Catholic women urge pope to tear down Church’s ‘walls of misogyny’

Ireland’s President Mary McAleese, accompanied by her husband Martin McAleese, poses for a picture with orphaned girls during her visit to Tibnin Orphanage, southern Lebanon, October 15, 2011.

by Philip Pullella

Roman Catholic women led by former Irish president Mary McAleese demanded a greater decision-making role for women in the Church on Thursday, urging Pope Francis to tear down its “walls of misogyny”.

McAleese was the key speaker at a symposium of Catholic women called “Why Women Matter”, attended by hundreds of people and followed by many others around the world via web-streaming.

The Women’s Day event was held at the headquarters of the Jesuit religious order after the Vatican withdrew permission for it to be held inside its walls when organizers added controversial speakers without its permission.

McAleese, who supports gay marriage and the ordination of women as priests, joked about the change of venue to a location just a block away from the Vatican walls, saying: “I hope all their hearing aids are turned on today”.

She said the Church’s ban on a female priesthood had “locked women out of any significant role in the Church’s leadership, doctrinal development and authority structure”.

The Church teaches that women cannot be ordained priests because Jesus chose only men as his apostles. Those calling for women priests say he was only following the norms of his time.

“We are here to shout, to bring down our Church’s walls of misogyny,” she said, adding that the Church’s position on keeping women in a subordinate role to men had “kept Christ out and bigotry in”.

“How long can the hierarchy sustain the credibility of a God who wants things this way, who wants a Church where women are invisible and voiceless in Church leadership?” she said in her address. McAleese was Irish president between 1997 and 2011.

Many women, she said, “experience the Church as a male bastion of patronizing platitudes, to which Pope Francis has added his quota”.

The pope has promised to put more women in senior positions in the Vatican but critics say he is moving too slowly.

Other women speakers included Zuzanna Radzik, a Catholic theologian from Poland, who described the struggle to make priests and bishops in her homeland take her seriously as an intellectual on a par with men.

Many in the audience were nuns, who cheered on the speakers who demanded more rights for women in the Church.

Last week, a Vatican magazine denounced widespread exploitation of nuns for cheap or free labor in the Roman Catholic Church, saying the male hierarchy should stop treating them like lowly servants.

The article in the monthly “Women, Church, World”, remarkable for an official Vatican publication, described the drudgery of nuns who cook, clean and wait on tables for cardinals, bishops and priests.

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Priests’ group demands Martin statement over editing of video

Words of welcome for gay people from Cork-born bishop removed from promo clip

Bishop David O’Connell speaking in the original version of a video promoting the World Meeting of Families 2018.

By Patsy McGarry

The Association of Catholic Priests has said it find it “impossible to understand” why words of Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles had been edited out of a promotional video for the World Meeting of Families 2018.

It has called on Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, who is hosting the event which will take place at the end of August, to issue a statement clarifying the matter.

Words of welcome from the Cork-born Bishop David O’Connell for gay people raising children and people in second marriages were removed from the video.

“Pope Francis, he gets it. Today there are all sorts of configurations of families – mum and dad; mum or dad on their own; gay couple raising children; people in second marriages,” he said. These have been cut.

A spokeswoman for the World Meeting of Families 2018 has insisted however that everyone will be welcome to the event which is being hosted by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin at the end of August next.

She noted how, in Amoris laetitia, “Pope Francis specifically stresses that ‘every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration’ . . . as is repeated throughout the parish programme.

“The meeting has always been understood as a meeting open to all. This remains the position of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the association, which represents between a third and a half of Catholic priests in Ireland, said it was concerned that “following the earlier removal of photographs from a leaflet, the organisers of the World Meeting of Families have now also removed the words of Bishop O’Connell” from their promotional video.

“His words were such that we find it impossible to understand how anyone who supports the message of PopeFrancis could object to them.”

It was the case that “no clear statement has been made as to why these actions were taken, and on whose direction. Both leave themselves open to interpretations which are very damaging to the WMOF.”

It asked: “Who is making the decisions? Where is the funding coming from? Has the source of the funding anything to do with the decisions being made?

“Without clear explanations, questions like these, and many others, will continue to be asked.”

The ACP concluded: “We believe that it is important that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin makes a statement clarifying why these two alterations were made, who decided on them, and why. Otherwise any further effect to present the WMOF as a welcoming place for everyone will be seen for what it is, empty rhetoric.”

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Allegations about 40 gay priests in Italy sent to Vatican

A male escort told Italian media that he outed the priests because he couldn’t stand their hypocrisy any longer.

Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe

The archdiocese of Naples says it has sent the Vatican a 1,200-page dossier compiled by a male escort identifying 40 actively gay priests and seminarians in Italy.

In a statement on the diocesan website, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe said none of the identified priests worked in Naples. But he said he decided to forward the file to the Vatican because “there remains the gravity of the cases for which those who have erred must pay the price, and be helped to repent for the harm done.”

The dossier, containing WhatsApp chats and other evidence, was compiled by a self-proclaimed gay escort, Francesco Mangiacapra. He has told Italian media that he outed the priests because he couldn’t stand their hypocrisy any longer.

None of the 34 priests or six seminarians was accused of having sex with minors, Mangiacapra was quoted as saying in the diocesan statement.

“We’re talking about sins, not crimes,” the escort was quoted as saying in the statement.

It’s the latest sex scandal to convulse the Italian church and the Vatican.

Last month, a Vatican judge pleaded guilty in a Rome tribunal to having child porn on his computer after police were brought in when he allegedly tried to fondle an 18-year-old man. Monsignor Pietro Amenta was a judge on the Roman Rota, the Holy See tribunal that hears marriage annulment cases, as well as a consulter to various Vatican congregations. He resigned after the plea deal, the Vatican said.

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In Vatican Magazine Exposé, Nuns Reveal Their Economic Exploitation

Nuns at a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis with members of different religious orders in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican last month.


Sister Marie told of nuns who worked long hours to cook and clean for cardinals and bishops, without being asked to break bread at the same table.

Sister Paule pointed out that many nuns did not have registered contracts with the bishops, schools, parishes or congregations they worked for, “so they are paid little or not at all.”

Sister Cécile said that “nuns are seen as volunteers to have available at one’s calling, which gives rise to abuse of power.”

These stories — told by sisters using pseudonyms — were revealed Thursday in an exposé about how nuns are exploited by the leaders and institutions of the Roman Catholic Church. The article, by the French journalist Marie-Lucile Kubacki, was published in the March edition of Women Church World, the monthly magazine on women distributed alongside the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

he stories amount to a distress signal about the unfair economic and social conditions many nuns experience, as well as the psychological and spiritual challenges that many face.

“In the eyes of Jesus we are all children of God,” said the nun identified as Sister Marie, “but in their concrete life some nuns do not live this, and they experience great confusion and discomfort.”

The article was part of an issue dedicated to “Women and Work,” which touched on subjects already familiar to readers of the women’s magazine, like maternity and women in the church, but also the gender pay gap and unpaid domestic work.

It came about after discussions with nuns and observations about how they were treated in the Vatican, where they often provide “subordinate services,” said Lucetta Scaraffia, a feminist intellectual and the editor of Women Church World, which was introduced under Pope Benedict XVI.

Lucetta Scaraffia, editor in chief of Women Church World.

Though convents also depend on the money generated by the sisters living there, many nuns, unlike priests, are not paid, or are poorly paid, when they attend conferences or when they preach, she said.

But the article, “The (Nearly) Free Work of Sisters,” noted that it was not just a question of money. A bigger problem, the article pointed out, is that many sisters say that while male vocations are valued, the work of women is not.

“Behind all this is still the unfortunate idea that women are worth less than men, and above all that the priest is everything while sisters are nothing in the church,” Sister Paule said in the article.

The article confirmed that while women have been clamoring to have a greater role in the decision making of the male-centric Catholic Church, the road is still steep.

Still, some efforts are underway to address the problem. The annual Voices of Faith conference, which aims to showcase the “underutilized potential of women to exercise leadership at all levels of the Catholic Church” will take place at the Vatican on March 8.

And a “Manifesto of Women for the Church,” also published in the March issue of Women Church World, calls for giving women “roles that are coherent with our competences and capacities.” The document has circulated on social media and is being shared by women who are active in church institutions and parishes throughout Italy.

Pope Francis, who is said to read the magazine, has raised the matter of women’s roles in the church before, but his concerns have yet to be translated into concrete changes.

At an audience in May 2016, Francis was asked by one of the 900 leaders of female religious orders and congregations who form part of the International Union of Superiors General why the organization was not given a bigger say in the operation of the church.

Pope Francis leading a Mass for priests and nuns at the Vatican last month.

Francis said at the time that “very often I find consecrated women who perform a labor of servitude and not of service,” and he urged the sisters to “have the courage to say no” when their superiors “asked for something that is more servitude than service.”

Sisters should be in the streets, in schools and with the sick and poor rather than carrying out errands for a parish priest, he said.

“When a consecrated woman is asked to perform a work of servitude, the life and dignity of that woman are demeaned,” the pope said. “Her vocation is service: service to the church. But not servitude!” (His comments that day were overshadowed by an off-the-cuff comment about setting up a commission to study whether women could serve as deacons in the church.)

The pope has said that his concerns apply to women in the church in general. In its Friday edition, which came out Thursday, L’Osservatore Romano published a preface written by the pope for a Spanish-language book on Francis and women.

The pope wrote that he was concerned about a chauvinist mentality that persists in societies that leads to acts of violence. “And I am concerned that in the church itself, the role of service to which every Christian is called, often, in the case of women, slides into roles of servitude rather than service,” he wrote.

Paola Lazzarini Orrù, a sociologist and one of the authors of the manifesto in the magazine said some parishes had begun to invite women to speak during Mass. “Priest have begun to understand this is an issue that can no longer be ignored,” she said.

In the article, Sister Cécile said it was time for nuns to speak out. “Now when I am invited to hold a conference, I no longer hesitate to say I want to be paid, and how much I expect,” she said.

“It’s a question of survival for our communities,” she added, because she and her sisters live off this income.

But “change is difficult,” Ms. Scaraffia said. “Many prelates don’t want to hear these things, because it is easier to have nuns” who play subservient roles.

Complete Article HERE!


What a debate about Pope Francis’s supposed liberalism says about the future of Catholicism

Ross Douthat and Massimo Faggioli argued over Francis’s legacy last week.


Two high-profile Catholic thought leaders duked it out last week in a debate over the five-year legacy of Pope Francis — and what his papacy means for a church in crisis.

Longtime intellectual rivals Villanova professor Massimo Faggioli and New York Times columnist Ross Douthat engaged in a conversation on Pope Francis, hosted by Fordham University in New York. The debate ultimately developed into a far broader question: How far should the church change in dialogue with modern sexual ethics when it comes to issues like women priests, divorce, abortion, and same-sex marriage?

And — perhaps even more importantly — the conversation turned broader still, as both participants asked if change should be seen as a theologically necessary part of the Catholic tradition.

Faggioli, a self-professed liberal Catholic, and Douthat, a conservative, have long expressed differing views on Francis’s papacy, and on the trajectory of the Catholic Church more generally through bold rhetoric on Twitter.

Since the beginning of Francis’s time as pope, much secular media attention has focused on what, to non-Catholics, have appeared to be relaxed stances on usually taboo issues for Catholics. Francis’s papacy, while changing little in terms of Catholic doctrine, has nevertheless made welcoming those who fail to follow that doctrine (whether on abortion, LGBTQ issues, or divorce) into the Catholic community a priority.

For example, Francis opened a temporary window for women who have had abortions to seek forgiveness from the church in 2015. One of his most famous early statements may have been asking “Who am I to judge?” when it comes to homosexuality, although Francis has elsewhere maintained traditional Catholic doctrine.

Douthat, a Catholic convert, has frequently been critical of what he deems Francis’s divisive tactics, including using unofficial or “leaked” communications to the media to informally express more controversial views. He also opposes a willingness to, in his view, upend church tradition for the sake of pacifying liberal attitudes and retaining church membership.

For his part, Faggioli, an admirer of the Francis pontificate, has frequently condemned Douthat as an intellectual dilettante, criticizing his lack of formal theological training and what he sees as Douthat’s partisan perspective on church issues.

Their personal disagreement masks a wider debate, not simply between “liberal” and “conservative” Catholics, or between “progressives” who want to change the church to fit contemporary cultural mores and “traditionalists” who want to preserve the church exactly as it was.

It’s a debate between those who see a degree of dynamism as already part and parcel of what it means to be Catholic, and those who see it as an exterior, dangerous force.

The debate on Francis is also a debate on the aftermath of Vatican II

Although Faggioli and Douthat’s debate was about the pope, it wasn’t just about the pope. Central to their disagreements were their perceptions of the effects of Vatican II (formally known as the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965), which explored if and how the church should adapt to a changing world.

At that point, Catholics the world over were still responding to the aftermath of World War II, and the Holocaust in particular, leading some Catholics to question the language and tone with which the church approached interfaith issues.

Those changes under Vatican II included an increased focus on ecumenical relations, and on Catholic-Jewish relations. But the relative liberalization of Vatican II (for example, eschewing Latin during Mass) has often been seen by later critics as paving the way for an acceptance of more extreme elements of “modernity,” such as the sexual revolution. That movement challenged the formal Vatican positions on abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, divorce, and premarital sex more generally.

Official church doctrine has never changed on any of these positions (nor, should it be noted, has even the “liberal” Pope Francis ever sought to change them).

Still, the “spirit of Vatican II,” or its overall ecumenical ethos, is cited by proponents and critics alike to refer to post-Vatican-II liberalizing tendencies that exceed the remit of Vatican II’s more narrow reforms. To Vatican II’s critics, a broad definition of this spirit is responsible for a more general “liberalization” in the church.

The subsequent half-century or so of the Catholic Church has been marked by various popes’ differing responses to and reckoning with Vatican II, its spirit, and the question of what “moving forward” even means within a Catholic context. That brings us to the current debate — last week’s and among Catholics in general — around Pope Francis’s somewhat lax views.

Faggioli and Douthat’s debate reflected broader divides

Douthat, a perhaps more natural debater, took a more aggressive approach, referring to a coming “schism” and a “civil war” in the church, and saying that Francis’s approach risked fomenting a “crisis of papal authority itself.”

Speaking specifically about Francis’s opening to providing communion to remarried couples, Douthat warned that, by relaxing rules around communion, Francis risked promulgating the idea that “the papacy allows for changes around these contested issues of sexual ethic,” and thus challenging the idea — central to Catholic theology — that the church’s continuity on issues remains unchanged.

Faggioli, though, rejected Douthat’s very premise. Focusing on continuity as a metric for a “good” pope, he says, and “looking at Catholic doctrine in terms of continuity or discontinuity, in my mind, assumes one thing: that Christianity, at some point … was complete.”

Furthermore, Faggioli said his assessment of Francis’s perspective centered not on doctrine but on pastoral care. The church need not change its teachings, he said, but rather ask itself, “What can the Catholic Church do to make the faithful able to receive sacraments?”

For Douthat, Pope Francis represents a break with tradition so profound that it risks rendering a fundamental principle of Catholic thought irrelevant: the idea that the church exists in continuity with its past traditions and perspectives.

Citing the case of allowing parish priests license to grant communion to remarried Catholics, which Francis has quietly campaigned for, Douthat argued that such a procedure would, in practice, vitiate the church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage (because, in Catholic tradition, marriage is seen as an irreversible sacrament between the couple and God, divorce is not seen as legitimate).

It is, for Douthat and other Catholic conservatives, a back-door form of Catholic-sanctioned divorce. By advocating for it and similar reforms, Francis, in Douthat’s view, represents a dangerous figure for the church: one too willing to cede ground to modern liberalism.

Faggioli, though, argued that Douthat’s perspective — of “continuity” and “discontinuity” within church tradition — was flawed and ahistoric. He pointed out that Francis is not seeking to allow divorce — something that would be a striking change in church teaching — but only advocating that divorced and remarried couples be allowed to receive the sacrament of communion — and thus participate fully in church life.

Instead, Faggioli said, Douthat’s view failed to reflect the way in which Catholic tradition has long existed in dialogue with itself, and how interpretations of Scripture have consistently grown and developed over time. The Catholic tradition, Faggioli said, “is not a mineral, it’s an animal. It moves. It adapts. It grows.”

Decades after Vatican II, the church faces demographic and social upheaval

While Douthat and Faggioli differ on the degree to which the Catholic Church is in danger, it’s fair to argue that it is — if not in crisis — at least in flux.

Decades of sex abuse scandals have eroded public trust in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Mass attendance has drastically fallen in America and Europe, especially among young adults. There is an increasingly severe shortage of Catholic priests. And the face of Catholicism is changing, too. Catholicism is in decline in Western Europe and America, but drastically on the rise in Africa. Like it or not, the church is changing in demographics if not doctrine.

But the question remains: Where do we go from here?

The debaters’ differing perspectives may be as attributable to their methods as their politics. Douthat’s interest lies in the church as an institution; the questions he asks focus on that institution’s survival and transformation.

In many of his columns, as well as in his forthcoming book, To Change the Church?, Douthat approaches the church as a political scientist might, looking at how different conservative or modernizing factions have jockeyed for support and survival. His questions of “continuity” and “discontinuity” are questions one asks of an institution, rather than a faith.

Douthat comes to the study of the church as a zealous outsider, and that perspective — one that tends to see the church as a holistic, uniform body that, while sometimes under temporary threat, nevertheless remains intact — suffuses his work. That Francis seems to endanger that perceived unity makes him a threat.

Frequently during the debate, Douthat warned of the potential of a schism within the Catholic Church as a result of Francis’s developments: “Things can break … there is a deep conflict.”

Faggioli, however, is both a church historian and a trained theologian, whose concern is both with the church as an institution and with theology as a living, dynamic body of discourse, constantly being shaped by new questions and voices both inside and outside the academy.

As a theologian, he appears more comfortable with the often-murky process by which the exploration of ideas — theological debate — becomes calcified into church doctrine, and the way in which these ideas morph and change over time. Rather than arguing whether or not the church should adapt to shifting culture, he argued that a degree of dynamism is part and parcel of church tradition and always has been.

The Catholic Church’s priority should be on finding ways for the faithful to remain within the church, not expelling those who do not follow its teachings, he says. (And it’s important to stress, in this debate, neither Faggioli nor Francis is necessarily saying that its teachings should change. Faggioli’s point is about access, not ideas).

Both Douthat and Faggioli ask vital questions. And Douthat’s challenge — how does an institution address cultural change without losing its founding principles — is completely valid. Any answer that does not take seriously that for faithful Catholics, the doctrine being debated is a matter of weighty metaphysical truth, not just politics or optics, fails to appreciate the gravity of the question being asked.

Faggioli’s response — that “in order to get close to Jesus, there has to be some kind of discontinuity” — may provide “liberal” Catholics a viable alternative to Douthat’s reactionary historicism, and a way forward for a church that is both weighed down and grounded by its past.

Complete Article HERE!