Friday, October 16, 2015

It shall not be so among you

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
October 18, 2015

Mark 10:35-45

James and John, sons of Zebedee, separate from the group and approach Jesus alone. They don't need the others. They want to gain the most privileged positions and be first in Jesus' plan, such as they imagine it. Their request isn't an appeal but a ridiculous ambition: "We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." They want Jesus to put them above the others.

Jesus seems surprised. "You do not know what you are asking." They haven't understood him at all. With great patience he invites them to ask themselves if they are capable of sharing his painful fate. When they realize what has happened, the other ten disciples are filled with indignation at James and John. They had the same aspirations too. Ambition divides them and sets them in opposition. Seeking self-interested honors and prominence always breaks up the communion of the Christian community. Today too. What could be more contrary to Jesus and his plan to serve the liberation of the people?

The act is so serious that Jesus "summons them" to make clear what attitude must always characterize his followers. They know too well how the Romans, "rulers of the people," and the "great ones" of the earth act -- they tyrannize people, make them submit, and make everyone feel the weight of their power. Well, "it shall not be so among you."

Among his followers, everything is to be different: "Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all." Greatness isn't measured by the power one has, the rank one occupies, or the titles one holds. Whoever covets these things in Jesus' Church, doesn't make themselves greater but more insignificant and ridiculous. Actually, it's a hindrance to promoting the lifestyle desired by the Crucified One. They lack a basic feature to be a follower of Jesus.

In the Church, we are all to be servants. We are to place ourselves in the Christian community not on top, based on superiority, self-interested power or prominence, but below, based on helpfulness, service and aid to others. Our example is Jesus. He never lived "to be served, but to serve." This is the best and most admirable summary of what he was -- service to all.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Agenda Latinoamericana Mundial 2016: Inequality and Property - Introduction

By Pedro Casaldáliga and José María Vigil (English translation by Richard Renshaw and Justiniano Liebl)

Dom Pedro Casaldaliga and José María Vigil have published their introduction to the 2016 edition of the Agenda Latinoamericana Mundial, which addresses the issue of inequality and property. You can find an index of all articles in the current edition here. The current edition is available for purchase in hard copy and in multiple languages and previous editions are available free in electronic format on Servicios Koinonia. The Agenda also has a Facebook page.

“Trends in income and wealth tell a clear story: the gap between the rich and poor is wider now than ever before and is still growing, with power increasingly in the hands of an elite few” (Oxfam, Even It Up, p. 28). If we can read or hear that without immediately reacting strongly we need to shake our head or pinch our arm to check whether we have lost all sensitivity, and/or shame.

The growth of inequality is far from those fateful decades of the 70s and 80s of last century, when the world powers imposed the conservative revolution of Thatcher and Reagan, strangling the economies of developing countries with rising interest rates on their foreign debt, demanding the reduction of social spending in health and education, the reduction of the state itself, dismantling of the “welfare state” in Europe, promoting job insecurity and worldwide marginalization of workers, and, of course, the drowning out of popular revolutions in Latin America -- all this with the conniving of the Vatican’s bureaucracy in those decades, and the disqualification of liberation theology, their theologians, their bishops and the Church of the poor.

Four decades later we are reaping the harvest: humanity is mired in the greatest inequality of its history: 85 people have wealth equivalent to the assets of the poorest half of humanity. The richest 1% of the population in the year 2016, will break its own record of assets breaching the psychological barrier of having acquired 50% of the wealth in the world -- and this isn’t stopping; the other half is left to be distributed among all the rest of humanity, the 99% of the world population. One must experience it to believe it.

It has been an unarmed revolution, through political power, within some structures “supposedly” at the service of free trade, so that the sheep and the wolves could freely operate within a financial system designed simply for submission to an operation of accumulating money.

Gradually, we accepted governments that are only “supposedly” democratic... They engage in a “democratic sequestering“ of a society in which the people choose and confide power to the plutocrats: the poor vote for the parties of the rich... It is the “hegemony” of capital: the lack of awareness of the poor, the inhibition of the majority, the triumph of individualism, the anesthetic of consumerism. So evil a system could not be maintained, if it were not for apathy of a large part of the population, which has its conscience held captive beneath the hegemony that the system exerts over minds and hearts.

As in the climate change crisis, this issue has us on the edge of an abyss. History affirms that such rates of “extreme wealth” and inequality, are not sustainable for long. Theorists are already wondering why there has still not been a social explosion in societies so strikingly unequal and unjust.

What is it that keeps us docile, passively watching while the extremely wealthy -- the 1% -- continue expanding their portion of the global pie every year, squeezing all the rest of us -- the 99% -- into a shrinking little slice of that same global pie? To what percentage of the pie will the extremely wealthy have to shrink us, before we wake and decide to put an end to this situation unworthy of humanity, and decide to change the economic system that has brought us here? When will we assume effective awareness that we are the overwhelming majority -- the 99% !?

It’s time to wake up because it’s urgent to change the rules. Although we are in a historical time of social resurgence, those who are more awake are seeing that it’s high time to react, to open eyes and raise awareness; to develop a new hegemony, -- the hegemony of human humanity; to criticize the fundamentalism of the market; the hegemony of recovering sequestered democracy. It is time to plot a new course: that of the past three decades has already proven to be unsustainable and is leading us into social explosion and planetary crisis.

It’s a matter of the urgent task of raising awareness, critical thinking and resistance. It’s imperative to break the spell of that hegemony; to grind it down with alternate civil practices, and be coherent with a responsible, democratic, political participation. “When the poor believe in the poor, then we can sing Freedom!” we sing in “The Salvadoran Mass”. What that means today is that when, with our vote, we stop putting the most wealthy elite and their representatives into congresses and parliaments -- when we “believe in the poor and the option for the poor” and vote accordingly, then our “sequestered democracy” will be freed and we will be moving into the egalitarian and just society that both our humanity and our planet deserve. This is the Utopia worth dreaming of and struggling for.

Theologian Victor Codina presents decalogue on the physical deterioration of planet Earth

By Agencia de Noticias Fides (English translation by Rebel Girl)
October 11, 2015

Jesuit priest and theologian Victor Codina, in his speech at the interreligious dialogue on "Climate change and the culture of life" on the first day of the Second World Peoples' Conference on Climate Change, released a decalogue about the deterioration suffered by the Earth for more than 200 years, because of which he deems it necessary to bear in mind human responsibility based on spirituality, whatever the creed professed.

The conference is taking place in Tiquipaya, Cochabamba, with the participation of national and international delegations, and it aims to discuss different topics that include designing solutions to the problem of global warming that will be compiled to be displayed at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-21) in Paris in December.

Here are the details of the decalogue proposed by Codina:

1. Never has humankind destroyed nature so much as in the last 200 years and now those who suffer the consequences the most are the poor.

2. Given this reality, heightened awareness and a joint effort are needed. We need a binding authority, a tribunal which may be a solution to this problem.

3. The ecological crisis is not just a scientific, economic and political one, but a cultural and ethical human crisis, a crisis of values. The current economic model lacks values and its aim is economic profit by exploiting nature, marginalizing the poor.

4. In this time, we must appeal to the wisdom of cultures and religions -- spirituality, that is, the relationship of human beings to God, whatever the belief might be.

5. This spirituality takes shape in various religions; this dimension is cultural to human beings. Neuroscience says that beliefs help to live well and endure the hardships of life. Beliefs help the ecological problem of the earth.

6. The dimension of spirituality and religiosity helps us build a culture of life, to live rightly in face of the temptation to live better at the expense of leaving other sectors of humanity in destitution.

7. A change of life is urgent for religions, a comprehensive ecological conversion to a more sober and simple lifestyle to feel part of Mother Earth.

8. This culture of life should crystallize in specific things which go from saving water and electricity to seeking non-polluting energy alternatives, questioning GMOs, opposing nuclear power plants, etc.

9. For those who profess the Christian faith, the culture of life is the world created by God. Human beings are not the owners of Creation, but its guardians and collaborators in the work of God.

10. Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'" is addressed to all the inhabitants of Earth. It offers a deep reflection on caring for our common home and calls on all religions to offer a sense of motivation in this defense of the Earth.

Victor Codina is a Jesuit priest and theologian of Spanish origin who has lived more than three decades in Bolivia. He has pastoral experience with the grassroots communities and as a teacher of theology both to lay people and religious, and he is author of numerous books and articles on ecclesiology, liberation theology, religious life, and other things.

Monday, October 12, 2015

International group of theologians calls on Synod to give full equality to gays and women in the Church

Religión Digital (English translation by Rebel Girl)
October 12, 2015

Keeping intact a certain model of family, proper to a time and culture, is not part of the Faith of the Church. According to the gospels, Jesus of Nazareth was deeply critical of the family model of his time and culture. Therefore, the Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII deems it necessary to present the following proposals to the Synod of Bishops that is being held in Rome:

1. We believe that the different sexual identities, options, and orientations must be respected as an expression of the diversity of ways of experiencing sexuality among human beings. Consequently, homosexuality and homosexual marriages should be recognized in the Catholic Church on equal terms with heterosexuality and heterosexual marriages. Christian homosexual people should not be excluded from any church task, activity or responsibility, or from participation in the sacraments.

Respect for non-heterosexual people doesn't seem to reconcile with their exclusion from certain church roles, for example being a godparent at a baptism or the priestly and theological ministry. Both exclusions have occured recently -- in the Diocese of Cádiz with a transsexual man and in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with a homosexual priest -- and they demonstrate clear discrimination because of sexual orientation and belie the often repeated concept in Church teaching documents of acceptance towards non-heterosexual people.

2. We believe that the indiscriminate condemnation by Church teaching of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy should be reviewed. We consider it necessary to repeal Canon 1398 of the Code of Canon Law decreeing excommunication for anyone who procures the abortion, if it occurs, and that it is contrary to the absolution of the sin of abortion decreed by Pope Francis on the occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. Also the right of women to decide in conscience on this matter should be respected.

3. There are no biblical, theological, historical, pastoral, much less dogmatic reasons, to exclude married men or women from any ecclesial ministries, ordained or unordained. Equality of Christian men and women through baptism must translate into equal conditions for men and women in access to the realm of the sacred, in the development of theological and moral doctrine, as well as in participation in church duties and governing bodies, without any discrimination on the grounds of gender, ethnicity or social class. Therefore we ask that sexist ideological, cultural and normative barriers be removed and that the full incorporation of women in the above areas, including access to the priesthood and episcopate, be implemented.

4. As regards divorce, there is no dogma of faith that prevents it, nor that prohibits the access of separated or divorced and remarried people to the Eucharist. The current exclusionary discipline in this area, perhaps understandable in the past, has no justification today and, far from drawing people in those circumstances to the Christian community, it marginalizes them, drives them away, and stigmatizes them. In addition, it lacks a gospel basis. We therefore believe that the Synod of Bishops should remove that prohibition, currently in force, and facilitate access to Eucharistic communion by separated or divorced and remarried persons without imposing any corrective requirements. We believers are moral agents with the ability to decide freely in conscience in this area. This decision must be respected.

5. It is necessary to acknowledge the significant advances made by feminism on equality between men and women and in their liberation. In light of these developments, the patriarchal structure of the doctrine and practice on Christian marriage should be revised.

6. The Synod can not be reduced to matters relating to Christian marriage. We believe it a priority for it to do an analysis of the situation of poverty and social exclusion in which millions of families find themselves, to prophetically denounce it, to express its solidarity with the most vulnerable families and contribute to the elimination of the causes of this situation based on the ethical gospel option for poor and marginalized people.

Statement signed by:

Xavier Alegre. Asociación de Teólogos y Teólogas Juan XXIII. Spain
José Arregi. Theologian. Spain
Olga Lucía Álvarez. Asociación Presbíteras Católicas Romanas. Colombia
Juan Barreto. Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII. Spain
Fernando Bermúdez, Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII. Spain
Leonardo Boff. Ecotheologian, member of the Earth Charter Commission and writer.
Ancizar Cadavid Restrepo. Theologian. Colombia
José María Castillo. Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII. Spain
José Centeno. Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII, Spain
Juan Antonio Estrada. Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII. Spain
Máximo García. Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII. Spain
Antonio Gil de Zúñiga. Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII. Spain
Ivone Gebara. Theologian and philosopher. Brazil
Axel Hernández Fajardo. Emeritus Professor at the Escuela Ecuménica de las Ciencias de Religiones. Universidad Nacional. Costa Rica
Rosa María Hernández. Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII. Spain
Mary Hunt. Theologian. Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER).
Gabriela Juárez Palacio. Theologian. Co-founder of Teólogas e Investigadoras.
Rosa Leiva. Federación Latinoamericana de Presbíteros Casados. Ecuador
Juan Masiá. Theologian. Japan
Federico Mayor Zaragoza. President of the Fundación Cultura de Paz and the Comisión Internacional contra la Pena de Muerte. Spain
Cyprien Melibi. Theologian. Cameroon
Arnoldo Mora Rodríguez. Co-founder of the Departamento Ecuménico de Investigaciones (DEI). Costa Rica.
Mario Mullo. Federación Latinoamericana de Sacerdotes Casados. Ecuador
Carmiña Navia. Theologian. Colombia
Marisa Noriega. Theologian. Co-founder of the Asociación Mexicana de Reflexión Teológica Feminista. Mexico.
Gladys Parentelli. Auditor at Vatican II. Venezuela
Federico Pastor. Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII. Spain.
Victorino Pérez Prieto. Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII. Spain
Suyapa Pérez Scapini. Theologian. El Salvador
Margarita Maria Pintos. Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII. Spain
Javier Omar Ruiz Arroyave. Activist. Masculinidades Liberadoras. Colombia
José Sánchez Suárez. Theologian. Comunidad Teológica de Mexico
Santiago Sánchez Torrado. Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII. Spain
Fernando Silva. Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos de Juan XXIII. Spain
Aida Soto Bernal. Asociación Presbíteras Católicas Romanas. Colombia
Juan José Tamayo. Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII. Spain
Elsa Tamez. Theologian and biblical scholar. Mexico
Andrea Toca. Theologian. Co-founder of the Asociación Mexicana de Reflexión Teológica Feminista. Mexico.
Fernando Torres Millán. Theologian. Coordinator of Kairós Educativo. Colombia
Olga Vasquez. Theologian. El Salvador
Evaristo Villar. Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII. Spain
Juan Yzuel. Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII. Spain

Sunday, October 11, 2015

One thing lacking

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
October 11, 2015

Mark 10:17-30

The episode is narrated with special intensity. Jesus sets out for Jerusalem, but before he goes away from that place, a stranger comes "running" who "falls to his knees" before him to detain him. He urgently needs Jesus.

He's not a sick person asking for healing. He's not a leper pleading for compassion from the ground. His request is of a different sort. What he seeks in that good teacher is light to guide his life: "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?". It's not a theoretical question, but an existential one. He's not talking in general; he wants to know what he has to do personally.

First, Jesus reminds him that "no one is good but God." Before asking ourselves what has to be "done", we must know that we are before a God who is Good like nobody else -- we are to support our lives on his unfathomable goodness. Then, he reminds him of the "commandments" of this Good God. According to biblical tradition, that is the way to eternal life.

The man's answer is admirable. He has observed all that from his youth, but feels a deeper aspiration within himself. He is looking for more. "Jesus looks at him fondly." His eyes are already expressing the intense personal relationship he wants to establish with him.

Jesus understands his dissatisfaction very well -- "You are lacking in one thing." By following this logic of "doing" as commanded to "possess" eternal life, even though he is living in a blameless way, he will not be fully satisfied. In humans beings, there is a deeper aspiration.

So, Jesus invites him to orient his life based on a new logic. The first thing is not to cling to his possessions -- "sell what you have." Second, help the poor -- "give them your money." Finally, "Come, follow me". The two could travel the road towards the kingdom of God together.

The man gets up and walks away from Jesus. He forgets his loving gaze and goes away sad. He knows he will never know the joy and freedom of those who follow Jesus. Mark explains that "he was very rich."

Isn't that our experience as well-off Christians in rich countries?
Aren't we trapped by material well-being?
Doesn't our religion lack love in practice for the poor?
Don't we lack the joy and freedom of Jesus' followers?

Welcoming the little ones

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
October 4, 2015

Mark 10:2-16

The episode seems insignificant. However, it contains an undercurrent of great importance for Jesus' followers. According to Mark's account, some people are trying to bring a few children who are running around there near to Jesus. All they want is for that man of God to be able to touch them to transmit some of his power and his life. Apparently, it was a popular belief.

The disciples get annoyed and try to prevent it. They're trying to erect a fence around Jesus. They attribute to themselves the power to decide who can get to Jesus and who can not. They stand between him and the littlest, the most fragile and the neediest of that society. Instead of facilitating access to Jesus, they hinder it.

They've already forgotten the action of Jesus who, a few days earlier, had placed a child at the center of the group so that they would learn well that it's the little ones who must be the center of the attention and care of his disciples. They have forgotten how he embraced him before all, inviting them to welcome them in his name and with the same affection.

Jesus gets indignant. Such behavior by his disciples is intolerable. Angry, he gives them two orders: "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them." Who taught them to act in a way so contrary to His Spirit? The little ones, the weak and defenseless, are precisely the first ones who must have open access to Jesus.

The reason is very deep because it reflects the designs of the Father -- "for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." In the kingdom of God and in Jesus' group, the bothersome ones are not the little ones, but the great and powerful, those who want to dominate and be first.

The center of his community is not to be occupied by strong and powerful people who impose themselves on others from above. In his community, men and women who seek last place to welcome, serve, embrace and bless those who are the weakest and neediest, are needed.

The kingdom of God isn't spread from imposition by the great but from welcoming and defending the little ones. Where the latter become the center of attention and care, there the kingdom of God is coming, the more humane society that the Father wants.