Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Prophet

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
January 27, 2013

Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

In a remote village in Galilee called Nazareth, the villagers gather in the synagogue one Saturday morning to listen to the Word of God. After some years spent seeking God in the wilderness, Jesus returns to the town where he grew up. The scene is very important for knowing Jesus and understanding his mission. According to Luke's account, in this village almost unknown to anyone, Jesus will introduce himself as a Prophet of God and set out his program by applying a text of the prophet Isaiah to himself.

After reading the text, Jesus comments on it with one sentence: "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." According to Luke, the people's eyes "were fixed on him." Everyone's attention moved from the text that had been read to the person of Jesus. What can we discover today if we fix our eyes on him?

Moved by the Spirit of God. Jesus' whole life is driven, led, and guided by the breath, the strength and the love of God. Believing in the divinity of Jesus is not confessing a dogmatic formula developed by the councils theoretically. It's discovering in a concrete way through his words and gestures, his tenderness and his fire, the ultimate Mystery of life that we believers call "God."

Prophet of God. Jesus hasn't been anointed with olive oil as the kings were anointed to transmit the power of government to them, or the high priests, to invest them with sacred power. He has been "anointed" by the Spirit of God. He hasn't come to govern or rule. He's a prophet dedicated to freeing life. We will be able to follow him only if we learn to live with his prophetic spirit.

Good News for the poor. His actions are Good News for the most marginalized and destitute social class -- those most in need of hearing something good, those humiliated and neglected by all. We start to be like Jesus when our lives, our actions, and our love and solidarity can be perceived by the poor as something good.

Devoted to liberation. He was committed to freeing human being from all types of slavery. The people feel him to be the liberator from suffering, oppression and abuse; the blind see him as a light that frees them from meaninglessness and despair; sinners receive him as grace and forgiveness. We follow Jesus when he's freeing us from all that enslaves, belittles, and dehumanizes us. Then we believe in him as the Savior who puts us on the road to the ultimate Life.

Attitudes toward the current crisis

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at LeonardoBoff.com.

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)
1/11/2013

No one can remain indifferent to the current crisis. It's essential to make a decision and find a liberating way out. Here we'll present various attitudes to see which one is best to avoid being deceived.

The first is that of the doomsayers: the flight to the bottom. They emphasize the side of chaos that encases the entire crisis. They see the crisis as a catastrophe, the breakdown and end of the existing order. For them, the crisis is something abnormal that we must avoid at all costs. They only accept certain adjustments and changes within the same structure. But they do it with so many objections that they cut off any innovative breakthrough.

Against these alarmists the good Pope John XXIII used to say -- referring to the Church but it's applicable to any field -- that "real life isn't an antique collection. This is not about visiting a museum or an academy of the past. One lives to progress, while taking advantage of the experiences of the past, but always to go ever farther."

The general crisis does not have to be a fall into the abyss. What a Swiss man who loved Brazil very much, the philosopher and educator Pierre Furter, wrote is true: "Characterizing the crisis as a sign of a universal collapse, is a subtle and perfidious way of the powerful and the privileged to prevent changes by discrediting them beforehand."

The second attitude is that of the conservatives: the flight backwards. They are guided by the past, looking through the rearview mirror. Instead of taking advantage the strengths contained in the current crisis, they flee into the past and look for old solutions to new problems. Therefore they are archaic and ineffective.

Many of the political institutions and global economic organizations such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO, G-20, but also most of the denominations and religions seek to solve the serious global problems with the same conceptions. They favor inertia and put the brakes on innovative solutions.

Leaving things as they are, they lead us fatally to failure, to an unimaginable environmental and humanitarian crisis. As past formulas exhaust their strength of conviction and innovation, they end up transforming the crisis into a tragedy.

The third approach is that of the utopians: the flight forward. They think they'll resolve the crisis situation by fleeing into the future. They are located within the same horizon as the conservatives, just in the opposite direction. Therefore, they can easily reach agreements with them.

Generally they are proactive and they forget that in history only revolutions that are made, are made. The last slogan is not a new thought. The boldest critics may also be the most sterile. Frequently rebellious boldness is nothing more than an escape from facing the harsh reality.

All kinds of futuristic utopias are currently circulating, many of them esoteric such as those that talk about the alignment of cosmic energies that are affecting our minds. Others project utopias based on the dream that biotechnology and nanotechnology will solve every problem and make human life immortal.

A fourth attitude is that of the escapists: they flee inward. They realize the darkening of the horizon and the set of fundamental beliefs, but turn a deaf ear to the ecological alarm and cries of the oppressed. They avoid confrontation, would rather not know, they don't hear, read, or question. These people don't want to live with others. They prefer the solitude of the individual but are generally connected to the internet and social networks.

Finally, there is a fifth attitude: that of the responsible ones: they face the here and now. They're the ones who have prepared an answer, so I call them responsible. They're not afraid, they don't flee nor are they evasive, but they take the risk of opening ways. They seek to strengthen the positive forces contained in the crisis and formulate responses to problems. They don't reject the past for being past. They learn it as a repository of great experiences that should not be wasted, but without exempting themselves from making their own experiments.

The responsible ones are defined by being for and not just by being against. Nor do they lose themselves in empty controversies. They work and commit themselves deeply to the building of a model that meets the needs of the times, open to criticism and self-criticism, always willing to learn.

What are most required today are politicians, leaders, groups, people who feel responsible and force the passage of the old times to the new.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"Salve Jorge": From Palestine or Cappadocia?

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at LeonardoBoff.com.

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)
1/18/2013

In Brazil and other parts of the world, there are millions of people watching soap operas on television. Currently, one -- "Salve Jorge" -- takes place in Cappadocia, Turkey, where St. George lived.

There is a longstanding debate among scholars about the place of his birth. It has been widely discussed by Malga di Paulo, a researcher into the saint's life, who provided the data for the current soap opera. Her book will be published soon. For Malga, who knows Cappadocia thoroughly, all indications point to that place as the homeland of the famous martyr. Others put it at Lod, Palestine, now Israel, where a shrine was built in his honor.

There's very little we can say with certainty on the subject. The school of critical historians of the lives of saints and martyrs, arising from the seventeenth century, the Bollandists, and their work, the Acta Sanctorum, leaves the question open. Another group, built around A. Butler, based on the Bollandists, and accessible in Portuguese through the 12 volumes of Lives of the Saints (Vozes, 1984) asserts: "There are a number of reasons to believe that St. George was a real and true martyr who suffered death in Lydda (Palestine) probably in the period before Constantine (306-337). Beyond that, it seems that nothing can be stated with certainty"(Vol. IV, p. 188).

I am inclined to say that Palestine, not Cappadocia, is his birthplace. The reason is based on the fact that there might have been a confusion of names. Indeed, there was a bishop named George of Cappadocia in Cappadocia, a historically well-confirmed fact. He entered the history of theology because of the controversy about the nature of Christ: might he just be like God (the Arians) or be God Himself (the anti-Arians)? Such a discussion divided the Church. The emperor Constantius II (one of his titles was Pope) wanted to ensure the unity of the empire through a single confession, in this case, the Arian one. He occupied Alexandria -- the focal point of anti-Arian resistance -- militarily and imposed George of Cappadocia, who was later killed, as the Arian bishop (357-361).

My hypothesis is that the first compilers of the life of St. George, in the 5th century and later in the 12th century, confused St. George with the familiar George of Cappadocia and so they made him be born there. One hypothesis.

Leaving aside the discussion, it's important to remember his best known representation: a warrior mounted on a white horse, wearing armor, with a red cross on a white background, facing a terrible dragon with his sharp spear.

As his father was a soldier, he pursued that career. He was so brilliant that the emperor Diocletian incorporated him into his personal guard with the high office of tribune. When the emperor forced, on pain of death, all Christians to renounce Christianity and worship the Roman gods, George refused and stood up for his fellow believers. Imprisoned and tortured, the legend says that he emerged miraculously unscathed from the lead cauldron and several poisonings. But he ended up being beheaded.

At first, he was revered in the West as simply a martyr, with his typical palm. Over time, and especially due to the Crusades, he became depicted as a warrior, with his own weapons, and associated especially with the confrontation with the dragon, a symbol of evil and the devil.

The legend best known in the West is the following one:

Once, George, as a soldier, passed through Libya in northern Africa. In the small town of Silca, people were living in terror. In a neighboring lake, there reigned a terrible dragon. His breath was so deadly that no one could get near to him to kill him. He charged two sheep a day. Having finished those, he demanded human victims, chosen by lot. One day the lot fell on the king's daughter. Dressed as a bride, she went to meet death. And behold, St. George then appears with his white horse and with his long spear. He strikes the dragon and conquers it. He ties its mouth with the princess's girdle and leads him gentle as a lamb to the city center. And all, grateful, were converted to the Christian faith.

He has been the patron of England since 1222 but officially only since 1347 with Edward III, and is celebrated with a feast (St. George's Day), and also of Russia, Portugal, Bulgaria, Greece, Catalonia and many cities.

When the Vatican revised the list of saints in 1969 and removed the popular Saint George from it, for reasons not entirely clear, a major controversy arose. There was a general outcry, especially from England, Catalonia and the Corinthians soccer team. Cardinal Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns, an ardent Corinthians fan, interceded with Pope Paul VI in 1969 to keep the veneration of St. George, at least as an optional celebration. To which the Pope replied, "We can not hurt England or the Corinthians nation; go on with the devotion." In 2000, John Paul II, with pastoral sense, revived the feast. Saint George is present in African traditions -- Ogum for Umbanda and Oxossi for Candomble-Nago. In Rio de Janeiro, April 23rd, which is his feast day, is a municipal holiday, as he is the unofficial patron saint of the city.

In the next article we will try to decipher the basic archetype behind the warrior St. George and the dragon. Until then, we make ours the popular prayer:

"I will go clad and armed with the weapons of St. George so that my enemies having feet do not not reach me, having hands do not strike me, and having eyes do not see me....that my enemies be humble and submissive to Thee. Amen."

Monday, January 21, 2013

EATWOT founder Fr. Tissa Balasuriya dies

This article is available in Spanish without the added hyperlinks from Amerindia.

Sri Lankan theologian Tissa Balasuriya, 88, founder of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians, passed away on Thursday, January 17th in a hospital in Colombo, UCANews announced.

This priest, a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, had been excommunicated in 1992 following the 1990 publication of his book "Mary and Human Liberation" (excerpt available online here). The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith deemed that the book downplayed the tradition of the Church and the value of faith, presented the doctrine of original sin in a way that cast doubt on the divinity of Christ, his mission of salvation, as well as the role of Mary in salvation history.

Obliged to sign a profession of faith that had been prepared especially for him, the priest responded by signing the Credo of Paul VI, followed by a warning stating that he was signing the words "in the context of theological development and Church practice since Vatican II and the freedom and responsibility of Christians and theological searchers under canon law." Rejecting the document, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger notified him of his excommunication on December 7th, 1996.

In 1998, however, before the Synod for Asia and under pressure from several Asian bishops who had expressed doubts about the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's methods, the excommunication was lifted and Fr. Balasuriya agreed to retract the warning on which he had conditioned his signature. He refused to admit doctrinal errors, however, but he did recognize the possibility of "perception of error" and agreed to submit all his future writings to the bishops' imprimatur.

OTHER RESOURCES:

Frei Betto to receive 2013 UNESCO/José Martí Prize

UNESCO has designated the Brazilian Dominican friar Frei Betto as laureate of the 2013 UNESCO/José Martí Prize for his exceptional contribution to building a universal culture of peace, social justice and human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. Frei Betto was selected on the recommendation of an international jury. The prize will be awarded on 28 January in Havana, Cuba, at the Third International Conference on World Balance (28 to 30 January). The conference marks the 160th anniversary of José Martí’s birth.

The laureate was selected in recognition of his work as an educator, writer, and theologian; his opposition to all forms of discrimination, injustice and exclusion; and his promotion of a culture of peace and human rights.

The author of more than 50 books, Frei Betto was born Carlos Alberto Libânio Christo in Belo Horizonte (Brazil) in 1944. He joined the Dominican Order at the age of 20 while studying journalism. During the time of military dictatorship in Brazil, Frei Betto was imprisoned twice, once briefly in 1964 and again from 1969 to 1973.

The UNESCO International José Martí Prize, which carries with it $5,000, was created in November 1994 by the Executive Board of UNESCO at the initiative of the Government of Cuba. The Prize rewards outstanding contributions by organizations and individuals to the cause of Latin American and Caribbean unity and integration based on respect for cultural traditions and humanist values. The Prize was also established to raise awareness of equity and human rights, particularly among decision-makers.

Priest refuses to give up freedom of thought, speech, and conscience

Readers of this blog remember the silencing of Fr. Tony Flannery, a Redemptorist priest and founder of the Irish Association of Catholic Priests. Now Fr. Flannery has courageously decided, in his words, to take back his voice, even if it means dismissal from his congregation and possibly even excommunication. We have reprinted Fr. Flannery's response, originally published on 1/21/2013 in the Irish Times, in its entirety below:

Three days after my 66th birthday I find myself forbidden to minister as a priest, with a threat of excommunication and dismissal from my congregation hanging over me. How did I find myself in this situation?

I joined the Redemptorist congregation in 1964 and was ordained 10 years later. That was the era of great openness in the Catholic Church. We believed in freedom of thought and of conscience, and that church teaching was not something to be imposed rigidly on the people we served – they were intelligent and educated, and could take responsibility for their lives.

As preachers we must try to present the message of Christ in a way and a language that spoke to the reality of people’s lives. This necessitated a willingness to listen to the people, to understand their hopes and joys, their struggles and fears.

Helping people to deal with the teaching on contraception during the 1970s was a great training ground. Just repeating the official line of Humanae Vitae was no help. During those years priests and people alike learned a lot about how to form their consciences and make mature decisions about all areas of their lives. As priests we learned more from people than they learned from us.

As the years went by we could all see that the teaching authority within the church was reverting to the more authoritarian style of ministry practised in the past. As authority became centralised in the Vatican once again, pressure came on priests of my generation to be more explicit and decisive in presenting church teaching: orthodoxy was now the imperative, and allowing people to think for themselves was seen as dangerous. There was no room for grey areas.

Reports to Rome

We became aware that there were people around the country who reported any slight deviation from the official stance by a priest, for example allowing a woman to read the gospel at Mass. Throughout the world, priests were being sanctioned, silenced and even dismissed because they would not toe the line.

In autumn 2010, I was one of a small group who set up the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP). This association was unique in that it was an independent body of clergy, a new phenomenon in the church, and one with which the authorities, in Ireland and the Vatican, were uncomfortable and didn’t know how to handle. The growth of the movement served to catapult me into a more prominent position, which brought me to the attention of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). I had been writing for various religious magazines for more than 20 years without any problem. But suddenly last February I was informed by my Redemptorist superiors that I was in serious trouble over some things I had written. I was summoned to Rome, not to the Vatican, which to this day has not communicated with me directly, but to the head of the Redemptorists.

This was the beginning of what is now almost a year of tension, stress and difficult decision-making in my life. Initially my policy was to see if some compromise was possible, and it seemed in early summer this was a real possibility.

But I gradually became aware that the CDF continually raised the bar, until it got to the point where I could no longer negotiate. I was faced with a choice. Either I sign a statement, for publication, stating that I accepted teachings that I could not accept, or I would remain permanently banned from priestly ministry, and maybe face more serious sanctions. It is important to state clearly that these issues were not matters of fundamental teaching, but rather of church governance.

So now, at this hour of my life, I either put my name to a document that would be a lie, and would impugn my integrity and my conscience, or I face the reality of never again ministering as a priest. I have always believed in the church as the community of believers and as an essential element in promoting and nourishing the faith. I have enjoyed my years of preaching, the main work of Redemptorists, and never had any doubt that Christ’s message was one worth proclaiming.

But to give up on freedom of thought, freedom of speech and most especially freedom of conscience is too high a price for me to pay to be allowed minister in today’s church.

Catholic identity

There are people who will say I should leave the Catholic Church and join another Christian church – one more suitable to my stance. Being a Catholic is central to my personal identity. I have tried to preach the gospel. No matter what sanctions the Vatican imposes on me I will continue, in whatever way I can, to try to bring about reform in the church and to make it again a place where all who want to follow Christ will be welcome. He made friends with the outcasts of society, and I will do whatever I can in my own small way to oppose the current Vatican trend of creating a church of condemnation rather than one of compassion.

I believe that the real aim of the CDF is to suppress the ACP – attempts have been made to clip the wings of the Austrian association. I hope and pray it will not succeed.

While I am dealing with these issues in my own life I believe it is appropriate for me to temporarily stand down from my position of leadership in the association. I will, however, remain an active member, and will be available to help in every way possible for the work of the ACP, which is bigger than any one person.

Finally, it could be asked why I am going public now having remained silent for a year. I need to take back my voice.

RESPONSES TO FR. FLANNERY'S STATEMENT

The Association of Catholic Priests has issued a strong statement in support of their founder, saying that "The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) affirms in the strongest possible terms our confidence in and solidarity with Fr Tony Flannery as he strives to clear his name and we wish to protest against unjust treatment he has received from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The ACP supports Fr. Flannery in his efforts to resist the undermining of his integrity as an individual, a priest and a member of the Redemptorist Order." Read the full statement here.

We Are Church Ireland is planning a vigil in support of Fr. Flannery at the Papal Nunciature in Dublin on Navan Road in Dublin next Sunday 27th January 2013 at 3 p.m. The organization "expresses its unconditional support for Fr. Tony Flannery in his assertion of his right of conscience not to be forced by an abuse of his vow of obedience to submit to the secretive demands of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

As for the Redemptorists, the provincial leadership seems to have chosen to view this as a regrettable dispute between their brother member and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and have issued a statement that is largely supportive of Fr. Flannery. They say that "deeply saddened by the breakdown in communication between Fr. Tony Flannery C.Ss.R. and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF)." And they go on to say that "Fr. Tony Flannery is highly regarded and respected by many in Ireland, both within and outside of the Redemptorist Congregation. He has been an effective parish missioner all over the country since the mid 1970s and from this context has raised matters which he believes need greater dialogue, debate and consideration. Within the Dublin Province of the Redemptorists there exists a very lively spirit of debate and dialogue; we are and over many years have been, committed to mature discourse." They conclude that "it is of immense regret that some structures or processes of dialogue have not yet been found in the Church which have a greater capacity to engage with challenging voices from among God’s people, while respecting the key responsibility and central role of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."