Tuesday, December 11, 2018

ARCWP - Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests Invites You to Become Our Friends, Find Out How on our Website


Friend of the Association

Is God calling you to be a behind the scenes apostle?  We surely hope so!
Individuals who wish to collaborate with the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests and are in support of our Vision, Mission, Values and Guidelines can request to join our group. 
Would you like to share your time and talent to help the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests? Your gift may be a professional service such as a bookkeeper, attorney, marketing, public relations, office skills, etc. 
  • As a Friend of the Association of ARCWP, your degree of involvement will vary according to one’s talent and availability.
  • You will be invited to special events, annual retreats and ordinations.
In gratitude, we will keep you in our prayers, always.
Won’t you think about joining our team and supporting the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests today?
Need more information, please fill out the contact form on our website.
The specific charism of ARCWP within the broader global Roman Catholic Women Priests initiative is to live Gospel equality and justice for all including women in the church and in society now. We work in solidarity with the poor, exploited, and marginalized for structural and transformative justice in partnership with all believers. Our vision is to act as a community of equals in decision-making both as an organization and within our faith communities. We advocate for the renewal of Jesus’ vision as found in the Gospel for our church and our world.
The unique focus of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests is on justice and equality:
1. We seek equality for women in the church including decision-making and ordination.
2. We minister with the poor and marginalized.
3. We live the spiritual and social justice tradition of the church serving inclusive communities of equals.
4. We actively and openly participate in nonviolent movements for peace and justice.

Share the Journey: Act Now to Promote Girls Education Around the World

CRS Bangladesh
Our voices can help provide spaces for refugee girls to learn and grow. In Bangladesh, education
is healing trauma, bringing safety & igniting hope. Photo by Ismail Ferdous for CRS.

The clock is ticking for the Senate to act. Senators only have a short window before the year ends to pass a critical piece of legislation for vulnerable girls overseas.
Advocacy takes perseverance and you've been there at each step in this bill's process.Over the summer, we pushed key Senators to move on this important bill. Because of our advocacy, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the bill out of committee. However, the Protecting Girls' Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act continues to await a vote in the full Senate.
Our collective voices can help ensure vulnerable girls around the world, like refugees, have access to education where they are, which is essential to building a better future and keeping girls safe from human trafficking.
Blessings this Advent season,

Catholics Confront Global Poverty team
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services

Monday, December 10, 2018

Reconsidering Thomas Merton, who died 50 years ago today Controversy still surrounds the death in Thailand of the monk who wrote the bestselling ‘The Seven Story Mountain" by John Cooney, Irish Times, Dec. 10,2018

Religious writer Thomas Merton (1915 - 1968), circa 1938. He became a Trappist monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, continuing to publish his writing until his death in Bangkok. Photograph: Archive Photos/Getty 
"In 2015, the centenary year of Thomas Merton’s birth in France, I attended a conference in June at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, organised by the International Thomas Merton Society to assess his life and legacy. The conference was addressed by leading figures who knew this prolific Trappist monk, best known as the Catholic Church’s premier 20th-century spiritual writer.

Commissioned by Fr Bernard Treacy OP to write two articles, the first appeared in the July-August 2015 issue of Doctrine and Life dealing with his European formation and the second in September examining the circumstances of his sudden death 50 years ago today on December 10th, 1968 in Thailand, where he was on a south-east Asian lecture tour. Both articles subsequently were published by the Irish Times online, the second and controversial one, “Thomas Merton: the hermit who never was, his young lover and his mysterious death” appearing on November 9th, 2015.

Merton’s official biographer, Michael Mott, concluded in a detailed volume that Merton’s sudden and unexpected death was caused by electrocution as a result of one of three factors: suicide, murder or an accident. Mott opted for accidental death, without fully ruling out assassination, but dismissed, however, suicide on the grounds that there was neither motive nor circumstance for this. (1)

However, my different conclusion was that Merton had ample motivation to precipitate his own death following a passionate but semi-clandestine relationship with a young nurse called Margie Smith, an affair which had been discovered by his superiors at the Abbey of Gethsemani, who issued him an ultimatum of choosing between the woman and a reaffirmation of his vocation as a celibate monk.
Merton opted for the latter but such was his physical attachment to the equally besotted Margie that he continued to remain in touch until he finally broke it off and she moved away from Kentucky and soon afterwards married.

I also concluded that, contrary to Mott’s dismissal of Merton not having had a circumstance in which to take his life, he did so while participating at a conference in a village in Samutprakarn, 20 miles from the Thai capital of Bangkok, after he addressed fellow monks on Marxism and Monastic Perspectives.

The story of Merton’s conversion to Catholicism and admission to Gethsemani Abbey in 1941 after dissolute student days at Cambridge University in England and Colombia University, New York, was recounted in his Seven Storey Mountain. Its international success as a bestseller not only provided lavish royalties for the abbey, it guaranteed him a prestigious place in the monastic community, which expanded after many psychologically war-damaged soldiers from the second World War and later the Korean War joined the abbey.

Known as Brother Louis, he was assigned to teach students preparing for monastic life as Master of Scholastic Philosophy from 1951 to 1955 and then as Master of Novices (probationers) from 1955 until 1965.
A most revealing article into how much Merton, monasticism and a previously unchanging Catholic Church had changed since he entered Gethsemani Abbey in 1941 was a column titled, ‘Is the world a problem? which appeared in Commonweal on June 3rd, 1963. He made it clear that he was writing “not as the author of The Seven Storey Mountain which seemingly a lot of people have read” but as” the author of more recent essays and poems which apparently very few have read”.

He then cautioned readers that he was not “the official voice of Trappist silence, the monk with his hood up and his back to the camera, brooding over an artificial lake. This is not the petulant and uncanonizable modern Jerome who never got over the fact that he could give up beer.”

In parenthesis, Merton added: “I drink beer whenever I can lay hands on any. I love beer and, by that very fact, the world.”
Merton then proceeded to outline his understanding of a major evolution in Catholic thinking, which nowadays would be described as the church having entered a period of paradigm change. “At present the Church is outgrowing what one might call the Carolingian suggestion,” he insisted. “This is a worldview which was rooted in the official acceptance of the Church into the world of imperial Rome, the world of Augustine, of Charlemagne in the west and of Byzantium in the east.”
He added: “The dark strokes in the picture have their historical explanation in the crisis of the Barbarian invasions. But there are also brighter strokes, and we find in the thought of Aquinas, Scotus, Bonaventure, Dante, a basically world-affirming and optimistic view of man, of his world and his work, in the perspective of the Christian redemption. The created world is itself an epiphany of divine wisdom and love.”

Merton concluded that “it has now become transparently obvious that the mere automatic rejection of the world and contempt of the world is in fact not a choice but the evasion of choice”.

Under the monarchical pontificate of Pius XII from 1939 to 1958 Merton’s writings on peace were often censored. So he warmed to the more democratic tone of Pope John XXIII, applauding his encyclical Pacem in Terris, which was addressed to all men of good will, and not just to Catholics.

Nonetheless, still striving for complete contemplative solitude, he badgered Abbot Dom James Fox to institute a full-time hermitage. When this was granted on August 17th, 1965. Merton transferred to a hermitage, built almost a mile from the monastery amid wooded, hilly grounds. In his farewell address, he urged colleagues to respect his wish for complete isolation. However, a week later, he complained that they had made no efforts to find out how he was getting on. Thus, at age 50, Merton became the first ever hermit of Gethsemani Abbey, which had been founded by French Cistercians of the Strict Observance in 1848. Merton’s appointment heralded a new phase in his commitment to contemplative life, which should have grounded him even more within the abbey’s cloistered walls near the rural village of Bardstown.
By September 1963 he was increasingly hospitalised in Louisville, suffering pains in his left arm and his neck caused by a fused cervical disc. These hospital visits enabled him to read newspapers and magazines, as well as hear and see radio and television programmes reporting tumultuous world events such as the assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963 and race riots in Birmingham, Alabama involving Dr Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights movement. Merton supported King’s civil rights movement.

No longer the pale and ascetic Father Louis of his ordination day but now bald-headed and chubby, Merton worried about breathlessness, checked his blood pressure whenever he could and had an unsettled stomach.

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were warning Merton’s generation that “the times they are a-changin’”. Western society was undergoing socio-cultural turmoil caused by the sexual revolution of the 1960s. The monolithic, medievalist Roman Catholic Church which had wooed Merton into its triumphalist ghetto was calling an end to the Constantinian era at the reforming Second Vatican Council, 1962-65.
The council was followed by divisions between progressives and conservatives. Abbeys and priories became half-empty in the biggest exodus since the Reformation. The numbers of monks, as well as diocesan clergy, declined steeply, because the Augustinian view of celibacy being a higher state than marriage lost appeal and sense to young people. In 1968, in the US alone, 11,000 religious opted out.
Monasticism was not immune from this turmoil. The promulgation of the Council’s Decree on Religious Life, Perfectae Caritatis (Of Perfect Charity), fostered adaptation and engagement with “the signs of the times”, not flight from the world. Many institutes replaced traditional habits with modern attire, and reinterpreted obedience to a superior as a consultation between adults rather than the traditional role of a monk’s obedience to his autocratic abbot.

Merton blamed the “drop-out phenomenon” on Abbot Fox, who had introduced machines to make cheese that shattered the quiet of Gethsemani. Fox, a cradle Catholic whose forebears were from Co Leitrim, agreed with Dr Gregory Zilboorg, a psychotherapist and convert to Catholicism, that Merton was a neurotic prone to spiritual injury, because of an unconscious quest for celebrity.

By 1967, Perfectae Caritatis was being applied at Gethsemani, which is situated in a remote part of Kentucky some 50 miles from Louisville. Merton’s long-term advocacy of proper structure and discipline in a monastery was ruffled by this spirit of relaxation and he now argued against the traditional concept of novices and postulants being “brainwashed” in their vocation to retreat from the world. He now called this approach “spiritual infancy”. He no longer accepted that blind obedience meant true obedience.

The tight control held over Merton by Abbot Fox meant his turning down his request to accept a speaking invitation in post-Hiroshima Japan on the grounds that a monk was wedded to his monastery until death. Significantly, however, this policy was reversed in 1968 when a new abbot, Flavian Burns, a disciple of Louis, approved an Asian trip for his mentor, which included meeting prominent Zen and Buddhist figures such as the Dalai Lama and Japanese writer DT Suzuki. Merton’s extra-mundum moorings were loosening.

Just days before Merton left for India, he was photographed drinking Schiltz beer with Richard Sisto at a picnic on Gethsemani lake. This was a lifestyle recalling his youthful drinking days in the Rendezvous student pub in Cambridge.

After weeks of travel and lecturing in several countries – and reportedy looking stressed on the morning of December 10th – he retired for a shower. That afternoon he was found lying on his back in his room with a five-foot fan lying diagonally across his body. Mott reconstructed Merton coming out the shower, slipping and drawing the fan sharply towards him for support. The wiring was faulty, giving him a shock which was sufficient in itself to kill him as he cried out. It is quite possible the shock also gave him a massive heart attack, though this was a secondary cause of death. Mott’s observation that Merton’s feet were “oddly curled up” suggests the electric shock occurred at the moment of death and not later, thus supporting the electrocution theory, although it is possible that the “massive heart attack” did not kill him instantly.

Regrettably, Abbot Rembert Weakland, the conference organiser, waived an autopsy in a rush to transfer the body back to Gethsemani on a US military plane along with the bodies of US service personnel killed in Vietnam.

It was only in 2015 that the now elderly and frail Fr John Eudes Bamberger confirmed he had identified Merton’s body in spite of the disfigurement caused by 240 volts of electricity that operated the defective fan. (2)

Equally significantly, Bamberger revealed that Abbot Fox had asked him to engage Merton about an affair he was having with a young nurse. This came about when Merton, then 53, was recuperating from a debilitating back pain in a Louisville hospital. There he fell in love with 19-year-old Margie Smith. It was a situation which provoked an inner crisis in Merton.

On January 18th, 1967 Merton wrote that “last week” he and two friends drank some beer under the loblollies at the lake and should not have gone into nearby Bardstown village, from where he phoned Margie at a petrol station. Although he was conscience-stricken for this the next day, he wrote, “Both glad”.

Merton wrote in his last journal, The Other Side of the Mountain, that he burned all of Margie’s letters, while not even glancing at any of their contents. “We can only imagine what ‘M’ thought when she read this seemingly cold-hearted, if not brutal, entry” for August 20th, 1968, Robert Waldron observed, adding: “Merton’s burning M’s letters would certainly have pleased Abbot Fox, for in the “sacred game of love” the winner is not ‘M’, not Merton, but Abbot James Fox, who was the true winner in what Merton, perhaps cynically, came to call ‘the crap game of love’.” (3)

It was Merton’s tragedy, I wrote, that Dom Fox did not remain Abbot to keep him under strict control and prevent his drifting back to his drinking and womanising days. On November 19th, 1963, some three years before he met Margie, Merton had revealingly written that his dormant sexuality was stirred by a beatnik visitor who claimed to be a relative but turned out to be a nymphomaniac who “gave me a wild time – a real battle, at times physical, and finally when I got away alive and with most of my virtue intact (I hope) I felt shaken, sick and scared”.

Again, revealingly, in 1965 Merton confessed: “I suppose I regret most my lack of love, my selfishness and glibness (covering a deep shyness and need of love) with girls who, after all, did love me, I think, for a time. My great fault was my inability really, to believe it, and my efforts to get complete assurance and perfect fulfilment. So one thing on my mind is sex, as something I did not use maturely and well, something I gave up without having come to terms with it. That is hardly worth thinking about now – 25 years since my last adultery.”

According to Waldron the affair was “true love” lasting about six months. “Evan after they had decided to separate, Merton continued to write about her in his personal journals, still dreamt about her, and still called her by phone even when she was about to depart for Hawaii on her honeymoon.”

Merton was “a destroyed person” because of his failure to marry Margie, according to Fr John Dear. By 1966, for a depressed Merton “everything was falling apart,” wrote Dear in a book published in 2015. “Falling madly in love was an almost normal, albeit unforeseen, next step. Choosing to remain a monk and a hermit only compounded his pain.” (4)

My conclusion, therefore, was – and is – that Merton regretted giving up Margie and was so eaten with remorse that she had married someone else, he no longer felt it worthwhile living. My suggestion that the current Gethsemani, authorities should exhume Merton’s remains for an autopsy was ignored.

Ahead of the 50h anniversary of Merton’s death, a new book, The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton, by Hugh Turley and David Martin has questioned that Merton died by electrocution or heart attack caused by a faulty fan, claiming there is no evidence that Merton had taken a shower, or collapsed into a dishevelled pile onto the floor. They highlight how previously unpublished pictures of the dead Merton show that he suffered “a large cut and contusion on the back of his head not noted at all, and photographs taken immediately after his death – which had been kept virtually hidden for 49 years – show that his body was lying perfectly straight, with his arms lying beside his body, just as it might be placed into a coffin.”

They suggest the possibility that a key official of the monastery had become exposed to blackmail by “the powers that be”.
This is such a hotch-potch conspiracy theory that the authors don’t even recognise that they are caricatures of preposterous conspiracy theorists who would argue that Queen Elizabeth was behind the death of Princess Diana. Furthermore, they question the credibility of Mott and the monks of Gethsemani by suggesting the CIA roamed unnoticed around the conference centre and murdered Merton. Such far-fetched theorising has been compounded by a new book by Philip F Nelson alleging that President Lyndon Johnson and FBI chief, J Edgar Hoover, ordered Merton’s killing.

In 2016, I made a second visit to Gethsemani, where for a weekend I attended a retreat, being listed by the abbey’s registrar-bursar as “Father John Cooney” and being lodged besides the monks’ dormitory! During the retreat I was driven by jeep to Merton’s hermitage by Br Paul Quenon who knew Merton and seated me on Merton’s chair besides his bookshelves. Another retreatant told me that nurse Margie Smith was a novice with an order of nuns, which explains how she recognised Merton, whose works she had read.

For me, this piece of information, which I have not seen recorded in any publication, clinches the case that Merton was doubly stricken with Catholic guilt: not only had he confessed to having enjoyed forbidden carnal knowledge of her, he also had destroyed her vocation to religious life. A modern update of Abelard and Heloise.

Shortly after my visit, Pope Francis gave a boost to Merton’s standing by telling the Houses of Congress that Thomas Merton ranks as one of four great Americans along with President Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Junior and Dorothy Day. Regrettably, Francis did not include his fellow Jesuit, Dan Berrigan. However, this was a sea-change since 1992 when Pope John Paul II’s The Catechism of the Catholic Church made no mention of Merton.

It will be interesting to see if Pope Francis today commemorates Merton’s anniversary and mentions his contribution to inter-religious dialogue, in particular with Buddhism. Today in Louisville a Buddhist Centre will celebrate his legacy in addition to there being a Mass in the Catholic Cathedral to be celebrated by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz.
In a seminal article by Prof Paul Savastano, “Thomas Merton saved my life and opened my heart”, in We are Already One, Savastano attributes Merton’s untimely death to the fact that he was very much a product of his time. The mystique of the Catholic Church which Merton joined in 1941 was lost with the introduction of the vernacular. He missed the Latin Mass and the Gothic chants. Savastano is also convinced that Merton’s openness to other religious traditions and to the contemporary social traditions of his time were strong indications that he would have continued to grow in his religious and social worldview to include a concern for women’s civil and human rights. He believes that had Merton lived, he would possibly have left the Catholic Church and the Cistercians.

Whatever the cause of his death, whichmay now never be known with any certitude, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Merton’s death, I would advise readers to stick to his writings. Ultimately, in death Merton is linked to the Algerian-born novelist, Albert Camus, who died in a car accident in France in January 1961. Both writers were victims of absurd deaths.

John Cooney, a former religious affairs correspondent of the Irish Times. cooneyjohn47@gmail.com

1. Michael Mott, The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton, Houghton Miflin Company, Boston, 1984.
2. John Eudes Bamberger: Memories of a Brother Monk, in We are Already One, edited by Gray Henry and Jonathan Montaldo, Louisville, 2015.
3. Merton’s affair is examined in Robert Waldron’s, The Exquisite Risk of Love: The Chronicle of a Monastic Romance, Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 2012;
4. John Dear, Thomas Merton, Peacemaker, Meditations on Merton, peacemaking and the spiritual life, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 1915. Dear calls 1968 “a brute of a year” which saw the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert Kennedy, the arrest of Daniel Berrigan and the Catonsville Nine, the brutality of the Democratic convention in Chicago and the election of Richard Nixon”.

Angela Mary Griffin: The other F word Angela Mary Griffin / Alaska Highway News, In Ontario, Canada "they invited female Catholic Priests into their homes to celebrate Mass "


Angela Mary Griffin
"When I taught in a Catholic secondary school in Ontario, some older colleagues who had come of age during the 1960s and who taught in the school’s Religion department lived in a Catholic commune of sorts in the poorer area of the downtown core. Once their daughters became young women, they chose to no longer celebrate any aspect of their Catholic faith. My colleagues had raised their daughters to be feminists and activists. These young women told their parents that until the Catholic Church decided to no longer treat women as second class citizens, they could not participate in that religion. Their parents, Catholic Religious Studies’ teachers, fully supported that In their cluster of small, East-end homes, they helped one another raise their children. Some of these families had no car, choosing public transport instead. They did not attend Mass in any of the churches in town. Rather, they invited female, Catholic priests into their homes to celebrate Mass. They also used female clergy, gay clergy, or married clergy, not recognized by the Catholic Church, to perform family wedding, baptismal, and death rituals.

Once their daughters became young women, they chose to no longer celebrate any aspect of their Catholic faith. My colleagues had raised their daughters to be feminists and activists. These young women told their parents that until the Catholic Church decided to no longer treat women as second class citizens, they could not participate in that religion..."

NEW BOOK: "Called and Chosen: Ten Catholic Women Tell Their Stories of Invitation and Ordination", Edited by Sheila Dierks, Bridget Mary Meehan- Story of Call to Priestly Ministry Included, Introduction by Feminist Theologian Mary E. Hunt


According to historical church documents, during the first millennium tens of thousands of women served the Catholic Church as ordained deacons. Since that time women have been denied both diaconal and priestly ordination. In this book ten contemporary women tell the stories of journeys that have been both difficult and joyful on the path to ordination as deacons, priests, and bishops, and of the ritual experience at altar and in living rooms where they are led to rediscover the sacred meal, with all its meanings, hopes, humility, and blessing.

The Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland Proposes Solution to Priest Shortage Include Married Priests and Women Priests


My Response: What a wonderful affirmation that the Association of Catholic Priests  ACP (in Ireland) takes the view that we need to have married men ordained as priests and that we need women priests.
Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP, https://arcwp.org

Dr Ann-Marie Desmond, from Timoleague, Co Cork: ‘I can’t see anything wrong with women celebrating the Eucharist.’

"Fr Roy Donovan, of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), said while they understand and sympathise with diocesan authorities doing all they can with declining numbers of priests to provide the optimum service possible the reality is that “clustering parishes” in whatever form may be necessary in the short term but in the longer term it is little more than “kicking the can down the road”.

“We want to praise the bishop and the people of Limerick diocese for undergoing a synod. We applaud them for all their work and energy and involvement of so many people and so many parishes - that is the way forward,” said Fr Donovan.
However, he said it is just putting off major decisions that need to be made.
“The ACP takes the views that we need to have married men ordained as priests and we need to have women priests…"
“Every possibility should be put on the table. Limerick diocese is operating within the limits – they are doing the best they can within the limits. We would be saying the overall church, all over the world needs to go beyond those limits and needs to open up every possibility including married people and women priests,” said Fr Donovan.
The parish priest of Caherconlish / Caherline says one of the disadvantages of the new system is different priests will be saying Masses every Sunday..."
"CHANGE isn’t easy but it is necessary, said Bishop Brendan Leahy, who has announced a “Team Ministry approach” for the Limerick Diocese.
It is to deal with the drop in the number of priests and need for greater lay engagement. It was outlined by Bishop Leahy in a pastoral letter read out at all parishes in the diocese at the weekend. 
The move, which was signalled in the 2016 Limerick Diocesan Synod, will see existing parishes arranged into pastoral units. Teams of clergy will minister in each unit but existing parish identities will be preserved.
The new units will involve a number of parishes operating together, with two or three priests ministering together as a team to the pastoral needs of these parishes. Each of the priests will be a “co-parish priest” and will move around the pastoral unit, resulting in different priests saying Masses in parishes week on week..."

"Is our democracy more fragile than we were taught?" by Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter


Unsplash/Jilbert Ebrahimi)

My Response: All of us are co-responsible for our democracy including our religious leaders especially in issues of equal rights and justice for all.  Let us unite as courageous advocates of truth and justice in our democracy as we make a way forward through the crisis we face in the United States now. The following article written by Michael Sean Winters provides food for thought and action. Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP, https://arcwp.org

"The bishops' conference is apparently willing to look the other way at these attacks on the very roots and essential forms of our democracy. They should contemplate long and hard the moral standing before history of those prelates who did not defend the Weimar Republic in Germany, who collaborated with the Nazis and the fascists, who fled to Vichy and its morally compromised regime."

"Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is clearly closing in on the president. Will the Republican leaders of today have the courage that the Republican leaders of the Watergate era demonstrated? Sen. Jeff Flake has refused to vote judicial nominations out of committee until the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allows a vote on a bill that would protect the Mueller investigation from any presidential shenanigans. Does anyone seriously think McConnell will stand up to Trump if Mueller's investigation yields damning information? McConnell, who refused to permit a hearing or a vote on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland?
In 1974, six of the 17 Republican members on the Judiciary Committee voted to impeach President Richard Nixon. Does anyone think there will be a similar concern for the rule of law among today's House Republicans?
Can we expect that leading conservative Catholic scholars will call on conservative political leaders to stand up to Trump's fascistic tendencies? Do the Catholic legal scholars who write for Mirror of Justice, scholars who were quick to condemn Obama for expecting religiously affiliated institutions to fill out a form in order to avoid covering contraception in their insurance plans, have nothing to say about the president shamelessly dangling the promise of pardons in what amounts to the most public example of witness tampering in history?
There was a chilling moment during the recent G20 summit in Buenos Aires, when Russian President Vladimir Putin embraced Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a kind of high-five gesture, both men grinning from ear to ear, the grin of victors. We do not know was said between the two men, but it would surprise no one to find it had something to do with murdering inconvenient journalists. And these are the men our president defends, the ones to whom he gravitates, the ones for whom he makes excuses.
The dangers are not confined to the Trump administration and Washington. In Wisconsin and Michigan, where the voters decided to oust Republican governors and replace them with Democrats, the out-going GOP leaders are moving to enact legislation that would strip their successors of powers currently possessed by the office to which they were elected. They are working off a playbook devised in North Carolina two years ago when voters there voted for new leadership. Can anyone think of a historical precedent for this kind of behavior? I can't. I hope the voters are plenty miffed, but voters these days seem fickle more than principled, and the next election is a long way away. The power grab might work.
And where are our bishops? Dating back to the founding of the conference during World War I, the nation's bishops have demonstrated a patriotic commitment that, if anything, was a little too uncritical at times for my taste. They have taught generations of young Catholics to value our civic freedoms. Yet, in recent years, they have focused so narrowly on a few issues and have tendentiously interpreted both key conciliar doctrines and the signs of the times. In effect, if not in intent, the conference became an arm of the most conservative wing of the Republican Party. The bishops' conference is apparently willing to look the other way at these attacks on the very roots and essential forms of our democracy. They should contemplate long and hard the moral standing before history of those prelates who did not defend the Weimar Republic in Germany, who collaborated with the Nazis and the fascists, who fled to Vichy and its morally compromised regime.
The country is headed into some rough and uncharted waters. We Americans have not witnessed such a direct threat to democratic norms since, well, never. This is worse than Watergate, worse than the McCarthy hearings. Our nation has faced other kinds of crisis, from the Civil War to the Great Depression, and in those times the constancy of our democratic norms has been a source of solidity..."

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Battle of wills: Tiny order of French nuns takes on Vatican By Nicole Winfield | AP December 8, Washington Post


My Response: This situation sounds complicated and painful especially for the nuns in the order. It is hard to know what we do not know of the circumstances about the religious order, the finances, the Vatican's assertion of control, and the sisters decision to leave an order they love. Hopefully, the Order and the Vatican will come together and have a fruitful dialogue that will resolve all the issues and bring everyone peace, harmony and integrity. Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP, https://arcwp.org

..."Born in 1901, Mother Marie died in 1999 and her niece, the current ousted superior, took over a year later. She remains at the mother house in Saint-Aignan sur Roƫ, in western France. She had been due to step down after her term was up and a new superior was elected, but plans for the election are now in limbo, Mignot said.
The standoff with the Little Sisters comes amid a continuing free-fall in the number of nuns around the world, as elderly sisters die and fewer young ones take their place. The most recent Vatican statistics from 2016 show the number of sisters was down 10,885 from the previous year to 659,445 globally. Ten years prior, there were 753,400 nuns around the world, meaning the Catholic Church shed nearly 100,000 sisters in the span of a decade.
European nuns regularly fare the worst, seeing a decline of 8,370 sisters in 2016 on top of the previous year’s decline of 8,394, according to Vatican statistics.
While lamenting the “tight grip” that the superior has over them, the Vatican’s congregation for religious orders told AP that most sisters had been kept in the dark about the management dispute over the elder-care homes — details that even the Vatican commissioners haven’t fully ascertained since they haven’t been able to access the institutes’ finances, the Vatican summary said.
In the past, the Vatican has not been afraid to impose martial law on religious orders, male or female, when they run into trouble, either for financial, disciplinary or other reasons.
St. John Paul II famously appointed his own superiors to run the Jesuits in 1981, some 200 years after Pope Clement XIV suppressed the order altogether. Pope Benedict XVI imposed a years-long process of reform on the Legion of Christ order and its lay branches after its founder was determined to be a pedophile. More recently, the Vatican named a commissioner to take over a traditionalist order of priests and nuns, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.
“It’s serious, but it’s also serious that these nuns would do such a violent act as to threaten to leave religious life,” she said. “It’s difficult to understand, other than perhaps because of their attachment to the charism of the founder” and her niece. Sabina Pavone, a professor of modern history at the University of Macerata, said Catholic archives — especially from Inquisition trials — are full of cases of the Vatican taking action when religious superiors assume “tyrannical” powers over their devoted followers.
While many of the cases date to the period of tremendous growth of religious orders for women in the 1800s, she added, “we shouldn’t be surprised that you find them today” as well."

Augustinian priest: John Shea's Letters to Pope Francis on Women's Ordination -Teaching that women are not like Jesus is 'heretical'..." by John Shea OSA


"This teaching that 'women are not fully in the likeness of Jesus' -- qualifying, as it does, as a theological explanation -- is utterly and demonstrably heretical."
John Shea SA

"... This teaching says that the 'catholic' church is only truly 'catholic' for males," Shea wrote.

Augustinian priest: Teaching that women are not like Jesus is 'heretical'

The church’s problem with the role of Women in Church

Enclosed are letters I mailed before the Feast of Saint Augustine to Pope Francis and to each member of his Council of Cardinals. They meet September 10-12 to discuss reform of church structures.
If our bishops remain unable to address women’s ordination and if our theologians who are informed enough to speak are also unable to address it, then who is able to speak?
This silence raises the question of the role of the bishops and theologians in the church. If both groups are meant to be our teachers, why is there so little concern for intelligent, informed, and engaged pedagogy?

What is the impact of deadening silence—for over two decades now—not just on the ordination of women but on any open, honest, and fruitful discussion of the ministerial needs of the church?

What happens to the church when it separates itself from a living theology?

What happens to bishops and theologians when they do that? 
What price do the people of God pay for their continuing silence?
Jesus keeps saying; “Do not be afraid.”

Pope Francis keeps saying: “Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.”
But how are courage and dialogue possible in a church where women — seen as another species — are rendered structurally voiceless and where bishops and theologians are only in attendance by not speaking?

Is there a future for a church that is deliberately dumb? Is there any hope for a church that respects each person’s voice and gifts for ministry, for a church that is whole, life-giving, authentic, and Spirit-filled, for a church that is responsible and adult, for a gendered church that is as human as Jesus is human?
Are we able to find something theologically better than the literal, “finger and thumb,” patriarchal thinking that so constricts us? Could a deeper metaphorical and trinitarian theology be entertained? If, for example, it is not in his maleness that Jesus images the Father — if neither the Father nor the Spirit is biologically male — what is to be found in the nature of the imaging?
How long will a culture of puerile sexism continue to devastate the church?
Will women in the church ever be human enough to be priest, prophet, and leader?
How long? How long? How long? How long?
John Shea

Letter to the Council of Cardinals

Dear Cardinal Marx,
Feast of St. Augustine, 2018
I am writing to you and to each of the members of the Council of Cardinals yet again to ask you to directly address in your next meeting the church’s continuing decision to frame women as lacking the body-and-soul integrity to be ordained to the priesthood. This decision so needing reform—ecclesia semper reformanda—radically disfigures the church’s identity and thoroughly compromises its mission in the world.
Of all the things that Pope Francis has said and done, his opening of the Synod on the Family in 2014 was perhaps the most extraordinary: he told the gathered bishops to speak “freely,” “boldly,” and “without fear.” Lamentably, he had to ask his fellow bishops—grown men and the church’s teachers—to speak honestly to each other. Not only necessary, this request suggested at the time that real dialogue might at long last be possible in the church.
If you find nothing in Scripture or tradition that keeps women from being ordained to the priesthood, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If women in the priesthood is vital for the church’s future—if hierarchy hopping around on one foot is not just dismissive but tragically horrific—I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If seeing women and men through a complementarity lens or in light of precious patriarchal symbolism is not ad rem to women being worthy of ordination, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If you know from experience that any given woman is as religiously mature and able to provide pastoral care as any given man, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If you find the 1994 letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: 1) was the fruit of doctrinal fiat and not dialogue; 2) was written directly in the face of—and arguably to cut off—serious scriptural-theological dialogue actually taking place; and 3) then mandated that no dialogue at all—let alone anything fearless or gender-inclusive—would be allowed going forward, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If you find the letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, is basically an historical interpretation of ordination rather than one that is seriously theological, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If the theological explanation put forth by the Vatican in the 1970s and 1980s — that women cannot be ordained because they are “not fully in the likeness of Jesus” — simply would be silly if it were it not heretical, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If it beggars believe that women fully created in the image and likeness of God does not mean they are fully created in the image and likeness of God’s Son — if Jesus is thought to image a Father who is biological male — I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If the church blithely distorts the Three-in-Oneness of our God — if a huge patriarchal beam is stuck in the church’s eye, worshipping the Father as male, the Son as male, and the Holy Spirit as male — I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If you are alarmed because adult faithful are leaving the church in droves over women not being worthy of priesthood — if a “patriarchal Jesus” severs the roots of inclusion, respect, and trust for both women and men — I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If it troubles you that banning women from ordination is taken — within the church and throughout the world — as affirming women’s inferiority and justifying domestic violence, infanticide, trafficking, and many other atrocities, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If bishops, theologians, and all the faithful need to dialogue together under the aegis of a genderless Spirit to affirm the body-and-soul integrity of women and let our blind, sexist, justice-wounded church find healing, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
Cardinal Marx, does the church’s dehumanization of women disturb you? Are women whole? Are they fully in the likeness of Jesus? Is now the time for a collegial voice to be heard? Like the reformation of inclusion in the infant church, can you and the other bishops see, hear, and name what Pope Francis does not see, hear, and name? Will you speak freely? Will you dialogue boldly and without fear?
John J. Shea, O.S.A.
Copy: Pope Francis

Copy of a Letter to the bishops of the U.S.A.
Dear Cardinal O’Malley,
The Beginning of Lent, 2014
I am writing to you and to all the ordinaries of the dioceses in the United States to ask you and your fellow bishops in your role as teachers to provide a clear and credible theological explanation of why women are not being ordained to the priesthood in the Catholic Church. I write not to challenge the teaching of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis on women’s ordination. Rather, my concern is the theological explanation of this teaching— theology being, as Anselm said, “faith seeking understanding.”
Two years ago, I wrote to all of you with the same request. At that time, I was teaching in the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College. The teaching on women’s ordination was extremely important for many of the students — women, of course, but men as well — and a number of them were simply leaving the church because the theological explanation that was offered made no sense to them. Before my letter, I had already stepped aside from active ministry as a priest until women are ordained. After my letter, Jesuit-run Boston College terminated me as a professor. My provincial, with the urging of several archbishops, has given me two “canonical warnings” threatening me with being “punished with a just penalty” for voicing my concerns.
In case you are wondering who is writing to you, I am an Augustinian priest, solemnly professed for over 50 years. Before serving at Boston College (2003-2012), as Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Care and Counseling and Dual Degree Director (MA/MA and MA/MSW), I taught in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University (1981-2002). My areas of expertise are in pastoral care and counseling (Fellow, American Association of Pastoral Counselors) and the psychology of religious development (Ph.D., Psychology of Religion), areas that today would be considered practical theology. I also have graduate degrees in theology, philosophy, pastoral counseling, and social work.
I mention this background because as a practical theologian I too have questions about the theological explanation of why women are not ordained. In all of my study, in all of my training, in all of my counseling experience, and in all of my years of teaching I have not come across a single credible thinker who holds that women are not fully able to provide pastoral care. Likewise, I have not come across a single credible thinker who holds that women are deficient in religious development or maturity. From the perspective of practical theology — a theology of the living church, a theology that takes experience seriously — I find absolutely nothing that does not support the ordination of women to priesthood.
It seems that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, the document on the ordination of women that the Vatican and the bishops keep pointing to, is actually an historical explanation of the issue. It looks back at what it we think Jesus was doing in appointing the 12 Apostles. An historical explanation, however, raises a number of questions. Was commissioning the 12 a unique event? Did Jesus mean to ordain the way we understand ordination today? Was it the intent of Jesus to inaugurate ministry only males could carry out? Did he ever say this? Was Jesus only doing what he thought would work best in the patriarchal culture of his day? What was it about the religious role of the scribes and the Pharisees – all of whom were male – that so incensed Jesus? Was Jesus patriarchal? Did he see women as inferior to men? Did Jesus envision women in ministry? Finally, what about the history of ordination in the last two thousand years, an amazingly checkered history that clearly includes women?
The problem with historical explanations is that they suffer from an incomplete logic. They cannot complete the circle. On their own, they cannot say that “what was” also “had to be.” On their own, they cannot say that this particular event must have this particular meaning. History necessarily involves interpretation. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, for example, gives a paradigmatic meaning to the commissioning of the 12 Apostles. Could not another perfectly logical interpretation of the meaning of that event be that a number of patriarchal men — then and now — were and are dead set against women having any authority over them?
If history is not a good proof, it does have many valid uses. A very brief look at the history of slavery, the history of racism/religious intolerance, and the history of women’s inferiority in the church is helpful in challenging our tendencies to absolutize as well as in chastening some our hallowed self-evaluations. Each of these three issues is about what makes us equal and fully human. Each is the cause of incredible violence  often in the name of God – violence that is beyond all telling.
  • Slavery—That men, women, and children would become slaves either by conquest, retribution, or inferiority was seen as something almost “natural.” Strangely, Jesus and St. Paul did not seem to have had a lot of problems with it. For centuries the permissibility of slavery was seen as part of “the ordinary infallible teaching” of the church. Over time, however, and in conjunction with racism and religious intolerance, the thinking in the church changed dramatically. Now, the inherent evil of slavery is part of “the ordinary infallible teaching” of the church.
  •  Racism/Religious Intolerance: Jews came to be seen as “perfidious” and were severely persecuted. Muslims were “infidels” and had crusades led against them by the popes. It is fair to say that for centuries the inferiority of Jews and Muslims was part of “the ordinary infallible teaching” of the church. Later, with the colonization of the Americas and then of Africa, the question was whether or not these native peoples were really human beings with souls like those of European males. It took a long time with immense suffering, but eventually the utter abhorrence of racism and religious intolerance became part of “the ordinary infallible teaching” of the church.
  •  The Inferiority of Women: Women’s inferiority was seen as “natural” by the cultures that cradled Christianity. In our history, this inferiority was generously reinforced by the teachings of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. These two wonderful theologians — arguably the two most influential in the West — not only questioned whether women had valid souls, but they outdid each other in describing women in the most vile and profoundly dehumanizing ways.
    No thinking in the church is more virulent and intractable than the patriarchal strain that so disrespects women. When the Vatican reasoned in the 1970s and 1980s that women could not be ordained because “they are not fully in the likeness of Jesus,” it was affirming an “ordinary infallible teaching” with roots incredibly deep in the substrate of our church.
    A theological explanation weighs any issue against the core of the Christian message. It obviously takes historical events and their interpretations into account, but the focus is on those understandings of the Christian faith so central that our Christian identity and the very meaning of the faith are at stake. In their ordinary infallible teaching that women cannot be ordained in the church because “they are not fully in the likeness of Jesus,” the Vatican and the bishops were offering a much- needed theological explanation of the issue. It was an explanation meant to complete the circle, an explanation meant to settle the question of women’s ordination in terms of Christian identity. 
Unfortunately, this teaching that “women are not fully in the likeness of Jesus” — qualifying, as it does, as a theological explanation — is utterly and demonstrably heretical. This teaching says that women are not fully redeemed by Jesus. This teaching says that women are not made 
whole by the saving favor of our God. This teaching says that the “catholic” church is only truly “catholic” for males. In time, many Vatican officials and bishops rejected the ordinary infallible teaching they had just affirmed. Now they say: “Of course, women are fully in the likeness of Jesus in the church.” Respectful words to be sure, but are they real?
We revere Jesus as priest, as prophet, and as ruler.
If “women are fully in the likeness of Jesus” in our church, they fully share in the priesthood of Jesus — but in fact women are completely excluded from the priesthood of Jesus.
If “women are fully in the likeness of Jesus” in our church, they speak for God as Jesus did but women are completely without voice in the church; as if they were children they cannot read the Gospel at the liturgy and are forbidden to preach the Word.
If “women are fully in the likeness of Jesus” in our church, then they fully share in the formal authority of our church—but women, solely because they are women, are completely barred from church authority.
As a bishop, how long will you champion the inferiority of women in the church? How long will your teaching on women be an obvious and eye-popping contradiction? How long will your demeaning patriarchal stance violate women’s human and religious equality in God’s name?
Two more years have come and gone. The priests are voiceless. The academic theologians are nice and safe. The bishops make statements but do nothing that would be recognized as engaged teaching. The adults, desperate for something that respects their intelligence, leave the church in droves. How many serious people, young and old, have given up on ever finding a theological explanation of women barred from priesthood; an explanation not hopelessly patriarchal and sexist, not serving inequality and subservience, not aiding and abetting violence?
Again, it is the beginning of Lent, a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, a time of for all of us in the church to be mindful of how we are in our caring and in our justice. Cardinal O’Malley, is providing a credible, non-heretical theological explanation of why women are not ordained in the church something you can do as part of your teaching responsibility as a bishop, as part of your caring and your justice?
John J. Shea, O.S.A.