Thursday, October 5, 2017

Christina Moreira ARCWP: Presentation on Roman Catholic Women Priests at 37th Congress on Theology in Spain

Women priests in the Roman Catholic Church
Presentation for the 37th Congress on Theology

Give thanks to God for the Holy One is good,
For God's love is eternal.
In my distress I called upon the Holy One;
The Holy One listened to me and gave me freedom.
God is with me; I'm not afraid.
What can man do to me?
Psalm 118

Good afternoon, my great thanks to the Congress on Theology and its organizers for welcoming my word. I treasure every place and every person that has allowed me to have a voice. My name is Christina Moreira; I am a Catholic woman priest, ordained in 2015 according to the Roman rite and to apostolic succession, within the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP and RCWP). With my ministry I provide services to the Comunidade do Home Novo in A Coruña and to all those who request my services.
It was a Woman who introduced me into the apostolic lineage, in a genealogical tree that connects deeply with matriarchs and female apostles. I was introduced into the forgotten current that invites us to seek our female ancestors in the sources, to restore their remembrance and their authority, as well as their image which often came to us tarnished, as is the case with Mary. Nowadays, those of us women who gaze at this current still suffer the effects of the attempts at blurring, if not at making us invisible. 
ARCWP, with its founding and sister association, RCWP (which began with the first ordination of seven women on the Danube River by Roman Catholic bishops) works to restore the role of women in the Roman Catholic Church of then and now, for justice, equality and dignity, and is present in Europe, in the US, in Canada, in Latin America.... These human values ​​revert to the need to include us also in the lineage of the "Twelve," understanding that they represent all of humanity, all the tribes, which included women also; that is what matters and not the shape of their genitals or their sexuality.
Our association is characterized by service, with a radical emphasis on Service in the often marginal, poor or marginalized communities, on the borders of the great excluding Church, proclaiming and acting consistently with our motto: "All people are welcome." All are welcome to all sacraments, to love, to the Table, to listening. In our community of women priests, which already has more than 230 members, women (and some men) are deacons, priests and even women bishops; we distinguish ourselves by our various duties but no one is more important than anyone else, nor less important. We all participate in decision-making, ask questions, respond as God lets us know, or as our communities tell us. Our functioning is based on responsibility and freedom, which cannot be waived in any one of us. We keep the principles of collegiality and democracy completely, despite the technical difficulties that this entails in a world-wide association, understanding that they are an excellent vehicle for the Blessed Ruah to be heard.
We consider any exclusion as a sin; to excommunicate anyone for what we have done: to want to serve the people, the Church and God, is a sin.
Our communities – and it could not be otherwise - are fully inclusive families of equals. We are all linked to theology, from different educational backgrounds; we even have our own seminary, already capable of updating to those barracks for celibate men, but rather than obedience we teach discernment; that which some people say we lack.
A few months ago a prelate from Madrid referred to us as "self-referring."
As my fellow women priests and deaconesses throughout the world, not only Catholics but all female Christians, I am of the lineage of Mary of Nazareth, Mary of Madgala, Martha and Mary of Bethany; we are the granddaughters of female apostles, female followers and disciples from all times who met the requirements of service and martyrdom, of delivering life and work, without ever paying attention to the cost.
If ministry is service, we are the quintessential experts, irreplaceable. We already have centuries of experience; we do not need to prove our ability to do things well. Ask, Monsignor, whether we have served well, abundantly and modestly... we were and still are invisible, we work for free, we are happy because they let us scrub the floors and change the water in the vases. Ask around in the parishes what my female ancestors and yours have done for the Church. Those are references.
References are my community; its members are as much the church as Monsignor; references are the people of God who, for the most part, are asking for women, for people of all kinds, who may even marry to serve it, complete and healthy human beings.
References are my family, my daughter and my husband, two pillars who have never failed me. The family is the first community that supports me.
References are the women of God who already perform their work in peace, in sister Churches, even in sister religions, female rabbis, a female Imam and so many nuns who underpin with their lives this weak building. The fruits are in sight, also among Catholic women. We have much to contribute to theology, ecclesiology, anthropology and of course feminism. We drink from the fountains, among others, of liberation theology, and of course of feminist, womanist, and ecologist theologies. We already have the tools with which to bring renewal to the old Roman Church, if we still have the time. Of course, our inclusion would extinguish suffering, I guarantee it. We have the references to prove it.
References are to know that I am called to full-time discipleship, knowing with certainty that this is my being, my place, where I may best contribute to my fellow human beings, knowing that this call comes from the same Holy Spirit as the one who calls upon men.
The word and the symbols
We women, so to speak, have no path through which to walk; canon law has no clue about our vocation, and does not even look at it in order to make laws about it, does not know how many we are or were, throughout time, female apostles of the Lord called upon to follow him, to serve.
We declare our task under an absolute approach of non-violence, non-aggression and compassion. We are very sorry that our positions and our acts are deemed "challenges" or "attacks." Those considerations are born in those who feel attacked; they must know what it feels like... we do not seek any such thing ourselves.
We women priests  have had to use the household resources, tools, garments and rituals of men up to now, not because they are manly but because men have in good measure awarded and invented them for themselves. Women have rarely participated in the choice of these tools, or of the language or symbols. It is important to realize how very rarely we have been consulted, even as to the length of our skirts.
It is true that the garments could be understood in many ways, and where they were used for submission, they burn much as a nurse's gown in the eyes of a hospitalized child. However, they are ours, everything is ours. We find the house to be dirty, stuffy, messy and joyless… because there are no women? So many a lonely bachelor... But even so we want what was always ours; we will take care of the cobwebs in due time. Everything is ours, at some point we had to take possession. We are not dressed as men; we put on what we find in the closet, because above all, it is ours.
In the same way as ours is the constant work with people and groups of good will working for peace and justice. We are present in many movements for human rights, for the defense of abused groups such as LGBTIQ, for work with the poorest of the poor, with peasant and worker movements, with women and children who are victims of violence... There they will find us if they look for us.
And power…
I was listening recently to a woman who said, near me but without speaking specifically to me: "What I cannot stand are those women who want to take away men’s power"
We have no more power than that given to us by our love for the people and our passion to respond to Christ in freedom. We are able to embody the charisms that he gives us, instead of rejecting and hiding them; we are able to reveal them so as to put them at the service of those who need them, people and communities. It is possible to stop wasting God's gifts, to stop looking elsewhere for a false peace at "home" that only perpetuates injustice and leaves wounds unhealed... someday the infection will come out…
We have already begun to repair and to clean; the doses of compassion, prayer and humor that are needed are huge but we will neither give up nor shut up. If the Sacred Murmur of the Wind, the same one who spoke with Elijah (1 Kings), does not give up, does not shut up, we will not shut up. No encyclical or human power can make us do it. Whoever has experienced it knows it.
Our ecclesiology advocates a circular and plain form of community, one that is participatory, democratic and consensual, based on dialogue and radical equality, welcoming all human beings unconditionally and welcoming life in all its forms, not only those in the form of a fetus or an embryo. We also care about those who were already born, protect those who entrusted to us. At present, in my association, no excommunicated woman priest has been accused of rape or defilement. Understand that on the day I was told that Benedict XVI had issued his decree “De delicta graviora,” I made the blessed decision, I said yes, for consistency, for justice, because I will never ever be an accomplice to equating a woman ordained to serve with a priest who rapes children. For dignity! Thank you, Your Holiness, for helping me take the plunge.
I do not speak about entelechies; we are already taking that vision pragmatically to our communities and trying out, little by little, new ways of operating, not only in the organization of tasks but also in the very core, in the compassion and solidarity born from the heart. We talk about loving ourselves, and we put forward the means to do so. Let people grow and develop, listen to their truths, be ready to provide care and comfort: everything is already being done, here and now.
We are the midwives of the Ruah, the windstorm that takes away what hampers and brings new life and seeks to blow into each human being that welcomes it, seeks to sow life, only that.
We instill holy obedience to freedom, the great gift of the cross of Christ "to be free did Christ deliver us" (Gal 5: 1) or was this not meant for women? The law was based on the Kingdom and not the reverse. See the last Canon of the Code: "c. 1752"... taking into account the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law of the Church"
As baptized and fully female human beings, is it worth remembering that we manifest as images of God, prosopos Christo... the person of Christ, and that we honor in ourselves that image and likeness in the sight of the people, in full human dignity?
As with Queen Esther’s experience, when Divine Life takes over someone, fear flees. We do not die when we consecrate or are struck down on her altar (as a woman said would happen if women were to celebrate mass). We have survived worse things, such as living entire lives with vocations that were impossible to fulfill within the limits of legality; we have survived saying no to the One who called us, not all of us, it is true. Many women already left this world without fulfilling their dream, without having transmitted it to the world. Many communities paid for the lack of servers with their disappearance. When individuals are not fulfilled, the world becomes impoverished, dies blown to bits, metaphorically and literally.
From Saint Therese of Lisieux, this information is not generally known:
"In the process of beatification and canonization, her sister, Celine, Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face testifies:
"During the year 1897, Sister Therese of the Child Jesus told me, long before she became ill, that she expected to die that year; and this is the reason she gave me... ‘It is that,’ she said, ‘God is going to take me at an age when I would not have had time to become a priest.’"
(Process of beatification and canonization of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Rome, Bibliotheca Carmeletica, 1973, Document I, Testimony 4, page 305. Free Translation)
"In the end, she declared herself ‘happy to die at age twenty-four because, before that age, no one ordinarily ordains a priest. God, calling me to his presence, saves me from the pain of having lived without being ordained, and of living without the hope of ever being so.’" 
(Unedited memoirs, in Esprit de Sainte Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus, Central Office of Lisieux, 1930, chapter 2, p. 70. Free Translation)
This is far from the vision we are given usually of a Therese comforted because she was able to pray for male priests and thus be happily fulfilled.
This is far from the trite metaphor of the closed door that does not exist in a wall - however cracked it may be painted - that does not exist either. Know that love gives wings, and is not a metaphor. I promise you, the wall and its (closed) doors are not.
Our place:
The one that belongs to us. We seek to enjoy the legitimate joy of being and of developing ourselves, of participating in the development of our world, our society, our Church, from who we are and as we best can and know, on an equal footing but without false humility.
The place of the prophetess, who plays the drum, and sings the truths, although this time, men do not stand in line to usurp the authorship of our proclamations. Moses did not work alone, but who remembers Myriam, his older sister? We stand up and deliver our message, peacefully; from healing and reconciliation. Our conquest is nonviolent, I would say salvific.
A place that must be important, proportionate to the fuss made around us in certain media, proportionate to our pain perhaps, to the birthing pain of the centuries it has taken to bring our identity to this world, the identity of daughters of God, not nieces or second cousins.
If we have no validity, if we are women in disguise, because we do not use the many names we receive, why are we so afraid? Why so much legal apparatus? What do they seek to punish if not the same they would reward had we had different genitals?
Many questions remain to be carefully analyzed up to every last consequence of their answers, but it is worth continuing; at stake are the quality of humanity that we offer our communities, the quality of the Kingdom that we announce to the world; it is about recovering our two wings, the female and the male, the only possible way to fly.   
Miscellaneous announcements before the farewell
  "The Vatican" is informed of our existence, in various ways; Pope Francis knows who we are and what we do. He has taken steps that we hope will be fruitful; we hope that the Commission on female deacons will give birth to a lasting and firm path to fulfill no less than the will of God. We do not expect a generation of big altar girls with a special diaconate for girls where they distribute copings rather than stoles. In the face of injustice, mistreatment, femicides, there can be no patience, patience can become complicity.
Farewell as a tribute
For them, for those women who forged the first testimonies of faith, from the depths of the ages, for our female ancestors, for women quiet and repressed in their identity who are alive today, so they do not despair knowing that their resistance is victory and reward, for those women who will come so that they may at last devote themselves to healing, to proclaim the joy of grace, to care, to listen and to reconcile... in peace. So that all the energy devoted to seeking justice may all finally be invested in the Kindom... and may the Kindom finally come. Amen.

Christina Moreira Vázquez, Madrid, September 9, 2017

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