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.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Times of crisis

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
November 17, 2013

Luke 21:5-19

The gospels include some texts of an apocalyptic nature in which it isn't easy to distinguish the message that could be attributed to Jesus from the concerns of the early Christian communities involved in tragic situations as they anxiously awaited the end times amid persecution.

According to Luke's account, hard times are not to be times of lamentation and despair. Nor is it the time for resignation or flight. Jesus has a different idea. Precisely the times of crisis "will lead to your giving testimony." It's then that we are offered the best opportunity to give witness to our commitment to Jesus and his plan.

We have spent five years undergoing a crisis that is hitting many hard. What has happened during this time allows us to now know realistically the social harm and suffering it is generating. Hasn't the time come to ask ourselves how we are reacting?

Perhaps the first thing is to review our basic attitude: Have we positioned ourselves responsibly, awakening in ourselves our basic sense of solidarity, or are we living with our backs turned to anything that might disturb our tranquility? What are we doing from our Christian groups and communities? Have we set a line of generous action for ourselves, or are we celebrating our faith at the margins of what is happening?

The crisis is opening an unjust social divide between those of us who can live without fear of the future and those who remain excluded from society and deprived of a decent way out. Don't we feel called to introduce some "cutbacks" into our lives to be able to live in a more sober and solidary way over the next few years?

Gradually, we are getting to know more closely those who are the most vulnerable and without resources (families with no income whatsoever, the long-term unemployed, sick immigrants ...). Do we care to open our eyes to see if we can commit ourselves to alleviating the situation of some of them? Can we think of some realistic initiatives from the Christian communities?

We must not forget that the crisis doesn't just create material impoverishment. It also generates insecurity, fear, powerlessness, and the experience of failure. It breaks plans, sinks families, destroys hope. Don't we have to recover the importance of aid among family members, support among neighbors, welcome and accompaniment from the Christian community ...? Few things can be more noble right now than learning to care for one another.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Theology done by women from femininity

By Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Servicios Koinonia
November 2, 2013

Pope Francis has said that we need a deeper theology on women and their mission in the world and in the Church. It's true, but he can't ignore the fact that today there exists ample theological literature of the highest quality done by women from the perspective of women, which has enormously enriched our experience of God. I have devoted myself intensely to the subject and ended up writing two books, The Maternal Face of God: The Feminine and Its Religious Expressions (1989) and Feminino e Masculino. Uma nova consciencia para o encontro da diferencas (2010), the latter co-authored with feminist Rose Marie Muraro. Among so many current ones, I've decided to bring into the present two great and truly innovative women theologians of the past: Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) and Saint Julian of Norwich (1342-1416).

Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), considered perhaps the first feminist in the Church, was a brilliant and extraordinary woman, not only for her time but for all time. She was a Benedictine nun and teacher (abbess) of her convent, Rupertsberg in Bingen on the Rhine, a German prophetess (profetessa germanica), mystic, theologian, an ardent preacher, a composer, poet, naturalist, an informal doctor, playwright and writer.

It's a mystery to her biographers and scholars how this woman could be all that in the narrow and sexist medieval world. In all the areas in which she acted, she showed excellence and immense creativity. Many are her works, mystical, poetic, on natural science and on music. The most important and the one most read to date is Scivias ("Know the ways [of the Lord]").

Hildegard was above all a woman blessed with divine visions. In an autobiographical account, she says, "When I was forty two years and seven months old, the heavens were opened and a blinding light of exceptional brilliance flowed through my entire brain. And so it kindled my whole heart and breast like a flame, not burning but warming.... And suddenly I understood the meaning of the expositions of the books, that is to say of the Psalter, the evangelists and other catholic books of the Old and New Testaments." (see the document in Wikipedia, Hildegard of Bingen, with excellent text and bibliography).

It's surprising how much she knew about cosmology, medicinal plants, the physics of bodies, and the history of humankind. Theology speaks of "infused knowledge" as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Hildegard was honored with this gift.

She developed a surprisingly wholistic view, always intertwining man with nature and the cosmos. In this context, she talks about the Holy Spirit as the energy that gives viriditas to all things. Viriditas comes from viride, "green". It means the greenness and the freshness that characterize all things penetrated by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes she talks about the "immeasurable sweetness of the Holy Spirit which with its grace surrounds all creatures" (Flanagan, Hildegard of Bingen, 1998, 53). She developed a humanizing image of God as He rules the universe "with power and gentleness" (mit Macht und Milde) accompanying all beings with His careful hand and loving gaze (see Fierro, N., Hildegard of Bingen and Her Vision of the Feminine, 1994, 187).

She was especially known for the medicinal methods she developed, still followed by some doctors in Austria and Germany today. She reveals a surprising knowledge of the human body and which active ingredients of medicinal herbs are appropriate for different diseases. Her canonization was ratified by Benedict XVI in 2012.

Another notable woman was Julian of Norwich in England (1342-1416). Little is known about her life, whether she was a woman religious or a lay widow. What is true is that she lived secluded in a walled-in enclosure in the church of Saint Julian. At 30, she had a serious illness that almost led to her death. At a given point, she had visions of Christ for five hours. She immediately wrote a summary of her visions. And twenty years later, after having thought a lot about the meaning of those visions, she wrote a long and definitive version, Revelations of Divine Love (London, 1952). It was the first book written by a woman in English.

Her revelations are surprising because they are filled with an unwavering optimism, born of love of God. She speaks of love as joy and compassion. She doesn't view -- as was the popular belief at the time and even today among some groups -- disease as punishment from God. For her, diseases and pests are opportunities to know God.

She sees sin as a kind of pedagogy through which God requires us to know ourselves and seek His mercy. She says more: behind what we call hell there is a greater reality, always victorious, which is the love of God. Because Jesus is merciful and compassionate, She is our dear mother. God Himself is merciful Father and Mother of infinite kindness (Revelations).

Only a woman can use this language of lovingness and compassion and call God Mother of infinite kindness. So once again we see how important the female voice is to having a non-patriarchal and therefore more complete conception of God and the Spirit that runs through life and the universe.

Many other women could be mentioned here such as Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), Simone Weil (1909-1943), Madeleine Delbrêl (1904-1964), Mother Teresa, and among us, Ivone Gebara and Maria Clara Bingemer, who thought and think about faith from their female being. And enrich us still.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The presence of women in the Church

by Consuelo Vélez (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Biblioteca Amerindia
November 9, 2013

Among the many "different" things Pope Francis has said are his references to women. He said that it pains him that often women's role in the Church is "servitude" and not "service" and he has stated the need to do a "theology of women" so that the latter can hold more significant posts within the Church since "the Virgin Mary was more important than the apostles, bishops, deacons and priests, and women are more important than bishops and priests." (interview granted on the flight back to Rome after WYD-Rio) He has also highlighted the role of women as mothers and the feminine dimension of the Church, but he has said the role of women is not reduced to their maternity, although they must not renounce it in favor of getting other roles in society.

It's good that the Pope is talking about this because it confirms that when we women refer to the situation of women in the church, we are right and it also gives us more freedom to talk about it in the face of some of the voices in the Church who get "irritated" or think it's unnecessary to address these issues.

How do we make it possible for women's role in the Church to be their rightful one? For the time being, it would be very important for women's theological work to be better known, studied, and evaluated. It's not that there is no theology of women. There's a lot of it and it's very good. It's possible that there isn't a theology of women that is accepted by the Vatican that promotes more substantive changes and that must be what the Pope meant when he stated the need for a theology of women. In fact, when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he endorsed the holding of the First Congress of Latin American and German Women Theologians in 2008 and, undoubtedly, he knows about  many other events and publications along that line.

But what is this theology of the woman that is already being done? We should highlight the Biblical work that has reclaimed the presence of women in the Bible and their role in the constitution of the early Christian communities. But there's also work in other fields of theology such as theological anthropology, Christology, ecclesiology, sacraments etc... In these topics, the feminine face of God --so often forgotten -- and God's saving message for men and women concretely and according to their specific reality, are reclaimed. For example, it's not the same to speak of gift and sacrifice to women as to men. In a patriarchal society such as the one that still persists, that argument has led some women to the "servitude" that Pope Francis is criticizing, denying their dignity and suffering the tragedy of domestic violence, among others. Women's theology works to regain the dignity of women so often denied by patriarchal society and supported in some ways by a "distorted" religious view, and it substantiates that this is not God's will but that, on the contrary, God's plan of salvation proposes a "community of equals" where gender differences would not be the reason for the subordination of either of the genders to the other one.

Although all this seems obvious, it's still not a reality in Church practice. It's enough to see the ministers of Holy Communion giving out the Eucharist. There, one notices that the faithful prefer to receive the Eucharist first from the priests, then from laymen, and often, the line for the woman [minister of Holy Communion] is empty. Thus they reproduce the clerical style that impedes a Church of communion. And though many more women than men go to Church and they lead catechism and apostolic groups, their words and initiative are often not acknowledged by the ordained ministers, and real parochial councils, where the priest recognizes the voice of the laity -- and women, of course -- in the journey of the ecclesial community, aren't promoted.

It has always been said that change comes from the grassroots. But in this case it seems that the roots of the Church are very passive and that it's the will of a leader -- the Pope -- that is raising awareness and making us see that things could be different. In any case, change will come from working together and that's why we have to be responsible in the face of these challenges and ask ourselves sincerely: What is the effective participation of women in decision-making positions in our local communities? How much credibility are they granted? Are the theological works of women taught in the seminaries and schools of theology? Is there enough humility to acknowledge the difference between what ought to be and the reality of women in the Church? Will we review our praxis and correct the mistakes?

This is a task we have pending in this Church we love and that needs to be renewed according to the will of God, in this specific case, seeking to make effective that in Christ Jesus "there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free person, there is not male and female."(Gal 3: 28)

Consuelo Vélez has a PhD in Theology from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with post-doctoral studies at Boston College. She is professor of Theology at the Pontificia Universidad Xaveriana in Bogota, Colombia.


Teología feminista latinoamericana de la liberación: balance y futuro, Vida Pastoral, No. 323, November 2013

"Taller: Teología y nuevos paradigmas", en Libro II - Congreso Continental de Teología, Sao Leopoldo, Brasil, October 2012, pp. 381-414

Actualidad profética latinoamericana, Alandar, No. 292, 11/2/2012

Acompañando nuestro caminar teológico latinoamericano, Redes Cristianas, 8/19/2012

Teología de la mujer, feminismo y género, Theologica Xaveriana 140 (2001), pp. 545-564

Teologías y métodos, Theologica Xaveriana 153 (2005), pp. 29-52

Método y teología latinoamericana, Theologica Xaveriana, 135 (2000), pp. 415-434

“Una teología que no se ocupe de las personas empobrecidas no tiene razón de ser” -- Entrevista con Consuelo Vélez Caro, por Charo Mármol, Alandar, 10/30/2011

“A Igreja sente a urgência da ‘nova evangelização’” -- Entrevista con Consuelo Vélez, por Graziela Wolfart e Luis Carlos Dalla Rosa, IHU On-Line No. 404, 10/5/2012