Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why are we such cowards?

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
June 21, 2015

Mark 4:35-41

"Why are you so cowardly? Do you still have no faith?". These two questions that Jesus addresses to his disciples are not, for the evangelist Mark, an anecdote from the past. They are questions that Jesus' followers must hear in the midst of their crisis. Questions we are to ask today too: What is the root of our cowardice? Why are we we afraid of the future? Is it because we lack faith in Jesus?

The story is brief. Everything begins with Jesus' order: "Let us cross to the other side." The disciples know that on the other shore of Lake Tiberias is the pagan territory of the Decapolis. A different and strange country. A culture hostile to their religion and beliefs.

Suddenly a heavy storm -- a graphic metaphor for what is happening in the group of disciples -- comes up. The stormy wind, waves crashing against the boat, water beginning to invade everything, express the situation well: What can Jesus' followers do against the hostility of the pagan world? Not only is their mission in danger, but also the very survival of the group.

Awakened by his disciples, Jesus intervenes, the wind dies down, and a great calm comes over the lake. What is surprising is that the disciples "remain terrified." Before they were afraid of the storm. Now they seem to fear Jesus. But something crucial has occurred in them: They have turned to Jesus. They have experienced a saving force in him they didn't know. They begin to wonder about his identity. They begin to sense that anything is possible with him.

Christianity is now in the midst of a "strong storm" and fear is beginning to take hold of us. We dare not cross to the "other side". Modern culture is a strange and hostile country to us. The future frightens us. Creativity seems prohibited. Some believe it's safer to look back to move forward better.

Jesus could surprise us all. The Risen One has the power to inaugurate a new phase in the history of Christianity. We are only being asked to have faith. A faith that frees us from so much fear and cowardice and commits us to walk in Jesus' footsteps.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Magna Carta of Integral Ecology: Cry of the Earth - Cry of the Poor: An analysis of Pope Francis' encyclical

By Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Jornal do Brasil (em português)
June 18, 2015

Before any commentary, it is worth emphasizing some unique aspects of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si'.

It is the first time that a pope addresses the subject of ecology in the sense of integral ecology (so it goes beyond the environmental) so completely. Big surprise: he develops the theme within the new ecological paradigm, something that no official UN document has done to date. His argument is basic with the surest data from life and Earth science. He reads the data affectively (with sensitive or cordial intelligence) because he discerns that behind them are hidden human tragedy and much suffering of Mother Earth too. The current situation is grave but Pope Francis always finds reasons for hope and confidence that human beings can find workable solutions. He honors the popes who preceded him, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, quoting them frequently. And something absolutely new: his text is inscribed within collegiality as it is enriched by the contributions of dozens of bishops' conferences around the world ranging from the USA, to Germany, to Brazil, to Patagonia-Comahue to Paraguay. He welcomes the contributions of other thinkers such as Catholics Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Romano Guardini, Dante Alighieri,  his teacher -- Argentine Juan Carlos Scannone, the Protestant Paul Ricoeur, and the Sufi Muslim Ali al-Khawwas. Finally, its addressees are all human beings, for all are inhabitants of the same common home (a word used a lot by the pope) and suffer the same threats.

Pope Francis isn't writing as a Master or Doctor of the faith but as a zealous pastor who cares about the common home and all beings, not just humans, who live in it.

One element merits highlighting as it reveals Pope Francis' "forma mentis" (the way of organizing his thinking). This is attributable to the pastoral and theological experience of the Latin American churches that, in the light of the documents of the Latin American bishops (CELAM) from Medellin (1968), Puebla (1979) and Aparecida (2007), made an option for the poor against poverty and for liberation.

The text and the tone of the encyclical are typical of Pope Francis and of the growing ecological culture. But I'm aware that many expressions and ways of speaking also go back to what has been thought and written about primarily in Latin America. The themes of "common home", of "Mother Earth", the "cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor", "caring", the "interdependence of all beings", "the intrinsic value of each being", "the poor and vulnerable", the "paradigm shift" of "the human being as Earth" that feels, thinks, loves and worships, "integral ecology" among others, are recurrent among us.

The encyclical's structure follows the methodological ritual used by our churches and for theological reflection linked to liberation practice, now assumed and consecrated by the Pope: see, judge, act, and celebrate.

First, he reveals his greatest source of inspiration: St. Francis of Assisi, whom he calls "the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology...[and] particularly concerned...for the poor and outcast." (no.10; 66).

And then he starts with the see: "What is happening to our common home" (nos.17-61). Says the Pope, "we need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair." (no.61). In this part, he incorporates the most consistent data with reference to climate change (nos.20-22), the issue of water (nos.27-31), the erosion of biodiversity (nos.32-42), the deteriorating quality of life human and degradation of social life (nos.43-47), he denounces the high rate of inequality globally, affecting all areas of life (nos.48-52), the main victims being the poor (no. 48).

In this part, he uses a phrase that brings us back to a reflection made in Latin America: "Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor." (no.49). Immediately afterwards he adds: "the cries of sister Earth are united to the cries of the abandoned ones of this world" (no.53). This is absolutely consistent, since at the beginning he says "we are earth" (no. 2; cf. Gen. 2:7.), well in line with the great Argentinian indigenous singer and poet Atahualpa Yupanqui, "human beings are the Earth that walks, feels, thinks and loves."

He condemns proposals to internationalize the Amazon, which "only serve the economic interests of transnational corporations." (no.38) There is a very strong ethical statement: "[It is a] terrible injustice...[to] obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental deterioration." (no.36)

With sadness he acknowledges that "never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years." (no. 53) In the face of this human assault on Mother Earth that many scientists have denounced as the inauguration of a new geological era - the Anthropocene one, he laments the weakness of the powers of this world who, deluded, think that everything can continue as is as an alibi for keeping "their self-destructive vices" (no.59) as well as seemingly suicidal behavior. (no.55)

Prudently, he recognizes the diversity of opinions (nos. 60-61) and that "there is no one path to a solution." (no.60) Yet "the present world system is certainly unsustainable from a number of points of view, for we have stopped thinking about the goals of human activity" (no.61) and are lost in the construction of means for unlimited accumulation at the expense of ecological injustice (degradation of ecosystems) and social injustice (impoverishment of the people). Humankind has simply "disappointed God's expectation." (no.61)

The urgent challenge, then, is to "protect our common home" (no. 13), and for this we need, to quote Pope John Paul II, "a global ecological conversion" (no. 5), "a 'culture of care' which permeates all of society." (no. 231)

The seeing dimension having been accomplished, it's now time for the judging dimension. This judging is carried out in two aspects, one scientific and the other theological.

Let's look at the scientific one. The encyclical devotes the entire third chapter to the analysis of "the human roots of the ecological crisis." (nos.101-136) Here the Pope intends to analyze technoscience, without preconceptions, agreeing that it has brought "important means of improving the quality of human life." (no. 103) But this is not the problem. It has become independent, dominating the economy, politics and nature with an eye to the accumulation of material goods (cf.no.109). It starts from a mistaken assumption that there is an "infinite supply of the earth's goods" (no.106), when we know that we are already touching on the physical limits of the Earth and most of the goods and services are not renewable. Technoscience has become technocracy, a real dictatorship with its steely logic of domination over everything and everyone. (no.108)

The big illusion, now dominant, lies in the belief that all ecological problems can be solved with technoscience. This is a misleading endeavor because it implies "separat[ing] what is in reality interconnected." (no.111). In fact, "everything is connected" (no.117), "everything is interrelated" (no.120) -- a statement that permeates the entire text of the encyclical like a refrain, as it is a key concept of the new contemporary paradigm. The major limitation of technocracy is in fact "the fragmentation of knowledge" and "loss of appreciation for the whole" (no.110). The worst thing is that it "doesn't recognize the intrinsic value of other beings, and even denies any special value to humans beings." (no.118).

The intrinsic value of every being, however minuscule it may be, is permanently emphasized by the encyclical (no. 69), as it is by the Earth Charter. By denying that intrinsic value, we are keeping each creature from communicating its message and giving glory to God. (no. 33)

The largest deviation produced by technocracy is modern anthropocentrism. Its illusory assumption is that things only have value insofar as they are ordered to human use, forgetting that their existence has value in itself. (no.33) If it is true that everything is related, then "we human beings are united as brothers and sisters...[and] in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth." (no.92). How can we claim to dominate them and see them through the narrow perspective of domination by human beings?

All of these "ecological virtues" (no.88) are lost through the will to power and domination of others and of nature. We are experiencing an anguishing "loss of meaning of life and coexistence." (no.110) Several times, he quotes the Italian-German theologian Romano Guardini (1885-1968), one of the most read in the last century and who wrote a critical book against the pretensions of modernity. (no.83, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 1959)

The other aspect of judging is theological in nature. The encyclical reserves plenty of room for the "Gospel of Creation" (nos. 62-100). It begins by justifying the contribution of religions and Christianity since, being a global crisis, each body must, with its religious capital, contribute to the care of the earth (no.62). He doesn't stress doctrines but the wisdom present in the various spiritual paths. Christianity prefers to speak of creation rather than nature, because creation "has to do with God's loving plan" (no.76). More than once he quotes a beautiful text from the Book of Wisdom (21:24) where it says clearly that "creation is of the order of love" (no.77) and God emerges as "the Lord and lover of life." (Wis 11:26)

The text opens into an evolutionary view of the universe, without using the word, but making a circumlocution, referring to the universe "shaped by open and intercommunicating systems." (no.79). It uses the main texts linking the incarnate and risen Christ with the world and with the whole universe, making matter and the whole earth sacred (no.83) In this context, he cites P. Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955, no. 83 note 53) as a precursor of this cosmic vision.

The consequence of the fact of the Triune God being a relationship of divine Persons is that all things in relationship are echoes of the divine Trinity (no.240).

Citing the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Church, he recognizes that sins against creation are sins against God. (no.7). Hence the urgency of a collective ecological conversion to rebuild the lost harmony.

The encyclical concludes this part, rightly: The analysis "has shown the need for a change of direction...[we need to] escape the spiral of self-destruction which currently engulfs us." (no.163). This is not about reform, but, citing the Earth Charter, seeking "a new beginning." (no.207) The interdependence of all with all leads us to think of "one world with a common plan." (no.164)

Since reality has multiple aspects, all closely related, Pope Francis proposes an "integral ecology" that goes beyond the usual environmental ecology (no.137). It covers all fields -- the environmental, the economic, the social, the cultural, the spiritual -- and also everyday life. (nos. 147-148) He never forgets the poor who also evidence their form of human and social ecology, experiencing bonds of belonging and solidarity with one another. (no.149)

The third methodological step is to act. In this part, the encyclical sticks to the great themes of international, national and local policy. (nos.164-181). It emphasizes the interdependence of the social and educational with the ecological and sadly notes the constraints that the prevalence of technocracy brings, making changes that would slow the voracity of accumulation and consumption and could inaugurate something new, difficult. (no.141). It again takes up the topic of economics and politics that should serve the common good and create the conditions for potential human fulfillment (nos.189-198) It goes back to stressing the dialogue between science and religion, as has been suggested by the great biologist Edward O. Wilson (cf. the book The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, 2008). All religions should seek the protection of nature and the defense of the poor. (no.201)

Also within the act aspect, one challenge is education in order to create "ecological citizenship" (no.211) and a new lifestyle, based on caring, compassion, shared sobriety, the alliance between humanity and the environment, as both are inextricably linked and co-responsible for everything that exists and lives and for our common destiny (nos.203-208).

Finally, the moment of celebrating. The celebration takes place in a context of "ecological conversion" (no.216) which implies an "ecological spirituality" (no.216). This derives not so much from theological doctrines but the motivation to which faith gives rise to take care of the common home and nourish "passionate concern for the protection of our world." (no.216) Such experience is first of all a mystique that mobilizes people to live in ecological balance, "within ourselves, with others, with nature and other living creatures, and with God." (no.210). Here, "less is more" seems true and we can be happy with little.

In the sense of celebration, "rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise." (no.12).

The fresh fraternal spirit of St. Francis of Assisi permeates the entire text of the encyclical Laudato Si'. The current situation doesn't mean a predicted tragedy, but a challenge to take care of the common home and each other. In the text, there is lightness, poetry, and joy in the Spirit and unwavering hope that as great as the threat is, the opportunity to solve our ecological problems is greater still.

It ends poetically with the words "Beyond the sun," saying, "Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope." (no.244)

I am pleased to end with the final words of the Earth Charter that the pope himself cites (no.207): "Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A pontificate of novelty and resistance: Special interview with Tina Beattie

By Márcia Junges and Patricia Fachin (English translation by Rebel Girl)
IHU On-Line (em português)
June 6, 2015

"The Church must get real about motherhood, and that means getting real about the fact that, every day, 800 of the poorest women in the world die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and thousands are injured," says the writer.

Francis' pontificate is a "novelty" because he "repeatedly stresses the priority of love in practice over abstract doctrines" and "constantly emphasizes a poor Church for the poor," says Tina Beattie in an interview with IHU On-Line via email. Despite the innovation inaugurated by the pope in the Church, it's obvious, she says, that "there are doctrinal teachings he can't change." Tina calls attention to the debate about "how far he can go, for example, regarding the readmission of divorced and remarried Catholics to the sacraments, the inclusion of people in relationships with people of the same sex within the Church's understanding of the goodness of sexual love and marriage, the ordination of women (which he has said is now a closed matter)."

In the opinion of the theology professor at the University of Roehampton in London, "Francis continues to repeat some of the teachings of his predecessors in a way that shows a certain reluctance to fully embrace the insights and challenges of women theologians and feminists." Similarly, the Pope "has a very negative attitude towards gender theory, continuing to promote the concept of sexual 'complementarity' that has been widely criticized, and he occasionally makes jokes about women, which some find trite and bit paternalistic," she points out.

Despite her support for gender arguments, the theologian points out that the "idea of autonomy should be used with caution" because, as human beings, we are creatures who depend on one another. "The modern secular individualistic idea of autonomy is not really compatible with the Catholic understanding of co-dependent and relational creatures. That said, the Catholic tradition places great emphasis on the duty of every individual to follow his or her enlightened conscience, and that means there must be authority control when intimate matters of personal decision-making are concerned," she explains.

Tina Beattie is a theologian and specialist in ethics and feminism issues, a member of the board of the British Catholic review The Tablet. Aong other works, she is the author of Theology after Postmodernity: Divining the Void (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 2013) and New Catholic Feminism: Theology and Theory (London and New York: Routledge, 2006).

Check out the interview.

IHU On-Line - What is the great novelty of Francis' papacy?

Tina Beattie - Pope Francis has moved beyond the somewhat authoritarian style of both his predecessors, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, to create a more welcoming and inclusive church, which focuses more on joy, forgiveness and Christ's mercy than on the application of strict rules and dogmas. He repeatedly stresses the priority of love in practice over abstract doctrines. This is a novelty, and the other is his constant emphasis on a poor Church for the poor. In an era of increasing economic divisions between rich and poor, many people welcome his willingness to be a strong voice to remind us of the importance of justice for the poor, the marginalized, the excluded and refugees, and his clear commitment not just to talk about it, but do it. This is a pope who embraces the simplicity of which he speaks, and that's inspiring.

IHU On-Line - What have been the main limitations of his papacy?

Tina Beattie - I think it's fair to say that the Church today is divided between those who accept the more informal and populist leadership style of Pope Francis, and those who pine for the more doctrinally and liturgically conservative style of Pope Benedict XVI. It's not correct to describe these distinctions as "liberal vs. conservative" or "progressives versus traditionalists", but certainly one of Pope Francis' challenges is dealing with these two polarized positions. And of course, there are doctrinal teachings that he can not change. There is much debate about how far he can go, for example, regarding the readmission of divorced and remarried Catholics to the sacraments, the inclusion of people in relationships with people of the same sex within the Church's understanding of the goodness of sexual love and marriage, the ordination of women (which he has said is now a closed matter).

However, this is a pope who, in my opinion, truly believes and trusts in the Holy Spirit. It's God's Church, and by creating a more open and admittedly contested space for these things to be discussed, he is, I believe, allowing the Spirit to guide the Church. I don't think he feels any need to control this process, even though his role as pope is to ensure wise leadership and discernment. The word 'discernment' is the key to his papacy. As a Jesuit, that's the mark of his spirituality. He also speaks repeatedly of the primacy of time over space - you need to give time to the processes of human transformation, taking into account the limitations and the context of inevitable failures.

IHU On-Line - What advances have been made in these last two years regarding the participation of women in the Church?

Tina Beattie - Pope Francis has repeatedly called for women to play a more significant role in the Church, and there have been some changes. He increased the number of women on the International Theological Commission from two to five, and recently the first woman was appointed to take over as rector of a pontifical university - Sister Mary Melone at the Antonianum. The new Pontifical Commission for Child Protection, established by Pope Francis has several women members, including the respected British psychiatrist, Baroness Sheila Hollins [1] and the abuse survivor Marie Collins [2]. In the first months of this year there were a number of conferences and meetings organized by various institutions of the Vatican to discuss the role of women, and this is a sign that things are changing. That said, Pope Francis continues to repeat some of the teachings of his predecessors in a way that shows a reluctance to fully embrace the insights and challenges of women theologians and feminists.

For example, he has a very negative attitude towards gender theory, continuing to promote the concept of sexual 'complementarity' that has been widely criticized, and he occasionally makes jokes about women, which some find trite and bit paternalistic. He's a man of his time and his culture, but he's also willing to be open and learn, so we should accept his advice and recognize that human transformation takes time and we can't expect him to do and be aware of everything immediately.

IHU On-Line - To what extent do these modifications challenge and revise the patriarchal structure of the ecclesiastical institution? What are their limits?

Tina Beattie - It has often been observed that for the patriarchal structures and androcentric institutions to change, it's not enough to just include a few selected women. There must be a critical mass of women, for example, on pontifical commissions, in universities and other leadership positions. Women theologians should be involved in shaping the doctrine of the Church, and these should be women who represent the rich and vast diversity of life of Catholic women in different cultures and contexts. All this is possible without us radically challenging the teaching of the existing church. Sooner or later, however, the question of women's ordination will have to be discussed and open to a full and serious theological debate. When so many other churches are ordaining women, it's not possible for the Catholic Church to just keep on hoisting the drawbridge on this issue. Pope Francis wants the Church to spread the joy of the Gospel, for us to be evangelizers, for us to be "good news" for all the people of the world, especially the poor. But in today's world, an institution that continues to block women's sacramental representation of Christ on the altar doesn't seem like "good news." Christ took on human flesh in order to redeem humankind - it's his humanity, not his masculinity, which is the most significant in terms of redemption. For women today to hear this message, we need to see that women also represent Christ.

IHU On-Line - Why does the absence of women's influence manifest itself more clearly in relation to the Church's teachings on sexual and reproductive ethics than in any other place?

Tina Beattie - There are huge problems surrounding the Church's teaching in these areas, with respect to a failure to understand and reach out to women who have difficulty with dilemmas and heavy responsibilities in the areas of sexuality, reproduction and motherhood. The official church teachings and papal pronouncements still romanticize motherhood and don't take sufficiently seriously the challenges of maternal mortality, overpopulation and the need for women to have sexual and reproductive rights as an expression of our own ethical responsibility. Moreover, in a world where so many girls and women still lack any role or control over what happens to them sexually, it is ethically shocking to deny them access to safe contraception.

Abortion is a very complex issue, and I know very few Catholic women who embrace the pro-choice movement uncritically. The goal should be to prevent abortion -- in the words of Hillary Clinton, make it safe, legal and rare -- but the lives of unborn children aren't saved by making abortion illegal - it simply ensures that many women will die along with their aborted child. This is an extremely complex ethical dilemma, but women should talk to women about these issues. The idea of a hierarchy of celibate men proclaiming itself the final moral authority over women's bodies, on their sexuality and their reproductive capacity simply ensures that our daughters will move away from the Church en masse, because they realize that it's a ridiculous situation.

IHU On-Line - These days, what do the Church's exhortations and controls on sexuality, especially women's, mean?

Tina Beattie - Of course, there is a need for men and women to think together about what it means to express our sexuality in a responsible and loving way, and take full responsibility for the children we engender. I don't think many people would like the Church to stay silent on such issues. But there is also a strong element of control in some of the teachings on sexuality. In all cultures, the female reproductive system is of enormous importance and is always subject to high levels of control and supervision, but with the advent of women's rights and gender equality, this model no longer has any credibility. We need an ethical transformation.

IHU On-Line - To what extent do these Church policies on women's sexuality represent an obstacle to them achieving their autonomy as individuals?

Tina Beattie - The idea of autonomy should be used with caution. As human beings, we are relational creatures - dependent on one another and responsible for each other. The modern secular individualistic idea of autonomy is not really compatible with the Catholic understanding of co-dependent and relational creatures. That said, the Catholic tradition places great emphasis on the duty of every individual to follow his or her enlightened conscience, and that means there must be authority control when intimate matters of personal decision-making are concerned. The Church can teach, guide, inform and pray, but it should not coerce, force or intimidate, nor should it seek to use the law to enforce those fundamental moral principles of virtue of an individual nature.

IHU On-Line - Why do you say that Francis tends to romanticize motherhood? What does that mean in practical terms?

Tina Beattie - See above. The qualities of nurturing, caring and offering affection associated with motherhood should be the qualities of every Christian, and indeed, Pope Francis himself manifests these qualities to a large extent. But mothers are human, and as women, we often face great injustice, difficulties and injuries in relation to our mothering abilities. The Church must get real about motherhood, and that means getting real about the fact that, every day, 800 of the poorest women in the world die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and thousands are injured. This is the equivalent of two jumbo jets falling every day, and yet official Church documents never mention this as a serious ethical challenge. And while it's impossible to assess accurately how many women die from unsafe abortions, the numbers are in the tens of thousands each year. These are complex challenges. They have to do with economic and social justice, not just with sexual ethics. The international community has made great strides in reducing maternal and child mortality over the last two decades, but the Church's anxiety about contraception and abortion shows that instead of leading such efforts, it has very often been an obstacle.

IHU On-Line - What is the nexus that links poverty and mortality among women? What is the Church's role in changing that scenario? How could Francis could intervene in that sense?

Tina Beattie - About 99% of maternal deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia among the poorest women in the world. When a mother dies, it also has a devastating impact on her surviving children. Women's lives are blighted by infant mortality and of course, the inability to limit the number of children. However, there is abundant evidence that contraceptive campaigns aren't enough. When women are educated, and when infant mortality is reduced, population numbers begin to decline and women have fewer children. The Church is right about that, and has said so many times. This is important because even Western nations sometimes promote aggressive policies of population control that take away the rights and autonomy of poor communities and of women in particular. So in that respect, the Church could be a champion of poor women's rights. But for an educated woman to limit the number of children, she needs access to safe contraception. This is the stumbling block for the teachings of the Church.

IHU On-Line - In view of your critical stance on the Catholic Church, which do you remain tied to Catholicism, specifically?

Tina Beattie - Catholic faith tells us that the world is blessed by God, that we participate in God's being and the beauty of creation is a manifestation of divine grace. It offers a sacramental view of creation and our place in it, and its core doctrines of the Incarnation, redemption, Trinitarian love and solidarity with the poor are to me the formative beliefs around which my entire life and aspirations revolve. Why would I leave it just because of some temporary difficulties with moral teachings that very few people, after all, follow? The Catholic Church is a lasting human reality, and of course there are struggles, difficulties and differences as we are discern what that means in terms of time, history and a rapidly changing global culture. But it is precisely here where I want to put my efforts and my commitment.

Notes:

[1] Sheila Hollins (1946): professor of psychiatry of learning disability at St George's University in London. In 2010, she received the title Baroness Hollins of Wimbledon in London Borough of Merton and Grenoside in county of South Yorkshire. She was president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists 2005-2008, succeeded by Dinesh Bhugra. She was also president of the British Medical Association and is currently president of the BMA Science Council. In 2014, Pope Francis named her member of the newly created Pontifical Commission for Child Protection. Check out more information on the topic on the IHU site. The pope completed the Commission for minors: eight women and ten lay people, available here. (IHU On-Line Note)

[2] Marie Collins: Irish woman who at 13 years old was sexually abused by a priest while she was an inpatient in a hospital. It was the first time she had been away from her family. Years later, she found out, after having been released, that the hospital discovered that the priest "was a specialist in abusing inpatient children" and that the Church's only "punishment" was transferring him to a parish. Today, she is part of the committee that advises the Vatican in the fight against child abuse in the Church. On the topic, check out the IHU site: "'Meeting in the Vatican on controversial Chilean bishop was very good,' says survivor of sexual abuse", available here; "'Whoever covers up sexual abuse should also be punished": Interview with Marie Collins, available here; "'I will make the voice of a woman abused by a priest heard,' says Marie Collins", available here. (IHU On-Line Note)

Translator's Note: All articles mentioned and hyperlinked in the footnotes are in Portuguese.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The meeting between Pope Francis and Ana Maria Araújo, widow of Paulo Freire

Unisinos (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Boa Informaçao.com
May 27, 2015

Ana Maria Araújo Freire, widow of Paulo Freire (1921-1997) and an educator too, was received last month by Pope Francis in a private audience at the Vatican. According to Nita, as Ana Maria is known, the meeting lasted 40 minutes.

The pope received Paulo Freire's widow and told her he had read Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Ana Maria gave him a letter in which she asked his help to open the Vatican archives, in an attempt to understand what influence Freire's ideas had on the pontificates.

Brazil's most renowned educator, Freire based his work on the idea that, instead of receiving knowledge passively, students need to form critical consciousness -- only then would they be citizens with autonomy.

The meeting was mediated by Dom Cláudio Hummes, Archbishop Emeritus of Sao Paulo and the Brazilian priest closest to the pontiff.

At the audience, in which she was accompanied by her daughter Heliana Hasche and a couple of friends, Nita gave Francis a letter in which she praised his papacy and asked for help that he might intercede with priests ("mostly Dominicans, Jesuits and Salesians") to surrender letters they had received from Paulo Freire on liberation theology.

The current of Latin American origin that advocates for a Church turned towards the poor, always close to Marxism, as Freire was, has had access to the Vatican again with the coming of Francis to power -- it was persecuted during John Paul II's papacy (1978-2005).

The educator also asked the pope to study the possibility of opening the Vatican archives "so that we might know if there was, and what was, the influence and presence of Paulo Freire's ideas with Pope Paul VI and other papacies, since the publication and assimilation of Pedagogy of the Oppressed in 1970."

Nita gave the pope a box with all of Paulo Freire's books (in Portuguese), as well as the biography she wrote of the educator, to whom she was married ten years.

Finally, she invited Francis to eat pizza in the streets of Rome as if he were an ordinary mortal and, on his next visit to Brazil, to taste a feijoada made by her. According to the educator, the pope laughed.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mercy Begins at Home: An Open Letter to Pope Francis

Dear Pope Francis,

Although I am a mere laywoman, I listened attentively to the video of your talk at the recent priests' retreat (posted below, in Spanish) and I liked much of what I heard.

Yet, as you spoke so eloquently about the need for priests to show a merciful Church to the faithful, to forgive seventy times seven as Jesus taught, my mind kept coming back to how unmerciful the Church has been with its own and I would like to challenge you to do two things to make the Year of Mercy more than just pretty words.

First, I am mindful of the priests who have been not only stripped of their priestly faculties but completely excommunicated in recent years because they had the audacity to publicly express their disagreement with Church teachings on issues such as women's ordination and gay marriage. I am thinking specifically of Nicolas Alessio (Argentina), Roberto Francisco Daniel, aka "Padre Beto" (Brazil), Roy Bourgeois (United States) and Greg Reynolds (Australia), but I'm sure there are others who fit this profile. For these men, who gave up wife and family to serve God's people, this banishment from the table has been the most painful experience of all.

If you really believe, as you told the priests' retreat, that the squabbles that exist in the Church are a sign that the Church is alive, then you must recognize that the presence of these dissenters is healthy. Use the power of your office to lift the excommunication that has been imposed on these men and let them speak their minds.

As you spoke, I was also mindful of the many workers who have been treated unmercifully by Catholic Church institutions in my country -- the United States -- and elsewhere. Workers have been terminated for "offenses" ranging from merely expressing opinions contrary to Church teaching in the social media, to conceiving a child out of wedlock, to exercising their legal right to marry their same sex partner.

I heard your anger as you told the story of the young single mother who cried to you because a priest refused to baptize her baby. You passionately declared that if this woman had the courage to bear her child and not "return it to sender" (abort it), the least the Church could do is baptize that child. Can we not also add that the least the Church could do is not deprive that woman of her livelihood and health insurance at this critical time? These sorts of terminations for private activities that don't impact the individual's job performance need to stop. I implore you, in the upcoming Year of Mercy, to publicly instruct Catholic bishops worldwide to stop the termination of church workers in their diocese without just cause.

If you can find it in your heart to do these two things, many of us will find it easier to believe that your talk of mercy is more than just empty rhetoric.

Blessings and thank you for your inspirational words,

Rebel Girl,
Blogger, "Iglesia Descalza",
June 15, 2015