Tag Archives: church reform

Father Roy Bourgeois: Refused to Keep Silent

Church Threatens to Excommunicate Father Roy Bourgeois, Founder of the School of the Americas Watch

Editor, Tikkun Magazine
Posted:
Updated:

RoyBourgeois2 RoyBourgeoisBenningRoy Bourgeois isn’t just any priest. He is, along with John Dear and Sister Joan Chittister, one of the most courageous Catholic voices for peace and non-violence and the founder and leader of the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW). The ultimatum and ex-communication would be effective the day before the annual demonstration of the SOAW at Fort Bennings (next to Columbus, Georgia) where the School of the Americas is housed and where it trains South and Central American police forces in the techniques of torture, repression, and counter-insurgency. We at the Network of Spiritual Progressives have been calling for support for this demonstration which begins on Friday and goes till Sunday.

So the current conservative leadership of the Catholic Church will now in one fell swoop be able to rid itself of the progressive Catholic who has created the most important spiritual progressive demonstration taking place anywhere in the country for peace and against torture, and simultaneously terrify other priests into not daring to question the Church’s doctrines on women.

It should be noted that the very progressive teachings of the Church against war and poverty have not served as a basis for the excommunication of any priest or other church officials who have publicly supported the US war in Iraq or Afghanistan or supported the notion of a violent war against terror. As the politically conservative forces have come to power in the Church after, and in part to undo, the more liberal spirit of Vatican II, they have used their offices in the hierarchy against those who support progressive causes, but not against those who support authoritarian and reactionary and violent causes. So, while they make their own tenth century decision to exclude women from the clergy on a pedestal of non-disputability, they leave Jesus’ teachings against violence and for social justice on no such pedestal, thus allowing priests who support economic oppression and wars an open path to challenge Church teachings or distorting how they might be applied, while preventing any serious dissent when it comes to matters of sexuality and gender.

We urge all those who feel strongly opposed to this attempt to silence dissent within the Church and to oust its most celebrated peace-priest to take the following steps:

1. Write to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the
Faith at the Vatican, Rome, Italy and protest.

2. Write to your local newspapers and protest.

3. Write to your local Catholic church and priests and
protest.

4. Write to the National Catholic Reporter, Commonweal, and to national news sources like the New York Times and Washington Post and CNN and NPR and let them know that the NSP [Network of Spiritual Progressives] is protesting this move against Father Bourgeois and re-affirming our commitment to equal rights for women plus our commitment to strengthen the demonstrations in Fort Benning until the training of counter-insurgency experts (a way of saying torturers and repressors of democratic movements for justice and peace) is stopped and made illegal in the U.S.

Now here’s the key: we want to communicate this message in a respectful way to the Catholic world. We are not anti-Catholic. Our organization contains many faithful Catholics. We seek to recruit faithful Catholics into the NSP, and we do not wish to give them the impression that we are challenging their entire faith. Moreover, at the SOAW demonstration this weekend you’ll be able to meet many Catholics who have anti-war, anti-violence and pro-peace and generosity perspectives–and they represent a major part of American Catholicism. So please help us communicate our outrage at the attempt to silence or excommunicate Father Roy Bourgeois. But do so in a way that indicates respect and genuine caring connection to the many Catholics who remain committed to peace and social justice but who may be afraid to speak out on this issue for fear of losing their connection with the Church (including many many Jesuits, for example, who share our progressive peace-oriented and social-justice oriented perspectives and would be part of the NSP, but are fearful that they too would be thrown out of their livelihood should they speak out clearly on these topics).

Nor is it for progressives like Roy Bourgeois merely a matter of livelihood that is at stake — these are people of faith who feel nurtured by and deeply connected to the Church, and to the teachings of Jesus, and feel that on some specific matters their Church, which they love deeply, has mistaken priorities that do not reflect the true teachings of Jesus, and they wish to correct policies that they feel are out of sync with God’s word as they understand it. This kind of dissent, of course, was what led up to the convening of Vatican II, and the ideas that manifested there were only possible because of previous dissenters in the Church finally being given a chance to have real voice. So it is distressing to the dissenters today to find that the freedoms to dispute parts of the “official teachings” that made possible previous changes in the Church’s doctrines are now being withdrawn by Pope Benedict, who himself was part of this same process of limiting dissent when he headed the same Church Office that now seeks to silence Roy Bourgeois.

Please read the materials below so that you can see more
documentation of the issues discussed here.

Rabbi Michael Lerner
RabbiLerner@Tikkun.org

 

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Printer's 2d ed. Cover 5-11-13Hard copies of My Journey from Silence to Solidarity (now in its second edition) are available for $7.00 (which includes shipping). Place your order by contacting the author at Roy Bourgeois, P. O. Box 3330, Columbus, GA 31903 or by contacting the editor. Price breaks for bulk orders are available.

This book is freely available here for reading or downloading in the .pdf format.

 

The fact: Bourgeois, a priest for 36 years, attended the ordination of
Janice Sevre-Duszynska in Lexingon, Ky., Aug. 9 and preached a
homily.

If Bourgeois is excommunicated at the end of 30 days, it would
come just before the mass rally and protest against the U.S.
Army’s School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga., that Bourgeois
has organized for 19 years. In recent years, more than 15,000
people, many of them Catholic university students, have joined the
three daylong rally and demonstration.

Bourgeois was not immediately available for comment. The text of
Bourgeois’ letter follows.

———————————————————————–

Rev. Roy Bourgeois, M.M.
PO Box 3330, Columbus, GA 31903
November 7, 2008

TO THE CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, THE VATICAN

RoyBourgeoisBenningI was very saddened by your letter dated October 21, 2008, giving me 30 days to recant my belief and public statements that support the ordination of women in our Church, or I will be excommunicated.

I have been a Catholic priest for 36 years and have a deep love for my Church and ministry.

When I was a young man in the military [serving in Vietnam], I felt God was calling me to the priesthood. I entered Maryknoll and was ordained in 1972.

Over the years I have met a number of women in our Church who,
like me, feel called by God to the priesthood. You, our Church
leaders at the Vatican, tell us that women cannot be ordained.

With all due respect, I believe our Catholic Church’s teaching on
this issue is wrong and does not stand up to scrutiny.   A 1976
report by the Pontifical Biblical Commission supports the research
of Scripture scholars, canon lawyers and many faithful Catholics
who have studied and pondered the Scriptures and have concluded
that there is no justification in the Bible for excluding women
from the priesthood.

As people of faith, we profess that the invitation to the ministry
of priesthood comes from God. We profess that God is the Source of
life and created men and women of equal stature and dignity. The
current Catholic Church doctrine on the ordination of women
implies our loving and all-powerful God, Creator of heaven and
earth, somehow cannot empower a woman to be a priest.

Women in our Church are telling us that God is calling them to the
priesthood. Who are we, as men, to say to women, “Our call is
valid, but yours is not.” Who are we to tamper with God’s call?

Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard or how long
we may try to justify discrimination, in the end, it is always
immoral.

Hundreds of Catholic churches in the U.S. are closing because of a
shortage of priests. Yet there are hundreds of committed and
prophetic women telling us that God is calling them to serve our
Church as priests.

If we are to have a vibrant, healthy Church rooted in the
teachings of our Savior, we need the faith, wisdom, experience,
compassion and courage of women in the priesthood.

Conscience is very sacred. Conscience gives us a sense of right
and wrong and urges us to do the right thing. Conscience is what
compelled Franz Jagerstatter, a humble Austrian farmer, husband
and father of four young children, to refuse to join Hitler’s
army, which led to his execution. Conscience is what compelled
Rosa Parks to say she could no longer sit in the back of the bus.
Conscience is what compels women in our Church to say they cannot
be silent and deny their call from God to the priesthood.

Conscience is what compelled my dear mother and father, now 95, to
always strive to do the right things as faithful Catholics raising
four children. And after much prayer, reflection and discernment,
it is my conscience that compels me to do the right thing. I
cannot recant my belief and public statements that support the
ordination of women in our Church.

Working and struggling for peace and justice are an integral part
of our faith. For this reason, I speak out against the war in
Iraq. And for the last eighteen years, I have been speaking out
against the atrocities and suffering caused by the School of the
Americas (SOA). Eight years ago, while in Rome for a conference on
peace and justice, I was invited to speak about the SOA on Vatican
Radio. During the interview, I stated that I could not address the
injustice of the SOA and remain silent about injustice in my
Church. I ended the interview by saying, “There will never be
justice in the Catholic Church until women can be ordained.” I
remain committed to this belief today.

Having an all male clergy implies that men are worthy to be
Catholic priests, but women are not.

According to USA TODAY (Feb. 28, 2008) in the United States alone,
nearly 5,000 Catholic priests have sexually abused more than
12,000 children. Many bishops, aware of the abuse, remained
silent. These priests and bishops were not excommunicated. Yet the
women in our Church who are called by God and are ordained to
serve God’s people, and the priests and bishops who support them,
are excommunicated.

Silence is the voice of complicity. Therefore, I call on all
Catholics, fellow priests, bishops, Pope Benedict XVI and all
Church leaders at the Vatican, to speak loudly on this grave
injustice of excluding women from the priesthood.

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador was assassinated because of his defense of the oppressed. He said, “Let those who have a
voice, speak out for the voiceless.”

Our loving God has given us a voice.  Let us speak clearly and
boldly and walk in solidarity as Jesus would, with the women in
our Church who are being called by God to the priesthood.

In Peace and Justice,
Rev. Roy Bourgeois, M.M.
PO Box 3330, Columbus, GA 31903

 

Reform of the papacy intended by Pope Francis

Reform of the papacy intended by Pope Francis

by Sandro Magister

The prior of Bose, Enzo Bianchi, and archbishop emeritus of San Francisco John R. Quinn are presenting it as a given that Francis will completely overhaul the role of the pope. But some acts of this pontificate contradict their expectations.

VATICAN CITY, August 7, 2014 – There are those who maintain, and even say they are certain, that Pope Francis wants to reform the papacy to the point of “destructuring” the role of the Roman pontiff as it was developed in the second millennium of the Christian era, beginning with the Gregorian reform and continuing through the magisterium of the Council of Trent and of Vatican I.

This seems to be the gist of two significant declarations that have come in recent weeks.

On July 23, after Pope Francis appointed him as a consultant for the pontifical council for the promotion of Christian unity, Bianchi released shattering statements to the website Vatican Insider.

> “Francesco vuole raggiungere l’unità anche riformando il papato”

The position that the prior of Bose received is not of great significance in itself. But it received enthusiastic coverage in the media, given the vast influence of Bianchi’s words in the Catholic world – and not only among progressives – and his regular contributions to the front pages of important Italian secular newspapers like “la Repubblica” and “La Stampa.”

But there have been few critical observations on the promotion – in the Vatican dicastery that deals with ecumenical dialogue – of the founder of a monastic experience that already presents itself as interconfessional, with a Lutheran among its long-standing members, highly open and friendly toward the Protestant and Orthodox but intransigent and disdainful with the traditionalist Lefebvrists, the only ones for whom it reserves the label of “schismatic.”

Particularly tough was the commentary of Msgr. Antonio Livi, a former dean of the faculty of philosophy of the Pontifical Lateran University, who went so far as to accuse Bianchi of attributing his own musings to the pope.

> Bianchi come Scalfari: usa il papa per i suoi fini

But what did Bianchi assert that was so explosive?

The prior of Bose told Vatican Insider that he thinks “the pope wants to achieve unity also by reforming the papacy, a papacy no longer feared in the words of ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew, with whom Francis has a bond of friendship.”

Explaining that the reform of the papacy means “a new balance between synodality and supremacy,” Bianchi added:

“The Orthodox Church exercise synodality but not primacy, we Catholics have papal primacy but we lack synodality. There can be no synodality without primacy and there can be no primacy without synodality. This would help create a new style of papal primacy and episcopal government.”

The Piedmontese monk then evoked an innovation that could also have a practical translation. He said that the synod of bishops “has been around since the Second Vatican Council,” that the council of nine cardinals who assist Francis in the reform of the curia “was the pope’s idea,” but added that there is a possibility in the future of “an episcopal organization that would assist the pope in governing the Church without calling papal primacy into question.”

We now come to the other attestation on Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s intentions concerning a reform of the papacy.

Here the protagonist is the American archbishop John R. Quinn, 85, head of the diocese of San Francisco from 1977 to 1995 – when he wanted to leave at the age of only 67 partly in the wake of sexual abuse that had involved a couple of his coworkers in the diocesan curia – and president of the United States episcopal conference from 1977 to 1980.

On July 7 Quinn told the American newspaper National Catholic Reporter that Bergoglio said to him, a few days before the conclave that saw him ascend to the see of Peter:

“I’ve read your book and am hoping it will be implemented.”

The book by Quinn that Cardinal Bergoglio read and approved of dates back to 1999 and is entitled “The Reform of the Papacy: The Costly Call to Christian Unity.”

The volume presents itself as a reflection on the 1995 encyclical by John Paul II “Ut Unum Sint.” An encyclical, according to the author of the book, “clearly in rupture with the past and in many aspects revolutionary,” in that “it extols the synodal model of the Church of the first millennium and insists on the fact that the pope is a member of the college of bishops and that primacy must be exercised in a collegial manner.”

“Ut Unum Sint” in short – still according to Quinn – “testifies to the fact that accepting Vatican I and its teaching on the primacy of jurisdiction does not exclude a broader understanding of primacy” and “makes it clear that Vatican I was not the last word.”

From this postulate Quinn derives a series of concrete proposals concerning the governance of the Church.

With regard to the episcopal conferences for example, in spite of the restrictive norms contained in the 1998 motu proprio on their theological and juridical nature, Quinn maintains that they are to be considered a true realization of episcopal collegiality and have a real magisterial and even doctrinal role.

Concerning the synod of bishops, he indicates the need to remove this from the control of the Roman curia, excluding the automatic inclusion of dicastery heads.

Regarding the appointment of bishops Quinn hopes, with respect for the “authentic ecclesiology” of Vatican II, that the role of nuncios in the selection of candidates will be drastically reduced, giving a preeminent role instead to the bishops of the relative ecclesiastical provinces and in subordination to the presidents of the episcopal conferences.

In practice, therefore, “the list of names selected by the bishops should be sent to Rome directly by the archbishop of the metropolitan province, with the indication of the agreement of the president of the conference,” while “there should be no discussion about the list between the bishops of the province and Rome,” much less any role of the nuncio. And if Rome were not to find itself in agreement about the list, “this should be sent back to the province for further consideration and amendment.” To all of this should be added a substantial involvement of priests and laypeople, but without any politicization, factionalism, and breaking of confidentiality.

These new modalities in the election of bishops would serve – still according to Quinn – to obviate the “grave problems” raised by the current procedures. And he cites the delay in filling vacant sees, the excessive “emphasis” on selecting candidates who provide doctrinal reliability, the transfer of a bishop from one see to another, the multiplication of auxiliaries.

Quinn also maintains that exclusivity in the election of the pope should be removed from the college of cardinals. He suggests admitting to the conclave the patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches, without bestowing the scarlet on them, having at least a few presidents of the episcopal conferences participate in the vote, and allowing significant lay organizations to indicate to the electors the qualities that they would like to see in the new pope.

Finally, for Quinn, one crucial issue in a reform of the papacy aimed at Christian unity is not only that of centralization, but also that of the reform of the Roman curia.

A Roman curia that above all should have fewer bishops and fewer priests. And in this regard Quinn brands as “an abuse of the sacrament of sacred orders and the office of the bishop” the fact that secretaries of the Vatican dicasteries are systematically elevated to the episcopal dignity.

So these are the reforms that Quinn was hoping for at the end of the last millennium, the ones that then-cardinal Bergoglio, on the eve of the 2013 conclave, is alleged to have said – according to Quinn himself – that he wanted to implement.

The question arises naturally. Now that Bergoglio has become pope and has the power to do it, what intention does he have of promoting, fostering, and even imposing the application of these reforms?

Some of the decisions that Francis has made so far seem to move in this direction, like the creation of the council of nine and the reinforcement of the synod of bishops.

But others move in the opposite direction, like the continual elevation as bishops of secretaries not only of the curial offices, but also of the governorate and of the synod itself.

With regard to the delicate question of episcopal appointments in the dioceses – a topic that was touched upon at the last meeting of the “C9” – it is not known if the practice indicated by Quinn has or has not begun to be implemented in Argentina. What is certain is that none of the numerous episcopal provisions in that country from March of 2013 until now has undergone the scrutiny of the members of the congregation for bishops at the Vatican. Just as the appointments to the dioceses of Isernia and Locri in Italy did not undergo its scrutiny.

In Argentina, in addition to his successor in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis has made about twenty other episcopal appointments, eight of which (seven after an unexplained resignation between the publication of the appointment and the consecration) however concern auxiliary bishops. In this field as well, therefore, the Argentine pontiff does not seem to want to follow the indications of Quinn’s vaunted book.

But we are less than a year and a half from the beginning of the pontificate. Too soon to understand how far Francis would like to push in an actual reform of the papacy.   (source)

___________

The article in the “National Catholic Reporter” with Quinn’s statement relative to Bergoglio:

> Quinn to priest group: Church poised at a moment of far-reaching consequences

__________

English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

Tony Flannery: Hero of Conscience

Historian Dermot Keogh on the new book by the popular priest Fr Tony Flannery

by Dermot Keogh 15/09/2013

Historian Dermot Keogh on the new book by the popular priest Fr Tony Flannery

Dermot Keogh

Published 15/09/2013 | 05:00

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– See more at: http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/review-tony-flannerys-question-of-conscience-29578612.html#sthash.ZZ0Idyp9.dpufbookFlannery

bookFlanneryWritten by the well known Redemptorist priest Tony Flannery, this book ought to be his reflections on more than 40 years’ service to the Gospel and to the Catholic community in Ireland.

During that time, Fr Flannery preached tirelessly at parish and school retreats around the country, holding novenas in towns and cities that frequently attracted large congregations to usually empty churches. In the process he became one of the best known and most valued spiritual leaders in the country among ordinary Catholics.

That’s what this book should have been about – his service to the Catholic community in Ireland and what that has taught him.

Instead, this slim volume, with a foreword by former President Mary McAleese, chronicles Fr Flannery’s painful journey since February 2012 when he was ‘silenced’ by the Vatican. Being ‘silenced’ means he was forbidden from saying Mass, hearing confessions, conducting retreats, leading novenas or otherwise practising his ministry as a priest.

So one of the best-known and most-valued priests in Ireland, a man regarded with respect and affection by so many Catholics here, has been stopped in his tracks – his life’s mission brought to an abrupt halt.

Why? Because of his work as a founder member of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP). And also because of some passages in articles he had written for the Redemptorist magazine Reality.

Both of these matters had come to the attention of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome, the body Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger presided over before becoming Pope. The CDF has existed for centuries and is the powerful church body based in the Vatican whose job it is to promote and safeguard Catholic doctrine and take action when there are transgressions among the clergy or the faithful.

The CDF presumably did not like the perceived potential challenge to the existing power structure in the Catholic Church in Ireland which the ACP represented. And the CDF presumably did not like some of the views Fr Flannery had put forward for discussion in his monthly column in Reality, on issues like the attitude of the church to sexuality, birth control, celibacy and the ordination of women, among other topics.

When the weight of the Vatican fell on him, he had not seen it coming.

TonyFlanneryRemote from the workings of the Holy See because of his pastoral ministry here, Fr Flannery explains in his book how it came as “a shock, a bolt from the blue” when he was telephoned to be told that the CDF “had their sights” on him.

Over the following period he was told that he had to issue a public statement, saying he accepted all the moral teachings of the church and also that he accepted that women could never be priests.

He was also warned about the requirement for total secrecy about the involvement of the CDF and forbidden from having any dealings with the media on the matter.

Born in 1948, at 12 he entered the minor seminary of the Redemptorists in Limerick as did two of his brothers.

He went to the major seminary at 17 and was ordained 10 years later. Very typical of his generation, his formation was infused with the changing ideas generated by the Second Vatican Council for which he never lost enthusiasm.

He confesses that for someone who grew up in the 1950s it was not easy to shed the fear of authority. Summoned to Rome to meet the superior general of his order in February 2012, he was a worried man and even more so when he was told that he was in serious trouble and that Cardinal Lavada, head of the CDF, was taking personal charge of his portfolio.

Fr Flannery was handed two A4 pages on un-headed and unsigned paper by his superiors and it was made clear to him that they had come from the CDF.

The first page contained four extracts from articles he had written for Reality relating to structures in the church and the need for reform, the nature of priesthood, the new missal, priestly celibacy and the role of women in the church. On the second page, his superiors were ordered to “seek to impress upon Fr Flannery the gravity of his situation”.

He was not to be allowed to write or to give newspaper interviews.

Further, he was to be instructed to withdraw from his leadership role in the ACP and also from public ministry and to undertake a period of spiritual and theological reflection.

He was angry as he wondered who “those faceless people were who had produced this document” of diktats and given them to his superiors. He wanted to confront his CDF accusers face to face, to show them that their quotations from his articles were cited out of context. He has not, to date, been given that opportunity.

This book shows how its author grew very critical of his Redemptorist superiors in Rome as the process developed.

Fr Flannery argues that, instead of standing up for him, they had bought into the way of thinking and acting of the CDF and of repeatedly going ‘cap-in-hand’ to the Vatican authorities.

He became convinced that his superiors in Rome had “signed up to the Vatican’s way of doing things, which decreed that when it came to the test I as an individual would not be of any real significance . . . [and] I would be viewed as dispensable”.

Returning to Ireland, Fr Flannery wound up his pastoral duties. He did not publish or give interviews and entered into a period of reflection in a retreat house in Ireland. However, he did not stop work with the ACP, which openly supported him.

In early summer last year Fr Flannery received another document from the Vatican, the contents of which exacerbated an already delicate situation. He had two meetings with his superior general, one in Ireland and the other in Rome.

In Rome he was told there had been another “very angry letter” from Cardinal Levada.

Back in Ireland, his period of reflection having ended, he resumed his pastoral duties while preparing a response to the new Vatican document, which he sent to his superiors in late June last year.

Fr Flannery was relieved when he heard that the outcome of the meeting had been positive.

But there was a new twist to the story.

By September last year, with a new head of the CDF – Cardinal Muller – in place, there were further demands that the author’s statement be amended.

New instructions to discipline Fr Flannery were issued: he was to go on a further extended period of reflection to a retreat house outside of Ireland and he was to cease all involvement with the ACP.

Believing he was being bullied by the CDF and his superior general, he again felt angry and prepared an extensive response.

But under direction from the Vatican, when Fr Flannery refused to cease contact with the ACP, his superior general invoked rule 73, number 3, of the order.

This imposed a ‘formal precept of obedience’ which obliged him to obey or run the risk of being dismissed from the order. Fr Flannery refused to conform or sign any pledge.

In mid-January this year, the author went public, giving an interview to The New York Times and holding a press conference in Dublin outlining his case.

He has continued to speak in favour of church reform since then.

The election of Pope Francis this year may help find another way to deal with dissent in the Catholic Church which does not involve the abrogation of the rights of the individual and the use of a system of personnel management that is as archaic as it is unchristian.

It will be interesting to see if the new regime in the Vatican will allow Fr Flannery to explain his views and to clarify matters face to face.

While this volume is a very personal account, and other voices need to be heard and recorded, I am glad as an historian that this book has been published.

I wish the author – and other ‘silenced’ Irish priests – the strength and courage to see things through to a just end.  (source)

Dr Dermot Keogh is Emeritus Professor of History at University College Cork.

Fr. Flannery’s website=http://www.tonyflannery.com

With a new Synod of Bishops comes a new chance to do things right

With a new Synod of Bishops
comes a new chance to do things right

Joan Chittister  |  May. 28, 2014 From Where I Stand Synod of Bishops 2014

Joan ChittesterI remembered an ancient saying attributed to Buddha not long ago that smacked far too much of the present than it did of the past: “There are only two mistakes on the way to truth. One is not going far enough and the other is not starting.”

I knew right away that we’re either on the verge of another mistake — or not. It all depends.

Very few ever get a second chance to get the really big things of life right. Really right.

On the personal level, recovery from error is always a slow and tenuous process. We fail at marriage and plod through life for years while all our other dreams shrivel with it. We get stuck in dead-end jobs, and there goes the kind of life for which we’d hoped.

But if mid-course corrections are difficult for individuals, they are even more difficult for major institutions.

Governments can be marked for decades by their major debacles. Wars stumbled into without cause, like the invasion of Iraq, can damage a country’s place in the community of nations for years. Few megacorps, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, completely recover from public disaffection. They lose credibility. They barter years of goodwill. They watch the public turn away like sunflowers following the light.

Worse, plunge a public institution into public ignominy, and the ones that don’t disappear immediately are often doomed to fade slowly and painfully into barely recognizable profiles of their former selves.

Once upon a time, churches were exempt from such problems. Not anymore. These days, churches are little better off than the average organization when it comes to the wages of sin and attempts to defraud. “The faith” does not compensate in an educated public for a loss of confidence in the integrity of the church itself.

Which is where we are right now, whether anyone wants to consider that possibility or not. All of our major institutions are being viewed with wary eyes — the government and its outrageous dysfunction, the global financial structures and their pecuniary sleight of hand, and even the church and its insistence on rules for everyone else while it seems to have skirted the important ones.

And into the middle of a church clouded by scandal as well as by rigidity comes a pope with a call for reform and for understanding. What’s not to love?

The problem is that the church has been in this position before.

The first time the church found itself in major public discredit, the reformers of the 16th century were crying out for serious review of both the theology and practices of the church. They railed against clericalism, the wealth of the church, the use of arcane language that distanced the laity from its inner operations and made them second-class citizens, the sale of relics, the conferral of indulgences in exchange for alms, and a theology that left laypeople to be docile and unthinking consumers of a faith long bereft of either witness or spiritual energy.

The answer of the church at the Council of Trent (1545-1563) to these concerns was 150 anathemas at the very thought of change.

Or, in other words, Trent’s answer to the pressure for renewal of the church was more of the same. Only this time, they went even further and added an index of forbidden books to dampen any more of that kind of thinking in the future; the total rejection of the vernacular to make general discussion of just about anything ecclesiastical impossible for laypeople; greater episcopal control; and more and better rules for everything else.

But the need for change and real renewal never went away.

Now, since the Second Vatican Council in 1962, the church itself has opened the question of reform again.

This time, the call comes from a pope with specific questions. Questions for which he wanted the input of the Catholic laity before his opening of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to discuss “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization” in October. So they sent the questions to bishops for the purpose of gathering input from the laity in each diocese.

But with the exception of a few bishops in the United States, that was the last we heard of it. And that’s the real problem.

There are three dangers implicit in the process of asking questions.

First, when you ask people to respond to a series of questions, it gives them the idea that you are going to take their answers seriously. It raises expectations.

Second, to ask questions is to imply that you are open to considering someone else’s way of looking at the possible answers to them.

Third, as any good lawyer knows, asking a question to which you don’t want an answer different from your own threatens to expose the fissure of differences that underlie it. The old game of “one answer fits all” ends and people really begin to believe that they have a right to think and rethink and think again.

Thinking may be the sign of a healthy group, but it is not the sign of a complacent, tractable or acquiescent group. Once people begin to think together, community sets in, energy sets in, possibility sets in, and new life sets in. For them all.

Trent’s 150 anathemas were a mistake that lost half of Europe to the church, that divided the Christian community for 400 years, that plunged Catholicism into the Dark Ages of thought, and that left the Christian witness adrift in “the scandal of division.”

From where I stand, it looks as if we have been given another opportunity to do it right this time. The only question is whether or not the bishops who were entrusted with gathering the answers of the laity to these questions will start at all. Let alone go all the way.

[Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister is a frequent NCR contributor.]

Catholic Family Planning and Exponential Population Growth

Catholic Family Planning and Exponential Population Growth

aaronemma200xAaron Milavec  (blog)

Given the exponential growth in the world population, the question naturally emerged in 1968 as to whether unchecked human growth is sustainable during the next hundred or two hundred years.

WorldPopulationGrowth2050

Many dismissed this on the grounds that there was ample space for housing developments nearly everywhere (even in Hong Kong); hence, the earth could easily sustain two to three times our present population. Pope Pius VI in Humanae Vitae agreed with this optimistic view of the future.

But now we know what we could not know in 1968. Four points and a conclusion:

ee2#1 According to the United Nations, one in every five humans depends on fish as the primary source of protein. (United Nations, 2004) On the other hand, marine ecologists fear that the biggest single threat to marine ecosystems today is overfishing. Our appetite for fish is exceeding the oceans’ ecological limits with devastating impacts on marine ecosystems. The cod fisheries off Newfoundland, Canada, collapsed in 1992, leading to the loss of some 40,000 jobs in the industry. The cod stocks in the North Sea and Baltic Sea are now heading the same way and are close to complete collapse. As population grows, the pressure for more and more effective fishing increases, and no government can, in conscience, limit the growth of industrial fishing so that sustainability can again be achieved. For this crime, we and our children’s children will suffer. . . .

oilpricegraph#2 The story for oil shows exactly the same phenomena. Recently developing countries like India and China are legitimately moving toward increased industrialization to feed, clothe, and house their teeming populations. Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2010 World Energy Outlook estimated that conventional crude oil production has peaked and is depleting at 6.8% per year. US Joint Forces Command’s Joint Operating Environment 2010 issued this warning to all US military commands: “By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day.” (www) So no government is currently rationing oil products; rather, every nation is trying to out-produce everyone else so that their people can enjoy the luxurious lifestyle that manufactured goods promise. But who is speaking for those who will be living when the industrialized landscape has to begin shutting down due to oil depletion? For this crime, our children’s children will suffer. . . .

#3 Governments have admitted that acid rain is a serious international environmental problem and many countries have taken steps to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. But air pollution does not stop at national boundaries. As the industrialization of India and China moves into high gear, this pollution produces smog in their cities. This is the immediate effect. Meanwhile, these invisible poison gases enter the atmosphere and, much later, forests and fish living thousands of miles away are put at risk due to the falling of acid rain. Some of the most dramatic effects on forests have been observed in Europe. In 1983, a survey in West Germany showed that 34% of the country’s total forest is damaged by air pollution. This included about one half of the famous Black Forest. Switzerland, despite its careful management of its forest reserves, has recorded damage to 14% of her forest trees due to the pollution that originates outside its borders. For this crime, we and our children’s children will suffer. . . .

graphC02#4 Finally, scientists can measure climate change by studying the levels of CO2 in our atmosphere. As the atmospheric CO2 goes above 350 parts per million by volume, scientists have recorded the melting of ice sheets, rising sea level, abrupt shifts in forest and agricultural land, and increasing intensity and frequency of extreme events like floods, wildfires, and heat waves. But who is speaking up for the planet earth and the limitations on the CO2 levels that it can safely absorb? For this crime, we and our children’s children will suffer. . . .

Conclusion:

So now, in view of what we now know, what should be our reaction to the “family planning” proposed by Pope Francis in the leading question that he offers us for our consideration:

Question 7 f. How can a more open attitude towards having children be fostered? How can an increase in births be promoted?

This question make my blood boil! The world population at the time when Humanae Vitae was published was 3.5 billion. Today’s world population is 7.2 billion. This is more than double. Let’s face it. Our Mother Earth CANNOT SUSTAIN another fifty years of reckless population growth.

Here is the question that a prophetic Francis  should be asking:

Question 7 f. How can a more open attitude towards childless couples be fostered? How can an decrease in births be promoted?

Not to make this change NOW is to blindly continue to disrupt the ecosystems of our dear home and planet. It is to put our entire future at risk. For this crime, we and our children’s children will suffer beyond all measure. . . .

Einstein.worlddestroyed“Our ethical traditions know how to deal with suicide, homicide and even genocide, but these traditions collapse entirely when confronted with biocide, the killing of the life systems of the earth, and geocide, the devastation of the earth itself.”  ~~Thomas Berry