Thursday, June 13, 2013

Defender of prostitutes

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
June 16, 2013

Luke 7:36-8:3

Jesus is in the home of Simon, a Pharisee who has invited him to dinner. Unexpectedly, a woman interrupts the banquet. The guests recognize her immediately. She is a town prostitute. Her presence creates uneasiness and anticipation. How will Jesus react? Will he eject her so she won't contaminate the guests? The woman says nothing. She's used to being despised, especially in Pharisee environments. She goes to Jesus directly, throws herself at his feet and bursts into tears. She doesn't know how to thank him for his welcome -- she covers his feet with kisses, anoints them with perfume she has brought with her, and dries them with her hair.

The Pharisee's reaction is swift. He can't hide his contempt: "If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is -- a sinner." He isn't as naive as Jesus. He knows very well that this woman is a prostitute, unworthy to touch Jesus. She should be separated from him.

But Jesus doesn't eject or reject her. On the contrary, he welcomes her respectfully and kindly. In her gestures, he finds clean love and grateful faith. Before everyone, he talks with her to defend her dignity and reveal to her how God loves her: "Your sins have been forgiven." Then, while all the guests are in shock, he reaffirms her in her faith and wishes her a new life: "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace." God will be with her forever.

A few months ago, they called me to take part in a very unique Pastoral Encounter. A group of prostitutes was among us. I could speak with them at leisure. I'll never be able to forget them. Over the three days, we were able to hear their powerlessness, their fears, their loneliness...For the first time I understood why Jesus loved them so much. I also understood his words to the religious leaders: "I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you."

These women who have been tricked and enslaved, subjected to all sorts of abuse, terrorized to keep them isolated, many with hardly any protection or security, are the invisible victims of a cruel and inhumane world, largely silenced by society and practically forgotten by the Church.

We who are followers of Jesus can't turn our backs on the suffering of these women. Our diocesan churches can't abandon them to their sad fate. We must raise our voices to awaken society's awareness. We must give much more support to those who are fighting for their rights and dignity. Jesus who loved them so much would also be the first to defend them today.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Agenda Latinoamericana 2014: "Libertad! Libertad!" - Introduction

Dom Pedro Casaldaliga has just published his introduction to the 2014 edition of the Agenda Latinoamericana, which addresses the issue of freedom. We are pleased to bring it to you here in English. Previous issues of the Agenda are available on Servicios Koinonia and the Agenda now has a Facebook page too!

With her earthy voice, echoing many ancestral voices, Mercedes Sosa offers us a deeply human invitation:

"Hermano, dame tu mano,
vamos juntos a buscar
una cosa pequeñita
que se llama libertad".

("Brother, give me your hand, let's go together to seek a tiny thing called freedom.")

Our 2014 Agenda welcomes the invitation by making freedom its subject and challenge.

Mercedes, with revolutionary tenderness, characterizes freedom as something tiny. What tininess! Tiny and grand, like the mystery of the freedom of every person and every people and all of human history. Tiny and tender as a fetus, as awesomely large as hate.

Oh, freedom, freedom! In your name, the most beautiful heroic actions have happened and the greatest iniquities have been committed. You are a banner of life and a banner of death.

In the Agenda, we touch on the subject of freedom in all its dimensions, seeking to know and experience complete freedom, which has many aspects, which is a gift and something to be won. It's in the anthems of all nations and in all anthologies. It's basic in all religions. Religion, ultimately, is the dialogue between two absolute freedoms -- God and the human being. In the Christian faith, specifically, we proclaim that Christ freed us so that we would be truly free. He assures us that "the truth shall make you free." To be free, to become free, to embrace freedom as a spiritual process and political experience is to make our humanity more and more humane. Knowing with a critical and self-critical spirit how many enemies beset our freedom. Just a game of justification takes us from freedom to licentiousness and that "tiny thing" dies, like a bird without wings, in our hearts, in our families, in our work, our citizenship, in our personal lives, and in our society. And suddenly we find ourselves slaves -- slaves to fear, to selfishness, to money, consumption, power...

We speak of liberty and we speak of liberation. Liberation cannot be sidestepped through spiritualism or disembodied personalism. Freedom is political; in our Agenda, it's political with that clear option that the Zapatistas advocate: "always from below and on the left."

True freedom is communitarian, an exercise in give and take relationships. I'm free if you're free. "There is no freedom without equality." Nor is there freedom without dignity, a dignity that's so often killed by ideologies and systems, a victim of individual or collective selfishness, but also victorious through exemplary acts of resistance that make a way from behind bars, through marginalization, torture, and censure. The list of martyrs to freedom is infinite.

On the occasion of the commemoration of the misnamed Discovery of America, the Agenda Latinoamericana y Mundial was born to stimulate alternative awareness and action. And this awareness and action would translate into service to the Great Causes, Our America, the Third World, the World. And in each Agenda, we go on highlighting the critical historical moment of those Great Causes. The signed texts are the responsibility of the author, but the whole Agenda brings together contentious burning issues, in a broadly ecumenical and macro-ecumenical spirit. By talking together again and again we become more humane. In going over the 22 editions of our Agenda, it's comforting to see how this dialogue has taken effect and been updated, how grassroots activists, students and professors, politicians, pastoral agents, and community facilitators have come into the arena.

Mercedes' song asks us to "go together to seek" freedom and liberation. Let's stimulate the awareness that we bring and carry "a people in our voice" ("un pueblo en nuestra voz"). Let's not let "that tiny thing" that guarantees our dignity be snatched away from us. "Es nuestra tierra la que espera sin distancias ni fronteras" ("It's our land that awaits without distances or borders"). Against all tyrants, despite all empires, getting outraged every day and translating our outrage into unstoppable acts and processes.

Without fear of Freedom, which is the most dehumanizing fear.
Without fear of Freedom, that is, without fear of Life.

Pope Francis and CLAR

Reflexión y Liberación (English translation by Rebel Girl)
June 9, 2013

In an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis received and talked for a hour with the leadership of the Confederación Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Religiosas y Religiosos (Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Men and Women Religious -- CLAR). They conversed sitting in a circle as equals, as it was in the first communities founded by Jesus...

In this simple atmosphere of trust, Francis encouraged CLAR's leaders not to be afraid to continue to bring their mission to the limits and the frontiers..."Courage! Advance towards new horizons! Don't be afraid to run risks going to the poor and the newly emerging subjects on the continent," said Pope Bergoglio who, at the end of the meeting, emphatically thanked religious life for being a "sign of and witness to the Gospel" in many places in Latin America and the Carribbean.

We are offering our readers -- exclusively -- this brief synthesis of that historic meeting that took place in the Holy See.

Audience with Pope Francis

CLAR, 6/6/2013

Open doors...Open doors!

  • You're going to make mistakes, you're going to put your foot in it...This happens! Maybe you'll even get a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith saying that you said such and such...But don't worry. Explain what you have to explain, but keep going forward...Open doors, do something wherever life demands it. I prefer a Church that makes mistakes because it did something to one that sickens because it remains shut in...

  • (on his election) I never lost peace of mind, you know. And that's not how I am. I'm more the kind to worry, to get nervous...But I never lost peace of mind. That confirmed for me that this was from God...

  • (when we reflected on the hope he's brought us with his gestures these days, with reference to his continuing to live at Santa Marta)...those gestures...haven't come from me. They didn't occur to me. It's not like I brought along a plan, or made one when they elected me. I do it because I felt it was what the Lord wanted. But those gestures aren't mine; there's Someone else here...that gives me confidence...

  • I came with just enough clothes, I washed them at night, and suddenly this...I didn't have any chance at all! In the betting in London I was in 44th place, see, whoever betted on me won a whole lot, obviously!... This doesn't come from me...

  • We have to turn things around. It isn't news when an old person dies from the cold at night in Ottaviano, or that there are so many children without education, or who are hungry -- I'm thinking about Argentina...On the other hand, the main markets in the world go up or down 3 points and it's a worldwide event. We have to turn it around! It can't be. Computers aren't made in the image and likeness of God. Only a person is in the image and likeness of God. We have to turn it around. That's the gospel.

  • We have to get to the causes, to the roots. Abortion is bad, but that's clear. But what's behind approving that law? What interests are behind it? ...Sometimes it's the conditions that big groups set for financial support, you know? We have to go to the causes; we can't just stay on the symptoms. Don't be afraid to denounce're going to have a hard time, you're going to have problems, but don't be afraid to denounce things; that's prophecy in religious life...

  • I will share two concerns with you. One is the pelagian trend in the Church right now. There are certain restorationist groups. I know some; I had to receive them in Buenos Aires. And one feels that it's like going 60 years backwards! Before the Council...You feel like you're in 1940...One anecdote, just to illustrate this -- not to laugh, I take it with respect, but it concerns me. When they elected me, I got a letter from one of those groups and they told me: "Your Holiness, we are offering you this spiritual treasure -- 3,525 rosaries." Why don't they just say "we're praying for you, we're asking..."?...but this business of keeping track...And these groups are going back to practices and disciplines that I've experienced -- not you, because none of you are old -- disciplines, things that were done at that time, but not now, today they no longer exist...

    The second is the gnostic current. Those Pantheisms...Both are elite currents, but the latter is of a more educated elite...I heard about a woman superior general who encouraged the sisters of her congregation not to pray in the morning but to give themselves a spiritual bath in the cosmos -- things like that...They worry me because they skip the incarnation! And the Son of God became our flesh, the Word became flesh, and in Latin America we have plenty of flesh! What's happening with the poor, the pain, that is our flesh...

    The gospel isn't an ancient rule, nor is it this pantheism. If you look at the margins...the indigent...Drug addicts! Human trafficking...That's the gospel. The poor are the gospel...

  • (when we mentioned how hard it is to take charge of the Roman Curia and about the commission of cardinals that will support him...) And,'s hard. There are holy, truthful people in the Curia, there are holy people. But there's also a current of corruption, there is, too, it's true... They talk about the "gay lobby", and it's true, it's there...we'll have to see what we can do...

    Reforming the Roman Curia is something almost all of us cardinals asked for in the gatherings before the conclave. I asked for it too. I can't make the reform, those issues of management...I'm very disorganized; I've never been good at this. But the cardinals of the commission will carry it out. There's Rodríguez Maradiaga, who's Latin American, who's leading the way; there's Errázuriz, they're very organized. The one from Munich is also very organized. They'll carry it forward.

  • Pray for me...that I make mistakes as little as possible...

  • Aparecida didn't end. Aparecida isn't just a document. It was an event. Aparecida was something different. Beginning with the fact that it didn't have a working draft. And at the end it didn't have a document either; the day before it ended, we had 2,300 "notes"...Aparecida sent us out on a continental mission. That's how Aparecida ended, on the impulse to mission.

    What was special about Aparecida was that it didn't take place in a hotel, or a retreat took place in a Marian sanctuary. During the week, we would celebrate the Eucharist and there were some 250 people, because it was a normal work day. But on the weekends, it was full!...The people of God accompanied the Bishops, asking the Holy Spirit...

    I would see -- I'm naming him because I see him more standoffish, more like that, he's good, but he's like that -- I would see the prefect, João, coming out with his mitre, and the people approached him, the children approached him, and he would greet them and embrace them like that...That same bishop would then vote. He couldn't have voted the same way if he had been in a hotel!

    We had meeting rooms under the Sanctuary...So the background music was the songs, the celebrations in the Sanctuary...That gave something very special.

  • Something concerns me, although I don't know how to interpret it. There are religious orders, very, very small groups, few people, very elderly people...They don't have vocations -- what do I know? -- the Holy Spirit doesn't want them to go on, maybe they've now completed their mission in the Church, I don't know...But there they are, clinging to their buildings, clinging to money...I don't know why this is happening, I don't know how to interpret it. But I'm asking you to care about those groups...Money management...It's something that needs to be thought about.

  • Enjoy this moment we are experiencing in the Congregation for the Consecrated Life...It's a moment of sunshine...Enjoy it. The Prefect is good. And the Secretary who you "lobbied" for! No, really, being president of the USG, it was logical for it to be him! Who better?...

  • Put all your effort into dialogue with the Bishops. With CELAM, with the national conferences...I know there are some who have different ideas about communion, but...Talk to them, have conversations with them, tell them...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Catholic theologian becomes editor of German gay magazine

When the conservative German Catholic theologian David Berger came out in April 2010, his revelation about his sexuality rocked the theological community in Rome and in his homeland. In a 2-part interview (Part 1 / Part 2  -- in English) later that year in Der Spiegel, Dr. Berger explained how his aesthetic fascination with the Tridentine Mass and other aspects of the traditional Catholic Church became a "nightmare" when he had to listen to his conservative colleagues bash homosexuals while he himself already had a secret male life partner. Today, the man widely thought to have been a protege of Pope Benedict XVI and one of the most promising young theologians, is embarking on a new career., 5/27/2013 (in Spanish; English translation by Rebel Girl)

After having a brilliant career for years in conservative circles and being editor of the Catholic journal Theologisches, German theologian David Berger is now editor of the gay magazine Männer, according to the publication. At a time when Europe -- and especially France -- is witnessing public demonstrations against same sex marriage, the first edition of the magazine under his direction will have as its main story a report titled "Do we want to get married?".

In Germany, where the law only permits marriage between people of the opposite sex, the subject has been under discussion for some time. In the editorial of the magazine, after noting that this is the "debate of the season," the theologian warns of the risk of reproducing the situation of France in Germany. Since thousands have demonstrated against marriage equality in France, an increase in anti-gay violence has been observed, the former monk [ironically, in his youth, Berger was a member of the extremely traditional Society of St. Pius X] points out in TV interviews.

After two decades as a model Catholic, Berger broke his silence in April 2010, claiming to be sick of the hypocrisy that forced him, among other things, to introduce his partner on official occasions as his "cousin." So he was dismissed from the  Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, where for a time he had been the youngest professor. In November 2010, his autobiographical book Der Heilige Schein ("The Holy Sham") came out, a settling of scores with fundamentalist religious circles. Berger uses Christian arguments against the demonization of homosexuality for which, according to him, there is no biblical basis.

If the Old and New Testaments were taken literally, Christians should also not use clothing made of mixed fibers or eat seafood. His arguments didn't stop the Cardinal of Cologne, Joachim Meisner, from withdrawing his authorization to teach the Catholic faith. Three years after making his sexual orientation public in Frankfurter Rundschau, Berger wrote in Facebook: "It wasn't always easy but I would do it again. The last three years have been generally an excellent period, thanks particularly to the solidarity of many good friends and the great man who is at my side."

Since forsaking his double life, Berger has given countless interviews, he has been a guest on TV programs, written essays and provoked considerable discussion, for example, with his argument that homosexuality is widespread among the Catholic clergy. He has denounced the lack of honesty and the "mechanisms of extortion" within the Church and described celibacy and the chastity vow for priests as an instrument of domination which is used to maintain the docility of the lower clerical ranks. With all that, Berger has made many enemies, but he has also earned many fans.