Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sister Teresa Forcades: "Gay Adoptions? Children need mature love; the parents' sex doesn't matter"

The feminist theologian, who has left the cloister for a year to engage in politics, talks about civil unions and homosexual marriage: "It's always a sacrament of God if there is respect for the freedom of the other."

By Geraldine Schwarz (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Repubblica (in Italiano)
February 9, 2015

ROME - "If you're against civil unions because these allow the union between persons of the same sex, it seems to me that this is basically just a fear of differences. The fundamental value of marriage is that it is a commitment for life. I think it's important to underline this in a society that tends towards superficiality and using people -- I'm with you because you serve me, or you're useful to me, or you give me pleasure, or it's fun for me or whatever. I'm against that attitude clearly and a civil union can be as serious as a religious one, depending on the degree of commitment one puts into it." So says Sister Teresa Forcades, a cloistered Benedictine nun who left the Monastery of Sant Benet in Barcelona last year (with dispensation from the Vatican) to get involved in politics and support the independence of Catalonia through the political movement that she founded, Proces Constituent. "Revolutionary and peaceful" as she calls herself, Sister Teresa, 49, a graduate in medicine and theology in Barcelona and at Harvard, is sincere, gentle, speaks and smiles despite the criticism she often gets. She fights the multinational pharmaceutical companies, has fallen into politics and talks about topics that are hot from a "theological" point of view even for more libertarian Spain. She is often censored but then, somehow, her voice manages to make itself heard. Because she says, "Prayer gives me strength."

What do you think of civil unions and homosexual marriages? Can they be considered a sacrament? Can they work in the eyes of God and society?

"A sacrament is the manifestation of God's love in space and time. Love is always a sacrament of God if it respects the freedom of the other. Possessive love, on the other hand, even if it's between a man and a woman, can not be sacramental in the deep sense of the term."

Do you think that children who are "adopted" by a homosexual family, with two fathers or two mothers, can grow up in a healthy way?

"Yes, absolutely. What children need is mature and responsible adult love from parents who put their needs ahead of their own and who at the same time know how to set proper limits for them and help them grow. The fact of growing up with two women or two men is no problem. In the Middle Ages, many children grew up in monasteries with only women or only men and many of them became saints."

What do you think of surrogate motherhood?

"The gradual accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few is the scandal of the century. Surrogate motherhood is an abuse of power in an economically unbalanced world like the current one in which we live. It puts more and more poor women in a position of choosing between marketing and selling their motherhood or condemning themselves and their children to poverty. It's extremely cruel, just as it is even when women have to emigrate and abandon their families to earn a minimum wage in order to survive, or end up in prostitution for the same reason. According to the latest report of Oxfam International's study group, 1% of the world's population owns more wealth than the remaining 99%. Apart from economic exploitation, I reject surrogate motherhood for ethical reasons -- a person's psyche begins to be constituted during pregnancy through the perception of the voice and the effects of maternal hormones circulating in fetal tissues and becomes attuned to the mother's voice and states of mood. Thus, separation from the biological mother is always traumatic for the child and should be avoided as much as possible."

What do you think of the Vatican's positions on issues of civil rights and bioethical questions?

"The doctrine of the Church argues for the dignity of the individual and rejects their exploitation but in some cases such as abortion, or euthanasia, the principle of self-determination of the individual, which is a recognized principle that is defended by the Church, clashes with the defense of life and the recognition of life as a gift from God. I believe that the Church must continue to defend life as a gift that can not be disposed of at will. But I think the best way to do that isn't promoting laws that criminalize women who interrupt a pregnancy. You can't save the life of the fetus without jeopardizing the mother's rights. Then you have to ask yourself if we want the State to force a woman to opt for the child. In this case, only in this case, I lean towards the mother. I think you can't use people -- you can't make the mother an instrument 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."

Do you think you're a revolutionary and a feminist as some have called you? In what sense?

"I think I'm a peaceful revolutionary. I think I'm a feminist because I want to recognize the work of the first women, the pioneers of feminism who were called that when they fought for the right to get into university, to vote, to be rulers in society and hold the highest positions in the Church or in a faith. I'm against violence and I don't think it's useful for changing society but I'm revolutionary because I believe that our society should not be reformed but must rightly be changed radically. For example, I support the right to property but I don't agree that it should be an absolute value. In that, I'm against capitalist principles."

You've undertaken many battles. Has anyone tried to make you keep silent? What are the criticisms that have been addressed to you and if you've suffered resistance, from which circles?

"I've been censored, my lectures have been cancelled whether in the medical, the political, or the religious arena. In medicine, because of my criticism of the pharmaceutical industry. In politics, because of my criticism of Israeli government policy in the confrontation with the Palestinian people. In the religious environment, because I support homosexuals unions and because of my feminism. The latest episode was when I was to have gone to Israel for a lecture and they didn't let me enter the country, they sent me back."

How do you live out your dual role of public involvement and prayer?

"I continue to study and write, and the rest in solitude. Prayer gives me strength and makes me able to fight without bitterness with an open heart. At the monastery, where I sometimes return for a few days, the official schedule is five hours of prayer and six of work. Outside the monastery, the activity is much more intense and I'm lucky if I can achieve one hour of prayer a day."

For you, what are the obstacles in the path of women in the Church today?

"The biggest obstacle is the internalization of a consciousness that says that women must have a secondary role compared to men's and that God wishes it so."

Have you ever met Pope Francis?

"No, but I'd like to."

How did you decide to become a cloistered nun?

"I went to the monastery as a guest. I was looking for a place to study and I felt an inner calling. After two years I entered."

In June, your first year off will expire. Have you decided whether you'll continue to stay "outside" or go back "inside" the cloister?

"It depends on whether it will still be necessary to have some kind of involvement in politics. As long as I'm doing political activity and for a maximum of three years, I'll live outside the monastery but it may also be that in a few months, I'll go back to living within it. This depends on how the political situation develops in Catalonia where I'm fighting for independence."

Do you have a spiritual father?

"More than one and even more than one mother. Accompaniment in spiritual life seems very important to me. But it's also essential to accept ultimate responsibility for one's own journey."

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