Friday, September 28, 2018

Mary E. Hunt: "All priests are complicit in the abuse crisis"

By Cameron Doody (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
September 16, 2018

The American reference point on feminist theology, Mary E. Hunt, may not believe in the institutional Church of abuses and cover-ups, but that doesn't mean that she doesn't believe in God. She simply recognizes, with an unusual lucidity, that "we are maturing in post-modernity towards a different kind of faith." That is why -- because she is faithful not only to the Gospel example of Jesus Christ but also to people -- she implores that, from the hierarchy, this new model of Catholicism that has already begun to bloom be allowed to flourish.

First, your impressions of the Congress of the Asociación de Teólogos y Teólogas Juan XXIII that just ended.

I considered it very interesting and coherent with the kind of issues that the group has been addressing so far. I was here in '92, and back then we also worked on the divine and that kind of thing. I think you can see the development, the thinking of people and the expectations of people about what religion can provide, coming from the Catholic tradition -- the limitations of this tradition and what we can do creatively to develop other options. I think all that was evident this weekend.

I think it was very important to have the presentation on the Sufi perspective, that it was very important to have a younger person for the last presentation ... and that it was very important to address both the content of mysticism and what it could mean for people. There was a common thread, as usual in this group, of serious commitment to social justice and also to spirituality.

I've probably never focused in these terms on mysticism or contemplation or meditation, whatever one may call our spiritual dimension. I thought it was very useful -- I found it personally very useful and I met many interesting people. I found the presentations very stimulating.

What exactly did you address in your presentation?

I gave it a rather curious title: "The power of silence and working for justice." Things that aren't usually juxtaposed: either you're committed to spirituality or you're doing the work of justice. But my point of view, my experience and my practice are that it has to be both at the same time, and I tried to explain, given the sad situation of institutional Catholicism -- and, coming from the United States, the sad situation of our government -- that many people are very discouraged, and it's a difficult time to not have the usual resources that people often turn to in their spirituality.

But what are we going to create that is new? Also with the Catholic Church in the United States in ruins, many Catholics are looking for something else, and I think that using some of the roots of our tradition -- Hildegard of Bingen or Nancy Sylvester (from the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue), for example -- we can bring the contemplative practice to the work of social justice, and include social justice in the practice of contemplation.

It's community contemplation; it's not simply what one does gazing at one's navel, but what one does accompanied by other people both physically and non-physically, and I tried to describe some of the ways in which that happens.

Going back to the idea of the "Church in ruins". The sex abuse crisis -- how did we get here and how can we get out of it?

I don't have a magical way for us to get out of this, but I understand how we got here. I think there are two main factors.

The first, the studied duplicity that has been rampant in the Catholic Church. I'm talking about the Church in the United States and the Roman Church. I don't want to say anything about the Spanish Church, although I think there are similarities in that situation.

Duplicity has grown up around a false anthropology, which is that in some way there is a differentiation, a degrading differentiation, between people.

Once you start with a structure with a division of clerics-laity, in which the clergy have all the power and the laity have all the responsibility to make it work, and once you decide that only men can be part of the clergy, that homosexuals can't be part of the clergy ... What Rosemary Radford Ruether called "hierarchical dualisms". That God is above the world. That people are above animals. Men over women. Whites over people of color. Heterosexual people over homosexual people ... Once you establish that habit of thinking, it's devastating.

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza gave it a name: "kyriarchy." When you take structures of racism, sexism, xenophobia, economic disparities, etc., you put them all together and they're intertwined -- so that a poor, black lesbian woman finds herself in a much worse situation than a heterosexual white man -- once that is structured, there are very few ways out.

The relationship between this "dominion" and the sex abuse crisis is twofold: the colossal and culpable ignorance of most clerics about sexuality in general and the types of prohibition in the Church. No to contraception, to masturbation, to other forms of sexuality, to priests practicing sex due to the vow of celibacy ... The stage is set and those involved will have to find a way out, which in this case has been sex with children. But it's a single perspective.

What we're seeing now is the abuse of power by clerics with those they're in charge of. Seminarians and other priests, as in the case of Theodore McCarrick. How ironic and sad that the worst thing that could happen to him is that he is "reduced" to the lay state, like the rest of us.

What came out about the McCarrick case was that not only was he habitually going to bed with seminarians, and that the work and future of those seminarians depended on their compliance, but that everyone knew it. How could it happen that this guy committed abuses and, on top of that, extrajudicial compensation was reached with some victims?

Why do you think?

It's this duplicity of the Church. That the institution protects its own and lies about it -- there's a lack of transparency. And then there are McCarrick's pedophilia cases...Someone had to know something.

There are stories about McCarrick in New York...He went out to dinner with men, he took them to a Catholic hospital where he had a flat...

Or the beach house.

The beach house was another place...but a hospital? It's extraordinary. Many people must have helped him do it, and meanwhile he's rising in rank to become not only an archbishop but a cardinal, and in Washington, DC to top it off.

He got very close to the rich and famous and to people in politics, and he raised a lot of money. But now, Viganò, the former papal nuncio, has written his allegation... It's a complicated situation, because there are factors on both sides: right and left, pro-Pope Francis and anti-Pope Francis ... But Francis must have known something ... Either he's lying or he's stupid, those are the only two options. And now with the new letter from Sandri ... it seems they're all lying.

What I gather from this are two things: one, that apparently all this is "nothing is happening here," all normal. If you want to rise in rank, you do it by sleeping with people. And two, that this is a disaster that has left many people -- good people, laity -- with enormous difficulties. Difficulties that can be attributed to specific people who didn't do their jobs correctly and who would be dismissed if it were a secular organization. Dismissed and replaced, but not with more bishops who were raised in the same system ...

I consider every priest an accomplice: they know how the system works. All are complicit spectators at best. We need a new system! To get rid of the bishops, the clergy and have a Church run by laity, where people who have expertise in particular areas form committees in each region or diocese. I don't think that in a year anyone will miss a bishop, and I don't think most parishes miss a priest.

We've just left the final liturgy of the Congress, carried out by the LGBTIQ community ... Very, very well done, and the role of the ordained priest was minimal in the best of cases. The whole community participated, and nobody missed anyone wearing robes similar to Halloween ones. I think we're maturing in post-modernity towards a different kind of faith.

But why are there Catholics who continue to resist this new model of the Church?

I think there are many people who don't think about these things for a living, like you and I, and they take it as something they learned when they were children, and for them religion is what they learned in school. Many people leave it there. And I think many people just don't have models ...

My experience has been, especially in light of this scandal -- a scandal of proportions that we haven't seen before -- that we still don't know how much it will cost.

The report from Philadelphia, a report about three hundred abusive priests and more than a thousand victims -- and made by the state, and not by the Church -- made it clear that not even half of the crimes have come out. And now we have 49 more states that must make their reports.

New York has just cited all the dioceses there, and I don't think any of them can resist any more. It's the law that's coming for them. It's sad to see that a religious institution has to be modified by the legal system, but we live in a society where the safety of children and workers is now a common value. So my feeling is that, although there are some who are resisting -- like Opus Dei and extreme right groups who are using this for their purposes, saying, for example, that homosexuals are to blame, which isn't true -- many people who are in touch with postmodern values are looking for something more. I think the resistance will erode, especially as the financial picture becomes clearer.

There is no money in the Catholic Church in the United States to pay for these abuse cases. Truly, every diocese must be bankrupt. Not only morally, but also financially. And the Church is a business, after all. When people realize that when they put money in the basket, a percentage of that goes to the diocese, and that's what pays the lawyers and compensation to victims, they won't want to pay the fees of those lawyers and they won't want to pay for cover ups. People aren't stupid; they're happy to share, but they don't want to be taken advantage of.

They'll vote with their pocketbooks.

That's it.

And this future Church...Will it be ecumenical? Interfaith?

I would hope so.

I belong to a Women Church group -- "Women Church" is the name that's been given to the feminist groups that have been meeting over the last thirty years. We understood that the word ekklesia has to do with the regular assembly of free male citizens, and since we were not free male citizens, only when you put the word "woman" next to "Church" can you really have something inclusive. It's an irony.

We've had small home-churches for the last thirty years, and there are many intentional Eucharistic communities... Our Women Church group has Jewish women, Protestant ministers...It started as a group of nuns. So I think there will be many new configurations and many new forms of worship.

At WATER, for example, where I work -- Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual -- when we have rituals or meditations, we don't check identification at the door. You just come. So that's already happening, but that the Roman Catholic Church as we know it is going to change into that, no one knows, and in any case probably not in my lifetime. But the more general trend is in that direction.

And your opinion of Pope Francis. Has he brought fresh air to the Church? Or is he more of the same?

Well...Recently I made a presentation about Pope Francis from the feminist perspective, in Brazil, at the UNISINOS conference. And I was a minority voice -- the people at the conference supported the Pope very much, some of his biographers being there and more. But I made a very strong case, I think, for why Pope Francis should be considered a poisoned gift, in the best case scenario.

I think he entered a situation in which the bar was very, very low, after 37 years of John Paul II and Ratzinger ... Progressive people, in particular, were so disappointed that Francis was seen as something wonderful.

It turns out that I lived in Argentina for two years, living and teaching in Buenos Aires during the time when he was the superior of the Jesuit community. I never met him, and we had an interreligious group, Protestants, Jews and Catholics, who met regularly to reflect on the Dirty War -- how to support young people, especially, who were part of the resistance to the Dirty War ... But I never saw a Jesuit.

I also followed him [Bergoglio] in Argentina on the question of same-sex marriage, and in the end he came to a Jesuitical equilibrium by saying that it might be good to have domestic unions. Well, no, Bergoglio: we wanted marriage. And he [Bergoglio] has been terrible with regard to the problems of women in all areas; he jokes about mothers-in-law and is largely a product of his environment.

His only feminist source is his abuelita Rosita, his grandmother Rosa, who's been dead a long time. He simply has no idea how half -- or maybe a bit more than half -- the Church is doing.

So I've been disappointed and frustrated with him from that perspective. That said, I think his work on the environment, on the fight against poverty, the death penalty...on those things I agree with him completely. But with respect to women's issues in particular -- not just the issue of ordination but also birth control and abortion -- on queer issues in general...I think his "Who am I to judge?" statement was lamentable. Even though people did the impossible to praise him.

"Who am I to judge?..." Well, let me tell you: You're the Pope, you're a Catholic, you're a person, you're a pastor...Your work is to judge: judge where love is. So I was very disillusioned with that statement even though most people saw it as a very important opening. As a person, as a Catholic, as a feminist, as a woman, as a lesbian, I don't want the question. I want the statement. Not because we are -- I have a woman partner and a daughter -- but because it's love.

The other thing is that making that declaration as a Jesuit is quite hypocritical, because in my experience the Society is mostly gay. Therefore, he [Francis] has many gay brothers. So at least he could be honest and say: "Here we have a problem with sexuality, and we have to get out of that."

It's not my problem and I'm not going to solve it for them...and in fact I'm very skeptical of women coming and being ordained -- I don't want to ordain anybody. I'm very skeptical of turning to people who haven't created the problem. I've seen that this has already happened -- for example, in a Catholic university, with a woman president and lawyer, trying to fix the McCarrick case. It's a nightmare that these women are the ones who have to fix it.

I don't have a solution and I'm not looking for a solution beyond that of love and caring towards the victims and survivors [of abuse]. Anything we can do in their name is a solution, but the institutional questions...the men are alone, unless they're open to these new serious models of community run by lay people, and not just open to them.

Their time is up.

Photo: Mary Hunt (holding up the paten) participating in the closing liturgy of the Asociación de Teólogos y Teólogas Juan XXIII Congress.