Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A new beginning

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Eclesalia Informativo
May 16, 2012

Mark 16:15-20

The evangelists describe in different words the mission that Jesus entrusts to His followers. According to Matthew, they are to "make disciples" who would learn to live as He has taught them. According to Luke, they are to be "witnesses" to what they have experienced with Him. Mark sums it all up saying that they are to "proclaim the Gospel to every creature."

Anyone who approaches a Christian community today doesn't encounter the Gospel directly. What they perceive is the workings of an aging religion with serious signs of crisis. They cannot clearly identify within that religion the Good News coming from the impact Jesus made twenty centuries ago.

On the other hand, many Christians have no direct knowledge of the Gospel. All they know about Jesus and His message is what they have been able to partially reconstruct in a fragmentary manner by listening to catechists and preachers. They live their religion deprived of personal contact with the Gospel.

How will they be able to proclaim it if they don't know it in their own communities? Vatican II reminded us of something that is too often forgotten these days: "The Gospel for all time the source of all life for the Church." (Lumen Gentium 20). The time has come to view and shape the Christian community as a place where welcoming the Gospel of Jesus comes first.

Nothing can regenerate the fabric in crisis of our communities like the strength of the Gospel. Only the direct and immediate experience of the Gospel can revitalize the Church. In a few years, when the crisis obliges us to focus only on what is essential, we will clearly see that nothing is more important for us Christians today than reading, listening to, and sharing the gospel stories together.

The primary thing is to believe in the regenerative force of the Gospel. The gospel stories teach us to live the faith, not through obligation but through attraction. They make us experience the Christian life not as a duty but as radiant and contagious. It's possible to introduce a new dynamic into the parishes now. Gathered in small groups, in contact with the Gospel, we will regain our true identity as followers of Jesus.

We must go back to the Gospel as a new beginning. Any program or pastoral strategy is no longer useful. In a few years, listening together to Jesus' Gospel will not be just another activity, but rather the womb from which regeneration of the Christian faith will begin, in small communities dispersed in the midst of a secular society.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother of Mujerista Theology Dies

Dr. Ada María Isasi-Díaz, the main exponent of mujerista theology, died yesterday of cancer at age 69.

The Cuban American theologian was emerita professor of ethics and theology at Drew University and the author of numerous books, including En la Lucha/In the Struggle: Elaborating a Mujerista Theology (Second edition, Fortress Press, 2003), La Lucha Continues: Mujerista Theology (Orbis Books, 2004) and Mujerista Theology: A Theology for the 21st Century (Orbis Books, 1996). She also edited Hispanic/Latino Theology: Challenge and Promise (Fortress Press, 2006) and co-authored Hispanic Women: Prophetic Voice in the Church with Yolanda Tarango (Harper & Row, 1988). She was also the founder and co-director of the Hispanic Institute of Theology at Drew.

I'm sure there will be a lot of commemorative essays written about her as word of Dr. Isasi-Díaz's death spreads so I don't intend to add to them, but I will compile some of them on this blog for those who want to know more about this brilliant woman, whose death is a great loss to both Hispanic and women's theology.

Photo: Dr. Ada María Isasi-Díaz in one of her last public speaking engagements at Call to Action, 2011

Law v. Spirit: Peruvian priest suspended for supporting gay rights

Fr. Gastón Garatea, a priest in the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, has had his priestly faculties suspended in the Archdiocese of Lima, Peru, by Cardinal Archbishop Juan Luis Cipriani, according to the conservative Catholic news agency ACI Prensa "because of his support for the gay agenda." According to ACI Prensa, the decision was made by the Archdiocese after a long process and there will be no statement issued on the matter.

The offense apparently stems from the 2011 presidential elections in Peru, in which one of the first round candidates, Alejandro Toledo of Perú Posible, ran on a platform that included a proposal to legalize civil unions between same sex couples. At the time, Cardinal Cipriani criticized the proposal as being "against the law of nature" but Fr. Garatea publicly supported it, saying "we can be against marriage between people of the same sex, but there's no problem with civil unions."

The punishment seems quite harsh given Fr. Garatea's very cautious stance on the subject. His support seems only to extend to civil unions. When asked about gay adoption, the priest expressed concern about whether a same sex couple could present a "normal world" to children.

Raúl Humberto Rodríguez Chalco, journalist, sociologist and president of the education association AEDES, believes the real reason for the suspension goes back to Fr. Garatea's service on the Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación which studied the internal armed conflict in Peru between 1980 and 2000. Writing in Los Andes, he says that the commission singled out Ayacucho where much of the violence and human rights abuse was taking place and pointed out that the Catholic Church's response was inadequate and that it was often completely silent about human rights. At the time, Cipriano was Archbishop of Ayacucho.

Rodríguez Chalco also points out that Cipriano, a member of Opus Dei, restricted the pastoral activities of prominent liberation theologian Gustavo Gutierrez for a period of time, and cites numerous other conflicts between Peruvian bishops and progressive priests and religious.

Fr. Garatea has also clashed with the Church on mandatory celibacy. In an interview last month with Caretas, an adviser to the Social Responsibility office of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, said that mandatory celibacy has been erroneously extended to cover all priests. He said that it was good for those who live in religious orders such as himself but that it should not be required of diocesan priests who live in their own homes.

Along with the suspension of his priestly faculties within the Archdiocese of Lima, Fr. Garatea will no longer be able to serve in his current role at PCUP.

Statements of Support

Since the suspension of his faculties, Fr. Garatea has received statements of support from numerous sources.

From Federico Arnillas Lafert, president of the Mesa de Concertación para la Lucha contra la Pobreza, of which Garatea was a former president: "In the name of the members of the various offices that make up the Mesa de Concertación at the national, regional and local level, and in my own name, I want to express our solidarity and gratitude to you. You have been, and are, a permanent source of inspiration for our work as well as for many other initiatives that are taking place today in different parts of the country..."

From the leadership of the Federación de Estudiantes de la PUCP: "We reject this measure that impedes Father Garatea from celebrating Mass and performing the sacraments. This Peruvian priest and theologian has been carrying out admirable work, caring for the poorest in our country and serving the Church in different places...We urge that Father Gaston Garatea's priestly faculties be renewed. It's essential to be aware of the work he does and demonstrate that the conservative and orthodox Catholic position isn't the only one."

From Mons. Luis Bambarén, emeritus bishop of Chimbote: "First of all, my solidarity with Father Gastón Garatea and my grief because he has been suspended from his pastoral work. I have known him for more than 40 years. He has performed many responsibilities...In this case one has to take into account that according to the Code of Canon Law, for the bishop to take this measure there must be first a fraternal corrrection, second, an admonition, and third, the reasons for suspension must be laid out in writing. This hasn't happened. We don't know these reasons and the Cardinal should say what they are because it is a public measure..."

Fr. Garatea has said that he will comply with the suspension that bears evidence to his own assessment of the Church -- "They care more about the law than the spirit. There's a lot of talk about canon and not so much about the Gospel."