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.