Vayechi’s Take on Fertility, Women and Theodicy by Ivy Helman.

This week’s Torah portion is Vayechi, or Genesis 47:28-50:26.  It is the last part of the Joseph saga (For my thoughts on two other parshot relating to Joseph, see Mikeitz and Vayigash).  While there is much that could be said, there are three aspects of the parshah which I would like to concentrate on for this post: blessings being associated with fertility; verses 50:19-20’s troubling theodicy; and its women.

Let us begin with the last topic: women.  Women are mentioned four times in Vayechi.  Jacob recalls the burial of Rachel in verse 48:7.  Joseph’s beauty is such that women often look at him (49:22). The blessing that Jacob gives to Joseph includes the blessings of both mother and father (49:25-26).  At present, I will focus my commentary on Jacob’s request for burial, the fourth mention of women in this parshah.

Continue reading “Vayechi’s Take on Fertility, Women and Theodicy by Ivy Helman.”

Pro-Choice and Christian: Reconciling Faith, Politics, and Justice BOOK REVIEW by Katie M. Deaver

In 2015 Kira Schlesinger wrote piece for Ministry Matters about how her own pro-choice stance on abortion had become more complicated the more she explored the issue of abortion. The article was widely read and shared, as well as hotly debated by many. You can read this article and the many comments here. Out of the response to this article grew Schlesinger’s Pro-Choice and Christian: Reconciling Faith, Politics, and Justice.

The book does a great job of walking the fine line of being both academically engaging and an easy enough read to engage a book or Bible study group as well. Schlesinger uses the first couple of chapters to dig into the history of abortion, listing recorded examples of the process as early as 1300 BCE. From there she briefly walks the reader through the roughly 100 years (Comstock Act in 1873 until Roe v. Wade in 1973) during which abortion was illegal in the United States. Finally, she wraps up this beginning historical section with details about the generations after Roe v. Wade up to our current reality.

Continue reading “Pro-Choice and Christian: Reconciling Faith, Politics, and Justice BOOK REVIEW by Katie M. Deaver”

The Intersections of Faith and Reproductive Justice by Katey Zeh

The Intersections of Faith & Reproductive Justice

Last week I participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Center for American Progress (CAP) on the intersections of faith and reproductive justice. These conversations are critically important, particularly in these political times when threats to our bodily autonomy and right of conscience are sanctioned by our current administration, Congress, and many state legislatures.

The framing of these public discussions is always interesting and somewhat troubling to me. Often progressive spaces like these do recognize that many people of faith support reproductive health care, but with that understanding is the assumption that supporting the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare, including access to safe abortion care, necessitates some kind of moral reckoning for religious people.

Continue reading “The Intersections of Faith and Reproductive Justice by Katey Zeh”

What Will the Faith Response to Zika Be? by Katey Zeh


In the face of the Zika epidemic the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued new recommendations for individuals at risk of contracting the virus either through mosquito bites or through sexual contact with an infected person. If someone has traveled to an area where Zika is present, the WHO recommends abstinence or consistent condom use for at least eight weeks or up to six months if a partner shows symptoms. (Only 20% of people infected with the virus are symptomatic.) But for women of childbearing age living in areas affected by the virus, the WHO urges them to speak with their health providers about possibly delaying pregnancy, presumably indefinitely. The Zika virus has been linked to devastating birth defects including microcephaly.

After issuing the revised guidelines Nyka Alexander, spokesperson for the WHO, clarified that the purpose of them was not to discourage all at-risk couples from conceiving, but rather to ensure that they consider the Zika virus and its potential impacts on the timing of pregnancy. “Whether and when to become pregnant should be a personal choice made on the basis of information and access to affordable, quality health services,” said Alexander.

For pregnancy to be a personal choice, women and men must have access to the tools, information, and resources they need to prevent, delay, or plan it. Worldwide more than 220 million women want to avoid pregnancy but have an unmet need for reliable, safe contraceptive methods. The Zika virus has brought significant attention to what has been a public health crisis and an ethical tragedy for decades: that despite modern medical advances 85 million women experience unintended pregnancies each year. Continue reading “What Will the Faith Response to Zika Be? by Katey Zeh”

Artemis As Artemisia: Ancient Female Spirituality & Modern Medicine by Stuart Dean

Detail of Artemis from a 5th century BCE Attic Vase
Detail of Artemis from a 5th century BCE Attic Vase  (Museum of Fine Arts (Boston))

The 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded in part to a Chinese woman (Tu) for her identification and isolation to treat malaria of a chemical known as Artemisinin.  The name of that chemical derives from the fact that it is found in varying amounts in the ‘family’ (technically, genus) of plants known as Artemisia.  The name of that family derives from its association with the goddess Artemis.

Because Tu’s work began in China in the 1960s it is understandable that even if she knew this about Artemisia (a term I use to refer to any one plant or all of the plants of that family) it would not have been a ‘careerbuilder’ for her to point it out to those for whom she was working.  It was bad enough that she was a woman.  At that place and time, however, if she had said or done something that could be associated with Western culture her name might not even be known today.   

Nevertheless, because those awarding the Nobel Prize are free from discrimination or intimidation, it is startling that in the explanation provided for the award no mention is made of the Western legacy of Artemisia.  To begin with, the very fact that the Prize was being awarded to a woman for a plant named after a goddess should have elicited at a sense of uncanniness that arguably deserved mention.  Be that as it may, the failure to mention that Artemisia has a long history of being used medicinally in the West not only as an insect repellent but also to treat fever–a common symptom of malaria–is simply inexcusable. Continue reading “Artemis As Artemisia: Ancient Female Spirituality & Modern Medicine by Stuart Dean”

If You Don’t Believe Women Are Fully Human, Can You Be a Great Pope? by Carol P. Christ

In recent weeks I have felt compelled to respond to a series of “Great Pope” photos and stories praising Pope Francis for his stands on poverty and climate change appearing on my facebook page. In every case I added something like: “Let’s not go overboard about a pope who does not believe women are fully human.”

I am referring of course to Pope Francis’s reiteration of the Church’s prohibition of women in the priesthood. But just as important–and perhaps more important–is the role the Roman Catholic Church has played and continues to play to prevent women from having access to contraception and abortion.

Control over our own bodies is a fundamental right that undergirds every struggle for women’s equality and liberation. But the pope does not want women to have the right to use contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies, nor does he want us to have the right to abortion if contraception is unavailable or fails—not even in cases of rape or incest. Continue reading “If You Don’t Believe Women Are Fully Human, Can You Be a Great Pope? by Carol P. Christ”

The Religiosity of Silence by John Erickson

In a repetitive culture of abuse and silence, is it really shocking to find out that an individual who preached such hate and discontent for others actually perpetuated other forms of heinous abuse against others?

John Erickson, sports, coming out.In 2013, I wrote an article about the then latest reality TV scandal featuring A&E’s Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson and his rampant foot-in-mouth disease that caused him to express, in the pages of GQ, his true distaste for the LGBT community and specifically for the sexual proclivities of gay men.

Now, two years later in another reality TV show, TLC’s ’19 Kids and Counting’, it isn’t star Josh Duggar’s anti-LGBT statements getting him into trouble but rather his sexual assault and molestation of 5 girls, including two of his sisters. However, while the Internet explodes with attacks against Josh Duggar and his Quiverfull background, it is vital to remember that the silence that he and his family inflicted upon his victims since 2006 has not only been ongoing since then but is also being reemphasized today with each keystroke focusing on the assailant rather than the victims. Continue reading “The Religiosity of Silence by John Erickson”

What is the F-word Anyway? by Kile Jones

kile jonesSocial justice. Progressive politics. Improper media depictions. What exactly is the F-word (feminism) about?

I have always understood feminism as a project that casts a very wide net, the goals and values of which can keep quite a few people dry under the shade of its umbrella. But more and more, I see a narrowing of who can count as a feminist. There are a few reasons for this constriction. First, the more the F-word becomes a pejorative in contemporary society, the greater the need is to circle the bandwagons and set up camp. Second, when a particular group has elevated levels of in-fighting occurring, it makes sense to start psychologically splitting people into “feminist” and “not feminist.” Or, on a spectrum, “strong feminist” vs. “weak feminist.” Third, there is a pragmatic need for groups to find an optimal tension with society. When social groups are too counter-cultural or revolutionary, they get branded extremist and fanatical, but when they are wishy-washy and lukewarm, they become another extension of the status quo and lose their prophetic fire.

As an atheist, I see all of this occurring in non-believing circles as well. And I’m not really sure how to navigate it. There is also no shortage of men in this social group–from Dawkins to Boghossian–who think of feminism in the negative. All of this has to do with what they think the F-word amounts to. Continue reading “What is the F-word Anyway? by Kile Jones”

Fannie Lou Hamer’s Commitment to Life by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsA few weeks ago, I came across a postcard that I was given at a conference last year. I got the postcard (advertisement?) because it has a picture of Fannie Lou Hamer on it, and in my home and office, I like to display images and quotes from inspirational women, especially black women. Hamer was a sharecropper from rural Mississippi who became a leader within the civil rights movement in the United States. I was happy to have something with her likeness on it. It was only later that I looked at the text on the front and back of the card, which read in part, ”Often called the ‘spirit of the Civil Rights Movement,” Hamer worked tirelessly on behalf of the rights of others—including the unborn. [She said,] ‘The methods used to take human lives such as abortion, the pill, the ring, etc. amounts to genocide. I believe that abortion is legal murder.’” I realized then that the card was distributed by an organization called Consistent Life, who, in support of a “consistent ethic of life,” is “committed to the protection of life threatened by war, abortion, poverty, racism, capital punishment and euthanasia.”

I was conflicted about the ushamere of Hamer’s image for this organization’s purposes. It is true, Hamer did have those views about abortion and birth control. But I did not know if her image and story was being manipulated for a particular political and religious agenda—one I do not align myself with. I put the card in a box of other images and quotes. I didn’t display it, but I didn’t throw it away, either, which is why I came across it again a couple weeks ago as I was cleaning and decorating my home office. I had the same misgivings about the image as before, and I set it aside again. Continue reading “Fannie Lou Hamer’s Commitment to Life by Elise M. Edwards”

Contraception, Christianity & Law by Stuart Dean

Stuart WordPress photoNotwithstanding the widespread belief that contraception is not consistent with the principles of Christianity, there is no basis for it.  On the contrary, contraception was closely associated with early Christianity.

Matthew 19:12 is the only passage quoting Christ that is on point.  Christ has been speaking about family law (adultery), acknowledging here that the issue is not relevant to eunuchs, including those who castrate themselves “for the kingdom of heaven.”  At a minimum it seems problematic how this verse is to be understood today.  Yet, the evidence for Christians castrating themselves in the first few centuries after Christ comes from a variety of sources, many of which are considered to be otherwise reliable.  It is very difficult to see why Matthew 19:12 itself should not be taken both as evidence of the practice and Christ’s implicit endorsement of it.

Continue reading “Contraception, Christianity & Law by Stuart Dean”

Hobby Lobby, Not Invited at the Spiritual Negotiating Table by Qumyka Rasheeda Howell

Q HowellSupreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it best when she quoted Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Casey court case expressing her dissent on the Hobby Lobby decision made on Monday, June 30, 2014.

“The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that closely held companies with religious objections can opt out of providing contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court’s majority also rejected the Obama administration’s argument that for-profit companies cannot assert religious rights under Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  As the RFRA only refers to persons, closely held companies are designating themselves as persons in the case. Closely held companies such as Hobby Lobby are owned by one person or are family owned business and are not a publicly traded company. Justice Sonia Sotomayor agreed with Justice Ruth Ginsburg’s dissent that companies do not have such rights – publicly traded on not.

The Burwell v. Hobby Lobby was about asserting patriarchal power and retaining profit–not about religious freedom. The Obama administration argued that the contraception requirement was not a mandate because companies could have dropped their insurance coverage and offered their employees another insurance option. The truth to Hobby Lobby is they wanted to have the privileged advantage of tax breaks offered under the Affordable Care Act while securing more money by skirting the contraception requirement under the cloth of religious freedom. Continue reading “Hobby Lobby, Not Invited at the Spiritual Negotiating Table by Qumyka Rasheeda Howell”

On the Transmission of Life by Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver

Among the more controversial Roman Catholic documents is Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical of Pope Paul VI on birth control.  This encyclical famously instructs against the use of artificial contraception methods in the regulation of birth.  This position is based on the theological warrant that the natural law of God’s reproductive design requires human sexuality, if it is to be moral, to be always nuptial, companionable, and open to new life.  The encyclical anticipates a number of reasons why people will object to this teaching, including: population problems, family and personal limitations, economic concerns, and so on.  It also anticipates that some will suggest procreative and unitive ends must be seen diachronically in the context of the fullness of nuptial sexuality, such that sexuality would be understood holistically rather than as a series of individual sexual acts.  Despite its acknowledgement of these concerns as legitimate, the encyclical argues that grave harm flows from the distortion of natural law and leads inevitably to the degradation of sexual dignity and nuptial integrity (for example, in making free sex more available to young people outside of marriage or cheapening male regard for women on account of women’s sexual objectification).  The encyclical thus opts for an approach that evaluates sexual morality in terms of individual sexual acts.

The perspective of the document has been critically unpacked for decades, and its instruction is in the very least unconvincing to many Catholic couples.   I find in my teaching that Catholic college students today are unfamiliar with the document’s language and rationale, even though they may know the basic instruction that Catholics aren’t supposed to use birth control.   Since this issue is both topical currently due to the healthcare legislation and since birth regulation is a requisite discussion in my course on sexual ethics, I have the students read the encyclical itself.  Now, this is a hard task because I know by and large what the student reactions will be.  Their most favorable reaction is generally that the document has no instructional or binding value for them.  Their least favorable reaction is that the document makes poor sense of the human situation today, especially because human sexual expression reaches well beyond the Church’s vision of normative, heterosexual, marital union. Continue reading “On the Transmission of Life by Natalie Weaver”

What About Contraception in Pope Francis’s Promise to the Poor? by Dawn DiPrince

Pope Francis, at nearly every opportunity – including the choice of his name, has symbolically expressed a commitment to the poor. In just a little over a month, he has declined the customary gold papal cross, the ermine-trimmed red velvet cape, and the showy red loafers worn by his predecessor. He has refused the palatial papal penthouse apartment and is currently living in a two-room suite among the Vatican’s cardinals.

In additional to a more austere lifestyle, Pope Francis has spoken out about the world’s poor. His namesake is St. Francis of Assisi, who famously worked for the poor and for peace. The Pope claims he was inspired to take the name Francis when remembering a friend’s urging to “not forget the poor.” More to the point, Pope Francis has stated that he wants “a Church which is poor and for the poor!” Continue reading “What About Contraception in Pope Francis’s Promise to the Poor? by Dawn DiPrince”

Standing in Cautious Optimism with the Election of the First Jesuit Pope by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Freyhauf, Feminism, Religion, Durham, Old Testament, Blogger, Bible, Gender, Violence, Ursuline, John CarrollFrom the time Benedict’s successor was revealed, I believed that we were witnessing something different – hopefully change.  Pope Francis I embraces many “firsts” – which is probably why the Cardinals chose him.  Change and reconciliation seem to be at the forefront – something the Church so desperately needs today.  Francis is the first Latin American Pope, first Jesuit Pope, first Pope to use the name of Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, a Saint held in high regard by Catholics.  When I heard his chosen name, I immediately thought of St. Francis, to whom my favorite prayer is attributed.  This is a prayer that inspires me and speaks about how I try to live my life –  as one who strives for peace, and provides love, hope, and compassion.  St. Francis’ story is a powerful story of conversion from a life of great wealth to one of voluntary poverty.  Francis received a revelation from Christ to “rebuild my Church,” in a way that embraces peace and love as well as providing protection for all of creation.  The notion of “Protector” was a major theme in Pope Francis’ homily during his inauguration mass.

As an unlikely choice for Pope, mostly due to his age and health, Francis reminds me of another unlikely advocate for the people – a man chosen to be Archbishop because of his passivity and his ill-health – Oscar Romero.  Romero surprised the people who placed him in office and stirred things up when he became a staunch advocate for the people that he served.  Romero’s “moment of conversion” revealed something spectacular that changed Latin America.  In his role as leader, he found his voice and became a defender for the poor and oppressed.  It is because of Romero that I am hopeful that Francis will provide (or at least start the wheels in motion to provide) changes to the Catholic Church. Continue reading “Standing in Cautious Optimism with the Election of the First Jesuit Pope by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

A Pro-Science, Skeptical Woman Speaks by Kile Jones

Kile Jones, atheistIn my last post, “Feminism and Religion: Where Do I stand?” I talked about how I support an atheistic, secular, and liberal feminism that criticizes organized religion and certain religious beliefs.  After reading the comments and responding to them, I figured that having a brief interview with a woman who holds these sorts of views would be a good way to introduce them to this blog.  I met Anondah Saide at a course at Claremont Graduate University titled, “Evolution, Economics, and the Brain,” taught by the Executive Director of the Skeptics Society and Founding Publisher of Skeptic Magazine, Dr. Michael Shermer.  Anondah was the TA for the course, and I found her comments in class to promote science, reason, and skepticism towards religious and spiritual claims of all kinds.  So without further ado, here is the interview: Continue reading “A Pro-Science, Skeptical Woman Speaks by Kile Jones”

Bringing African American Churches into Reproductive Justice by Mariam Williams

Mariam WilliamsI don’t expect to hear anything in church about the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade during the month of January,  the month marking 40 years since the U.S. Supreme Court made the decision to legalize abortion in this country. This is for a number of reasons: 1) it’s January, and at my church the pastor always starts off the year with a series of sermons that illustrate the church’s mission statement, and women’s choice may be off the subject; 2) Martin Luther King Jr. Day is this month, and if a black church is going to honor something or someone besides Jesus in the month of January, it should probably be MLK; and 3) I haven’t heard anything about abortion from the pulpit in a long time.

A local pro-choice movement leader asked me recently about how black churchgoers feel about abortion. I didn’t know what to say. The last time I heard it mentioned was in a Sunday School class in which a woman said that she almost aborted her daughter. It wasn’t a big confessional moment, just part of a longer testimony as to why she was happy her daughter was around, and it wasn’t received with any shock or fanfare. I can remember hearing once from the pulpit of my current church that while abortion might be wrong, the law shouldn’t interfere with what a woman chooses to do with her own body. Many years before that, in the church I grew up in, a preacher said that we would never find a cure for AIDS because the person who would have grown up to discover the cure was aborted. (What made him so sure of that? Who knows.) Continue reading “Bringing African American Churches into Reproductive Justice by Mariam Williams”

Blessed Are The Organized, by Amy Levin

It was a humid yet windy day in Broward County, South Florida. My long pants and sleeves were becoming hostile towards me as I proceeded to slip off my shoes, don my borrowed headscarf, and set up shop just outside the modest mosque in Pembroke Pines.  I waited patiently for prayers to end, hoping that my “Register to Vote” sign was placed in optimal eyesight of the female worshippers as they exited the prayer hall. All of my hope to expand the Florida electorate to help re-elect President Barack Obama was bundled in my mix of clipboards, voter registration forms, pens, and volunteer sign-up sheets.  Just moments after the Imam wrapped up the Friday afternoon prayers, two young women wearing full hijab sauntered out. “Oh, I’ve been meaning to register to vote,” one of them said. “Perfect.” Continue reading “Blessed Are The Organized, by Amy Levin”

The Dignified Life of Magdalene Rose: A Pro-Life Story? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

As I enter this world, I know that I am so very blessed. My life will be one of worth.  As hard as people fought to see me take my first breath, they will fight for my life to be one of dignity and worth.  I am protected in a world that is pro-life – or so I thought.

My mother was raped, but the law did not recognize this violent act as rape because she became pregnant with me.  The law only recognizes legitimate rape as one that does not result in pregnancy.  I entered the world amidst controversy.  I was named Magdalene Rose. Magdalene because of the shroud of controversy that surrounded her – the false accusations of prostitution, the stigma that history assigned to her, and the hope of those who have tried to reclaim her as the first witness to the resurrection, a faithful disciple, and devoted minister.  Rose was chosen for the flower that can bloom even in the face of adversity; one that can push through the snow to reach the sun and spread its petals.

My mother is a single mom  She does the best she can – trying to keep us clothed and fed.  She works so much and I stay many nights with my grandmother or a neighbor.  She seems so tired, so worried, but yet always has a smile to share with me.  I am her blessing, a miracle born out of darkness.

We go to church every Sunday, but strangely, no one will sit by us.  We have to sit in the back.  I wonder why.  Certainly our clothes are a little worn – we rely on hand-me-downs and the thrift shop.  My mother dresses me in the finest dresses she can find, I feel so special. In God’s house, we are shunned.  People refuse to shake our hand even during the sign of peace.  This is the place where we should be welcomed.  This is where they proclaim the Gospel and teachings of Jesus.  Yet, the only sign of Jesus that seems to exist in this community is symbolized on the cross.

Continue reading “The Dignified Life of Magdalene Rose: A Pro-Life Story? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

IN THE NEWS: Health Care, Contraception, and Religion

A case brought forth by a mining company challenging the required coverage of contraception without a copay by employer health care plans was dismissed Friday in a Missouri court.  The mining company argued that the requirement was conflicting with its owners religious beliefs.  Continue reading “IN THE NEWS: Health Care, Contraception, and Religion”

Lucy Burns, A Look at a Catholic American Suffragette by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

As we approach the election period infused with controversy, saturated by television commercials, as well as endless advertisements on the radio, Internet, and yes, even Facebook, we must remember the sacrifices made by our foremothers during the suffrage movement, which gave women the right to vote.  While all elections are important, this one has targeted issues involving women in a way that could negatively impact our rights – to the point of rewinding the clock on progress made in women’s equality during the last 40+ years.  This election needs the voice of all informed voters.  However,  it is imperative for all women to make their voices heard this year by casting a vote.  To turn a blind eye to these issues diminishes the sacrifices our foremothers made for us. To not cast a vote takes away your voice, makes you a silent bystander – something that was tried by the government and patriarchal system during the suffrage movement.

To illustrate this, I would like to highlight Lucy Burns and the Night of Terror endured at the Occoquan Workhouse by her and many of her friends.   Of all Suffragettes, Lucy Burns spent more time in jail then any other protesters.  Born 1879 in Brooklyn, Lucy was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition by a father who believed that his sons and daughters should be educated equally.  Burns gradated from Vassar College in 1902, then attended Yale Graduate School studying linguistics.  She eventually went to Oxford University in England to resume her studies.  It was at Oxford that she became involved with activism and the suffrage movement. Continue reading “Lucy Burns, A Look at a Catholic American Suffragette by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Is the Republican Party Platform Truly Pro-Life? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

As many feminists invest their life fighting for women’s rights to be the center of attention – no one could predict the occurrences of this election year.  In my previous post “Rape is Not a Political Platform – Rape is a Violent Crime!” Carol P. Christ made a comment about women’s issues and politics:

 “I have been waiting all my life for women’s issues to become central in an election campaign, but I guess I should have been more specific in my wish: this is not the format I imagined…”

Christ’s reaction is like so many others in the election; no one could have imagined such a bizarre and backwards slide being lobbied against women’s rights.   Issues being bantered around continue to be rooted in a purported pro-life stance.  This ranges from trans-vaginal ultrasounds, definitions of “legitimate” rape, and now using an Ob/Gyn’s “best guess” to define the gestational age of a baby from the time of a woman’s last period.  This is not a game – this is semantics, this is politics, this rhetoric, and frankly, this needs to stop. Continue reading “Is the Republican Party Platform Truly Pro-Life? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Abuse of Power in the Catholic Church Part II – WE are the Church! By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Spiritual Power is arguably the most dangerous power of all.  In the wrong hands, it gives the power to make judgments even about the eternal fate of another person.  It needs a sign on it at all times saying, ‘Handle with extreme care.’  The greater the power a person exercises, the more need there is for checks and balances before it is used and accountability after it is used.” – – Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

 May 6th, I addressed the issue of abuse of power in the Catholic Church and how we seem to be unraveling any kind of progress made since Vatican II.  Since writing that article, the Leadership of the LCWR met with Vatican Officials and expressed their concerns openly.  A dialogue occurred and left no resolution, just information that the leadership will discuss with the community at their August meeting.  That meeting will reveal their next step in this controversy – concede and follow the conditions and rules sets forth by the CDF or disband and form a new religious community or maybe there will be another option revealed.

I have to ask though – Was this a meaningful meeting or was it meant to pacify the Sisters and their supporters? Will the Vatican change its stance? Certainly, the U. S. Catholic Sisters have not been

reposted from

pacified, nor have their supporters.  For example, there is a “Nuns on the Bus” tour traveling around the United States,  prayer services for the Sisters, #nunjustice and #whatthesistersmeantome campaigns on Twitter.  Even the Women’s Ordination Conference delivered a petition containing over 57,000 signatures to the Vatican in support of the Sisters.  Certainly, the support for the sisters and their mission is not dwindling, but growing stronger every day.

As for the Vatican, a change in their position is doubtful, but we can continue to pray.  I am, however, very discouraged by a statement attributed to Pope Benedict that indicates a desire to have a smaller more faithful Church of Catholics then a large Church of people who do not adhere to Church Teaching – seeking out a small, strong, holy community.

Obviously, it is my hope that this statement was taken out of context, but I have to be honest and say

Women’s Ordination Conference delivering Petition
Picture reprinted from WOC’s page on Facebook

that my hope is filled with doubt.  This is not the first time I have heard clergy make this statement. Priests have made this statement in my presence – wanting a more faithful flock and dismissing those that do not adhere to their interpretation of Church teaching. This stance does not bear fruit, but is rather a power play – a play that can be called many things – misogynist, arrogant, non-pastoral, cold-hearted, and frankly un-Christian.  It also plays with a person’s spiritual fate and in many cases their soul.   The psychological impact of something like this is dangerous for some. Some ordained will go so far as to withhold sacraments or even compromise the person’s  status in the Church, including their role in ministry, for the sole purpose of  inducing compliance – a tactic that dates to the medieval period.

Continue reading “Abuse of Power in the Catholic Church Part II – WE are the Church! By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

The Crime of Being a Girl Scout: The Sin of Raising Strong Female Leaders by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Cradle Catholic and Woman

Educated by the U. S. Vowed Religious

Support the U. S. Catholic Sisters

Support, Minister, and Live the Social Gospel

Theologian, Feminist, and Critical Thinker

Former Girl Scout Leader of Three Troops

Former Girl Scout

I am all of these things and more.  By the recent attacks by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, I am beginning to think I am the problem.  I seem to stand for everything the Vatican and USCCB seek to silence.  Is it because of my organizational ties with the U. S. Vowed Religious and Girl Scouts, or my writings as a Feminist and Theologian?  Maybe the answer is simply – because I am a woman.

According to the criticisms launched by the USCCB and the Vatican, I seem to be part of the problem rather than the solution.  Why is this so?  It was not until I started my journey in ministry that my idealistic “Catholic” bubble popped – not so much by me, but by those in ministry and leadership, by those that did not like laity to pose questions and think critically about their faith beliefs, and by  those that do not like people who do not fit within the preconceived mold of what a “good Catholic” should be.  This ideological construct is difficult enough when you are part of a Church community, but when you begin to embrace leadership as a woman, question teachings, exercise your canonical rights, your peers and even people you thought were your friends, no longer talk or associate with you. The betrayal is vicious and runs deep – it is behavior not becoming of a minister or one who professes the Catholic faith.

If the attack on you is not enough, these same people victimize your children through their words and behavior.  It is a difficult position for anyone to survive spiritually.  For children of the Church who bear witness to this hypocritical behavior, a journey begins – they search for meaning within the spiritual realm and become disgruntled with anything that resembles organized religion.  A place where one seeks community and spiritual nourishment becomes a place of oppression and starvation.  If attacking family is not enough, let’s start attacking groups that promote community – groups like the Girl Scouts of America.

So, what is the USCCB’s problem with the Girl Scouts of America?  Basically, this organization is under fire for suspected deviant thinking and positions that stand opposed to Church teaching. Continue reading “The Crime of Being a Girl Scout: The Sin of Raising Strong Female Leaders by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Is Baptism a Male Birthing Ritual? By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Quite a number of years ago I had a conversation with one of my professors, a feminist theologian, who posed the question “Why do I need a man to purify my baby with the waters of baptism?  Is there something wrong or impure about the blood and water from a mother’s womb – my womb?”  Before you jump and shout the words Sacrament or removal of original sin, this question bears merit in exploring, especially in today’s world where women are taking a serious beating religiously, politically, and socially.  In today’s world, violations and rants are causing women to stand up and say STOP!  This is MY Body.  This outcry was provoked by chants of ethical slurs against women– Slut! Prostitute! Whore!  The cry got even louder when the issue of religion and government was raised in the fight of healthcare coverage of contraception. The cry got even louder with the enactment of the laws in Virginia and Texas (and many other states to follow suit) that forces women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds in early stage abortions.  The mandatory insertion of a wand into a woman’s vagina (mandated by the government, mind you), is a violation and has women crying RAPE!

The memory of this conversation did not re-appear by chance, it was prompted by a book I read for my History of Sexuality Class – Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Context by Anne McClintock who addresses the notion of baptism through origins, property, and power.  So many things are currently being taken away from women and reading McClintock’s assertion regarding male baptism is perplexing.  She believes that male baptism or baptism by a man takes women’s role in child bearing and diminishes it.  These are the same men who historically treated and regarded women as vessels.  She further asserts that this act is a proactive removal of creative agency with respect to a woman’s ability to have the power to name.  That is, the last name of the child belongs to the husband.  A point that supports the notion that patrimony marks the denial of women.  Anyone doing genealogy encounters a perplexing struggle to identify mothers because their names are essentially erased from memory and rarely attached to a child’s name. Continue reading “Is Baptism a Male Birthing Ritual? By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Get Your Laws off my Body! by Elise Edwards

After considering Virginia’s Transvaginal Utrasound Bill in light of the womanist critique, I wonder if religiously-motivated lawmakers considered that they alone do not have access to God’s intentions, but that the divine spirit is operative in a pregnant woman as well, would they be so willing to negate her moral agency?

On Tuesday, the senate in Virginia approved a law that would require women to get an external ultrasound before an abortion.  This is a scaled-back version of an original bill that mandated transvaginal ultrasounds prior to abortions. According to this Washington Post article, opponents like Sen. Janet D. Howell describe the measure as “state rape,” since it is the state, not the woman and her doctor who decides that she must undergo this procedure  requiring the insertion of a probe into the vagina.  Although proponents of the bill say that it is designed to give women more information about a fetus’ gestational age and development, most would agree that it is ultimately intended to discourage the women from having an abortion.  This is why bloggers like Kendra Hamilton believe that religion is the moti­va­tion behind this and the other 5 abortion-related bills introduced in the Virginia General Assembly connected to issues of women’s sovereignty over their bodies.  Yet, as I heard about these bills, another religious response came to mind – one that expresses horror and condemnation of coercive practices regarding women’s childbearing. Continue reading “Get Your Laws off my Body! by Elise Edwards”

Catholicism, Contraception, and Conscience: Church Imposed Teaching, God’s Gift of Free Will, and Political Rhetoric by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Certainly one cannot turn on the news without seeing a story about the feud over the Catholic Church’s stance on forbidding the use of contraception and Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that mandates free contraception to women.  In preparing this article, I took the time to review many articles from liberal and conservative news outlets, law professors who are experts on constitutional law, and statements from the USCCB and Bishops.  Before asking questions, I want to outline the following points:

  1. In the literature reviewed, only two women, Sr. Carol Keehan and Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, made a statement against this policy stating that the government is interfering with the working of the Church.  Most voices heard and shouting the loudest are members of the clergy.
  2. Hospitals considered “Catholic” hire people of all faiths and various beliefs.  They also treat patients of all faiths.  They are not exclusively “Catholic.”
  3. Catholic identified Colleges hire professors and staff that are not Catholic.  Moreover, their student body is not totally Catholic.
  4. Catholic Charities, once again, hire non-Catholics.
  5. Insurance plans currently in place often offer contraception prescriptions at a zero to low co-pay price.  These plans are in-force at many Catholic Institutions.
  6. Under HIPAA, healthcare of employees are protected and the Employer, even the Catholic Church cannot violate the privacy of the patient, even if it is an employee.
  7. Birth Control Pills are often prescribed for women with endometriosis or other “female” reproductive disorders and not birth control.
  8. Women pregnant, carrying a dead baby, cannot have surgery due to risks are given medication to induce abortion are given. Continue reading “Catholicism, Contraception, and Conscience: Church Imposed Teaching, God’s Gift of Free Will, and Political Rhetoric by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

The Rhetoric of Freedom of Religion in the Debate about Contraception Coverage By Elise M. Edwards

Does freedom of religion include the right to impose your religious views on your employees?  Should freedom of religion exempt you from financially contributing to a medical benefit for your employees that you consider sinful?

According to an Associated Baptist Press article, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, “called a new rule [by the Obama Administration] requiring insurance plans to cover birth control — including those paid for by religious employers that believe artificial birth control is a sin — a ‘horrible decision’ that poses a problem not just for faiths that object to birth control” in the January 28 broadcast of Richard Land Live.  Land believes that this policy infringes on religious freedom.  (Note that the health care policy  does exempt houses of worship and religious organizations that employ primarily those of the same faith, but not organizations like hospitals and colleges that employ and serve people of all faiths, or no faith. An article by Religion News Service, posted here, also on a Baptist media outlet, explains the policy in more depth.) Continue reading “The Rhetoric of Freedom of Religion in the Debate about Contraception Coverage By Elise M. Edwards”

Taking my body back from… the pill? A call for more of “her stories” about contraception By Sara Frykenberg

I recently made what felt like a very big decision in my life to stop taking the birth control pill… not to try to get pregnant mind you, though some of those I told incorrectly read this as the subtext of my decision. I stopped taking the birth control pill because I didn’t like what it was doing to my body.   So, I am taking my body back… but from the pill? Really?  Didn’t it, in some ways, give me a kind of freedom?  Didn’t it do what it promised and help me to feel that I was being responsible in my sex life (since I don’t want kids right now)?  Yes, I suppose it did; and I very much believe that access to contraception is a very important feminist and religious issue.  … But after a three year on and off relationship and six years steady with pills, all with different side effects, all with different demands on my metabolism and libido, I began to feel a stranger to my nether regions and so I have decided to stop. Continue reading “Taking my body back from… the pill? A call for more of “her stories” about contraception By Sara Frykenberg”

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