Friday, April 27, 2012

Another Irish priest censored by the Vatican

The Vatican seems intent on suppressing all dissent by priests in the Irish Church. The latest victim of censorship is Fr. Brian D'Arcy, a Passionist priest who writes a weekly column for the Sunday World. He is being censored specifically for four columns he wrote dealing with women priests, why US Catholics were leaving the church, why the church must take responsibility for clerical child sex abuse, and homosexuality.

Fr. D'Arcy has also spoken out against mandatory celibacy. Commenting to the press about the case of Fr. Sean McKenna, a Londonderry priest who resigned in 2009 because of a relationship with a woman, D'Arcy said that "mandatory or compulsory celibacy is not only a contradiction in terms but has outlived its use by about 1,000 years and it should be changed."

D'Arcy is the fifth Irish Catholic priest to have been censured by the Vatican recently. The others are Redemptorist priests Fr. Tony Flannery and Fr. Gerard Moloney, Marist priest Fr. Sean Fagan and Capuchin priest Fr. Owen O'Sullivan.

Fr. D'Arcy seems only mildly deterred. This week, his Sunday World column looks at a recent survey by the Irish Association of Catholic Priests that found that 87 per cent of Catholics in that country believe priests should be allowed to marry, 77 per cent believe women should be ordained, and 72 per cent believe that married men should be accepted for ordination. Another 87 per cent of those surveyed support allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion. Referring obliquely to his censorship, Fr. D'Arcy concluded: "Sadly in our church now, it has become impossible to be open and honest about what good people are convinced of. It's as if merely stating unpalatable facts is in itself disloyal. For years I’ve tried to point out the perils of the growing disconnect between church leaders and the ordinary people."

Fr. D'Arcy, who has been a priest for over 40 years and is the author of several books including A Different Journey and A Little Bit of Healing, said the censorship is hurtful. "Personally I've been living with the pain of censure for 14 months and will have to live with it for the rest of my priestly life. In these difficult times, it is the price one has to pay when one is committed to the truth, which is the duty of both the priest and the journalist." He told BBC News that he will not stop speaking out. "I have spoken just as plainly and openly about that, encouraging the church when it has needed encouragement and actually questioning the church when it has needed questioned. I have not changed nor will I be changed on that." He remains a priest in good standing.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The current inquisition and the North American nuns

by Ivone Gebara (English translation by Rebel Girl)
April 26, 2012

Once again we have been horrified to see the "doctrinal assessment" -- or scolding or punishment -- directed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to whoever, according to it, is out of compliance with the correct Catholic doctrine. Except that this time the finger isn't pointing only to one person but to an institution that brings together and represents more than 55,000 U.S. women religious. It is the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, known by its acronym LCWR. Throughout their history, these nuns have carried out and still carry out a broad educational mission for the dignity of many individuals and groups within and outside the United States.

Most of these women, who belong to various national and international congregations, besides their Christian liberal education, are intellectuals and professionals in different fields of knowledge. They are writers, philosophers, biologists, theologians, sociologists, and lawyers. They have broad resumes and nationally and internationally recognized competence. They are also educators and catechists, and they promote the  practice of human rights.

In many situations they have been capable of risking their lives for the victims of injustice and have opposed gravely unjust and oppressive behavior by the United States government. I was honored to meet some of them who have been arrested because they put themselves in front in demonstrations demanding the closure of the School of the Americas, the U.S. government institution that prepares Latin American soldiers to act cruelly and repressively in their respective countries. These nuns are women of thought and action with a long history of service not only in their country but in many others.

They are currently under the Vatican's suspicion and tutelage. They are criticized for disagreeing with the bishops who are considered to be "the true masters of faith and morals." And besides, they are being accused of being supporters of radical feminism, of deviations from Roman Catholic doctrine, of complicity in the approval of homosexual unions and other charges that are frightening to us because of their anachronism.

What might radical feminism be? What might be its real manifestations in the life of women's religious orders? What theological deviations might the nuns be experiencing? Might we women be being monitored and punished for failing to be true to ourselves and to the Gospel tradition, through blind submission to the male hierarchy? Might the heads of the Vatican congregations be unaware of the great world feminist revolution that has touched every continent and even the religious orders?

Many women religious in the United States and other countries are heirs, teachers, and disciples of one of the most interesting expressions of world feminism, particularly theological feminism which has been developing in the United States since the late 1970s. Its original ideas, critiques and libertarian stands have led to a new theological understanding which has enabled them to accompany the movements for women's emancipation. Thus they have been able to contribute to rethinking our Christian religious tradition in the course of overcoming the invisibilization and oppression of women. They have also created alternative spaces for training, and theological and liturgical texts so that the tradition of Jesus' movement would not be abandoned by thousands of people tired of the weight of patriarchal religious structures and rules.
What attitude should we take towards this anachronism and symbolic violence from the curial and administrative organs of the Roman Catholic Church? What to make of its rigid philosophical framework that associates the best of the human being with what is masculine? What to say about their unilateral and misogynist anthropological vision from which they interpret Jesus' tradition?

What to make of this punitive administrative treatment based on which an archbishop is appointed to review, guide and approve the decisions of the Conference of Women Religious as if we were incapable of discernment and lucidity? Might we perhaps be a capitalist multinational corporation where our "products" should abide by the dictates of a single production line? And to maintain it, should we be controlled like robots by those who consider themselves the owners and guardians of the institution? Where is the freedom, the charity, the historical creativity, the sisterly and brotherly love?

At the same time as indignation, we are invaded by a sense of loyalty to our dignity as women, and the Gospel proclaimed to the poor and marginalized invites us to react to this repugnant act of injustice.

It's not new for the bishops and church officials to use a double standard. On the one hand, the upper echelons of the Catholic Church have been able to welcome again into their midst far-right groups whose harmful history, especially towards youth and children, is widely known. I'm thinking especially of the Legionaries of Christ, of Marcial Maciel (Mexico), and the male religious of Monsignor Lefebvre (Switzerland) whose disobedience to the pope and coercive methods to win disciples are attested to by many.

This same institutional church welcomes and receives men who interest it because of their power and repudiates women whom it wants to keep submissive. With its attitude, it exposes them to ridiculous criticism spread even by Catholic media acting in bad faith. The prelates seem to formally acknowledge that these women have a certain merit when their actions are focused on those tasks traditionally performed by nuns in schools and hospitals. But is that all we are?

We are aware that at no time in the United States has the least possibility emerged that these nuns might have abused youth, adolescents, children or the elderly. No public denunciation stains their image. It isn't said that they allied themselves with the big international banks for their own benefit. No complaint of influence peddling, trading favors for the silence of impunity. And even with all that history, none of them has been canonized or beatified by church authorities as was done in the case of men of power [Translator's note: I have to disagree with my sister Ivone Gebara on this point. Saint Katharine Drexel, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament nun who was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000 is one name that comes immediately to mind.] The recognition of these women comes from the many Christian and non-Christian communities and groups with whome they share their life and work. And these groups will certainly not keep silent before this unjust "doctrinal assessment" which also directly affects them.

Plagiarizing Jesus in his Gospel I dare to say, "I feel pity for these men" who do not know about the contradictions and beautiful things of life, who do not allow their hearts to vibrate openly with the joys and sufferings of the people, who do not love the present, preferring the strict law to the fiesta of life. They have only learned the inflexible rules of a doctrine locked in an already obsolete rationale and they judge the faith of others, especially women, on its basis. Maybe they think God approves and submits to them and their speculations that are so far from those who hunger for bread and justice, from the hungry, the abandoned, the prostitutes, the abused and neglected.

How long will we have to suffer under their yoke? What position will "the Spirit that blows where it wills" inspire in us so that we remain faithful to the LIFE that is present within us?

To the dear U.S. sisters in the LWRC I offer my gratitude, love and solidarity. If you are being persecuted for the good you are doing, your work will probably produce abundant good fruit. Know that, united with you, we women religious of other continents will not let them silence your voice. But if you would be silenced by a paper decree, we will make that decree one more reason to keep on struggling for the human dignity and freedom of which we are made. We will go on in many ways proclaiming the love of neighbor as the key to human and cosmic communion present in the tradition of Jesus of Nazareth and in many other ones, though in different forms. We will continue to weave together in our historic moment one more piece of the vast history of affirmation of liberty, the right to be different and think differently and we will do this while trying to not be afraid of being happy.

He walks with us

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Eclesalia Informativo
April 25, 2012

John 10: 11-18

The symbol of Jesus as the good shepherd is annoying to some Christians today. We don't want to be treated like sheep in a flock. We don't need anybody to rule and control our lives. We want to be respected. We don't need any shepherd.

The first Christians didn't feel that way. The figure of Jesus the good shepherd soon became one of the most beloved images of Jesus. In the catacombs, He was already depicted bearing the lost sheep on his shoulders. No one was thinking of Jesus as an authoritarian pastor dedicated to keeping an eye on and controlling His followers, but as a good shepherd who takes care of them.

The "good shepherd" worries about His sheep. It's his first trait. He never abandons them. He doesn't neglect them. He is aware of them. He is always attentive to the weakest and sickest ones. He isn't like the hired shepherd who, when he sees some danger, flees to save his life, abandoning the flock. He doesn't care about the sheep.

Jesus had left an indelible memory. The gospel stories describe Him as concerned about the sick, the marginalized, the little ones, the most defenseless and neglected ones, the ones who are most lost. He doesn't seem to be concerned about Himself. He is always seen thinking of others. The destitute matter to Him above all.

But there's something more. "The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep." It's the second trait. This language is repeated five times in the gospel of John. Jesus' love for the people is limitless. He loves others more than Himself. He loves everyone with the love of a good shepherd who doesn't run away in the face of danger, but gives his life to save the flock.

Therefore, the image of Jesus the "good shepherd" soon became a message of comfort and confidence for His followers. The Christians learned to address Jesus with the words taken from the 23rd Psalm: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...Even though I walk through the darkest valley, nothing will I fear, for you are with me...your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life."

We Christians often have a rather poor relationship with Jesus. We need to have a more alive and affectionate experience. We don't believe He cares for us. We forget that we can go to Him when we are tired and without strength or lost and disoriented.

A Church that is made up of Christians who relate to a poorly known Jesus, one who is confessed only in a doctrinal way, a distant Jesus whose voice isn't well heard in the communities, runs the risk of forgetting its Shepherd. But, who will care for the Church if not its Shepherd?