when he is convinced that the woman is not the only one who wins.

Has this feminist stance caused you problems within the Church?

The first time I came to the monastery and the word feminist came out, I noticed that the nuns made a sort of "pss ... we'll fix this, and certainly in a few years she'll get over it." But the name is one thing, and the reality it designates is something else. I can discuss the reality of inequality with many colleagues in my community and many people in the Church, but the name "feminism" evokes all sorts of fears: "Uh oh, we'll have problems."

What do your words, spoken by an extremely smooth and educated woman, provoke in the "lords" of the Church?

There is this thing of fear of women to the extent that they symbolically occupy the place of the mother. The woman identified with the mother embodies the omnipresent authority figure in early infancy. It is the mother who teaches "us" first ("don't touch this, don't put that in your mouth, don't pee here"). To avoid the negative consequences of that maternal omnipresence, it is very important that the father be present in early infancy. Although the father can not replace the role of the mother, he must be present at these stages so that the figure of the woman is not exclusively associated with "our" parents. It seems a proven fact that many men have a kind of inner need to lie or hide something from the women who love them. In most cases these are unimportant little lies that irritate the woman when she discovers them and serve to make the immature man believe that he is staying free and has not let himself be completely dominated yet by his wife. The immature man is afraid of women, because they remind him of his mother, who had the moral authority and ruled at home. In the discussions sometimes this fear comes out that says: "Watch out, women will eat us up if we let them." This fear is irrational, but there are many men who have it. So gender roles need to be overcome because, although they are presented as harmonious and complementary, they are actually very violent. For example, many women are convinced that they love more and better than their partners, and they don't realize that actually they have been making a mental list of all the complaints about everything that has happened over the years and are ready to throw it in the face of the partner at the most inopportune time. Is that love?

I was asking you about the "lords" of the Church.

There are many men in the church who are convinced they want to do and do what's best for everyone, and that they would be willing to change many things if they thought the change would be better. But they don't believe so. They believe that gender roles are God's will, and that if the roles were to change, chaos would come. From a theological standpoint, I think that going deeper into the inseparability of love and freedom and the concept of "divine filiation" could be useful. Moving from a personal identity based on maternal and paternal filiation to another based on divine filiation implies a liberation, a "being born anew", which historically has led many people to question gender roles and their overly narrow limits.

Do liberation theologians agree that feminist theory is part of it?

In the seventies, socialist men did not understand, and now we still have problems with the liberation theologians. Some understand feminist theology and others don't. Leonardo Boff, for example, did a book with Rose M. Muraro where he defends complementarity and she emphasizes the need to go further.

I also believe that complementarity is limited in practice. That I relate with you because you have something that I do not have, and therefore we complement each other is not interesting. I have to love you because I love you, period. The relationship of love must be free. In the first love or marriage there is usually strong complementarity and that makes it difficult to move forward as a person, because if one person moves forward as a person, the other could remain "hanging". The love of spouses is only a sacrament of God's love insofar as it is free, not insofar as it is complementary (because God loves and, in return, there is no one who complements God).

You're a nun, doctor, theologian and feminist all at once?

Medicine was my vocation when I was little. My mother is a nurse, and I had a grandfather and an uncle who were doctors. When I was ten, one day at school I said I wanted to be a nurse and the math teacher, who I think was gay, said to me: "Why not a doctor?" And then I said: "Doctor, doctor ["metge" - male doctor]", breaking the stereotypical roles, but not entirely because I did not say "doctor" ["metgessa" - female doctor].

Theology. In 1992, I met the pioneer of feminist theology, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, and while I was studying the specialty of internal medicine in the United States, I translated a book of hers. She encouraged me to study theology and then I became a tutor at Harvard. At that time I had no intention of becoming a nun. I came to this monastery to prepare for the final exam in Medicine, the specialty final. During that month I felt that God was inviting me to stay here. I felt great excitement, joy and fear all mixed together, thinking that God was talking to me. I bought the Rule of Saint Benedict. Reading this 6th century document made a strong impact on me. Then the abbess asked me to give a talk to the community. Taking advantage of my being a doctor, she wanted me to talk about AIDS. I talked about AIDS and homosexuality as well. I was surprised. They were concerned about the suffering of homosexuals, if they could speak openly to their families and if they were put out of the parishes. They did not dissimulate, they did not have a negative attitude. I felt I wanted to live with them and like them, really seeing people beyond labels, filters and stereotypes. And here I am.


Teresa Forcades i Vila, theologian, Benedictine nun and doctor.


  • Doctor in Public Health (University of Barcelona)

  • Specialist in Internal Medicine (State University of New York)

  • Devoted her doctoral thesis in Public Health to alternative medicine

  • Master of Divinity (Harvard University).

  • Degree in Fundamental Theology (Institute of Fundamental Theology of Sant Cugat). Thesis for Theology degree devoted to the Trinity.

  • Doctor in Theology (2008). Facultat de Teologia de Catalunya. With the thesis: "Being a person today: a study of the concept of "person" in classic Trinitarian theology and its relationship with the modern concept of 'liberty'", directed by Dr. Josep M. Rovira Belloso.

  • Has published "La Trinitat, avui" ("The Trinity Today" -- Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, 2005), «Els crims de les grans companyies farmacèutiques ("The Crimes of the Big Pharaceutical Companies" -- Cristianisme i Justícia, 2006) i «La teologia feminista en la història», ("Feminist Theology in History" -- Fragmenta Editorial, 2007) and many articles about AIDS, homosexuality, alternative or complementary medicine, the feminist perspective on early Christianity, the challenge of cultural and religious diversity, health as religion and religion as therapy, and the sacraments and the Gospel.

  • Has translated "But she said" by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, 1993 (unpublished), and "The Call of the Desert" by Kathryn Spink, 2001 from English to Catalan.

  • Benedictine nun in Sant Benet de Montserrat since 1997.

  • Born in Barcelona in 1966.

  • No children