Friday, August 15, 2014

Jesus is for everyone

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
August 17, 2014

Matthew 15:21-28

A pagan woman takes the initiative to come to Jesus even though she doesn't belong to the Jewish people. She's a distraught mother who's suffering because her daughter is "tormented by a demon." She goes out to meet Jesus shouting, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David." Jesus' first reaction is unexpected. He doesn't even stop to listen. The time hasn't come yet to bring the Good News of God to the pagans. Since the woman insists, Jesus justifies his actions: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

The woman doesn't back down. She will overcome all difficulties and resistance. In a bold gesture, she prostrates herself before Jesus, stops him in his path and on her knees, with a humble but steadfast heart, she addresses just one cry to him, "Lord, help me."

Jesus' response is unusual. Although at that time the Jews called the pagans "dogs" quite naturally, his words are offensive to our ears: "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." Taking up his image intelligently, the woman dares to correct Jesus from the ground, "You're right, Lord, but even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters."

Her faith is admirable. Surely everyone can be fed at the Father's table -- the children of Israel and the pagan dogs too. Jesus seems to think only of the "lost sheep" of Israel, but she is a "lost sheep" too. The Messenger of God can not be just for the Jews. He must be everyone's and for all.

Jesus surrenders before the woman's faith. His answer reveals his humility and greatness: "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." This woman is showing him that God's mercy doesn't exclude anyone. The Good Father is above the ethnic and religious barriers that we humans draw.

Jesus recognizes the woman as a believer even though she lives in a pagan religion. He even finds "great faith" in her, not the tiny faith of his disciples whom he reproaches more than once as "men of little faith." Any human being can come to Jesus with confidence. He can recognize their faith even though they're outside the Church. They will always find in him a Friend and a Teacher of life.

We Christians ought to rejoice that Jesus still attracts so many people who are outside the Church today. Jesus is bigger than all our institutions. He continues to do a lot of good, even to those who have turned away from our Christian communities.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hear, Israel

by José Arregi (English translation by Rebel Girl)
August 13, 2014

The truce is not enough. The blood of innocent children, women, civilians of Gaza, and even the despairing blood of its militiamen cries out against you from the bottom of the ruins, from the root of the tragedy. You, Abel of many crimes throughout history, have become Cain for your Palestinian brothers. The roles have switched. Through them, the blood of Abel cries to you. And their cry will not cease until their pain no longer hurts you, until you respect their dignity, recognize their rights, and repair their ruins.

Also of them, not just of you, the Burning Infinite One spoke, when He said to Moses from the burning bush: "I have witnessed their affliction, I have heard their cries, I know their suffering. I will come down to release them. Go and set them free."

You will not have peace until you do them justice. You will not be free until you free your Palestinian brothers and sisters, enslaved and slaughtered by you, bombarded from land, sea and air, after you have locked them in that miserable strip 40 km long and 7 km wide where almost two million people live overcrowded, in the devastated remains of what was their land for millennia, now a prison and a tomb.

Hear again the oracles of your ancient prophets, beacons and watchtowers of world history. Second them, even if it's only the law of retaliation: "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth", a humanitarian law when your ancestors made it, as it would curb excessive revenge: "If someone tears out one of your eyes, don't tear out both of his." You, however, for each one of your dead soldiers, have killed 30 Palestinians -- mostly children, women and civilians -- and you still consider that ratio unacceptable.

Jesus of Nazareth, another of your own, a compassionate rebel prophet, went much further: "Don't return evil for evil." And what's more: "Love your enemy. And when someone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other one to him as well." Was Jesus crazy? Is such a principle applicable in policy? Maybe it isn't. But what use is policy that isn't inspired by compassion? Look what revenge leads to. Look where we're going, where you're going.

You say: "We have the right to exist as a people, to have a land and live secure in it." You're right. Absolutely right. You have suffered enough for thousands of years. You have been deported, exiled, persecuted. You have been exterminated. Your consciousness of being a people and the history of the horrors you've endured are your argument, and it's unquestionable.

Well, today the fulfillment of your right to live in peace in your land is in your hands more than in anyone else's. But hear, Israel: You will never achieve it as long as your policy and those of your allies deny the same right to your sister nation. The land that the UN granted you exclusively in 1948 was a land inhabited by others, and there originated this tragic confrontation of rights, which the unequal and unending war between the arrogant violence of your winning nation and the desperate violence of the vanquished, invincible in their despair, has turned increasingly tragic and insoluble. But after 66 years, it's as clear as the waters of Hermon that neither your state violence nor the violence of Hamas is the solution. Rather, both need each other to legitimize their common goal: the elimination of the enemy. You're going to hell on the same road.

Will there be no other horizon than a shared hell, then? That depends on you, Israel, even more than on the Palestinians. Comply with UN resolution 242, which has been reiterated over and over, and always violated by you, supported by your powerful friends. Return to the 1948 borders, abandon the territories occupied in the 1967 war, dismantle the settlements, agree to share the capital of Jerusalem, seek the most fair and reasonable solution possible for the 5 million Palestinian refugees. If you want to, you can do it.

Look at the children of Gaza, all orphans, who, nonetheless, play on the beaches and among the ruins of their homes. They can't do it, nor do they know how, but their eyes reveal the only just solution to you. And listen to your best citizens who demonstrate in your streets against the criminal and senseless policy of your government. They can't either, but they know the only way. They, and the children of Gaza, will teach you how you can live in peace in your land.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Diocese of Canarias expels married gay teacher

By Txemana Santana (English translation by Rebel Girl)
El País
August 11, 2014

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the section on homosexuality and chastity, acknowledges the existence of gay people and invites them to practice chastity, for having an "intrinsically disordered" life. Luis Alberto González, a professor of religion on the island of Lanzarote, got a message telling him that "it is no longer appropriate" for him to continue to be in the classroom.

Gonzalez, who used to be a priest, married a man two years ago. Then he sent a letter to the bishop, informing him of his situation. After 24 months of silence and after sending a letter to the editor of El País titled "Good News" [English translation below], he received the notice that put him on the path to unemployment. The Ministry of Education of the Canary Islands had confirmed his position as professor for the term that starts in less than a month.

A brief faxed statement explained Luis Alberto Gonzalez's dismissal: "For reasons of doctrine and morality and under canon law, your suitability as a religion teacher is retracted." The sender was the Bishop of the Canarias. Gonzalez is taking it casually, saying "I knew it could happen" and assuming that "it is what it is." He says he believes that he doesn't fit the profile the Catholic Church is looking for and has no problems recognizing that he isn't suitable. "Of course, I recognize it and so I'm asking them to terminate me fairly and to be entitled to unemployment benefits. I'll find a way."

After 15 years with an unblemished record, the teacher says that "people grow up" and that, in his case, he has "distanced himself from certain Catholic principles." One of these departures was when, being true to his conscience, he married his partner in 2012. He always thought that "in a matter of private life, there was not need to offer explanations," but says he knows the Church and, "given that the marriage institution has public repercussions," he alerted the Diocese and put his job in their hands.

González also questions the "manipulation of beliefs by those who have power in religion." Following "a religion that considers itself God's spokesman to the point of getting into all areas of life of what a person should do" doesn't seem appropriate to him. The teacher argues that "there are elements of the citizenry, such as the people who make up the educational community, who don't think it's bad for someone who is gay and married to teach religion, but as you go up the pyramid of the Catholic hierarchy, one is aware that they're on a different wavelength, advocating certain themes, including ones that could be considered medieval."

The Diocese of Canarias referred back to the notice sent to the teacher, concise and without reference to the long silence it had maintained. His employment status is now uncertain. On the one hand, late last month, the Ministry of Education issued the list of teachers which included him for the next term. Later, he was told that he doesn't meet the necessary values to teach the subject he's teaching. From the Canary Islands Government, the Deputy Minister of Education, Manuela Armas stated: "At the end of the month, we will know what is happening with this teacher, because the diocese has not informed us yet." Armas argues that "it's the diocese that determines the teachers who ought to teach religion and deems whether they are suitable or not. Now, Education is going to take responsibility for confirming that he is not."

"There will always be those who will say that the Church is like a club. If you don't want to be there, go. I, however, argue -- and I've been a priest -- that you can help change it from within," says the religion teacher and he concludes: "The Church itself has to be revised, take up these debates normally and face them."

Letter to the Editor: "Good News"

I got married civilly to another man in 2012. The fact would not be very significant except that I work in Lanzarote as a professor of Religion at two institutes. At the end of the school year in which the union took place, I considered it appropriate, for openness, put my job in the bishop's hands (in writing even).

The directives of the Church are what they are: Homosexuals are supposed to "live in chastity", because acts that are "intrinsically disordered...under no circumstances can [they] be approved." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 2357). Pope Francis, in front of a microphone, talking about not judging the "gay person who is seeking the Lord" is one thing, but accepting a homosexual relationship is something quite different. Moreover, the law grants the bishops the right to propose or withdraw professorships in Religion.

Therefore, I assumed I would be fired, but my employment contract has been renewed year after year. Either the bishop of Canarias doesn't consider the matter very important, or he's taking a new approach to the issue in his jurisdiction. In either case, it's good news.— Luis Alberto González Delgado.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fray Clodovis Boff: Liberation theology is only possible on the condition of starting and ending on the horizon of faith

by Natasha Pitts (English translation by Rebel Girl)
August 8, 2014

For some time we've been talking about a crisis in liberation theology (LT), a theological current founded 42 years ago, which is characterized by a preferential option for the poor and for the struggle for social justice. In the words of Fray Clodovis Boff -- a religious of the Order of the Servants of Mary who, with his more famous brother Leonardo Boff, was one of the leading LT theologians -- this mode of theologizing "gave what it had to give," that is, it raised awareness about the Church's preferential option for the poor. Nonetheless, "it no longer has a future in the Church" and therefore is losing more and more ground within it.

Even having participated in the founding of LT, Fray Clodovis says he now has reservations because of the lack of theoretical rigor and the prioritization "of politics at the expense of faith." Over the years, seeing that this priority wasn't changing but was being increasingly asserted, he decided to voice his criticism. Today, the religious brother argues that by disappearing into the mainstream of Christian theology, liberation theology is fulfilling its historical mission. ADITAL spoke with Fray Clodovis about the matter. Read the first of a special series of interviews that will be published every Friday by Adital.

Forty-two years later, is liberation theology still alive? Does it still have meaning today?

Fray Clodovis N. Boff: Yes, there are liberation theologians who gather and write. But its decline as a separate trend is undeniable. In my view, liberation theology "prescribed" historically. It gave what it had to give. It raised the Church's consciousness about the preferential option for the poor. Now, that has been basically incorporated, without further discussion, into the normal discourse of the Church. Thus the liberationist current has finally reentered the mainstream of Catholic or universal theology, strengthening and updating what was always an asset of the Church --preferential love for suffering people of all kinds. Liberation theology may even remain as a specimen of the "theology of the genitive," a necessarily partial theology, as when one speaks of the "theology of grace," the "theology of marriage" or even the "theology of St. Paul." Those particular theologies are just elaborated themes of aspects of faith. It was in that sense, as a partial theology in harmony with the whole of the faith, that liberation theology was declared by Pope John Paul II in his Letter to the Bishops of Brazil (4/9/1986) as "timely, useful and necessary" (n. 5). But while liberation theology is claiming to be a complete theology, it no longer has a future in the Church. In fact, it's losing more and more ground within it.

"We want to show here that liberation theology began well but, due to its epistemological ambiguity, it ended up misdirected -- it put the poor in Christ's place. That fundamental inversion led to a second mistake -- the manipulation of faith "for" liberation. Fatal errors, because they compromised the good fruits of this timely theology." (article, 8/16/2008). At what point and why did you become one of the great critics of liberation theology?

Boff:  I've always had reservations about liberation theology, whether because of its lack of theoretical rigor or due to its ideological propensity to prioritize politics at the expense of faith. Although in my doctoral thesis Teologia e prática ["Theology and practice"] published more than 40 years ago (Voces, 1978), I would have already clearly established the priority of faith over politics (especially in Section 2, Chapter 1), I imagined that the priority given to the political would be something transient, whether due to the very urgent social problems we were experiencing in those difficult times (dictatorship and savage capitalism), or by proving to be like a childhood illness, normal for any new historical movement. But when, with the passing of time, it dawned on me, unfortunately, that that priority, instead of ebbing, was asserting itself more and more with serious damage to the identity of the faith, the Church's own mission, and the ultimate destiny of human beings, I decided to explain my criticism openly.

On which points do LT theologians differ?

Boff: The differences aren't minor but fundamental, touching on the very principles of the faith. Who is Lord of the Church? Who occupies His thoughts? Christ or the poor? If we say "Christ", it's guaranteed in principle that the poor will have their "eminent place" in the Church, in Bossuet's words. But if we say "the poor" then Christ can be easily dismissed from society and life, as happens with Marxism.

In some texts you talk about the erosion and crisis in LT. How can this "way of theologizing" face the crisis and stay strong?

Boff: As I said earlier, paradoxically, by disappearing into the mainstream of Christian theology, liberation theology fulfills its historical mission. It's like the sugar cube that only exists to be dissolved in the coffee -- it's still present there, sweetening all the coffee but invisible. Or, in a more biblical metaphor, it's like John the Baptist said, "He must increase and I must decrease," as opposed to the Jews who, called to accept the Messiah, refused to be what they ought to have become. They should have done like Saul, who only fulfilled his destiny by becoming Paul. Such should also be the end point of liberation theology -- becoming just Christian theology after having contributed to its enrichment.

The liberation theologians are growing old. Do you believe in a renewal?

Boff: When one reads the current works by the so-called "liberation theologians," one notes that the discourse is repeated ad nauseam. They're "variations on the same theme" -- the socioeconomically poor and their social liberation. I insist: Liberation theology, like any other type of theology, is only possible on the condition of beginning and also ending on the transcendental horizon of faith. Beyond that, liberation theology will only yield "more of the same". And, just as Pope Francis says that a Church without unconditional faith in Christ is a "pious NGO", so too liberation theology (or any other one) without that same principal faith in Christ, is a religious ideology, competing or collaborating with other ideologies. With that, it makes itself more and more irrelevant, since the world today is tired of ideologies.

Could the opening Pope Francis has been giving to the LT theologians help reinvigorate it?

Boff: The speech and even more, the example of the current Pope could serve as an example for a Christianity that doesn't need ideology, even under a theological label, to deal seriously with the poor. Liberation theology can only be reinvigorated within the Church, within its theological diversity, hence as one particular theology.

How should liberation theologians work on and think about controversial issues like abortion, diversity (homoaffective unions), and women's participation in the Church?

Boff: Just like the issue of the poor, which is central to liberation theology, all these other questions should be dealt with by any theology based on the perennial principles of the faith. But clearly -- and this is the proper role of theologians in the Church -- those principles must be well understood and put up against the experience of history, which has much to teach the Church, as Vatican II recognized in Gaudium et Spes (see GS 44).

And in the case of the Catholic Church, what are its current challenges in the face of so many social, political, and economic demands?

Boff: Certainly, the Church is already doing a lot in the social field and it should do more. But it's necessary to be clear: this is not the Church's "proper" original mission, as Vatican II expressly repeated (see GS 42,2; and also 40,2-3 and 45,1). The social mission is a secondary mission, although necessarily derived from the first, which is of a "religious" nature. This lesson was never understood well by lay thinking. It was the Illuminists who wanted to reduce the mission of the Church to a merely social role. Hence they committed the crime -- cultural as well -- of destroying famous monasteries and forbidding the existence of religious orders, because they believed all that was something completely useless, a mentality that's still going strong in society and even within the Church. Now, if we ask what the Church's greatest challenge is, we must answer that it's man's greatest challenge -- the meaning of his life. It's a question that transcends both societies and time. It's an eternal question which, however, in post-modern times, has become particularly anguishing and widespread. It is first of all to this deeply existential and, today, characteristically cultural question that the Church must respond -- as must all religions, on the other hand -- since they are, based on their essence, "specialists in meaning." Anyone who doesn't see the seriousness of this challenge, both existential and historical, and insists on seeing the social issue as the "big issue", doesn't have his antennas up either in theology or in history either.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Teresa Forcades: "People can't be on the second tier, and money, first"

By Paula Coll Ortega (English translation by Rebel Girl)
The Prisma
August 3, 2014

She's a doctor, a theologian, and a Benedictine nun, in that chronological order.

After studying medicine, she traveled to the United States to the State University of New York to specialize. In that country, she studied theology at Harvard University and, upon returning to her land in '97, she entered the monastery, where she still remains. Thus, being a nun, she finished two doctorates -- one in Medicine (2004) and the other in Theology (2007).

What's certain is that she has been wedded to the Church for 17 years, during which she has received a lot of criticism for her revolutionary views and social activism.

She has made televised appeals urging society to promote an indefinite general strike and controversial statements about Hugo Chavez's cancer, attributing it to his political commitment, having "put his biological life in jeopardy for the sense of a full life."

However, despite the fact that her opinions might seem contrary to the Catholic Church, her reality is focused on the idea of self-criticism of the latter rather than disengagement from it.

Thus she says that structural reform within the Church is needed, that we must choose a different system than capitalism, and that Catalonia shouldn't pay its foreign debt.

She's the controversial Catalan nun, Teresa Forcades, known for her feminist positions and for her criticism of what she calls the "structural misogyny" of the Catholic Church. She believes there's a contradiction when interpreting certain religious texts since in the Gospel women are not at all inferior to men. Her latest project is the creation of a social movement called "Procés Constituent a Catalunya", which promotes change in the political, economic and social model, seeking independence and the end of capitalism.

Teresa Forcades was invited by Catalans UK to the British capital to give a speech at Queen Mary University. The Prisma talked with her.

You're a doctor, a nun, a theologian and now you've entered the world of politics. How do you unite these aspects?

They're united by certain basic anthropological questions about the meaning of life and the experience of love and freedom, be it medical, theological or political anthropology. From the medical point of view, being in touch with sickness, you wonder about many things. You meet people who are young, healthy and strong, but suddenly they get sick and die. That opens up many questions.

There's also a theological perspective that makes you think about the meaning of life and this is tied to the medical issue. My political involvement comes from the extraordinary situation we're experiencing in Europe in these times -- a situation of rapid and progressive decline in human rights. If in your work, you're concerned about the meaning of life and social justice, when that deteriorates, it's normal that there are people who come asking you to be involved in a concrete way, not in a political party but in a grassroots movement. That's what happened in my case.

You're a nun but in many respects you're opposed to the Church. In fact, you've said that human rights aren't respected in the Church.

Within the Catholic Church, which is mine, there's a structure with a more visible part which includes the magisterial role and also the bishops who speak up...but the Church's greatest vitality is in the grassroots community.

If I felt I was opposed to the Church, I wouldn't be part of it. I'm not opposed but I am critical of certain aspects. The Church, as an institution, needs this internal criticism. It's criticism I do from within, and I don't do it by saying "the Church has problems" but rather "in the Church, we have problems."

That's why self-criticism is important and there are quite a few problems. As we have a pope who says so too, it seems that one can say more now. Many years ago, with Vatican II, in the '60s, there was an attempt to bring the Church up to date. There were some years of openness but later there was a backlash. We'll see if with this new impetus, we'll have a forward surge again. We need radical structural reform in the Catholic Church.

You're the author of La teología feminista [en la historia] ["Feminist theology in history"]. How do you explain that women are inferior in society, especially in the Church?

There's "structural misogyny" in the Catholic Church. It isn't that certain bishops have problems with women but that there's a sexist structure, a structure that keeps us women, merely because that's what we are, from access to positions of greater responsibility or church representation.

We have to change that urgently, but it isn't the only thing we have to change because there's also a pyramidal, authoritarian structure, contrary to the spirit and letter of the Gospel which proclaims that "the last shall be first."

The Gospel teaches us a more horizontal concept and historically, it has been applied sometimes in small communities and the Church as a whole ought to apply it.

The problem of abuse of power in the Church has existed since the beginning. We could ask, "then, how can you be part of that institution?"

Because, while this is so, the church is the place that has inspired the most women throughout history to take their own initiative, propose social projects based on their personal experiences, and it's where the legacy and memory of these women has most been preserved.

The Gospel is a source of freedom, inner joy, and equality. Based on the Gospel, without feeling inferior or superior to anyone, I can confront social authority or ecclesial authority if necessary. When the white traders, who were Christian, came to Africa and used violence, they killed many people and took others to North America to enslave them. Before they were slaves, they didn't know anything about Jesus Christ, so it was their "masters" who told them who Jesus Christ was, presenting him as the true God who wanted them to be slaves.

But when they learned to read, they took the Bible and said, "It doesn't say that here. Here it says that Jesus Christ is on our side." These texts also contain many contradictions, things I don't think are the will or word of God. For example, there's the issue of stoning adulteresses or women being silent in church, that the Gospel then corrects. Therefore they're texts that we have to interpret. These texts have demonstrated throughout history in the case of women and slaves, that they are able to reach the hearts of those who are in situations of discrimination and inspire their struggle for liberation.

What do you think about homosexuality?

The Catholic Church today has changed its magisterial position and is in an unstable position. I didn't like its earlier position but it was consistent since it said, "Homosexuality is a sin", "It's a sin to feel desire for a person of the same sex and it's a sin to express that desire through a homosexual act."

But because medicine, years ago, stopped labeling homosexuality as a mental illness, the Church remained alone, having to take responsibility for labeling as sick an experience that modern science no longer considers pathological. So it has rectified itself and current teaching doesn't dare say that having a homosexual desire is a mortal sin in itself.

So why an "unstable" position?

When I say it has an unstable position it's because while the desire in itself is not considered bad, expressing it is forbidden. That's cruel. Having homosexual desires, that in itself isn't contrary to the will of God, but with that desire, you can't seek physical intimacy with the person you love, you can't kiss that person, you can't unite sexually with them.

Celibacy for those of us who have taken a vow of chastity isn't a simple subject either, although there's a lot of literature on how it should be supported so it doesn't end up being crippling for the person. Being able to live fully a life in which the sexual side isn't expressed is considered a grace from God. If that's so, then how can you say to a person who hasn't felt this calling and who, on the contrary, has his own sexuality stimulated by a person of the same sex, that he can't embrace that person?

What's the way to go?

This calls for evolution and, in fact, it's happening, albeit quietly. Many chaplains are saying, "Don't tell but I bless you in your homosexual love; go in peace." It seems obvious that the evolution is towards an open presence and there are many church groups such as ACGIL (Asociación Cristiana de Gays y Lesbianas -- "Christian Association of Gays and Lesbians") in Catalonia, for example, that are convinced that God not only tolerates their homosexuality but that it's a blessing, a reality desired by God to teach all of us what's essential in love and Christian marriage. By calling marriage a "sacrament", we're saying that that union makes God's love visible, but what's most important about God's love is that it's a gratuitous love, not a love based on complementarity. What's sacramental in my love for my partner isn't complementarity -- which doesn't exist in the Trinity -- but gratuity. I love you and I can't explain why. It's a reality that makes you fully an individual. Homosexual unions help make visible what's most crucial in Christian sacramental unions -- having children. The Catholic Church has admitted this historically, even though it has never been against menopausal women getting married.

In homosexual unions, the possibility of having children doesn't exist biologically. You can adopt, but no baby will come from two men or two women. Nor from a menopausal woman. So, why does the Church allow menopausal women to marry?

What's your political activity today?

I'm involved in the political movement "Procés Constituent a Catalunya", which was formed a year and a half ago to work for a Catalan republic defined by a program of breaking away from the false democracy model of neoliberalism. In the neoliberal model that dominates nowadays, we talk about democracy but in reality it's the economic powers that be that make the decisions. In Procés Constituent we're against the idea that after the fall of the Berlin Wall "the end of history" has come and we should consider the current political vista definitive. The theory of the "end of history" says that capitalism has won and that even though we've seen that it has very serious problems, "there's no better system."

When one criticizes capitalism, a fear usually emerges -- "You're criticizing capitalism. What do you want? The Soviet Union model? State centralism?". I don't want people to be in the background and money first. We don't need reforms; we need a democratic breakthrough and we'll only get it if the people are ready to organize from below.

How has this proposal been received in Catalonia, in Spain, and internationally?

In Catalonia, 47,000 people have joined and there are over 100 local and 12 regional assemblies. For the time it's been in existence (one year), the movement has been able to make a place for itself in the Catalan political panorama, but only when the elections come will we know if we've achieved our objective or not.

At the Spain level, it's very good news that "Podemos" has appeared because until now we didn't have any emerging national level party in Spain with the same orientation. "Podemos" is proposing a break with the neoliberal model and the right to self-determination of the Catalan people. On both things, we agree. That's very important.

At European level, the division is being established between the north and south of Europe, where neocolonial mechanisms are being created. We must end the South's clear economic dependence on the North. It's the same mechanism that has been at work in Latin America in recent years. I think we still have time to react, but we must be vigilant because since it could last a few more years...Currently, you're either unemployed or you have to work in precarious jobs for a pittance and without standing out through political activism because otherwise you get fired. You're demoralized when you've studied a career, have a few plans, and see how your daily life is.

What's happening with the free trade agreement?

It's one of the subjects we address very seriously -- denouncing that treaty with the United States and Europe.

It's a frontal attack on democracy. The worst is that they talk about "Investment Protection", to say it's a free trade agreement.

But it's really about giving rights to corporations to sue sovereign democratic governments when they pass laws that affect their interests.

That is, if they pass an anti-tobacco law, the tobacco company can sue. With Investment Protection, the company has come to your country to sell its packs of tobacco and get profits.

Therefore, since you've passed this law, that company earns less and sues you, and you have to pay them. This arbitration isn't made in a court in the country being sued or in the country where the company is.

So it's made in an ad-hoc international arbitration tribunal, paid for by the company itself. That is, the three judges of this tribunal charge their fees to the company itself. This is a corruption of the judicial system. It's not that these judges are corrupt as individuals, but the system is a direct attack on judicial freedom. We must unite to protect democracy.

Catalan independence is a controversial matter. What do you think about it?

There have been European countries in recent years that have obtained this independence but within a global context that looks out a lot for their interests.

If Catalonia, apart from wanting independence, has a plan for an anti-capitalist breakthrough (such as we're advocating in Procés Constituent), it's clear that the powers that be in Europe won't be enthusiastic about it.

The first thing Angela Merkel will ask is whether independent Catalonia will pay its debt, and I want us to tell her "NO" because it's an illegitimate debt. Our allies will only be Europe's discontented majorities, organized in a peaceful and democratic political alternative.

In the midst of the crisis

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
August 10, 2014

Matthew 14:22-33

It isn't hard to see in Jesus' disciples' boat, buffeted by the waves and overwhelmed by the strong headwind, the image of the Church today, threatened from without by all sorts of adverse forces and tempted from within by fear and lack of faith. How do we interpret this Gospel story from the crisis in which the Church seems shipwrecked today?

According to the evangelist, Jesus approaches the boat, walking on the water. The disciples aren't able to recognize him in the midst of the storm and the darkness of night. He seems like a "ghost" to them. Fear has them terrified. The only thing real is that mighty tempest.

This is our first problem. We are living out the crisis in the Church by spreading discouragement, fear, and lack of faith to one another. We aren't able to see that Jesus is approaching us precisely from this strong crisis. We feel more alone and defenseless than ever.

Jesus says three words to them: "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." Only Jesus can speak that way to them. But their ears only hear the roar of the waves and the force of the wind. This is our mistake too. If we don't hear Jesus' invitation to place our unconditional trust in him, to whom shall we go?

Peter feels an inner urge and, sustained by Jesus' call, jumps out of the boat and goes toward Jesus walking on the water. So we are to learn today to walk toward Jesus in the midst of the crisis, leaning not on power, prestige, or past assurances, but on the desire to meet Jesus in the darkness and uncertainty of these times.

It's not easy. We too can vacillate and sink like Peter. But, like him, we can also experience that Jesus reaches out and saves us while saying to us, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?".

Why do we doubt so much? Why are we learning hardly anything new from the crisis? Why do we go on seeking false security to "survive" within our communities, without learning to walk with renewed faith towards Jesus in the very midst of the secularized society of our time?

This crisis isn't the end of Christian faith. It's the purification we need to free us from worldly interests, deceptive triumphalism and distortions that have alienated us from Jesus over the centuries. He is acting in this crisis. He is leading us to a more gospel-centered Church. Let's rekindle our faith in Jesus. Let's not be afraid.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Theology and Church: When women write to the pope

By Carlo Molari (English translation by Rebel Girl)
August 1, 2014

The contribution women are making to theological reflection in the Catholic sphere has become increasingly important in Italy. One particular sign of this was the International Theological Congress in Rome organized by the Coordinamento Teologhe Italiane [Coordination of Italian Women Theologians] on the 50th anniversary of the start of Vatican II, from 4 to 6 October 2012 on the subject "Female theologians reinterpret Vatican II: Accepting history, preparing for the future."

Two hundred and twenty five women theologians from 23 different countries participated in it. Now the proceedings have been published by Paoline editions (Avendo qualcosa da dire ["Having something to say"], Milan, 2014, edited by Marinella Perroni and Hervé Legrand, with the contributions of several theologians, including Cettina Melitello, who examined "La teologia delle donne: quale incidenza ecclesiale?" ["Women's theology: What impact on the Church?", pp. 48-60].

Lately, other books by Italian women theologians have been published that we should mention because of the richness and depth that characterize them, such as Le ribelli di Dio. Donne e Bibbia tra mito e storia ["The rebels of God. Women and the Bible, between myth and history"], by Adriana Valerio (Feltrinelli, 2014); and two books by Benedetta Selene Zorzi: Antropologia e teologia spirituale. Per una teologia dell'io theology ["Anthropology and spiritual theology: Towards a theology of self"] (Ed. San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo, 2014); Al di là del gênio femminile. Donne e genere nella storia della teologia cristiana ["Beyond feminine genius: Women and gender in the history of Christian theology"] (Ed. Carocci, Rome, 2014).

However, the impetus for reflection that I intend to propose, comes from a smaller initiative, but one rich in significance. It is an expression of the enthusiasm stirred up by the gestures and words of Pope Francis, which have encouraged hope for renewal and opened a flood of petitions to the Church.

The book Caro Francesco. Venticinque scrivono donne al Papa ["Dear Francis: Twenty-five women write to the Pope"] (Ed. Il Pozzo di Giacobbe, Trapani, 2014) brings together 25 letters written in a confidential manner by 25 women. The subjects are summarized in a single word and develop quite varied reflections, in alphabetical order, from "A" for ambiente ["environment"] to "V" for vita religiosa ["religious life"].

The only male interjection is the introduction requested from the emeritus bishop of Caserta, Raffaele Nogaro, because of his social sensitivity and the support he has given to the innovative pastoral options made in Caserta by the Ursuline nuns, who seem to have originated the initiative.

The women writers bring together a variety of memberships and professions in search of new forms of solidarity and justice. The great diversity in training and origin shows the various ways in which womanhood can be lived out in convergent ways.

There is also an echo of the painful choice of 17 nuns who were expelled from their order in 2010 and are still living "in exile and with all its related precarity, thanks to stronger fraternal love and with help from Above and Below, the dynamic fidelity of the 'first times' ... With all the 'experience' of pain and joy that entails." (Maria Stella Fabbri, "Vita religiosa", p. 150).

The term that returns many times in these pages is "fear", "fear of women". Daniela Esposito, in the item titled "Liberazione" ["Liberation"], laments that in the preparatory document for the Synod on the Family, there is total silence about "gender violence, whether physical, sexual, economic (...) within the family. This scandalous blindness (...) is worrisome because the massacre of women, minute by minute, is demonstrated by statistics and only reinforces the idea that the 'concealment' of the feminine derives from men's fear of it. I believe it was this fear, natural to men, that, over time, became responsible -- not consciously -- for everything. Thus it is a necessary priority to free the world and the Church from fear of women." (Liberazione, ibid., p. 74). The question addressed to the Pope is clear: "Don't you think the time has come for the Church to open its arms to women in a gesture of love, for it to finally break free of fear and be a witness to Jesus' teachings?" (ibid., p. 75).

Therefore, others ask that "the clergy also [be] trained and educated. Seminarians will be afraid of women if they see in them a possible tempting Eve, who runs the risk of taking them away from their path of celibacy. If sexuality is freed from legalistic oppression, it could help candidates to the priesthood appreciate the otherness and difference of women as values to be acknowledged and welcomed..."

"Dear Pope Francis, the Church should not be afraid of women; help her in this way, continuing in your courageous decisions and, above all, giving confidence to women." (Donna, Adriana Valerio, ibid, p 44). It is precisely fear that leads to exclusion and marginalization.

Furthermore, when a woman is abandoned or a fugitive, she becomes a person one should be afraid of, whom one should fear (p. 122). The pages devoted to trafficking in women for prostitution very well express the passion and the enthusiasm with which some women religious "have tried to give concrete answers to the many female victims of human trafficking, especially for sexual exploitation." (Eugenia Bonetti, Schiavitù, p. 129).

What emerges most often from the letters is a lament for lack of power within the Church. That is, the fact that decisions relating to women are made by men, and women have no possibility to decide whatsoever.

With an incisive expression, echoing a quote from Sartre (Nausea, 1938), Anna Carfora invokes "the paradox of religion as a woman's thing run by male priests" (Clero, p. 27).

This phrase is even more significant because it was written by an educator of future priests as professor of church history at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy, the S. Luigi di Napoli branch.

Carfora specifically takes up the denunciation of "the insidious and subtle temptation to careerism." "In fact, the clergy-power combination still persists. The clergy entrusts to itself the responsibility for, and management of doctrine and orthodoxy, of liturgy and ecclesiastical organization, law and government." (p. 27)

The Pope has spoken of "authority of women in the Church -- an authority, therefore, that doesn't come from being a priest." She wonders if "the scope of this statement" has been fully understood, "the decisive blow to the heart of clericalism that it entails." (Clero, p. 27)

There is spontaneous gratitude to Pope Francis for the path undertaken -- the path of inclusiveness, "the ability to enter into a relationship simply of human beings with other human beings", and "overcoming the fear of dissolving like yeast in dough. The yeast disappears, it isn't recognized, but thanks to the yeast, the dough becomes better."(p. 28)

The women are asking to be heard, demanding that space be created in the Church "for a presence that isn't decorative or advisory, but speaking and decision-making in all bodies in which the faithful leadership of the people of God is implemented." (Adriana Valerio, Donna, p. 43).

"The traditional ecclesiological models, therefore, should be revised according to the principles of communion and apostolic co-responsibility." (ibid., p. 43)

Marinella Perrone, starting from Pope Francis' December 13 homily last year, drew the contrast between clericalism and prophecy. The prophet has "piercing eyes" (Profezia, p. 116), but this is not "a gift, but a skill that is acquired through listening to the Word of God. Not a quality reserved for some, but the vocation of all the baptized, prophecy comes from the discipline of listening."(p. 116)

"It's the church as a whole that needs to regain prophetic strength -- every believer must be called to his or her commitment to witness, every theologian must find the courage to think about the faith and speak words of encouragement and incentive, every bishop must take responsibility for building and looking out for the communion of God's people." (p. 117)

The proof suggested by the pope in his homily is significant: "When there is no prophecy among the people of God, the void it leaves is occupied by clericalism." (quoted on p. 118) Perrone comments that, "Clericalism, that is, that lethal mixture of power and the sacred, has become a real plague. It distorts the mind, affects behavior ... It's hard, but that's how it is, and we have all seen this in recent years -- clericalism has grown in proportion to the decline of prophecy. Through this -- and only through this -- true reform of the Church will come." (ibid., p. 118)

Quoting the Pope that "those who have fallen into this worldliness look on from above and afar, they reject the prophecy of their brothers and sisters, they discredit those who raise questions, they constantly point out the mistakes of others and they are obsessed by appearances" (Evangelii Gaudium 97), Marinella Perrone notes that "in Europe there have been two ecumenical councils of women ... But all of this ... is looked down upon by those who feel they hold the keys to legality. Looking at our Church with "piercing eyes", then, means to me today believing that finally it is possible that attention be paid not only to the prophecy of the brothers, but also the prophecy of the sisters."

It is this hope that she, on behalf of all women, has entrusted to the Pope "with great gratitude." (ibid., p. 119)

Carlo Molari is a priest and former professor of theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana and Gregorian universities in Rome. He is past president of the Associazione Teologica Italiana. This article was originally published in Rocca, 7/15/2014. It is available in the original Italian here and in a Portuguese translation by Moisés Sbardelotto on Adital.