Friday, November 21, 2014

An unusual judgement

NOTE: Sadly, José Antonio Pagola has informed his readers that this will be his last weekly gospel column. After 34 years, he says he wants to use his time for other endeavors.

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
November 23, 2014

Matthew 25:31-46

The sources are unambiguous. Jesus lives turned towards those he sees in need of help. He is unable to pass them by. No suffering is alien to him. He identifies with the least and the helpless and does what he can for them. Compassion comes first for him. The only way for us to be like God: "Be merciful as your Father is merciful."

How can we be surprised that, when speaking of the Last Judgement, Jesus presents mercy as the ultimate decisive criterion on which our lives and our identification with him will be judged? Why would it be strange to us that he identifies himself with all the poor and wretched in history?

According to Matthew's narrative, "all nations" will appear before the Son of Man, that is, before Jesus, the merciful one. No distinction is made between "chosen people" and "pagan people." Nothing is said about different religions and cults. It's about something very human that everyone understands: What have we done for all those who are suffering?

The evangelist doesn't exactly linger when describing the details of a judgement. What he highlights is a double dialogue that sheds great light on our present condition and opens our eyes to see clearly that there are two ways to react towards those who are suffering -- either we take pity and help them, or we turn a deaf ear and abandon them.

The speaker is a Judge who is identified with all the poor and needy: "Whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me." Those who have approached a needy person to help them, have drawn near to him. Therefore they are to be with him in the kingdom: "Come, you who are blessed by my Father."

Then he addresses those who have lived without compassion: "What you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me." Those who have turned away from the suffering, have turned away from Jesus. It's only logical that he now says to them: "Depart from me." Go your own way...

Our lives are being judged right now. We don't need to wait for any judgement. We are approaching or turning away from those who are suffering now. We are approaching or turning away from Christ now. We are deciding our fate now.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Women's Ordination Worldwide Third International Conference - 2015

Registration is now open for Women's Ordination Worldwide's Third International Conference, September 18-20, 2015, at the Marriott Downtown in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the theme "Gender, Gospel, & Global Justice". Invited speakers include RCWP Bishop Patricia Fresen, Sr. Teresa Forcades i Vila, Kristina Keneally, Asra Nomani, Sr. Mary John Mananzan, Kate Kelly, Tina Beattie, Jamie Manson, Christina Rees, Sr. Theresa Kane, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, Barbara Blaine, Paul Collins, Mary E. Hunt, and Sr. Maureen Fiedler. Is that a cool line-up or what?

Anyway, the cost of the conference is $275 if you register before April 15, 2015. This does not include hotel accommodations which must be arranged and paid for separately. Click here to register online for this very special event.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Synod for this?

by José Arregi (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Redes Cristianas
November 19, 2014

A month ago the first phase of the Catholic Synod on the Family ended, which opened a year of ecclesial reflection until October 2015. Then the General Synod itself takes place. So we are still in synod, a Greek word meaning "journey together." That is being Church -- being companions in the journey, following Jesus together and freely. That is life -- a shared journey.

"Let everyone speak freely, and listen with humility," Pope Francis said on the eve of the opening. So be it. That's how I want to do it since what's true for the bishops must be true for all of us who are Church, traveling companions.

There were 253 participants, mostly bishops, coming from all over the world, staying in Rome for more than two weeks. Was it necessary? Weren't e-mail, videoconferencing, or online meetings enough? So many celibate bishops talking about the family, holding forth on issues that the vast majority of people, including long-time Catholics and priests, had resolved long ago ... Was it worth it?

In no way would I say that families are a minor matter. They engender and shape us. It would be worth gathering at the Vatican not just 200 bishops but thousands of men and women from every people and culture and spending whatever it takes to remedy the wounds that afflict them: unemployment and poverty, lack of housing, violence and gender inequality, fear of the future, the failure of love...

But those weren't the subjects that mattered most to the synod fathers. One barely heard voices demanding serious ecclesial reflection on the profound cultural changes that are affecting the traditional  family structures. No critical note on the issue of "gender", that is, the social construction of roles of men and women. No allusion to the decoupling of sex and procreation, a new and momentous event in the history of mankind. No reference to the serious demographic problem and, yes, hard damning judgments of the "anti-birth mentality." No hint of recognition of the holiness and sacramental value of homosexual love.

No hint of a possible rethinking of the traditional doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage. No suggestion of the need to revise the doctrine of Paul VI's Humanae Vitae (1968), which prohibits under mortal sin any birth control measure or method other than sexual abstinence (they condemn anything that's not "natural", but take "unnatural" pills for the flu or cholesterol). And no trace of self-criticism at all.

Nevertheless, many have hailed this first synodical phase and the document that emanated from it as the prelude to a spring explosion, as the unstoppable beginning of deep doctrinal transformation. Let's hope it is, and that I'm wrong, and that I be given the grace to see it! But today I don't see it.

I do expect, though, that after the General Synod next year, Pope Francis will take three timid steps, namely: 1) An invitation to receive homosexuals with mercy (as if they were sick or sinners), 2) The possibility that some divorced people with new partners might take communion on the condition -- a humiliating condition -- that they confess their guilt for their marital failure and commit to not re-offending (Jesus didn't humiliate anyone this way), 3) Streamlining and cheapening the annulment process (a device not to recognize something very simple -- that wherever there is love there is a sacrament of God, and that there is only a sacrament while there is love). That will be all. Is so much baggage needed for this journey? Those are the bishops' problems, not the people's. The people are suffering for other reasons. Listen to the people, listen to life.

Life goes on striving in the little beating hearts of men and women today, believers or not. The Spirit and Love live in the marriages the bishops call "irregular", in the different types of families with their everyday joys and anxieties, in people who've failed in their love and remade their lives with another partner. They weren't, nor will they be, called to the Synod, but Life is guiding them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Women's Ordination: November 2014 Update

In a recent interview with "60 Minutes", the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, was asked about his position on women in the Church in general and women's ordination in particular. Here are the relevant segments:

...Norah O'Donnell: Should there be more women in positions of power in the Curia?

Cardinal Seán O'Malley: Yes. I think there should be. And hopefully, there will be.

Norah O'Donnell: When?

Cardinal Seán O'Malley: Well, I can't tell you what time, but hopefully soon, you know....
(Yeah, "soon", right...)

...Norah O'Donnell: The church says it's not open to the discussion about ordaining women. Why not?

Cardinal Seán O'Malley: Not everyone needs to be ordained to have an important role in the life of the church. Women run the Catholic charities, the Catholic schools, the development office for the archdiocese.

Norah O'Donnell: Some would say women do a lot of the work but have very little power.

Cardinal Seán O'Malley: Well "power" is not a word that we like to use in the church. It's more service.

Norah O'Donnell: But they can't preach. They can't administer the sacraments.

Cardinal Seán O'Malley: Well...

Norah O'Donnell: I mean, some women feel like they're second class Catholics because they can't do those things that are very important.

Cardinal Seán O'Malley: Well, they, but they're, they have other very important roles that, you know, a priest cannot be a mother, either. The tradition of the church is that we have always ordained men. And that the priesthood reflects the incarnation of Christ, who in his humanity is a man.

Norah O'Donnell: But in spite of that, does the exclusion of women seem at all immoral?

Cardinal Seán O'Malley: Well, Christ would never ask us to do something immoral. And I know that women in...

Norah O'Donnell: The sense of equality. I mean, just the sense of sort of the fairness of it, you know. You wouldn't exclude someone based on race. But yet you do exclude people based on gender.

Cardinal Seán O'Malley: Well, it's a matter of vocation. And what God has given to us. And this is, you know, if I were founding a church, you know, I'd love to have women priests. But Christ founded it and what he he has given us is something different...

Leaving aside the historical fact that while the Catholic Church is founded ON Jesus Christ, Christ DID NOT "found" the Roman Catholic Church in its present patriarchal and hierarchical incarnation nor did he ordain anyone, male or female, Cardinal O'Malley's restatement of the Church's policy of excluding half the Catholic population from the sacrament of Holy Orders and its weak theological and biblical underpinnings, demonstrates why more and more qualified women are seeking ordination through independent groups like Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

This Fall has seen two more women ordained to the priesthood -- internationally! -- and many more ordained to the diaconate. On November 1st, in Sarasota, Florida, the fourth Colombian Roman Catholic woman priest, Judith Bautista Fajardo, was ordained by ARCWP Bishop Bridget Mary Mehan. Meanwhile, in South Africa, Mary Bernadette Ryan (photo above) was ordained on September 28th by Bishop Patricia Fresen, herself a native of that country. Rev. Ryan received her doctorate in Theology in 2006 from the University of South Africa with a thesis on "Behind caring: the contribution of feminist pedagogy in preparing women for Christian ministry in South Africa." During the ordination ceremony, Bishop Fresen, as she has often done in the past, compared the struggle for women's access to the priesthood to her country's fight against apartheid, saying that "in South Africa, in particular, we know that the only way to change an unjust law is to break it. And that", she added, "is what we are doing today."

Many more women have been ordained to the diaconate over the last three months:

RCWP Western Region

On September 6, 2014, seven women were ordained to the diaconate by RCWP Bishop Olivia Doko in Santa Cruz, California:

  • Penny Donovan, a former member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who has worked as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. The San Francisco native, who asserts that she experienced the call to the priesthood as a young girl, says that "discovering RCWP in 2012, has been an unbelievable new journey."

  • Teresa Gregory, who hails from Idaho, served in the Roman Catholic Church as a lay person for 30 years, the last six of those years as the Parish Life Director of Our Lady of the Snows in Sun Valley, Idaho. She has served both in the Archdiocese of Seattle and the Diocese of Boise and received her Masters of Divinity from Seattle University in 1991. She is currently a building manager for the Blaine County School District.

  • Rosa Manriquez, from East Los Angeles, is a retired Roman Catholic sister of the community of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She is a member of Our Mother of Good Counsel/St. Agatha Church, where she has served as a lector and eucharistic minister, as a CCD teacher preparing young people for confirmation, and on church's parish council. A strong LGBT advocate, Manriquez is on the speakers' list of Gays and Lesbians Initiating a Dialogue for Equality (GLIDE), making presentations throughout Southern California and she also works with the Human Rights Campaign as a trainer and lecturer. She is on the board of the Catholic Church reform group Call To Action.

  • Donna Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, but currently lives in California. She served as a nurse for over 25 years, incorporating holistic methods of health care into her service. She has a Bachelor of Religious Studies from Global Ministries University. She plans to minister in a new community which is now being formed in Simi Valley, CA.

  • Donnieau Snyder, PhD, is a psychotherapist from Modesto, California, who is a member of New Spirit Rising, an inclusive Catholic faith community in Fresno. Her ministry includes serving her faith community, religious education, working with homeless veterans dually diagnosed with mental health needs and substance abuse issues, as well as working with homeless teens and young adults.

  • Joanna Truelson, a real estate agent with Alain Pinel Realtors, is a founding member of the Namaste Catholic Community in Orinda, CA. She is a spiritual director and enjoys participating in international missions and pilgrimages.

  • Carol Giannini -- no additional information available

RCWP Eastern Region

On October 19, 2014, in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, the following women were ordained to the diaconate by RCWP Bishop Andrea Johnson:

  • Barbara Ann Beadles, from Silver Spring, Maryland, has an M.A. in Religious Studies from Catholic University. She has been involved in religious education since 1968 and has worked in parochial schools in Kentucky and Maryland. As pastoral associate, she has worked with adults in RCIA education and in sacramental preparation. Her particular interest is ministry with marginalized Catholics and as a hospice volunteer.

  • Norma (Keefe) Harrington has Master's degrees in Nursing and Theological Studies, with a specialization in feminist theology. She is a semi-retired hospice nurse. She grew up in Michigan but now lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where she is a chapter leader for Call To Action. She is affiliated with The Spirit of Life Catholic community.

  • Patricia Shannon Jones has a Master's Degree in Adulthood and Aging Studies from Notre Dame of Maryland University. She is a registered nurse and retired nursing home administrator in the State of Maryland. She has completed the Parish Nursing Certificate Program at the Ecumenical Institute (EI) of Saint Mary's Seminary and University, and continues to pursue courses in Pastoral Care at the EI. During her research career, she worked at multiple medical schools, ran her own clinical trials management company, and worked as a consultant with the University of Maryland Institute of Human Virology. She is currently director of the Immigration Outreach Service Center at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Baltimore.

  • Susan Marie Schessler holds a Master's Degree in Religious Studies from Providence College in Rhode Island. She was an elementary school teacher in New Jersey and Alabama before becoming the first Director of Religious Education in the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. As DRE, she ministered in two parishes and was also on the staff of the Religious Education Center in the Archdiocese of Newark. While residing and participating in the work of Genesis Farm in Blairstown, NJ, Schessler served on the staff of the Northeast Center for Youth Ministry housed in Paterson, NJ. Realizing the call to serve the poor in inner-city Newark, Susan served as principal of an alternative junior high school founded and sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell, NJ, before moving over to the public scholl system. Since her retirement from education, she serves as volunteer Director of Development with Future Potential Youth OutCry Foundation Inc./The H.U.B.B. (Help Us Become Better).

  • Kathleen Gibbons Schuck, who has a B.S. in Sociology from Rosemont College and is presently studying Theology at Global Ministries University, is founder and co-owner with her husband of 5 Decades In, a company that provides life coaching and business consulting services. Since 2012, she has been part of the Saint Mary Magdalene Community, an inclusive Catholic community which holds services in Drexel Hill, North Wales, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over the years, she has also been active in parishes in New Jersey, Illinois, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania, chairing liturgy committees and serving as a greeter, lector and extraordinary minister.

  • Ann Searing is a former nun and member of the Daughters of Wisdom, where she taught for 17 year before she left the community to get married. She served with her husband, Rev. Jeff Johnson, as part of a pastoral team at the Athol Congregational Church UCC, in Massachusetts for 14 years. She also served as interim pastor of the Phillipston Congregational Church and of the Memorial Congregational Church of Baldwinville. She also served in a Roman Catholic parish as director of RCIA, a Eucharistic Minister, and a pastoral visitor of the sick. She has an M. Div. and D. Min. from Andover Newton Theological School. At present, she is a spiritual director and retreat leader.

  • Mary Steinmetz -- no additional information available

Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests

In addition to the ordination of Judith Bautista Fajardo to the priesthood, four women were ordained as deacons on October 29th and November 1st, 2014 in Sarasota, Florida by ARCWP Bishop Bridget Mary Mehan. They are:

  • Janet Blakeley of Nokomis, Florida, who has a Master's degree in Clinical/Pastoral Counseling from Emmanuel College in Boston. Over her 80 years of life, Blakeley has served as a church musician, parochial school administrator, parish adult education leader, and as a spiritual director. She is presently a member of the Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota where she will be serving.

  • Sally Brochu of Nokomis, Florida, also has an M.A. in Pastoral Counseling from Emmanuel College in Boston. A certified chaplain through the National Association of Catholic Chaplains, she worked as Director of Pastoral Care for the Sisters of Charity Health System in Maine for 10 years. Brochu will also be serving at Mary Mother of Jesus Community.

  • Patricia Zorn's ordination to the ARCWP diaconate is really more of a transfer from one independent Catholic group to another. Zorn was originally ordained a priest in 2005 by Bishop Michel Joseph Pugin, a former Roman Catholic priest who left to join the Catholic Apostolic Church which evolved into the American Catholic Church in the United States. The Spring Hill, Florida resident had been pastoring Holy Angels Catholic Community, a congregation she founded in 2006 and through which she has been part of a loose-knit group called the Catholic Diocese of the One Spirit. She has a degree in Spiritual Counseling from the New Seminary in New York City.

  • "Nelly S." -- a "Catacomb" deacon about whom no additional information is available"

As can be seen, the women's ordination movement isn't waiting around for Cardinal O'Malley to found his own church or for the Vatican to come to its senses on this question. They are pursuing justice and opening a path for Catholic women to follow their calling to ministry now.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Creative searching

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
November 16, 2014

Matthew 25:14-30

Despite its seeming innocence, the parable of the talents carries an explosive charge. Surprisingly, the "third servant" is condemned without having done anything wrong. His only error was "doing nothing" -- not risking his talent, not making it bear fruit, keeping it intact in a safe place.

Jesus' message is clear. No to conservatism, yes to creativity. No to a sterile life, yes to the active response to God. No to obsession about security, yes to risky efforts to change the world. No to faith buried under conformity, yes to committed work to make way for the Kingdom of God.

The great sin of Jesus' followers could always be not daring to follow him creatively. It's important to observe the language that's been used among Christians over the centuries to see where we've often focused our attention: preserving the deposit of faith, preserving the tradition, preserving good customs, preserving grace, preserving vocations,...

This temptation to conservatism is stronger during times of religious crisis. It's easy then to invoke the need to control orthodoxy, reinforce discipline and rules, ensure membership in the Church,...All might be explicable, but isn't it often a way of distorting the gospel and freezing the creativity of the Holy Spirit?

For religious leaders and those responsible for Christian communities, it might be more comfortable to monotonously "repeat" the inherited ways of the past, ignoring the questions, contradictions, and approaches of modern people, but what use is all that if we aren't able to shed light and hope on the problems and suffering that trouble the men and women of our time?

The attitudes we should nurture today in the Church are not "prudence", "fidelity to the past", "resignation",...Instead, they have other names: "creative searching", "boldness", "ability to risk", "listening to the Spirit" that makes all things new.

The worst may be that, just as happened to the third servant in the parable, we believe we are responding faithfully to God with our conservative actions when we're disappointing His expectations. The primary task of the Church today can not be preserving the past, but learning to communicate the Good News of Jesus in a society racked by unprecedented sociocultural change.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The "dangerous remembrance" of Jesus

By José María Castillo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Teología Sin Censura Blog
November 10, 2014

The assassination of the five Jesuits and two employees of UCA (Universidad Centroamericana in San Salvador), November 16, 1989, coincides on the same day and month with the fall of the Berlin Wall. It has been said that the events of that historic moment, not only in Europe but in Central America too, were "the ultimate metaphor of the triumph of freedom." And that, as Bertrand de la Grange, the Central American correspondent for Le Monde in those days, wrote, in November of '89 the world witnessed the "collapse of the Soviet bloc that condemned the armed struggle and accelerated the peace processes in Central America."

The coincidence (only a few days apart) between the murders at UCA in El Salvador, and the fall of the Wall in Berlin, represents the two sides of the struggle to achieve equality and freedom, two pillars on which human rights and peace in the world can be (and have been) built. To win this ideal, both those who fell at the Berlin Wall and those who were killed in El Salvador suffered and died.

Through opposite, and at first sight contradictory, ways, both groups died for the same cause -- the struggle for freedom and dignity. In the end, when it comes to achieving freedom, it doesn't matter whether oppression comes from the right or the left. In either case, they are stealing the greatest thing you can take away from human beings -- their dignity. And that's what was snatched both from the victims imprisoned by the Berlin Wall and the 4,000 or so Salvadorans who were killed in the two weeks of fighting between guerrillas, soldiers and civilians, starting November 11, 1989.

It's been said that was the offensive that opened the possibility for peace by making it obvious that the war could not be decided militarily. It was at this juncture, November 15th, that the Salvadoran army chiefs of staff decided to eliminate the "recognized leaders" that hindered them in their plan to continue to dominate the people. On the morning of the 16th, the UCA martyrs were killed.

The clear lesson all this leaves us is something that gives much food for thought: through the path of repression and domination, what we do is build walls and borders that divide us, separate and alienate us from one another. However, through the path of those who have given their lives because they can't bear inequality or lack of freedom, we take giant steps towards a world in which it will be possible to live in peace.

This is why I can assert that the ignorant fanatical stance of those who go on saying that all those who fought and died in Central America for the ideal of a more just, free and egalitarian society -- from Mons. Romero to the UCA Jesuits -- were just leftist political militants who were trying to impose a system of totalitarian domination, makes me very sad. Don't those who resort to these vulgar and hackneyed clichés realize that that whole process in Central America happened exactly at the time the Wall that separated the two blocs was going under and that this meant the end of the Cold War and the totalitarian system imposed by Communism?

So, can it be calmly asserted that Ignacio Ellacuría and the other Jesuits (like the peasants of El Mozote and so many thousands of dead in those months in El Salvador) were "the orphans of the Wall"? To those who dare take such a question seriously, I ask, "And what do we say about those who died to destroy the Berlin Wall forever? Were they enemies of justice and freedom too?"

Nothing troubles me more than people who don't think because they're incapable of thinking. Those who always think as others do are those who always live at the mercy of what matters to others, not what suits them. And this abounds a lot, now more than ever, to the misfortune of everyone.

I'm impressed by the freedom and consistency of Ignacio Ellacuría and those Jesuits. I myself saw it with my own eyes and felt it with my own hands when, shortly after the death of those martyrs, I had the great luck to be able to go to UCA to lend a hand -- for 16 years -- in the task of covering the vast void left by those witnesses to their deepest convictions, the convictions of the Gospel, the way of life etched in the "dangerous remembrance" of Jesus.

2015: Beatification of Monseñor Romero

By Jon Sobrino, SJ (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Noticias de la UCA
November 6, 2014

We have received unexpected news. At the November 4th clergy meeting, Monsignor Jose Luis Escobar said that during his stay in Rome, Pope Francis told him that Archbishop Oscar Romero will be beatified next year. The archbishop gave no details about the date and place. But the news has already filled us with joy.

The last two popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, talked about it, but not with much conviction and determination. And the fear of annoying the powerful was obvious: "It is not yet the right time." The Vatican's words were ambiguous and not very encouraging.

Everything has changed with Pope Francis. A year ago, he said Monseñor's cause was stagnating but that it certainly would advance. Rather than stagnating, I think it was blocked by many interests that have nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth.

We've said it many times: the joy and exultation of the people is assured. But I've tended to have a little fear and hesitation: what Monseñor Romero's act of canonization will say. Holy and virtuous he was in the highest degree. But he was something more, as Ignacio Ellacuría phrased it at the funeral mass at UCA immediately after the assassination of the Archbishop: "With Monseñor Romero, God passed through El Salvador." Around the same time, Dom Pedro Casaldáliga wrote the poem "San Romero de América, pastor y mártir nuestro". And the people spontaneously called him "saint." The cult of the people -- the popular one -- has been massive, although it's not allowed during the process of beatification.

Then let us await the coming year. In 2015, there will be no World Cup or Olympic Games. People won't be fighting against each other to win. We'll all win something or a lot, except for a few diehards. Trillions won't be spent to conceal poverty, violence and anguish. Yes, there will be pupusas and tamales.

In 2015, the little girl in a hut in Zimbabwe will win, who, when I asked her in 2007 what she knew of El Salvador, told me instantly: "A bishop". And days later, also in Zimbabwe, I greeted Desmond Tutu. I told him I was from El Salvador and he said: "The land of Romero! We used to remember him so much during wartime!" And so on, many other stories that wouldn't fit in all the books in the world.

My fear that they might beatify a watered-down Monseñor Romero has disappeared. It's hard to manipulate him today. And a prayer: "San Romero de América, pray for all the poor in the world. And pray for this Salvadoran people that is yours."

Point of clarification: After this article was published, the editors added a note that "The author of the article, Fr. Jon Sobrino, has clarified that the source of the good news about the beatification process of Monseñor Romero wasn't Pope Francis but Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, former president of the Catholic Bible Federation, and one of the founders of the Community of Sant'Egidio.