Sunday, December 27, 2015

Women's Ordinations - August-December 2015

In addition to the consecration of three new Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) bishops, which we covered separately, the following ordinations have taken place in the second half of 2015:

October 10, 2015 - Bloomfield Township, MI

Jennifer Marie Marcus was ordained a priest and Terese Rigodanzo-Kasper, a deacon by ARCWP Bishop Michele Birch-Conery, who is based in Canada. The ordination ceremony took place at Nativity Episcopal Church in Bloomfield. Rev. Barbara Billey of Windsor, Canada, assisted the bishop. Prior to pursuing the priesthood, Rev. Marcus worked as an attorney specializing in civil and employee rights law. While in law school, she was a delegate to the First Archdiocese of Detroit General Assembly under Cardinal Dearden. She is a current member and former board member of Michigan Call To Action. Says Marcus, "I have always believed and worked for social justice in accordance with Christ's Gospel message of reaching out to the poor and marginalized. I am excited to be ordained a woman priest and proud to stand as a prophetic witness for positive change within our beloved church." She is now serving with Rev. Billey and Bishop Birch-Conery as Co-Pastor of the Heart of Compassion International Faith Community in Windsor, Canada.

A mother and grandmother, Deacon Rigodanzo-Kasper has supported herself by doing freelance clerical, bookkeeping, and software testing work and has had both volunteer and paid employment in the Church. She has worked particularly in music ministry and in hospital pastoral care.Previous employment has also included Saint Joseph Catholic School, Unlimited Health Services, Inc, and Gero Solutions. She is a graduate of The College of St. Scholastica and is completing her theological studies with ARCWP's preparation program and People's Catholic Seminary.

October 18, 2015 - Medellin, Colombia

Blanca Cecilia Santana Cortés was ordained a priest and Lucero Arias Manco, a deacon, by ARCWP Bishop Olga Lucia Alvarez Benjumea. Rev. Santana Cortes was featured in a photo journalism piece in National Geographic. The ceremony took place at Corporación Primavera, a shelter for prostitutes where Rev. Santana and her husband work. About sixty-five people were present for the occasion and various male priests concelebrated with Bishop Alvarez, including Bishop Rodrigo Ospina from the Old Catholic Church. Some of the clergy in attendance were former priests but there were also active priests who maintained a discrete presence. Families of the candidates were present as well as representatives from organizations the women work with including Comunión Sin Fronteras, Fundación Bordado a Mano (ex-convicts), Mesa Ecuménica por la Paz, and Fraternidad de Foucauld.

In her homily, Bishop Alvarez reminded the gathering of the history of the women's ordination movement as well as individuals in church history in Colombia and elsewhere who suffered persecution and even death for following God's law first. And she appealed to the example of ARCWP "patron saint" Mary Magdalene who, in her words, "didn't turn back to look at the tomb, didn't amuse herself by collecting the sheets or taking them for washing, ironing and folding, or stayed smelling the aromas that permeated them. She knew that that job, though necessary, might also distract her from the one of taking the message to the boys. The sheets have been those social and cultural details that have wasted our time for years, preventing us from getting to Galilee. The Galilee of the disadvantaged, where the Master awaits us all to proclaim and celebrate the Good News. We've been tangled up in them all our lives -- "the rules, canon law says..," "that it's divine power," "Jesus chose only men," "the door is closed", etc., etc. Our mission is a matter of conscience and no one can stop us."

October 18, 2015 - Salt Lake City, UT

Clare Julian Carbone was ordained a priest by ARCWP Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan. The ordination of the former Poor Clare nun who is now a hospital chaplain took place at the First United Methodist Church. Rev. Carbone, a licensed clinical social worker, received an MSW degree from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. She is actively involved in inter-faith dialogue and peace efforts and plans to continue this work as a priest as well as use her new faculties as part of her work with hospice patients. Kate Kelly, who was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last year after pushing for female ordination, was one of those who laid hands on Carbone during the ceremony.

October 25, 2015 - Albuquerque, NM

Carol Giannini was ordained a priest by ARCWP Bishop Mary Collingwood. No biographical information is available about Rev. Giannini. The ceremony took place at the First Congregational United Church of Christ. In her homily, Bishop Collingwood reminded those gathered that "we are called to act as a retardant against the natural tendencies of societal and church culture that are built on faulty ground to fall into decay. If our traditional church does not recognize that the equality of women is constitutive to the gospel message, all its efforts to right the wrongs in our church will be built on sand."

November 14, 2015 - Palm Coast, FL

A woman named "Joan" was ordained a deacon by ARCWP Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan.

In October, we also learned of a secret ordination of a nun that happened in April 2015 and was previously unreported. Sister Letetia "Tish" Rawles (seated above with ARCWP Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan and Rev. Janice Sevre-Duszynska) had been a Sister of the Precious Blood for 47 years. Now elderly and infirm, Rawles has been living in a Cincinnati assisted living facility where she has been ministering to fellow residents since her ordination. When her order found out about the ordination, she was expelled and excommunicated. However, her order is continuing to help her with medical and housing expenses "...not because she was in the order, but because she is a person in need," according to the order's superior, Sr. Joyce Lehman. Rawles, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and advanced liver disease, said she felt called to the priesthood since childhood and wanted to respond to that call before it was too late. Rev. Rawles celebrated her first public Mass at her assisted living facility in November 2015. She told fellow residents that "even when things appear to be evil or bad, there's always a blessing in them. For example, in my own situation of coming out as a Catacomb priest, there have been many blessings. Among the blessings are the support and solidarity of our women priest communities, ARCWP and RCWP as well as the support of residents here at Atria."

Ordinations are already scheduled for January and March 2016 in Florida and April, 2016 in Albany, NY.

Monsignor Kräutler, great advocate for Brazil's indigenous people, resigns

By Luis Modino (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
December 24, 2015

On Wednesday, December 23rd, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Monsignor Erwin Kräutler as bishop of the Prelature of Xingu, Brazil's largest ecclesiastical territory. The acceptance of the resignation comes a year and half after he submitted his resignation in July 2014.

The now bishop emeritus, who will remain as apostolic administrator until the inauguration of his successor, in a note released by the prelature itself, expressed his joy at the appointment of Franciscan João Alves Muniz, who turns 55 on January 8th, asking everyone to "pray for the bishop-elect so that, with the grace of God, he will have the courage and energy to lead the People of God of the Xingu who have been entrusted to him."

At the same time, he calls for "the new bishop to be received with an open heart by all the faithful so that, from the beginning of his pastorship in the Xingu, he will feel welcomed with joy and gratitude."

The CNBB (National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, for its acronym in Portuguese), through its Secretary General, Monsignor Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, has welcomed the new bishop wishing that "the hallmark of his episcopal ministry be the Face of Mercy for the good of the people and the particular Church entrusted to him," while thanking Monsignor Kräutler for "putting himself at the service of the most vulnerable people, often being a resounding voice of those who cry out for their rights and life projects, denouncing the evils that undermine human dignity and the environment, not keeping silent in the face of death threats or the murder of his brothers and sisters on the journey." For all that, it asks that "God's grace allow him to continue being a supportive presence among those most in need, bringing hope of a more just, dignified and fraternal world."

Monsignor Erwin Kräutler came to the Prelature of Xingu in 1965 and was appointed bishop in 1980. For sixteen years, he was president of CIMI (Indigenous Missionary Council, for its acronym in Portuguese), becoming the great advocate for Brazilian indigenous peoples against the interests of big business, hydroelectric and logging companies, and agribusiness, which led him to be recognized in 2010 with the Alternative Nobel, but also to be threatened with death, because of which he has had police protection for the past ten years.

In his understanding of the Church, the laity have always had a prominent role. He has argued that if the laity don't assume the mission that is born of their Baptism and Confirmation, then there is no Church. We can not forget that there are more than 800 communities in the prelature and the presence of a priest is often reduced to once a year, so in one of his interviews with Pope Francis, he proposed that married men be able to preside the Eucharistic celebration.

Among the contributions of the apostolic administrator of the Prelature of Xingu is also contributing to the Pope's latest encyclical, Laudato Si' from his deep knowledge of the Amazon situation.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

What family?

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
December 27, 2015

Luke 2:41-52

Today is the Day of the Christian family. A recently established feast so that we Christians might celebrate and delve into what could be a family project understood and lived in the spirit of Jesus. It's not enough to defend the value of the family in an abstract way. Nor is it enough to imagine family life modeled after the family of Nazareth, idealized based on our concept of the traditional family. Following Jesus may sometimes require challenging and transforming schemes and customs deeply rooted in us.

The family is not something absolute and untouchable for Jesus. Moreover, what's significant isn't blood family, but that great family we humans are to go about building by heeding the wish of the one Father of all. Even his parents will have to learn, not without problems and conflicts.

According to Luke's account, Jesus' parents, distressed, look for him to find that he has abandoned them without worrying about them. How can he act like that? His mother reproaches him when she finds him, "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety." Jesus surprises them with an unexpected response: "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"

His parents "didn't understand him." Only by delving into his words and behavior towards his family, do they gradually discover that, for Jesus, the first thing is the human family -- a more fraternal, just and united society, as God wants.

We can't celebrate today's feast responsibly without listening to the challenge of our faith.

How are our families? Are they committed to a better and more humane society, or exclusively locked into their own interests? Do they teach solidarity, peaceseeking, sensitivity to the needy, and compassion or do they teach living for insatiable affluence, maximum profits, and the neglect of others?

What is happening in our homes? Is faith being nurtured and Jesus Christ remembered? Are we learning to pray or are we spreading indifference, unbelief, and a God void? Are we teaching to live based on a healthy responsible moral conscience consistent with the Christian faith, or do we favor a superficial lifestyle, without goals or ideals, without criteria or any ultimate meaning?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Living nativities

By Victor Codina (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Blog de CJ
December 25, 2015

In the Christmas liturgy we sing, "Today is born a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord," thus actualizing the message of the angels to the shepherds in Bethlehem (Luke 2:11). But where is the Savior being born today?

Certainly Jesus is present in the Church's Eucharistic celebration, but that doesn't exhaust the whole presence of the Lord. As the gospel on the last judgment (Matthew 25:31-46) warns us, Jesus is identified with the poor. They are the vicars of Christ, his living presence today.

Francis of Assisi reproduced the birth of Jesus in Greccio, putting the Child on a bit of hay, accompanied by an ox and an ass, as Giotto beautifully painted it. Since then, as Christmas draws near, nativities or mangers are put up in family homes and churches, with clay figures, green moss, cork mountains, silver stars, and colored lights...In some places, living nativities are organized with people representing Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus.

But all these nativities, as laudable as they are, recall and look to the past. So we can keep asking where Jesus is born today, because the Mystery of Christmas is always current, Christmas is always historicized, there is always a living Nativity today.

Certainly Jesus isn't born in the big stores where the orgy of consumption reigns during the year-end feasts, however much Christmas carols resound continually...

Jesus is born today, without a house or inn, on many parts of the Mediterranean shore, among the thousands of refugee children who come with their mothers to the coasts of Greece, Italy, and Spain, and who often die in the Mediterranean sea, which nowadays has become a true marine cemetery.

The social networks have spread the image of the Syrian-Kurdish boy Aylan, dead near the beach in Turkey. But there are thousands of children who are fleeing Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan in search of a European country that will welcome them. In some countries, they're received with barbed wire fences. There's no room for them. They are illegal, nameless, undesirable, disposable.

Jesus is born among the African children who survive in the camps in South Sudan and among the Central African child soldiers recruited by terrorist groups. Jesus is born today amid the Central American children who are crossing Mexico to reach the United States and die along the way, who are murdered or deported. He is born among the indigenous children displaced from their ancestral lands by the insatiable oil operators. He is born among the street children who live under the bridges in the cities of Latin America and sometimes disappear in police social cleansing campaigns.

Fortunately, Jesus is also born in boys and girls welcomed by someone lovingly, in children adopted by families, in children who live in children's villages with substitute mothers. Jesus is born in homes where nuns care with great affection for special boys and girls who use wheelchairs but have names -- Juan de Dios, Marta, Zenaida...

Living nativities exist near all of us today too, though we don't hear rumors of angels...Only when we approach these living nativities, can we sing completely truthfully, "Today is born unto us a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord."

Catholic Committee of Appalachia Issues "People's Pastoral"

The Catholic Committee of Appalachia, a Catholic social justice organization, has issued a regional grassroots pastoral letter on the call to be a "church of the poor" and the transformative power of people's stories in the work for justice. CCA, based in Spencer, West Virginia, has released this pastoral on the 40th anniversary of its groundbreaking 1975 pastoral letter, "This Land is Home to Me," and on the 20th anniversary of its follow-up letter, "At Home in the Web of Life," both of which were signed by the Roman Catholic bishops of the region. The two previous pastoral letters are available in a single document on the organization's website.

"The Telling Takes Us Home; Taking Our Place in the Stories that Shape Us" is the result of four years of planning and listening sessions, interviews, and tours conducted throughout the region and across religious traditions. For this third letter, called a "People's Pastoral," the planning team did not seek the signatures of the region's bishops, but rather sought to lift up the authority of the people, their stories, and Earth itself as an expression of the Roman Catholic Church's teaching of the "preferential option for the poor."

Since 1970, the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, which describes itself as "a network of faith-based people raising a prophetic voice for Appalachia and her people," has been working to promote environmental and economic justice in the region. In addition to issuing the pastoral letters, CCA has worked to address local issues such as mountaintop removal, labor, private prison development, sustainable lifestyles and communities, poverty, health, clean water, racism and climate change.

CCA has also issued individual statements and resolutions on police violence, racism, mountain top removal, protecting water, and universal health care, as well as on the implementation of Laudato Si' in Appalachia. With respect to the implementation of Laudato Si', CCA challenges the region's Catholic bishops to employ an "integral ecology" and not just be focused on protecting jobs at the expense of the environment in Appalachia, expose and work to rectify the root causes of the region's poverty, unemployment and ecological destruction, move concretely away from fossil fuels, and partner with grassroots groups working on these issues.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas: Whenever a child is born, it's a sign that God still believes in human beings

By Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl) (em português)
December 23, 2015

We are in the Christmas season but the aura isn't Christmas-like; it's more like Good Friday. There are so many crises, terrorist attacks, wars which the bellicose and militaristic powers (USA, France, England, Russia and Germany) have waged together against Islamic State, nearly destroying Syria with a stunning death rate of civilians and children as the press itself has shown, the atmosphere contaminated by rancor and a spirit of vendetta in Brazilian politics, not to mention the astronomical levels of corruption -- all this dims the Christmas lights and and dampens the Christmas trees that should create an atmosphere of joy and childlike innocence that still exists in every human person.

Whoever was able to see the film "All the Invisible Children", in seven different scenes directed by renowned directors such as Spike Lee, Katia Lund, John Woo among others, realized the destroyed lives of children in many parts of the world, condemned to live off of trash and in trash, and yet there are touching scenes of camaraderie, small joys in the sad eyes and solidarity among them.

To think that there are millions in the world today and that the child Jesus himself, according to the scriptures, was born outside in a manger for animals because there was no room for Mary, who was in labor, in any inn in Bethlehem. He mixed with the fate of all these children abused by our insensitivity.

Later, that same Jesus as an adult would say, "whoever receives the least of these my brothers and sisters, receives me." Christmas takes place when hospitality such as that which Father Lancellotti organized in São Paulo for hundreds of street children under a viaduct -- and which counted for years on the presence of President Lula -- happens.

In the midst of all this misfortune, in the world and in Brazil, the piece of wood comes to mind with an inscription in pyrography that an inpatient in a psychiatric hospital in Minas Gerais gave me during a visit I made there to cheer the attendants up. On it was written, "Whenever a child is born, it's a sign that God still believes in human beings."

Could there be an act of faith and hope greater than this? In some cultures in Africa, it is said that God is present in a special way in those we call "crazy." So they are adopted by everyone and everyone cares for them as if they were a brother or sister. So they are integrated and live peacefully. Our culture isolates and doesn't acknowledge them.

Christmas this year brings us back to this aggrieved humanity and to all the invisible children whose sufferings are like those of the child Jesus who, certainly in the severe winter of the Bethlehem countryside, was shivering in the manger. According to ancient legend, he was warmed by the breath of two old horses who as a reward then gained full vitality.

It is worth remembering the religious significance of Christmas: God is not an old bearded man with penetrating eyes, and a ruthless judge of all our actions. He is a child. And like a child, He judges noone. He just want to live and to be cherished. From the manger comes this voice: "O human being, do not be afraid of God. Can't you see His mother swaddled His little arms? He doesn't threaten anyone. More than helping, he needs to be helped and carried in her arms."

No one understood the true human meaning of baby Jesus better than Fernando Pessoa [1]:

"He's the Eternal Child, the God that was missing.
He's the human being that's natural,
He's the divine being that smiles and plays.
And that's how I know for certain
That he's really the Child Jesus.

And the child who's so human, he's divine...

We get along so well together
In the company of every thing
We never think of one another...

When I die, my little son,
Let me be the child, the smallest one.
Take me in your arms
And carry me inside your house.
Undress my tired human frame
And lay me in your bed.
Tell me stories if I waken
So I can fall asleep again.
And give me your dreams to play with
Until whatever day is born,
A day -- and you know which."

Can emotion be contained in the face of so much beauty? Because of this, in spite of everything, it's still worth quietly celebrating Christmas.

Finally, this last simple and lovely message is highly significant: "Every little boy wants to be a man. Every man wants to be king. Every king wants to be God. Only God wants to be a little boy."

Let us embrace one another, as if embracing the Divine Child (the puer aeternus) that is hidden in us and never abandoned us.

And may Christmas still be a quietly happy feast.

Leonardo Boff wrote O Natal, a bondade e a jovialidade de nosso Deus (Vozes,Petrópolis 2003).

[1] The English translation of the fragment of Fernando Pessoa's poem is taken from Poems of Fernando Pessoa, translated by Edwin Honig.

Ivone Gebara: Review of "Flores de Sangre"

Flores de Sangre, de La Bandera a El Salvador 1970-1979, a historical novel by ecofeminist theologian and lay missionary Mary Judith Ress was published in 2014 by Cuatro Vientos in Chile. It was originally published in English as Blood Flowers by iUniverse (2010). Ress is also the author of Ecofeminism in Latin America (Orbis, 2006), which won second place in "Best Gender Issues" at the Catholic Press Association in 2007. Ress is a co-founder of the Conspirando Collective in Santiago, a reflection group on feminist theology and spirituality and ecofeminism. Her friend and fellow theologian Ivone Gebara recently reviewed the Spanish edition of Flores de Sangre and we are happy to bring you the English translation of that review.

Fascinated by Judith Ress's novel, I will begin my presentation with the suggestive and intriguing title "Blood Flowers." Why did the author choose it as the title? Mixing flowers and blood? Locating these flowers from Chile to El Salvador as if in that medium and from there were born flowers of blood? Whose blood? What an unusual analogy! As if the blood nourished the birth of flowers...

I confess I never asked my friend Judy why the title. I think it's good I didn't do it because it gives me more freedom to interpret it and work comments on the beauty of the novel starting from it. I don't think the title means the martyrdom of women, although some aspects of the life of the nuns and peasant women in the novel and in Latin American reality would lead us in that direction. I think they are rather passionate ethical and political protagonists who from their daily lives, subvert cultural and religious codes. Martyrdom often sounds like something very masculine and very patriarchal to me! It makes me think about the etymology of the word that has to do with testifier. A martyr is a testifier to their faith and for that reason suffers torment and persecution to death. So far so good ... But if we continue a little further, if we go into the history of the intimate life of words, we find the etymology of 'testifier' and interestingly, the word comes from the Latin testis, the root from which the word "testicle" also originates. In many ancient cultures, men swore and became witnesses by holding their testicles in their right hand. It is perhaps unimportant but these subtleties of etymology and origin of words reveal forgotten layers of our psychic, cultural and religious structure. They invite us to think, to find connections, to seek other expressions.

Fighting for justice in human relations, living close to the poor with love and solidarity by choice is simply life, a life, many lives. The glorification of those who fought in life and after death are transformed into martyrs, is a device that does not always make us discover the complexity of everyday life, its traps, unforeseen events, and extraordinary beauty.

What we call martyrdom in our Western tradition is often the consolation of a logic of social and political violence that religions use to make the pain of loss bearable. I think one lives for life and that it's for life that Meg, Theo, the "Queen Mum", the peasant women of El Salvador, Chile, and so many people have lived. There aren't any eternal rewards...what there are are convictions, souvenirs, memories filled with tenderness such as Judy bestows on us in her gem of a novel. Speaking of martyrdom somehow accentuates the cycle of violence by giving a prize to the one who was violated or died because of the senseless violence of others. I can understand the logic of the proclamation of martyrs in Christianity almost as a logic of following it, but I think we have to break it or transform it. The many women in Latin America who have lost children, husbands, brothers and sisters, parents, and loved ones have tasted the bitter and tragic flavor of mortal loss and have refused to want them to be converted into martyrs. Wrongful death even for doing justice can not be exalted. The wrongful death of "good people" through weapons manufactured by "bad people" only accentuates a perverse logic and a dichotomy that must urgently be overcome. The same arms dealers serve both -- or perhaps more -- sides in the daily conflicts. So "Blood Flowers" is the memory of the creativity of female blood in life. It demonstrates that there are creative things that come from and go in many directions that only a woman's body can experience. Only singular women like Judy's characters can defend lives without weapons of war, can create new heart and hopes, can stay glued to everyday life and share the bread as a moment of love and justice.

We discover in the novel that there's another tradition that is more feminine than martyrdom and that is in the Afterword. It's the tradition of the "Sin Eaters." That tradition from my perspective and in my opinion cuts through Judy's whole novel, since most of her female characters and some of the male ones have experienced it deeply. Although it's only talked about explicitly at the end, this thread runs throughout the whole novel and creates complicity and solidarity between the characters and between them and the readers.

"There are Sin Eaters in every spiritual tradition. Because they love us, these gods and goddesses eat our shame, swallow our shit, and bear our guilt. In our own Christian tradition, of course, we have Christ, who took upon himself the sins of the world so we might be redeemed." [1] "I think you were my own personal Sin Eater, Theo." [2]

This confession written by Meg to Theo reveals aspects of this human tradition that has different faces depending on the culture but always appears and reappears as if to remind us of the interdependence between us. It is part of the human need to "bear one another's burden" in order to live and survive.

I think that among women there is and always has been something special relative to the experience of "Sin Eaters." Whenever anguish and fear confound our lives, whenever the pain keeps us from breathing, every time distance separates us from those we love, the need for "Sin Eaters" is present. Whenever doubts plague our bodies and jam the flow of life, we look for the "Sin Eaters"...

Who do we tell? With whom do we empty out the weight of shadows that suffocate us? Closeness and words become necessary...They bring out secrets, misery, make the words expressed fit a little better what is being felt and thus free us from the weight of suffering...The solidarity among us is made flesh, pulsating like blood. What we are experiencing as weakness and pain, as fear and passion, as death proclaimed, is accepted by the other without judgment and this sustains us and helps us to move forward. The friendship between the nuns in the novel is a typical example of the Christic experience of the "Sin Eater." A new meaning, a renewed theology perhaps is being drawn from the life of the characters. The Christic is no longer stated in an absolute and abstract way in relation to Jesus Christ as some dogmatic acquisition or static concept, but in the mobility of life and in every life that becomes a "Sin Eater" for the other. It is no longer affirmed only in a masculine hierarchical form as in the official theologies, but as a tender look from the eyes, from the ears, from the enveloping warmth of a hug, from the ability to bare one's soul to a friend and feel that baring accepted. This reveals that within the so-called official story of the liberation struggles in Latin America there are other little-told stories that cut across the official stories. Judy Ress has told them and rescued their poetic and political power, drawing a moving realism in her characters to the point of wrapping her readers in the narrative itself.

Stories within stories, kept in some history not officially recognized...A "historical novel" that many people don't think is real history, an account of lives taken out of hidden everyday life, of what doesn't appear, of what is almost prohibited from appearing. A story different from the official story about women and men "consecrated" to God, some heroes and heroines giving their lives in the practice of charity. In Judy Ress's "historical novel", we leave the "perfection" imposed by religious creeds and by a perfectionist imagination, we leave the ready-made beliefs, a perfect and pure white God who judges me from heaven for my impurity and imperfection...We also leave the rigid and controlled model for following the Gospel according to pre-established models. We enter into the mix of life, the daily impurity, the beauty of diversity including the diversity of impurities, the tiredness of copying abstract ideals and inventions that enslave life...Sweat, blood, stolen kisses, wounded bodies, the smell of good cooking, the freshness of the water on the body though it be dirty, beer though it be warm, a hammock in unexpected shade, feet without shoes and body without habit. Welcoming what comes as life when you no longer know where things are going or if dawn will come. One no longer thinks of "changing weak human flesh into a mass of holiness" [3] as Meg wrote in her diary as a young nun. One wants to live, to survive in a life that's changing every day. The challenge isn't to follow the established model but meeting people and ourselves in a world more complex than the ideal one was taught.

In Judy Ress's novel we read another story, beyond a tale of saintly and obedient nuns, beyond what was known and thought about the life of nuns. Nuns with cigarettes, nuns who bathe naked, who fall in love, who hug, who expose themselves to the dangers of looks filled with lust and filth, who dare to hide with the guerrilleros, to protect them...Nuns who speak up, who denounce the powerful, the deceivers of the people...Perhaps many will immediately think that "this isn't religious life anymore, life consecrated to God." And that's because they frame God in a model fabricated by themselves without realizing they're subjecting Him to their own laws and subjecting others to this very powerful and castrating invention.

The "historical novel" is dedicated to four North American women who were killed in El Salvador, four women who ventured out because they wanted to save the world from injustice, poverty, and violence. But it doesn't portray their lives; it reflects the lives of many other nuns and thus reveals a story of struggle for human dignity, a story of the soul's passions. The passions of the soul have never been the object of research by historians, much less the historians of the Church. Judy opens other windows by introducing the stories of the feminine soul in the history of the Church and the history of Latin America. She invites us to think about the influence of our passions on the course of our personal history and everyday policies. She takes them out of the hidden, the irrelevant and seemingly small world of emotions to put them in life as the power of leadership for justice and reciprocal love itself. Passions as diverse as life are shown in the characters as an expression of the vigor of their being, feeding their commitment. And, in a certain sense, contradicting the "pure" story of the Church where obedient nuns just see angels and talk to Jesus, those in the novel are passion, tears, and a song of life and death in flesh and bone. They, who are presented as following a dream of a God made man, dare to believe that their life of following God is in the midst of these daily paths filled with garbage, sweat and passion. "Following" is changed into acceptance of life as it presents itself without pre-established models. How bold! How crazy to think of themselves as fulfilling God's will the way they were living in Chile and El Salvador...And that's what they thought and believed until death. Moreover, perhaps they themselves felt like fragile goddesses choosing the paths of their lives filled with the unexpected, both good and bad. Life -- the plans aren't there, not outside, not in heaven, not in the Bible...They are lived out here amid the smell of gunpowder, blood and soil...amid the shots of an infamous fratricidal war like all wars..amid children's smiles, their tears, and the joyful pain of new births.

Conversion to the present, love for the present, a love both tender and tough, a love full of traps and moments of gentleness is drawn as everyday love, love like the "daily bread" we ask for when we need it...

I think it should be, and wish that Judy Ress's novel were obligatory reading in theological seminaries and houses of formation of religious men and women and in the faculties of history and sociology so we would put our feet on the ground again, look at it, feel it from our bodies. Get out of abstract ideals, stop imagining higher wills, patriarchal schemes of holiness, and go back to our sense of life, rediscover in it, in us, the necessary power and meaning for today...We have to be "tattooed" by today...and wait henceforth, although with pain and tears, the change in relationships that must start with us.

Everything changes...No more living in monastic fiefdoms like in the Middle Ages, no more protected convents, no more dark protective clothing, the characters in the novel go out in jeans and blouses to venture to fulfill the dream of their God or their own, nourished by the common good. They sing songs of love and nostalgia and they're the most vulnerable ones in the story. They live out their devotion to the poor of the slums and the countryside, marked by the events of the military dictatorships in Chile and El Salvador during the convulsive 60's. They live daily in this collective love of the people and within it are drawn other loves that do not hide the thirst for individuality, that don't keep personal dreams and tenderness from showing strongly until death.

As well as a chapter in this history of the Church in Latin America, Judy Ress's historical novel is a chapter in the lives of women in Latin America. Many of us, when taking on advocacy for the cause of the poor and ourselves, faced our own history, our bodies thirsting for love and tenderness. We left idealized perfection, we left imposed models and without promising anything to anyone, we let something big happen to us. We experienced in our own bodies what we had denied ourselves in the model of search for perfection that they had taught us. And we experienced the attraction of bodies in the middle of the war that took life from bodies. We experienced something of the love that gave us strength amid the bombs, fires, and destruction of the war of the big ones against the little ones and the little ones against the little ones. And we believe, we believe that someday we'll see peace, someday we'll see justice, though violent death encircles us from all sides. The love that is reborn "intertwines and intertwines like moss in the stone" [“va enredando y enredando como el musguito en la piedra”] as dear Violeta Parra sings.

Judy Ress, my friend of so many years, artist, sculptress of words, drawer of sentiments, confirms her extraordinary qualities as a novelist. She is able to bring her readers to life situations where something of what she describes finds strong echoes in our lives.

To feel and hear something new from our common body and from our memories experienced or heard, you must read the book with tenderness and attention. "Yes, I can smell resurrection when the wind blows through my open window. An open window can be a metaphor for the soul ... ," [4] Meg wrote to Theo ... And a well-written novel too ...

Ivone Gebara
October 2015

[1] Cf. p.221

[2] Idem p.222

[3] Cf. p.4

[4] Cf. p.223

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dictionary tells the history of liberation theology

by Cristina Fontenele (English translation by Rebel Girl)
December 15, 2015

Written almost entirely by Latin American theologians, the Diccionario Histórico de la Teología de la Liberación ("Historical Dictionary of Liberation Theology") which the Belgian publisher Lessius, with the support of emeritus professors, will launch in the Francophone world (Europe and Canada), is being finalized. It is anticipated that by September of next year, the work will be produced in French, Spanish, Portuguese and English versions. The work, which has been three years in the making, aims to provide an overview of the evolution of liberation theology from its emergence at the time of Vatican II [1965] to today.

Luis Martínez (photo), a Chilean theologian living in Brussels (Belgium) and one of the coordinators of the project, explains that the dictionary is organized into three big blocks. The first part develops the 10 main themes of liberation theology, for example, the theme "Liberation" which was written by Leonardo Boff, "Christology" by theologian Jorge Costadoat of Santiago [Chile], and "Base Communities" by Socorro Martínez of Amerindia. "We didn't ask anything of Gutiérrez [Gustavo Gutiérrez, considered to be the father of liberation theology], we left him in peace, but he is very present throughout the dictionary. There's a bibliographical note -- the biggest one -- about him, as well as Boff's."

Martinez, for his part, wrote a note on Chilean priest Ronaldo Muñoz. "He was my teacher, we studied theology and together we founded the Comunidad Teológica del Sur ["Theological Community of the South"]. In general, if anyone wrote about someone, it was because they knew them."

In the second block, the book does a geographic development of liberation theology by country, and in the third part around 150 biographies are presented about bishops, theologians, martyrs and lay persons who supported liberation theology and sustained it through their practice. This last block is preceded by a historical introduction about the obstacles, resistance to, and victories gained by liberation theology. Martínez says that almost all the theologians present at Amerindia's 2nd Theology Congress held in Belo Horizonte in October of this year, wrote an article for the dictionary. "Ninety percent of the work was written by Latin American theologians who are speaking about their own colleagues and reality. It's like listening to a family talking about itself."

With the arrival of Pope Francis, Martínez emphasizes that liberation theology is "back on the table", when it had been considered by many to be a "dead" theology. The main expectation with the launch of the Diccionario is, according to the theologian, presenting to the world a solid journey through Latin America starting from the great reception of the Council, especially to the European Church, which is facing many difficulties and is "almost dying," "on its death bed."

According to Martínez, Europe is very ethnocentric and thinks it has nothing to learn from the rest of the world. "So, we didn't want to get into a debate of ideas, but show the facts, which are irrefutable," says the theologian about the discussions related to the Diccionario and the history of liberation theology. For him, the idea of the project was to provide a dialogue between Latin American theologians, who tell their own story to brothers and sisters from other places.

In this context, Pope Francis, who, according to Martínez, isn't a liberation theologian but also fruit of the Latin American tradition, could give a new impetus to the Church, which is now being revitalized, with the "will to go out" and tell the "powerful" that the road they have taken doesn't work, being that it is necessary to save the Earth, save the poor.

The theologian emphasizes that Latin America is alive and full of hope, with projects and people who struggle despite undeniable difficulties at the social level as well as in the Church. In contrast, Africa is engulfed in wars and desolation, and Europe has locked itself in its wealth as in a fortress. Thus, Martínez perceives that Latin America could be an invitation to believe that, in fact, another world is possible.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Mary's Traits

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
December 20, 2015

Luke 1:39-45

Mary's visit to Elizabeth allows the evangelist Luke to put John the Baptist in touch with Jesus even before he is born. The scene is charged with a very special atmosphere. The two are going to be mothers. The two have been called to collaborate in God's plan. There are no men. Zechariah has been struck dumb. Joseph is surprisingly absent. The two women take up the whole stage.

Mary who has come from Nazareth quickly becomes the central figure. Everything revolves around her and her son. Her image shines with more genuine traits than many others that have been subsequently added based on devotions and titles more removed from the gospel environment.

Mary, "the mother of my Lord." Thus Elizabeth proclaims her loudly, filled with the Holy Spirit. It is true -- for the followers of Jesus, Mary is, first of all, the Mother of our Lord. This is the starting point of all her grandeur. The early Christians never separated Mary from Jesus. They are inseparable. "Blessed by God among all women," she offers us Jesus, "blessed fruit of her womb."

Mary, the believer. Elizabeth declares her blessed because "you have believed." Mary is great not just because of her biological motherhood, but for having accepted with faith God's call to be the Mother of the Savior. She listened to God, she kept his Word in her heart, she meditated upon it, and she implemented it, faithfully fulfilling her vocation. Mary is the believing Mother.

Mary, the evangelizer. Mary offers everyone the salvation of God that she received in her own Son. That is her great mission and service. According to the story, Mary evangelizes not only through her gestures and words, but because everywhere she goes, she carries the person of Jesus and his Spirit. This is the essence of evangelization.

Mary, the bearer of joy. Mary's greeting spreads the joy that springs from her Son Jesus. She was the first to hear God's invitation: "Rejoice....the Lord is with you." Now, from an attitude of service and help to those in need, Mary radiates the Good News of Jesus, the Christ, whom she always carries with her. For the Church, she is the best model of joyful evangelization.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Teresa Forcades on surrogacy and the commodification of women's bodies

By Roberta Trucco (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Che libertà (in italiano)
December 12, 2015

Teresa Forcades is a Benedictine nun of Catalan origin, with graduate and doctoral degrees in Medicine and Theology, with a specialization in internal medicine awarded in N.Y. and a master's degree in theology from Harvard University. With Arcadi Oliveres, a Catalan economist, she founded the political movement Proces Constituent in Catalunya. Her popularity was set when she published a book on the crimes of the pharmaceutical companies and when she started taking positions counter to dominant thinking, both within the Church institution and in contemporary political debate. Last summer, [the Italian edition of] her book La teologia femminista nella storia ("Feminist Theology in History") was published. Convinced that the feminist perspective is one of the most authentic for interpreting the epochal transformation we are experiencing, we have opened a dialogue with her on one of the issues that most relates to this transformation -- surrogate motherhood.

Teresa, you immediately joined the Se non ora quando – Libere ("If not now when - Freedom") petition [against surrogate motherhood]. Why?

The practice of wombs for rent is part of a worldview that considers that everything can become a commodity, even a child. I'm profoundly opposed to this system. Today, any and all services are being privatized -- education, health care, schools, issues that correspond to the needs of human beings and have to do with who we are. In recent years, we've become accustomed to the fact that these issues are compatible with business. We live in a world where there are people who are in dire need of money and people who are in extreme abundance. In this context, it's very important to have a clear and deep discussion about wombs for rent. We must be aware of the kind of pressure we're exerting on women who have no money and have no other way to earn it, because that is how we're creating the conditions for prostitution. This is not called free will, but necessity.

In Canada, however, surrogacy can be done for free, i.e. a woman isn't paid ...

From a theoretical point of view, if an adult gives consent to do something that concerns only themselves, I believe it's right to respect their freedom of choice. But if disposing of one's own body is made legal, you should also clarify the limit. In truth, between a mother and her child there is a space which no one can have. I believe that the relationship of the fetus to the mother is what builds the basis of the child's psyche; from there comes the ability to understand intimacy and to develop an understanding of who we are as human beings. The human being isn't a cell that develops and then is open to relationship. From the first day of conception, the intrauterine relationship governs the development of the child. Immediately a single unique being is created that is shaped because it is in relationship. Life is not conceivable without relationship. Being is "communion" and this idea, of course, is the result of my faith and my understanding of life, and I can argue it from Christian religion but it can also be argued from a psychological point of view and also in medical terms. From the medical point of view, the mother/child relationship has to do with the development of the fetus from the moment of conception. For example, the mother's voice transmits vibrations through her body and these vibrations are unique for each mother. The sound produced by the voice corresponds to the production of hormones that will be passed to the fetus. If the mother's voice is tired or depressed or scared, adrenaline will be produced; when the mother is happy and relaxed, the internal vibrations produce beneficial hormones, endorphins. The fetus receives sound thanks to the vibrations of the uterus and amniotic fluid and it receives them in its body which then one day it will recognize as limited to it body -- so it receives something from outside that it feels inside and therefore suddenly communications space is created, development space, and this is space we can't dispose of. You can't take this space and dispose of it a priori, that is, establish that this space is cut off completely after nine months. Many children experience this discontinuity because the mother dies, abandons them or rejects them. But this is an eventuality of life that isn't planned; you can't deliberately choose this discontinuity a priori.

So the first thing is to ban economic speculation on women's bodies, but even if the woman is completely free to choose and not under pressure, free from any form of commodification, I don't think it's right for a company, a state, a law to arrange to dispose of what can not be disposed of.

Many call the practice of surrogacy "gestation for others." What do you think about that?

Calling it GFO is manipulation; it's leading people with words to think of the concept of surrogacy as a good thing. An example: you can't make the child a donor for another child; it's forbidden because it's using a human being - maybe for a beautiful thing - but human beings can not be used. Human beings are self-determining and when they can't be so completely yet because they're children, this condition should be respected. We can't dispose of their bodies and their beings as we like; we need to respect this condition of the formation of their self-determination through and through.

But then what about abortion?

I think that a woman has a limit to her choice to abort within 5 months. You can't abort in the sixth month in fact. Before the five months there are no chances of survival for the baby and I think that we can't force a woman to carry the pregnancy to term. You can't save the life of the fetus without jeopardizing the rights of the mother. So only in the case of abortion there is the problem of choosing for the fetus, it's true. Then you need to ask yourself if we want a state to force a woman to choose for the child. In this case, only in this case, I lean towards the mother. I believe we can't use people -- you can't make the mother a means for the child's life but at the same time, and this applies to the practice of surrogacy, you can't make the child an instrument of desire either.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Gustavo Gutiérrez: "I was never condemned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith"

by Luis Miguel Modino (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
December 14, 2015

A lot has been written about Gustavo Gutiérrez -- not always true, as he himself notes in this interview, the result of a conversation in which he shows what liberation theology, of which he has always been considered the father, has meant in his life.

He doesn't intend to fall into absolutism and acknowledges how this theology has been remaking itself, opening to new themes and realities and how to face challenges. His words reveal his freedom of thought, fruit of his deep knowledge and theological work, being aware that not everyone will agree with his ideas, which, on the other hand, doesn't cause him any grief.

How has liberation theology marked your life?

It was born from my life, naturally, and I myself have wanted to be faithful and also critical, since theology must always be redone and it's not about applying it like the Word of God. I think it's given me reflection, it has given me clues, given me a vista, but I've never considered it the last word, and it's also given me contacts with people from a rich base.

Do you think the poor are still a theological category in current thought?

Not the poor, but the situation of marginalization in which they live which is contrary to the will of God, and that's what makes it theological.

Some insist on saying that liberation theology is a thing of the past.

You know, the first time they told me that was one month after the book was published. And the next year they were saying it was now dead. That is, this stuff bounces off me.

At the recent Continental Theology Congress held in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, the contact and interest of the theologians in talking with Gustavo Gutiérrez was much discussed by those who were present. Is that a sign of hope, regarding the validity of liberation theology?

Of course. However, I don't think theologies are born to be eternal. If that is what they meant, I think so, but dying means that it has already made a contribution and that religion has changed and that we'll see other things. Until I turned 40, I didn't talk about liberation theology, but that didn't mean I wasn't a Christian who was seeking to be a Christian and a priest who was seeking to be a priest. I could be a Christian before liberation theology and I can be one after it; my life isn't there.

Liberation theology made me change; it speaks a lot to me. I think it continues because of everything I said before and, not just that, but it's growing, it's not the same since it's getting into other issues, since not every issue that's being worked on today in liberation theology was there at the beginning. It's a process, since you always have to take theology with a lot of flexibility. They're important things, but theology isn't synonymous with Christian doctrine, it's simply a way of dealing with it.

In liberation theology, what is the theological authority of the poor?

Let's say it's the challenge. I wouldn't speak of authority because it's a strange word, as if someone were ruling something. What's important is discovering the significance of their being, which is that they make us see that we can't be content with what is and that we have to feel that we are still being challenged, and I say this as a Church person, not as something relative to me individually.

Where should liberation theology go? What are the challenges it has to face today?

That's a very broad question and one I'm working on right now. Everything that refers to the modern and post-modern world -- although I don't take post-modernity so seriously, it continues to hold a challenge, that of science, of freedom ... like things that are there.

A second challenge is the one of poverty itself, since the way in which we see poverty nowadays, including in liberation theology, isn't exactly the same as forty years ago. Social science and the other sciences have clarified things and make us see other things, which show that the process is continuing.

Another challenge is that of the theology of religion, what is also called interfaith dialogue. But the dialogue is easy; you just have to be educated. The theological problem is the theology, what is the meaning of this diversity of religions that have existed for a long time but is a new subject, theologically.

To what extent can we say that Pope Francis is sympathetic to liberation theology?

I can't cage the Pope, a pastor like him, in one theology. What I say when they ask me that question is that he is the freshness of the Gospel. If he likes one theology or another, I have no problem with that.

You've had problems with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and now the prefect of that Congregation is someone who calls himself your friend, Cardinal Müller.

I'm going to clarify that. I had problems, but they were problems that came from Peru, and when the matter got there [to Rome], they didn't find anything. The proof is that I didn't have a trial; what I had was a dialogue. The difference, which I didn't know but then learned, is that a trial happens when there are suspicions that there are things that go against orthodoxy, and dialogue, which is what I had, when there are statements that aren't well understood -- which is very subjective since there will always be someone who doesn't understand some statement well.

When they say I was condemned, I laugh a bit because I was never condemned by the Congregation [for the Doctrine] of the Faith. All the books I wrote are still published. It was just a dialogue in which they didn't find anything. There's a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in which it says that the dialogue with Father Gustavo Gutiérrez ended satisfactorily.

And with Cardinal Müller?

Gerhard Müller is a friend, a very good friend. He was in Peru and, with other German professors, we worked on liberation theology. Then he decided to do something practical to help the poor in Peru and went to teach theology in a seminary in Cuzco, where the population is indigenous. He went for 15 consecutive years and he knows liberation theology very well, as the two books we've written together prove, the second one with Pope Francis' prologue. I repeat, he is a very good friend and very knowledgeable about liberation theology, with which he sympathized when it was very controversial among the sectors of the media, since there was never any problem in the Congregation of the Faith.

He once gave a talk at the Catholic University in Lima -- much applauded and the text of it is published -- in which he explained how he had changed with respect to liberation theology. As well as a friend, he has been an advocate, especially when there have been reservations that had no substance, but when something bad is said, everybody repeats it.

In this, the media, not all, make things very complicated because they talk constantly about condemnation and there was no such thing. If I had been condemned, they would have prohibited me from continuing to write and there has never been a book, of those I have written, that they have said should not be sold, that it isn't authorized. Disagreement isn't condemnation and if someone disagrees, well, what are we going to do with them? There has always been that in the Christian message. I also disagree with many very good theologies that I don't like, and, although I'm not nobody, this happens to anyone.

Pedro Casaldáliga: Christmas 2015 - New Year's 2016

Here is Dom Pedro Casaldáliga's poem/reflection this year in Spanish and English (translation by Rebel Girl).

"No la podemos dormir, la Noche Santa,
no la podemos dormir"
Así reza el villancico.
La Liturgia reza así:
Nos ha nacido un Hijo,
se nos ha dado un Niño
para que lo hagamos crecer
hasta la plenitud.
Un Niño que viene de las profundidades del Misterio,
para que sepamos acoger a toda criatura humana.
Para que sepamos acoger a toda criatura.
Para que sepamos que todos pertenecemos
a la gran familia amada de Dios.
Es Navidad. Es tiempo nuevo.
Nos viene pequeño, en una impotencia total, como los "Aylan" del Reino.
Para que nuestra opción siga siendo por los pobres de la tierra.
La Iglesia debería renovar en Navidad su compromiso
de vivir la encarnación del Verbo día a día.
Es Navidad. Es tiempo nuevo.
No podemos dormir la Noche Santa.
Debemos despertarnos para acoger a los pobres de la tierra,
los pequeños del Reino.
Debemos vivir cada día la Noche Santa del Reino.

"We can not sleep on Holy Night,
we can not sleep"
So goes the carol.
The Liturgy goes like this:
Unto us a Son is born,
a Child is given
that we might make him grow
to the fullest.
A Child who comes from the depths of the Mystery,
that we might welcome every human creature.
That we might welcome every creature.
That we might know we all belong
to the great beloved family of God.
It's Christmas. It's a new season.
We can not sleep on Holy Night.
He comes to us tiny, totally powerless, like the "Aylan"s of the Kingdom.
That our option might continue to be for the poor of the earth.
The Church should renew her commitment at Christmas
to live out the incarnation of the Word day by day.
It's Christmas. It's a new season.
We can not sleep on Holy Night.
We must awaken to welcome the poor of the earth,
the little ones of the Kingdom.
We must live the Holy Night of the Kingdom every day.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Share with the person who has none

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
December 13, 2015

Luke 3:10-18

John the Baptist's words from the desert touch the people's hearts. His call to conversion and the beginning of a life more faithful to God stirs a specific question in many of them: What should we do? It's the question that always arises in us when we hear a radical call and we don't know how to respond specifically.

John the Baptist doesn't propose religious rituals, or norms or precepts either. It's not strictly about doing things or taking on duties, but being a different way, livng more humanely, deploying something that is already in our hearts: the desire for a more just, dignified, and fraternal life.

The most decisive and realistic thing is to open our hearts to God by looking closely at the needs of those who suffer. John the Baptist summarizes his answer with a formula that is brilliant because of its simplicity and truth: "Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise." Plain and simple.

What can we say to these words, we who live in a world where more than a third of humanity lives in destitution, struggling each day to survive, while we keep filling our closets with all types of tunics and have our refrigerators full of food?

And what can we Christians say to this call that is so simple and so humane? Must we not start to open the eyes of our heart to become more fully aware of this insensitivity and slavery that keep us in submission to a life of affluence that keeps us from being more humane?

While we remain concerned, and rightly so, about many aspects of present-day Christianity, we don't realize that we are "captives of a bourgeois religion." Christianity, as we are living it out, doesn't seem to have the power to change the society of affluence. On the contrary, that is what is distorting the religion of Jesus, making our following of Christ devoid of genuine values such as solidarity, defense of the poor, compassion and justice.

Therefore, we must value and give thanks even more for the efforts of so many people who are rebelling against this "captivity," committing themselves to specific acts of solidarity and cultivating a simpler, more austere and humane lifestyle.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Margot Bremer: "Laudato Si' is a call to urgently change a world that is leading us to the abyss"

by Luis Miguel Modino (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
December 9, 2015

In religious life, we find people who want to be present among the outcasts, among those who society wants to put out of the system. Their presence in these spheres is not always understood, either within or outside the Church, even in religious life itself.

Margot Bremer is a woman religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and for over twenty years she has accompanied and, together with some anthropologists, studied the life of Paraguayan indigenous people and peasants. Born in Germany, she spent over ten years in Spain and during that time befriended Dolores Alexandre, one of the most recognized Spanish Bible scholars in recent decades who also belongs to the same congregation. Besides her work with indigenous people, she is also involved in the formation of men and women religious and seminarians.

In this interview, conducted during the Second Continental Congress of Theology which took place some weeks ago in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, she talks about the life of the Paraguayan indigenous peoples and their relationship with nature, showing how she learns from them day to day.

What can we learn from the indigenous peoples?

Indigenous peoples show us the richness of the excluded, since they can't be boxed into the category of poor but as excluded people, yes. It's necessary to establish a relationship of reciprocity in diversity with them. The indigenous are different, but that doesn't mean they're inferior and they have many things that we have lost or never had.

Why are they viewed by many as second-class people, as uncivilized?

That's the result of colonialism, which has sometimes led to the colonized wanting to be like their colonizers, and that is the most tragic.

How does the Catholic Church relate to indigenous peoples today?

Paraguay is divided into two diametrically opposed regions -- the Chaco, where 65% of the population live, most belonging to indigenous peoples of the Chaco, and the other region, which is very fertile and wooded, where the Guarani live, subdivided into five groups. These Guarani are not the ones who were colonized five hundred years ago, but those who hid in the forests, which today have been cut down. These Guarani are not Catholics; they have their culture and religion, and the Church works with them by defending their human rights and their advancement.

As a theological adviser to the Coordinación Nacional de Pastoral Indígena ["national coordinating group on indigenous ministry"] that is part of the Paraguayan Bishops' Conference, we encourage inter-religious and intercultural dialogue to reinforce their culture and religion based on reciprocity in diversity, which is the foundation of their coexistence.

That is the way, accompanying rather than wanting to convert, which was the Church's attitude for a long time and is still present in the minds of some. Discovering that by accompanying one can teach and learn...

Accompanying and making alliances against the common enemy, which is neoliberalism.

Which is one aspect that Pope Francis criticized in his address to the popular movements during his trip to Bolivia last July, calling capitalism "the dung of the devil."

This shows that Pope Francis is also in this line.

And how's the situation in other regions of the country?

In the western region, in the Chaco, which is very inhospitable -- it's savannah -- live a great variety of indigenous peoples. In the last 90 years three different Christian groups have been present, Mennonites, Anglicans and Catholics, through the Oblates. In those days, there was a method of evangelization that we totally reject today which was to take the children away from the families to put them in boarding schools and impose a completely western education and religion on them. This has made them helpless today as they have lost much of their identity, breaking their organizational structure, and a parish structure has been imposed on them.

About 50 years ago, an Oblate father recorded the last indigenous myths, which we missionaries are now teaching them again, which are a novelty for them. The intention is that the Gospel be inculturated in the religious forms developed by their ancestors.

The indigenous have a different relationship with the environment, with Mother Earth. What do the indigenous people teach Western cultures about the ecological dimension?

They don't conceive of themselves as owners of the Earth, or as the center of it, but as part of the Earth and nature, having a living relationship with all living beings on Earth, because each of the beings has a protective spirit with which it communicates. They say that the trees can talk, they listen, they have found the wisdom in the relationship between the variety of plants and animals, creating a balance between flora and fauna. They have discovered this as the relationship of God's wisdom in creation, wanting to get into the rhythm and obedience to these laws of life that they have found to be divine.

In that sense, how will the encyclical "Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home" help?

The pope doesn't directly say this is the indigenous worldview, but it is. The encyclical is an urgent call to change a world that is leading us to the abyss. We have to change the direction of wanting infinite progress, that we can move forward continually, and that everything past is outdated. We live in a time when technology dominates and everything becomes passé in a very short time, so we get into a need to consume. It's in this sense that the past is devalued, what matters is the present and infinite expectation is created about the future at the technological level, which is deceptive.

Contrary to this, the indigenous return to the roots. They are also facing a changing situation, similar to the change of era Western culture is experiencing, caused by neoliberalism, with its values and anti-values. They feel the need to return to their foundational plan, seeking direction there for modern times, looking for the signs of the times that can be assumed from this foundational plan, which is in their myths, to find a way forward, since they are itinerant, always on a journey in search of the Land Without Evil, experiencing this journey as a test to overcome difficulties and grow to full maturity with Mother Earth. When we say that we have to take care of nature, we have to understand that Mother Earth takes care of us and we have to enter into a reciprocal relationship with her.

Friday, December 4, 2015

In the framework of the desert

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
December 6, 2015

Luke 3:1-6

Luke is interested in pointing out in detail the names of the characters who controlled the various spheres of political and religious power at that time. They are the ones who plan and run everything. However, the decisive event of Jesus Christ is being prepared and it occurs outside their sphere of influence and power, without them knowing or deciding anything.

That's how what is essential in the world and in our lives always appears. That's how God's grace and salvation enter human history. The essential isn't in the hands of the powerful. Luke says tersely that "the Word of God came upon John in the desert," not in imperial Rome or the sacred enclosure of the Temple of Jerusalem.

Nowhere but in the desert can you better hear God's call to change the world. The desert is the land of truth. The place where you live on what is essential. There's no room for the superfluous. You can't be accumulating things unnecessarily. Luxury and ostentation aren't possible. The important thing is to seek the right way to steer one's life.

That's why some prophets longed so much for the desert, symbol of a simpler life more deeply rooted in the essential, a life not yet distorted by so much unfaithfulness to God and and so much injustice towards the people. In the framework of the desert, John the Baptist proclaims the mighty symbol of "Baptism," the starting point for conversion, purification, forgiveness, and the beginning of a new life.

How do we respond to this call today? John the Baptist sums it up in an image taken from Isaiah: "Prepare the way of the Lord." Our lives are strewn with obstacles and resistance that prevent or hinder the coming of God into our hearts and communities, our Church and our world. God is always near. We are the ones who have to make way to welcome Him incarnated in Jesus.

Isaiah's images invite us to very basic and fundamental commitments: caring better for the essential without becoming distracted by what is secondary, rectifying what we have all been deforming, straightening crooked paths, facing the real truth of our lives to recover a spirit of conversion. We are to care well for the baptisms of our children but what we all need is a "baptism of conversion."

Be always alert

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
November 29, 2015

Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

The apocalyptic discourses collected in the Gospels reflect the fears and uncertainty of those first Christians, fragile and vulnerable communities living in the midst of the vast Roman Empire, amid conflict and persecution, with an uncertain future, not knowing when Jesus, their beloved Lord, would come. Also the exhortations of those speeches are, in large part, exhortations those Christians used to make to one another, remembering Jesus' message. That call to be alert, taking care of prayer and trust, is an original and characteristic feature of his Gospel and prayer.

So, the words we are hearing today, after many centuries, aren't directed at other recipients. They are calls that those of us who are living now in the Church of Jesus are to listen to, amid the difficulties and uncertainty of these times.

The current Church sometimes walks like an old lady "bent over" by the weight of centuries, the work and struggles of the past. "With her head low," conscious of her errors and sins, without being able to proudly show the glory and power of other times.

It's time to listen to Jesus' call to all of us.

"Stand up," encourage one another. "Lift your heads" with confidence. Don't look at the future only based on your calculations and forecasts. "Your liberation is near." One day you will live no longer bent down, oppressed, and tempted to discouragement. Jesus Christ is your Deliverer.

But there are ways of living that prevent many from walking with their head up, trusting in that final liberation. Therefore, "beware that your minds do not become drowsy." Don't get used to living with an insensitive and hardened heart, looking to fill your life with comfort and pleasure, turning your back on your Heavenly Father and His children who are suffering on earth. That lifestyle will make you less and less human.

"Be always alert." Awaken the faith in your communities. Be more attentive to my Gospel. Take better care of my presence in your midst. Don't be dormant communities. "Pray for strength." How will we follow in Jesus' footsteps if the Father doesn't sustain us? How will we be able to "stay standing before the Son of Man"?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

José Arregi: "The Church has to be radically renewed"

by Jesús Bastante (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
November 17, 2015

Theologian José Arregi, a close associate of this establishment, is the author of Invitación a la esperanza ("Invitation to Hope" -- Herder, 2015), a text in which he elaborates on "active hope" in the midst of a suffering world in which, despite everything, there are reasons to be optimistic. In the Church too? "The Church has to be radically renewed, reverse the authoritarian, hierarchical and clerical model of the Church. And to flip the pyramid model, we must eliminate two dogmas -- the absolute power of the pope and infallibility," he argues.

The Synod on the Family just ended. How do you view this moment?

If you have followed my articles since the first phase was announced and completed, you know that I've never had many expectations about this synod. I sense that there are doubts as to whether what I thought was a small thing but was possible -- the issue of possible access of divorced and remarried persons to communion -- will come out of it.

You get the feeling that the bishops on whom the decision rests are trying to delay their responsibility and that it will be the Pope who decides.

The impression I have is of too much of a production for what is going to come out.

Especially the issue of the divorced that you've referred to. In fact, when the campaign by some theologians in favor of that revision came out, you put out an article which went well beyond it. You were much more direct.

On that point about the divorced, they accepted the penitential character of that potential communion. That is, they're treated as guilty and three conditions are required of them -- repentance, confession to the bishop, and purpose of amendment. They said it was a discipline of exception and that the whole doctrine of the indissolubility wasn't being put into question.

I think today, presenting ourselves as progressive theologians, this can not be addressed that way.

Today the Pope at Santa Marta referred to the need for us Christians to be in the world and attentive to the signs of the times to be able to change based on those signs. It sometimes gives the impression that Pope Francis would like to move more rapidly than Vatican reality will allow.

Yes, that's the impression, and certainly he would have to go further. The vast majority of people affected by that problem have already resolved it. And they've done it with their common sense which, from a Christian point of view, is the sense of the Holy Spirit. The presence and voice of this spirit deep in our hearts and conscience. And the people, faithful to that voice, are taking communion calmly.

You've come to introduce a book that deals with the Christian way of looking at life. You've written it with Herder publishing house and it's titled Invitación a la esperanza ("Invitation to Hope"). To what hope do you wish to invite the reader?

A double hope -- that of the breath of life, hope that has to do with the breath, with the spirit. And also inviting them to an active, creative hope. That makes things come true, that anticipates that which we hope for and for which we want to work.

Hope isn't waiting for something to happen. It's living in such a way that you make what you wish to happen come true. It's Jesus' hope.

In your opinion what is the hope that Jesus' message brings that could be applicable today?

Jesus lived in a world that had many points of similarity to the world we live in today -- a very acute economic crisis in Galilee, which was where he lived. Very great economic malaise that had to do with debt -- small landowners, forced to move away from their lands because they couldn't pay the debts and to become tenants. And tenants who couldn't pay the rent and were forced to become mere employees with wages that didn't provide enough to eat.

Jesus in his messages was very aware of the reality of these poor peasants and poor fishermen and women. And he was also very aware of the root of this poverty, which was debt. Debt that bound them and was imposed on them.

And why debt? Well, I think here there's also a very big point of similarity between what was happening then and what is happening today. Herod Antipas doubled and tripled taxes for his construction -- hippodromes, circuses, etc., and to look good with the emperor and win his favor.

I'm imagining Greece, Spain and Germany nowadays through your words.

There was a true real estate bubble by the vassal king, Herod Antipas, and at the expense of the poor peasants, the poor fishermen and tradesmen of the time.

 Yet the message of Jesus soaks in, entering and changing the concept of society.

It is that all Jesus' words have a big political subversion charge. All of them. We believe that Jesus talked about the forgiveness of sins, and the great beyond. About how well the birds live and how beautiful the flowers are. He admired the rain, the sun, the field, the seed ... but it was all a sacrament of the kingdom to him. And the kingdom, for him, was a political metaphor for the radical transformation that has to happen in social, economic, political, and religious structures.

And what happens when a subversive message is received and enables the creation of an institution that, today, is one of the least subversive that exists -- the greatest representation of that empire, not in tune with the world, of that dogma and those prohibitions. That Church of "no" that we have denounced on more than one occasion. How did we get to that?

Well, very quickly. First, Jesus' movement stabilized. Second, the movement that was subversive and reformist became a static and accommodating movement. And above all, with Constantine, starting in the 4th century, the Church accommodated itself to the great imperial social, economic and religious model.

The power Church perverts the message of Jesus, but the institutional Church has been able to create a culture with a series of values -- the issue of education, universities ... To what extent is this an acceptable lesser evil? There seems to be a dichotomy between the possible and the probable.

Surely anyone who ceases to be on the sidelines and can afford to proclaim the radical change they dream of, which is what Jesus did, and once a group becomes institutionalized, as Jesus' movement did, they have to take into account the principle of the real and the possible much more than Jesus did.

Jesus was always a prophet. He didn't systematize the doctrine or give guidelines or policy solutions. He proclaimed his dream and promoted it. And he made it come true in his immediate surroundings.

Of course, the Church, like any religious institution, to the extent that it gains power also becomes loaded with special interests and has to follow strategies, and not its primary dream so much.

And that is what happened to the Church as an institution very early on. It has done many things, it has forged a good part of Western culture. For a millennium it was practically the only thing that transmitted culture in the West but, as we know, this has had a price. That price was the consolidation of a very iron-clad and immutable doctrine. Based on an alliance with the political powers of each era. And this has prevented the Church from going much further in the prophetic spirit of Jesus.

However there are many prophets, I dare say, who continue to work, taking the letter and spirit of the gospel as the driving force of their lives. And who are still living not only on the frontier but in day to day life, moving and changing society. And they are a source of hope through faith in Jesus Christ.

Yes, we definitely forget that. Usually when we talk about the Church, we are talking about the institution and that's not fair. The spirit of active and peacemaking hope beats in the hearts of a lot of ordinary people who live that out day by day. Sometimes in extreme situations, at the limit. On the edge and beyond the edge. And nobody knows that. You have only to look at the number of Christians who are turning towards the refugees, immigrants, the homeless. That is the living Gospel of Jesus.

And what do we do so that those people who are church can be part of building it? Or do we not need to?

Well, the spirit blows, pulsates, and gives life. But it wouldn't be wrong either to publicize that active presence of the spirit. The media prefer a different type of news, more striking. You would have to do a lot more publicizing of the good, of this living presence of the Gospel in the hearts of many anonymous people.

How do you fit in the Church as a believer?

I define myself as a simple novice disciple of Jesus, just another in the Church. I don't have a clear conscience of my involvement with great causes -- the marginalized, the poor ..., I work mostly on other things. But I try to keep the sensitivity and small commitments. Attune my mind.

I also know that my position, like that of so many others is debatable and discussed. I don't know if I'm on the border or if I've crossed it, as many who put me outside are saying. I feel like I'm inside, although I don't think there's an inside or an outside.

You've had many problems with the current bishop of San Sebastian, Monsignor Munilla.

I don't have any problem; when we meet, I greet him. That's a stage we've moved beyond. I try to follow my path as peacefully as I can.

How do you view the arrival of a man like Francis, a pastor from the peripheries as he defined himself, to the halls of power of the institutional Church? How did you feel about him and how do you feel now, after two and half years?

We were all struck by his first words and his first gestures -- bowing to the people in the square, asking their blessing, recognizing he is the Bishop of Rome ... and then his way of being and the name he adopted made me dream a lot and touched my soul.

Two years later, even before, I had my doubts that a man could reach the minimum required to take the steps to enable a truly new Church.

What are those steps?

That it has to be radically renewed. Invert the authoritarian, hierarchical and clerical model of the Church. And to flip the pyramid model, we must eliminate two dogmas -- the absolute power of the pope and infallibility. Which are the two ultimate ones, certainly. They are not of Jesus or of the spirit that beats in the hearts in the world today.

Those who accuse those who advocate this position say that it would cause the destruction of Christ's Church.

It's not the Church that Jesus built, if he did.On this nearly all minimally critical exegetes agree: Jesus never thought of founding a church or a new religion. Jesus felt he was Jewish, even when he broke and changed things that were immutable for most Jews, such as the issue of circumcision and table fellowship with Gentile Christians.

But he never thought that he was forming a new religion, with popes and bishops, or about apostolic succession ...

All are terms of Roman law

Summus pontifes is an imperial title assumed in the 4th and 5th centuries by the bishop of Rome, who was not yet pope. That of Pope is a creation of the 11th century with the claim of absolute power. And infallibility comes later still; it's from the reform of Gregory VII and Boniface VIII and after Vatican I, when it was formulated. But of Jesus, no. This had already been suggested by John Paul II, Benedict XVI too, and Francis has just said so.

That the papacy has to be converted, well of course. And to what? Some say to what it was in the first millennium. I would say more. To what Jesus lived and dreamed of -- you are all brothers and sisters.

The radical distinction and subjugation of women to men in the church, is brutal.

And that has to do with patriarchal misogyny that comes from long ago, that's like in other religions ... but mostly with the male clerical and authoritarian model of the Church.

Yes, because Jesus lived in first-century Palestine where women had an infinitely lower social status than men.

And yet Jesus took unthinkable steps for that time. Like the fact of admitting male and female followers into his group, living an itinerant life. That, and that in the churches of Paul, women had leading roles and presided in the house churches.

But, even if it had not been so, the spirit is inventive, just as life goes on through renewing forms.

This is the problem for those who think that the solutions to the problems of life are just an interpretation of the words of Jesus, as if he could have answered questions such as genetic research.

Following Jesus can't consist of imitating his words and repeating his actions and his way of thinking. No. Jesus was innovative, and to be faithful to him is to be renewed, as life and the spirit call for. Going beyond Jesus, following his spiritual impulse.

Like that of Francis of Assisi who is a leader for many. Do you have hope that these steps might be taken, or that they are happening beyond what the institutional Church is offering?

If you're asking me about the hope of expectation, I'm not expecting much. I live, on my small level, with active hope that this might happen. But my expectations that it will happen of its own accord and through internal momentum of the ecclesial institution ...

On a personal level, it seems Pope Francis is pointing that way in his style. But I see no hint of institutional reforms of the ecclesial model. Or of the interpretation of dogmas that would be required at the institutional level.

I have no expectations that this will happen from within. It will happen, but like so many things, what's there will crumble from outside. And the Spirit will give shape to something else. As happens in all fields.

Are we followers obliged in some way to have that active hope, to be living hope?

Obliged, no. It's fortunate if we experience it. We have no obligation to do anything, except out of pleasure and spiritual impulse. That is to live what the body is asking of you, what the spirit asks of you when the spirit is good, the good life.

You have invited us to walk in that hope, with all its difficulties and without sanctimoniousness, but making note of a path that is there and that is largely necessary to build the world that Jesus helped emerge. With that joy and will for things to change also among those who are suffering the crisis of first-century Palestine in 21st century Europe. Invitación a la esperanza, published by Herder. Don't miss it. It's a delightful book that reads very easily. It's hard for a theologian to write in a way that ordinary people can understand.

I'm unable to write in a complicated way, and that's my limitation. I don't want to do academic theology; it doesn't interest me. Even less now, because I'm no longer in teaching, which always forces you to make that effort. And I always told my students that to do good theology you have to read a lot of science and a lot of literature and be aware. And read a lot less about the theology of those "versed in theology" -- theology books, manuals. Because then, theology gets into a feedback loop and goes around and around the same issues. This is broken by breathing in air from the environment, which is the spirit.

Another day, if you like, we'll talk about the state of theology because that would be for another interview. Thank you very much for joining us and for writing Invitación a la esperanza.

I take this opportunity to thank you. The invitation to write this book came to me from José Manuel Vidal and Religión Digital. I took it as a charge and did it, and then Herder published it. But the original intention and the first plan were born here.

Thanks for doing it and for being here, which was overdue.

It's been a pleasure, Jesus.