Thursday, July 3, 2014

Anne-Marie Pelletier: "We're lucky to be Christians in an era of great popes"

By Laurence Desjoyaux (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La Vie (en français)
June 19, 2014

The French woman, a renowned exegete, will be the first woman to receive the Ratzinger Prize on November 22nd "for her work in hermeneutics, biblical exegesis, but also for being dedicated to the issue of women in Christianity and in the Church," said Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the Scientific Committee of the Ratzinger Foundation. This 68 year-old mother of three children, with a degree in Modern Literature and a PhD in Religious Studies, is the first woman to receive this award which is sometimes called "Nobel of Theology." She has taught Scripture and hermeneutics since 1993 at the Studium of the Faculté Notre Dame, now the Collège des Bernardins. She has also been a lecturer at the European Institute of Religious Sciences in the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (EPHE). In several books, she has addressed the issue of women in the Church: Le christianisme et les femmes ("Christianity and women" - 2001) and Le signe de la femme ("The Sign of Woman" - 2006).

The Ratzinger Prize you just got rewards your atypical course, from literature to biblical hermeneutics... What motivates you?

My career as a teacher and researcher is crossed deep down by two thrusts. The first is literature -- the "love for Letters" to use an old expression -- which grabbed me in adolescence and led me to study literature which resulted in a degree. In the 70s, language science experienced a very exciting boom. I practiced and taught linguistics and poetry at the university joyfully, discovering new avenues for reading. I liked making students feel the pleasure of the written word and the power of literature that puts into words and questions the life and history of individuals and societies.

The second thrust through these decades of my life is an even more radical passion: Biblical scripture. It's an old passion, perhaps very modestly rooted. I think back to those evenings around the Bible, in a parish in the suburbs of Paris. We were a small group of teenagers. A priest, who was a man of great culture, accompanied us and welcomed our passionate debates involving Sartre, Camus, Beauvoir, and Biblical texts. There I started to learn to savor the Scriptures, their ability to vibrate in our present time, including where the Christian faith is alien. Since then, I've kept the lesson! Including at the University when, in the 90s, I formed a plan to propose that the Literature students study the Bible. A project that was not a foregone conclusion since the Holy Book was banned in academia due to secularism. In any case, it has been since then that, in my work, literature and biblical exegesis have been able to start to converge through what has become a major focus: the question, both literary and philosophical, of interpretation of Scripture.

You have taught and still teach both at the public university and in the ecclesial world ... What do these different worlds bring you?

Indeed, I love opening the Bible before various audiences. Each new audience makes me discover it differently, or go a little further than what I had understood. So I recently proposed some lectures at the European Institute of Religious Sciences, in the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE), which professes punctilious secularism. At the same time, I was working and continue to work for religious audiences. Some are monastic, others are those of a seminary studium, that of the Collège des Bernardins in Paris. This "flexibility", in some way, is a fact of my life, partly the fruit of circumstance. But it gradually became a choice, an intellectual and spiritual option that seems very meaningful to me. It takes me back to the biblical figure of Wisdom whom the book of Proverbs describes as posted at the gate of the city, at the crossing points and meeting places, where exchanges are made in crossing relationships. In this sense, I actually like crossing borders, experimenting or creating the link between worlds that coexist without necessarily talking to each other. The Bible is a remarkable interface!

You're a woman, a teacher at two institutions -- the University and the Catholic Church -- where many men occupy the positions of responsibility. How do you experience this virtual uniqueness?

I am fortunate to be officially in charge within an ecclesial world that is unquestionably males first. Obviously, I've experienced being granted confidence, including in the tasks of spiritual "authority" once reserved for clerics. I don't personally feel that marginalization suffered by many women in the Church. This doesn't prevent me from seeing the problems and hoping and praying for change ... Still, I find myself uncomfortable with militant Christian feminism. Simply because I don't see how it could fit with the spirit of the Gospel!

I'm convinced that major changes come deep down at a slow pace, certainly slower than our impatience! And I note that in recent decades, for those who want to see clearly, the changes have just gotten on the road. They obviously still haven't solved all the problems. But they should make us confident. I'm impressed by the number of women engaged in theological studies, alongside men. Obviously there remains ensuring that they are then associated with the work of the Church, with real positions of responsibility which allow them to be truly effective. But I think I've heard that this is Pope Francis' concern! Hence, again, my confidence.

That being said, it's clear that on the gender issue, we are faced with a problem that has an anthropological depth that goes beyond simply functional solutions. The Scriptures express it with remarkable foresight. At the beginning, in the book of Genesis, the relationship is labeled "very good". But it also shows that, in life as we live it, this relationship is a knot of problems! The Church is caught up in this challenge to find and show the way to a fair experience of man-woman relationships. It has never been easy, but that's also why it's a touchstone of the proclamation of Christian salvation. Pope Francis forcefully reminds us. "Whatever has already been done, a project remains open," he says. In other words, the task is before us.

You yourself have written about the place of women in the history of Christianity...

My thesis on the Song of Songs made me experience how generously Biblical scripture can treat the feminine. A happy experience, because the same scriptures can also often be copiously misogynistic. I think it's the same in the history of Christianity. There is, I believe, this mixture of esteem and disparagement of women, which occasionally turns to contempt. One finds the coexistence of models of submissive and bullied women's lives and examples of fiery, bold lives, engaged in history. It must also be somewhat true at the level of the bigger story. I have a great admiration for women in general. Saying this does not detract from my esteem for men! On the contrary, it's about being aware of this immense life history, often underground but so real, that women have built and maintain in day to day society. In this sense, there isn't a lost history of women. But there is certainly a need to free the potential for invention, for creativity at the service of the future, of which women are the bearers and of which our societies are depriving themselves whenever they mistreat or humiliate them.

You just received the Ratzinger Prize. What does Benedict XVI's theology bring to you?

First, I think we're fortunate to be Christians in an era when great popes are succeeding each other. Their profiles are certainly different. And that's good and a rather good sign. About Benedict XVI, I'm especially struck by the impressive vigor of an eminent Christian throwing himself completely into the debate between faith and reason, so necessary in our present cultural situation. He has left us great texts that reflect his passion to implement what John Paul II's encyclical Fides et Ratio already designated as a task. We must hold fast to this dialogue of faith and reason, as we must be alert to put faith in dialogue with culture. This is an important lesson, too, from Pope Benedict XVI, this time in his address to Collège des Bernardins, during his visit to France in 2008. He reiterated especially the need for rootedness, not to repeat the past, which would be deadly, but to keep us in the present and find the path to a future that is truly human. And that, despite what we perceive as threats, and even though times are sometimes confusing, even if the future is not very predictable. This program also seems essential to me. We shouldn't doubt the novelty of the Gospel, its energy resources!

After this prize, do you have other projects?

The coming year is already largely programmed! My project: keep trying to be a Christian, so thinking as a Christian, as much as possible, about the realities of our world, as they come to us.

Jesus' Three Calls

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
July 6, 2014

Matthew 11:25-30

The Gospel of Matthew includes three calls by Jesus that we, his followers, must listen to attentively since they can change the atmosphere of discouragement, tiredness, and boredom that sometimes permeates some sectors of our communities. "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened. I will give you rest." That's the first call. It's addressed to all those who experience their religion as a burden. There are quite a few Christians who are burdened by their conscience. They aren't great sinners. They simply have been educated to bear in mind their sin and don't know the joy of God's continual forgiveness. If they meet Jesus, they will feel relieved.

There are also Christians who are tired of experiencing their religion as a worn out tradition. If they meet Jesus, they will learn to live at ease with God. They will discover an inner joy that they don't have today. They will follow Jesus not out of obligation, but because of attraction.

"Take my yoke upon you because it is easy and my burden light." That's the second call. Jesus doesn't overburden anyone. On the contrary, he frees what is best in us since he proposes that we make life more humane, dignified, and healthy. It isn't easy to find a find a more exciting way of life.

Jesus frees us from fear and pressure; he doesn't bring them in. He makes our freedom grow, not our servitude. He awakens trust in us, never sadness. He draws us towards love, not towards laws and precepts. He invites us to do good.

"Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest." That's the third call. We are to learn from Jesus how to live like him. Jesus doesn't complicate our life. He makes it clearer and simpler, more humble and healthy. He offers rest. He invites us to follow along the same path he traveled. Therefore, he can understand our difficulties and our efforts. He can forgive our stumbling and mistakes, always encouraging us to get up.

We must focus our efforts on promoting a more vital contact with Jesus in the many men and women in need of encouragement, rest and peace. It saddens me to see that it is precisely their way of understanding and experiencing religion that leads quite a few, almost inevitably, to not have the experience of trusting Jesus. I am thinking of so many people in and out of the Church who are "lost", not knowing where to turn. I know that Jesus could be great news for them.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

SAVE THE DATE: 34th Congreso de Teologia -- Madrid, September 4-7, 2014

The 34th Theology Congress of the Asociación de Teólogos y Teólogas Juan XXIII ("John XXIII Association of Theologians") will take place September 4-7, 2014 in Madrid. The theme this year is "Church Reform from the Option for the Poor." The full program brochure will be available on their website. Here are the details in English.



Salón de Actos de Comisiones Obreras
c/ Lope de Vega, 40
28014 Madrid


Registration takes place at the conference itself and fees are paid in cash (no checks or credit cards, please) at that time. The registration fees are 25 euros for the whole conference, 20 euros for Saturday and Sunday, 10 euros for Sunday only.

For more information, contact:

Movimiento Apostólico Seglar (MAS)
General Ramirez de Madrid, 29
28020 Madrid
Tel: 679 288 408


Thursday, September 4

Greetings and Introduction
Margarita Maria Pintos, Asociación de Teólogos y Teólogas Juan XXIII

First Presentation: Did Jesus found the Church?
Federico Pastor, President of the Asociación de Teólogos y Teólogas Juan XXIII

Friday, September 5

Moderator: Comunidad Fray Pacífico
Susana Pozo, Asociación Hispano-Ecuatoriana Rumiñahui - "The struggle of indigenous women for their liberation"
Teresa Cortés, MOCEOP - "Another church ministry is possible"
Inmaculada Bellido, Asociación Tzadik-Pastoral Juvenil Espíritu Santo - "There are indignant ones in the Church too"


First Roundtable: Reform Experiences in the Church
Emiliano Tapia, Parroquia de Salamanca - "In the rural world"
Ángel Villagrá, Iglesia de Base de Madrid - "Church and secularism"
Alejandra Villate, JEC - "In the youth world"

Lunch Break

Announcements and Communiques

Second Roundtable: Another Church Is Possible
Joan Godayol, emeritus bishop from Peru - "In the ministry"
Javier Celaya, Gesto Diocesano Solidario de Zaragoza - "In community life"
José Chamizo, president of Asociación Voluntarios por Otro Mundo - "In the world of exclusion"


Second Presentation: Democracy and Human Rights in the Church
José María Castillo, Vice-president of the Asociación de Teólogos y Teólogas Juan XXIII

Saturday, September 6

Third Presentation: The Church Against Neoliberalism: Critique and Alternatives
Zofia Marzec, Professor, University of Warsaw


Fourth Presentation: Church Reform and Liberation in Africa
Anne-Sidonie Zoa, Theologian, Cameroon

Announcements and Communiques

Fifth Presentation: Towards an Inclusive Church based on the Option for the Marginalized in Latin America
Guadalupe Cruz, Theologian and psychologist, Mexico


Sunday, September 7


Sixth Presentation: Church Reform based on the Option for the Poor
Juan Antonio Estrada, Theologian and Professor of Philosophy, University of Granada

Holy Eucharist and Solidarity Collection
Comunidad de La Kasa

Reading of the Message of the 34th Theology Congress

Alejandro Solalinde, Father of the Migrants

By Roberto López Rosado (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Diario Oaxaca
June 30, 2014

Last week I had the pleasure and the pivilege to write about Arturo Lona Reyes, bishop of the poor. In this installment, I want to talk about another man devoted not only to God but to the disadvantaged, to the poorest, particularly those seeking the "American Dream", Mexican migrants and those who come from across the border, that is, from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua in particular.

According to Wikipedia, Father Alejandro Solalinde in his youth was affiliated with the Knights of Columbus, a conservative lay institution. He sought to join the Society of Jesus but his superiors persuaded him not to enter because it was an order that was "too progressive", so he enrolled in the Preparatory Institute of the Carmelite priests in Guadalajara. He studied classical literature, philosophy and theology, in addition to pursuing a degree in history from the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México.

However, the young Solalinde, I would say, already bore in his genes the seeds of nonconformity, of rebellion and, above all, of kindness and love for his fellow man, so he was expelled from the Carmelites and entered the Instituto Superior de Estudios Eclesiásticos where, three years before his ordination, he left the seminary along with fifteen other seminarians and formed a group called the Regional Council of Seminarians. Finally, he was ordained a priest by Monseñor Arturo Vélez, bishop of Toluca.

Recently we've heard about a subject that has to do with Father Alejandro Solalinde -- migrants, specifically unaccompanied migrant girls, boys and youth. And this priest has distinguished himself because he is one of the few who has not only helped thousands of migrants in the "Hermanos en el Camino" shelter in Ixtepec, Oaxaca, offering them food and housing, but has raised his voice to protest the violation of their human rights by the Central American and Mexican governments, and governors like Ulises Ruiz.

Although I don't know of documentation that talks about Solalinde having been nourished by liberation theology or the statements that emerged from the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM) in Medellin, Colombia and Puebla, Mexico, it is clear that he is a man who, like Lona, is not a militant in any leftist party but is a distinguished activist in that current that was called the "Church of the Poor".

Solalinde doesn't keep quiet. He denounces, accuses. He has condemned the abuses being committed against migrants, for which he has been threatened by powerful interest groups who profit from the Central Americans, from underground groups to organized crime and the National Institute of Migration authorities and municipal, state and federal police forces themselves.

The priest has led several marches to denounce the aggression but also to demand, as he did recently, that Enrique Peña Nieto allow migrants free transit through Mexico so that they don't have to ride the train called "The Beast". He has been blunt, to say the least, because he has made strong demands to both Felipe Calderón in his time and to the current federal Executive branch which he has asked for "Mexico to stop being the United States' policeman."

He's done the same with the cardinals, the leaders of the Catholic hierarchy whom he has accused of "blessing" the powerful who violate the human rights of the migrants. He has accused them of standing idly by in face of the pain of the Central American mothers who have come to Mexico in search of their disappeared sons and daughters and he was blunt when he stated that "they never raise their voices to condemn the femicides." He said that "the Catholic hierarchy needs sensitivity, to come down and get close to the people, listen to the tragedy of the mothers who have lost their children because of violence or because of being social activists."

Solalinde was awarded the National Human Rights Prize in 2012 and made a guest appearance in "La jaula de oro" ["The Golden Dream"], a 2013 Mexican film that shows the violence experienced by migrants who try to get to the United States and his pastoral and humanitarian work.

Just a few weeks ago, he was in the Chamber of Deputies where he went with a group of Central American young people, some of whom had been injured because of "The Beast", where he met with the Committee on Migration Issues led by my PRD [Party of the Democratic Revolution] colleague, Amalia García Medina, and including Lorenia Valles and Socorro Seceñas, where the young people strongly denounced the INM authorities and the police.

As with Bishop Lona, we Oaxacans and all Mexicans should be "grateful" -- as a lady from the isthmus would say -- "for the blessing from God" that is the work of this priest who is a son of God who is inconvenient for the top of the Catholic Church which has done as much as possible to displace him and other members of his order such as Fray Tomás González, his right-hand man in this struggle for the protection of migrants in the communities of Oaxaca and Tabasco.

I would say like that lady from the isthmus, at the end of a Mass offered by Bishop Lona, whom I heard imploring heaven -- but that now it would be for Father Solalinde and his "Hermanos en el Camino" shelter -- "May the Lord in His majesty bless, keep, and protect him."

Photo: Fr. Alejandro Solalinde with Diego Quemada-Diez, director of the film "La jaula de oro".

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

No to the idolatry of money

By Victor Codina (English translation by Rebel Girl)
El Bloc de Cristianisme i Justícia
June 23, 2014

The systematic atheism of the 19th and early 20th century seems to have been drifting into various forms of practical idolatry. There are many people, even among Christians who, although they don't admit it, worship idols. Among the various forms of modern idolatry (power, pleasure, consumption, the body, sports, science and technology, homeland, political party ...) perhaps the most widespread and severe is the idolatry of money, as Pope Francis points out in his exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (no. 55). This is the new golden calf (Ex 32:1-35) that is embodied in the fetishism of money, in the dictatorship of a faceless economy that puts finance before human needs.

It's an old temptation. The ancient Roman poets criticized the hunger for "sacred money" and the Letter to the Ephesians says that the greedy are like idolaters (Eph. 5:5).

And like any idol, money has its shrines, its priests, its requirements that even include human sacrifices. What else but human sacrifices offered to the idol of the money god are the victims of the current financial crisis in traditionally rich countries (the evicted, the millions of people and youth without work...), the victims of the multinationals in Africa, Asia, and Latin America (hunger, infant mortality, millions of "surplus and discarded" people...), the victims of war and the arms trade (deaths of innocent people, violence, millions of displaced persons and refugees...), the victims of exploitation and human trafficking (prostitution, sale of organs, inhumane jobs...), the victims of lack of schools (illiteracy...), the victims of drug trafficking (drug addiction with all its evil consequences...), the destruction of the environment sacrificed to economic interests, etc...?

Idols do not allow us to see reality or adhere to human values; they're limited to "what's in it for me."

Before this new form of idolatry, we must remember the words of the Sermon on the Mount: "No one can serve two masters,...God and Mammon ("money")" (Mt 6:24), that is, you can't serve the God of life and the god of death. The economy must be at the service of the common good with special sensitivity to the poor. Finance must be guided by pro-people ethics that block inequality and remedy inequality and poverty.

If we Christians aren't aware of this problem, if we don't denounce it, if we don't oppose it, if we don't act against it, we will fall into what Francis calls "spiritual worldliness", that is, people who under the appearance of goodness and spiritual practices, deep down are worldly and worship the money god.

To break the fetishistic and idolatrous attraction of the money god, we must allow ourselves to be moved by the plight of the victims of this idol. Through the wailing of the human victims and also through the groaning of the earth, the Spirit of the Lord is crying out for justice.