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    • Gonna Stick My Sword in the Golden Sand September 15, 2014
      Gonna Stick My Sword in the Golden Sand: A Vietnam Soldier's Story has just been released. The title comes from a stanza of the gospel traditional, Down by the Riverside, with its refrain--"Ain't gonna study war no more." Golden Sand is a bold, dark, and intense retelling of the Vietnam experience through the eyes of an army scout that is […]
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      I am pleased and honored that the UCC has asked me to moderate a symposium during the games entitled Queer Christians: Celebrating the Past, Shaping the Future. [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
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      Greetings to all others who grace these pages! Thank you for stopping by. If you still have a reader pointed here, this blog no longer publishes in this location, but can be found at this new link. Please subscribe to the new feed, get the new blog via email or read us by liking us on Facebook or by following me on Twitter.If you want more, please feel free […]
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    • Quote of the Day December 18, 2014
      I find [Eve Tushnet] to be a very credible spokesperson for celibacy because, while embracing the orthodox Catholic position for lesbian and gay people, she never insists that everyone embrace this option. She remains non-judgmental about lesbian and gay people who choose to be part of a committed sexual relationship. Her primary form of argument is to expla […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • Sufism: A Tradition of Enlightenment, the Way of Love, and an Antidote to Fanaticism December 16, 2014
      In reviewing Idries Shah's The Sufis, recently republished in both the West and the Middle East, Jason Webster offers a helpful definition of Sufism. Before sharing this definition I'd first like to share a little about my interest in the mystic path known as the Sufi Way. Let me start by acknowledging that for many people Sufism is viewed as the […]
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    • Christmas and the Empty Crib: Recent Catholic Commentary on the Broken Church December 18, 2014
      What am I doing as Christmas approaches, besides baking cookies, fruitcakes, and cheese straws, you ask? And keeping the house running and in decent order as Steve and his brother hammer and nail at their building project (you don't want to put a hammer or a nail in my little bumbling hands). Thank you for asking.Lately, I've been thinking about th […]
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    • Hurrier I Go, Behinder I Get — Apologies re: Delays in Acknowledging Comments Here December 17, 2014
      As you all may have noticed, I'm yet again behind with acknowledging recent comments here, and I may, in fact, not find time in the next few days to get to that task. I do hope all of you know how very much I appreciate your many wonderful comments here. I read them faithfully, even when I don't have time to let you know I've done so. Right no […]
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    • Religion of the Gypsies December 7, 2014
      I am very pleased that my first book review at Crime Scene Reviews is the sweeping historical saga, Dosha, Flight of the Russian Gypsies, by Sonia Meyer (Author Interview here) which I’ve selected from Book Club Reading List. This deeply moving account of the tragic plight of Russian Romany gypsies is an appropriate choice for this site because it deals with […]
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The Catholic Spring: Ferment in Switzerland

One of the disadvantages of English as a home language, is that too often it leaves us weak in other tongues, and as a result all too ignorant of developments in the wider world (outside, that is, the UK, the USA, and the British Commonwealth). A case in point is the matter of Catholic discussion around matters of ordination to the priesthood, which the Vatican insists must be restricted to celibate males. In the English – speaking world, the National Catholic Reporter caused a stir last week with an editorial proclaiming that contrary to directives from Rome, Catholics have not only a right but a duty to discuss women’s ordination, but in other regions, discussions have gone much further.  Fortunately for us linguistically challenged English speakers, Rebel Girl does a sterling job of bringing to our attention useful information from foreign language press, in English translation. From Brazil, for example, she reported recently how Archbishop Dom Jacinto Furtado de Brito Sobrinho of Teresina

told reporters last week that, regardless of any opinions Pope Benedict XVI may have expressed on the importance of celibacy, the pontiff’s words on this question are not infallible. He reiterated the Church teaching that the Pope is only considered infallible on matters of faith and morals and mandatory celibacy doesn’t fit in those categories. The bishop added that “the fact that to be a priest you also have to be celibate is a discipline that the Church can change.”

-Rebel Girl, at Rentapriest

But it’s in Switzerland that things are getting really interesting. In a fascinating pamphlet, a Swiss abbot, Martin Werlen, has gone way, way beyond simply urging us to discuss ordaining women priests – he has suggested among other notable innovations, that it is time for the Church to appoint women cardinals!

Continue reading

Catholic Theologians’ Discussion on Sexual Morality (Video)

From Catholic for Choice, an excellent 45 minute film on Catholics and Sexual Morality. Watch it at

http://catholicsforchoice.org/secrethistory.asp

Catholics for Choice

“The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics” features interviews with leading experts in the fields of theology, philosophy and ethics who examine Catholic traditions, teachings and beliefs on the following key issues:

Abortion & Contraception
HIV & AIDS
Sex & Sexuality
New Reproductive Health Technologies
Religion in Public Policy

Leading American Catholic theologians take part in this discussion: Mary Hunt, Dan Maguire, Anthony Padovano, Rosemary Radford Reuther, and including British-born Sheila Briggs, now working in the USA.

The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics from Catholics for Choice on Vimeo.

The Lay OBLIGATION to Discuss Women’s Ordination

We are all too familiar with the Vatican insistence that not only is women’s ordination impossible, but that even discussion of the subject is not permitted.

Others disagree. In  a hard-hitting editorial, the National Catholic Reporter argues strongly that not only do we have that right, but lay Catholics at least have an obligation to discuss this, at every possible opportunity, and in every available forum.

We must speak up in every forum available to us: in parish council meetings, faith-sharing groups, diocesan convocations and academic seminars. We should write letters to our bishops, to the editors of our local papers and television news channels.

-   National Catholic Reporter.

How do they get to this unfamiliar conclusion, so at odds with the familiar Vatican line?

The voice of the faithful

The starting point, the spark that lit their fuse, was the Nov. 19 press release announcing Roy Bourgeois’ “excommunication, dismissal and laicization”, for his role in encouraging and assisting the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement, and in particular one notable assertion:

The most egregious statement in the  is the assertion that Bourgeois’ “disobedience” and “campaign against the teachings of the Catholic church” was “ignoring the sensitivities of the faithful.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Bourgeois, attuned by a lifetime of listening to the marginalized, has heard the voice of the faithful and he has responded to that voice.

Bourgeois brings this issue to the real heart of the matter. He has said that no one can say who God can and cannot call to the priesthood, and to say that anatomy is somehow a barrier to God’s ability to call one of God’s own children forward places absurd limits on God’s power. The majority of the faithful believe this.

The voice of scripture

So, one part of the NCR critique rests on the observation that women’s ordination has the support of the faithful. This is important in itself, and I return to it later. But there’s another part to the argument – that the Vatican claim to rest on a firm foundation in Scripture is unsound:

In October 1995, the doctrinal congregation acted further, releasing a responsum ad propositum dubium concerning the nature of the teaching in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: “This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.” The ban on women’s ordination belongs “to the deposit of the faith,” the responsum said.

However, this claim to be based on the “written word of God” is a recent invention, contradicted by earlier  conclusions of the Pontifical Biblical Society

In April 1976 the Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded unanimously: “It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate.” In further deliberation, the commission voted 12-5 in favor of the view that Scripture alone does not exclude the ordination of women, and 12-5 in favor of the view that the church could ordain women to the priesthood without going against Christ’s original intentions.

What were “Christ’s original intentions”? We do not know directly from his words or actions, as he neither spoke of ordination, nor ordained anyone: the practice of formal ordination did not begin until well after New Testament times. Rather, the assertion rests on an interpretation, from the fact that only men were included among “the twelve”. There are two objections to this. First, as the women priests movement and others have noted, there certainly were many women prominent in the service of the Church in other capacities. The only person explicitly described in the New Testament as a “deacon” of the church was Phoebe, a woman. Should we conclude from this that only women should be deacons? Other women are also described as “servants” of the church (which is the meaning of the word “deacon”). More controversially, there is another example, Junia, described as “most famous among the apostles” – and Junia appears to have been female. There’s an even more example of women’s inclusion, familiar to all – but we usually miss its significance. In an article prompted by the Church of England failure to approve woman bishops, Tom Wright (former bishop of Durham) notes that

All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead.  And Jesus entrusted that task, first of all, not to Peter, James, or John, but to Mary Magdalene. Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual (think of Pentecost), and from male-only leadership to male and female together.

- quoted at Face2Face blog

And a contribution in the comments thread to that article, adds the important observation that

In the 2nd and 3rd Century church Mary Magdalene was called the “Apostola Apostolorum” (the Apostle of the Apostles) for that very reason Mr. Wright cites.

So, it is not surprising that the Pontifical Biblical Commission should have concluded “that Scripture alone does not exclude the ordination of women” – and the assertion by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI that it does, is simply false.

We must also consider, when evaluating the Biblical evidence, not only the words, but also the context of the time. It is scarcely surprising that only men were included in the twelve: among Jews of the time, as in other Mediterranean societies, men took leadership roles in almost every aspect of life. The really notable feature of Jesus’ example, was not his exclusion of women, but how easily he included them in his circle, and engaged with them in discussions, to a degree that was far more inclusive than was usual for his day. From that perspective, it is unconscionable that the approach to women’s inclusion by the modern Church is not ahead of secular society, but behind it.

 The voice of tradition

The second part of their assertion is that the exclusion of women is “from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church”. But this too, rests on shaky grounds. There is at least some evidence that just as women were named in the New Testament as “servants” of the Church, from the time that formal ordination began, at least a few women were so ordained as priests: and definite evidence that many were ordained as deacons.

The voice of the Magisterium

The third part of the cIlaim, is that

“it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.” The ban on women’s ordination belongs “to the deposit of the faith,” the responsum said.

It is here that NCR brings out what for me is its strongest, most fascinasting argument. We are accustomed to the Vatican claims about “Magisterium” in support of their pronouncements, but I for one am often unclear on what, precisely, constitutes authentic “magisterium” – and what is at bottom, little more than Vatican assertions. NCR reminds us that there are in fact, three magisteria in the church.

Blessed John Henry Newman said that there are three magisteria in the church: the bishops, the theologians and the people. On the issue of women’s ordination, two of the three voices have been silenced, which is why the third voice must now make itself heard.

-   National Catholic Reporter.

We know that many bishops, and rather more theologians outside the ivory towers of the CDF, do not believe that the door should be closed on discussion of women priests, or of married priests – and some would specifically desire to begin with their ordination, at least to the diaconate. Unfortunately, the unbalanced and unjust power structures currently prevailing in the Church makes it difficult or impossible for these people to speak up freely, without seriously endangering their careers and livelihoods.

That places a particular responsibility on the rest of us, those not beholden to the Vatican in material terms, to speak up on their behalf, as well as our own.

I am publicizing this important editorial as widely as I can. I hope you will do the same.

 

Love Cannot Be Silenced

Church Reform: Adapting Hans Kung’s 2010 Letter to Bishops

In the British “Call to Action” Google group, Chris McDonnell posted a useful contribution under the heading “Direction and Purpose“, in which he referred to Hans Kung’s 2010 open letter to the bishops, and asked “Does this help us forward?”.

This was my reply:

Does this help? Yes, I think it does – with one qualification. Kung was writing to the bishops, with respect to the worldwide church, and problems with the Vatican in particular. As Call to Action UK, we need to adapt this to our situation – and, mindful of the words of the “Serenity Prayer”, to be mindful of what we can and cannot do.

From Kung’s complete letter, I have extracted his six core recommendations, with comment on how we can adapt them, within the bounds of the possible, to our situation and competence.

 1. Do not keep silent: By keeping silent in the face of so many serious grievances, you taint yourselves with guilt.

This, to me, is what CtoA is all about. If, as was said at the October launch meeting, we are not an “issue” driven movement we should certainly be talking about “the issues” that concern us. There will certainly be disagreements between us on several of these: but we do need to discuss them, and encourage others to discuss them.

We also need to discuss them publicly – I am saddened that so much useful discussion is taking place here, in a closed Google group, and not publicly, in the forums of the main CtA website. (I will cross – post my own contributions, in both).

 2. Set about reform: Too many in the church and in the episcopate complain about Rome, but do nothing themselves.

It is too easy for us to assume that “reform” can be implemented only from above. The lesson of the Arab Spring, and of many other political transformations of recent decades, is that it often begins from below. Each of us has the capacity to initiate reform at some level – even if it’s only reform our own minds, in overcoming excessive and inappropriate deference to church authority.

3. Act in a collegial way

Collegiality is usually spoken of in terms of collegiality between the Vatican and the bishops, or between bishops and clergy. But we can also insist on collegiality at deanery and parish level. (And where we meet resistance from an unco-operative priest, see (1) and (2) above).

4. Unconditional obedience is owed to God alone

This is fundamental. Growing up in apartheid South Africa, educated in Catholic schools, it was drummed into me that obedience to God, justice and conscience took precedence over obedience to unjust laws. I firmly believe that the same principle applies to unjust laws and regulations promulgated by the Vatican. (Benedict XVI, as a young theologian, has said precisely the same thing).

 5. Work for regional solutions

The October launch meeting was a useful start, notable for two features in particular:

  • a strong attendance, in spite of what was really very limited advance publicity.
  • not surprisingly, there was disproportionately strong representation by the London and other South Eastern dioceses, and much weaker turnout from further afield.

We must each work to continue the process, and develop momentum, within our own regions: in our local dioceses, and taken down to deanery and even parish level.

6. Call for a council

I am certain that many of us would agree that we need another council of the whole church, and will happily call for one – but there is little we can do to make it happen. What we can possibly influence, is the creation of local councils: there is provision within existing church rules for diocesan synods. There may come a time when we are ready, at least in some dioceses, to work with the bishops towards such diocesan synods.

Where we are unable to gain the co-operation of the bishops, there could be another strategy: in Minnesota, where progressive – minded Catholics found themselves faced with a particularly conservative and intransigent ordinary who refused to negotiate with them, a group of Catholics set up an independent “Synod of All the Baptized”, for open and public discussion of matters of concern to the church.

That was clearly confrontational, and not necessarily what we want: but it does illustrate that there are different kinds of “councils” and synods. Where we are unable to set up local synods with formal recognition, there are other kinds of public gatherings that we can arrange for ourselves.

Books:

Links to Amazon.com (USA)

Chronicles of a Vatican II Bishop Remi De Roo, 2012

Why the Catholic Church needs Vatican III T.P.O’Mahony

Living beyond Conformity: An Experience of Ministry and Priesthood Owen Hardwicke

Priestless People? New Vision for the Catholic Church Vincent McLaughlin

Off Beam Off Side Off Menu: An Appeal From the Catholic Pews‘ Kevin Clarke 

‘Quo Vadis’ Collegiality in Canon Law Mary McAleese

What Happened at Vatican II John W O’Malley

Links to Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom)

Chronicles of a Vatican II Bishop Remi De Roo, 2012

Why the Catholic Church needs Vatican III T.P.O’Mahony

Living beyond Conformity: An Experience of Ministry and Priesthood Owen Hardwicke

Priestless People? New Vision for the Catholic Church Vincent McLaughlin

Off Beam Off Side Off Menu: An Appeal From the Catholic Pews‘ Kevin Clarke 

‘Quo Vadis’ Collegiality in Canon Law Mary McAleese

 What Happened at Vatican II John W O’Malley

Women’s Ordination: A Way forward?

The recent disappointment over the failure of the Church of England Synod finally to approve the ordination of woman bishops has brought the matter under a political spotlight, with suggestions that parliament should remove the exemption of the CoE from the provisions of equality legislation, the removal of the existing (all male) bishops from the House of Lords, or both. Any such removal of the equality exemption would have implications for ordination as Anglican bishops not only for women, but also for gay men and transgender priests. There could also be implications for the Catholic Church: in a posting at the UK Call to Action website, one contributor has described how she has written to her MP on the subject:

 It is very interesting that my excellent MP, Frank Field, has introduced a Bill to Parliament seeking to remove the temporary exclusion granted to the Anglican Church regarding sexual equality. Frank sees to remove that so that the Church cannot exclude women priests from becoming bishops. I wrote to ask if he could extend the removal of the exclusion also to the Catholic Church. It would be interesting to know what effect this could have in the UK.

Phoebe – the only deacon named in the NT!

Continue reading

The Vatican Implosion (Video)

Robert C. Mickens, Vatican correspondent and columnist for “The Tablet,” speaks about The Vatican’s implosion and what it means for Catholics.

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