Friday, September 19, 2014

Listening to women...for a change

The Diocese of Killaloe, Ireland, is a very typical one and not in crisis...yet. It has around 100 priests to staff its 56 parishes but more than half of them are over 66 years old and vocations are declining. Given this panorama, Bishop Kieran O'Reilly (photo) decided pro-actively to introduce a permanent deacon program, a proposal he presented via a pastoral letter to his flock in August 2014. Permanent deacons are married, ordained, and, unlike lay people, they are allowed to read the gospel, give homilies, and perform weddings and baptisms. They may not celebrate the Eucharist or hear confessions. And...they must be male, according to current canon law.

Therein lies the flaw. Bishop O'Reilly's pastoral letter detailed the role he envisioned for the future deacons -- not only the sacramental activities but also charity and social justice ministry, sacramental preparation and religious education. Many of those functions are already being performed by lay people in Killaloe -- mainly lay women, to be specific -- women who would not be eligible to apply for the diaconate positions.

Those women swiftly and forcefully let their bishop know that his proposed permanent diaconate plan would not be welcome because they could not be included and they encouraged him to try to find a more equitable solution. As one of the lay women activists, Kathleen McDonald, who is involved with catechesis, retreat facilitation, as well as in parish and diocesan pastoral councils, told the Irish Examiner: "We were offended that the Church in Killaloe was not going ahead with any alternative to a diaconate that could involve women as women do most of the lay work on the ground around the diocese." "In 2014 is it appropriate that they bring in another male only ministry? What impression does it give of the Church?," McDonald asked.

Bishop O'Reilly expressed surprise at the negative reaction to his proposal but was sympathetic to the women's feelings. "I was a little bit surprised by the manner in which the discussion took a very negative approach and went very far away from what my intentions were and people second guessing me on a different level altogether which did really surprise me." He added that, as the diaconate is presently constituted, "I was not in a position to be able to offer it to those who have felt very hurt and who felt over the last couple of weeks that they are excluded. May I say from the very beginning that it was never my intention."

What happened next is almost unheard of in the Catholic Church. The bishop took the women's concerns to heart and put his proposal on hold. Last Sunday, he issued a statement to be read at all the masses: "In the light of the conversations held over the past weeks and in the interest of allowing the further implementation of the Pastoral Plan I will not now proceed with the introduction of the Permanent Diaconate at this time in the diocese....I believe that the level of engagement shown by the recent dialogue has brought to the surface a sign of the energy and commitment of many people in our church. I encourage this dialogue to continue as I believe it will bring great benefits to the Church in the Diocese and the mission entrusted to all of us by Jesus Christ."

The women welcomed their bishop's decision. Another activist, Martina Meskell, told Clare People the women are not radicals or feminists. "We do not want any negativity or divisiveness over this," she said, adding that they just wanted the pastoral plan implemented to include everyone irrespective of gender. "We really welcome Bishop Kieran's decision to put this on hold and acknowledge his commitment to dialogue."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Not detracting from the goodness of God

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
September 21, 2014

Matthew 20:1-16

Throughout his prophetic career, Jesus stressed again and again his experience of God as "an unfathomable mystery of goodness" that smashes all our precalculations. His message is so revolutionary that, after twenty centuries, there are still Christians who dare not take it seriously.

To spread his experience of this good God to everyone, Jesus compares His actions to the surprising behavior of the lord of a vineyard. Up to five times he goes in person to hire laborers for his vineyard. He doesn't seem too concerned about their work output. What he wants is that no laborer be without work one more day.

For that very reason at the end of the day, he doesn't pay them according to the work done by each group. Although their work has been very uneven, he gives them all "one denarius" -- simply, what a peasant family from Galilee needed each day to be able to live.

When the spokesman for the first group protests because he has treated the last the same as them, that they worked more than anyone else, the lord of the vineyard answers with these admirable words: "Are you envious because I am good?". Are you going to stop me with your petty calculations from being good to those who need their bread to eat?

What is Jesus suggesting? Is it that God doesn't act according to the justice and equality criteria that we use? Might it be true that God, rather than measuring individual merit as we would do, always seeks to respond from his unfathomable Goodness to our radical need for salvation?

I confess that I feel immense sorrow when I meet good people who imagine a God devoted to carefully noting the sins and merits of human beings, to someday give back to each one exactly according to what he deserves. Is it possible to imagine a more inhumane being than someone who has dedicated themselves to that for all eternity?

Believing in a God who is an unconditional Friend could be the most liberating experience one could imagine, the most vigorous strength to live or die. In contrast, living facing a vigilante and menacing God could become a person's most dangerous and destructive neurosis.

We must learn not to confuse God with our narrow petty schemes. We must not detract from His unfathomable Goodness by mixing the authentic traits that come from Jesus with features of an avenging God taken from the Old Testament. Before the good God revealed in Jesus, there is only room for trust.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Liberation Theology in Salvador Allende's Chile

By Reflexión y Liberación (English translation by Rebel Girl)
September 14, 2014

The Great Hall of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile was the solemn surroundings where the long awaited book by Yves Carrier, Teología práctica de liberación en el Chile de Salvador Allende ["Practical liberation theology in Salvador Allende's Chile"], Ceibo Ediciones, was presented.

In a room overflowing with more than 400 attendees, FEUC president Naschla Aburman acted as emcee and moderator, expressing thanks for the crowded audience and particularly the presence of Mrs. Ángela Jeria, mother of President Michelle Bachelet, as well as the rector of the University of Chile, Don Ennio Vivaldi.

The event began with the distinguished human rights advocate, attorney Fabiola Letelier del Solar who, in the name of the editorial board of the journal Reflexión y Liberación, expressed joy at seeing concluded this cherished initiative which had been suggested to us by missionary Guy Boulanger, OMI and follows the editorial line our publication has had for 25 years, based on the Gospel, social justice, Vatican II and liberation theology.

Mónica Echeverría and priests José Aldunate and Mariano Puga were in charge of the book's presentation.

Writer, professor, actress and playwright Mónica Echeverría began by indicating that her husband, Fernando Castillo Velasco, should have been in her place, since, as the former rector of the Catholic university, he was a leader and ideologue in university reform in the late 1970s, someone who embraced the cause and consequences of liberation theology in his life.

In her presentation, she went back to the 1970s, recalling that the Church was beginning to experience a deep crisis as a result of its lack of openness to the world. She indicated the origins of that crisis in the assimilation of imperial power which was the sad heritage of Constantine's conversion to the Church. She pointed out the pageantry and the distorted image of a punishing God as "means of manipulation to make the poor submit." She stressed that there were historical voices who denounced such abuses, until the appearance of Marx eventually snatched the poor from the Church, who, she said, became agents of history. She highlighted significant Christians figures like Yves Congar, Teilhard de Chardin, Jacques Maritain, Manuel Larraín, Saint Alberto Hurtado and Clotario Blest, stressing that "they were beacons of hope for the poor." Following the historical tour, she continued with the good Pope John XXIII, highlighting his refusal to be bourgeois.

In that context, she presented Yves Carrier's book as a testimony to that liberating Church that seeks to serve the poor, noting that Chile was chosen to live out that experiment, specifically in Chuquicamata. She recalled a phrase of the late Dutch priest [Jan] Caminada that contains the spirit of this initiative: "We must not be divided in the struggle but walk together."

She criticized the silence and persecution imposed by Pope John Paul II on liberation theology and ended by highlighting the figure of Pope Francis as a great sign of hope for the Church and all humankind.

She was followed by José Aldunate who was applauded repeatedly. It was surprising to note his clarity and firmness, that at 97, he is testimony to evangelical passion. He gave his entire address standing.

Pepe spoke as a leader in Caminada's experiment, indicating that the goal of that adventure was seeking answers to basic questions such as: "What will become of the human race? What is the Church doing about the situation of the poor? How can the Church be modernized? How do we get it out of its buildings and worship services? How do we get it out into the street?"

Anecdotally, he said that Caminada was strict, severe, and that only Mariano Puga, with a joke or a gesture, was able to master him. He shared that Caminada, upon returning from a long mission in Indochina, came to his country, Holland, and found it tied to the past and found a Church trapped in a doctrinairism that wasn't attune to the present and was suspicious of all Socialism. He became persuaded that the way was praxis, since reality was above doctrine. He devised a strategy and came to Chile to test his hypothesis. That was how "we formed a group of Chileans and foreigners, among them Mariano, Rafael Maroto, and myself. It was a group that relinquished its bourgeois status."

The method had several steps: getting away from doctrinalism, insertion into the real world, acting out a new basic praxis, and dialoging with the bishops. He shared freely that "that was the most difficult. That dialogue had serious problems. Many bishops were afraid. We told them the Church had to make policy. We wanted to make God's dream come true: a united, egalitarian and fraternal community. That calls for policy, praxis aimed at the reality of the country." He serenely shared private details such as when "the bishops told us they didn't want us in Chile. The bishops rejected us." And he talked about how "the bishop of Calama, Don Juan Luis Ysern stood up for us until, finally, it was Pinochet with the coup who settled everything, throwing Caminada and his whole gang out. Only us five Chileans remained: Rafael Maroto, José Correa, Mariano, Chavo Fuster and me." And he said: "A branch could blossom. We five Chileans Got organized and formed a little group named EMO ("equipo misionero obrero" -- "worker missionary team"). Then we were 40 and then, 70. We continued to practice Caminada's method. We were able to fulfill Caminada's dream. Maroto was a shopkeeper, Pepe Correa a carpenter, Mariano a painter, and I worked in construction. We managed to open the Church to the left. So the distance between us and the Communists and Socialists came to an end, and there were no longer mutual insults but fraternal collaboration."

Pepe acknowledged joyfully, "We achieved something, moved forward. There was still fire under the ashes so that a Church committed to change in the world could emerge, committed to God's dream -- being a united, solidary and fraternal society."

With those words, Pepe ended his presentation, followed by a lengthy and warm ovation.

When Mariano Puga's turn came, he began by sharing his feelings: "I am coming to a unique point in my life, my history, my Church, my people." He read two Gospel passages -- with Luke, he proclaimed the text where Jesus makes the book of Isaiah his own: "...he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor..." (Lk 4:18-21) and the text from the Book of Acts where Luke describes the life of the early Christian communities: "...[they] were united, shared what they had, sold their goods and property and then distributed the money among all according to their needs...and they were esteemed by all..." (Acts 2:42-47).

With the reading of the Gospel, the assembly welcomed with respect and sanctity the emotion of Mariano, who took the floor again with the force of a prophet saying, "this is letter of introduction of the people's Church," and he added, "the greatest scandal is that the poor, the excluded, the marginalized don't feel at home in their Church. They don't feel that their hopes, their martyrdom resonates. There's an estrangement between the Church of Jesus and the Catholic Church." And, with emotion, he added: "This is our challenge, for those of us who think we are faithful to Jesus of Nazareth. That is impossible without being faithful to the poor, to their struggles and hopes." He shared that "what was most valuable about Calama was this: creating a new humanity in God's style, inseparable from the poor and the excluded."

Coming back to the present, he stated that "we are in a historic moment, with Pope Francis who says 'I want a poor Church for the poor' and invites Gustavo Gutierrez to dinner" -- and spontaneous applause broke out that filled the Great Hall of the PUC.

Then Mariano stated sorrowfully that "admiring without imitating is hypocrisy." And he added, "calling myself a disciple of Jesus, being a member of a Church that makes the hopes and anguish of the people its own -- which is its dogmatic constitution. We belonged to that mafia of the Holy Spirit that works in the heart of humanity. In that experiment there was room for priests, colleagues and workers."

Then Mariano returned to the story, saying that on August 15, 1973, the bishop of Calama told that group that the bishops didn't want them and he asked them to stop and leave. Mariano went to Santiago, and he said that on September 11, 1973 he got together with Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez, Sergio Contreras Navia, José Manuel Santos Ascarza and Carlos González Cruchaga, who expressed their support for the Calama experiment, at which statement the assembly erupted in applause full of gratitude that inundated the Great Hall of the Pontifical Catholic University, a testimony of gratitude towards those dear bishops and this beloved Church.

So the presentations concluded. Then there was an opportunity to share testimonies, beginning with that of Karina Delfino, president of Socialist youth. Don Ennio Vivaldi, rector of the University of Chile, followed, and in brief words, called for spiritual revival and recovering the great ideals, recalling times when citizens were mobilized for big social projects. He did this by highlighting the political figure of Salvador Allende. The last testimony was given by Jacques Chonchol, former minister of agriculture under Salvador Allende, who masterfully gave a synthesis of the history and evolution of the Mapuche conflict.

The presentation ended with a song to pay tribute to Pepe Aldunate and Mónica Echeverría's birthdays, followed by a simple reception where there was a chance to socialize with the numerous attendees, as well as with many men and women committed to the many liberating causes of the Chilean and Latin American people.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Women's presence in the Church: rhetoric without significant changes

By Patricia Fachin (English translation by Rebel Girl)
IHU-Unisinos/Adital (Português/Español)
September 10, 2014

"The achievements of feminism are manifested daily in public policies in favor of women, political fruits of their own struggles, and in a thousand and one activities in which respect for women is guaranteed," the theologian says.

The feminist theology adopted by Ivone Gebara comes from approaching "people's suffering and questions without having a tidy doctrinal response" and "the real life situations where people find themselves." This is how the Catholic theologian, from the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady (Canoneses of St. Augustine), in the interview below, talks about her approach to feminism and how she "came to notice" how her "way of doing theology did not include the sufferings and dreams of women. " Therefore, it was necessary to conceive a feminist theology.

For Ivone, "there's a big difference between doing feminist theology and doing the traditional theology affirmed as the current theology of the Church." According to her, despite the "common statement" "God is God", reflecting the "thought of many people", there are "multiple meanings of the word 'God'." She explains: "Even when we say there is only one God, that statement is experienced in different ways. In the different Christian traditions and in the lives of common people, the word 'God', even though everyone uses it, doesn't mean the same thing for everybody because each person experiences this Great Mystery in his or her way. In that sense one could say that each one does his own theology even though we belong to the same Church. We all want to experience love but each one experiences it in his own way and according to his history and interpretation." Likewise, the Catholic theologian points out a distinction between feminist theology and the official theology of the Church. "Feminist theology stems from observing the complicity of a certain kind of Christianity with the oppression and domination of women, even within the Church...Therefore the God of feminist women who are seeking to liberate themselves from many forms of historical oppression doesn't have the same legalistic and controlling image as in other theologies," she explains.

In the interview below, granted to IHU On-Line via e-mail, the theologian also comments on the situation of the North American religious sisters who belong to LCWR and who are being evaluated by the Vatican. For her, "the situation of the North American women religious is an example of the current conflict between a part of the Catholic hierarchy and intelligent women, with excellent educational backgrounds and performance in various social environments."

Along the same line, she asserts that "existing feminist theologians were never the focus of Pope Francis' interest or that of others." In that sense, she mentions, the fact that Pope Francis doesn't allude "to the feminist movement that has had and has one of the most significant expressions in Latin America in Argentina" is seen as strange.

"In this stance, the pope has created some confusion in the news reports, especially when he states the need to rethink women's presence in the Church, their vocation and things of that sort, which is more rhetoric than positions that reveal significant changes. Clearly the omnipresent patriarchal tradition and bureaucratic machine of the Vatican as well as the local churches don't facilitate institutional changes for women. But they're moving ahead in spite of everything, claiming their freedom to exist and express their needs and their dreams," she concludes.

Ivone Gebara will be honored with the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by Faculdades EST for her contribution to the theological debate and training in the Brazilian and Latin American context, during Faculdades EST's 2nd International Congress, which will take place September 8 to 12. The title will be awarded on Wednesday, September 10th,at 19h, in São Leopoldo, RS [see video below].

Ivone Gebara holds a PhD in Philosophy from the Catholic University of São Paulo and in Religious Studies from the Université Catholique du Louvain, Belgium. She taught for 17 years at the Theological Institute of Recife - ITER, until its dissolution, decreed by the Vatican in 1989.

Check out the interview.

IHU On-Line: How did your career in the Church begin and when did you start to be interested in feminist ideas and advocate for a feminist position in the Church?

Ivone Gebara: It isn't the first time you've asked me this question. Probably, I'll repeat myself in the answer on the one hand, but on the other hand, each answer is a response given in a different time.

I like to say that several events contributed to my embracing feminism. In the late 1970s, because of work in alternative training in which I took part with other professors at the Institute of Theology of Recife, I came to realize how much my way of doing theology did not include the sufferings and dreams of women. Painfully, a woman awoke me to the fact that my examples always referred to the lives of men, and even though I'm a woman, I was unaware of the real lives of women, especially the poor. I say 'painfully' because I was used to doing situation analyses and had difficulty accepting the fact that I was not including the lives of women workers, peasants, and domestics in a special way in my approach. I managed to enter a conversion process and become open to a world that was mine, but that I hadn't seen or prioritized. I began to recover my personal history, that of women in my family, my coworkers, and to realize that my analytic tools were based on male keys, especially since they portrayed situations of male protagonism. Often they were also abstract and theoretical analyses.

Another path was the reading of books by Western European and American women theologians. I was impressed by their denunciation of the patriarchal world and its violent consequences for women's lives. I didn't used to use the expression "patriarchal world" or any of the others ones common to the feminism of that era. I gradually learned a new language that really was more of a new analytic tool for understanding physical and symbolic violence towards women. I began to sense and reflect on the differences, on what is public and private, on the use of images of God, on symbolism in religion. A new world was unfolding.

Latin American interaction

In those days, other women in Latin America also agreed about the complex problem of oppression of women in the churches, and we were able to get organized and participate in international meetings where we shared ideas and perceptions. This greatly expanded my feminist horizons.

I think that a decisive event in my life was meeting "Catholics for the Right to Choose" in Uruguay. That happened in early 1980. Their approach to the sexual oppression of women and their struggle for the decriminalization and legalization of abortion opened another window in my mind.

I remember a secular feminist who once asked me what I, as a theologian, had to say about the sexual violence experienced by women. What did I have to say about rape and abortion? How did my theology modify the misogynistic and sexist thinking of the Catholic Church? I confess that at the time I felt confused and didn't know what to answer. I realized immediately that once again the theology I had learned and taught lacked a radical transformation, an anthropological revolution, other references. Liberation theology had already taught me a lot. But a new step needed to be taken.

Challenges such as these were growing throughout my life and teaching me to approach people's suffering and questions without having a tidy doctrinal response. This is one theological method I call feminist, though not exclusively, since it starts from the real situations in which people find themselves, considers individuals more important than laws, rules or doctrine. We are invited to experience life before thinking about it. We are invited to listen without giving immediate answers. We are invited to seek together the way out for many difficult and complex life situations.

This methodology based on our lives becomes critical of predetermined hierarchical positions and therefore is not well accepted by the leadership of the churches. The fact of affirming the need for women to choose and decide their lives despite our limitations, generates inevitable conflicts up to the present day.

IHU On-Line: Are you following the situation of the North American nuns in LCWR who are being evaluated by the Vatican for not following Church doctrine? If so, how do you view their actions in the US?

Ivone Gebara: The situation of American women religious is an example of the current conflict between the Catholic hierarchy and intelligent women, with excellent educational backgrounds and performance in various social environments. It is these women who make up LCWR . The Catholic hierarchy has a hard time accepting the self-determination of these women religious who are aware, really, that they don't need the approval of a priest or bishop to live out the love and justice to which they feel called. They don't need to ask permission to read, study, help groups or invite people to their meetings according to the will of a bishop. They dared assume their right to be citizens and are being punished for it. In the Roman Catholic Church, women -- and nuns in particular -- don't have full citizenship. I have followed, to the extent possible, the complex process that these women religious are going through and they have my full support.

I'm struck by the fact that Pope Francis has not taken a more open position towards them. Two years ago, Cardinal Müller criticized them and accused them of promoting radical feminist issues. This accusation continues today, even if different words are being used. The Church leadership fears being accused of misogyny and they defend themselves, but their behavior is more than misogynist. Unfortunately they cling to an incredible biologism and the concept of anatomy as destiny. They've deduced from the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was male, arguments for the exclusion of women. And along this line, they give more importance to the priestly role which Jesus wasn't part of, at the expense of a more ethical understanding of Christianity where many inclusive aspects could be accentuated. Jesus was not of the priestly elite of Israel. Rather, he criticized it and distanced himself from it. Jesus lived a life close to men, women, children, Jews and strangers. With them, he preached the kingdom of God throughout his life through concrete actions that change people's lives. That earned him misunderstanding, abuse and crucifixion.

IHU On-Line: What differentiates feminist theology from theology, or what aspects does feminist theology add to theology, since God is God and this isn't an argument about gender even though we refer to God the Father?

Ivone Gebara: There's a big difference between doing feminist theology and doing the traditional theology affirmed as the current theology of the Church. The first thing I want to comment on is the common statement "God is God" that is present in this question and that reflects the thinking of many people. I would call attention to the fact of the multiple meanings of the word "God." Even when we say there is only one God, that statement is experienced in different ways. In the different Christian traditions and the lives of ordinary people, the word "God," although everyone uses it, doesn't mean the same thing to everyone because each person experiences the Great Mystery in their own way. In that sense, one can say each one does his own theology, though we belong to the same Church. We all want to experience love, but each one experiences it in his own way and according to his history and interpretation. To take examples from the Gospels, the theology of a woman suffering from an issue of blood is not the same as that of the Pharisee who enters the Temple and affirms that he is righteous. The theology of the Inquisition is not the same as the Human Rights one advocated today by many people.

Traditional theology vs. feminist theology

Along these lines, I want to distinguish feminist theology from the official theology of the Church. Feminist theology stems from observing the complicity of a certain kind of Christianity with the oppression and domination of women, including within the Church. It stems from the awareness that women are only formally "subjects with rights." It is born of the realization that oppression means thinking of women as having been created subordinate to men, and even when we're talking about "being complementary", it often means subordinate. We can't forget the myth of Adam and Eve created from one of his ribs. This all leads to the formulation of doctrines and interpretations that reinforce certain stereotypes that give men decision-making power even over our lives.

All feminist theologies stemming from patriarchal structures that are still very present among us are trying to propose personal and collective changes that can actually have an impact on the collective or life in society. The changes are slow, but in each situation it's necessary to review what we're wanting. Therefore, the God of feminist women seeking to liberate themselves from many forms of historical oppression doesn't have the same legalistic and controlling image as in other theologies. The very struggle of many women's groups justifies the existence of feminist theologies and their relevance, albeit as a minority, these days.

IHU On-Line: How do you assess the progress in debate about gender, considering that the initial discussions dealt particularly with women, but later moved to the defense of LGBT rights, also talking about transgender and even, more recently, a third gender? Moreover, Germany has created a third gender category for parents to register their children as "male", "female" or "undefined." Where is this discussion is taking us?

Ivone Gebara: This isn't the place to explain how the gender concept became an analytic tool of feminism. It's a long story. In general, when you used to talk about gender, you were thinking of the existence of only two genders: male and female. Other human experiences such as those of bisexuals, transgendered people and those of undetermined gender didn't come up. Some European and American physicians faced the reality of babies born with undetermined biological gender. You needed to wait a while until the parents, or even the child, would choose the gender through surgery or other treatments. Families and also birth records were affected by this unexpected reality. That's why countries like Germany introduced the "undetermined" sex option to allow the necessary time for an eventual decision.

Clearly, we are making progress on the issue as we discover new aspects of complex human sexuality that can't be reduced to a binary -- "either/or" -- scheme. But with the advances come new identity problems, new situations, new challenges. It's all part of the human condition and life in society that invites us every day to try to understand each other anew. And in this understanding, to adjust our language, our feelings, our political stances, and social laws.

IHU On-Line - Does feminism still have something to say these days?

Ivone Gebara: From what I've discussed above, my answer is yes, although I must agree that the form and the challenges of feminism are different nowadays. Often feminist struggles do not appear related to the early tradition of feminism. I'm referring especially to the new generations of women who are fighting for their rights. We saw, for example, the reaction of women to the serial rapes by a famous doctor in São Paulo, now in prison. Those who denounced him didn't actually call themselves feminists but they were aware of the dignity of their lives as women. In many universities, groups have been denouncing rape which, before, was considered something common that always ended with impunity. Today, at various universities, women are more clear-headed and are coming forward to denounce the perpetrators.

Today too, the trafficking in women and the exploitation of girls by national and international groups have received an alert response from NGOs, universities, governments and churches. This isn't called feminism but actually it has to do with feminist struggles past and present that helped raise awareness about various issues and affirmed the dignity of women. The achievements of feminism are manifested daily in public policies in favor of women, political fruits of their own struggles, and in a thousand and one activities in which respect for women is guaranteed

IHU On-Line: In general, how would you rate Francis' pontificate? Is there room for feminist theology in this pontificate?

Ivone Gebara: Generally and very quickly, it can be said that feminism and existing feminist theologies were never the focus of Pope Francis' interest, nor that of others. Of course my judgment is based on their public positions. It's strange that he has never alluded to the feminist movement that has had one of its most significant expressions in Latin America in Argentina. Likewise, he doesn't mention the existence of feminist theologians, either from Latin America or from other continents, when we know how much they have written, taught, and even been persecuted by the Catholic Church in the 20th and 21st centuries.

I don't think this silence is real ignorance of the facts, but a politico-ecclesiastical posture. Not speaking of someone or a worldwide movement, trying to ignore them, is not allowing them to appear in their historical strength. It's not giving them importance and not thinking of them as something that could bring any contribution to the Church. In this stance, the pope has created some confusion in the news reports, especially when he states the need to rethink women's presence in the Church, their vocation and things of that sort, which is more rhetoric than positions that reveal significant changes. Clearly the omnipresent patriarchal tradition and bureaucratic machine of the Vatican as well as the local churches don't facilitate institutional changes for women. But they're moving ahead in spite of everything, claiming their freedom to exist and express their needs and their dreams.

Ivone Gebara receiving her honorary doctorate (video)