Saturday, January 8, 2011

Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone: Ivone Gebara on François Houtart

We already reported Fr. François Houtart's confession to an act of pedophilia he committed many years ago. This week, the news agencies are reporting that the attorney general in Lieja, Cedric Visart de Bocarme, has opened an investigation into Houtart. While most of Houtart's colleagues are publicly silent and hoping this shameful incident will be forgotten and go away, noted Brazilian feminist theologian Ivone Gebara offers her more honest and compassionate perspective.

by Ivone Gebara (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Adital
1/2/2011

Many newspapers in the north and south, not to mention the international media, between December 29 and 30, 2010, and lots of news sent electronically, at the beginning of the new year, brought the news that the renowned Belgian sociologist and theologian Francois Houtart (85) had sexually molested an 8 year-old boy. They don't say what year this happened, nor do they give clear information about the incident. They only mention that the child was the son of one of Houtart's cousins and that it was his own sister who had denounced the incident, before Houtart's candidacy for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I don't want to discuss pedophilia or other sex crimes right now. Rather, what called my attention was that many of Houtart's acquaintances and friends in Brazil were frightened by this revelation and even the Folha de São Paulo (12/30/2010) stated that the priest and liberation theologian had even been expelled from the Belgian organization he helped found, CETRI - the Centre Tricontinental.

I'm not defending beloved Professor François Houtart, a learned man whose positions in favor of the dignity of different groups and countries I know well. But our often hypocritical fear and our ignorance about the human condition, especially when it comes to any religious or internationally recognized person, scare me.

I remember some years ago, when Rabbi Henry Sobel, under the influence of medications, stole neckties in a U.S. airport, the press and many people crucified him, as if on that act, that unthinking, unwise, unexpected and certainly reprehensible act, one could judge his whole history. In the face of the theft, it seemed that the history of that man's struggle for the dignity of many, especially during the time of the Brazilian military dictatorship, disappeared. We are always willing to crucify any slip in the history of those whom we raise up as "perfect", those who we decree can not be wrong, those who we imagine are above the common life. And, perhaps for this reason, we want to award them with the Nobel for so many things and condemn them when we find something that stains the perfect image that we ourselves built.

Thus, we living beings slip, we fall, we push, we are pushed. We living human beings are tempted to possess the goods of others, to desire bodies and even children's bodies. And, sometimes dominated by our weakness, we give in to the immediate will of our bodies. Basically, we are not pure or perfect. We are all not only fallible, but, in practice, sinners. We are all capable of taking life or diminishing lives in some way.

Just losing equilibrium for a moment... Just getting away from the usual sobriety ... Just not managing to control hormones ... Just anger being greater than we can bear ... Just being drunk with the seduction of desire ... In an instant, everything changes!

So, let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.

But we are also able to lift the fallen along the roads of life, to think of viable alternatives for the world of the poor, to think in International Social Forums to find solutions towards a better life for all ... We are this mixture of grandeur and misery!

I'm not making an apology for our limits, nor excuses for our many faults and sins against each other. I'm just warning us against the hypocrisy that can control us, as if we were free from sin. We may be free of the specific sin of my brother or that other one of my sister. But mine, of that one I am not free. My sin, confessed or not, discovered or still hidden, continues to be in me. And by trying to forget or hide it, I may run the risk of not seeing "the beam in my eye, and only the mote in the neighbor's eye."

Our hypocrisy reaches a point where with one major or minor failing, we reduce the life of an 85 year-old person, who has provided countless services to humanity and who may have already suffered enough for the sin that he himself has already admitted. So what more do we want?

Although impressed by our hypocrisy and ignorance, our ability to throw stones and not live in forgiveness and mercy especially towards those who have borne witness with their lives, those who, despite stumbling and falling, were capable of "much love", I keep hoping for our conversion.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Yo Te Nombro: The story of a song

I was listening to "Yo Te Nombro", the version made famous by Argentine singer Nacha Guevara, on my MP3 player this morning and wondering about the origins of this inspiring song about freedom. Turns out that it is a derivative work. The lyrics were written by an Italian songwriter based in Argentina, Gian Franco Pagliaro in 1969, based on a poem "Liberté" written by Paul Éluard, one of the famous poets of the French Resistance, a member of the Communist Party and of the Surrealist school of French literature.

Liberté

Paul Éluard originally titled his famous poem, written in 1942, "Une seule pensée" ("A Single Thought"). It was published in the spring of that year in an underground collection Poésie et vérité 1942. A few months later it was re-published in the review Fontaine in the southern zone. In September, it was published a third time out of London in the Gaullist publication La France libre and thousand of copies were dropped by parachute by the Royal Air Force over occupied France.

Éluard explained his famous poem thus: "I was thinking of revealing at the conclusion the name of a woman I loved, to whom this poem was dedicated. But I quickly noticed that the only word I had in my mind was the word "Liberty". So the woman I loved embodied a desire that was greater than her. I was confusing her with my most sublime aspiration, and this word "Liberty" is throughout my poem only to eternalize a very simple, very mundane, very specific wish, that of freeing ourselves from the Occupier."

Here is the original text of the poem. An English translation thereof can be found here.

Sur mes cahiers d'écolier
Sur mon pupitre et les arbres
Sur le sable de neige
J'écris ton nom

Sur toutes les pages lues
Sur toutes les pages blanches
Pierre sang papier ou cendre
J'écris ton nom

Sur les images dorées
Sur les armes des guerriers
Sur la couronne des rois
J'écris ton nom

Sur la jungle et le désert
Sur les nids sur les genêts
Sur l'écho de mon enfance
J'écris ton nom

Sur les merveilles des nuits
Sur le pain blanc des journées
Sur les saisons fiancées
J'écris ton nom

Sur tous mes chiffons d'azur
Sur l'étang soleil moisi
Sur le lac lune vivante
J'écris ton nom

Sur les champs sur l'horizon
Sur les ailes des oiseaux
Et sur le moulin des ombres
J'écris ton nom

Sur chaque bouffées d'aurore
Sur la mer sur les bateaux
Sur la montagne démente
J'écris ton nom

Sur la mousse des nuages
Sur les sueurs de l'orage
Sur la pluie épaisse et fade
J'écris ton nom

Sur les formes scintillantes
Sur les cloches des couleurs
Sur la vérité physique
J'écris ton nom

Sur les sentiers éveillés
Sur les routes déployées
Sur les places qui débordent
J'écris ton nom

Sur la lampe qui s'allume
Sur la lampe qui s'éteint
Sur mes raisons réunies
J'écris ton nom

Sur le fruit coupé en deux
Du miroir et de ma chambre
Sur mon lit coquille vide
J'écris ton nom

Sur mon chien gourmand et tendre
Sur ses oreilles dressées
Sur sa patte maladroite
J'écris ton nom

Sur le tremplin de ma porte
Sur les objets familiers
Sur le flot du feu béni
J'écris ton nom

Sur toute chair accordée
Sur le front de mes amis
Sur chaque main qui se tend
J'écris ton nom

Sur la vitre des surprises
Sur les lèvres attendries
Bien au-dessus du silence
J'écris ton nom

Sur mes refuges détruits
Sur mes phares écroulés
Sur les murs de mon ennui
J'écris ton nom

Sur l'absence sans désir
Sur la solitude nue
Sur les marches de la mort
J'écris ton nom

Sur la santé revenue
Sur le risque disparu
Sur l'espoir sans souvenir
J'écris ton nom

Et par le pouvoir d'un mot
Je recommence ma vie
Je suis né pour te connaître
Pour te nommer

Liberté


Liberté as read by French actor Gérard Philipe:





The Musical Derivatives

a) The 8th movement of Poulenc's "Figure Humaine"

In one of the first derivatives, the French composer Francis Poulenc, who had been a friend of Paul Éluard's since 1935, incorporated "Liberté" along with seven of Éluard's other poems into a 1943 cantata -- "Figure Humaine". Just as he had received clandestine copies of Éluard's poems, Poulenc worked on the cantata in secret, since France was occupied by the Germans. The cantata was not premiered until after the war. For more information on this musical collaboration, see Claude Caré's Francis Poulenc et Paul Eluard : une seule musique sous les deux espèces.

Poulenc: Figure Humaine - 8. Liberté:





b) Ey özgürlük

In 1984, Turkish singer-songwriter, intellectual, and leftist politician Zülfü Livaneli composed "Ey özgürlük", a hymn to freedom along the lines of Paul Éluard's original poem. The song is recorded on his album, Istanbul Konseri.




You can find the Turkish lyrics to this song here, where we also got the following English translation, which we cleaned up a little:

Freedom

On my notebook at school, on my desk, on trees, I write your name
On the pages read, on pure white pages, I write your name
On starry images, on artilleries, rifles, on kings' crowns
On most beautiful nights, on the freshest bread of the day, I write your name
On the fields and on the horizon, on wings of birds,
On the mill under the shadow, I write
On the awakened path, on flattened road,
In thronged squares, your name, O Freedom

On my doorstep, on my pots and pans, on the fire blazing,
On the play of the spirits, on vigilant lips, I write your name
On ruined houses, on extinguished lampions, on sorrow's wall,
On non-wishful absence, on all naked loneliness, I write your name
On returned health, on every single danger which passed away
I write your name, I write it
With the enthusiasm of a word, I'm returning to life
I was born for you, to shout out

O Freedom!



c) Yo Te Nombro

Gian Franco Pagliaro wrote "Yo Te Nombro" in 1969 and it was arranged by Alberto Favero. In 1971, Pagliaro submitted "Yo Te Nombro" to the Festival de la Canción de Buenos Aires, which he had won in 1970 with "Las cosas que me alejan de ti”. The song made it to the final round with the maximum number of votes but failed at the last minute. Pagliaro did not accept the jury's decision and caused a great uproar. The audience booed and whistled at the jury which took offense. The Argentina Society of Broadcasters threatened to sue him for slander and libel though, in the end, the threat did not materialize, but Pagliaro was blacklisted and his song banned from the radio stations. The incident branded Pagliaro as a protest song writer, a label which he seems to wear with a mixture of pride and bitterness. On his current Web site, Pagliaro says "The road to freedom is full of slaves" and "The one who is addicted to freedom is just one more slave". The song became an anthem for the Latin American Left.


Alberto Favero's wife, Nacha Guevara, first recorded "Yo Te Nombro" on her 1975 album "En Vivo", made while the Argentine singer was living in exile after her family had received death threats from the Alianza Anticomunista Argentina, a right-wing paramilitary group that committed hundreds of assassinations during that decade. Guevara stated in her album notes that the song was inspired by Paul Eluard's poem. Others have erroneously attributed "Yo Te Nombro" 's lyrics directly to Eluard.




Other bands and singers who have covered this song include: Sanampay, Reincidentes, Quilapayún, Isabel Aldunate,Savia Nueva, Iris Chacón, César Isella, and Suramérica. Ironically, Gian Franco Pagliaro, an accomplished singer, did not record his own song until 2002 when he included it on "38 Canciones en Libertad" (Disco Fuentes, Colombia).

Here are the original lyrics to "Yo Te Nombro" as printed on Pagliaro's Web site. In parenthesis are the modified lyrics of the better-known and more frequently performed version of the song, the one popularized by Nacha Guevara.

Por el pájaro enjaulado.
Por el pez en la pecera.
Por mi amigo, que está preso
porque ha dicho lo que piensa.
Por las flores arrancadas.
Por la hierba pisoteada.
Por el cuerpo torturado (Por los árboles podados)
De mi amigo que no canta. (Por los cuerpos torturados)
Yo te nombro, Libertad.


For the caged bird.
For the fish in the tank.
For my friend, who is in prison
because he said what he thinks.
For plucked flowers.
For the trampled grass.
For the tortured body (For the pruned trees)
Of my friend who doesn't sing, (For the tortured bodies)
I call your name, Freedom.

Por los dientes apretados.
Por el nudo en la garganta. (Por la rabia contenida)
Por la rabia contenida. (Por el nudo en la garganta)
Por las bocas que no cantan.
Por el verso censurado. (Por el beso clandestino)
Por el beso clandestino. (Por el verso censurado)
Por el joven exiliado.
Por los nombres prohibidos
yo te nombro, Libertad.


For the clenched teeth.
For the knot in the throat.
For the contained rage.
For the mouths do not sing.
For the censored verse.
For the clandestine kiss.
For the young exile.
For the forbidden names.
I call your name, Freedom.

Te nombro, en nombre de todos,
por tu nombre verdadero.
Te nombro y cuando oscurece,
cuando nadie me ve,
escribo tu nombre
en las paredes de mi ciudad.
Tu nombre verdadero,
tu nombre y otros nombres
que no nombro por temor.


I call you, in the name of all
by your real name.
I call you and when the darkness comes,
when no one sees me,
I write your name
on the walls of my city.
Your real name,
your name and other names
I don't name out of fear.

Por la idea perseguida.
Por los golpes recibidos.
Por aquel que no resiste
Y se queda en el camino. (Por aquellos que se esconden)
Por el miedo que te tienen.
Por tus pasos que vigilan.
Por el déspota de turno (Por la forma en que te atacan)
Por los hijos que te matan
Yo te nombro, Libertad.


For the persecuted idea.
For the beatings received.
For those who don't resist
And drop along the way. (For those who hide)
For their fear of you.
For your footsteps that they watch.
For the despot of the day (For the way they attack you)
For the children who kill you
I call your name, Freedom.

Por las tierras invadidas.
Por los pueblos conquistados.
Por la gente sin salida (Por la gente sometida)
Por los sueños atrapados. (Por los hombres explotados)
Por el justo ajusticiado (Por los muertos en la hoguera)
Que no han dicho como y donde (Por el justo ajusticiado)
Por el héroe asesinado
que jamás negó tu nombre. (Por los fuegos apagados)
yo te nombro, Libertad.


For the invaded lands,
For the conquered peoples,
For those with no way out, (For the subjected people)
For the captured dreams, (For the exploited ones)
For the just one executed, (For those who died in the blaze)
they don't say how or where (For the executed just one)
For the murdered hero
who never denied your name, (For the fires that have gone out)
I call your name, Freedom.

Te nombro, en nombre de todos,
por tu nombre verdadero.
Te nombro y cuando oscurece,
cuando nadie me ve,
escribo tu nombre
en las paredes de mi ciudad.
Escribo tu nombre
en las paredes de mi ciudad.
Tu nombre verdadero,
tu nombre y otros nombres
que no nombro por temor.
Yo te nombro,
Libertad.


I call you, in the name of all
by your real name.
I call you and when the darkness comes,
when no one sees me,
I write your name
on the walls of my city.
I write your name
on the walls of my city.
Your real name,
your name and other names
I don't name out of fear.
I call your name, Freedom.

The Planet will continue to have a fever

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)
1/7/2011

COP 16 ended at dawn on December 11 in Cancun with erroneous conclusions, almost drawn out with forceps. These are known and therefore we shall not deal with them here. Due to the general atmosphere of disillusionment, they were even more than expected, but less than they should have been, given the gravity of the increasing degradation of the Earth-system. The spirit of Copenhagen of addressing the problem of global warming with measures structured around the economy, predominated. And this is the big mistake, because the economic system that created the crisis can not be the same one to get us out of it. Using an expression that we have used on other occasions: by trying to file down the teeth of the wolf, they believe they will take away the ferocity, in the illusion that it resides in the teeth and not in the nature of the wolf itself. The logic of the mainstream economy, which aims at growth and increasing the GDP implies the domination of nature, disregard of social equity (hence the growing concentration of wealth and the rapid appropriation of common goods) and lack of solidarity with future generations. And they want us to believe that this dynamic will get us out of the many crises, especially global warming.

But we must insist: we have reached a point where it's urgent to rethink and reorient our whole way of being in the world. Just a change of will is not enough, we need above all to transform the imagination. Imagination is the ability to design other ways of being, acting, producing, consuming and interacting with each other and with the Earth. The Earth Charter went to the heart of the problem and its possible solution when it said: "As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning...This requires a change of mind and heart. It requires a new sense of global interdependence and universal responsibility. We must imaginatively develop and apply the vision of a sustainable way of life locally, nationally, regionally, and globally."

This proposal was not present in any of the 16 COPs. What predominated in them was the conviction that the crisis of the Earth is cyclical, not structural, and that it can be addressed with the arsenal of means available to the system, with agreements between heads of state and businessmen, when all the world community should be involved. The basic reference is not the Earth as a whole, but nation-states, each with their own interests, governed by the logic of individualism and not by cooperation and interconnection of all with all, as required by global nature of the problem. In the collective consciousness, it has still not been affirmed that the planet is small, that it has limited resources, that it's overcrowded, polluted, depleted and sick. There's no mention of the ecological debt. The widespread ecological crisis, which is more than global warming, is not taken seriously. Adaptation and mitigation are not enough without giving centrality to the serious global social injustices, the massive migration flows that have already reached 60 million people, the destruction of fragile economies with the increase in the poor and hungry by many millions, the violation of the right to food security and health. There's a need to join social justice with environmental justice.

A new perspective on the Earth is imperative indeed. It can not continue to be a bottomless chest of resources to be exploited for purely human benefit, without regard for other living beings that also need the biosphere. Mother Earth is Gaia -- a thesis unsuccessfully sustained by the Bolivian delegation -- and therefore subject to rights and deserving of respect and veneration. The crisis is not in the geophysics of the Earth, but in our relationship of aggression to it. We have become a highly destructive geophysical force, inaugurating, as is now being stated, the Anthropocene era, a new geological era marked by intensive careless and irresponsible intervention by human beings.

If humanity does not rally around some minimum values such as sustainability, caring, collective responsibility, cooperation and compassion, we may be approaching an open chasm before us.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A new vision of the priesthood - Part 10

This is the tenth in an ongoing series of columns about the priesthood by an activist priest from the Dominican Republic, Fr. Rogelio Cruz, that he published in El Día. English translation by Rebel Girl.

Part 10 - 12/21/2010

It's difficult to say, think, describe how the priest of modern times will be. How will he be in the society of the future, the man who, living among men and being in all things like others, is called to a spiritual mission?

The man who evaluates every human action with the eyes of God.

The man who discovers God hidden under all things.

The man who directs all our life towards God.

The man who focuses on all human activity with divine eyes to give it true value.

The man who studies God's plan for our existence.

If it's hard to know why so many young people don't enter seminary, it's equally difficult to know why so many abandon the path of the priesthood or priestly ministry once they have been ordained.

Many started with poor initial motivation and when they get to the age of rational and emotional maturity, they are already priests and here, the crisis comes.

Many entered seminary incorrectly, with good will, but without knowing where they were going and why they were going to that place, and when they got to adulthood, they discovered that what they were already into, wasn't for them.

Many others who were more motivated, better prepared than the majority, discovered that their personal contact with Christ and their love for the Church impelled them to news kinds of apostolates, which frequently clashed with the views of those who rule. But they feel clearly that this is the kind of apostolate, of priestly action, that people ask of them today.

And they have fought, they have endeavored to be priests of their time, but have encountered a thick concrete wall; they have found a parochial routine that imprisons them, with a pastor, very conservative superiors, and a bishop for whom prudence is greater than other virtues.

And after much forcing and insisting, they discover that there's no room for them or their methods and are disappointed, and God grant that they not be embittered for life.

Add to all this:

* The wrong approach to the spiritual life that is given in the seminaries.

* A psychological unpreparedness to deal with current life that has such a different pattern of conduct.

Let's be clear that it's not renouncing the faith, it's not rebellion against authority, it's not loss of love for Christ or the Church, it's not irresponsibility or a breach of contract.

The problem is that many priests are asleep; they haven't realized the very deep social changes that have been happening in the world for years. Changes not only in the external structures of society, but within the minds of men and women.

Against all this, can the Church maintain its structure? Can it give the flavor the world needs today? Will priests be able to respond adequately to this complex situation? Let's not forget that the priesthood is a ministry and God will send the priests His people need. A vocation is a ministry.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

30 and Out: An Interview with (non-)Fr. Alain Chapellier

Fr. Alain Chappelier, was born in 1946 in Houdan in Yvelines (France) into an agnostic and anti-clerical family. After a ten-year long spiritual quest, including numerous trips to study with oriental masters, he entered seminary in Rome at 25. He was ordained and served as parochial vicar in various parishes in the Diocese of Versailles, as well as prison chaplain at Bois d’Arcy. Chappelier left the priesthood last year after 30 years. He is the author of several books: De miel et de fiel (Albin Michel, 1991), La tentation de Fra Lippi (Albin Michel, 2000), Le Christ nu (Le Seuil, 2003), and now what we can consider his exit interview, Ne m'appelez plus Père ("No Longer Call Me Father", édition First, 2010).

By Jérôme Anciberro (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Témoignage Chrétien
11/25/2010

TC: By the end of the 1960s, you had toured India and visited the great Hindu spiritual masters. You had very strong personal and spiritual experiences in that country. Same thing in the Holy Land, in the desert of Sinai in particular. Then in Christian prayer groups. Only gradually did you really convert to Catholicism before becoming a priest. This journey is not one of the more conventional ones.

Alain Chapellier: I guess not and that's probably one of the causes of my discomfort in the Catholic Church. I experienced during the first half of my life without realizing it, something quite amazing. I could feel myself in profound agreement as much with a Hindu, a Muslim, an atheist, as with a Catholic, a brother in Christ through baptism in the Catholic Church. When one cultivates a certain kind of interiority, confessional boundaries fall quickly.

Christ spoke to me through the encounter with the disciples of Gandhi and Ramana Maharishi. He spoke to me, always in India, through my ephemeral relationship with a young woman. He spoke to me in the Sinai, through the Bedouins I met. Saint Jeanne de Chantal said that "when we seek God first, we find Him everywhere." I believe that Christ is present through the most seemingly banal and insignificant facts of our lives, through the encounters.

Once I entered the seminary, I felt that this way of thinking was out of step with how a lot of my classmates experienced religion.

TC: But the Catholic Church isn't a block ...

Alain Chapellier: Of course. Among eighty or ninety people, one always finds some friends with whom to exchange. But it is still the Catholics on the most classic paths, practically traced, who set the tone for the institution and it is sometimes difficult to feel in tune with them.

A simple example: when I was ordained a priest, my family and my mother experienced that as a tragedy. However, I can see that for some families, it's a great joy when their son announces that he wants to become a priest. And rightly so. But when you're born into the Catholic faith like those young people, and when you fight like I did to live your faith, you see things a little differently. Both views are legitimate, but coexistence is not necessarily simple.

TC: You wonder in your book, on several occasions, about the importance given to intellectual training of the clergy. This training however has been indeed a step forward in the history of the Church.

Alain Chapellier: Probably. But that was several centuries ago, at the time of the Council of Trent ... In some cases, there's a risk of making the Christian faith something that above all ressembles a well-structured ideology. It's always possible to balance that with a life of piety. But it often lacks the experience of depth, which isn't the same thing as piety.

TC: And how is this deep experience acquired?

Alain Chapellier: One must already believe it exists and that it's possible. And then maybe keep quiet. In general, I think we make too much noise in the Church. And by dint of making noise, we no longer hear the small inner voice. Jean Sulivan made a very nice page about it, on "the spring that flowed at night" (La Traversée des illusions, Matinales II, Gallimard, 1977), a spring whose murmur could no longer be heard because of all those who wanted to attract attention to it and cried "the spring, the spring, the spring!"...

Doctrinal formation without stepping back can also produce undesirable results. I am thinking of a young woman who wanted to receive communion on the occasion of the First Communion of her son. A young colleague told her very forcefully that, according to the regulations, it was not possible because she was divorced, remarried. In terms of doctrine, he was right. In actual fact, he had just driven someone to despair.

TC: Is French Catholicism suffering from a sociological evolution that would tend to make it more and more bourgeois or aristocratic in the recruitment of clergy?

Alain Chapellier: Aristocratic and bourgeois circles have the right to exist. As elsewhere, there are fabulous people in them. But it's not a secret to anyone that since the 19th century, the Church has lost the working class, and everything else follows later ... In the diocese of Ile-de-France to which I belonged, and also in Paris, it's obvious. All or most young priests come from privileged backgrounds.

They have their sorrows too, their difficulties, and that doesn't mean they'll be bad priests, but they are primarily suited to a certain environment: their own. Look at the surnames of the newly ordained in June and count the particles. It's quite instructive. Again, I have nothing against these people, but it's not forbidden to ask what the perpetuation of such recruitment means for the Church in France.

TC: The reality of the lives of priests that you describe is frightening: overwork, loneliness, depression, alcoholism ... Aren't you exaggerating a bit?

Chapellier: I couldn't put all the nuances in my book; it would have made a work of 600 pages and my editor was not very hot. And then it's not when I've left my ministry that I'm going to list all the reasons I should have stayed there. There are a number of realities on which the Church is completely at an impasse and it is indeed those that I stress. This may give the appearance of a hatchet job. But I don't hide, it seems to me, that there are also wonderful moments in the life of a priest.

TC: In terms of overworked priests, do you believe that improvement is possible?

Chapellier: As long as we keep the same doctrine concerning the priest, as long as we want to make him into a sort of reincarnation...I don't like the word, I can't find a different one...a sort of reincarnation of Christ, as long as we ask a diminishing clergy to accomplish all the tasks that were accomplished by a larger clergy, no, there's no reason for it to get better. But I just think that we're going to have to rethink the theology of the priest.

TC: Reading your testimony, one quickly realizes that you are not necessarily what one might call a liberal priest. You take the sacraments seriously, you say that the Mass fascinates you ...

Chapellier: I've often been considered a "cool" priest...perhaps because I was trying to adjust to those in front of me. What I question most is the absence, or lack of emphasis on the authentic spiritual life. This questioning necessarily has critical consequences. But that doesn't make me a liberal, a knee-jerk progressive. I am indeed very serious about the sacraments and the Mass, and much more. This is precisely why I think I can no longer continue my ministry.

Take baptisms. I used to celebrate them while trying to educate people, parents, families ... But now, people invite more and more people to their baptisms. The gatherings at a baptism resemble wedding gatherings, except that in weddings, the idea of human love speaks more or less to everybody. But baptism ... There, things become less obvious. One is really talking about God. And when, for half of those assembled, the concept of God means nothing and those people basically don't understand anything, well, they get bored and they chat.

Add to that the children who run and scream in the aisles and who must be monitored.. the cameras that crackle ... I remember two grandmothers who were showing Polaroids of a baptism to each other while it was still in progress. Also a bride, who I had to call to order several times because she seemed more focused on and stressed out by how her wedding was being filmed than by the wedding itself.



TC: You are indeed fairly tough on those who might be called the "consumers" of the Church or sacraments. So, you challenge certain practices which are quite settled. Your analysis of baptism, precisely, is rather bold, at least from a Catholic perspective.

Chapellier: Yes, I think that baptism, the personal encounter of the human being with Christ in its full sense, probably at the beginning of the Church....and that it [infant baptism]'s really both devaluing it and especially humanly and psychologically keeping a human being from making a journey towards Christ and asking for baptism when there's a free, adult awareness that encounters Christ.

That we welcome the children, that we integrate them into the life of the Church, even some rite...why not? But baptism, no. It's something more important.

I think about my personal case and it's probably what this story is about...Imagine someone like me who belonged to a family of non-believers. I wasn't baptized as a little boy, I didn't make my first communion, my confirmation, all that. When I, to use a term that I don't like at all, encountered Christ and when I had the feeling, felt the need to take a step forward, well...what was left? To become a priest. If I hadn't been baptized, I would probably have become a happy baptized person instead of becoming a priest with problems.

And when I see...especially when I see all the baptized people I've seen in my 30-year career, baptized people who came to see me later for marriage, burial or whatever and telling me: "Yeah, yeah, I'm baptized...well...it doesn't mean anything to me", I find it somewhat tragic.

TC: Do you really think that being baptized as a child hinders the development of personal faith?

Chapellier: All I did was state that 95% of the baptized are not interested in their baptism.

TC: Why does the term "encounter with Christ" bother you?

Chapellier: No, I don't like it because I've met too many people who have said to me: "Oh, I've had an encounter with Christ." "I've met Christ"...like one meets the milkman in the morning. He's Christ. He's God. Well, He's the One who is completely Other. He's the Mystery. He's the Infinite. And you don't talk about Him so easily.

I don't know if I've had an encounter with Christ. I've had experiences that have completely transformed my life and way of seeing things. It's Christ but it's much more than the Christ people talk about when they say: "Yes, yes...when I had an encounter with Christ. I met the Lord..."

When you experience a great moment, you only talk about that. But you don't talk about it just any way...you don't talk about it superficially. You might talk about it with friends. That implies intimacy, that implies restraint. Yes, I don't like people to talk too much about their "encounter" because I have doubts. If it were really Him, I don't think they would talk about Him with so much familiarity.

TC: What do you think of the concept of the "new evangelization", or more generally the idea that one should instead dare to affirm one's faith out loud in a society that has lost the sense of God but that, fundamentally, might be looking for Him?

Chapellier: Theoretically, it's seductive, but in fact this kind of idea is a double edged sword. Very often it yields the opposite of the desired result, or the illusion that one has achieved a result. Take the example of the disc of the three priests [Les Prêtres, Spiritus Dei, Universal], which is experiencing great success right now. If you tell me that people who listen to this disc have realized it would have been better to have given the money from their latest I-pod to a holy cause, I would like to believe you. But if that success simply means that by listening to this music, these people have had a good time, it seems much less interesting to me.

It's sort of the difference between a bright moment of faith and deep faith .... Christ is fire. For us to get burned. Not to warm our feet by it ... I'm afraid, often, religious practice is a finishing touch of psychological, moral and spiritual comfort that helps unleash one's ego, one's desires, one's fears. Christ proposes dying to oneself, one's ego, for a freedom of which we have no idea, but that is extraordinary when we sense it, when we approach it.

TC: Why does one have to wait to leave the ministry to write like you do about being a priest?

Chapellier: I had already written some things that were a bit stormy while being in the ministry, so what happpened was...well...nothing. "I read your book. Interesting. Something to think about." That's all, and it doesn't go any further. So it's not very interesting. I wrote three books that were full of calls for help, that expressed my difficulties. In the best case scenario: "I read your book. How you're calling for help. Bravo, what talent!"

TC: You're not leaving the priesthood to get married?

Chapellier: No. I don't want to get into a career as a Casanova at my age. I don't exclude getting married if I meet someone who wants a good old boy like me, but it's really not the problem today.

TC: You're no longer a priest, but you are Catholic. What is your life as a member of the faithful like?

Chapellier:It's a bit like the one I had as a lad. I'm practicing, obviously not in my area. I'm wait for my administrative status to be regularized. I will then be able to get back to participating fully in the life of the Church. I probably should move, to make it more convenient.

There are details that I don't quite understand. Apparently, the fact of being relieved of the ministry depends on the bishop, but for obligations linked to the commitment to celibacy, it depends on the pope. I'm writing to him to ask him to release me from these obligations without wanting to get married. It isn't clear .. I need to find good arguments ...

TC: How do you see the future of the Catholic Church in France?

Chapellier: As I've seen it for the last 30 years: shrinking. As long as the Church...here again I can't find the words...recruits the faithful in its capital, it will lose a certain percentage within each generation and, at a certain level, I wonder if this sort of fast isn't a sort of opportunity on the whole from the spiritual perspective. At the level of the universal Church in general, it's an episode. There have been parts of the Church that have flourished -- in the Middle Ages and earlier, in East Asia, in North Africa...well, it's completely disappeared there. It's moved elsewhere. Well, I have confidence...From time to time, we need a purge of this sort.

Reflections on an Ordination Golden Anniversary: Censored

We might have missed these reflections by retired Australian priest Fr. Eric Hodgens (photo below) had the Australian Catholic Web site CathNews not censored them. In a follow-up article about the censorship published in the Sydney Morning Herald (1/5/2011) and other media outlets, Hodgens alleges that "a church 'higher up' [presumably Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart] had prevailed on the CathNews editor to pull the link" to his article on the National Council of Priests of Australia's online journal, The Swag. Says Fr. Hodgens:

As the censorship became public, it became the story. However, the main issue is not the censorship, but rather the view that the pulled article was arguing: that the church's leadership has lost its way but is not willing to discuss or even consider that there may be a point. This is precisely the mentality that got them caught in the headlights with the paedophilia crisis. They ignored, even demonised, the victims in order to protect the institution which, in this case, was indefensible...They seem to have an unhealthy institutional firewall against any criticism at all. When will they learn?

I'm reprinting Fr. Hodgens' reflections on this blog because I think they're important and because I really dislike censorship. Also because I'm working on a translation of an interview with a French priest who quit the priesthood after 30 years because of similar views and, of course, we have been running the columns by Fr. Rogelio Cruz of the Dominican Republic who also shares this disatisfaction with the direction in which the institutional Church is going. Three men, three priests with long careers of service in the Church, three different continents and cultures -- all expressing their sense that things are not OK. Maybe it's time for Rome to wake up and listen?

Reflections on an Ordination Golden Anniversary
by Fr. Eric Hodgens, Melbourne
The Swag
December 2010


We are the Gaudium et Spes priests. We went into the seminary at the highest rate in living memory. We were ordained between 1955 and 1975 – in double the numbers our parishes required. Most of us were from the Silent Generation with a few years of Baby Boomers at the end. We took Vatican II to heart. We changed from being priests called and consecrated by God to being presbyters called and ordained by the Church – the People of God.

Ecumenism became a normal way of thinking for us. Prepared for the challenge by Cardijn’s apostolate of like to like, we were successful at educating a newly vital and active laity. We worked with the people rather than for them. We realised that clericalism was an evil, not a good, and discarded it with its style and culture. We ran highly successful and active parishes. Though ageing now, many of us are still on the job. Our presbyteral and pastoral lives have been a source of that unusual experience – joy.

But not without grief. We have experienced the awakening 60s, the exciting 70s, the suspicious 80s, the depressing 90s and the imploding 00s. During the 1980s we became aware that a lot was going wrong. Ordinations suddenly dropped after 1975. We started to lose parishioners – first from Mass then from affiliation. Both of these changes had mixed social causes.

Worse! Discordant decisions were coming down from the pope. Priestly celibacy, despite being highly contentious, was reasserted by Paul VI in 1967 without discussion. In 1968 Humanae Vitae was a shocking disappointment. Most of us never accepted it. Paul VI began appointing bishops opposed to the council’s ethos. This was most notable in Holland which had become a trailblazer in implementing the council. Paul killed that initiative and we are all the worse off for that. The whole trend was demoralizing.

Then came John Paul II. Charismatic in front of the TV camera; brilliant at languages; but – out of touch in scripture and limited in theology, a bad listener and rock solid is his self-assessment as God’s chosen man of destiny. His whole life had been spent in the persecuted church of Poland with its fortress church mentality frozen in time.

The open dialogue of the Church with the new ideas and values arising out of new knowledge in scriptural criticism, theology, psychology, sociology, anthropology stopped. New scientific discoveries in genetics were treated with suspicion and their application usually condemned. Sexual mores were promoted to the top shelf of his panorama of sin – a bit of an obsession with him.

Power corrupts. The history of the papacy shows this pre-eminently. Unchecked potentates believe their own propaganda. Taken to the extreme, they claim infallibility. Pius IX bullied Vatican I into institutionalizing such a claim. Since then creeping infallibility has resulted in the pope and his theologically limited curia stealing the term “magisterium” from its real owners – the college of professional theologians. How can you conscientiously give assent of mind and heart to policies formed without theological debate, consultation, transparency or accountability? In contemporary government and business this would be judged unethical.

John Paul’s lust for power showed very early and was taken to monumental proportions. Accountable to nobody, John Paul moved against any opinion other than his own and removed many exponents of alternative opinions from teaching and publishing. His most powerful enforcer was the Ratzinger-led Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Other Roman dicasteries joined the campaign.

The CDF is the current euphemism for the Inquisition. True to its mediaeval roots, it assumes the pope to be entitled to enforce his views. It conducts its delations and proceedings in secret. In today’s secular world this is a violation of human rights.

Theological censorship justifies itself as the quest for the truth and poses as truth’s champion. In fact it is the enemy of the discovery of truth because discussion is forestalled. The contemporary secular world understands this and wisely enshrines freedom of speech and debate as a central value. The Church no less than any other enterprise is at least the poorer and at worst prone to error when it rejects this value.

All of us are abused by this process. The priest at the coal face is not consulted, yet is contemptuously expected to defend policies he and his people do not believe.

John Paul II also enforced much of his own devotional life on the church at large. Despite Vatican II he effectively stopped the third rite of Penance, reversed a burgeoning dynamic theology of Eucharist by reverting to and re-emphasising devotion to the static Real Presence, reinforced a distorted devotion to Mary based on fundamentalist theology and introduced peculiar devotions such as Sr. Faustina’s Divine Mercy Devotion which undercuts Easter – the climax of our liturgical year.

A more grievous abuse of power by John Paul II was his appointment of bishops. Appointees were to be clerical, compliant and in total agreement with his personal opinions. This has emasculated the leadership of the Church. The episcopal ranks are now low on creativity, leadership, education and even intelligence. Many are from the ranks of Opus Dei – reactionary, authoritarian and decidedly not creative. Many, often at the top of the hierarchical tree, are embarrassingly ignorant of any recent learning in scripture, theology and scientific disciplines. Many are classic company boys. Some of the more intelligent and better educated seem to have sold their souls for advancement. Can they really believe the line they channel? Ecclesiastical politics have trumped integrity. And when these men are appointed as the leaders of priests without any consultation they become a standing act of contempt.

Worse still, this happened over a period when the priesthood held its biggest proportion of intelligent, educated and competent leaders. It was those very qualities which blackballed them for appointment under the blinkered but powerful regime. Our best chance has been missed. Today the ranks of the priesthood are depleted due to low recruitment over the last forty years. The pool from which future bishops must be chosen is very shallow.

A newly critical laity questions policy but receives no answers. Why can’t women be leaders in the Church? Why do priests have to be celibate? What is wrong with contraception? Why alienate remarried divorcees? Why this salacious preoccupation with sexual mores? Why are scientific advances always suspected of being bad? Why can’t we recognise the reality of homosexual orientation – and the social consequences of that recognition? Have we learnt nothing from the Galileo case – or the treatment of Teilhard de Chardin? Can’t we escape the Syllabus of Errors mentality?

Benedict XVI has continued the reversal of Vatican II. He is imposing a new English translation of the Sacramentary on a resisting English speaking constituency. This may very well backfire because many priests are not going to implement it. Benedict has received back bishops from the schismatic Society of St Pius X. He has encouraged the Tridentine Mass in Latin. He has reintroduced kneeling for communion on the tongue at his public Masses – all deliberate key pointers to regression from the spirit of Vatican II. To the priests who embraced Vatican II they are iconic insults.

Then he has the nerve to decree a Year for Priests in 2009 with St John Vianney as patron. Like Fr. Donald Cozzens, many felt they were being played. The celebration of the importance of priests in the church is belied by the contempt with which they are treated. How can Rome call priests to repentance when it is so recalcitrant; so slow to admit any failing of its own? How can they be serious in stressing the importance of the priest as confessor when it is clear that confession has all but vanished from the life of the Church? How can they urge Holy Hours and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament when most priests have moved on from that static theology of Eucharist to a dynamic one – with Vatican II leading the way? How can they urge priests to more intense prayer when they show no evidence of a change of heart or attitude – the genuine indicator that prayer is working?

We took as normal the world and the church into which we were ordained. In reality, the religious affiliation of the period was abnormally high. Mass and sacramental participation and priestly vocations were at a high water mark. The reversal which began in the late 60s was always going to happen. But with Vatican II we had the tools to handle the new situation. A large group of the priests were ready to meet the challenge. They did not get the chance. The orders from above were to withdraw to the fortress and sing the old song. Instead of embracing the new they lost the opportunity and left us high and dry – and disappointed.

In the western world priests still always rate highly in job satisfaction surveys. They generally enjoy their job and do it well. That is because they are happy in their own patch. But they feel betrayed by the pope and the bishops. If you ask them what they think about the powers up top and where the official show is going you get a very different answer.

Monday, January 3, 2011

"The Way: Following Jesus" -- José Comblin at the Iglesia Bautista de Viña del Mar, Chile, 2009

This talk by priest and liberation theologian, Fr. José Comblin, was given at the Iglesia Bautista de Viña del Mar, in Chile in November, 2009. A transcript prepared by the Movimiento Teologìas de la Liberaciòn-Chile, was reproduced last month on Atrio / Redes Cristianas. We now bring it to you in English.

Good afternoon. I will talk about the group that lives in the world of the poor, thus in the world of the marginalized. So that, I live there too, thanks be to God, who is in the working class world. We are not in the world of the privileged. I have been given the subject "Following Jesus."

Following Jesus. The Kingdom of God and Conversion.

Well ... What is that? Following Jesus? Let's start at the beginning. To define Jesus, one has to see what the "message" is. How He inaugurated His mission. He says here: "The Kingdom of God is already near." Conversion, because it's near. One has to enter. What does all this about the Kingdom of God and conversion mean?

The listeners clearly understood "conversion". It's total conversion, by overcoming, by the rejection of the entire Jewish system, the whole system. Now comes another way, that is, the way of the Jews ends, especially of the Jews as interpreted by their doctors, their priests, the elders, who instead of remaining faithful to the word of God, the message given to Abraham... No, the opposite ... since they created a whole system of promoting themselves, dominating the masses, and became a privileged class.

All in the name of religion as if it were the will of God. And the kingdom of God? Well ... it's directly linked to the first title, the title of Messiah, which Jesus himself probably at least accepted. He did not proclaim "I am the Messiah" -- at least in the synoptic gospels -- but others said it and He approved.

Messiah. The category of Messiah, once the Christian message entered the Greco-Roman world, disappeared. It disappeared. And in the history of theology in later centuries, it also disappeared. There was no Greek or Latin translation for that word. So we have to return to the world of Israel, what was understood and what Jesus meant when the title of Messiah was mentioned to Him.

Well, the Messiah is the one who will come to save His people from the forces that oppress them, dominate them, that divert them from the true path. So He is more than a prophet, because the "prophet announces" and the "Messiah fulfills." What the prophets had foretold, He accomplishes it. So He carries out a collective work, that is the transformation of His people, the transformation of Israel that has been diverted from its mission by false shepherds, false prophets. And the Messiah comes precisely to save this people and create a new world in them and through them.

The promise made to Abraham was directed to all humanity. All mankind would be the descendants, the children of Abraham. But then there was a contraction and in Jesus' time they thought that "only the Hebrew race, they are the only ones who are the children of Abraham." But the Messiah comes precisely to restore the true vocation of Israel, which was to save the world, all humanity. That is to say, Jesus understands the Messiah not as the savior of all the Jews, of this tiny people, but of all mankind, just as it was foretold in the promises made to Abraham.

So Jesus comes as Messiah, proclaiming and beginning the fulfillment. In other words, His life is already the kingdom of God. And with Him, the disciples who follow Him, there is the kingdom of God, there is the beginning of the new world, the world of justice, brotherhood, the world without oppression, without domination. It begins in a very simple, very humble way, but with the total conviction that from that small beginning, a new life, a new world really begins.

Therefore, Jesus' concern is not primarily individuals, but persons within a people. It's about rebuilding the people that had been founded, created, emancipated, remaking it according to the Father's will. So, following Jesus would be following the same path, that is, doing what He did. He is the reference. Because..so..it won't come by itself. But as the Messiah, He came to initiate that kingdom of God on this earth.

And for that, He needed collaborators, since His disciples were those who were going to disperse, to spread the kingdom of God to all peoples too. This is how this kingdom is and to follow is "to enter that way." That is, the way to act, the way to be, is to do what Jesus did, in other circumstances, other situations, but the spirit will be given to us so we will be able to interpret, to apply what Jesus did in the situation in which we are. So, what would He do if He were in my place? What would He do? This within the context of a people acting together as much as possible, unified. And what happens is ...

What is faith?

What is faith in Jesus Christ? Faith should not be transformed into a doctrine, as has often been done in the past. Because doctrine always remains superficial. In other words, it's an intellectual thing, a thought, but separated from the life of the people. And so, faith is precisely the basic and fundamental attitude, namely, "I think I'm able, with the strength of the spirit, to follow the path of Jesus in the world today." In other words, to do again what He did in today's world.

Faith is difficult. Why? Because most people believe they aren't capable. They believe it's not possible to act differently. They believe that the habits, the way of behaving throughout society, that that can't change, it is impossible to change. So it's impossible to be born into a new life! Most people in today's world, as in the past, have a deep feeling that "I can't," "I don't have the ability", "Who am I?." And the poorest ones, worse yet.

Of course the richer ones feel capable, but capable of what? Not of following the path of Christ, no! Of creating machines, of making money, they believe that. Those who are strong, powerful. But as for believing, do they believe they are able to apply the way of Jesus today? That's another thing. So, because that implies a conversion, another way of seeing the world. That is to say, escaping from the current structure of the world and seeking a transformation.

Economists usually argue that there's no other way, that the path that was installed in Chile is the only one possible, and it can't change. Because the laws of economics don't allow another formulation. This is the official doctrine and the doctrine of most rulers, the so-called representatives of the people, but who represent them very little. So, that's the only way possible!

The same, when they're fighting with the neighbors, when there's a problem, for example with Peru. There they believe ... that it's inevitable, it will always happen, it's not possible to change the situation, to create a true friendship. Because of the Chileans, say the Peruvians; because of the Peruvians, say the Chileans. All remember the Pacific War, and this is in the subconscious. Then peace. To achieve a real peace of brotherhood, sharing, that's hard to believe. And so, what Jesus asks is faith.

That we are able to transform this world, slowly, of course. Not like that, with a magic formula, that suddenly everything changes, no! ... but through constant and persistent, constant and persistent effort. It began two thousand years ago and we still see that much ... so much... is still required! So much to do! And we know one generation only does a small part. And a person in a generation, a small part, but one that may be important, that can be very significant, that can move people and precisely transform their way of life, their way of being, entering the way that Jesus showed. Faith.

Hope

Hope is not simply hope for the future of getting to heaven someday, of the afterlife. If so, it would not be necssary for Jesus to be able to show us the way. He shows the way to build a new world, not simply to save one's soul, which is much easier, but to build a new world. And of the one who is building it, then Jesus says: "That one is already in eternal life. Already there. He doesn't have to worry about later. The one who is building the Kingdom is already in life. He is already in the kingdom of God."

So, the aim of hope is the possibility of a new world, of a world of justice and brotherhood. It started with a small group, the first disciples of Jesus. But they had confidence and were growing, increasing, multiplying, in all the provinces of the Roman Empire. And then when they discovered that the world was bigger than they had thought before, well ... they went out to send the message to all parts, in all places. So, hoping, as Paul says, "against all hope."

Because according to appearances, really, to move the world, to move the current economy so that a world of justice appears, that seems so...so impossible that one gets discouraged and thinks like many Jews in Jesus' time, that in this world there's nothing to hope for. We are going to think about the future world, the world to come, not about the creation after the destruction, because there is nothing to be hoped for here.

It's a temptation, but it's not what Jesus came to say. It's precisely that ... start here, and whoever doesn't work here on earth to reestablish this new world, it's because he's out of hope, he's outside of the way. That is, walking according to all stages of human history -- such a complex, diverse history -- but walking according to this way of Jesus, the world will change. The world will enter the Father's plan, it will be able to. Each one called to have that hope, called to faith, called to hope. And what is the way, the method? What is the guiding principle? What should one do, concretely? That is to say, what did Jesus do and how did He do it?

Well, a word according to John, then says: "It's a life of love", that is, it wants to transform the world by the forces of love. That is, without arms, without political power, without financial power, without cultural power, with the power of love and testimony announcing that way. That's how Jesus does it.

The sick

First concern: the sick, because they are the ones who suffer most. At that time even more so, because according to the rules of Jewish theology of that time, the patient is a person punished for their sins. If you're sick, it's because you sinned. Hence Jesus came to deny this. "It's not because he sinned." But his presence is demanding, it asks for help. And with the help, if everyone is committed to saving, bringing life in the sick, it's a great sign. And Jesus cares about and heals the sick. Of course we will probably not do so many healings like that...so many miracles ... such strong ones, but you can not limit the possibilities. That is, service to the sick.

The rejected

He also draws near to all those who were rejected. For example, publicans, tax collectors -- cursed. Prostitutes; cursed, sinful, rejected. All who did not observe the law. Because Jewish law was so complicated. Imagine ... Before eating, one had to wash one's hands. But where was the water? Ah ... the water was in a well located two kilometers, three, five kilometers away sometimes. The man who owned slaves sent slaves to fetch water. But the poor? The poor women, they looked for water needed for cooking, for immediate needs. But they couldn't afford to look for water to wash their hands. Today, the problem no longer exists, except in some regions of the world where the problem still persists.

And then, there Jesus draws near precisely to those who are cursed, excommunicated, treated like public sinners. And in Galilee, which was the poorest region, there were a lot of people like that; they didn't have the ability to observe all the laws. Well, the laws become a way of oppressing, of dominating and of justifying the powerful who have the opportunity to comply with those laws. Well, Jesus is going to give hope and raise all those who were rejected. He doesn't offer them weapons. He doesn't offer them money. He doesn't offer them a doctoral degree. He only offers the power of love that will multiply through them. And then, with their word of testimony, their life of generosity they will awaken a new life. Beginning with faith, they will then stimulate and awaken faith, faith in the way of Jesus, there in the world.

What is the path that Jesus then adopted for this mission, this way of acting? Well, He became poor. He was born poor. To be in the likeness of the majority of the population. He was born poor. He lived without property, without social distinction, social status, without having any political force, without having influence as the children of the great families have. Because of this, they can influence the direction the country, because they have the strength. And Jesus was born, lived, with no human power, no force of the kind that people usually understand as force.

And when He came to live here, He chose Galilee, which was the poorest province. It is true that in Galilee there were wealthier cities, Greek cities, and that they lived off the exploitation of poor peasants who were living there. And Jesus never was in a Greek city. There was one six kilometers from Nazareth. Sepphoris. He never went there. He only visited the villages of the poor farmers who usually every morning went to the gate of the city to see if the head of the latifundio needed labor for the day. And then the man came out..."Today I want twenty", "Today I want ten" ...What about the others? Nothing for the others. Will they be able to eat that day? Hardly. In other words, the life of farmers without property.

Well ... What about the fishermen? Most fishermen did not own their boats. The boat belonged to a landlord. And so, of course they had to give something, give him most of what they had fished. So, that was the world from which Jesus chose to take the disciples who were to announce His message and act as He did. His poverty was so great that He ended...ended in condemnation, ended in death and death on the cross, which is an infamous death. In other words, it's the death that's inflicted on disobedient or insufficiently obedient slaves.

People from good families didn't die like that; they were killed by less cruel methods. But since Jesus was poor, then they treated Him like ... like a pauper. How did it come to that? Why? He proclaimed His message before the authorities. He denounced, among the poor, the lies of the big ones, the powerful ones. Today there is no shortage of similar lies. But finally, He raised His voice, without money, without political support, without weapons, only with the strength of His word. Of course ... they tolerated Him for three years. That couldn't last any longer.

A poor fellow who raises his voice and is denouncing and condemning amid the multitude all the lies and injustices, of course that can not last long. So, because of His fidelity to His mission of not transforming this world from the top down, by force of arms. And how many times ... how many times ... have people received Christianity by force of arms? For example, in America. So, thinking that faith is announced with the aid of weapons or accompanying weapons or accumulating money to do fantastic works, great works, showing the superiority of their civilization... that that will make people Christians...not. So, they don't convert and they don't come to the real ... to the true faith.

Of course, they can be deceived. For example, the influence that the Emperor Constantine had when he needed a religion stronger than the traditional Roman tribal religions and the traditional religion of Rome, which were highly particularized and had no chance of penetrating the multitude of peoples of the empire. So, he chose the Christian religion. Why? Ah ... because in the last battle fought against his competitor for the rule, there they had said that the most powerful God was Jesus Christ and He had to be invoked. So he invoked Him, hoisted the flag, and there he saw that Jesus had given him victory. How is it possible? Was it the true God? Or did the devil give him the victory? How do we know?

This idea that victory is given by God, and so the winners are always the faithful and the defeated are the infidels...that persisted for many centuries and still today. And still today. Hence, if we examine the current wars, the wars that are currently being waged in Iraq or Afghanistan, that's in the background too. We are the good guys because we are the strongest. And this idea is profound. This is what Jesus came to denounce, to expose and denounce. He created opposition by telling the truth, accepting all the consequences. He said: "Blessed are you when you are persecuted because that is how they have treated all the prophets," and that's how they treated Him. However, that word doesn't remain ineffective. It was not lived in vain. And that loyalty to His mission later brought millions and millions of adherents to the faith, of people to the faith.

In other words, He wanted to show that the way is non-power and non-violence. Of course, the permanent temptation always is to think that you can't evangelize without power, without alliance with the powers, with the powerful...No money!. So, accumulating to be able to build large buildings. To do cultural works that will attract people and thinking that thereby conversion can be achieved, adherence to the message of Jesus, when Jesus showed otherwise. He showed the path of truth in pure love without violence, without forcing in any way.

Obviously it's not easy, but He came there and, in history, there are disciples of Jesus who actually follow this path. There are some who follow it ninety percent, others seventy, others fifty, others twenty, others ten. Sure, it's a demanding path, a difficult one, but there are, there are people who take this road and ... die. In the last fifteen years in the Northeast of Brazil, where I live, 1,500 peasant leaders, from the peasant movements, have been killed. Fifteen hundred!

No one has ever been convicted. All the murderers have been covered up by the authorities, by the big ones, because of having been faithful, but still, the peaceful struggle continues. And in this example, others find encouragement, courage, hope, and confidence in the way they have chosen and that was the way of Jesus. So then that's how a transformation of humanity comes about.

What is the access to freedom?

What is the new man, the new woman? So it's this: they have access to freedom. Paul says in Galatians: "You have been called to freedom." He doesn't say this or that freedom ...no. Freedom! So, be, be transformed into human beings, free ... And what does "free" mean? It's the person who makes his life, doesn't let himself be manipulated, doesn't let himself be pushed around. He doesn't simply do what everyone else does, doesn't just do what the authorities expect for fear of losing his job, losing economic advantages. No, they make their life personally.

And ... how is that life? It's precisely a life that is loving all human beings simply called to enter the kingdom of God. This is true, authentic freedom. The person who is not subordinate to needs, desires, or things he needs for himself, but the person who is free to help others wherever he finds them and where he finds need. It is the act of freedom. And to that, Paul says, "we have been called." But he himself, in the same letter, complains that many who thought they were already disciples of Jesus, had already fallen back into slavery. Subordinating themselves to other values, another religion, something else that make them slaves. Slaves of customs, practices, fears ... No ... The disciple of Jesus is like Jesus. He feels afraid but doesn't let himself be impressed by his fear.

Jesus also suffered fear before His death and was afraid. And who is not afraid when they see themselves close to a violent death? Who is not afraid? He was afraid! ... but He was free to just not to be impressed by fear. And continuing ahead along the way, His messianic mission, without turning back, no looking back, but confident that this was the Father's way, that it's the truth. And Jesus said: "I am the truth." What is that? In other words, what He does, that's the truth. That is the true path. That is real life. Then, enter this way, this life, that which is entering the truth.

The vocation to freedom

The vocation to freedom is difficult. It often happens that Church institutions are a little afraid of freedom. Then, despite Luther's famous book on Christian liberty, they are very afraid. I've seen Bible commentaries on that verse from Galatians: "For we were called to freedom." The commentator says: "Maybe Paul is exaggerating a bit" (laughter). So he let himself be carried away by the Oriental spirit. Well, the Oriental spirit always exaggerates. But not here, the Oriental spirit was exactly the translation of what Jesus had experienced and that He presented Himself precisely as a free man who made His way and did not let Himself be turned away by anyone. He didn't let Himself be separated from His mission by anyone, by anything, not by any threat.

Well, then that would be...I would say ...following Jesus. How? What is it? How is it? This has been lived out in very different ways in the history of mankind, of course. Because the circumstances are so different and people are different too. In other words, nobody will simply copy what someone else has done. They will follow their same inspiration, but in the new circumstances where they are and with the type of character, of mental and physical disposition, that allows them to act in this world. There is an immense variety of forms of imitation, of ways to follow.

But the fundamental line is always the same. It is the one that Jesus lived out in His life and that must be understood ever more clearly. Because there were deviations. There was a time when, under the influence of Greek philosophy, Christian ethics was reflected in the language of the Greek philosophers, the Greek virtues. The fundamentals, the core of the gospel doesn't appear here. And here the Greeks called prudence, fortitude, temperance, all good.

But in the end, that's aside from what is really effective, what is really the true path of Jesus. So that the effort of the churches is always coming back to reading the Bible, reading the Gospels, the life of Christ that the prophets proclaim and announce clearly. But in the end the Gospels are nevertheless essential and the letters of the apostles explain in that they draw attention to key points.

The earliest Gospel, in the opinion of almost all biblical scholars today, was the Gospel of Mark. It was probably written shortly after year 70, in the decade of the seventies. I'm not going to make an exegetical demonstration...but here is someone, "according to Mark"... but who ...? Ah ... we don't know who. But someone wrote those memories, those memories of Jesus, ie, throughout the oral tradition, all that was said -- that was transmitted orally -- was chosen.

It didn't tell all of Jesus' life, for as St. John says "the whole world would not be able, to be filled, to receive all the words, all the writings." But he has chosen and it is clear that ... that it's what Mark has chosen. He has chosen the way of the cross. Why? Well, probably because in his time, some people were already giving it less importance or less value. But for them the significance of Jesus' life is just that: that He let Himself be killed because He didn't want any political influence, any economic influence, any form of weapons. So He surrendered without being forced into the temptation that others tend to think that ... I once heard a bishop say that ... "without the alliance with the government one can't evangelize." According to the Gospel, it would be the opposite ... "with the government's alliance, one can not evangelize." One should keep oneself free. And of course, in the government they must adapt to the situation, because you have to make snap decisions.

We don't seek to solve everything at once just like that, but to enter a path with perseverance ... perseverance. And then there came the author of the Gospel to point out: "No ... Jesus was like this... totally boldly denouncing and addressing the whole system in place and all the established authorities to expose the lies and oppression."

Sin: Lies and Oppression

Lies and oppression, because this is sin. Jesus came and said: "To end the reign of sin." What is sin? Well, it's what the leaders of Israel were doing at that time. In other words, sin is the system of domination that always reappears throughout history, which is exactly the opposite of brotherhood and love. All forms of domination that have resulted in the decline of life. It's killing the other, reducing his life, destroying his life...That is domination, oppression. That is the sin! All the little sins are merely expressions of this global sin. And that's why Jesus chooses the poor more often, because they have no possibility of dominating.

They have no money, no resources, so they will lend an ear more. As for those who are of the higher classes, they don't like to hear these words. That gives a spiritual meaning to all that the gospel and Jesus say. So, I have seen many translations of the famous verse in Matthew 5, so then ... "Blessed are the poor in spirit." And the translation says, for example, "Blessed are those who have the soul of a poor person" But this is not about soul. In other words, the poor are poor in body. They are in fact [poor] ... but they have spirit. So it is the poor who rise up, who are receiving and welcoming the strength of the spirit. If they are those who conform, who are resigned, who remain passive, they are not happy.

Happy are those who, inspired by the spirit, take action with what the poor have at their disposal. Without power, without external force, without relationships, without any support, no. With what they are, and fraternally united with others who are of the same way. One person alone can do little. If they are ten, they can do more. If they are a hundred, they can do more. With the danger that some will get in the middle who are spiritualizing everything, and thus diverting from the real content. But the poor who have spirit, they understand. And they see precisely that this is the way Jesus has chosen.

Well ... I'll stop here. Maybe some people want to give a comment, add something, say something that I forgot to say, or in short, a final comment or explanation. Now, I would like, of course, for you to speak up because since I'm 86, my hearing is no longer so fine. My hearing ... then there are those things that you ... have to endure at the end of life.

Questions and answers

Assistant: OK, so we'll have a round of questions...


Participant: It's true that we should not resort to armed power. It seems that we should choose the way of Jesus, which was the way of the cross. How is it possible that, while asking people to renounce political power, economic power, armed power and violence, we ask them at the same time to denounce the lies and oppression, to rise up and not accept domination? That's my question; maybe I didn't understand anything ...

J. Comblin: Well ... theoretically it's incomprehensible, but it's precisely that... that is what is mysterious and incomprehensible. So, as Paul says ... "God has chosen foolishness rather than wisdom, to confound all the wise with the foolishness." And the foolishness is the foolishness of the cross. Foolishness is precisely using poor means; it's crazy. But there are people who practice this craziness and follow that path. That is, experience shows that in every generation there were people, milestones today, who actually practiced this madness. Some ... some are dead. But of course, not many, numerically.

But we can remember that during the military rule in Guatemala, eighty thousand peasants were killed by the forces of the nation, by the army, by the police just because they didn't want ... they didn't want to change, they were unwilling to accept the system and demanded their rights as indigenous people. In other words, they were afraid but they were stronger than their fear. And ... well ... finally, in the end, as is seen in Central America and elsewhere, it's the veteran resisters who manage to convince the majority. And so...most of the people awoke to the realization that we can not accept our situation of domination, of humiliation. That is, experience shows that it is possible though ... but apparently it seems an impossible thing. But what is impossible with men is possible with God. This is precisely what the Gospel tells us.

Assistant: A final question for the father...

Participant: Well ... my question is a bit related to the previous one. You mentioned that the freedom in this way, it's a freedom, and you cited the example of the state, that sometimes it is thought that in order to evangelize one has to make an appeal to the State, that it isn't so. But ... you said that we should be the leader of certain influences, including that of the State. But when you speak of conscientization and and it reminds me a bit of what Paulo Freire talked about, that this conscientization leads to a struggle to recover many things, but this fight for the most part is against the state, against the political powers and similar powers, so ... Is there a dichotomy between that struggle and the state's influence over us? That's what the question is pointing towards.

J. Comblin: Let's see ... Can you explain the purview of the question?

Participant: That you said we should be leading influences like the state, but the fight that leads to that conscientization is against the state that leads us to rely a bit again on the state and powers such as the state's, such as politics or similar ones. So, it seems to me that there could be some dichotomy in that. Fighting against an influence and in turn, ending up depending on that influence, as in the case of peasants or indigenous people.

J. Comblin: Yes ... well, the problem is not the state directly, because what rules in politics is not the State, it's the powers that dominate the state. The state is more figurative, but it's concealing the forces that want to maintain the society. In other words, the state is the executive agent that does the will of the powerful, those who are truly strong. So, the enemy is not the state because the state is an instrument, it can be an instrument of a ruling class, but also be an instrument of the poor. In other words, the problem is those who actually have the power and want to maintain, increase their power, their strength by all means. When the state is no longer enough, they use weapons.

And when there's a need to convince people of the justice of their cause, here they have television and the major newspapers. They try to explain that there's no way out; we must accept the situation as it is. So, in any case, it will get better. But ... without any intention. The speeches are nice, of course ... the speeches are pretty. And like the speeches of politicians, although nowdays they are making fewer and fewer speeches. The propaganda from what I've seen here is rather ... "vote for me because I'm the best." In other words, but ... at what? Who? What will they do specifically? What are the real measures they will take? And then, they're going to stop crime. How? By killing all the criminals? Or ... How? ... By putting them all in jail, for life, like in the United States, where there are two million prisoners?

So, you want it like that? In other words, they don't say ... don't say. So now, how many prisoners do you want to have in Chile? Half a million? How many? So, all that remains vague because the problem is that there's a whole structure. It may be that people who are there say: "I can't do anything else, I'm in it ... What will...what will I do?" "I'm working in a company. What will I do?" "I'm following company policy." But ... but in some way there are always gaps through which you can enter and affirm the desire for a new situation without resorting to arms, the use of money, the one who receives a lot of money from companies and...

Why do companies give so much money? For what? Ah ... it's to ... show that they're good, to show that they really want the salvation of the poor, the working class. So, they have to establish some works that are also part of the advertising budget. So, in such a way, the problem here is not authority, it's the forces and structures that maintain the status quo. In other words, people, everyone, you can't judge people, but the structure ... then yes, the structure. And then the people to the extent that they are accomplices ... that they are complicit.

There is a former president of the International Monetary Fund. After retirement, then he confesses that "we in the Monetary Fund have committed many injustices. We have caused much unnecessary suffering." But when he was president, he didn't say it. So, when he left ... then ... because once he is in the system ... well, he defends the system, promotes the system. Later comes an awareness that returns -- "and really what we did was not really loving, it wasn't truly loving." So, people -- each case is different -- you can't judge people globally, but the structure, yes. And then the people to the extent they defend [the system], then they dehumanize the structures that others take advantage of.

Participant: Don José ... within the oppressive forces, let's see ... in the way of Jesus, was His way to proceed with women. It was truly transforming, revolutionary. I've said something about the Catholic crisis, but I deal with many evangelical women and I've talked with them and what I'm going to say seems to me to also apply to the Evangelical Churches. How, what conversion does the patriarchal, chauvinist Church, as an oppressive force, need today to free us women?

I know we have ways ... right?. I have come a long way, we are doing ... but listening to even a brief opportunity for you to tell us how you see at this time, the patriarchal church still dominating, so many women. I don't know if I've explained myself ... It's clear ... (laughter)

J. Comblin: Well ... the controversy against Marxism is calming down now, including ... machismo! ... (laughter) Sorry ... So machismo is not ... (laughter) That is very strong ... very strong and difficult. Even in the Baptist church in Brazil, there are women pastors, but the women pastors are always or almost always lower, that is to say, they don't have the same prominence or the same opportunity. Machismo is going to be hard ... hard to destroy.

But with perseverance and especially if mothers raise their children to have the same requirements as their brothers. Because for girls ... there they have to do everything and have to be perfect. And the boys do what they want. And give orders. As infants, they begin to give orders. They already know they're male, and so they begin ... begin to give orders. Much of the education system, the whole education system tends to reinforce ... reinforce that. So, and this involves a change of mentality, no? In other words, women do not have enough sense of their strength, their ability, their humanity and so, they shouldn't bend so easily to patriarchal power. Patriarchal [power] that starts in the first years of life.

And so then, it's a transformation ... it's a progressive transformation, a slow one that depends on the affirmation of women. In the churches, too. That is, there are some that are more macho, such as the Catholic Church, and others that are less, but almost all are... almost all because it's a legacy ... a legacy. Because traditionally the male has the power. At least in the Neolithic civilizations, for the last ten thousand years. Before, it might have been different, in the fishing villages of Paleolithic times.

But what we have seen for thousands of years is that the male is considered, and considers himself and is accepted as the dominant one, the one in charge. Without any uprising of women, that it to say, you don't need to have weapons, it's not a question of having arms, having money, even of having college degrees, because we see that women are always relegated to less prestigious professions. How many women are teachers? Why? Ah ... because being a teacher is something that has little regard in society. In other words, it's nothing.

So, while in the companies, it's different ... different. So, now there's a tendency for medicine to be an ever more feminine mission. But why? Ah ... because it requires a lot of work, a lot of dedication ... a lot ... And so, that's for women. Males prefer less tiring careers, ones that are more pleasant. And then, the company of the sick isn't exactly very [pleasant].

And so, in the past, still today obviously, there are male doctors who do it with a feminine spirit, but ... more and more it seems to be women. So, you have to have an insurrection, and the same in the churches because they don't speak much. They bow down. So they accept, thinking that the Christian vocation is a vocation to obedience, to submission. No. It's a vocation to freedom, it is freedom, it is to be won. In other words, it won't come spontaneously. The rights that women have won, were through many struggles, with great perseverance. It wasn't easy. And the way, still in the middle of the way ... still has to be made. So, we will have to continue to persevere.