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.

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!


Most American Catholic women are ready for female deacons -survey

By Lorraine Caballero

The majority of Catholic women in America are open to the idea of ordaining women as permanent deacons in the church, a new survey commissioned by America Media has found.

According to the survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in partnership with survey firm GfK, 60 percent of American Catholic women are ready for the possibility that women could be inducted as permanent deacons. While Pope Francis has already clarified that having female priests might not be possible, he has expressed an interest in studying the possibility of having women serve as deacons, The Huffington Post noted.

The America Media survey found that 21 percent of Catholic women in the U.S. said they may support the idea of having female deacons in the Church but still want to study it before they make a final decision. However, 7 percent rejected the thought of ordaining women as deacons.

In addition, the poll found that Catholic women who went to hear Mass every week were less likely to agree to the idea of female deacons compared with those who attended infrequently. Still, 53 percent of the weekly attendees said “yes” to the idea.

Dr. Phyllis Zagano, who is part of the Vatican commission looking thorougly at the matter and is the best known advocate for female deacons, said the Catholic Church is still not ready to have female priests. During a talk at Yale University in 2013, she said priesthood and being a deacon were “two separate ministries,” The Catholic Herald reported.

In addition, Dr. Zagano said she could not find anything that said women had once been ordained as priests and added that none of her work supports the idea. However, she said the history of the Catholic Church favors the idea of ordaining women as deacons even though there are those who argue that the role of “deaconesses” in the early Church was different from that of today’s notion.

Complete Article HERE!


Someday Women Priests May Merit a Vatican Stamp: It Happened to Luther

The Church Treats Women Priests More Harshly Than Pedophiles

By Celia Wexler

November 1 was All Saints Day, a day on the church calendar when we pay homage to exceptional followers of Christ. The day before — October 31 — marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s declaration of opposition to what he considered a corrupt papacy that tolerated the selling of indulgences.

When he got wind of what Luther was doing, the Pope excommunicated him. But what a difference a few centuries makes. I can remember a time not so long ago when we Catholics called the Protestant Reformation the Protestant Revolt.

But now, the Vatican has issued a commemorative stamp depicting Luther kneeling at the foot of the cross. The stamp is part of an effort encouraging rapprochement between Catholics and Lutherans.

Perhaps this is a good day to remember that the church does rethink issues, even if it often takes a very long time to do so.

I’m not sure it will come in my lifetime, but at some point, the Vatican might even issue a stamp marking the ordination of the first woman priest.

That would certainly be a departure from the way the institutional church currently treats women priests. If a woman dares to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood, the church declares her to be excommunicated.

Excommunication is the worst thing that the church can do to its members. It bans the individual from receiving all sacraments and from the Catholic community.

So you would think that the ordination of women priests was either so morally sinful or so damaging to the church, that this type of punishment was warranted.

But it is difficult to view Catholic women who pursue a vocation to the priesthood as reprobates out to damage the church.

Indeed, they’re not even outliers among Catholic faithful. Overall, about six in ten U.S. Catholics support women’s ordination. Even among Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly, 45 percent believe that women should have access to the priesthood.

In 1994, Pope John Paul II claimed that women should be excluded because Christ only called twelve men to be His apostles, and the church has always done it this way. That seems like an awfully lame excuse for centuries of misogyny. After all, the apostles all were Jews, too. And it would have been difficult for Jesus, living in that culture and at that point in Jewish history, to have elevated women to leadership positions, although He certainly paid far more attention to women than was customary at the time.

At a time when women have made great strides in the workplace, proving themselves just as capable to head businesses, excel in the arts and sciences, and lead countries, when Anglican and Episcopal churches have ordained women to serve both as priests and bishops, it appears that the Catholic hierarchy is fighting a battle that becomes less and less intellectually defensible.

The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests claims that since a validly ordained Catholic bishop ordained the first women bishops, the ordinations that follow are all valid and within the Catholic apostolic line of succession. They also make clear that they see themselves as reformers within their “beloved church,” not antagonists. Both Women Priests and the Women’s Ordination Conference offer a reasoned and respectful rebuttal to the church’s arguments.

But even if we assume that the institutional church is absolutely right about its embrace of an all-male priesthood, why does it feel so threatened by those few brave women who follow their consciences and choose to be women priests?

They know they will not get the chance to serve in any Catholic parishes or hospitals. They accept lives with little economic or professional security, and none of the perks male priests receive. But surely, they do not threaten the viability of the church.

And tell me this: Isn’t pedophilia a real threat to the institutional church? After all, we are talking about millions of Catholics losing faith in their pastors and bishops, and dioceses saddled with multi-million-dollar lawsuits. Parishes have been closed due to the financial burden of this abuse.

Yet there is no similar papal decree that states that any priest found guilty of sexually molesting minors should be automatically excommunicated.

Indeed it appears that many priest molesters get off easy. In 2014, the Vatican reported that over ten years, it had defrocked 848 priests, and given lighter punishments to 2572 others. The Vatican did not report how many priests it reported to law enforcement, or what happened to them. (In defending how it treated errant priests, the Vatican official had the temerity to state that “the Holy See condemns torture, that includes torture inflicted on the unborn.”)

Interestingly, the decree excommunicating women priests came out in 2007, the same year that the Los Angeles archdiocese paid $660 million in damages to resolve lawsuits filed by abuse victims.

It was just three years after a study commissioned by U.S. bishops revealed that more than 4,000 priests and deacons had been the targets of more than 10,000 complaints of abuse.

Or course, the greater irony is that women who seek ordination do so not to do evil, but to do good. They are not predators. They want to give more to the church, inspired by their faith to live out the gospels as fully as possible. They have not cost the U.S. church the $2.5 billion in damages caused by abusive priests.

I’m not aware of women priests storming parish churches, demanding to say Mass. They are not breaking into rectories, asking for room and board. They are attending schools of theology, but they have not attempted to secure for themselves the benefits that their male colleagues – seminarians – take for granted.

Aspiring priest Lisa Cathelyn must pay $50,000 in tuition to earn her graduate degree in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara in Berkeley, CA. She is on Medicaid because she can’t afford to buy the school’s health insurance. She’s living in a group home to save on rent. She faces an uncertain future, but one in which service to others is her lodestar.

It is the Jesuits who take a vow of poverty who live in relative comfort, while Polovick and other women who study for the priesthood do not need the vow: They are living the real thing.

Complete Article HERE!


Time to end celibacy and ban on females in priesthood: cleric

Fr Paddy O’Kane

By Brett Campbell

A Londonderry priest has called on the Catholic Church to acknowledge changing times and “take another look” at its position on celibacy and women priests.

Fr Paddy O’Kane, of Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty, said such a move could help address a growing crisis which has left a quarter of parishes around the world without a resident priest.

“Many priests might choose to be celibate, but for those who want to get married it should be an option,” he added.

Fr O’Kane warned the shortage of clergy is impacting on dioceses across Ireland. “Priest-less parishes are appearing all over Ireland and may be here in this diocese before long,” he added.

“The Church needs to adapt to these changing times. We may have to take another look at celibacy and women priests.”

Writing for Derry Now, Fr O’Kane also hinted that Pope Francis may soon fulfil a special request by Brazilian bishops to allow married Anglican converts to resume their priestly ministries.

Such a move in a country which has 140 million Catholics would alleviate the severe problem which is also manifesting itself throughout Ireland.

Earlier this year the Pope said he may consider ordaining married men – under very specific circumstances – to counter the shortage of clergy, but ruled out dropping celibacy as a requirement for the priesthood.

“This year the national seminary in Maynooth had only eight students entering to study for the priesthood – half of these will probably leave during their training,” Fr O’Kane said.

The priest admitted that while his own celibacy had allowed him to live a life devoted to serving others, it had come at a personal cost.

“There are times I miss having a family and there are many times of loneliness and there have been times I have only held on to my faith by a hair’s breadth,” he said.

Fr O’Kane also expressed surprise at the number of pilgrims he has encountered who support a change in position.

Complete Article HERE!