Friday, December 6, 2013

Traveling new paths

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
December 8, 2013

Matthew 3:1-12

Around the year 27 or 28, an original and independent prophet appeared in the desert of Jordan who made a strong impact on the Jewish people -- the first generations of Christians always saw him as the man who prepared the way for Jesus. His whole message could be condensed in one cry: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." After twenty centuries, Pope Francis is shouting the same message to us Christians: Open the way for God, come back to Jesus, receive the Gospel.

His purpose is clear: "We are seeking to be a Church that finds new ways." It won't be easy. We have spent these last years paralyzed by fear. The Pope isn't surprised: "Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, program and plan our lives." And he asks us a question which we are to answer: "Are we determined to strike out along the new paths which God's newness sets before us, or do we barricade ourselves in outdated structures which have lost their capacity to respond?"

Some sectors of the Church are asking the Pope to undertake various reforms they consider urgent as soon as possible. However, Francis has expressed his position clearly: "Some are expecting and have asked me for reforms in the Church and there should be. But first, a change in attitude is necessary."

Pope Francis' gospel foresight seems admirable to me. The first thing isn't signing reformist decrees. First, it's necessary to put the Christian communities in a state of conversion and recover within the Church the most basic gospel attitudes. Only in that climate will it be possible to undertake efficiently and with a gospel spirit the reforms the Church urgently needs.

Francis is showing us every day the changes in attitude that we need. I will point out some very important ones. Putting Jesus at the center of the Church: "A Church that doesn't lead to Jesus is a dead Church." Not living in a closed and self-referential Church: "A Church that is locked in the past betrays its own identity." Acting always motivated by God's mercy towards all His children: Not cultivating a "restorationist and legalistic Christianity that wants everything clear and secure, and finds nothing." "Seeking a poor Church and for the poor." Anchoring our lives in hope, not "in our rules, our ecclesial behavior, our clericalisms."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas in Bethlehem and Lampedusa

by Pedro Casaldáliga (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
December 5, 2013

"There is no room for them" still,
neither in Bethlehem nor in Lampedusa.

Is Christmas an irony?
If your "Kingdom is not of this world",
what are you doing here,
subversive party pooper?

To be God-with-us,
you must dwell in helplessness,
with the poor of the Earth,
like this, small, like this,
stripped of all glory,
with no power but failure,
no place but death,
but knowing that the Kingdom
is your Father's dream
and our dream too.

There is still Christmas,
in the Peace of Hope,
in lives shared,
in struggle and solidarity,
Kingdom within, Kingdom within!

Christmas 2013
New Year's Day 2014
Pedro Casaldáliga

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Bergoglio saved me by misleading the secret police"

A new book by Italian journalist Nello Scavo, La Lista di Bergoglio: I salvati da Francisco durante la dittatura (EMI, 2013), with a preface by Nobel prize winner and human rights activist Adolfo Perez Esquivel, offers personal accounts of those who say that Pope Francis helped them during the period of the dictatorship in Argentina. The book will be published in Spanish this month by Publicaciones Claretianas, with the title La Lista de Bergoglio. In this excerpt published in the Spanish newspaper La Razón (11/30/2013), Fr. José Luis Caravias, a Spanish Jesuit now residing in Paraguay who got caught in the repression, explains how Pope Francis helped him during this diffcult period in his life and Argentina's history.

"I was dragged into a police van. The journey lasted a few hours. I didn't realize where I was being taken. Then they opened the door, pushed me out and sped off." When they left, Father Jose Luis Caravias found himself in Clorinda, in Argentina. No money, no documents, no clothes. Paraguay was behind him. It happened on May 5, 1972, the day of his expulsion. One of many. Various vicissitudes awaited him in obtaining asylum from the democratically elected government of Buenos Aires.

José Luis Caravias (below) has the strong hands of a campesino and a good-natured grin. You just have to look him in the eye to realize he has many stories to tell. To the forty books he has written about issues of genuine theology, as well as economics and sociology, he adds a blog where he doesn't stop expressing what he thinks about the evolution of Latin America. That is now his land. What remains from desolate Andalusia is his way of dreaming of the world Cervantes sought.

"I knew the ferocity of dictatorship. I experienced it in the flesh." The Spanish Jesuit was welcomed by his Argentine brothers, but the situation was becoming precipitous there too. "The alarm signal was the death of Father Mauricio Silva, the street sweeper priest, who died after brutal torture and deprivation. I realized that this was not just one episode. I knew because things were going the same way in Paraguay too"(...). "It's not the time to be heroes," Bergoglio would say a while later to the most exposed priests. "But Jalics and Yorio refused to listen," says Caravias. "On the other hand, he was right. As in the case of Father Silva, the death of the murdered priests would not achieve changing the plans of the dictatorship or arousing popular indignation that might have frightened the regime."

Fear was stronger than the truth. However, Father Caravias didn't learn the lesson either at that time. He went to Chaco province, somewhat larger than Portugal, where the ranchers and peasants weren't much better off than those in Paraguay. There too, in the vast plain to the south of the Bermejo River, the stubborn Jesuit formed the union for the loggers, the lowest paid and most exploited among the workers. It was impossible for the landowners of the 26 departments to just stand by and watch. "Shortly thereafter, messages of death and real intimidation began to come." The year was 1973 and the Society had a new provincial, the young Father Bergoglio.

"If I'm alive today, if I've been able to write forty books, if I've been able to continue to promote the rights of the last and the least and the Gospel among the poor and, finally, if I've been able to tell how things went down, I owe it to him," Father Caravias emphasizes. As an untarnished liberation theologian ("in an Argentine version," he specifies), Caravias sees in the attacks on the new pope a crude reaction from "some of international capitalism." Father Jorge is the sort of person willing to smell of humanity. "For his accusers, a pope who denounces global poverty is too dangerous," he says.

After fourteen years of mission among the indigenous people in Ecuador, Caravias moved to Paraguay. In the eye of the military, he was behaving like a perfect communist. Where the extraordinary Jesuit missions had existed long ago, he organized the peasants and laborers into cooperatives. For the peasants, it meant finally having a voice in the food market and moving tons of products with the consistency of those who, thanks to the partnership between small producers, would not have to submit to the conditions imposed by the ever present opportunists.

In sum, Father José Luis was what one would call a hothead...Once he had set foot in South America, he was certainly not going to be satisfied with a comfortable room and a pile of books. From the start, he went to work in the field. Then, as a peasant priest, he began to deal with the professional training of the agricultural leagues. But that career didn't last long. "In May 1972, I was violently captured by the police and abandoned on a street in Clorinda."

In Argentina, in Chaco province, we already know that it didn't go better for him. A bishop who received him in his home, explained why: "I have here, on my desk, some letters you wrote in Paraguay," argued the prelate who was wearing a white poncho and protected himself from the heat with a wrinkled peasant hat. "The problem is that what you're explaining is called Marxism." He said it with the peremptory bonhomie of a spiritual father who wants to warn about heresy.

Caravias, though fascinated with the Church's social doctrine and liberation theology, didn't think he could be classified as Marxist. But neither did he worry more than necessary that time. Among the new generation theologians ran an expression: "Don't be afraid of anything, not even the Vatican."

Considering the messes he had gotten into so many times during his journey through South America, from the missions in Ecuador to Peru and Bolivia, Caravias was forced to go home, exiled. In those days he didn't look favorably on Bergoglio. Especially because the latter, although he was able to remove him from the evil intentions of the military several times, made him go back to Spain for a while, waiting for good times to come back to Buenos Aires.

"Given my insistence on returning to Argentina, Father Bergoglio answered with a letter on July 15, 1975." It was eight months before the coup but the situation seemed clear. The country was sinking hopelessly. It was preparing to become an open-air prison. From Chaco to Patagonia, many warned that this was the unavoidable fate of the country. The mind of the international community was elsewhere. The United States hadn't blinked at the massacres that were being perpetrated by other South American regimes.

Bergoglio had understood it perfectly. And he had already started to take precautions. Answering Father Caravias' supplication, he sent him a cryptic letter. After fraternal salutations to his distant friend, the provincial got into the merits of the matter: "As far as the possibility of your return, I've consulted doctors and specialists and they agree that the climate wouldn't suit you, not even for a brief time, fearing a relapse of the illness you suffered."

Quite obviously, the provincial father knew that the secret forces had him under observation. And that if this letter were intercepted, the military could hardly suspect it. The Spanish Jesuit did not take it very well, but he realized that the situation was worse than he had imagined. The tone and metaphor about the state of health made an impression on him, raising questions in him to which the following year would give a dramatic response.

"Bergoglio had warned me that the extreme right-wing anti-terrorist vigilante group had ordered my elimination. So Spain would be the most "healthy" destination for me. It wasn't excessive worry or a way of keeping a cumbersome priest far from the Argentine province. "Two priest friends of mine had been assassinated: Carlos Mújica and Mauricio Silva. Surely Bergoglio didn't entirely agree with my work of organizing the people. Perhaps the many police reports had made him doubt me, but he behaved nobly, he never imposed an alternative "doctrine" on me, and he helped me escape certain death. I will always be grateful to him."

Moreover, in that lawless terrain that was Chaco province, "I had been arrested and jailed for one night," recalls Father Caravias. "At midnight I was exposed to a mock execution. One terrible night in a filthy prison. That time I knew the uncertainty of tomorrow. I didn't know if I would get to see the dawn. Today I can say I did well to follow Bergoglio's advice. Both when he suggested I leave the country and when he explained in that letter that the climate wouldn't suit me."

Certainly for Father José Luis, "as for many of us, a great effort brought us to healing. It isn't easy to forgive and forget those horrors. But for him, for me and for many more, such as Father Franz Jalics, faith in Jesus was vital.


"Bergoglio's List":How Francis saved dissidents from Argentina’s military dictatorship, Vatican Insider, 9/25/2013

Book says pope saved more than 1,000 in 'Dirty War', National Catholic Reporter, 10/7/2013

El Nobel Pérez Esquivel prologa "La Lista de Bergoglio", Religión Digital, 12/1/2013

Yvonne Pierron: "Bergoglio nos ayudó mucho cuando las hermanas fueron secuestradas", Religión Digital, 10/27/2013

Women priests in the Church?: José Maria Castillo suggests not

NOTE: There is a school of thought among some progressive theologians that, rather than admitting women into the priesthood, we should be eliminating the institution altogether. I have always entertained both perspectives on this blog. -- RG

By José M. Castillo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Redes Cristianas
December 2, 2013

I understand that there are quite a few women who are disappointed with the recent exhortation of Pope Francis. Just as, surely, there will be others who feel safer now with what this innovative pope has said. My point of view doesn't represent much on this or many other issues. But, be it much or little, I want to make clear at the outset that I agree with what Francis says about women in the exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium".

Let it be noted that the pope himself, in this exhortation (which is not an encyclical, much less a dogmatic definition), tells the bishops and theologians that in the particular case of women's ordination, there's "a great challenge." And so he says to those skilled in these matters that they could help "recognize more fully what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church's life." (no. 104). The issue, therefore, and in regard to the ordination of women, is not closed, but is in a process of searching, something which I'll try to explain in what I can arrive at on the subject.

Pope Francis stresses the need for the Church to return to fully living out the Gospel. Well, if that is taken seriously, we will seriously implement what the pope is saying. And, in such a case, what we find in the Gospel is that Jesus didn't ordain anyone a priest. Not women, of course. But men neither, nor even the apostles as is usually said with more ignorance than knowledge of the facts. "Priests" are not spoken of in the Church until the 3rd century. And about "orders" and "ordination", we ought to know that "ordo" doesn't belong to biblical language, but is a term and an institution that was taken from the organization of Roman society. And that was also done well into the 3rd century.

I'm not going to linger on other historical explanations. For quick information, as is the case, my view is that if Jesus did not think of priests but, on the contrary, had deadly conflicts with priests, is it best for the Church to increase the influence of the clergy and fatten an establishment that has appropriated power and privileges at the expense of all other believers in Jesus? Are we going to use women to boost that structure that is dying because every day there are fewer and fewer men who want to be part of that group? If Jesus did not think of clerics or priests, are we going to keep them going, even strengthening them with women priests?

So, a church without clergy? Well, yes. So what? Jesus chose twelve apostles. But, in the view of early Christianity, the purpose of that was for these men to be witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, a substitute was found for Judas (Matthias). But afterwards, as the other apostles were dying off, no substitute was found for any of them. The Gospel speaks of exemplary disciples, followers who had to put living as Jesus lived before anything else, even their own father's funeral. But people with power and privilege? No way.

Jesus wanted them to be "last", "servants" and "slaves" of all. This is what the Gospel says. We mortals have invented and fleshed out everything else. To live off it. Do we want to live as Jesus lived? And who is stopping women from doing that? Jesus didn't want people with power, but followers who are faithful to his way of understanding life.

And what do we do about the sacraments? Let each community decide, in each case, who coordinates, organizes, and runs it, as is done in all human institutions and groups. And what the Council of Trent said in its 7th session? Before 1980 I showed, citing the Acts of the Council in detail ("Símbolos de libertad", 1981, ch. 8) that what was affirmed in that session is not a doctrine of the faith. One can think in a different way and do things differently. What matters is not who has this or that power. What's really important is living as Jesus lived. I'll talk about the issue of abortion another day.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A woman priest responds to Pope Francis: "The denial of the priesthood to women is questionable"

by Olga Lucia Álvarez Benjumea, ARCWP (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Evangelizadoras de los apóstoles
November 27, 2013

What do you expect from Pope Francis with respect to women in the priesthood? They asked me that question not long ago and I answered, "From Pope Francis as pope I expect nothing, much less dogmatic or doctrinal change. He is under the "sway" of the Curia. What Francis is doing is challenging us to live the Gospel incarnate in the People with the sons and daughters of God. That is enough. It is and has been what's most important in the history of Christianity and the Church. The proclamation of the Gospel is justice and equality. If the opposite is preached, proclaimed and done, injustice and oppression are gestated, there will be no change, no reform, and PEACE is aborted! The door of the Gospel remains open to all women and men of good will!

For many, there is still the worrisome question about Canon 1024, which says that only baptized males can have access to the sacrament of Holy Orders. Up to now, no one has been able to answer what kind of water is used to baptize males or what different words are used in the baptism of a male that aren't known to the other members of the Church. The sacramental rite of Baptism is totally the same for women and men. Something has to change so that we are not discriminating against and marginalizing half of humankind which is us women.

Francis has just said that "the reservation of the priesthood to not a question open to discussion." I agree that it's not discussed, but the denial of the priesthood to women is questionable, since it isn't supported by any biblical or theological argument.

The sacramental commitment, proclaimed at the moment of consecration, must be inclusive of women and men. It is the commitment to dedication and service that springs from deep within men and women, joyfully proclaiming the Gospel! Commitment can not just be exclusive to males. The Eucharist is made and lived in Community! It is the celebrant con-celebrating with the Community and the Community celebrating with the co-celebrant, united, making real together the commitment to conversion, renewal and change (metanoia), building the Kingdom of God here on Earth, in the Here and Now.

It is impossible for them to deny women listening and following the voice of God-Conscience.

"Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God..." (GS 16)

Each of us human beings, man or woman, must obey the right judgment of our conscience. It isn't lawful for us to act against our own conscience, since we have always been taught and learned as a principle from the Church: conscience is the voice of God. "In all one says and does, one is obliged to follow faithfully what one knows to be just and right." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1778)

Conscience, being the voice of God, is not exclusive to men. In fact, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, on hearing the call and giving her priestly "yes", representing all of us women, responded to that priestly commitment, saying, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:26-38) In every Eucharist, she is the one who gives herself over and says, "This is my Body; this is my Blood." My Lord and My God!

Under no circumstances can we feel excluded in the face of our call to priestly ministry. On the contrary, it's our responsibility -- joyful service to the Gospel, for the Kingdom of God in the Church, with the Church, always bringing a liberating message with joy of salvation, as did Mary Magdalene and her companions carrying out Jesus' commission: "Go tell my brothers and sisters to go to Galilee, and we will see each other there." (Matthew 28: 8-20)

Just like the women of Jerusalem, those who remained at the foot of the cross, and who looked for him in the tomb, we have heard Jesus' commission and with them and many more, we have accepted the invitation to meet in Galilee. There, where there is no lust for power, where the empires of oppression, injustice and inequality have no place. There, where only unity in Christ who lovingly clothes, protects and cares for us, is sought.

He said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness." (John 8:12)