Sunday, April 19, 2015

Teresa, a nun: Yes to gay marriage. Abortion? Women can decide (Part 2)

by Roberta Trucco (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Corriere della Sera I Blog (in Italian)
April 19, 2015

We publish the second part of the interview with Teresa Forcades i Vila, a Benedictine nun who calls herself a "feminist".

You argue that saying "My freedom ends where yours begins" induces competition rather than solidarity. But this is the definition we grew up with...

"Freedom is something that I feel when I treat you and me well. Strictly speaking, for me freedom is love. This is what St. Augustine said. I think he's right. All of us, whether we believe in God or not, are made in the image and likeness of God and God is love, He's free love. We are loving beings (beings who love and are loved), and when one loves, one is free. But when we act with violence, with resentment, without trust, we are full of negative emotions, we are blocked from love, closed to love, we are not free."

But in Church tradition, love is taught as pure sacrifice ...

Love is sacrifice too, and women feel at ease because their love is putting others before themselves. Something you can only do in a true and authentic way. If deep down, you don't feel like doing it, you can't do it. The real challenge is to act in accordance with your own feelings, what you really are deep down, and accept saying: "I would like to love you this way but I can't, not now." The real challenge is to be authentic. If I can't, I have to have the courage to tell myself so and try to grow from this awareness. It's important to respect my truth because otherwise I fail, and if I fail, I carry around only resentment. Love is not a duty; God doesn't want sacrifice. We mix love and duty but Isaiah says: "God does not want sacrifice. Love is joy, it's a celebration, it's only good if it's free.'"

Like Mary's love?

"Mary is a truly free woman. She was able to look upon, to relate to God, from a position of equality. When God asks her if she wants to have a child by Him, if they want a child together, Mary's first reaction is one of amazement. How can we imagine this interaction between God and a human being, a woman? God says to her, 'I'm not God because I make the rules, because I tell you what you should and what's right to do, because I'm the adult, but simply because I'm life itself. You and I can only interact if we choose, if you wish to.' God has given us dignity and choice."

Two female figures of reference in the Gospel: Mary Magdalene and Mary of Nazareth ...

"I replied about Mary of Nazareth through my experience. But if you're asking me how in the tradition Mary Magdalene and Mary of Nazareth can be interpreted, it's another story. Maybe you don't know, I grew up in an atheist family. I read the gospel for the first time at 15. It impressed me. My second reading was Jesus Christ Liberator by Leonardo Boff. No story about God when I was a little girl. I went to church only for baptisms and communions. From my readings, I can tell you that according to tradition Mary is a submissive woman, but in the gospel, Mary is described as a young woman who knows what she wants, who makes the decisions that concern her, who says yes to God. Leonardo Boff, in his book, paints Mary as a woman who could be the companion of God. Mary wants to be pregnant by God. Her wish is extraordinary. We know that a woman can get pregnant by a man she doesn't love, but you can't spiritually. You can't rape a woman spiritually -- physically, but not spiritually. God doesn't impose Himself on her by force, God asks Mary and Mary says yes and becomes pregnant because they love each other. For me, it's very beautiful because it's what God wants with each of us -- to make each one of us [male and female] spiritually pregnant to bring God into the world. I believe that the Christian God (He or She) doesn't want to impose, S/he is a God who exists in space and time if we give Him or Her life as Mary did."

So then men, males, can give life?

"Yes, of course, because we're queer and we give life. All female images can also be applied to men, and vice versa, because, as we say in the Church, Mary is a model for everyone, not just for women. Mary is the perfection of humanity, and Jesus too -- both for men and for women. Jesus is an inspiration for everyone and so is Mary. Jesus is God and Mary is not God but is what humanity can be when it is full of God and, therefore, is like God. There isn't a hierarchy. God says: "I don't call you my servants but my friends." I think this is liberation -- we don't have a God who is over us and oppressing us. God has all the power, but He doesn't use it to oppress, but to encourage us. One who saves us time and time again from our fear of deserving death."

Are you in favor of gay marriage?

"Yes, because sexual identities should not be regarded as closed boxes that God wants complementary with each other and that should remain so forever, fixed in defined and separate roles. I live in the world and I see people of the same sex who love one another and I ask myself, 'Why is it wrong?.' They seem happy, they are really in love. Why then shouldn't they be blessed? Why not in the Church? Why shouldn't we rejoice at love, whatever form it takes? Of course, if there is anger and resentment, if there are acts of violence in the couple, it's not good, but that can happen in any couple, whether heterosexual or homosexual. The main point is how two people are together. Of course, children can be born from heterosexual couples and not from homosexual couples but I don't think that's the fundamental aspect of marriage . I love children very much (I wanted nine) and I think they are very important, but the central point of the couple's life for me is something else. The secret of marriage is to be two trying to be one, and then going back to being two. It's like God in the Trinity -- we are one but we are also separate. This can also be experienced in community life in very different ways. In the couple, maximum intimacy between two people is achieved; it's not easy, but it's a sort of journey together. If you grow on this journey and you show others how love can transform reality and what myriads of relationships are possible between human beings...This is all very fascinating."

How do you define self-determination? Do you think it's a right?

"Yes, I think it's a right, but I would be cautious in using the language of rights. I'm currently studying the philosopher Simone Weil, who has written extensively on this subject in a way that's persuasive to me. She argues that it would now be necessary to replace the word "right" with the word "duty". We don't speak of the duty to be submissive to authority, but of duty towards those who are needy, who are suffering. I think this is a healthy sustenance for society. We believe that rights are the foundation of a free society, good. But then the philosopher Hannah Arendt asks: 'Who has the right to have rights?'. There are people who have no right to have rights. Imagine a 12 year-old girl forced into prostitution -- where are her rights? She should have them. Instead, many people have no rights. So we're lying. We say that the dignity of the people comes from the fact that we have rights. That girl doesn't, in practice, in her real life. So what are we talking about? The problem is that the rights aren't real. In real life, this girl has needs, not rights. And then we start talking about the needs and, perhaps, we can change something. Of course, the issue of rights is a strong subject, but if you talk about needs, it seems like turning backwards, but you have to look at reality. Perhaps the philosophical question that we should ask ourselves is this: 'Why does having needs seem negative?'. I don't want to downplay the talk of dignity but I really want to take seriously the problems of this young girl and to do that I have to speak a language that makes sense to her. For her, it makes sense to understand what she needs, whereas if I talk about rights, she feels without dignity and can't get what she wants."

But you've said that you're for self-determination...

"For me, self-determination is freedom. Being a person, being made in the image and likeness of God, means that no one can tell me what to do, I have to move in and out to find my truth. You move an object from one place to another; a person must move alone. You can give them tips, advice, but then they decide alone. What do I think of abortion? I don't support abortion, but I don't think it's right that a state has the power to put a woman in jail because she decides (within a certain period) not to carry the pregnancy to term. In the first five months of pregnancy, when the baby is still totally dependent on the mother to see the light and lives thanks to total intimacy with the mother, it's right that the mother make a decision. We must help her make this decision, because there are two lives at stake -- that of the mother and that of the fetus. No one can force a mother in one direction. She must be able to exercise her freedom of choice."