Tag Archives: women

Catholic Groups Praise U.S. Sister-Leaders

For Immediate Release

April 16, 2015

Catholic Groups Praise U.S. Sister-Leaders in
Resolution of Unjust Vatican Mandate

Request similar dialogic processes be used in other Church disputes

Statement from the Nun Justice Project:

The Nun Justice Project is glad to see that the Vatican has removed their mandate against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

Today’s joint statement is testimony to the dogged determination of LCWR sister-leaders to persevere in dialogue with those who unjustly maligned them. It is fitting that in the Year of Consecrated Life, Church officials have at last recognized the good works and impressive leadership of the sisters.

The Nun Justice Project believes that an apology should also have been given to the sisters, but the end of the investigation is a major step in itself. Since no previous Pope ever met with LCWR leadership it is hopeful that Pope Francis met personally with them today. May this meeting inaugurate new era of positive communication between the Vatican and women leaders in the Church.

“As usual, the living example of the women has inspired us,” said Erin Saiz Hanna, a member of the coalition, “The nuns responded to this show of patriarchal abuse by finding ways to resist its intrusion and transformed the process by modeling inclusive dialogue.”

“It is my hope that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will institute similar dialogic processes and procedures for addressing other disputed issues in the Church. said Francis DeBernardo, another coalition member.

Since the LCWR mandate was announced, thousands of Catholics have stood up to call for the end of this unnecessary and demeaning “investigation.” We are gratified that the immense worth of the work of women religious is being recognized. However, we also remain watchful since some still-to-be-implemented aspects of the joint statement could be interpreted as restricting the conscience rights of sisters.

Over the past five years, the Nun Justice Project organized massive support for women religious. Tens of thousands of Catholics petitioned the Vatican and participated in hundreds of public demonstrations, prayer services, vigils, and media events. Their voices have been instrumental in advancing due process, raising up women’s leadership voice and promoting justice in the Church.

For background on the Nun Justice Project’s work addressing the LCWR mandate visit nunjustice.org.

The Nun Justice Project is a grassroots movement supported by the following organizations:American Catholic Council, Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church, Call To Action, Catholics for Choice, CORPUS, DignityUSA, FutureChurch, New Ways Ministry, Quixote Center, RAPPORT (Renewing a Priestly People, Ordination Reconsidered Today), Voice of the Faithful, WATER: Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, Women’s Ordination Conference.

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Follow-up Reflections

American nun group questions
whether LCWR oversight is truly over

Irresponsible Claims for NFP

scared2As a Catholic theologian, I am aware that the Catholic Church tends to be so promotional of NFP as to neglect to inform users that, as in all medical advice, there are potentially dangerous “side effects” to the use of NFP. This practice is unfortunate. It destroys confidence and subverts “honesty in advertising.”

Consider, for example, the medical advice given to patients by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

Q.   How effective is NFP in preventing pregnancy?

A.   Natural family planning is not as effective as most other methods of birth control. One in four women who use this method become pregnant. The method is not suited for the following women:

• Women who should not get pregnant because of medical reasons

• Women with irregular menstrual periods who may not be able to tell when they are fertile

• Women with abnormal bleeding, vaginitis, or cervicitis (these make the cervical mucus method unreliable)

• Women who use certain medications (for instance, antibiotics, thyroid medications, and antihistamines) that may change the nature of vaginal secretions, making mucus signs impossible to read

• Women with certain problems unrelated to fertility (for instance, fever) that can cause changes in basal body temperature  (source)

If our  bishops would include these on a “warning label” with their NFP promotional pitches, then Catholic women who suffered through unwanted pregnancies would feel relieved that it was not their fault that they got pregnant while using NFP.  Meanwhile, those considering using NFP for the first time would be encouraged to know that the bishops are straight shooters and that they are not blinded by ideological and theological factors.

As things now stand, the glowing testimonials in favor of NFP are motivated by the “unspoken truth” that NFP is currently the ONLY OFFICIALLY APPROVED method for regulating pregnancies.  Hence,
Catholics who want to believe that Paul VI could make no major error in drafting Humanae Vitae will want to do fancy cartwheels to demonstrate  that he was 100% right about NFP.

Consider this, for example.  When you visit the  cheerful site known as Catholic Online,  you will hear a Catholic mother of six explaining how she came to hold fast to NFP.   Along the way, however, she makes some pretty fantastical claims:

When women learn to read their cycles, they often report a renewed sense of self-worth. . . .  Women often can’t place their finger on it, but they sense this. Not surprisingly, couples who practice a method of NFP have only a 5% rate of divorce by comparison to the 50% rate in the population at large. Clearly, when couples treat one another with dignity and respect, honoring the wholeness of each person, their relationship is positively effected.

I say “fantastical” because if the text in red were true, then sex therapist and couples counselors would have  used this info by way of shoring up sagging marriages everywhere–and not just among Catholics.  Yet, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is not true.   And this unfortunately is the case, despite the fact that I have heard this claim routinely used in NFP  promotionals.   Hence, this is something like being told to take huge doses of vitamin C to prevent the onset of the common cold.  “Every belief works in the eyes of the believer” (Michael Polanyi).

Mark Twain — ‘What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.’

Fraternally,

Aaron Milavec

Ashamed of my Sexuality

I Was Taught To Be Ashamed of my Sexuality

What if my grandmother had never told me at age 3 that the reason my vagina burned and became red when she washed me with a rough washcloth and scented soap was because my vagina was dirty?

ashamedWould I have not felt different my whole life from all the other girls, that I was inherently dirty? Would I have not felt like I had this secret between my legs that was sure to disgust anyone who had to venture down there? What if my grandmother had told me every inch of me was perfectly normal just the way it was?

What if my mother had never told me, in front of my father, that she was glad she wasn’t a man since she wouldn’t want to have to touch a woman down there because “they bleed and are just nasty”?

Would I have been proud to have a period? Would I have been proud that my body could create life, and thus bleed monthly in sync with the ocean tides and the moon? Would I have not felt deep shame and embarrassment in front of my father, and thus all other males thereafter, for what I was? What if my mother had told me that having my period was a rite of passage into womanhood, that it was something to be proud of and celebrate? That women were strong and that’s why men loved them?

What if my mother, whose body I admired as a young girl and hoped to have one day myself, hadn’t told me that [her] large breasts were ugly and veiny, that large breasts are only attractive when clothed?

ashamed2Would I have stood in the mirror every night after I developed my own breasts and thought about how disgusting they were? Would I have felt the need to always cover myself, even in front of my own husband? What if my mother had told me that no matter what my breasts looked like, they would be beautiful? What if she had told me she loved her body? Would I have loved mine too?

What if my father would’ve never told me that he saw girls being groped when he was in high school and that they giggled… and that I should never giggle if a boy ever did that to me?

Nevermind the issues of sexual harassment or blaming the behavior of the victim, what I heard was: Don’t act like you like it when a boy touches you. That is what the voice in the back of my head has told me my whole life, “pretend you don’t like it or you’ll look like a whore and men don’t like whores.” Why did my knees get weak when the boy I liked touched me? What kind of girl did that make me? What if my father had told me it’s a normal and exciting thing to experience sexual relations with a person of my choosing when I was older? What if he had known that his example and love for me alone was all I needed to grow into a healthy woman with respect for herself? What if I had had my father’s blessing to be a sexual human being without fear of losing his respect or love?

What if my sex education instructors hadn’t told me that I was like a rose, and every time I have sex before marriage, I would lose a petal?

Would I have still felt like damaged goods? Would I have still felt like all I had to offer my future husband was my untarnished body? What if they had told me I was like a book, and every experience adds a valuable chapter of lessons and knowledge to my life? Or what if they had just told me how to have sex safely and left the condemning analogies and personal beliefs at the door?

What if I had never been told that premarital sex is damaging, especially to girls because they crave relationships, not sex?

Would I still have felt so confused over my desire to have sex? Why did I not always crave a relationship? Why did I not feel any guilt when I had premarital sex besides the guilt of knowing what my parents/Jesus/youth counselors would think? Why did sex always feel so normal and intimate and fun and not anyone’s business? Why did it always have to be someone’s business other than mine? What if I had been told that women enjoy sex just like men do, and that sex, premarital or not, is a normal thing that people do?

shame3Our culture sends very conflicting messages to girls. They are pure until they aren’t. They are so much more than what their bodies offer, but they aren’t. Their bodies aren’t good enough, but they cause men to fall. It’s OK to look sexy, but not to actually have sex. What we tell our daughters about sexuality, and more importantly how we make them feel about it, will stay with them their entire lives.

For that reason, I believe it’s so important to be mindful of the way we talk to our daughters, nieces, granddaughters and any young girl. I think it’s possible to convey our personal and religious beliefs without the shame and embarrassment. And if you can’t convey your beliefs without shaming a young girl, maybe you should reconsider some of your beliefs.  (source)

Whether women rise on the last day

[§22. Women do not rise on the last day.]

Brother Andy:

You can say what you like, dear Eugene, I still can’t accept that women are human beings. For if you find the previous argument weak, what do you think of this one? Women and their daughters are not human beings because they do not rise [on the last day]. Why, my friend, will we not marry at the resurrection? Precisely because there will be no women in heaven, since we will all be like God’s angels. And what are the dear angels of God? They are certainly all men and not women!

Father Eugene:

You lay the answer on my tongue! (1) At the resurrection we will not marry, reason – because we will be like God’s angels. The Lord himself gives this reason and he teaches at the same time that this will not stand in the way of the resurrection of either men or women. (2) You are mixing up the condition of our life on earth with the condition of our life after the resurrection, as far as saved married people are concerned. For then neither men nor women will be interested in marrying or other things of the flesh, but they will altogether enjoy themselves in God’s sight, worshipping and praising him. (3) It is ridiculous that you make angels men, that is, in your opinion, they are just ordinary human beings.

Brother Andy:

Will women rise? Where is it written? Yes, we read about the daughter of the headmaster (Mt 9) that the Lord Christ raised her up, but this was to earthly life. You must notice that the Lord himself says on that occasion: “The girl is not dead. She is asleep.” For if she had been dead, he would not have raised her. Since she was only asleep however, it wasn’t strange that she could rise again.

Father Eugene:

You are asking (1) whether it is written in Scripture that women will rise [on the last day]? How can Peter then say (1 Pet 3) that women (with the men) are heirs to the grace of life? They will inherit the grace of life together with the men. Well, then they will rise and not remain in death. (2) But that you, dear Andrew, explain the words of the Lord who calls the death of a girl a sleep in Matthew’s gospel in this way that she had not really been dead, is almost blasphemous and does not become a religious person as you are. Think about it!

[§23. When a woman dies, she returns to nothingness.]

Brother Andy:

Explain it to me as you like, dear Eugene, for I cannot understand how the Lord would otherwise have raised her up again. That is also what the servant of the headmaster means when he came to his boss and told him that his daughter had died. For he added: “Why bother the Master any further?” For he knew that, once a woman has died, it was useless to call on Christ’s assistance.

Father Eugene:

Pay attention. (1) Don’t you remember at least this much from your being a Christian? The Lord raised her up through his omnipotent power. That was a easy for him as waking her up from sleep. (2) The witness of the servant unnerves your previous contention that the girl was not truly dead, but only asleep. (3) The ground why that servant did not want to bother the Lord any further seems more his politeness, but it arose from the fact that he considered the Lord only a human being. Don’t you think so too?

Brother Andy:

I know in that case what to believe. Since we are both gut Roman Catholics, it will hopefully not too far that we also produce some relevant facts from our Church’s legends. We read about the saintly Bishop Germanus that he miraculously raised up a donkey but nobody will conclude from that that the donkey will rise [to eternal life]. Therefore it does not follow from the fact that the little daughter was raised to life, that women will rise again [on the last day].

Father Eugene:

For us Catholics, indeed, (1) that story is indisputable and no one should take exception to it. Unfortunately we experience that heretics do not behave like that, rather they burst out in derision. We should be aware of that. (2) Also, we should notice a dissimilarity between Christ and Germanius. For Germanius did not raise the donkey through his own power, as Christ raised the little girl. (3) When we say that the fact of the girl’s raising by the Lord points to his raising all women at the last day, then we are speaking of an example of the true and final resurrection, namely that of intelligent creatures.

[§24. Women are illiterate.]

Brother Andy:

When we start from the essentials of our Christian Catholic doctrine, who is so blind and brainless that he does not see and understand that women are surely not human beings. For women don’t get involved in words and scriptures, but only in deeds.

Father Eugene:

Now you’re really joking, Andrew! For in that case they are good Catholics, don’t you think?

[§25. It means nothing that the risen Christ appeared first to women.]

Brother Andy:

It is an article of Christian faith in which women give themselves a lot of credit! In the same way, as far as I know, they appeal to the article of the resurrection of Christ, when they say: “Are we not human beings since Christ after his glorious resurrection revealed himself first to women?” To that we need to answer that, when Christ was born, he showed himself first to the ox and the ass, yet the ox and the ass were never human beings.

Father Eugene:

The revelation of the Lord (1) only has meaning for intelligent creatures for whose good he came into the world. (2) It is unbecoming and laughable to say that the new born Saviour, a small child unable to speak, showed himself to the ox and ass. Being seen by an ox and an ass, and showing oneself to them are two different things.

[§26. Christ knew that women can’t keep secrets.]

Brother Andy

As to laughing, that surely should not be at my expense, especially concerning women. You have overlooked something in your answer, Father Eugene: for you should have indicated the reason why Christ showed himself first to women. Since you did not do so, will I take the trouble to make up for it. It happened especially to ensure that his resurrection would be spread around and communicated as soon and as efficiently as possible. For whatever a woman knows, she passes on immediately not only to neighbours and close friends, but soon the whole community, yes the whole town hears of it.

Father Eugene:

There are many reasons why Christ revealed himself first to women. (1) I myself consider the best reason that it happened because the women were the first to seek the Lord. The men, such as the apostles, had hidden themselves and barred themselves in. They did not have the courage to make such an early start as seeking the Lord on the third day after his prophecy and promise. (2) You ascribe it to the loquacity and feebleness of women. This would certainly have been useful to the Lord if he had lacked other means. (3) You must remember that these were saintly and devout women (whom we Catholics honor so much on that account). They announced the resurrection to the disciples not with noise and fuss, but with the highest devotion and modesty.

[§27. Women cannot be valid witnesses.]
Prejudices like this came from Roman Law, which was accepted later in secular and Church Law.

Brother Andy:

Right! They announced the resurrection. Just what I was going to point out. For it is commonly known that women are to be rejected as witnesses and to be counted as useless. Therefore the Lord did not use them as witnesses, but only for propaganda.

Father Eugene:

Not for propaganda, (1) that was the task of the Apostles in due course, but only to pass on the message to the disciples so that these could come and see things for themselves, or at least remember the Lord’s promise. (2) But that women are not accepted as witnesses in secular courts, is not relevant here. There is good reason for it, but that does not reduce them to being less than human. The same was indicated earlier, namely why women cannot be appointed to public offices.

[§28. St Thomas was put off by the testimony of the women.]

Brother Andy:

Look at Thomas, the doubter. Precisely for that reason he did not believe the other disciples and accept that the Lord was risen, because they had heard it only from women and not from men.

Father Eugene:

It contradicts (1) the statement of the disciples who say: “We have seen the Lord” (Jn 20). They don’t say: “The women told us about him and his resurrection.” (2) Yes, they had heard the same thing earlier from the women, but this time they had seen it for themselves, as they tell Thomas. (3) How can you blame the women, if Thomas did not believe them? It was due to his lack of faith and his distrust of other people.

[§29. The Apostles rejected the testimony of women.]

Brother Andy:

How did the Apostle then believe at first that the women were mad when these said that the Lord was risen? Well, it is such a strange and unusual event to hear something from women that is intelligent and true!

Father Eugene:

The Apostles considered the words of the women fools’ talk and monkey business (as Lk 24 shows), but who was to blame for this? The women and their message, or rather the Apostles themselves? For example, when heretics consider everything the Roman Catholic Church commands to be idolatry and us idolators, as their writings and speeches manifest, is that the fault of the Catholic Church, or their own fault? I believe it is their own fault. The same applies here. (2) Notice also that St. Peter (whose see has been inherited by our Father the Pope, as no one will deny) persuaded by their message, dressed and ran quickly to the tomb, and saw for himself that he was not there and risen. We can learn from this that if he had reckoned women foolish and feeble, he would have disregarded their message and omitted a good action. (3) It was mainly due to their lack of faith and fearfulness that the Apostles gave so little credence to the women. That is why, though they held the women otherwise to be trustworthy, they could not so easily agree to them in this case until they themselves had seen and experienced it. And what wonder is it that they did not believe the women, since they did not believe the Lord, their master and the truth itself when he had so often foretold and promised such a resurrection, yes, when he even showed himself to them after he had risen from the dead?

[§30. Women should not be baptised.]

Brother Andy:

The women have also no claim on the holy sacraments. If women [in the Old Testament] were not circumcised, they should also not be baptised, for baptism was instituted to replace circumcision. What has been done to them so far, has been purely to avoid upsetting them.

Father Eugene:

Such a thing I have never heard a Catholic religious say, and I don’t believe that even the Holy Father the Pope has such an unfriendly attitude to women as you have! The holy sacraments certainly are meant for women. For (1) just as in the Old Testament they were considered circumcised, through their men as mentioned earlier, so should also in the New Testament baptism not be denied to them. (2) That they themselves are baptised and in their own flesh in the New Testament we owe to a very wise dispensation of God who has a wider view in the New Testament which is not only directed at the Jews but also at the pagans. (3) Your opinion is also contradicted by the fact that in the whole of Christendom women are baptised as much as men, and this not only to avoid upsetting them, as you maintain, but necessarily and on account of God’s command: “Go and teach all nations and baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

[§31 Scripture reserves baptism to men.]

Brother Andy:

But what is the sentence that follows on it? It says: “Qui baptizatus [= male form in Latin], i.e. the man who believes and is baptised”, and not “qui fuerit baptizata [= female form in Latin], i.e. the woman who is baptised”. It also does not say: “salva erit [= female form in Latin], i.e. she will be saved”, but “salvus erit [= male form in Latin], i.e. he will be saved”. In this place you have to pay attention to the letters that are used.

Father Eugene:

I am almost ashamed to reply to that! I wish there was a schoolboy here who could speak for me! (1) As to the pronoun quis, ‘who’, it means as much as “a human being whoever he or she may be”, that is: it refers to both genders. It applies without difference to both men and women. Since in Christ there is no longer man or woman, as we have already seen from the Apostle Paul. (2) As to the words baptizatus (baptised) and salvus (saved), these are formulated as masculine in the Latin language. But in the Greek language, as in our own mother tongue [German] this does not apply. (3) Therefore it is utterly ridiculous that you maintain we should pay attention to the letter here, and not to the example and the mind.

[§32. Women were not present at the Last Supper.]
For the scriptural background, read Tunc and Maguire.

Brother Andy:

The same is true with regard to the holy sacrifice of Mass or the sacrament of the altar, as some call it. Christ celebrated this with his disciples as with men and human beings. He did not allow women to approach the table. Otherwise he would have had to start washing the feet of the women, if he did not want to seem ill-mannered.

Father Eugene:

What are you saying now?! Andrew, you must have watched all the business of women since you bring out so many things about them. I thought I was the only one who was so interested in them, so that I could take care of them and protect them! Ha, ha, ha! For though the Lord Christ does not invite women to the table at the service of Holy Mass, even less washed their feet beforehand, he has all the more wanted to commend them to us, in order that we nourish them too [through holy communion], and not only the men, as has been the custom for many hundreds of years, and also sprinkle holy water on them, on their heads, and other limbs and also their feet. And why should the abbess not wash the feet of her nuns, and the abbott that of his monks?

[§33. Christ did not want to have anything to do with women.]
The Gospels show just the opposite.

Brother Andy:

To make a speedy end of it, my dear Eugene, what must I make of the word in Jn 2 which Christ speaks to his mother: “Woman, what have I to do with you?” If he does not want to have anything to do with his mother, how much less with other women.

Father Eugene:

It is quite right, Andrew, that, as is becoming to a Catholic Christian, you ask your question about the worthy mother of God with more circumspection. For she may not be treated as just any ordinary woman. If Christ the Lord did not want to be told what to do, it was not to oppose his mother, but because it was not yet the time to perform a miracle (as he as omniscient Saviour alone knew). Even so he decided to help the young couple concerned and to please his mother.

[§34. Women have to wear veils because they are impure.]
Read the scriptural background for this, and how women were considered unclean.

Brother Andy:

St Paul also says that women should be veiled because they are impure. It follows from it that women cannot be saved because nothing impure can enter the Kingdom of God. And if they are not saved, I do not consider them human beings.

Father Eugene:

The reason (1) why the Apostle tells women to be veiled is not really that they are impure, because it is a question here of public worship. He tells them to be veiled for the sake of good order, and to show their obedience, or as the text literally says, because of the angels, who, as Chrysostom explains, are their witnesses of obedience or disobedience. (2) That women are sometimes held to be impure, belongs to the many defects and weaknesses we have to put up with in life. (3) Such defects and shortcomings in women as happens to them in life, do not detract from their salvation, as little as their bearing children as we saw before.

[§35. To be perfect you have to give up contact with women.]

Brother Andy:

Christ himself said: “Who wants to be perfect should give up on woman”. That’s why he took no wife, and that’s why the holy Apostles got rid of their wives, and advised other men to do the same.

Father Eugene:

It has to be understood conditionally that Christ tells those who want to be perfect to leave their wife; if, namely, the woman would oppose a man who wants to be perfect. Because he also says that one should equally leave one’s parents (Mt 19 and elsewhere). (2) He did not marry himself because it contradicted his mission and his task in the world. (3) The fact that the Apostles left their wives and so wanted to set an example to others, should not be extended beyond the task they had to accomplish in this world and the context of their own time. We are speaking here about the ordinary life of people, not about the clergy in our own time.

[§36. Females are born as abnormalities.]
This is what Thomas Aquinas taught, and was his main reason for excluding women from ordination.

Brother Andy:

I am keeping you too long, Father Eugene. Otherwise I could give you many more arguments by which I can prove that women are no human beings. It’s no use that you contend that every creature gives birth to its own kind, and that is why women must be human beings because, as mentioned earlier, they do give birth to human beings. Also, it’s no use that someone may be so bold as to tell a person to his face: “What? Was your mother a pig or a dog?” For then we can reply: “My mother was a woman, and nothing more.” And note, when a woman produces a daughter, she gives birth to the same kind, for she has given life to something equal to her a monstrum [= abnormality].

Father Eugene:

Experience shows (1) that every creature gives birth to a being according to its own kind. (2) Small wonder that women get impatient when they are taunted as not being human, and then become personal! (3) The giving birth is the same, whether the child is a son or a daughter, because she can only give birth as she conceived from the man.

[§37. The abnormality of women shows up in their menstruation.]
About this taboo, read Ranke-Heinemann.

Brother Andy:

The giving birth may be the same, but the birth is not. For when, as mentioned, the birth is a girl, it is a monstrum, as the mother herself. And there is nothing new, as far as the sons are concerned, that women also give birth to human beings who are not of the same kind as they are. For from a horse or a mule, only a donkey is born, from horse shit (excuse the expression) beetles, from sweat lice, from dust fleas, and so on. From a philosphical point of view, one knows that a human being has a pure nature. But woman is poisoned. The experience is found in her monthly flow, how harmful it is. I need not say more about this.

Father Eugene:

Monstrum is in one word: erratum naturae propter materiae inconstantiam, that is: a defect in nature because of an irregularity of matter, as known from Aristotle. Well, be so cheeky to point out such an erratum, a defect in nature, in women as they are born every day in the unhindered course of nature? Sometimes also monstrosi partus (miscarriages) of female gender are born, but the same happens with those of male gender. (2) As to the unequal birth among cattle or insects, who does not notice that these do not at all fit the birth of women? (3) If a human being has a pure nature, from a philosophical point of view, so has woman. As stated in this connection, also her monthly cleansing.

[§38. Sirach teaches that women are evil.]
Read Sirach.

Brother Andy:

My final summary: however poisonous an animal can be, a woman is more poisonous, yes more devilish and more malicious than the devil himself. That’s why Sirach says: “It is better to live among lions and dragons than with an evil woman”. Although one can find quite a few of them who politely hide their malice from people under conventional modesty, their inborn character and nature remains in secula seculorum [in all eternity]! For if one is good, a thousand will be against her. But if one is as keen as the others on venomous malice, then no letter or seal of a Lord will be of use, for women do not really want to leave the last word to anyone else. So they will not be able to refrain from asking another question. Namely, if they are no human beings, but beasts, to what animal should they be compared, so that they follow its example?

Euripides gives them an answer to this. They resemble hyenas, that is they are like: corpse-eaters, gluttons and wolves. If the women desire to know for what reasons they are compared to this, then they should be told: this corpse-eater, glutton, wolf has the head of a cat, the stomach of a wolf, and the tail of a fox.

From cats women have it in their nature to swallow, lick, stick near the stove, purr, prune, scratch and scrape, claw with sharp nails, hiss, spit, seethe, and show a venomous mood.

From their wolf’s stomach women have it in them never to be satisfied, the grabbing, embezzling, pilfering and robbing, growing lazy, greedy, harsh and bitter, having a big mouth and green eyes, being wild till pinned down.

From the fox women draw every ploy, trick and deceit, the nestling in strange nests, the being no good except for the bladder, and that’s why they can neither be cooked nor roasted. And just like the fox which is only useful when skinned, so quite a few women are only of use when they die.

Father Eugene:

You are a Benedictine [= someone who blesses]. OK. Beware that you don’t become for pious women a Maledictine [= someone who curses]. Use that kind of language only about evil women. I myself do not doubt, yes I agree, that evil women should be painted in such or similar colours and be exposed to the whole world.

But please, what we have discussed so far in great confidence and for the sake of the spirit, take with you in good trust. And, please, in the future leave out your teasing as if I love women – realise what you are saying! I have done my best to make clear what I find good or evil in this matter. See my right hand, and my trust. Goodbye!

End of this discussion

English translation © John Wijngaards

Numbering of the sections and purple commentary between brackets added by John Wijngaards

A thorough and profound description/ argument and conclusion, together with extensive replies

Concerning the question

Whether Women are Human Beings or not?

Put together mostly from Sacred Scripture, the remainder from other authors and experience itself / The German not earlier seen in print: but now available for everyone’s good instruction.

Dedicated to the female sex / in their defence as they deserve / comically written and published in the form of a conversation.

By a special lover of love and of modesty, anno 1617.

The Battle over Birth Control for Developing Nations

The Battle over Birth Control for Developing Nations–Melinda Gates vs. Vatican

melinda-gates1Melinda Gates, wife of billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates, recently caused controversy when she pledged billions of dollars to extend “affordable, life-saving contraceptive services to an additional 120 million women in the world’s poorest countries by 2020.”1 Speaking at the recent London Summit on Family Planning, Gates had returned from a visit to sub-Saharan Africa with stories of women who snuck away from their husbands to obtain birth control shots at a local clinic, only to be turned away as the clinic had run out of the product. “My goal is to get [family planning and birth control] back on the global agenda,” Gates told Newsweek.2

The issue of contraception is important ar0und the globe, as Gates suggested, evidenced by the sheer magnitude of people affected by the choice to use it. Currently, “about 358,000 women and 3 million newborns die each year worldwide due to pregnancy and childbirth. Ten to 15 percent of those numbers are believed to be deaths caused by unsafe abortions.”3 Gates believes that these mortality rates could be lessened significantly if promotion for birth control and contraceptive supplies were available in developing countries.

However, as a self-proclaimed Catholic woman, Gates has also had to contend with her own religious beliefs when choosing to support the extension of contraceptive services worldwide, and ultimately chose to support “social justice,” something she felt was not fully visible in the church’s stance on contraception. The Catholic Church is steadfastly opposed to the use of artificial birth control and is quite outspoken about this issue. Melinda Gates’ pledge to provide birth control to developing nations is only one example of the long debate on whether access to artificial birth control should be available or promoted in developing nations. One large issue in the debate, particularly on the African continent, is the use of birth control to protect against sexually transmitted diseases—particularly the HIV/AIDS virus.

The Vatican’s Opposition to Artificial Contraception

On a 2009 flight to Cameroon for his first papal visit to Africa, Pope Benedict XVI told reporters that AIDS is, “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem.”4  The unwaveringly negative opinion of birth control held by the Catholic Church has caused much controversy in respect to developing nations in recent years. And, though African patronage is considered vital to a growing Catholic church, the African experience with AIDS has been quite destructive. AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since the 1980s.5

Just as HIV/AIDS has been consistently devastating, the Catholic Church has been consistently and staunchly against the use of birth control since the debate began. In his 1968 Encyclical Letter entitled Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI outlined the Catholic Church’s opinion of artificial methods of birth control, writing that, “it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.6

The Church’s condemnation of artificial methods of contraception have recently caused heated debates surrounding the issue which, in developing nations like some of those on the African continent, could mean the difference between life and death. Rebecca Hodes, who works as an AIDS activist for the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, responded to the Pope Benedict XVI’s dismissal of condoms as a preventative measure by saying that, “his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans.”7  However, the spread of AIDS is not the only issue that must be addressed in the battle over birth control; unintended pregnancy is also an important issue in the birth control debate.

The Call for Birth Control in Africa and Asia

melinda-gates2A fifty-two page report created by the Guttmacher Institute in New York urged for new methods of birth control to reach 148 million women in three regions of Africa and Asia where there are 49 million unintended pregnancies every year resulting in 21 million abortions. The study states, “sub-Saharan Africa, south central Asia and southeast Asia are home to 69 percent of women in the developing world who have an unmet need for a modern method…seven in 10 women with unmet need in the three regions cite reasons for nonuse that could be rectified with appropriate methods.”

The study also noted the various reasons these women did not choose modern preventative birth control methods. These reasons included health fears, opposition to contraception and opposition from partners. The findings of the study concluded that, according to co-author Jacquline Darroch, “the need for contraception [in these areas] requires not only increased access and counseling, but the development of new methods that better meet women’s needs.”9  “In total,” the study states, “one in four of the latter’s total of 195 million women had an unmet need for modern birth control.”10

Birth control’s main purpose, the limiting of procreation, is heavily debated from both religious and logistical perspectives. On a grand scale, the choice whether or not to use birth control for the limitation of procreation, too, could lead to the stifling of a nation’s population or to the growth of a nation through population boom.

The Nigerian Debate over Population Growth

melinda-gates3In Nigeria, where the Nigerian president is actively considering a mandate on birth control within the nation he governs, the issue is being played out on the national level. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan stated that too many uneducated people are having too many children and urged citizens to only have as many children as they can afford.11

Writing in response to President Jonathan’s statements in regards to birth control, African journalist Sola Odunfa describes her own belief that having children is a mainly financial concern, “If you are rich you may have as many [children as you want],” Odunfa writes. “On the other hand if you are a ‘common’ man or woman, that is you do not own a house and car and you must seek an appointment before you may see your bank manager, you must limit your family size to what the political elite dictate. Otherwise you all starve and your children end up living under the bridge.”12 Odunfa’s warnings against procreating beyond a family’s financial means are ultimately routed in the fear of the devastating effects of poverty in the face of overpopulation.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the United Nations has estimated that the population could grow by as many as 240 million by the year 2050.13  So, the President’s decision to back birth control is based on his desire to elevate the quality of life of his people. However, he recognizes the sensitive nature of the issue in regards to religious practice.  “We are extremely religious people… It is a very sensitive thing,” Jonathan stated. It is difficult for you to tell any Nigerian to number their children because… it is not expected to reject God’s gifts.”14   A BBC-created guide dissecting mass birth control programs, such as the one suggested in Nigeria, cites overpopulation as an important worldwide concern in the fight against poverty, despite religious opposition to artificial contraception:

Many people think that God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” can be taken too far. It’s generally accepted that over-population will seriously damage the earth and the lives of most people on it. Large increases in population have already damaged the environment and condemned many people in Africa, Asia and Latin America to poverty.15

Religious motivations as well as economic stability are both important factors in the debate over birth control, but Nigerian journalists and politicians are not the only pundits weighing in on the controversial issue. Many Nigerian citizens also have strong opinions about the desire to mandate birth control. In the face of these concerns, native Nigerian Chinwuba Iyizoba is appreciative of the proposed population growth in Nigeria. “Western media are shrilly calling for Nigeria to put a check on her population growth,” Iyizoba writes. “No way, sorry. We Nigerians are rejoicing.”16  Iyizoba cites the benefits of financial security for aging parents, keeping birthrates at replacement level and the maintenance of a dynamic youthful workforce.17

Who Has the Control over Birth Control?

Iyizoba describes population growth within his nation as the prerogative of himself and other citizens of his nation. There are various anti-contraceptive activists who, like Iyizoba, understand the elective use of birth control an important right, and the imposition of contraceptive methods by outside parties is an invasive and imperialistic act. Some find rich nations’ funding of birth control in third world countries as a performance of imperialistic control which not only over-steps personal human rights when mass birth control programs are implemented but also executes forms of gender bias and eugenics.18

Gender discrimination in the implementation of mass birth control programs is clear; it is most often women who must, unjustly, bear the burden of implementing mandated birth control methods, which inherently chastises female fertility as something negative and something to be controlled. Similarly, mass birth control programs, which, as President Jonathan of Nigeria suggested, urge impoverished and uneducated peoples to stop having or to have fewer children are exercising a form of class bias that seeks to reduce specific ethnic or socioeconomic groups. Thus, the governmental imposition of birth control on a nation’s population may be considered a violation of human rights.

Conclusion

A compilation of factors has recently brought the debate over the distribution and use of artificial methods of birth control into the spotlight. Gates’ pledge to fund the distribution of birth control in developing countries is only the most recent event in a long and tumultuous battle over the right to choose. The Vatican’s unwavering stance on the issue of artificial contraception has been the subject of much controversy in the face of the devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic and issues of population growth and poverty.

The push for birth control on the part of national governments, like that in Nigeria, has also been a source of pressure on the populations of those living in developing nations. Though President Jonathan and Melinda Gates seem to have the benefit of the people in mind, anti-birth control activists view large-scale efforts to mandate birth control as efforts to excise groups of people or lower classes in developing nations.The culmination of these factors has led to a very divided public, with some, like Chinwuba Iyizoba, adamantly opposed to mass birth control programs and others, like Melinda Gates, who have pledged time and money to the cause of expanding the distribution of birth control worldwide.

Though powerful and important people and organizations are taking charge and issuing statements as to whether artificial contraception should be utilized, the true issue is in regards to who has the right to choose: organizations or individuals? And, if it is the individual who has the right to make the decision to use birth control, should they, then, be allowed access to contraceptive methods? And who should ultimately be responsible for supplying methods of artificial birth control—private organizations like the Gates’ foundation, or national governments? For now, these issues remain unresolved and the two sides of the debate remain polarized while the Vatican staunchly opposes the use of artificial contraception and the Gates foundation continues with their plans to fund birth control in developing nations.   (source)


1  McGovern, Celeste. “Gates summit raises billions for birth control.” National Catholic Register. July 23, 2012.
2  Castillo, Michelle. “Melinda gates promotes birth control as an important part of family planning.” CBS Interactive Inc. July 11, 2013.
3  Ibid.
4  Cernansky, Rachel. “During Africa Visit, Pope Knocks Condoms for HIV Prevention.” Discover Magazine. March 17, 2009.
5  Lewis, David. “Benedict visits Africa for first time as pope.” Reuters. March 17, 2009.
6  Pope Paul VI. “Humanae vitae.” July 25, 1968.
7 Butt, Riazat. “Pope claims condoms could make African Aids crisis worse.” The Guardian. March 17, 2009.
8  “New birth control methods urged for developing world women.” The Independent. May 14, 2011.
9  Ibid.
10  Ibid.
11  “Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan urges birth control.” BBC. June, 27. 2012.
12  Odunfa, S. P. “African viewpoint: Should birth control be mandatory?” BBC. July 11, 2012.
13  “Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan urges birth control.” BBC. June, 27. 2012.
14  Ibid.
15   ”BBC Ethics Guide.” BBC.
16  Iyizoba, Chinwuba. “Africa needs population growth, not birth control.” Crisis Magazine. May 25, 2011.
17  Ibid.
18  “BBC Ethics Guide.” BBC.

A NUN’S DANGEROUS TALK

A NUN’S DANGEROUS TALK 

The Vatican has banned even discussing female priests. That hasn’t stopped Sister Joan Chittister

chittisterJoan Chittister might seem an unlikely type to defy the Pope, let alone get away with it. Her dress is sensible, her voice matter-of-fact bordering on clarion, its timbre reminiscent of the kind of sister who for better or worse acquainted generations of parochial schoolers with Catholic discipline. But the liberal church activists who came to hear Chittister speak last week at a Los Angeles conference knew better. They were aware that Sister Joan, her vows notwithstanding, is a longtime feminist firebrand in the midst of a daring gambit. “If Scripture has nothing at all to say about the ordination of women,” Chittister asked, “on what basis do we use Jesus as our right to obstruct it?” Her audience thought for a moment, clapped and finally broke into cheers.

Female ordination may be one of the last live bones of contention between the Roman Catholic Church and its U.S. flock. Most American believers have long gone their own way regarding birth control or abortion. But that is not an option when it comes to who celebrates the sacraments, even though 71% of American Catholics surveyed in a May 2000 Gallup poll favored having female priests. Still, Rome has not budged on the issue. In 1994 Pope John Paul II emphatically restated the ban in a pastoral letter, and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared his decision “infallible” and “not…open to debate” [due to the constant teaching of the church]. The gag order, even more than the edict, drove church liberals to distraction.

So much so that Chittister, 65, found a way to flout it that the Vatican could not ignore. The tussle began last spring, when Rome learned that the resident of the Mount St. Benedict monastery in Erie, Pa., had agreed to address the first international conference of a group called Women’s Ordination Worldwide in Dublin. The conference clearly challenged the debate freeze, and there were even rumors it might “ordain” its own female priests. Accordingly, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life sent a letter directing Chittister’s prioress, Sister Christine Vladimiroff, to issue a “precept of obedience” forbidding Chittister to attend on pain of undefined “just penalties.”

At least one other superior receiving similar orders complied. Vladimiroff flew to Rome to discuss the issue. She returned unswayed, and on the night before Chittister’s departure for Ireland, Vladimiroff handed her a letter–co-signed by 127 of Mount St. Benedict’s 128 active nuns–stating that she would not relay the command. The grounds: Mount St. Benedict is run on a model of “co-responsibility” rather than a “superior-subordinate” model, and prayerful consensus did not support the travel ban. “Silencing is inappropriate. It’s patronizing and treats adults as children,” Vladimiroff told TIME. “I cannot ask myself to be complicit” in it.

Several other female Benedictine monasteries added their support. Thirty-five of Mount St. Benedict’s younger nuns pledged that if Chittister were punished, they wanted to share her penalty. Chittister flew to Dublin and in an act of nervous bravado told the crowd, “We’re not going to let a little letter from Rome get us down.” There were no ordinations.

And then Rome blinked. Papal spokesman Joachim Navarro-Valls stated that there were no plans for disciplinary measures “in this case.” A spokeswoman for the Dublin conference crowed that “the Vatican has conceded that it can’t enforce” the ban or discussion and that the conference has opened “a door that the Vatican thought it could keep closed.”

Well, maybe. “In this case” hardly constitutes a white flag. “What ever happened to obedience?” complains a ranking Vatican official. “This is a cancer. Do you let it grow?” And yet, having first threatened Chittister and then appearing to honor Vladimiroff’s principled refusal, the Holy See, should it reverse course again, risks looking like a faceless male bureaucracy intent on crushing a pair of modern Joans of Arc.

Chittister revives the duel each time she speaks out, as she did last week in L.A. Says a cautious Vladimiroff: “I believe we were blessed with a grace to see the issues clearly, and I’m hoping that the Vatican may also be blessed with new insights into the most loving way to deal with it.” But, she adds, “I worry for me. I worry for the community. And I worry for the church, whom I love.”  (source)

CHITTISTER: “The church has historically discussed slavery, usury, the divinity of Jesus. Why would you not discuss issues pertinent to women?”

When a Priest Falls in Love

Mandated celibacy is a form of violence done to those called to ordained ministry but not to celibacy.  While these priests can have a profound sense of Call, celibacy never really finds a home within their hearts, regardless of the spiritual facade their bishops or spiritual directors attempt to wrap it in.  Celibacy is something they try to tolerate but deep down an intense loneliness prevails.  The thought of growing old as a celibate, and someday retiring in a home for priests, brings more pain than comfort.  Although their loneliness may diminish at times, it is often in the background of their lives, a kind of darkness that will not go away.
 
Priests who fall in love can feel imprisoned within the priesthood as they watch others freely celebrate their love and openly show affection for their significant other. They cannot deny that their love is a holy experience and find themselves perplexed as to why it has put them on a collision course with the priesthood, when, in fact, being in love has brought them new joy and enthusiasm for life. They experience a deep yearning within, not simply for sex, but for the union of two hearts and souls lived in the sacred mystery of love and companionship for the rest of their lives. Mandatory celibacy, however, forces them to face difficult choices. They can secretly embrace this love in the dark and shaming shadows of mandated celibacy, force this love out of their lives, or extract themselves from the priesthood and pursue the relationship. None of these choices seems appealing, but true freedom is found in the latter.

If a priest is in love, it’s hard for him to understand why this love is disqualifying him from the priesthood, especially in light of I John 4:8 where we read that “God is love”. So, why is love an impediment to ordained ministry? Yes, we all know the old party line “Celibacy frees you to love everyone”, but, we also know it’s not true. Married people can and do love others just as passionately as celibates.
 
The fact is, when celibate priests fall in love they find what has been true all along: they are owned by an ecclesiastical institution which has turned romantic love into a force of evil and has an odd obsession with controlling their sexuality, to the point of bordering on a kind of a master/slave relationship. Disguised in religious jargon and contrived theology, mandatory celibacy is really about radical patriarchy (male domination) and  misogyny (whether it be in ordained priestly ministry or as wives of priests, women are perceived as inferior and an evil influence).
 
On the other hand, Christ has no interest in mandated celibacy and even cured Saint Peter’s mother-in-law in respect for Peter’s marriage.  Understanding this, the transitioning priest is justified in separating the will of God from the practice of the ecclesiastical institution.
 
For a reflection about the decision to marry click here. To see the positive role women would have on the priesthood, click here.
 
What about the vows and promises taken on the day of ordination? Things change and change is healthy and inevitable in the maturation process. To live in a dynamic relationship with God is to live in the midst of change. We could not stay in the priesthood because it prohibited changes God was calling us to make. The papacy has made mandatory celibacy and other teachings into idols to which many of us could no longer bow.
 
How can one find visionary leadership in a church that’s reluctant to change? Most of its bishops, especially during the past forty years, were chosen precisely because of their aversion to change and their willingness to attempt to restore the church to some former golden era. Pope John XXIII, Vatican II and countless dedicated priests and bishops worked hard to pry open the windows of the church to let in some fresh air only to find them being closed by a new generation of priests who refer to Vatican II as “Vatican too much”. There seems to be little room in this new Church for reasonable, Spirit-guided change, so many priests find it necessary to leave. Their journeys, prayerfully embarked upon, are inspired by the Holy Spirit. One of the oldest teachings of the church is one’s obligation to live according to the dictates of their conscience.
 
In a healthy maturation process, one moves from the locus of authority from being external to internal.  Author and  Methodist minister, James Fowler, in his book “Stages of Faith” proposes a staged development of faith across a person’s lifespan. Fowler’s first stage is called “Undifferentiated Faith” where an infant’s experience of reality is not distinguished from fantasy.  As the child develops the capacity for concrete thinking, she then moves toward stage two called the “Literal Stage”, where she starts distinguishing reality from fantasy. In this stage, God may be perceived as an old man living in the sky, while heaven and hell are viewed as actual physical places. Here, one believes that if they follow the rules, God will give them a good life.  But they begin to grow out of this stage when encountering conflicts and contradictions to what they hold to be true. The perplexing question, “Why do good people suffer?” begins to challenge them at this stage.
 
Around puberty, a person moves into Fowler’s third stage, “Conventional”.  As in the previous two stages, authority is still located outside of one’s self.  Here, people are not fully conscious of having chosen to believe something, because they are not engaged in any analytical thought about their faith.  It’s called “conventional” because most people at this stage see themselves believing what everyone else believes. They are reluctant to change their beliefs because of their need to stay connected to their peer group. Many church leaders may consciously or unconsciously attempt to keep people in this stage by discouraging analytical thinking about their faith. They imply that questioning one’s faith in itself shows a lack of faith. They prefer people stay in a sort of perpetual childhood where authority is located in themselves and their religion in order to continue exerting control.
 
Many men who leave the priesthood find it is necessary in order to further mature and progress to the next stage. In stage four, “Individuated Reflective” faith, young adults become aware of their freedom and burden to begin to sort through their beliefs, accepting or rejecting them. Here one’s sense of authority moves from the external to the internal.  A person is better able to govern themselves and is less dependent upon rules. The literalism of religious stories begins to give way to deeper meanings. The strength of this stage is the capacity for critical reflection, but the weakness is that a person may “throw out the baby with the bath water”, claim to be atheist, and fail to enter into the next stage.
 
Stage five is the “Integrating Faith” of middle adulthood. Here a person is able to expand their worldview beyond the “either/or” position of the previous stage, toward a “both/and” point of view. People in this stage are willing to cross religious and cultural boundaries to learn from people they may have previously avoided.  Here one believes in God, but not as a literal being living in the sky, and Heaven and Hell are no longer seen as physical places.  They re-examine their beliefs, while at the same time accepting that it is beyond their ability to comprehend. They realize truth can also be found in other religious traditions besides their own and no longer need to accept their faith on a literal level only.  This stage of faith makes it difficult to follow one’s conscious when church leaders insist their way is the only way.
 
Many priests find it necessary to separate themselves from the controlling tendencies of the ecclesiastical institution in order to mature in faith.  The same process is necessary for anyone experiencing the desire to mature when their tradition attempts to hold them  back.  Conservative religion is built upon unhealthy psychology. See this link for more discussion about the maturing process and faith.
 
When leaving the priesthood, it is wonderful, but not always possible, to have the support of family and friends. I found it very difficult to talk with my brother priests about leaving, even after being in a support group with some of them for over 12 years. I heard how they referred to other priests who had left and knew confiding in them would bring more pain than support. Besides, I might have been whisked off to a counseling program if they had reported to the Bishop that one of his priests was about to jump the fence.
 
I’m still amazed that I didn’t feel free enough to discuss something as important as leaving the priesthood with guys I had been meeting with in my “support group” for so long. For me, it became apparent that whatever fraternity we had was a mile wide and an inch deep. But, I think something else was at work. Leaving the priesthood is so taboo that even discussing it with “faithful” priests is perceived as sinful. Deeper still, even the thought of leaving is avoided by those who are repressing it, giving credence to the saying “Sow a thought, reap an action”.
 
If a priest is serious about leaving, it will be helpful for him to associate with others with whom he  can honestly discuss his fears, hopes and dreams.  It is important that he confide in people who are not brainwashed with Catholic fundamentalism, which eliminates his Bishop / Superior and most if not all his priest friends and other conservative Catholics.  The most understanding people I found were from the Corpus organization.  If he can find a Corpus group meeting in his area, that would be a great help. Corpus is comprised of priests and women religious who have transitioned out of ministry as well as other Catholics who are interested in significant change within the church. He may also want to find a good counselor who is supportive of his journey.
 
On the day of my marriage, as I spoke my vows to my beloved, I felt nothing but joy and happiness in the freedom to live my personal life out from under the oppression of mandatory celibacy. These vows made much more sense than the previous ones I had made in front of my bishop seventeen years earlier. The purposes of those were obedience and control, while the purposes of these were for love and companionship. Making the two mutually exclusive is an abuse of ecclesiastical power, an injustice to priests, and contrary to the will of God as found in the scriptures and first thousand years of Catholic Church tradition. The sixteenth century reformers were correct when they taught marriage is a divine right that no ecclesiastical law can negate. When you read the arguments against the practice of mandated celibacy these reformers made, you will find little has changed during the past 500, or so, years. You can find their arguments by clicking here.
 
Abused children are not the only victims of the sex abuse crisis in the Church today. Every priest in active ministry is a victim. Prior to leaving, I remember walking through an airport wearing my collar, when a mother pulled her young child closer to her as I approached. That hurt, and it had everything to do with the stigma of mandated celibacy.
 
Mandatory celibacy defines a priest primarily by sex and places an inordinate amount of attention on his sex life. When the typical lay person meets a priest, they perceive him first and foremost as a “celibate” and have an internal dialogue that goes something like this: “Is he really celibate? I wonder what he does with his sex drive. Is he gay? He must masturbate a lot. God, I hope he’s not a pedophile.” If he’s attractive, they think, “Father what-a-waste”, and, if not attractive, they think, “No wonder he went into the priesthood”. Those who think this occurs because our society is preoccupied with sex are mistaken. It’s always been this way. People are now just more willing to talk about it. The fact remains that, because “celibate” primarily defines a priest by his sex life, he is viewed and understood primarily by sex and for this he suffers now, more than ever. Priests are not “celibates”; they are “human beings”.
 
Priests who leave to marry are not looking only for sex.  From some of the emails received, many Catholics seem to think their quest is all about sexual union.  They cannot seem to see beyond sexual intercourse to the quest that a priest has for love,  emotional intimacy and nurture.  For them, it is all about f**king, which reveals what their marital lives must be like and one can only feel sorry for their wives.  The primary quest for priests who leave to marry is mutual love and intimacy with their spouses of which intercourse is only one part.  I find it offensive when someone implies that a priest leaves because “he can’t keep it in his pants”.  No, the issue is “he can’t keep the rock wall around his heart”.
 
The term “mandatory celibacy” implies that a priest is to abstain from sexual activity.  It objectifies sexual intercourse and separates it from the union of heart and soul that a healthy marriage entails.  “Mandated celibacy” gives the impression that f**king is what marriage is all about and tends to turn women into sexual objects.  Yet, that is not what most priests are after.  They simply long to have another person to love and share their life with like any other normal human being.  Mandated celibacy shames priests for having this desire, and because celibacy is all about sexual abstinence, their sexuality is shamed too.  This is a dark cloud that hangs over the priesthood, which all priests are forced to enter upon ordination.  They are forced to publicly declare that they will forever deny this important part of their lives.  This isolates them and makes them into an oddity that people often pity more than respect.  The problem is forcing celibacy upon priests.  The dynamic would change if celibacy was optional.
 
People may object by saying, “But celibacy is optional. No one was forcing you to be ordained.”  But you are mistaken.  Our Call is from God and it was profound.  The Church has imposed celibacy upon God’s call.  Mandated celibacy was not part of the early Church (Jesus cured the mother of Saint Peter’s wife. Mark 1:30-31)  and never became a law until around 1000 AD.  Mandated celibacy is not the will of God and it has caused tremendous problems in the Church.
 
It’s ironic that church officials, obsessed with controlling priests’ sex lives by mandating celibacy, have themselves created this sex abuse crisis. For centuries, they have constructed a mystical facade around celibacy and their efforts brought welcomed protection and privilege. But, like Toto in the Wizard of Oz, this crisis has pulled back the curtain and no amount of incense can hide the little man pulling the levers.  Mandated celibacy is far more integral to this crisis than the Pope and bishops are willing, or perhaps able, to admit.
 
Click here for a reflection about how mandated celibacy hinders healthy sexual integration. Click here to see the statement extolling the superiority of priests by Lacordaire and how it has created an atmosphere of clericalism, which has allowed sexual misconduct to become more prevalent within the priesthood. Click here to see how celibacy is a necessary component to a  clerical culture that enables sexual abuse. Click here to find where the ultimate responsibility should be placed for this crisis.  Click here to find a history of sex, choice and Catholics.
 
The Vatican’s public response to this crisis was the promise to screen out gay candidates for ordination during their seminary preparation. With this statement, they made homosexual priests the scapegoats in this crisis, even though they know pedophilia is a separate issue. They have taken the easy way out by exploiting society’s homophobia and sacrificing these priests on the altar of self-preservation. This is a far cry from Jesus, who stood with the marginalized and was crucified because of his solidarity with them. It’s revealing that the Vatican intentionally tied pedophilia to homosexuality in order to exonerate mandated celibacy and avoid having to make the systemic changes necessary to find real solutions. For more about scapegoating homosexual priests, click here and here.
 
Recently, the hierarchy paved the way for the ordination to the priesthood of numerous married Protestant clergy.  Most of these clergy left their denominations over the issue of homosexuality.  Their primary desire was to find hierarchical support for their homophobia, and sadly, they have found it within Catholicism.  History will soon prove the Catholic Church wrong on the issue of homosexuality as it has on so many other issues.  Even then, the hierarchy will continue to proclaim itself “Infallible” and those in the pew will again look the other way in order to maintain their illusion of faith.  Click here to see how the Bishops have lost credibility with the majority of Catholics when it comes to the issue of homosexuality.  Click here to read a story about the pain the Bishop’s homophobia has caused one man and how their teaching causes many gay people to commit suicide.
 
I have known I was gay from the time I was four years old, even though I could not articulate it to myself, let alone anyone else.  I thought everyone felt the same as I did, but gradually as I grew up and then went to school and observed others, I realized slowly over time that I was different.  And so did my classmates when I reached a certain age because I did not have, nor have any desire to have, a “girlfriend.”  Naturally, I became the butt of jokes from my male classmates from a very early age.  I became an altar boy at the tender age of seven and noticed immediately the profound respect I had from the older people in the parish that I never had before.  When I announced to my classmates at an early age that I thought I wanted to be a priest, it helped to stop the ribbing (at least from the Catholic ones), now; at least, they saw a reason why I stayed away from girls.  When I entered minor diocesan seminary with other students, we were surrounded by men who gave us an attention, respect, and honor that I had never experienced before.  Never once did they question my sexuality or make me feel uncomfortable.
 
Within the Roman Catholic priesthood, a high percentage of bishops and priests are bisexual or homosexual.  One should not be surprised at this.  As the priest cited above attests, the acceptance and respect shown to celibate priests is a strong drawing card for boys who feel alienated and demeaned because of a homosexual orientation that they themselves probably don’t understand.  The seminary environment is, itself, conducive to nurturing the emotional needs of homosexual men.  From the moment a man enters the seminary, he is surrounded by men and expected to associate primarily with men throughout his formation.
 
From the time a man enters the seminary and throughout his priesthood, special friendships with women are discouraged and often perceived as scandalous, while associations with males are, of course, acceptable.  Eyebrows are raised if a priest goes out to lunch with a woman, but he can live with other men and vacation with other priests, with no questions asked.  If he is gay, this is also a drawing card, as it would be for a heterosexual priest if the situation were reversed and he could freely, without raising any eyebrows or suspicion, associate with women.
 
In no way do we want to imply that an all male environment influences men to become homosexual, because sexual orientation is genetically predetermined.  However, within a male environment, it is understandably easier for a homosexual or bisexual man to have his intimacy needs met than it is for a heterosexual man.
 
Because homosexual relationships are frowned upon in most areas of society, welcomed in very few and completely rejected in others, the priesthood is, and has been throughout the history of mandated celibacy, a refuge for gay men. But, there is another reason why gay men are attracted to the priesthood, they are very good at it.
 
During our years in the priesthood, we found homosexual priests to be some of the most pastorally gifted and successful people in ministry and learned to respect them deeply.
 
Although it is easier for gay priests to have their intimacy needs met, they risk public ridicule if their sexual orientation becomes public knowledge.  Therefore they must keep their sexual orientation “in the closet,” and that is more easily done within a community of celibate males.
 
If the Church’s hierarchy were honest, it would acknowledge the high percentage of priests who are gay and affirm their ministry.  Instead, they appear to be ashamed of these priests and attempt to deny their existence.  In so doing, they are contributing to society’s homophobia and encouraging gay priests to view their God-given sexuality with shame.
 
Some cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests in ecclesiastical offices responsible for homophobic polices are themselves gay, which shows to what degree they will sacrifice their integrity in order to maintain their power.
 
The history of the Church indicates that even some popes have been homosexual.  The hierarchy is well aware of the high number of homosexuals that minister within their ranks.  Sadly, their policy has been to be dishonest and deny it. Gay priests are also expected to join in this falsehood and be dishonest about who they are.
 
Regardless of whether priests are homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual, the real problem lies with the hierarchy’s seeming inability to deal with human sexuality in an emotionally healthy way.  Their outlook exemplifies an Augustinian view where sexual orgasm is perceived as a defiling act rendering the priest impure.  This sick, medieval view of sexuality is the heart of the problem and the foundation upon which mandatory celibacy rests.
 
It is very difficult for priests to integrate their sexuality in a healthy manner when it is perceived as an alien force within them.  My moral theology class in the seminary taught that masturbation (or even so much as thinking about it with delight) was serious sin.  My professor summed it up in these words: “If you are celibate, no orgasms!”  This came from a very conservative moral theologian whom the Church had elevated as an authority on human sexuality in one of the largest seminaries in the United States.  The message that came through to us seminarians was:  “Your sexual drive is evil and alien to who you really are and must be repressed, or you will be punished by God.”  This resulted in seminarians running off to confession every few days with sex as the major “sin” with which they were preoccupied.  Teaching such as this is psychologically damaging and harmful to healthy sexual integration.  This is why there will always be some sort of sexual crisis within the priesthood, and the responsibility for it needs to be placed at the very highest echelon within the Catholic Church’s hierarchy.
 
A priest who is gay and has transitioned created a blog intended to be a safe place where gay or bisexual priests (currently serving or have served) in the Church, can find support. He states, “It is my hope that, through the process of sharing the challenges that exist for being gay and priests, support and encouragement can be found regardless of dispirited rhetoric and dictums from the Church’s hierarchy, which oppresses gay and bisexual men into feeling lonely and shameful. This blog is intended to allow a healing process to exist, whereby priests can find understanding, hope and a sense of peace.” Click here to find the blog “Make It Known”.
 
For an excellent in depth discussion about homosexuality and the Catholic Church, see this article in Commonweal.
 
The experience of falling in love is overwhelming for anyone, but especially for a priest.  When love erupts in a priest’s heart, he realizes everything he has worked for is put at risk – his ministry, reputation, the esteem of parishioners, other priests, his bishop and possibly family and friends.  He risks losing his job, home, health insurance and, sadly in some dioceses, his retirement.  On top of all this is the fear of spiritual condemnation by the Church who claims to wield the power of God Himself.  So, rather than romantic love being a treasured gift from God, it becomes a threat to a priest’s very survival and puts him in crisis.
 
Even though they know this, most priests still yearn for a significant other with whom they can have a close, intimate relationship.  If gay, they long for a male, and if straight, a female companion who will see beyond the curtain of their professional lives into their hearts and embrace them with tenderness, nurture and unconditional love.  Their primary desire is not for sex, but for the warmth, tenderness and nurture that a healthy relationship of love offers.  Unfortunately, mandated celibacy makes all of this “sinful”, or at least, the near occasion of sin, which priests are trained to avoid.
 
It is true that there are priests who are primarily looking for sexual gratification and are willing to use others for this purpose.  But these priests are emotionally troubled and do not represent the majority.  Those who have been recipients of their abuse would call them criminals and possibly even attempt to sue them or their diocese or religious order for their behavior.  Mandated celibacy can and often does attract dysfunctional men who are emotionally and sexually confused.  Furthermore, it can arrest what would have otherwise been healthy psychosexual development because it prohibits the very intimate interaction necessary for this development.  This is particularly true for priests who are “lifers”, i.e. they entered the seminary during high school when the psychosexual factors of their lives were being formed.
 
Women who fall in love with priests—and the same is true for gay men who fall in love with priests—often find a sort of “schoolboy” mentality, which is indicative of men whose psychosexual development has been arrested.  But it is also a product of the environment in which priests live for all the reasons mentioned in the first paragraph of this section above.  A priest in love must keep it hidden and often the first person he tries to hide it from is himself.  What love he is able to show cannot be overt, and like a schoolboy he is awkward trying to express it, feels shame if anyone notices it, and if asked would strongly deny it exists.  What is going on in his heart is euphoric and at the same time frightening.
 
Rather than run from this love, priests may find it helpful to have a good trusted counselor with whom to discuss it.  They may find that attempting to run from love is actually running from God’s greatest gift and something they will someday regret.  On the other hand, careful discernment is necessary to see if he and his companion have the emotional maturity to make a marriage work.
 
Because mandated celibacy prohibits this relationship, proper discernment while in ministry is difficult.
 
If a priest finds that he would like to pursue the relationship, he may be better off leaving the priesthood.  In this way, he can be honest and express his love in the light of day, rather than in the shaming shadows of celibacy, where now his lover is also required to live.  I fail to understand why a priest would expect the person he loves to also live in this oppressive environment that perceives their relationship to be sinful.  She is susceptible to verbal and other emotional abuse if word gets out that they are in love.
 
Such is the sad situation of the Roman Catholic priesthood.
 
In order to leave, the priest needs to look at everything he does as a stepping stone out of the priesthood.  This begins in his own heart with a clear intention to leave, i.e. “Sow a thought and reap an action.”  Finding emotional support is helpful, but if he is looking for priest friends or his bishop to validate his desire to leave, he will be disappointed.  He must believe, not only in God, but also in himself.
 
To someone outside of Catholicism, they may think, “What’s the big deal?  If you want to leave, just leave!”  But it’s not that easy.  Click here to see more reasons why it’s hard to leave.
 
He can leave with or without going through the laicization process.  If he and his beloved want to continue within Catholicism, get married and receive the sacraments, he will need to be laicized and this process can be lengthy, but it can occur after he leaves.  Further information about being laicized is available on this website’s blog, “The Laicization Process”.
 
The first step to transitioning out of the priesthood is for the priest to have a theology that allows him to leave.  He must also perceive that he has the internal resources necessary to create a new life elsewhere.  Even if he finds that this particular love relationship does not end in marriage, it has served to help him mature and begin a new phase of life.  Once a priest tastes the sweetness of intimate romantic love, it becomes the benchmark for other relationships.  He has been to the mountain top of romantic love, where, perhaps to his surprise, he has found the presence of God and a whole new dimension of life.  It changes everything and he begins to see forced celibacy for what it is – an oppressive ecclesiastical law that stands apart from the will of God.  Of course, the situation would be completely different if celibacy was optional.
 
It takes tremendous courage for a woman to confide to a priest that she is in love with him, or for a priest to confide to a woman that he is in love with her.  And of course, the same would apply to gay relationships.
 
When a priest is in love, his love is often expressed with innuendo and under the table, so to speak, which is indicative of the schoolboy dynamic.  If the woman has reached a point in the relationship where she wants to be honest and express her love to him, she will be hurt if it is not reciprocated.  The rejection may occur for several reasons:
 
  • The priest is not in love with her and she has read more into the relationship than was there. In this case, he must ask himself if he intentionally led her on.  If this was the case, he joins the ranks of other abusive priests.
  • The priest lacks the courage to admit his love for her, though he may come around to it in time.
  • The priest may truly love her, but not enough to face the possible ramifications of developing a deeper relationship.  At least, he should admit this.
  • The priest truly loves her, but is too steeped in Catholic theology to ever seriously consider leaving because he fears putting either of their souls in jeopardy.  He feels that by remaining a priest he is practicing “sacrificial love” and awaits their perfect union in Heaven.  In this situation, in the mind of the priest, the ecclesiastical institution has become divinized.
 
By discussing the nature of their relationship, the woman has been the mature one by admitting her love, no longer willing to play schoolboy games.  She has been honest and called him to honesty too.  Like so many women in the history of humanity, she is the hero but is often viewed as the villain.  To all the women who have been hurt by priests who love them but are afraid to come out from behind their collars: your honesty, integrity and courage are an inspiration.  He is a slave of the institution.  Hold your head high and move on to a man worthy of your love.  Healing will come in time.
 
A priest in love normally wants the relationship to continue under the table, because of the crisis it involves for him to be honest about it.  Often when in love, his denial is primarily to himself about the blossoming love relationship, but he cannot deny the joy he feels while in her presence.  It’s time for him to man-up and face the truth.  It may be costly but such is the price of true spiritual growth and maturity.
 
He needs to wake up and see how he has been brainwashed by the Church and embrace this love as a gift from God.  Regardless of what the Church says, this is the real conversion where he takes responsibility for his own life.  Just as he found Christ present in ministry and now in romantic love, he will find him also present and guiding him into the future.  Faith is confidence assurance about things hoped for and conviction about things unseen.(Hebrews 11:1)
 
Mandated celibacy forces a priest to live a sort of schizophrenic relationship with himself when it comes to romance and nurture.  Intimacy lurks beneath the surface of his life and he dreams of someday finding someone with whom he can share it.  If he does come across someone that causes the violins to sound off, he feels both attraction and fear of where it may lead.
 
This can be a challenge for married couples as well, who find their hearts being touched by someone other than their spouse.  It is less an issue if their need for love and nurture are being met with their spouse, and this involves much more than sex.  But, for a priest, there is no one filling this void in his life.  While it is true that some find their needs for intimacy met in their spirituality, many do not.  Christ longs to bring these priests love, nurture and intimacy through another human being and they have a right for this.  Ecclesiastical law can never nullify the divine law to marry and experience the union of two people coming together as one.
 
There are women and priests in love who have made a mutual commitment to somehow live this love within the context of the priesthood.  Some of these relationships are celibate and some are not.  I don’t know how, over the long haul, they do it.  They live in fear of their love becoming public and must sometimes have to lie to keep it hidden.  I don’t think living  this way is emotionally, spiritually or physically healthy.  Yet, some have managed to make it work.  Love will have its way, even if it must be lived within the shaming shadows of celibacy.  However, priests who ask their beloved to live in this way must examine themselves to see if it is truly mutual or the result of a lack of empathy.  In some countries, a priest having a concubine is tolerated, perhaps even expected, but that is not the case in the United States.
 
Only in the Roman Catholic Church is God’s gift of love perceived as evil.
 
Some priests find their needs for love and intimacy met within their life and ministry but many do not.  An obvious solution to this would be to make celibacy optional.  Unfortunately, the Church is entrenched and blind to this, and it’s time for priests in love to move on with their lives.
 
Ecclesiastical leaders eager to pass judgment on priests who seek companionship need to understand that they have turned God’s gift of love into a force of evil.  This is one of the greatest perversions of religion today and they would do well to remember that turning God’s gift of love into a force of evil is the real sin.  By so adamantly maintaining the current law of mandated celibacy, they are mainly responsible for the pain suffered by priests and women in love and for whatever scandal might ensue from these  relationships.
 
A question women who fall in love with priests must ask themselves is, “Am I part of a fantasy world he is creating?” Most priests have no intention of leaving the priesthood, but welcome a romantic relationship, whatever the degree, because it provides relief from the loneliness of the priesthood. Women involved with these relationships can find their lives on hold sometimes for years only to find the relationship to be going nowhere.
 
If a priest is really in love, he would leave. Period. No, “Well, if only…” Or,  “I would leave if ….”  Many women who enter into the world of mandated celibacy and romance end up deeply hurt.  Romance and the priesthood are indeed an oxymoron.  If a priest is unwilling to be honest and discuss the relationship with the one he loves, it is an indication that the relationship is going nowhere.
 
Father, if you are in a romantic relationship, whether gay or straight, you are fortunate.  Giving and receiving romantic love is a huge part of what it means to be a human being.  It is an experience where the presence of God cannot be denied if one is honest about it.  If you are still active in the Catholic Church, no one needs to tell you how complicated the relationship is given the fact that you have to live it within the shaming shadows of mandated celibacy.  It is unfortunate that now the one you love must also try to express their affection within this oppressive system.  Your options are to force this love out of your life, or strive to secretively nurture it within the confines of the priesthood, or leave and live the relationship openly in the light of day.  True freedom is found in the latter.  Romantic love opens up a whole other world.  Your superiors will demonize this relationship, but how can love be evil?  Realize they and their predecessors have turned romantic love into a force of evil, which is the ultimate corruption of religion.  How can their corruption of romantic love be the will of God who identified himself with love?  Because mandated  celibacy is not the will of God, you are free to leave.   (source)
 

More  Resources:

Celibacy as the MAIN REASON for the lack of vocations
Priests talking about celibacy
The Tradition of Abusive Dishonesty
The Trouble with Celibacy in Africa
When a Priest Falls in Love

The Trouble with Celibacy

The Trouble with Celibacy

In Africa, Catholicism’s best growth market, many priests have little use for Rome’s chastity mandate.

By Lisa Miller | Newsweek Web Exclusive |  07 April 2010

LisaMillerIn 1998 a Roman Catholic nun named Marie McDonald wrote a brief and painful summary of her concerns to her colleagues and superiors. It was labeled “strictly confidential.” She was worried, she said, about the sexual abuse of nuns by Roman Catholic priests in Africa

The memo—titled “The Problem of the Sexual Abuse of African Religious in Africa and in Rome” was concise. “Sexual harassment and even rape of sisters by priests and bishops is allegedly common,” it said.  Sisters, financially dependent on priests, occasionally have to perform sexual favors in exchange for money. McDonald analyzed the causes of this widespread violation of chastity vows and then made this plea: “The time has come for some concerted action.” According to the National Catholic Reporter, which made McDonald’s memo public in 2001, Vatican officials did take steps to rectify the problem, but publicly, their stance was chillingly familiar. “The problem is known and is restricted to a limited geographical area,” said Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Vatican spokesman at the time. This is an isolated incident, in other words; we’ve got it under control.

Even as new cases of child sexual abuse by clergy emerge each day in Europe and the United States, abuse in the regions where Catholicism is growing fastest—Latin America, Asia, and, especially, Africa—are still largely ignored. In the West, the focus has been on the violation of minors, and on the role of celibacy in engendering this problem. In Africa, the problem is somewhat more complex. Though many good priests do adhere to their chastity vows, says the Rev. Peter Schineller, a Jesuit priest who has spent 20 years in Africa, sex between consenting or semi-consenting adults is commonplace. Transgression against chastity vows by priests run the gamut from harassment all the way to fathering children; it’s not criminal necessarily, but it’s certainly against doctrine. “The violations are huge,” says Schineller. As the Roman Catholic hierarchy continues to crow over its success and vitality in the global south—the growth rate in Africa and Asia has been about 3 percent a year, twice the rate worldwide—the African church may put mandatory clerical celibacy to its harshest test yet.

Sexual coercion is just part of the story. The 2001 investigation by the National Catholic Reporter uncovered three separate reports of sexual abuse of religious sisters by priests. The story described priests raping religious sisters and then paying for their abortions; sisters fearing to travel in cars with priests for fear of rape; sisters appealing to bishops for help only to be told to go away. “Even when they are listened to sympathetically,” wrote McDonald, “nothing seems to be done.”

Much less well documented is a broader problem: priests with unofficial “wives.” In Africa, “there’s a tremendous problem with the vow of chastity in regard to women,” says Schineller. “Statistics are hard to get, but it’s a reality. Bishops are sometimes involved with it, but mostly they simply have not faced it. It’s kind of a hidden thing. Laypeople want priests, so they put up with the priest having a friend.” About four years ago, Schineller worked with the bishops of Nigeria to produce a pamphlet warning parish priests about the dangers of violating their chastity vows. “There are consequences for all of this,” he said.

Schineller believes that priests all over the world fail to maintain their celibacy—more, he says, than anyone wants to admit—but that Africa presents priests with a unique set of problems. In Africa, parents have a higher social status than childless adults. “To be a man in Africa—it varies from culture to culture—but it is expected that you will have children and a family. To be a celibate male is not a high value.” Also, he adds, priests are often very isolated: they get lonely. “Priests are separated, living out in the bush. Family expectations are high, temptations are strong.” And women, as Marie McDonald put it in her top-secret document, hold an “inferior position.” “It seems,” she wrote, “that a sister finds it impossible to refuse a priest who asks for sexual favors.” (It’s easy to imagine that holds true as well for women who are not nuns.)

Nuns hold a unique place in this sexual landscape. In a universe where AIDS is widespread, sex with nuns is thought to be safe; some imagine it might even have positive, healing powers. Priests who might have visited prostitutes see religious sisters as a healthy alternative. “One of the most dangerous myths in history,” adds Philip Jenkins, professor of history and religious studies at Penn State, “was this: if you were suffering from a serious sexual disease, sex with a virgin would cure it. That had awful consequences.”

The Vatican has known about these sins and crimes for some time. When Benedict XVI traveled to Africa in 2005, for example, he addressed the question of celibacy explicitly. He urged the bishops there to “open themselves fully to serving others as Christ did by embracing the gift of celibacy.”

Indeed, Benedict holds celibacy so high that last year he excommunicated a Zambian priest, the Rev. Luciano Anzanga Mbewe, for being married. Mbewe now heads a breakaway sect of married Catholic priests in Uganda called the Catholic Apostolic National Church, according to The New York Times. “The creation of the splinter church underscored the increasingly vexing problem of enforcing celibacy for Roman Catholic priests in Africa, which has the world’s fastest-growing Catholic population but where there have been several cases of priests living openly with women and fathering children,” the Times wrote. One wonders at the priorities of a man who failed to defrock a priest in Wisconsin who molested hundreds of children but acted so decisively in the case of one who married a consenting adult.

Lisa Miller is NEWSWEEK’s religion editor and the author of  Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination With the Afterlife .  (source)

More  Resources:

Celibacy as the MAIN REASON for the lack of vocations
Priests talking about celibacy
The Tradition of Abusive Dishonesty
The Trouble with Celibacy in Africa
When a Priest Falls in Love

Cardinal O’Malley Challenged

The Beginning of Lent, 2014

Dear Cardinal O’ Malley,

JackSheaI am writing to you and to all the ordinaries of the dioceses in the United States to ask you and your fellow bishops in your role as teachers to provide a clear and credible theological explanation of why women are not being ordained to the priesthood in the Catholic Church. I write not to challenge the teaching of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis on women’s ordination. Rather, my concern is the theological explanation of this teaching— theology being, as Anselm said, “faith seeking understanding.”

Two years ago, I wrote to all of you with the same request. At that time, I was teaching in the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College. The teaching on women’s ordination was extremely important for many of the students—women, of course, but men as well—and a number of them were simply leaving the church because the theological explanation that was offered made no sense to them. Before my letter, I had already stepped aside from active ministry as a priest until women are ordained. After my letter, Jesuit-run Boston College terminated me as a professor. My provincial, with the urging of several archbishops, has given me two “canonical warnings” threatening me with being “punished with a just penalty” for voicing my concerns.

In case you are wondering who is writing to you, I am an Augustinian priest, solemnly professed for over 50 years. Before serving at Boston College (2003-2012), as Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Care and Counseling and Dual Degree Director (MA/MA and MA/MSW), I taught in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University (1981-2002). My areas of expertise are in pastoral care and counseling (Fellow, American Association of Pastoral Counselors) and the psychology of religious development (Ph.D., Psychology of Religion), areas that today would be considered practical theology. I also have graduate degrees in theology, philosophy, pastoral counseling, and social work.

I mention this background because as a practical theologian I too have questions about the theological explanation of why women are not ordained. In all of my study, in all of my training, in all of my counseling experience, and in all of my years of teaching I have not come across a single credible thinker who holds that women are not fully able to provide pastoral care. Likewise, I have not come across a single credible thinker who holds that women are deficient in religious development or maturity. From the perspective of practical theology— a theology of the living church, a theology that takes experience seriously—I find absolutely nothing that does not support the ordination of women to priesthood.

It seems that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, the document on the ordination of women that the Vatican and the bishops keep pointing to, is actually an historical explanation of the issue. It looks back at what it we think Jesus was doing in appointing the 12 Apostles. An historical explanation, however, raises a number of questions. Was commissioning the 12 a unique event? Did Jesus mean to ordain the way we understand ordination today? Was it the intent of Jesus to inaugurate ministry only males could carry out? Did he ever say this? Was Jesus only doing what he thought would work best in the patriarchal culture of his day? What was it about the religious role of the scribes and the Pharisees—all of whom were male—that so incensed Jesus? Was Jesus patriarchal? Did he see women as inferior to men? Did Jesus envision women in ministry? Finally, what about the history of ordination in the last two thousand years, an amazingly checkered history that clearly includes women?

The problem with historical explanations is that they suffer from an incomplete logic. They cannot complete the circle. On their own, they cannot say that “what was” also “had to be.” On their own, they cannot say that this particular event must have this particular meaning. History necessarily involves interpretation. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, for example, gives a paradigmatic meaning to the commissioning of the 12 Apostles. Could not another perfectly logical interpretation of the meaning of that event be that a number of patriarchal men—then and now—were and are dead set against women having any authority over them?

If history is not a good proof, it does have many valid uses. A very brief look at the history of slavery, the history of racism/religious intolerance, and the history of women’s inferiority in the church is helpful in challenging our tendencies to absolutize as well as in chastening some our hallowed self-evaluations. Each of these three issues is about what makes us equal and fully human. Each is the cause of incredible violence—often in the name of God—violence that is beyond all telling.

  • Slavery—That men, women, and children would become slaves either by conquest, retribution, or inferiority was seen as something almost “natural.” Strangely, Jesus and St. Paul did not seem to have had a lot of problems with it. For centuries the permissibility of slavery was seen as part of “the ordinary infallible teaching” of the church. Over time, however, and in conjunction with racism and religious intolerance, the thinking in the church changed dramatically. Now, the inherent evil of slavery is part of “the ordinary infallible teaching” of the church.
  • Racism/Religious Intolerance—Jews came to be seen as “perfidious” and were severely persecuted. Muslims were “infidels” and had crusades led against them by the popes. It is fair to say that for centuries the inferiority of Jews and Muslims was part of “the ordinary infallible teaching” of the church. Later, with the colonization of the Americas and then of Africa, the question was whether or not these native peoples were really human beings with souls like those of European males. It took a long time with immense suffering, but eventually the utter abhorrence of racism and religious intolerance became part of “the ordinary infallible teaching” of the church.
  • The Inferiority of Women—Women’s inferiority was seen as “natural” by the cultures that cradled Christianity. In our history, this inferiority was generously reinforced by the teachings of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. These two wonderful theologians— arguably the two most influential in the West—not only questioned whether women had valid souls, but they outdid each other in describing women in the most vile and profoundly dehumanizing ways. No thinking in the church is more virulent and intractable than the patriarchal strain that so disrespects women. When the Vatican reasoned in the 1970s and 1980s that women could not be ordained because “they are not fully in the likeness of Jesus,” it was affirming an “ordinary infallible teaching” with roots incredibly deep in the substrate of our church.

A theological explanation weighs any issue against the core of the Christian message. It obviously takes historical events and their interpretations into account, but the focus is on those understandings of the Christian faith so central that our Christian identity and the very meaning of the faith are at stake. In their ordinary infallible teaching that women cannot be ordained in the church because “they are not fully in the likeness of Jesus,” the Vatican and the bishops were offering a much- needed theological explanation of the issue. It was an explanation meant to complete the circle, an explanation meant to settle the question of women’s ordination in terms of Christian identity.

Unfortunately, this teaching that “women are not fully in the like- ness of Jesus”—qualifying, as it does, as a theological explanation —is utterly and demonstrably heretical. This teaching says that women are not fully redeemed by Jesus. This teaching says that women are not made  whole by the saving favor of our God. This teaching says that the “catholic” church is only truly “catholic” for males. In time, many Vatican officials and bishops rejected the ordinary infallible teaching they had just affirmed. Now they say: “Of course, women are fully in the likeness of Jesus in the church.” Respectful words to be sure, but are they real?

We revere Jesus as priest, as prophet, and as ruler. If “women are fully in the likeness of Jesus” in our church, they fully share in the priesthood of Jesus—but in fact women are completely excluded from the priesthood of Jesus. If “women are fully in the likeness of Jesus” in our church, they speak for God as Jesus did—but women are completely without voice in the church; as if they were children they cannot read the Gospel at the liturgy and are forbidden to preach the Word. If “women are fully in the likeness of Jesus” in our church, then they [should] fully share in the formal authority of our church. . . .

Sincerely,
John J. Shea, O.S.A.

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