Saturday, October 27, 2012

"The only theology possible": the "La Diaria" interview with José Ignacio González Faus, SJ

by Luis Rómboli (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La Diaria
October 22, 2012

José Ignacio González Faus is a Jesuit priest in the Catholic Church, born in Valencia in 1935 and living in Barcelona. He has been a professor of theology and director of the Centro Cristianismo y Justicia, as well as author of several books. He has come to Uruguay to give some lectures on the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. He supports liberation theology because of its "preference for the poor" and the decriminalization of abortion. He is critical of the Roman curia and thinks the Church doesn't respect women's rights.


The Second Vatican Council was convened in 1959 by Pope John XXIII, but began in 1963 and was completed in 1965 by his successor, Paul VI. It aimed at the renewal of the Church and its adaptation to changing times. For González Faus, that council "was a very important event and over the next 50 years, [the Church] has not been faithful to its intentions."

Many conciliar documents "were drafted in such a way that there's always a line in one direction and one in another, and sometimes they're a bit contradictory," he explains. "Although the intention was to use the language of the people and a liturgical reform was launched for that, there are people who will seize on a phrase in order to keep using Latin," he says as an example. On the Church, "collegiality was established, but there's nothing left of that" because "the Synod of Bishops only has deliberative powers and has many members who are appointed from above," he adds. In one of the constitutions, "it's reinforced that the Church doesn't have the answer to everything and that its only desire is to be serving the world as any other. It's accepted that the Church has received much over its history from those who were outside, and especially from non-believers," but the practice of Church authorities after the council "hasn't been that. The Church is presented as the one that knows everything, and when something comes from outside, they don't listen to it," he says.

González Faus is critical of church authorities, especially the Roman curia. "You need an authority, but it's one of the great dangers of human society because it tends to become authoritarianism and eliminates fraternity and equality," he says. "Jesus has a memorable phrase: 'Those who rule on earth do two things: they oppress and call themselves benefactors. Among you, it shall not be so.' The anti-gospel manner in which authority is exercised in the Church is a danger and there should be more procedural democracy," he says. "The Roman Curia is stuck like a wedge between the pope and the bishops, and often makes more decisions than they, who are the apostolic body, do. Decisions are made without dialogue and communion," he adds.

Decriminalization

González Faus isn't surprised that decriminalization of abortion is being discussed in Uruguay, because this "is happening all over the Western world." "In principle, I don't agree that abortion is a woman's right to dispose of her body and do what she wants to. There's something in her body that isn't hers," he says. But that's "one thing, and it's another for every woman who aborts to have to be punished and put in jail." According to the Jesuit, St. Thomas Aquinas "said the mission of civil power isn't implementing what is good, forbidding what is evil, but rather promoting coexistence". And he mentions a situation he knew about in Spain, where a Colombian immigrant, undocumented and with a young child, "gets a job as a domestic worker and the husband of the family gets her pregnant. Then they fire her for being immoral and this girl has an abortion because she has no other way out." He considers himself "pro-life", but reaffirms that in this case "you can't put her in jail." "It may be that some might take advantage of the decriminalization law, people who could care for the child, but abort because it bothers them. That's not right, but the fact that a rule can be abused doesn't attack its validity," he says.

On homosexuality, González Faus argues that "the Bible refers to people who were jaded from totally libertine sexual practices and ultimately tried other things. Those are the homosexuals who the Bible criticizes," but not "homosexuals by constitution, by nature." "You can't condemn anyone to mandatory celibacy, against their will; they should live their homosexuality in the most dignified way, with a partner, giving love, and the Church should tolerate it," he adds.

For this theologian "there are certain attitudes in the official Church that aren't compatible with women's rights, although Pope John XXIII said that the promotion of women was a sign of the times." "It seems that our authorities are not characterized by reading the signs of the times well," he adds. Women, he explains, "not only don't have access to the priesthood, they can't access the minor orders either" such as the diaconate, and "in the Church they often have the tasks of a servant."

According to González Faus, in the New Testament "there are clear examples of women deacons and also women who would have been apostles, one or two cases, where they tried to make them masculine, but they're clearly women's names," such as Junia, he gives as an example. The current pope, Benedict XVI, says that "the Church doesn't ordain women because God prohibits it," he explains and wonders, "is it so certain that that's God's will?"

But even if whether women can attain the priesthood isn't resolved, González Faus believes the Pope should "give women any position in the Church they can have" such as deaconesses, 50% of the College of Cardinals, part of the prefects of Roman congregations, and also "put the Church in a state of prayer to ask God to know His will" on women's ordination. González Faus, who acknowledges having "thoroughly studied" the issue, hasn't found "decisive arguments against the ordination of women" in the New Testament.

The only theology

The Jesuit considers himself "a supporter and bridge between European theology and liberation theology." He thinks the latter "is the only theology possible" because it says that "the poor are the beloved of God" and that "the rich deserve that the Church tells them, 'woe unto you!'." "That's in the Gospel and is only developed in this theology," he adds.

He also states that "the reign of God isn't just for the afterlife but that it will only come to the afterlife if it starts here on earth." "This means a greater focus on the material problems of the people, of those who are without. Not because they lack God, who will come to them another way, but because they don't have anything to eat, anywhere to sleep or any education," he says. "A Russian theologian said, 'Bread for me is a material question. Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one.'," he adds. "Those who accuse liberation theology of materialism are the true materialists and they're those who have bread in abundance," he states.

Liberation theology "took things from Marxism, but only the economic analyses, not the metaphysical ones," and he avers that in Europe "they haven't tried to save everything good in Marx". John Paul II thought this theology was "necessary," but his papacy represented "a setback" for the Second Vatican Council and generated "a growth in conservative positions that have affected the whole Church," he concludes.

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