Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cardinal sees no theological obstacle to women's ordination

Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo, the Patriarch of Lison, Portugal, is making waves for a small part of a very long interview he gave to Oa, the journal of the Ordem dos Advocados, a lawyers' association.

The interviewer asked the cardinal about the role of women in the Catholic Church and the cardinal responded by talking about women in the priesthood. While stating that the Church bases its position on Jesus and apostolic tradition, he also said that he saw no theological obstacle to women's ordination. Referring to Pope John Paul II's absolute rejection of the notion of women priests, the cardinal said that while it appeared that he had settled the matter, "the matter isn't settled that way."

The cardinal also said that there is still a strong cultural tradition against women priests and that he knows many women who have very responsible positions in the church but are not at all interested in ordination. He said no pope can currently make it happen ("it would cause a lot of tension") but that women's ordination will happen "if God wants it to happen", though probably not in our lifetime.

Cardinal Policarpo is 75, the age at which most prelates retire, but he has been allowed to stay on in Lisbon another two years. He hold a doctorate in theology from "the Greg" and served for many years as dean of the Theological Faculty of the Portuguese Catholic University.

Now we are getting the usual institutional Catholic Church back-tracking with a spokesperson for the Bishops' Conference of Portugal, of which the cardinal is president, hurrying to assure the media that Policarpo in no way supports women's ordination. "The outcome of the interview wasn’t great, but to conclude that he was supporting the ordination of women is an exaggeration and even a distortion of what he said.”

Friday, July 1, 2011

Rethinking Christianity

by José Arregi (English translation by Rebel Girl)
June 30, 2011

Everybody knows that Hippocrates (5th century BC) is thought to be "the father of medicine" and the "doctor" par excellence. Rightly or wrongly, the famous "Hippocratic Oath" has been attributed to him:

"I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients..."

Many medical students, at graduation, continue to take the same oath, in an updated version and without mentioning the gods, since those ended up not being as immortal as Hippocrates thought.

It wouldn't be bad -- allow me to digress -- if politicians, businessmen and reporters took a similar oath in the name of what they hold most sacred:

“I swear I will tell the truth, care for life and defend the neediest without seeking personal profit."

And if bishops, instead of swearing obedience to the pope who named them and can promote them, would say:

"I swear by Jesus that I will defend freedom, fraternity, and equality in and outside of the Church."

And if all the theologians, instead of that "anti-modernist oath" that has prevailed up to a few years ago, also took their particular Hippocratic oath:

"I swear by the Spirit or Ruah of God that I will work to prepare new wine-skins for new wine, to liberate the good news from old dogmas, to create a rational and liberating new theology as God's Ruah for today's world."

Jesus prohibited swearing but He would like these oaths.

Let's get back to Hippocrates. He was a modern doctor in his day, and he let himself be guided by observation and experimentation. For example, he denied that the "holy disease" -- as epilepsy was called -- was due to an act of the gods, and he opposed treating it with spells. He treated it with a good diet.

Well, a doctor of our day, Manuel Guerra Campos -- brother of that fundamentalist bishop of Cuenca, a deputy in Cortes nominated by Franco, asserts in his La confesión de un creyente no crédulo ("Confession of an incredulous believer") that Hippocrates today wouldn't get more than a 0 on an anatomy exam. And Dr. Guerra Campos wonders: How is it possible, however, that the Church continues today with the same language and the same beliefs as hundreds and thousands of years ago?

That's where I was going. Isn't this the most important issue in these times? What would Hippocrates say about this serious disease engulfing his country, Greece, and our entire planet because of four rich people who have the most deadly of all diseases, limitless greed?

Without a doubt, this is also the most important question for the Church, much more important than "unbelief" and "relativism", the family and euthanasia and even abortion, not to mention religion in schools.

But I think it's also urgent for Christians to create a different theology, a theology that makes faith comprehensible again for today's world. That has always been the mission of theologians -- speaking of faith in a way that makes sense to men and women of each age and place. Only a rational theology can be liberating. Christianity must be rethought so that it can be a liberating gospel.

Christianity cannot be a liberating gospel as long as it holds on to concepts and paradigms of the past that today are anachronistic, absurd and even harmful.

That Hippocrates, a genius, could not pass any class in medicine today, seems normal to us. The same would happen to Descartes in philosophy, although philosophy hasn't evolved as much as the empirical sciences. But his famous "I think, therefore I am" would get him nowhere today and the tribunal would laugh at him if he reiterated that the body and the soul connect through the pineal gland. Even Einstein himself, the genius of geniuses and dead at just 56, would be suspended today in quantum physics, and would continue to naively assert that "God does not play dice."

Since He does play, although it's a manner of speaking. What's certain is that we can't go on doing theology, that is, talking about God using images and language that belong to outdated worldviews, to obsolete paradigms.

For example, we can't talk about God as one used to talk in a static, deterministic, pyramidal and geocentric world -- above, a heaven inhabited by gods with the Supreme God at the head, below, an earth created by God from the outside, and further below, a hell for bad people.

God isn't a Being, or a Something, or a Someone with a psychology and feelings like ours. God doesn't intervene from outside whenever He wants. God doesn't have to incarnate Himself, since He is the Flesh of the world, the Being of all that is, the Heart of all that beats, the active and passive Verb of all words, the Dynamism of all transformation, the Tenderness of every embrace, the You of every I and the I of every you, the Unity of all diversity and the Diversity of every unity, the Light in every glance, the Conscience of every mind, the Beauty and Goodness that sustain and move the universe in its infinite movement, in its infinite relationship.

And we can't talk about Jesus in terms of the dualist metaphysics that underlies the dogmas -- as if God were a distinct "substance" separate from the world, as if in Jesus He assumed "our substance" for the first and only time in a unique and miraculous way, as if God weren't the true Being of all that is, as if every human being weren't divine by the mere fact of being good. Jesus was a good man, a free man, and this sums up all the dogmas. It's that simple.

We can't talk about the revelation and the incarnation of God as if this planet were the center of the universe and as if the human species were the culmination of the evolution of life. The universe has no center, and life on this planet will still be evolving for billions of years, and surely in the infinity of other planets in a limitless universe as well. And God is the Heart and Mystery of the ever revealed and concealed universe, the Fire that dwells in it.

Nor can we talk about the human being as if bio-genetics and neuroscience had not shown that we don't have more consciousness and freedom than that which genes and neurons make us capable of. And it's not a little, but neither is it a lot (yet). Freedom is on the way, as are the cosmos, life and consciousness. Freedom is the goal of all creation.

And sin? How absurd and harmful is our traditional language about sin, and therefore about forgiveness! Sin is not guilt contracted with a divine being, but the wound, the mistake, the finiteness, and the damage. But we are loved and can go on -- that is forgiveness.

So we should continue to revise everything we say about "salvation" and "the beyond", to talk about it again with free words and new metaphors, since nothing of what is said is essential in faith, but rather the unutterable precisely. None other than St. Thomas Aquinas said it 800 years ago.

What's bad is that he would pass a theology exam today. With him, the opposite happens as what happens with Hippocrates and Einstein -- the ecclesial authorities of his time suspended him for heterodoxy, but later they proclaimed his theology to be a "perennial theology", immutable.

It simply makes no sense, and the "angelic doctor" would be the first to protest against continuing to approve the theology of eight centuries ago today, and he would tell us sorrowfully that we have betrayed him. In effect, being faithful to Saint Thomas Aquinas is not repeating him, but rather doing in our time what he did in his: rethinking Christianity so that it may be illumination and consolation, medicine and liberation.

A new society or a social and ecological tsunami?

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

In my last article I tossed out the idea, supported by a minority, that we are facing a systemic and terminal crisis of capitalism, and it's not a cyclical crisis. In other words, the conditions for its reproduction have been destroyed, either because the goods and services it can offer have reached the limit because of the devastation of nature, or because of the radical disruption of social relations dominated by a market economy in which financial capital is predominant. The dominant tendency is to think we can get out of the crisis, returning to what we had before, with minor revisions, ensuring growth, regaining employment and guaranteeing profits. Therefore, business will go on as usual.

The billion dollar interventions of the industrial states saved the banks and avoided the collapse of the system, but they have not transformed the economic system. Worse, the state injections facilitated the triumph of the speculative economy over the real economy. The first is considered the main trigger for the crisis, being led by real thieves who put their enrichment over the destiny of peoples, as seen now in Greece. The logic of maximum enrichment is corrupting individuals, destroying social relations and punishing the poor, who are accused of hindering the establishment of capital. The bomb with its fuse is still there. The problem is that anything could light the fuse. Many analysts wonder with fear if the world order would survive another crisis like the one we had.

French sociologist Alain Touraine says in his recent book Après la crise ("After the Crisis", Seuil 2010) that "crisis either accelerates the formation of a new society or becomes a tsunami, which can wipe out everything in its path, thereby threatening our very existence on planet Earth." All the more reason to support the thesis that we are facing a terminal situation for this type of capital. We urgently need to think about the values and principles that can be the foundation for a new way of inhabiting the Earth, of organizing the production and distribution of goods, not only for us (anthropocentrism must be overcome) but for the whole community of life. This was the objective in developing the Earth Charter, encouraged by M. Gorbachev who, as former head of state of the Soviet Union, knew the lethal instruments available to destroy up to the last human life, as he stated in several meetings.

Adopted by UNESCO in 2003, the Earth Charter in fact contains "principles and values for sustainable living, as common criteria for individuals, organizations, businesses and governments." It's urgent to study and be inspired by it, especially now, in preparation for Rio+20.

No one can predict what will come after the crisis. There are only hints. We're still in the diagnostic phase of its root causes. Unfortunately, it's mostly economists who are analyzing the crisis, and less sociologists, anthropologists, philosophers and scholars of cultures. What is becoming clear is this: there has been a threefold separation: financial capital is disengaged from the real economy, the economy as a whole from society, and society in general from nature. And this separation has created such a cloud of dust that we no longer see the road ahead.

The "outraged ones" who fill the plazas of some European countries and the Arab world, are putting the system in check. It is a bad system for most of humanity. Up to now they were silent victims, but now they cry out loudly. They are not just seeking jobs, but mainly demanding basic human rights. They want to be subjects, that is, actors in another type of society where the economy is at the service of policy and policy at the service of living well, of people among themselves and with nature. Surely it's not enough to want. Global coordination is called for, creating organisms that would make a different way of living together feasible, and political representation linked to general longings and not to the interests of the market. We must rebuild the social life.

For my part I see signs in many parts of the emergence of an ecocentric and biocentric global society. Its axis is the life-system, the Earth system and humanity. Everything must focus on this. Otherwise, it will be hard to avoid a potential ecological and social tsunami.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

WikiLeaks reveals the Vatican's concern about the state of the Church in Brazil

Correio do Estado (Brazil)
UOL, 29/06/2011

A document obtained and released by Wikileaks on Wednesday (6/29/2011) shows that at the time of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Brazil in 2007, the Vatican was concerned about the growth of evangelicals in the country and had received criticism from the Brazilian Monsignor Stefano Migliorelli (photo), who questioned the authority about the shortage of priests in Latin America.

The telegram sent to Washington on May 6, 2007 reveals conversations between various members of the Vatican and former U.S. Ambassador Francis Rooney, a Republican businessman from the construction industry and major campaign donor to former U.S. President George W. Bush.

The U.S. diplomat made a comparison between the first visit of John Paul II to Brazil in 1980, when Catholics represented 89% of the population and the Census of 2000, when the number of Catholics was 74%.

"Each year, millions of Latin American Catholics leave their churches to join mostly evangelical congregations - a departure actively encouraged, according to the Catholic Church, by the pastors of these new flocks," said Rooney.

He also said that, "according to one analysis, while the Catholic Church focuses on 'saving souls', many of the evangelical churches tackle day-to-day problems while making just enough doctrinal demands to satisfy the Latin American thirst for mysticism."

Without revealing sources, the document says that John Paul II referred to the evangelicals' activities as "sinister" and that one of the main tasks of Benedict XVI would be to awaken the Catholic community and encourage resistance to what the late Pope had called "poaching by the sects".

Migliorelli, then head of the Brazilian section of the Vatican Secretariat of State, had already complained to the American diplomat about the fact that Latin America is not a priority area for the Catholic Church.

According to Migliorelli, Brazil and Latin America are like "mission territory" - lands that have not been exposed "consistently" to the Catholic faith. "We have to approach this like evangelization - starting from scratch," said Migliorelli.

The Monsignor also criticized the quantity and quality of Latin American clergy. "The priest shortage in much of Latin America is far worse than that in the United States," he said. Migliorelli also said that "their [the priests'] level of education is often very low, and they often don't adhere to standards of clerical discipline (celibacy, regular offering of the sacraments, etc.)"

In a topic called "The threat of liberation theology", the U.S. diplomat commented that Pope John Paul II had made great efforts to end "this Marxist analysis of class struggle" promoted "by a significant number of Catholic clergy and lay people, who in a political compromise sometimes sanctioned violence 'on behalf of the people.'"

Migliorelli commented that the Vatican did not intend to touch the subject during the pope's visit. The document continues: "The key is simply for the clergy to be trained more effectively to explain the Church's position to the people, he concluded."

According to the diplomat, John Paul II fought liberation theology with the help of Benedict XVI, but in recent years, it has been popping up in many parts of Latin America.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The feminine perspective....

By Adolfo Huerta Alemán (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Letras del Norte
June 27, 2011

"For most of history, Anonymous was a Woman" -- Virginia Woolf

Who the hell cares about women priests? Well, you and me -- or at least it should matter to us -- and the subject should be included as an item on the next agenda at the Vatican, one of the remaining tasks of the Catholic Church. It's not just that the Church continues to bury its head in the sand, and act as if nothing is happening, and we're fine.

How do we put the issue on the table? Given a hierarchical Church led by men only for little more than two thousand years, and given parishioners who have been educated in a traditional manner from the male perspective and by male priests. How do we become sensitive and open to this proposal? One that, in my opinion, is already delayed and perhaps is coming late for our universal Church. Perhaps the priesthood of women will come when there are no more Catholics who want to live and celebrate their faith, therefore, Catholic churches will only be large tombs - mausoleums that remind us that there once were faithful.

As they say over there, maybe the Church isn't done for, but what is true is that it's going to be more and more alone. I hope to be wrong.

Here the task is inclusion rather than dignity. Women's dignity and their equality are not being disputed -- let's not forget that we believe in a God who created us woman and man equally, in His image and likeness. Nor is it that women have to have Holy Orders in order to be equal to men, or have the wrong idea about earning their dignity that way.

The dignity of every human being is not given to them by a state -- a government, or an alleged church/religion in particular. Every human being has dignity simply by being born and being alive -- every woman and man has dignity, it comes intrinsic to their Being, regardless of their skin color, race, nationality, religion, sexual preference, or social status.

And when I speak of inclusion, I mean including women in the Holy Orders, not within the Church, since we know they are the ones who really work in our churches; only women are the majority who have ministries in our Christian communities.

During the 19th century, the greatest moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century it's the brutality against so many women and girls around the world: the traffic of thousands of girls and young women in prostitution and sex trafficking, child pornography, acid attacks on women who aren't virgins, bride burning, and mass rape. One study found that 39,000 girls die every year in China because their parents don't give them the same medical care as male children. (Letras Libres No. 136, April 2010, page 15). Let's not forget the Chinese proverb that says: "Women hold up half the sky."

The world is waking up to a powerful truth: women and girls are not the problem, they're the solution. What a pity that the Catholic Church isn't waking up to that truth and isn't going hand in hand with humanity, that once again the Church is standing aside and is both being cowardly and not accompanying humanity in its evolutionary process. So, I don't advocate for a church that doesn't accompany humanity or stand at its side in its dreams and frustrations.

Sure, it's fair to ask: "Give more power to women? That's fine, but how do you do it effectively in our Church?"

We would do well to begin with education in all its aspects starting with education in the family. I come from a family of five and I have three sisters, whose parents taught us that we all have the same opportunities, rights and obligations. Machismo does not begin in the Church or in culture; it begins in the family. And education has a lot to do with the early influences of our training, then it goes on in school, continues in the Church, in society, and then in culture. We must end this cursed phrase: "If you're a woman, why are you studying if you're just going to get married? What's left for you if you were born a woman?"

It's not fashionable to talk about the priesthood for women, nor is it to distract from other urgent social problems such as corruption and violence. Rather, it is the result of evolution and women's awareness of the irreplaceable role of her Being -- in the family, in society, at work, in culture, in politics, in social matters and in the Church.

If I'm writing these lines, it's in response to a sad and age-old reality: we still see oppression, injustice and exploitation towards many women today. We must acknowledge that almost ALL of us have caused this situation, and on more than one occasion women themselves have gone from being the victim to being the aggressor -- the executioner -- and they themselves are complicit in their own tomb.

It is very necessary even to talk and write about the great debt that man and his Church have with respect to women in all fields of social and cultural progress, and I'm not saying it just to open the priesthood to women. Let's not forget this in a country like ours [Mexico], where more than 21% of households are supported only on a woman's shoulders, where over 39% of families are broken by divorce, and it's the divorced women who raises their children. How does one be a woman and not die trying? An exaggeration? You think so? Women, what do you think?

It's a challenge to women themselves today to recognize their own identity -- dignity -- and not underestimate themselves because they are women.

Don't rule out that the things we have become accustomed to end up changing, from our narrow point of view -- part of nature and of an immutable nature. Custom becomes law, and it ends up being the qualified exponent of reality. The dominant social order, at least in Western cultures, established a hierarchical social system determined by sex. This gender order determined human structures and relationships, so men imposed themselves, and not to mention that our Church ended up being directed exclusively by chauvinist men.

We have the task of removing the prejudices that have accompanied our history with respect to women. Not to mention in the Bible -- in the biblical texts about women, they are like the tip of the iceberg, the merest hint of what is submerged and hidden in the silence of history. But well, that leads to another essay, which we'll talk about later. What kind of God are we Christians proclaiming when women are always in second place?

How do we open ourselves up to priesthood for women? By spreading the discussion in our families, our communities, and in our groups. Sure, women should be the first not to oppose this and underestimate themselves for this beautiful task.

Women have been educated as "women for men". Consequently, women fear losing their feminine identity and prestige in the cultural and religious spheres if they are no longer worthy of their relationship with Jesus, the perfect man for whom they live. (from Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza in her controversial book Cristología Feminista Crítica...Hacia una Cristología Rosa; Ed. Trotta; 2000)

Let's not be afraid to break with traditionalism and prejudice, since they no longer respond to faith experience in contemporary society. Let's fight for the new faces of the Church, so that it will really reach women and men of this era.

I'm not saying that with priesthood for women, many of the problems of Church and society will end, but if we would share them, and complement them with the female point of view...our priesthood lacks your point of view, WOMAN!

For example, if in my diocese there are little more than 160 priests to serve the entire population covered by my diocese, if there were women priests now, there's no doubt that we would double in number and have little more than 160 women priests -- along with the men, we would be a little more than 300 men and women pastors. There would be more people served and guided, there would be more parishes in our diocese, there would be more promotion about the tenderness of God...but, in the end, I think we the Church end up losing more by closing the priesthood to women.

It seems to me that the Vatican, with all its bishops and priests, is afraid to let go of power to women since if women were now priests, they would be more committed and would work more alongside our people. Ahhh, how macho! No. What very small men....

Let's see when the Catholic Church will react and we'll see the birth of the first seminary for women seminarians. Who will sign up to become the first woman priestess of Letras del Norte?

From Sojourner Truth, an African-American former slave who could not read and write:

Where did your Christ come from?
From God and a woman!
Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made
was strong enough to turn the world
upside down all alone,
these women together ought to be able
to turn it back, and get it right side up again!

And this is even better: "Get up every morning and live, Woman, because when your feet touch the ground, even the pinche Devil himself says: 'Hell! That one's already up. What a bitch!'"

To start opening our minds, watch the film "Whale Rider". You can rent or watch it via internet.

Adolfo Huerta Alemán is a priest in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico, who blogs on Letras del Norte.

The Feast of Corpus Christi in 2*11

One of my favorite Spanish Jesuit theologians shares a vision... His reflections are very appropriate in light of the recent criticism leveled at the Spanish Catholic hierarchy by the Foro de Curas de Madrid, a group of some 120 progressive priests, many of whom work with the poor, over the high cost of World Youth Day 2011 and the cozy relationship between the Archdiocese of Madrid and the big corporations that are helping to underwrite the event.-RG

by José Ignacio González Faus (English translation by Rebel Girl)
June 26, 2011

We started on Thursday to propose a vision for the feast of Corpus Christi, renewed for the twenty-first century. And on Sunday (the two days on which one can celebrate the feast) we return with a vision that, despite being obvious, the author only dares to place in one of the next few centuries of this millennium.

The year was 2*11 when, as the Christian celebration of Corpus Christi was approaching, the president of the Bishops' Conference and of the Confederation of Religious, went to all the authorities of the Spanish church, more or less with these words:

"The feast of the Eucharist (the physical and hidden presence of Christ among us) coincides with the figure of almost five million unemployed -- more than one million households where no member has any income. As the journalists say, behind abstract figures there are real human human faces, people, tragedy and despair that, for a Christian, become the sacramental presence of the Lord who said, "Whatever you do (or fail to do) for one of My suffering brothers or sisters, you do unto Me."

With this data, our faith would be a lie if we didn't direct our worship and our veneration towards these anonymous sacramental faces of Christ.

The Church doesn't have many assets -- our salaries are modest, our Caritas is completely overwhelmed, dioceses and religious orders have an inverted population pyramid and have to attend a striking number of elderly and infirm. But even under these conditions, the Church has some treasures usually dedicated to worship.

There is no doubt that the greatest worship we can give to God is loving our brothers. "I don't need your offerings," says the Lord, "the worship that I want is this: to share your bread with the hungry, to open your home to the tired" (Is 58) ... John Paul II ordered that "in cases of need, one should not give preference to superfluous church ornaments and costly furnishings for divine worship; on the contrary, it could be obligatory to sell these goods to provide bread, clothing and shelter for those who lack these things" (SRS 31). It would be pointless to beatify people who we are not willing to heed.

So we decided to make an assessment of all those ornaments and precious objects of worship that our Church owns (the monstrance of Toledo, the entrances of La Sagrada Familia, the gold and silver vessels and candelabras that fill our churches ...). And to consult a group of experts on the most effective way to dispose of these items for service to the poor (sales, auctions, guarantees for mortgages, financing for micro credit, investments in jobs ...).

It's not up to us to elucidate the best way for what the Church has to reach the poor, but we must remember the Master's injunction: "There is still one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor." We don't want to walk away saddened by these words, lest we incur the harsh reproach the Lord gave to the young man who reacted that way.

In order to make the meaning of that decision more comprehensible, we also propose this year that wherever Corpus Christi processions are held, the Blessed Sacrament will not be carried in golden monstrances, but in modest containers such as those they must have used at the Lord's Supper. And under the canopy, along with the priest or pastor in each place, a person or family who are members of that group of the unemployed, crucified by an economic system built on greed, would bear the Sacrament. Thus the faithful will see the inseparability of God's presence in the sacrament and in the victims of our history.

In the tragic situation in which we live, we want to end by reminding those five million indigent people of a fundamental principle of Christian morality. It will irritate many, but the Church must not silence the law of God just because it's annoying. Catholic morality has always taught that "in cases of extreme necessity, all things are common" and therefore those who are truly in such extreme situations don't sin if they take something they need that, legally speaking, isn't theirs but morally, it is. Certainly they will run the risk of legal punishment (from those who are usually much harder on the little ones than on the big offenders). But the Church has the duty to tell them they incur no moral fault"...

Finally, I repeat: All this happened in the Feast of Corpus Christi of 2*11, not 2011.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Spanish Bishops' Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith cuts off Pagola's series on the four evangelists

By P. Ontoso (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Diario Vasco
June 27, 2011

The Bishops' Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith has denied the "nihil obstat" (no objection) to the second book by José Antonio Pagola on the Gospels, titled El camino abierto por Jesús. Marcos ["The road opened by Jesus: Mark"], deeming that at certain points "the teaching of the text is opposed to explicit statements of the Magisterium of the Church", and because of the accumulation of a series of "ambiguities." The first volume cleared the barrier of ecclesiastical censure last November, which put Pagola's critics on alert that a second one would come. The manuscript has ended on the table of the general secretariat of the commission, led by José Rico Pavés, an old acquaintance of the Basque theologian who already discredited him for Jesús. Aproximación histórica ["Jesus: An Historical Approximation"].

At the time, Rico Pavés signed a harsh article against Pagola's Jesus, which later became an extensive note of clarification -- not condemnation -- by the Doctrine of the Faith on the work of historical research. Nearly five years later, the former vicar of San Sebastian is undergoing an ordeal again by the same body of bishops. Rico, who figures in many pools as a candidate for the miter, is the expert of the commission which is now chaired by the Bishop of Almeria, Adolfo Gonzalez, and whose members include Manuel Urueña, Archbishop of Zaragoza, Alfonso Carrasco Rouco, bishop of Lugo, Juan Antonio Reig Pla, titular bishop of Alcalá de Henares, Luis Quintero, bishop of Tuy-Vigo and Enrique Benavent, auxiliary bishop of Valencia.

Despite the secrecy of the "Pagola case", this newspaper has had access to the doctrinal report on the Basque theologian's manuscript, a harsh 15-page allegation peppered with dismissive language that speaks of "unfortunate" formulations, "confusing" statements and "constant" ambiguity. The report supports its arguments in texts collected from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith itself, such as Dominus Iesus -- the document on the unicity of the Catholic Church as true faith, the Catechism of the Church, Dei Filius -- the dogmatic constitution on faith from Vatican I, the Credo of the People of God, John Paul II's encyclical Veritatis Splendor, and it even goes back to the Council of Trent. It also refers to pronouncements that have been made against prominent theologians who have been punished by silencing, such as Leonardo Boff, Roger Haight, and Jon Sobrino -- the last two, Jesuits.

The opinion barely offers a positive concession to the "undoubted merits" of the author, such as having achieved a "warm and simple statement, which is easy to read and thought-provoking." Starting on the first page, the censors already find "a series of ambiguities concerning the basic teachings of Christian faith, and even claims that one can't see how they can be compatible with certain pronouncements of the Church."

In the analysis of "Following Christ: faith and religion", the report states that Pagola's approach "is incompatible with the Catholic faith" when, among other statements, he writes that "the first task of the Church is not to celebrate worship, develop theology, or preach morality, but to heal, liberate from evil, get out of the doldrums, cleanse life, help to live a healthy way." The report warns of the danger of reducing truth to praxis, something which was already covered in the first document of the Doctrine of the Faith on liberation theology. It adds that "a consequence of what Pagola affirms by not adequately emphasizing the confession of faith in favor of practice, is the risk of slipping into approaches that are characteristic of religious pluralism."

In the section on "Identity of Jesus Christ and the mystery of God", the report notes the "relativization of dogmatic formulas on the basis of praxis." The censors associated the author's position with the one J. Sobrino held "where the Christological confession of faith was streamlined by liberating praxis to the extent that dogmatic formulas were considered 'dangerous'. Without going to those extremes of J. Sobrino," they continue, "it seems that for J.A. Pagola the confession of the truth about Christ is quite irrelevant to the Christian life, where the only thing that matters is liberating action, which appears to be reduced to the mere alleviation of earthly misery."

The devil exists

One issue that the censors put forward as "an example of ambiguity" is the assertion that the Church must overcome male domination "without ever specifying what it is." "To many readers, given the cultural environment," they write, "it would mean that the greatest 'discrimination' against women in the Church is that they can not receive Holy Orders." "Does he mean to say that women should be admitted to priestly ministry, thus opposing an infallible teaching?" Finally the opinion refers to the "ongoing ambiguity" about sin as well as the texts in which possessed people and exorcisms appear, to conclude that Pagola "silences truths of faith, such as the existence of the devil."

According to what this newspaper has been able to learn, Pagola has responded to all accusations of the Commission of the Doctrine of the Faith. Fed up, but in a state of mind that has nothing to do with this, when it has externalized a case that has more and more to do with personal persecution. Meanwhile, the publishing executives are looking for a different label where Pagola's work can be replenished since, much to his chagrin, he has become an icon of free ecclesiastical thought.

Witnesses to the Kingdom

by Dom Pedro Casaldáliga
Emeritus Bishop of São Félix do Araguaia, Brazil
(English translation by Rebel Girl)
June 24,2011

The subject-theme of our Pilgrimage of the Martyrs in this year 2011 is "Witnesses to the Kingdom." It is the most comprehensive and profound title one could choose for a martyrial pilgrimage. Giving one's life bearing witness to the God of Life, Peace and Love. All those who are giving their lives daily and giving them completely at the end of their journey, are witnesses to God's plan for Humanity, for the Universe. They are responding with the best they have to God's dream, the Kingdom of God.

With these two words - "Witnesses to the Kingdom" - we summarize everything that can be said about a life given, a death lived. In the most traditional Christian view, that death is lived through Christian faith. The martyrs whom the Church recognizes officially are martyrs of the faith, Christian morality, the Gospel, specifically: missionaries perhaps, victims of heroic charity, virgins radically faithful to the divine Spouse.

In a renewed Christian vision, a deeper one, more consonant with the Word and the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, all those who give their lives through dying for the causes of the Kingdom -- for justice, peace, solidarity, ecology, for the true advancement of the marginalized neighbor -- are martyrs. Jesus in the Gospel defines them categorically: the greatest proof of love is to give one's life for love. Our Fr. João Bosco Penido Burnier gave his life as a missionary among indigenous people and peasants and gave his life to free two women subjected to torture.

These days there's news, at least in the media that's more at the service of the people, about the killing in the south of Para of an activist couple in the service of nature -- Cláudio José and Maria do Espírito Santo (photo). After Chico Mendes and Sister Dorothy, two more environmentalists have been killed in southern Pará. Sadly the same day in which the Chamber of Deputies approved the sinister new Forest Code that will legalize deforestation, granting amnesty for the crimes of loggers. Cláudio José and Maria do Espírito Santo are two new martyrs of the forest.

To be a Christian is to bear witness, to respond with one's own life to the call of the Kingdom and prophetically denounce the wickedness of the anti-Kingdom. To respond daily, faithfully, to God's love through fraternal service. It is being consistent with the word made proclamation and the proclamation made practice. It is to be a witness, first, to the supreme witness, Jesus of Nazareth, proclaimed in Revelation as "The Faithful Witness." He came to do the will of the Father, radically witnessing to God's love. He came so that all may have life and fullness of life. He repeated to His persecutors and to all the people that His works bore witness to Him who sent Him.

A chain of "witnessing". Jesus bears witness to the Father, the martyrs bear witness to Jesus, we bear witness to our martyrs. We are witnesses of witnesses. And we celebrate the Pilgrimage of the Martyrs of the Way, in the Sanctuary of Ribeirão Cascalheira to keep alive the memory of all of those who fell gloriously, with the testimony of their own blood.

We celebrate the Pilgrimage of the Martyrs in one day, in one place, to reassume the commitment to live as witnesses to the Kingdom every day and everywhere. To bear witness to the testimony of our martyrs and renew, with passion, radically, with joy, our following of Jesus, in seeking the Kingdom, in living out the Kingdom, in celebration of the Kingdom, in invincible hope for the Kingdom.

For my priestly ordination, around 1952, I chose as a memento a card with that El Greco painting that shows Jesus looking up to the Father and surrendering Himself at His service. Sacrifices don't please You and I came to do Your will, Jesus says. For the memento, I picked chapter 1, verse 8 of the Acts of the Apostles: "You shall be My witnesses to the ends of the earth."

And to any border and in all circumstances, we will continue on the way, as witnesses of witnesses, as "Witnesses to the Kingdom".

Sr. Teresa Forcades: "God isn't the one who denies women access to the priesthood"

La Vanguardia

Barcelona. (EFE) -- Teresa Forcades, the Catalan doctor and Benedictine nun who became popular for her criticism of the pharmaceutical industry because of the influenza A epidemic, vindicates the role of women in the Catholic Church in her book "La teología feminista en la historia" ("Feminist theology in history", Editorial Fragmenta, 2011), which has just been published in Spanish.

The work, which was published in Catalan by Fragmenta in 2007, vindicates a score of women, such as Isabel de Villena, Teresa de Jesús, María de Ágreda and Anna M. van Schurmann, whose lives the author takes a look at as she asks "why they have been so forgotten."

In her book, Forcades (Barcelona, 1966) rescues "the history of women who have experienced the confrontation between the public discourse about God and their own experience of God" and puts her new work in the context of "liberation theology".

According to the Benedictine nun, who has degrees in medicine from the University of Barcelona (1990) and theology from the Faculty of Theology of Catalonia, "feminist theology is a critical theology."

"The goal of critical theology is twofold: to bring out the aspects of received interpretation that generate contradictions, and to try to offer theologically consistent alternative interpretations to overcome them," according to the critical nun.

Forcades acknowledges that "given that these contradictions often come from situations of discrimination or injustice, critical theologies are also called theologies of liberation, and feminist theology is a form of critical or liberation theology."

The nun explains that "the path of the feminist theologian is, therefore, necessarily a path of struggle and vindication, but this doesn't mean it has to be just a path of struggle and vindication."

In her book, Teresa Forcades argues that, "God created women and men equal in dignity" and that "He isn't the one who thinks women are less spiritual than men."

She also argues that "God created women and men with the same ability to intervene in the public sphere, and that He isn't the one who denies women access to politics, paid professions or the priesthood."

She also states that God created both genders "equal in the ability to love and intervene in the domestic sphere, and that He isn't the one who allocated household chores and caring for children, the sick and the elderly, to women."

Forcades, who devoted her doctoral thesis in public health to alternative medicine and her doctoral thesis in theology to the concept of persons, has published two other books, "Trinitat, avui" ("The Trinity today", Abadía de Montserrat, 2005) and "Los crímenes de las grandes compañías farmacéuticas" (Cristianisme i Justicia, 2006, published in English as Crimes and Abuses of the Pharmaceutical Industry).

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The church of the poor and the conservative offensive: lessons and dilemmas of our strategy

After the 24-day fast by the retired bishop of San Miguel de Sucumbíos, Ecuador, Mons. Gonzalo López Marañón (photo), calling for peace and reconciliation in his old diocese, the Iglesia San Miguel de Sucumbíos Web site published the following analysis from the
Comisión de Vivencia, Fe y Política (June 2011). One of our regular viewers sent it to me and suggested it would be worth translating and publishing. I agree. -- RG

Latin America has been seen recently as the only continent that went from resistance to constructing alternatives to neoliberalism. However, the economic policy of "progressive" governments reveals that while the implemented policies move away from neoliberalism in its orthodox version, at the same time they are far from being an alternative to global capitalism. In Ecuador, the government has its sights on an extractive economy with large-scale mining. The great challenge of the popular and left wing movements is to become decisive factors that push for a radical and profound change that lays the foundations for a post-capitalist society. Such a challenge is more complex and difficult when these movements have to face not only the actions of the right wing but the repression and persecution of these "progressive" governments themselves.

At the church level, we are witnessing one of the peaks of the conservative offensive led by the Vatican. The rapid ascent to the altar of John Paul II, the main manager of church counter reform, symbolizes this offensive. The Vatican is putting the most conservative ecclesial movements like Opus Dei and Heralds of the Gospel (Tradition, Family and Property) in formerly progressive dioceses with the express purpose of liquidating all that remains of liberation theology. Despite the somewhat progressive resolutions of the 5th Latin American Bishops Conference held in Aparecida in May 2007, the resistance strategies of popular church groups have been extremely weak.

The conflict in the Church in Sucumbíos shows the fragility and potential of liberating processes in the face of the conservative offensive. The importance of the expulsion of the Heralds of the Gospel can not be minimized. It is a great achievement for the resistance of the Church of the Poor. It was not easy to do and we should all congratulate and commend the brothers and sisters of ISAMIS. But deep down there is still a strategy problem. By the late 1960s and early 1970s the Latin American church wanted to make the Catholic Church a "community of communities." That attempt has failed. As Jose Comblin put it well when he joined us for the First Encounter of the Church of the Poor ("Primer Encuentro de Iglesia de los Pobres") in 2006, "it was naive to think that the whole church would be transformed into a community of poor communities. That was to ignore history."

We must urgently revise this strategy. A look at the people's church processes we have experienced will allow us to identify the main strategic dilemmas we face and will help us rectify them with a view to creating the basic conditions to resist the Vatican offensive from a better position. We will present for discussion our understanding of what those central dilemmas and challenges for a renewed strategy are.

Working in silence vs the prophetic option

So far, large segments of the Church of the Poor have been subordinate to the institutional church, seeking to "not make waves", avoiding open clashes, public and media confrontations. The cost of this strategy has been giving up open and public prophetic witness. This strategy certainly helps to build local grassroots structures, buys time, and avoids the intervention of conservative hierarchies as foundational work is developing that requires leadership and an active role from the clergy. But eventually you give up public prophetic action and sacrifice the opportunity to help create a social image of a church distant from hegemonic power, close to populiar interests and the process of social struggle. A Church that, as happened during the time of Bishop Leonidas Proaño, can activate a structured network of political support, a major social mobilization, and can win public opinion in broad sectors in times of conflict.

Local vs. national work

So far most of the Church of the Poor has focused on parish work, local organization, and, at best, a strategy confined to the diocesan level. We lack a space to coordinate nationally, with its own structures. The work of the People's Church is mainly local and parochial. Few have been willing to move forward on real national processes, communication networks, structures that can activate solidarity between local groups. The few continental links that have been developed are often just formal, without effective and functional national structures. So the result has been an organizationally weak process that is dispersed and politically vulnerable, with no accepted and recognized public leadership.

Autonomous structures vs. belonging to the institutional church

The demand to create autonomous structures, independent of the institutional church, has often been viewed with suspicion. It has been considered a threat to church unity or a lack of identity with the Church. However, the truth is that the only processes that have survived after the conservative offensive have been structures built autonomously from the institutional church. Their autonomy is economic, political and ideological, and their dynamics don't answer to the institutional needs and interests. Virtually all structures built on the basis of dependence of the Church -- if they have survived == have done so by renouncing the commitment to liberation.

This is evident in Ecuador. Two distinct bishops, both progressive, with two different styles and with similar results. Bishop Leonidas Proaño, with strong public prophetic action, who had national and global reach. His public action cost him quite a few open confrontations with his fellow bishops and persecution from political and economic powers. On the other hand, Bishop Gonzalo López Marañon, through quiet pastoral action, without making waves, with no more public denunciations than were strictly necessary and almost exclusively developed within the diocesan environment, with an almost unknown ministry, or one known only within the progressive arenas of the church. The results of both experiments are clear. In Chimborazo, what could escape institutional changes were the indigenous and people's organizations that created their own structures independent of the institution, such as the Indigenous Movement of Chimborazo. The so- called "living churches" (indigenous communities which included gospel reading in their social dynamics) survived with difficulty due in many cases to dependency on the priests who served as animators and provided legitimacy and trust to the organization. Basic Ecclesial Communities virtually disappeared, although some survived in completely marginal conditions, resisted, and were waiting for a priest to come to their aid. But the dynamics of the church in Riobamba suffered a radical setback: more sacraments, less popular organization; more church, less new society.

Something similar is happening in Sucumbíos. With the brutal and ruthless arrival of the Heralds of the Gospel, the most structured resistance was organized from the Women's Federation of Lago Agrio, the main trench for confronting the conservative offensive is the popular and civil society organizations, supported and sustained without doubt, by the basic ecclesial communities. Although in this case we have yet to see the final outcome and how the CEBs will turn out, it's clear that whatever happens, the church organizations will exist as long as there are priests, nuns and religious organizations who relate to their pastoral principles. After the important victory of the resistance by expelling the Heralds of the Gospel, is it reasonable to assume that the Vatican will appoint a progressive bishop who relates to liberation theology? Of course, the answer is no. Although it's possible that some miracle might occur, it's more likely that the final successor will come from the moderate or conservative sectors who will make the changes more slowly but equally implacably. This is what has happened everywhere, from Riobamba to Los Rios, from Guaranda to Cuenca. The result will surely be the same: structures built under the protection of the Church don't stand up to hierarchical change. The case of Radio Sucumbíos is the best example of a repeated strategic error: leaving liberating structures in the hands of the Church when their property could have been transferred into the hands of the laity, of a community with its own legal status or some social organization. No social struggle is guaranteed, but it's clear that there are better chances of resisting changes introduced by the conservative hierarchy when there is lay autonomy.

The strategic dilemmas mentioned above are real and nobody has the magic formula to make them disappear. The silent, parochial and internal strategies of the church may have exhibited significant achievements. But they have hit their limits under the conservative pressure from the Church. It's time to review these strategic issues so that in each area of the liberating church and grassroots organizations we're better able to resist and build alternatives. Do we need national structures? How should they be? Do we need a public voice? Who or whom should throw themselves into winning public opinion? Do we need autonomous structures in face of the Church? Which ones and how do we sustain them? Above all, to change our strategies we must put the essential back in place: the "Kingdom-centric" nature of the church of the poor. The point is to build the Kingdom, "the rest will be added." So we must relativize the institutional church, its structure, its practices, its distorted message that betrays the gospel. We must resolutely combat the hegemonic dynamics of the church. And all this should be considered in light of the historical struggles of the victims of the system, not from the interests of the church but from the urgent need to combat the capitalist system in crisis that generates all kinds of inequality. The Church of the poor should be one more tool, along with many others, in this historical process of building the Kingdom of God.