Pope Francis offered many words of wisdom and discussed key issues in his address to US Bishops in Washington DC. He acknowledged the sex abuse scandal as a crime and called for bishops to be healers. He asked that bishops move beyond their own perspectives and be open to dialogue. And his personal call to act as pastors to immigrants in the US is one that we should all adhere to. However, I must ask, what about the women?
Noticeably absent from Pope Francis’ address are the many issues that are directly connected poverty and keep women suppressed in the Catholic Church. While he has addressed particular women’s issues on certain occasions, the pope’s comments have been brief and not followed with action. In addition, they do not honor the ongoing struggles women endure as a result of institutional violence that stems from Vatican teaching.
The day Pope Francis was elected is a memorable one for many Catholics, myself included. Watching our new pope walk out on to the balcony of the Vatican and bow to the crowd left me in tears. It seemed in Pope Francis we would have a leader who recognized the full humanity of every person in the community; and in asking the people for their blessing, he acknowledged the role we all play in the ministry of Jesus.
Named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, boasting an astronomical approval rating of 90% among American Catholics, and more than 12 million Twitter followers, Francis has taken the papacy to a new level. People around the world continue to be mesmerized by his acts of kindness and mercy. His commitment to social justice for the poor, simplistic living, welcoming message to persons of all faiths, and proclamation “Who am I to judge?” is refreshing to say the least. Nonetheless, this does not mean Pope Francis does not have blind spots, nor that we do not have a responsibility to remind him of them. Continue reading “The Francis Blindspot by Gina Messina-Dysert”
The enthusiasm we have seen for Pope Francis over the last year is exceptional. Polls show that among American Catholics he has a 90% approval rating. He has garnered more than 12 million Twitter followers and even broke a Rolling Stones (yes, the rock band!) record by drawing more than three million people to an event in Rio de Janeiro. Our new pope is a media icon and “The Francis Effect” is commanding the attention of not only Catholics, but the global community. According to John Allen Jr., it is “take-it-to-the-bank fact” that politicians and celebrities would do just about anything to garner the pope’s poll numbers. There is good reason for this unprecedented attention; in Pope Francis we see the example of Jesus.
Our new pope is connecting with the greater community on the deepest level because he has a sincere commitment to serving the needs of the people rather than the politics of the Vatican. With his first papal act, Francis bowed to a cheering crowd and asked for the people to bless him. In doing so, he acknowledged the full humanity of every person as well as the necessity of community. His immediate rejection of the glamour of the papacy and ongoing efforts to walk with the disenfranchised has commanded the world’s attention. Pope Francis’ humility and commitment to social justice is Jesus-like. His willingness to engage the community, not to mention pose for a selfie here and there, demonstrates a ministry focused on the people. Continue reading “Pope Francis is Paving the Way to FutureChurch by Gina Messina-Dysert”
While the Catholic Church has sought to control US Nuns through what has been called the “New Inquisition,” it has been unsuccessful in its efforts. The film Radical Grace documents the response of Sr. Simone Campbell, Sr. Jean Hughes, and Sr. Chris Shenk and is nothing short of brilliant. Producers Rebecca Parrish and Nicole Bernardi-Reis chronicle their holy journeys in maintaining their vows by challenging the Vatican. A full review of the film can be read here.
Please consider supporting the film through its crowdfund campaign. The opportunity to meditate with Sr. Simone is incentive enough! Congrats to Rebecca and Nicole on their fantastic project and much gratitude to Sr. Simone, Sr. Jean, and Sr. Chris for reminding us that “love is blind but obedience shouldn’t be.”
It was just last week that I received an email from Pope Francis. He wrote me having seen my interview with Tavis Smiley and said he sympathized with my appeal for a Church that serves the needs of the people. Pope Francis requested that I come to the Vatican to meet with him to discuss the papacy and his efforts to redirect the Church’s attention. Of course, I immediately accepted and began to create my agenda for our meeting: women’s ordination, same-sex marriage, reproductive justice, and…my alarm went off. It was just a dream. Sigh…
Totally disappointed at the realization of its ridiculousness, I wondered why Pope Francis had invaded my dreams. Could it have been prophetic as my good friend and colleague (jokingly) suggested? Or perhaps I’m narcissistic enough to fantasize that I have such wisdom to share. Either way, no other pope has ever occupied my thoughts in such a way. Continue reading “I Dream of Pope Francis by Gina Messina-Dysert”
From 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”
This past week I was honored to have the opportunity to talk with Tavis Smiley on PBS about the resignation of the Pope and the future of the Catholic Church. Although some have argued that the pope stepping down means little if anything for Catholics, I think this acknowledgment that tradition can change is at least a step in the right direction. While an end to sexism in the Church is still far off, in the spirit of a feminist ethic of risk, I think we must recognize this step and continue on in the struggle.
What a privilege it was and is to have a platform to share these thoughts. As a feminist progressive Catholic I have repeatedly received friendly and not so friendly warnings about sharing my beliefs. In an age characterized as “the New Inquisition,” the Vatican has worked hard to keep individuals like myself from challenging Church teaching. Any mention of reproductive justice or women’s ordination can quickly lead to one’s livelihood being threatened and the very real possibility of excommunication – just ask Fr. Roy Bourgeois. That said, we each still have the responsibility to retain our power, refuse to be silent, and use our voices to encourage and create change. Continue reading “Hate Mail and the Privilege of Having a Voice by Gina Messina-Dysert”
I was flattered when I received a call from The Tavis Smiley Show onPBS and was asked to appear on the show to discuss the Pope’s resignation and the future of the Catholic Church. It was an amazing opportunity and wonderful gift to be able to share my voice on such a large platform. In addition, I was thrilled to know that I was approached because the show was interested in a feminist progressive voice. While most of the coverage to date has focused on the historicity of this event and a glorified presentation of Pope Benedict XVI, Tavis Smiley and PBSsaw value in hearing a different perspective. Continue reading “The Papal Resignation and Future of the Catholic Church by Gina Messina-Dysert”
The unexpected announcement of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is a welcome breath of fresh air. A human being, even a pope, ought to have the option to say enough is enough, I have done what I can do, and now it is time for someone else to take over. I applaud his move and read it as a sign of hope in a dreary ecclesial scene.
Speculation about his health is rampant. As with many elders whose offspring plot to take away the car keys, I suspect there was some backdoor lobbying to make this retirement happen. But I dare to hope that it was at least in part the considered judgment of an octogenarian who saw his predecessor propped up long after his prime and did not want the same for himself.
But before looking for the backstory there’s something in Benedict’s resignation statement that bears noting: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.” Continue reading “Papal Retirement: A Matter of Conscience by Mary E. Hunt”
The world is stunned this morning as news breaks that Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will resign his position due to lack of strength to carry out his role; he stated: “to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me”.
“The Vatican and Maryknoll can dismiss me, but they cannot dismiss the issue of gender equality in the Catholic Church.” – Fr. Roy Bourgeois
While many have said it should be no surprise that Fr. Roy Bourgeois has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church, I was and am utterly astounded, not to mention deeply saddened.
I have been well aware (and an admirer) of Fr. Roy’s work for sometime; but came to know him personally about one year ago. While I believed my expectations were unrealistic, Fr. Roy not only lived up to, but surpassed the superhero image I had created in my mind. He is an incredibly humble and generous man whose utmost concern is honoring the dignity of every human being. On a personal level Fr. Roy is a friend and mentor; on a social and communal level, I respect his activism, courage, and refusal to comply with demands that violate human rights. In the face of continual threats Fr. Roy stood strong and now pays the ultimate price for following his conscience. Excommunication means that he has lost his position and his home; his livelihood, status, and vocation have been taken away. Fr. Roy is forced into laity and the job market at an age where he should be focused on retiring. Continue reading “I Stand with Fr. Roy Bourgeois by Gina Messina-Dysert”
On October 6th, the first Catholic women’s ordination in Los Angeles was performed when two women were welcomed as priests into Roman Catholic Women Priests. There are now 143 women ordained worldwide in a movement that has refused to wait for the Vatican to acknowledge women as leaders in the Church.
The Catholic/Mormon Dialogue on Women’s Ordination at Claremont Graduate University will take place Wednesday, September 19, 2012. It is an incredibly relevant topic today and particularly interesting with a Mormon/Catholic presidential ticket before us.
It makes sense to bring Catholics and Mormons together to dialogue about this issue. Women’s ordination in both Churches is considered a taboo topic and one that if discussed in public can lead to excommunication. Certainly the women who will stand publicly to address this issue and share their passion and conviction for the need to ordain women are courageous and committed to the recognition of the full humanity of every woman and every man. Continue reading “Catholic/Mormon Dialogue on Women’s Ordination”
When stuck between a vow of obedience and a hard place known as the Vatican, sisterhood may be our only prayer. Since April 18, 2012, the U.S. nuns have been cast into the headlines as the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) released a harsh assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an umbrella organization, representing 80% of U.S. sisters. Accused of “radical feminist themes,” “corporate dissent,” and among other things, not taking an official stance on some hot Catholic issues, nuns have become frontrunners of a revolution.
The groundswell of support and solidarity pouring forth from faithful Catholics and the media has been unprecedented by all standards; when the secular feminist website Jezebel is calling for Sr. Simone Campbell , executive director for the Catholic lobby group, NETWORK, for president, the issue has clearly gone beyond the choir. The movement has taken on the adage “we are all nuns,” expressing a shared sense of oppression by the Catholic Church. If the second largest religious domination in the U.S. (10%) is “former Catholic,” then this shared sense of betrayal by the Vatican may not be new, but it has found new energy in the conflict between Rome and the American nuns. Continue reading “Hijacking the Nuns? by Kate Conmy”
During July 8-11, 2012 twenty Catholic feminist leaders met in a retreat center near Baltimore to discuss their concerns and hopes in the light of the recent and ongoing attacks of Catholic bishops on women and especially on feminist work in the church. The group consisted of representatives from many sectors of Catholic institutions and movements. There were the founders of a peace and justice movement of the Sisters of Charity and the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Action. There was a pastor and leadership trainer from an alternative parish and a writer for the National Catholic Reporter.
Many in the group were professors of theology or ethics at Catholic, Protestant or state schools. Among them were teachers at Whittier College, Claremont School of Theology, Santa Clara University and San Jose University in California, Loyola University in Chicago, St. Catherine in Minnesota, Drew University in New Jersey and Boston College. Catholic reform movements were well represented, with leaders from Dignity, the Women’s Ordination Conference, Call to Action and RomanCatholicWomenPriests. There was a teacher at Marymount School in New York City, the President of Marymount School in Los Angeles and a doctoral student in theology. Continue reading “Catholic Feminists Meet, Strategize by Rosemary Radford Ruether and Theresa Yugar”
At the end of this month, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will meet to formulate a response to a Vatican trap whose cunning is best appreciated within the long tradition of religious authorities who craft impossible dilemmas for those they perceive as threats.
Two millennia ago, the chief priests sent someone to ask Jesus, “Should we pay taxes?” If Jesus said yes, he would pit himself against Jewish resistance to Roman occupation and therefore, in Jewish eyes, against God. If he said no, the Romans could execute him for sedition. Instead, Jesus famously replied, “Render to Ceaser what is Ceaser’s and to God what is God’s.”
In the fifteenth century, Joan of Arc’s ecclesiastical inquisitors asked her, “Do you know yourself to be in God’s grace?” If Joan answered yes, she would commit heresy because the Church had long taught that no one could be certain of being in God’s grace; if no, they could interpret her answer as an admission of guilt. Joan looked them in the eyes and replied, “If I am not in God’s grace, may God put me there; if I am, may God so keep me.” Continue reading “Vatican Lays a Cunning Trap for American Nuns by Mary Johnson”
Following the testimony of Sandra Fluke on the lack of availability of contraception and the appalling remarks by Rush Limbaugh that took place in early March, 2012, much discussion around issues of reproductive justice has emerged. Among these conversations, Mary Hunt recently shared her thoughts in “Contraceptive Controversies” on the issue on FSR-Inc., and graduate students Katie German and Linda Claros organized an event at Loyola Marymount University to invite faculty members, students, and interested persons to engage in dialogue on reproductive justice. I was honored to have the opportunity to participate in that discussion and would like to share my thoughts here in an effort to continue that dialogue.
To begin, I understand reproductive justice as the call for the social, political and economic ability to make responsible and healthy decisions about gender, sexuality, and procreation for ourselves and our communities with the goal of transforming power inequities and bringing about systemic change. The denial of reproductive justice in the Catholic Church is a symptom of the larger rape culture. When I use this phrase I am referring to a culture that not only perpetrates rape, but all forms of sexualized violence against women and girls. Continue reading “Reproductive Justice by Gina Messina-Dysert”
This letter was written to to Rev. Edward Dougherty, M.M., Superior General and the Maryknoll Community on August 8, 2011 in response to the call for Fr. Roy Bourgeois to recant his stance on women’s ordination in the Catholic Church.
I have been a Catholic priest for 39 years and Maryknoll has been my faith community, my family. So it was with great sadness that I received your letter of July 27, 2011 (Second Canonical Warning), stating I must recant my belief and public statements that support the ordination of women, or I will be dismissed from Maryknoll.
In my ministry over the years I have met many devout women in our Church who believe God is calling them to be priests. Why wouldn’t they be called? God created men and women of equal dignity and, as we all know, the call to be a priest comes from God.
This past August I wrote about the canonical warning that Fr. Roy received and the issue surrounding the exercise of conscience over church teaching. For a more detailed explanation of the warning and the background regarding the ordination of women, please see my prior article.
present a petition containing 15,000 signatures supporting full and equal participation of women as deacons, priests, and bishops in a renewed church. The group was not permitted in St. Peter’s Square because of their signs; they did not have the proper permit. Access was also denied to the Women who wore albs/stole because their dress was considered a form of protest. “We love our family, the Catholic Church,” stated Miriam Duignan of Women-Priests. “We feel obliged in conscience to make our carefully considered reasons known. In doing so, we fulfill our canon law duty to speak out, as our present Pope has encouraged us to do.” Koturbash states “even though canon law invites our Church leaders to hear from the faithful, our leaders are silent when we try to engage.” Continue reading “Pink Smoke, Call to Disobedience, and a Holy Shake-Up: Is it Time to Convene the Third Vatican Council? By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”
Fr. Roy Bourgeois has many titles: Nobel Peace Prize winner, purple heart recipient, former missionary, member of the Maryknoll Fathers for 44 years, and ordained priest for 38 years. He has long been associated with social justice and helping the oppressed and marginalized. He was a peace activist during the Vietnam War and founded the School of Americas Watch. He is found often marching and protesting in front of the School of Americas (now WHINSEC ), a terror training camp at Ft. Benning where soldiers are trained in devices of torture. This is where soldiers that were members of the death squads that existed in Latin America, especially in El Salvadorwere trained. This is also where the soldiers who killed the Jesuits, their maid, and her child as well as Monsignor Romero were trained.
A New Documentary, “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican,” starts the conversation…
Catholic women priests are an oxymoron for the Vatican. It considers them automatically excommunicated before the holy oil is dry on their hands. Other Catholics accept them as sacramental ministers and are delighted with the innovation. Still, others, myself included, want far deeper structural changes in the Catholic Church such that priesthood loses its baked-on charm and ministry becomes the expected task of adult members. This is an important theological conversation that the Vatican wishes would go away. Memo to them: it is just starting.