It shouldn’t seem so surprising when the pope says being gay ‘isn’t a crime’

— A Catholic theologian explains

Pope Francis leads the second vespers service at St. Paul’s Basilica on Jan. 25, 2023, in Rome.

By

Once again, Pope Francis has called on Catholics to welcome and accept LGBTQ people.

“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” the pope said in an interview with The Associated Press on Jan. 24, 2023, adding, “let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.” He also called for the relaxation of laws around the world that target LGBTQ people.

Francis’ long history of making similar comments in support of LGBTQ people’s dignity, despite the church’s rejection of homosexuality, has provoked plenty of criticism from some Catholics. But I am a public theologian, and part of what interests me about this debate is that Francis’ inclusiveness is not actually radical. His remarks generally correspond to what the church teaches and calls on Catholics to do.

‘Who am I to judge?’

During the first year of Francis’ papacy, when asked about LGBTQ people, he famously replied, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” – setting the tone for what has become a pattern of inclusiveness.

He has given public support more than once to James Martin, a Jesuit priest whose efforts to build bridges between LGBTQ people and the Catholic Church have been a lightning rod for criticism. In remarks captured for a 2020 documentary, Francis expressed support for the legal protections that civil unions can provide for LGBTQ people.

And now come the newest remarks. In his recent interview, the pope said the church should oppose laws that criminalize homosexuality. “We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity,” he said, though he differentiated between “crimes” and actions that go against church teachings.

Compassion, not doctrinal change

The pope’s support for LGBTQ people’s civil rights does not change Catholic doctrine about marriage or sexuality. The church still teaches – and will certainly go on teaching – that any sexual relationship outside a marriage is wrong, and that marriage is between a man and a woman. It would be a mistake to conclude that Francis is suggesting any change in doctrine.

A crowd of people in jackets look up at a tall cross in front of them.
A rosary march in Warsaw in 2019 ended with a prayer apologizing to God for pride parades in Poland.

Rather, the pattern of his comments has been a way to express what the Catholic Church says about human dignity in response to rapidly changing attitudes toward the LGBTQ community across the past two decades. Francis is calling on Catholics to take note that they should be concerned about justice for all people.

The Catholic Church has condemned discrimination against LGBTQ people for many years, even while it describes homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered” in its catechism. Nevertheless, some bishops around the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality – which Francis acknowledged, saying they “have to have a process of conversion.”

The “law of love embraces the entire human family and knows no limits,” the Vatican office concerned with social issues said in a 2005 compilation of the church’s social thought.

In 2006, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recognized that LGBTQ people “have been, and often continue to be, objects of scorn, hatred, and even violence.” And expressing care for other human persons – “especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted” by the indifference or oppression of others – represents obligations for all Catholics to embrace.

As the Francis papacy now nears the end of its 10th year, it is becoming more and more common to hear Catholic leaders attempting to make LGBTQ people feel included in the church. Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich has called on pastors to “redouble our efforts to be creative and resilient in finding ways to welcome and encourage all LGBTQ people.” New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan has welcomed LGBTQ groups in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, against the wishes of many New York Catholics.

In this most recent interview, Francis emphasized that being LGBTQ is “a human condition,” calling Catholics to see other people less through the eyes of doctrine and more through the eyes of mercy.

A new ‘political reality’

The rapid change that has happened in prevailing social attitudes about the LGBTQ community in recent decades has been difficult to process for a church that has never reacted quickly. This is especially because the questions those developments raise touch on a gray area where moral teaching intersects with social realities outside the church.

For decades, church leaders have been working to reconcile the church with the modern world, and Francis is stepping in places where other Catholic bishops have already trodden.

In 2018, for example, German bishops reacting to the legalization of gay marriage acknowledged that acceptance of LGBTQ relationships is a new “political reality.”

Two same-sex couples stand in a church.
An LGBTQ couple embraces after a pastoral worker blesses them at a Catholic church in Germany, in defiance of practices approved by Rome.

There are signs that parts of the church are moving even more quickly. Catholics in Germany, in particular, have called for changes to church teaching, including permission for priests to bless same-sex couples and the ordination of married men.

The next chapter

But those actions are outliers. Francis has criticized the German calls for reform as “elitist” and ideological. When it comes to the civil rights of LGBTQ people, the pope is not changing church teaching, but describing it.

I believe the challenge the Vatican faces is to imagine the space that the church can occupy in this new reality, as it has had to do in the face of numerous social and political changes across centuries. But the imperative, as Francis suggests, is to serve justice and to seek justice for all people with mercy above all.

Catholics – including bishops, and even the pope – can think, and are thinking, imaginatively about that challenge.

Complete Article HERE!

The Catholic Church expelled me for supporting women joining the priesthood

Father Roy Bourgeois discusses his life of religion and activism.

By Chris Hedges

As a young man, Roy Bourgeois enlisted to fight in the Vietnam War. After being injured, he became a volunteer at a local orphanage and was inspired to become a priest upon his return to the US. Bourgeois became a priest in Bolivia during the dictatorship of General Hugo Banzer. He decided he could not be an apolitical priest. He spoke out against Banzer’s political repression, leading to his arrest and expulsion from Bolivia. Back in the US, Bourgeois organized protests outside Fort Benning, Georgia where the US was training Salvadorian soldiers to fight the leftist insurgency. He was imprisoned twice for illegally entering the base during planned direct actions against the war. In 2012, Bourgeois was excommunicated by the Catholic Church for supporting the ordination of women.

Roy Bourgeois is an American activist, a laicized Roman Catholic priest, and the founder of the human rights group School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch). He is the author of Stop the Killing: My Journey from Silence to Solidarity and Male Supremacy in the Catholic Church: An Insider’s View.

Studio: Adam Coley, Cameron Granadino, Dwayne Gladden

Post-Production: Dwayne Gladden, Adam Coley

Transcript

Chris Hedges:  Welcome to another podcast from The Chris Hedges Report. I’m Chris Hedges, and you can find more of my work at chrishedges.substack.com.

When one makes a commitment to become a Christian, he or she, if they are serious, are required to lift up and bear the cross. This is not a rhetorical thing. If you take this call seriously, it means a life in perpetual opposition to power, including the institution of the church itself, and a commitment to always stand with those the theologian James Cohen called “the crucified of the earth”. It is a hard and lonely road, one that will see you, if you truly stand with the oppressed, soon treated like the oppressed. Roy Bourgeois takes this call seriously. He has paid the price. Born in a small Cajun town along the Mississippi River in Louisiana, he played football in high school, and after graduating from the University of Louisiana, joined the Navy eventually ending up in Vietnam as a lieutenant where he would be wounded.

Vietnam, he writes, became a turning point in his life. He worked in his off-hours with a Catholic priest and two nuns who ran an orphanage, seeing in their work a compassion and love that was in stark contrast to the violence and death of war. He went to seminary and became a priest. He worked in the slums in Bolivia during the US-backed military dictatorship of general Hugo Banzer. He decided he could not be an apolitical priest, only saying mass and baptizing babies. He spoke out against the political repression, leading to his arrest and expulsion from Bolivia. This was just the start. He organized protests outside Fort Benning, Georgia, where the US was training Salvadoran soldiers to fight the leftist insurgency. He illegally entered the base to broadcast a taped message by the assassinated Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, calling on Salvadoran soldiers to stop the repression, an act that saw him sentenced to 18 months in prison.

In 1990, he entered the base again, sprinkling his own blood along with the blood of other protestors, including medal of honor winner Charlie Littky, over photographs of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and daughter murdered by US-backed death squads in El Salvador. He went to prison for another 16 months. He defied the Catholic hierarchy by actively supporting the ordination of women. And for this act of justice, he was expelled in 2012 from the priesthood.

Joining me to discuss his remarkable life of resistance and his steadfast fealty to the Christian call is Roy Bourgeois, author of Male Supremacy In The Catholic Church: An Insider’s View.

So Roy, I want to begin early on in the book where you don’t talk about it in detail, but I’d like you to explain it. You are in a, I believe, a barracks or somewhere, you’re attacked. I think there are eight people who were killed, you yourself are wounded. Can you tell us what happened?

Roy Bourgeois:  Yes. I was transferred to the space thinking it was near Saigon, I would be safe there. But then I learned there was no safe place to be in Vietnam. And one night, actually it was about 4:00 in the morning, we were attacked, and we just had to take cover. We were trained to do that just in case this would happen. And it was totally by surprise, and I regret to say that some friends were lost, there were a number killed, many wounded. I was very fortunate, I was among the wounded. But really, that experience causes one to really reflect. And I began to realize how fortunate I was to… I remember then just months later my year in Vietnam had ended, my tour. I was four years in the military as a young lieutenant, and I was going home. And as that plane left Saigon, returning a plane load of us to return back home, many of us wept. We were alive. We lost some friends there, and we were just grateful to be alive. It was a new beginning. It was a new beginning.

Chris Hedges:  So as you know, my father was a Presbyterian minister. He served in World War II. What was interesting about him and his generation is that so many of the other ministers around him came out of the experience of war and entered the church because of their experience in war. And I’m wondering if Vietnam served that same role for you?

Roy Bourgeois:  It was a turning point in my life. I mean, I volunteered to go to Vietnam. I didn’t have to go. I was two years aboard ship after I became a young officer. I went to Greece at a NATO station for a year. And then when they were asking for volunteers, I believed our country’s leaders. I was also very conservative, traditional Catholic. Many bishops like Cardinal Spelman, they were calling for, saying that the cause was noble. That it was a noble thing to go there to stop the spread of communism. I believed them and I went.

And I later learned, especially after that experience there and meeting Father [Livier], caring for all these children, a few hundred children, I would go there with my buddies to try and help them with food and medicines. But I began to see the war for the first time through the eyes of the victims. And this priest had a big influence on my life. I had never met someone like him. He was a healer. He was really, in a sense, I was learning for the first time the meaning of that word, solidarity. Solidarity. And I talked to an Army chaplain. My fourth year was coming to an end, I expected to make the military a career, but that changed now. I wanted to become a missionary priest like Father [Livier] here and be a healer in our world, a peacemaker. And I came home and later joined the Maryknoll Missionary Order.

And I just felt again, once again, it was a new beginning. I was alive. And when I entered the seminary, I must say my life had a lot of meaning. I felt joy and hope once again.

Chris Hedges:  There was a line in your book that I thought was important. You’re at the orphanage, you’re volunteering your off-hours with this Catholic priest and the nuns, and you say that he wasn’t trying to convert anyone to Catholicism, most of these people were Buddhists. And I thought that was really an important point. It’s about bearing witness. I want you just to expound upon that.

Roy Bourgeois:  Yeah, I was just very moved because, to be very honest, I was never that, while I grew up a traditional Catholic in Louisiana and we were taught never to question the church’s teachings. But this priest was the first priest I ever got to know. And what really inspired me was that he was just filled with compassion for the children who were being killed. So many of their parents, these were orphans, their parents had been killed by our bombs and napalm and our bullets. And he was a healer. He stood out. He was from Canada and had been in Vietnam for years. He had gone there as a young missionary priest.

And one thing that inspired me, too, he was not trying to convert these children who came from Buddhist families. He wanted to just try and get them to be healed. Many of them were sick, wounded by our bombs, again. And he stood out. And I thought, really, I no longer wanted to spend my career in the military. I started thinking of being a missionary priest like this priest. And I talked to an Army chaplain about doing that, and he recommended the Maryknoll Missionary Order headquartered in New York, New York, with missions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. And I remember I just felt, wow, this is what I want to do. And I returned home again feeling some new hope, joy. And it was again, once again, a new beginning. I was alive.

Chris Hedges:  Let’s talk about seminary, because when you entered seminary 40-plus years ago – Maryknoll no longer, I think, has a seminary – Vocations have fallen dramatically. This will get to the whole point of your book in many ways. But let’s juxtapose what it was like in the seminary in terms of vocations, in terms of the strength of the church and what’s happened today.

Roy Bourgeois:  I mean that was way back in 1966 when I entered the Maryknoll community, I went to their seminary in Glendale, Illinois, outside of Chicago. At that time there were over 300 seminarians. They had over a thousand priests working in Asia, Africa, Latin America. Well that has all changed. I mean today, fast forward, there’s only 16 seminarians, only four in the United States. The seminary has since closed. They’re down to 250 priests. The majority, more than half of the 250 are over 70 years old. In short, Maryknoll is on life support. And Maryknoll is just a microcosm of what’s going on in the bigger church, the Catholic Church.

Once again, I think because it became clear, but not in the seminary. When I went to the seminary, we didn’t question the all-male priesthood. We didn’t have a problem with women, but something happened to us over the next six years, as I look back on that experience. Little by little being put on a pedestal, we were told that we were special, called by God, and what we could do, women could not do. We were the chosen ones to be leaders in the faith community. And again, little by little we become addicted to… I could see that as I look back, addicted to power. And how we began to see women as a threat to our power and very privileged lifestyle. And that addiction to power only accelerates, really, when we become ordained and we are treated differently. And it took me years, actually, in the seminary. We didn’t really have anyone calling for the ordination of women.

But then it was years later that I began to meet very devout Catholic women in my ministry. And as a priest, I must say I was very happy. I found the meaning and the joy and the hope I was seeking in life and went about my ministry and got a lot of support from the Maryknoll community. My fellow priests working on this issue of the School of the Americas military, US military involvement in Latin America and how we were causing a lot of suffering and death. And when we started the School of the Americas Watch protest and went to prison, I among the many, my fellow priests supported me, came to our vigils at Fort Bennings to protest.

But something happened when I began to meet Catholic women in my ministry talking about this injustice of US foreign policy in Latin America. I discovered an injustice closer to home. It was in my church, the Catholic Church. I began to meet devout Catholic women who said to me they were called like I was to the priesthood. And what I heard from these devout women, many of them in the movement I was a part of, the School of the Americas Watch, it kept me awake at night. I began to ask basic questions: who are we as men to say that our call to the priesthood is authentic, but the call of women is not?

Galatians 3:28, the holy scripture said very clearly, it’s not complicated. It says very clearly that men and women are created of equal worth and dignity. They’re one. They’re one. Men and women are one, and both are called, of course, to the priesthood. And I started to ask my fellow priests, why can’t women be ordained? And I remember I thought I would get a better response, but I underestimated… Let me put it this way. I underestimated the depth, the depth of the sexism and the misogyny in the church and in the priesthood. I was quite surprised at the resistance and the anger I got when I started asking my fellow priests, why can’t women be priests? As we’re called, they too are called. And that was only the beginning of my being expelled from the priesthood.

Chris Hedges:  Well, you eventually take part in a kind of ad hoc ordination service for women, and this leads to your expulsion. You write in the book, “The crisis in the Catholic Church is not complicated. If the patriarchy that dominates the church is not dismantled and women are not treated as equals, the church will continue to diminish and eventually die.”

Roy Bourgeois:  That’s what I began to see. It became very clear that we were in trouble. The Maryknoll Missionary Order was but a microcosm of the larger Roman Catholic Church. It’s in a crisis. And at the core of that crisis is the all-male priesthood. At the very core is male supremacy. And how men, how we somehow… We were not that way when we entered the seminary, something happened to us. And of course over the years, many of the ordained priests left and married, and they of course were expelled and they did not fear women or see them as a threat. They married and they were expelled. Somehow I just cannot see Jesus expelling someone in front of one of his followers who said that he was going to get married, that they had to leave the community. But let me just say the church is in a big crisis. The sexual abuse scandal, of course, contributed to that. But at the very core is the all-male priesthood, men who see women as a threat.

Chris Hedges:  You write, “Among the thousands of Catholic priests who raped and sexually abused thousands of children, the vast majority were not expelled from the priesthood or excommunicated. Every woman who has been ordained as a priest in the Catholic Church has been expelled and excommunicated by the Vatican.”

Roy Bourgeois:  Yes, I was very upset, in a sense saddened by the letter I got from the Vatican. After I attended, it came to the point where it was time to cross the line, and I did the unspeakable. I actually attended the ordination ceremony of one of the many women called by God to the Catholic priesthood in Lexington, Kentucky. And her name is Janice [Seversisnisky], a longtime Catholic, a teacher in school, and a longtime friend. And when she invited me to attend her ordination, I thought about it. I knew it was a serious invitation and I could get in trouble. And I wrote back after much reflection and said, it would be an honor. And I went, and hundreds came for the ordination.

But when I returned from the ordination, I was summoned. I was summoned by Maryknoll to go to the headquarters. I had to go before the Superior General and the General Council, the leaders of Maryknoll. And they sent a report to the Vatican, Pope Benedict, who was Pope at the time. And it didn’t take long. They sent the report and I had to explain the ordination ceremony was the same as when we were ordained, and it was such a joy for everyone to be there. But I must say my fellow priests did not share our joy. They were very upset, very angry. And they wrote to the Vatican about my participation in this ordination. And it didn’t take long to get a letter from Pope Benedict, the Vatican, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the letter stated that I had caused grave scandal in the Catholic Church by believing in the ordination of women.

Chris Hedges:  I want to ask you about El Salvador. It’s where we met. I was covering the war. You were very involved in Salvador, you started the America’s Watch. But before, I just want to, as an aside, you’ve also been very outspoken about GBLTQ, right? So one of the things you did, you write about in the book that I thought was great, you wrote to all your friends in the priesthood who you knew or assumed were gay and asked them, you don’t have to come out of the closet, but you do have to stand up for GBLTQ rights. And of course I believe none of them did.

Let’s talk about Salvador. You go to El Salvador on a fact-finding mission. There was a famous moment where you disappeared in El Salvador. I think you went off with the FMLN or something. But talk about Salvador, and it of course deeply affected me, I was there for five years. And you just became one of the champions after that visit. And of course set up this… because Salvadoran soldiers were being trained at Fort Benning, but talk about Salvador.

Roy Bourgeois:  After being expelled from Bolivia after my ministry there for five years, I must say I came back to the United States and then became very involved in El Salvador after Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated, gunned down at the altar while saying Mass. And just months later, four US church women were raped and killed by the Salvadorian military. And two of them, Moira Clark, Anita Ford, were Maryknoll sisters, nuns, and good friends. And I must say what happened to them really was very serious.

It was then later that I went to El Salvador, and I had never seen anything quite like El Salvador, reminded me of the violence and the death of Vietnam. But when I came back from El Salvador, I could not be silent. It was a slaughter of the innocents. And what hurt too was to see my country, the United States giving millions of dollars in military aid, and of course training the military [inaudible] at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning.

And when I was invited to go to El Salvador on another trip, that’s when I was invited to join the landless farm, the Compacinos, who were being killed, to go off with them. And that was very serious. I was missing for a while, I was alive, but way out in the mountains, and they thought I had been killed. I was alive. And when I came back from that experience, it was another great opportunity to let the people know in the United States that we have to speak out, and our silence on US foreign aid, military aid to El Salvador was a grave injustice.

When there’s an injustice – This is what I learned – When there’s an injustice, silence is complicity. And I couldn’t be silent about El Salvador. I couldn’t be silent about this issue of the all-male priesthood. Silence when there’s an injustice is complicit in that injustice. But I came back, I must say once again, death is very close in El Salvador. I came back grateful to be alive, grateful.

Chris Hedges:  I want to talk about prison. Your first bout in prison, you get out and go to, I believe to a Trappist monastery. I think you last about five months, which is five months longer than I’d last there. But talk about the effect of prison on you. There’s a wonderful line in there, I think, where you said that you were freer in prison than you were in seminary. Is that right?

Roy Bourgeois:  I know prison, family and friends, I know it was a hard thing to understand, and I’ve always appreciated that sort of unconditional love from my family, my dear parents and two sisters and a brother in Louisiana. The support I got from them and friends. Going into prison, protesting and going to prison for nonviolent protests is very difficult for a lot of people. But for us, it’s trying to be true to ourselves, to be true to our experiences in life, which is different from others. And I and others have been in the movement, over 250 who have crossed the line, done protests and gone to prison. I’ve served a total of a little over four years in federal prisons over the years.

But to be very honest, when I got to prison, I did well. It was some of the best retreats I’ve ever had. I’m a great lover of solitude, I’m an activist, but I really feel in my life it’s important to have quiet time. And prison was a time to… I was in solitary confinement for a couple of months, and that was challenging. But there, too, I was able to read. I had access to books of the great theologians like Thomas Merton and many others, John of the Cross, and men and women, really what was spiritual… Gave me courage there.

And I always got out of prison feeling, though this happened when I got out of prison, I was in solitary confinement, and became very much of a contemplative. And there was a time when I got out of prison, I thought I was being called to the contemplative life. And I used to make retreats with the Trappist monks in Georgia outside of Atlanta. And I joined their community thinking this is where I was being called. It was all leading to this, Vietnam, Bolivia, El Salvador was leading to the monastery to be a contemplative monk.

But I was there only five months and I realized that I’m not a full-time contemplative. Meditation, silence, solitude, spiritual reading is very much, very important to me. But I’ve got to integrate that in my active life. Most people do not live in a monastery, are not full-time contemplatives, but we need some quiet time, especially at the end of a long day. So many called family members, friends, couples, and I too have learned, tried to learn to keep that balance.

But I came back from the monastery, it was a good experience, and returned to Maryknoll, and really got much more involved in the protesting of US foreign policy to Latin America – With the support of my Maryknoll community, I must say. But when it came to the issue of, again, women being treated as equals, honoring and accepting the call of women to the priesthood, they just couldn’t somehow handle that. And that’s when I got in big trouble. I was told, in a letter from the Vatican, Pope Benedict said that I must recant my public support for the ordination of women, my belief that women can be ordained. I had 30 days to recant or I would be expelled from the priesthood. And I remember going on a retreat, giving it a lot of thought, and going to the Trappist monastery to think about that. On return, I realized I could not recant. This would be a betrayal of my conscience. It would do violence to what I believed in.

And I wrote the Vatican and said, what you’re asking of me is not possible. Our loving God calls both men and women, both men and women to the priesthood. We are created equal. And I will honor that. And that day will come, I said. But what hurt, too, was how I and all the women are automatically excommunicated, expelled, but the many, many priests who raped, sexually abused thousands according to the USA, in the US alone, over 5,000 Catholic priests raped, sexually abused over 12,000 children, and these priests were not excommunicated, nor were the bishops who knew of their crimes and just transferred them to another parish. And of course that had caught up with the church. The truth comes out. And a big part of the crisis in the Catholic Church today, of course, is that sexual abuse scandal, combined with the all-male priesthood. And the church, if it does not change and start ordaining women, it will go the way of the dinosaurs.

Chris Hedges:  I want to talk about Pope Francis. He’s good on many issues, but not on the ordination of women.

Roy Bourgeois:  Exactly. He’s light years ahead of Pope John Paul or Pope Benedict on many issues. He’s much more progressive. But as the CEO of the all-male priesthood, his position on their ordination of women is no different from Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul. In fact, he quoted them, Pope John Paul, he said, and Pope Benedict said, “The door to ordination is closed.” He said, I agree with them, the ordination of women, the door is closed, women cannot be ordained. And that hurt. That hurt.

But let me just say if right now that the church is in a crisis, as I mentioned Maryknoll is closed and many of its missions in Asia, African, and Latin America, they’re down to 250 priests, and more than half are in retirement. And the seminary that I attended, the two seminaries, they’re closed. They’re closed. There are no vocations coming in there. Again, Maryknoll is but a microcosm, and if priests will not be ordained in the Roman Catholic tradition and women will be ordained and treated as equals, the church will continue to diminish and go out of existence.

Chris Hedges:  Do you still think of yourself as a priest?

Roy Bourgeois:  Well, they tell us when we are ordained, thou art a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek, thou art a priest forever. And they teach us this in the seminary. And the many who married, so many, over half of the Maryknoll priests who were ordained are now married. And many of them continue to be good friends, and some of them continue to do mass, say mass for small communities. And so many of us have been expelled. But when we are taught in the seminary, and I feel I was a priest for 40 years and another six years in the seminary, and that has been my life. I feel a lot of hope, but my hope is not coming from the priest or the Pope or certainly not the bishops. They’re not going to change. They’re so addicted to their power, they’re not going to change.

My hope is coming from young people, in Latin America, the change came not from the oppressors but it came from the oppressed, from the bottom up, not from the top down. I learned that in Bolivia, in El Salvador, Nicaragua. And I see this with so many young people. In my own family, nieces and nephews are not a part of the church because of the church’s teaching when it comes to the LGBTQ community, when it comes to women. It’s not complicated theology. So many people in the Catholic Church, especially now, our gay sisters and brothers and women, they are not treated as equal, and there’s a cost for that. And right now, again, many Catholic churches are closing. Where I grew up, there were three churches, back then there were seven Catholic priests. They’re down to one priest. And that church will eventually close real soon because they don’t have the priests coming in to do the work.

But I do believe, perhaps not in my lifetime or during this interview, this is going to happen. But I have no doubt that the Catholic Church will one day have women priests, and they will also have to change that church teaching that homosexuality is a disorder. I remember, let me just touch on that. I remember meeting, after being expelled from the priesthood, I was invited to give many talks. But this mother and father got on your side and wanted to talk and said that their son, high school senior, had committed suicide. He was gay. They accepted him no problem. But they were Catholic, and the priests where they went to mass would ridicule and really was very cruel toward the gay people. And also at the school there was a lot of hurt.

And they said, they told me, I’ll never forget what they said, that the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality played a part in the suicide of their son. And that prompted me to write to many longtime priest friends in Maryknoll. I was with the community, what, 40 years, and many of them are gay. And I wrote to them and asked in a respectful way, could you please break your silence for young people and call for the church’s teaching to change? God created everyone of equal worth and worth in equality, and there are no exceptions. And the way we, the Catholic Church, is treating, and our behavior, our LGBT brothers and sisters, it’s uncalled for and it’s cruelty. It’s a heresy at its worst.

And I must say I’m sad to say that very few of the gay priests responded to my letter. They too are accepted in Maryknoll, in the priesthood, but on one condition: they cannot break their silence and go against their church’s teaching. And they know if they do, the same will happen to them where they are going to be expelled. They are going to lose their power and many privileges as a Catholic priest. And they are not willing to risk losing their powers. So they are silent. Silence when there’s injustice is complicity. And I just hope that one day they can break their silence.

Complete Article HERE!

Why I find pope’s ideas on women priests disturbing

— Pope Francis must call together and listen to women, not only religious but lay women as well

Pope Francis meets a group of women at the end of his weekly general audience at the Paul VI hall in the Vatican on March 2.

by Virginia Saldanha

Recently the Jesuit-run America Magazine interviewed Pope Francis on various topical issues, among them the question regarding what he would say to women who are already serving in the church, but who also feel strongly about the call to be a priest in the Catholic Church. 

Pope Francis reinforces the gender binary by pointing to the Petrine principle which means Jesus chose Peter as head of the Church and 12 male apostles because Jesus our high priest was male!

Pope Francis suggests that women have no place in the Petrine principle.

On the other hand, the Marian principle is a mirror of the Church as a woman and as the spouse of Christ. So, he suggests that women have to be content with being the mirror image of the Church which represents the feminine spouse of Christ — what a convoluted explanation to convey to women that we are an important part of the Catholic Church dominated by men.

“There are numerous articulate and excellent women theologians who have already been speaking of women’s positions in the Church”

As a woman, I do not know whether to laugh or cry at Pope Francis’ suggestion about women’s position in the Church. How can an institution that is ruled solely by men be ‘woman?’  How can such an institution be the ‘spouse’ of Christ?

I wonder if perhaps this theological idea of the Church as a woman and as the spouse of Christ and the male priests as representing Christ could be the root of the sexual abuse of women by clergy.

Pope Francis suggests that women’s place in the Church is a theological problem that needs to be sorted out by coming up with a theology on women.

When Pope Francis says” we need to come up with a theology on women,” does he mean the male leaders come up with a theology of women?

I would like to remind Pope Francis that there are numerous articulate and excellent women theologians who have already been speaking of women’s positions in the Church.

Pope Francis’ reiteration of the Petrine and Marian principles is an indication that he as the leader of the Church has not bothered to read the writings of feminist theologians of the past 50 years.

Feminist scripture scholars have pointed out that Jesus never ever ordained any priests.  The last supper had both men and women present when he said “Do this in memory of me.” Women disciples in the scriptures were Jesus’ most faithful followers.  He even chose a woman to carry the good news of his resurrection to the world.  Would Jesus not want women leaders in the Church?

The third explanation that the pope gives is what he describes as the ‘administrative’ one.

He points out that In the Church there is the ministerial and ecclesial role which is reserved for men. Then there is the administrative role which has so far been dominated by men, but Pope Francis has recently begun opening it up for women’s participation.

He concedes “we have to give more space to women.”

While women appreciate the steps Pope Francis has taken to bring reform in the Church and the Roman Curia, his response to women’s ordination has disturbed a lot of progressive-thinking women and men, especially when he calls it a theological problem.

“Women’s voices have been missing at the decision-making table in the Church”

It is pertinent to note that the theology that Pope Francis has quoted has been articulated by men from a male perspective.

Women entered the field of theology only after the Second Vatican Council.  Since then women have been studying scriptures and interpreting them through a woman’s lens which has brought in new and fresh perspectives that men could never see.

But somehow the Church has not recognized these perspectives nor listened to what women have to say.  Women’s voices keep getting dismissed based on a theology that has not been updated to include women’s thinking about God and how God speaks to women in the context of their lives.

The reason why women need a place at the ‘table’ is that it is only through ordained ministry that one gets to make decisions that affect all in the Church.  Women’s voices have been missing at the decision-making table in the Church.

The forthcoming Synod on Synodality is about listening to the voices of all.  Women in the Church have been the most enthusiastic participants in synodal discussions at the grassroots, but their voice has not been heard, because the male leaders in the Church get to choose whose voice gets heard.

No one can deny that women are the most active participants at the parish and pastoral level of the Church.  Yet women continue to be kept down like the proverbial ‘slaves’ in the Church.  Yet what women all over the world are asking for is active ministerial roles, but they are being dumbed down by theological mansplaining.

Pope Francis has asked that all join the listening sessions. Somehow the bishops chose only those who they feel comfortable with while others are just never listened to. Can Pope Francis find a way to listen to voices from groups that have remained on the peripheries?

If the pope is really serious about fostering a culture of ‘encounter’ and ‘listening’ in the Church, he will call together women, not only religious but lay women as well, and listen to them. Today modern means of communication can easily facilitate this.  May Spirit Sophia continue to work and inspire the Church towards wholeness.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis accused by Mary McAleese of ‘ludicrous lack of logic’ in comments on women priests

Former president accused Pope of ‘misogynistic drivel’ following interview justifying exclusion of women

Pope Francis mounted an argument that women not entering ministry was not a ‘deprivation’ due to other avenues available to them.

By Patsy McGarry

Pope Francis has been accused of “misogynistic drivel” by the former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, following an interview with a United States-based Catholic magazine where he said women are not being deprived by being denied the right to become priests.

in an interview with the Jesuit publication America, conducted in the Vatican last month, the Pope said: “The church is more than a ministry. It is the whole people of God. The church is woman. The church is a spouse. Therefore, the dignity of women is mirrored in this way.”

“And why can a woman not enter ordained ministry? It is because the Petrine principle has no place for that,” he said. “That the woman does not enter into the ministerial life is not a deprivation. No. Your place is that which is much more important and which we have yet to develop, the catechesis about women in the way of the Marian principle,” he said.

However, the interview prompted a sharp response from Mrs McAleese. In a short email to the Vatican addressed to the Pope, she said: “It was reassuring and gratifying to observe the utter impenetrability of the reasons you offered, their ludicrous lack of logic or clarity, in short the fact that you offered just more unlikely misogynistic drivel.”

Continuing, she said: “So nothing new then and nothing to fear. Thank you for giving us something to laugh at. If you ever come up with a serious and credible reason please do not hesitate to let us know. Meanwhile keep rambling on. It is such fun and the fun has almost gone out of faith! Best wishes and renewed thanks. Mary McAleese.”

Giving her Roscommon address, she signed the email as Dr Mary McAleese LLB, MA, JCL, JCD, including qualifications in canon law.

Asked in the interview about what he would say to a woman who feels called to be a priest, the Pope said it was “a theological problem.” He said “we amputate the being of the church if we consider only the way of the ministerial dimension of the life of the church. The way is not only (ordained) ministry.”

The “Petrine (from Peter) principle is that of ministry,” he said. “But there is another principle that is still more important, about which we do not speak, that is the Marian principle, which is the principle of femininity in the church, of the woman in the church,” he said.

There was also a third way, “the administrative way,” he said. “It is something of normal administration. And, in this aspect, I believe we have to give more space to women.” At the Vatican “the places where we have put women are functioning better,” he said.

“So there are three principles, two theological and one administrative. The Petrine principle, which is the ministerial dimension, but the church cannot function only with that one. The Marian principle, which is that of the spousal church, the church as spouse, the church as woman. And the administrative principle, which is not theological, but is rather that of administration, about what one does,” he said.

Asked about the abuse issue, he referred to his visit to Ireland in 2018.

“The church takes responsibility for its own sin, and we go forward, sinners, trusting in the mercy of God. When I travel, I generally receive a delegation of victims of abuse.” He recalled “when I was in Ireland, people who had been abused asked for an audience. There were six or seven of them. At the beginning, they were a little angry, and they were right.

“I said to them: `Look, let us do something. Tomorrow, I have to give a homily; why don’t we prepare it together, about this problem?’ And that gave rise to a beautiful phenomenon because what had started as a protest was transformed into something positive and, together, we all created the homily for the next day. That was a positive thing [that happened] in Ireland, one of the most heated situations I have had to face. What should the church do, then? Keep moving forward with seriousness and with shame.”

Complete Article HERE!

How German Catholics pushed Church’s slow reforms

— The Catholic Church in Germany is changing to allow gays and divorcees to join its workforce of 800,000. But the reform does not go far enough for everyone.

by Christoph Strack

It’s an issue that affected the head doctor of a Catholic hospital, who was divorced and wanted to remarry; and the director of a church-run kindergarten, who entered into a same-sex partnership.

Both were dismissed by their employer, the Catholic Church in Germany. That sparked outrage among many German Catholics, who felt the church line made it look hard-hearted and at odds with today’s social norms.

Now, after repeated consultations, Catholic bishops in the country have decided to liberalize regulations covering the approximately 800,000 people who work for the Catholic Church in Germany.

“The core area of private life, in particular relationship life and the intimate sphere, remains separate from legal evaluations,” the announcement stated. In other words, what happens in employees’ bedrooms is outside the Church’s remit.

Reforms in the Church have been driven by the churchgoers
Reforms in the Church have been driven by the churchgoers rather than politicians

More liberal labor laws

The two major churches in Germany, Catholic and Protestant, form the country’s second largest employer after the public authorities. Together, they employ about 1.3 million people, and have their own church labor laws.

But why does the Catholic Church have the right to set its own guidelines for employees in the first place? This is set out in Germany’s constitution, the Basic Law, which grants religious and ideological communities extensive self-determination, including in service or labor law. In past decades, none of the major political parties in Germany wanted to restrict or abolish these provisions of the Basic Law.

That makes it noteworthy that the Catholic bishops are now changing important aspects of their labor laws of their own accord. The pressure came from employees and potential employees, for whom the Church had become an unattractive employer.

Above all, pressure grew from the Church’s base in Germany. Last year, Catholic Church workers caused a stir with an initiative entitled #OutInChurch, which earned support from many church organizations, politicians, and other social groups.

Church employees, including the clergy, came out as queer and pushed for recognition. Many risked losing their jobs, which is why some chose to remain anonymous. But the mood was changing. Some bishops also expressed respect for the initiative and announced that they would no longer fire anyone in their diocese because of their sexual orientation.

The Church’s ‘reform engine’

The “synodal path,” an assembly of lay people and bishops still working to confront abuse scandals and bring the Church closer to contemporary society, discussed the topic and made new demands regarding church labor law. Marc Frings, secretary general of the highest Catholic lay body, the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), described the “synodal path” as “the engine of urgently needed reforms.”

Now many in the Church are eager to see how implementation will take place. The Bishops’ Conference can decide on a new labor law, and each individual bishop in the 27 dioceses is responsible for implementing — or ignoring — the rules in his diocese. Experts believe that several more conservative bishops might refrain from implementing it.

Among the dioceses that promptly announced they would stand behind the new labor law were Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki’s Archdiocese of Cologne and Bishop Stefan Oster’s Diocese of Passau. Other dioceses, such as Regensburg and Augsburg in Bavaria, have been more reticent.

‘Discrimination remains’

Not everyone has joined the jubilation over the bishops’ change of heart. Würzburg University Pastor Burkhard Hose, for example, still sees “a lot of room for episcopal arbitrariness.” The new labor law, for example, states that “anti-clerical behavior” can be grounds for dismissal, but it does not specify what this might mean, leaving each bishop to interpret it for himself.

German Anti-discrimination Commissioner Ferda Ataman speaks at Christopher Street Day 2022 Berlin,
German Anti-discrimination Commissioner Ferda Ataman has also been calling for more reforms

Jens Ehebrecht-Zumsande, an employee in the Archdiocese of Hamburg and, along with Hose, one of the initiators of the #OutInChurch campaign, has criticized the fact that the new guidelines are based on a “binary gender model …. according to which there are only women and men.” Trans or non-binary people have not been taken into account, he argued.

The German government’s anti-discrimination commissioner, Ferda Ataman, also weighed in, calling for the abolition of all exemptions, except for the clergy. Only that, she said, would protect people like the doctor or the kindergarten teacher who, even under the new regulation, may be fired if they leave the Church.

In general, the federal government lets the actions of the churches pass with little comment.

For Marc Frings, the new labor law is an encouragement for the laity within the churches. He says it is evident from the new labor law “that change and reform come from below.”

Without the #OutInChurch campaign and “engaged Catholic civil society,” we would not be at the current stage of reform, he argues. “This is how we learn that our actions and discussions can have immediate consequences,” he said.

Further reform issues are awaiting action in March 2023, when a final round of the “synodal path” will address, among other things, the demand for equal rights for men and women in the Church.

Complete Article HERE!