Friday, November 15, 2013

Juan Jose Tamayo: "The Church's universality is negated by its own exclusionary behavior"

by Paco Cerdá (English translation by Rebel Girl)

An expert on liberation theology in Spain, Juan José Tamayo-Acosta gave a speech yesterday at the Club de Encuentro Manuel Broseta in Valencia.

You preach liberation theology, but is there a greater liberation than shedding the yoke of religion?

Tamayo: We spend a good part of life freeing ourselves from yokes and pressure. The first is the family with its rules and controls. Another important yoke is religion, which imposes control over the mind with certain dogmas, over the body with its sexual moralizing, and over custom with its rituals. In countries where religion has had power, such as Spain, the yoke is greater.

Is a leftist Church still possible?

Tamayo: Not only is it possible but it really exists. Because we tend to confuse the Church with the clergy and the hierarchy. The latter are a minor part of the Church and their power must be demystified. They have power, not authority. Because the believers don't grant power, as happens in a democracy. Therefore, the reform of the Church demands its democratization -- one believer, one vote. The origin of the Christian Church was like that. The first bishops and popes were appointed by the believers themselves. We have to apply the old maxim: "Whoever rules over all should be elected by all."

If Jesus of Nazareth were to see Pope Francis, what would he think?

Tamayo: Jesus would say to him, "You're on the right track, Francis. You're following the steps in the Gospel. But don't get sidetracked, don't get carried away by the pomp of power, or by lackeys and sycophants. Don't fall into the danger of the cult of personality. And you don't want to change the Church by yourself. All the believers must concur." Because Jesus would have been scandalized by the way the previous pontiffs exercised their papacy.

You were very critical of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Tamayo: Yes, because they moved away from Vatican II, which set the foundations for reforming the Church and freeing it from the weight and interference of public powers and authoritarianism. But they chose the path of authoritarianism and hierarchy, denying the Christian community any ability to participate.

Are there are lot of "Judas"s towards reform within the Vatican Curia?

Tamayo: (Smiling). Let's say that it's the place where there's the most disease within the Church. It's the place that is most alienated from the gospel principles of poverty, humility, and service to neighbor. There they're swayed more by power and control criteria.

If you were a woman, would you believe in a Church that marginalizes and "humiliates" you, according to your words?

Tamayo: If I were a woman -- and noting that I'm a feminist theologian -- I would go on fighting for parity in the Church. I would fight to achieve a community of equals where sex wouldn't be a reason for discrimination, but an element of pluralism. I would ferociously combat all the masculinity and patriarchy that dominates in the Church. A Church must exist that's egalitarian in access to the sacred, in decision-making, in responsibilities, and in the development of doctrine. If not, the Church is discriminating against more than half its members.

And thus, the Church could hardly claim to be universal.

Tamayo: Exactly. That's the great contradiction. The Catholic Church cannot be considered universal if it adopts an attitude of systematic legal exclusion of part of its members. The Church's universality is negated by its own exclusionary behavior towards women, gays, divorced people who have remarried, members of different ethnic groups, trade unionists, political leftists.

If most Christians support state secularism, why isn't Spain secular?

Tamayo: That's what I've been wondering for years! The difficulties for a secular state in Spain don't come from the grassroots Christians but from an explicit or tacit alliance between the powers of the Church and the various governments. All the governments of Spain, whether left-wing, right-wing, or center, have been hostages of the Church and have joined its demands that there not be a secular state. That's why there are remnants of National Catholicism.

There are remnants of National Catholicism?

Tamayo: Sure! There are many remnants.

Such as what?

Tamayo: The state funerals, the government's oaths on the Constitution, the Bible and the cross, the income tax checkoff box just for the Catholic church, and denominational religion teaching in the schools which pay "its" teachers.

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