Friday, September 20, 2013

Sister Teresa Forcades: News, a book, and a support petition to sign

Several new items pertaining to Benedictine nun and feminist theologian Teresa Forcades are worth mentioning.

The BBC Interview

For those who have been longing for more information in English on this nun who is currently leading a movement for the independence of her native Catalonia via a constitutional process, the BBC has recently produced an article about Sister Teresa Forcades and she has been featured on a radio program, "Heart and Soul."

The article by Matt Wells of BBC World Service, which appeared in BBC News Magazine on September 13, helpfully outlines Sr. Teresa's, and her partner in the Proces Constituent, economist Arcadi Oliveres' ten point political program.

As for the "Heart and Soul" radio broadcast featuring Sr. Teresa Forcades, you can listen to this 29-minute program here.

Sense por. Conversa entre Teresa Forcades i Esther Vivas

Not to be outdone by her fellow journalist Eulalia Tort who, last year, produced a book of interviews in Catalan with Teresa Forcades titled Converses amb Teresa Forcades (DAU, 2012), subsequently published in Spanish as Diálogos con Teresa Forcades, progressive journalist Esther Vivas has come out with a new book of her own conversations with Sister Teresa. The book, also in Catalan, is titled Sense por. Conversa entre Teresa Forcades i Esther Vivas (Icaria, 2013). This second book focuses more on Sister Teresa's political convictions and less on her theology and positions with respect to issues in the Catholic Church.

Icaria has issued the following promotional video about the new book:

Dueling petitions

It started with Spain's right-wing Catholic media and bloggers who have promoted a petition on directed at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, calling for the suspension of Sr. Teresa because of her theological and political positions. Among the inflammatory, and in our view libelous (many are simply and completely false), assertions on that petition: that Sr. Teresa "publicly favors the murder of children through abortion", "favors homosexual unions", "denies the definitive doctrine defined by Blessed John Paul II on the impossibility of women in the priesthood, painfully casting doubt on an infallible definition by the Holy Father on that subject", "devotes herself to political activities incompatible with her status as a contempative religious", "refuses to publicly retract doctrinal errors although asked to do so by the Holy See", "has disobeyed the Very Eminent and Very Reverend Lord Cardinal of Lima, Peru [yes, that's what the petition says] who prohibited her from giving a speech in the Archdiocese of Lima." Again, it bears repeating that most of these allegations are completely false. At last count, that petition, which was mounted by an anonymous group calling itself Defensa de la Fe y el Papa and has been going since mid-August, had garnered 3,621 signatures.

More recently, and to counter that petition, a coalition of progressive Spanish Catholic groups have mounted a competing petition in support of Sr. Teresa. The text of this petition is in Spanish but we have provided an English translation below so that if you want to click on the link in this paragraph and support Sr. Teresa, you'll know what you're signing. The pro-Sr. Teresa petition, which only began last week, already has 1,789 signatures.

TO: Diocese of Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Archdiocese of Lima, Peru [due to problems with Archbishop Cipriani], Vatican Embassy in Madrid, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

SUBJECT: In defense of Sister Teresa Forcades, OSB

We signatories of this petition want to show our support for Sister Teresa Forcades, OSB in face of the unfair accusations that are being thrown at her.

In Teresa we have found someone who transmits the Gospel in an attractive and liberating way. She speaks in a warm manner to those who are listening to her. She explains her positions precisely and shows extensive training while at the same time making it accessible to people. And in all this, she demonstrates the posture of a believer and a member of the Church who, from that membership, reflects and and asks questions.

Teresa raises reasonable questions and doubts. She doesn't claim to be a source of doctrine. What she does do is reflect, point out problems in that doctrine, and propose the need for changes. All this while leaning on the strength of reasoning and on the base of her solid training which includes two doctoral degrees (public health and theology) and a masters in theology from Harvard.

Among the accusations that have been made against Teresa is that she denies the essential elements of Christian faith and that she denies the Magisterium. Both accusations cannot be supported. At no time has Teresa questioned the basic doctrines. And, on the other hand, she has never claimed to replace the Magisterium. What she has done is reflect and propose, which is a different matter.

Particularly, what we do find in Teresa is that she supports the need for a feminist critique that frees the Gospel from patriarchal bonds. Also, she raises the complexity of the problem of abortion and seeks to approach the problem in a calm and rational way, close to the difficult human situations. In this matter, really, she doesn't say anything different from what can be found in other Catholic moralists or Catholic bioethical centers. In no way can it be truthfully said that she is "pro abortion". Only a twisted reductionist interpretation of her words could give rise to that accusation.

With respect to LGTBI (Lesbian, Gay, Transsexual, Bisexual and Intersexual) people, she reflects on the current social doctrine and its shortcomings, with her eye always on real people who are worthy to receive the Gospel. With that, she points out what other Catholic authors have already pointed out in numerous publications. The Magisterium of the Catholic Church has always claimed to be able to be acknowledged as truth because of right reason in all that it is capable of knowing. And therefore it is the duty of the faithful to help it improve its reasoning and correct its shortcomings, precisely in order that it might better respond to the need to express the truth.

She is also reproached for her commitment to citizenship. In this, many of us have also found in Teresa someone who has been able to go beyond simple protesting and invite us to be responsible for our destiny as citizens, always in a peaceful manner and inviting dialogue.

Among those of us who are supporting Teresa are Catholics, Christians of other denominations, believers in other religions, atheists, as well as agnostics. This is also a sign of the power of her words and the drawing power that would be desirable in any member of the Church. With it, Sister Teresa does nothing except make real the Church's approach to the world while maintaining its identity, which is the heart of initiatives like the Court of the Gentiles.

Because of all of this, we would like to show our public recognition to Teresa Forcades and our gratitude. And with it, we would also like to protest the accusations against her that can only be the result of an intentional or unintentional misunderstanding of her words.

In addition to many individuals, the following groups are supporting this campaign:

ACGIL, Área de Asuntos Religiosos de la FELGTB,Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir, Grupo de Asuntos Religiosos de Cogam, CRISMHOM, FELGTB, ICM Pan de Vida - Madrid, ICM España, Fundación Enllaç, Mujeres Cristianas Homosexuales Nueva Magdala, Mujeres y Teología, Redes Cristianas.

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