Saturday, May 5, 2018

Women Priests Project: Giulia Bianchi, Photo Journalist

..."Most candidates for women’s ordination in the Roman Catholic Women Priests movement are mature women, many former nuns, missionaries and theologians. They work in social justice, in ecological movements, in non-profit organizations, education, or assistance of refugees, for example. Activism is often intertwined with missionary work.
Reverend Blanca Cecilia Santana Cortez from Colombia, for example, works with “mujeres de la prostitution”, sex-workers, and with afro-Colombian women living in extreme poverty. She doesn’t provide for them as a charity, she educates them to be free individuals, to fight for their rights, to be feminists. She doesn’t teach them to be Christian, but to be like Christ.
The Vatican considers female ordination a serious crime, issuing an order in 2010 to clarify that anyone who participates in the “attempted” ordination of a woman automatically excommunicates themselves. That statement included the severity of the sin of the attempted women’s ordination as at the same level of a crime as the sexual abuse of minors by priests.
For the crime of involvement with women’s ordination, employees of the Catholic Church often lose their jobs. Pastoral associates, professors, chaplains, nurses, and even nuns, lose pensions, support and housing issued by any Catholic organization, including schools and hospitals. They cannot be buried in a Catholic cemetery with their own families.
Despite this, most of the women that have been interviewed do not want to leave the Catholic Church. In the words of Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan, former nun, writer of more than 20 religious books, and founder of the Catholic Community Mary Mother of Jesus in Sarasota, Florida:  "Does that mean they can take away our faith? My faith is in my DNA. I'm an Irish Catholic woman and I am passionate about my Catholic faith. I'm as much a Catholic as the pope is. We’re not leaving the Church, we’re leading the Church"
To understand what “leading and transforming the Church” means, it is important to understand what is at the heart of the mission of women in priesthood, and why this model is so frightening to the Vatican.
According to feminist theologians, if God is always considered a masculine figure -- macho, warrior, dictatorial, perfectionist, distant, all knowing, all rational, all powerful -- this narrow image shapes our understanding of the entire world. This model of power and punishment reinforces inequality and violence. Yet, every major spiritual tradition carries a deeply rooted,  ancient and arguably feminist understanding of the divine: God as mystery, wisdom, spirit, pure life, pure passion for life, love. A feminist spirituality rooted in equality and inclusivity, is inherently nonhierarchical, and honors collaboration and compassion over power. It comes with a sense of co-creation and co-responsibility in the world, respecting all people as part of the divine Mystery.
Women priests ask for a new model of cooperation between men and women, a new model of leadership based not on power, but pastoral and responsible love. They envision the Church as an all-inclusive and egalitarian community, a model that could be closer to early Christianity, therefore not clerical, where priests are servants to the people of God. They did not shape a new cult, but organically gathered people from the grassroots, from the suburbs, and the people who no longer feel welcomed by the Official Church. The historical Jesus did not exclude anybody from his life, and therefore they do not exclude any person from their communities: it is quite common in their communities to see Catholics that are divorced, lesbian, gay, transgender, or women who have had an abortion...."

Since 2012, Nausicaa Giulia Bianchi has been working on a web documentary and book project called “You Gave The Virgin a New Heart”. She met so far more than 70 women priests in the USA and Colombia, photographing and interviewing them. She’s planning to continue her documentation in Europe and South Africa in 2016. The final book and website will present photographs, interviews, drawings, archival photographs and documents, theological and feminist essays becoming a reference point for this topic.
She choses specifically to document the Roman Catholic Women Priests movement because it’s the religion of her childhood, but also because she wants to stress the importance of civil and religious disobedience. We live in a society where obedience is rewarded anywhere. In her opinion, dialogue with the past is vital, but it must be a critical dialogue. We are in charge to shape the future starting from the primacy of individual consciousness.

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