Saturday, October 5, 2013

National Catholic Reporter Editorial Challenges Pope Francis to Give Women "Real Authority" in the Church
..."He already has a problem with those who want ordination or nothing. But, putting that aside for the moment (which NCR does not do lightly), there are plenty of other stained-glass ceilings in this church that women could break if only he'd let them, starting with the diaconate. While some dismiss this as a consolation prize, others -- especially married women or those for whom a commitment to priesthood would not work -- would embrace the opportunity to minister as a deacon.
There are other changes Francis could make in the governance of the church. For example, Greg Burke, the communications adviser to the Vatican's Secretary of State, speaking Sept. 25 at the annual conference for the Religion Newswriters Association, wondered why a celibate cardinal heads the Pontifical Council for the Family. A layperson, including a laywoman, could hold that position, he said. There are other jobs in the Curia in which women could excel given a chance.
But when the pope speaks in generalizations, and when male journalists (and yes, we know there are women on America's staff) are not keenly aware they must report anything and everything he says about women, then it's hard for women to not shake their heads and say, "They still don't get it." Francis may be getting the message. His parting words to Eugenio Scalfari were a hint that the atheist newspaper editor would be invited back for another talk, and Francis says: "We will also discuss the role of women in the church," a topic the male editor didn't raise. Francis told him, "Remember that the church [la chiesa] is feminine."
If there's room for women at Francis' table, now is the time for him to offer a real chair, with real authority."
Bridget Mary's Response
Unless Pope Francis ordains women as priests and bishops, women will not be equals in our church. The full equality of women in sacramental ministry as well as in institutional jobs is an issue of justice.
Pope Francis could appoint women to  head major Vatican offices as cardinals. This would be a step in the right direction! Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP,,

Homily for 27th Sunday: "The Flame of Faith" by Dr. Judith Lee, ARCWP

{ This is  Rev. Melvin G. Williams and his wife Deaconess Virginia Maniti Williams with a Bethany Methodist Church Youth Group Member in 1957. They are my spiritual parents in the faith who,along with my grandmother Ella  and mother Anne,  encouraged me to fan my faith and gifts into flame. The picture is from a book of poetry I wrote entitled The Flame Keeper and Other Poems (, 2007.}
This is Keep the Faith Sunday. The readings are rich and meaningful to those who experience disillusion, need, injustice and pain and to those who stand in solidarity with them. In the world I came of age in and in the church I now pastor people understand when I say “keep the faith” when parting.  Poor folks and people of color know that keeping the faith has more to do with the way life is lived, and living for justice than mouthing words of belief, though they do that as well.
In the first reading from the book of Habakkuk we see the unusual prophet, one who not only decried oppression and exploitation of the poor and of God’s people, but one who told God exactly what he thought about God for “ making or letting this happen” (his viewpoint). Habakkuk lived during the beginning of the Seventh Century (BCE) when the treacherous King Nebuchadnezzar ruled and the terrorizing Babylonian (Chaldean) oppression of the Hebrew people was just beginning.  Habakkuk could not believe what was happening.
According to Eugene Peterson (The Message) Habakkuk spoke God’s word to us AND our word to God. Now this is a prophet I can understand. I can understand complaining to God and trying to talk with God about how bad things are and how they “shouldn’t be that way”, especially for God’s people. My heart breaks for the 800,000 Government workers who are furloughed in this immoral Government Shutdown forced by a minority of Tea Party Representatives in the House who cannot accept the law of the land regarding health care, disparagingly called Obamacare by them.  What kind of a world is this when the tail is wagging the dog? Many of those furloughed people will not be able to pay their bills and feed their families. Yet those Representatives still get paid. And when churches are bombed in Syria and Egypt killing those worshiping because they are Christian, I hurt. When U.S. Drones attempting to “take out” enemies also kill children and families even as Dictators who use nerve gas wipe out whole innocent communities, I want to say “God, when will this stop? When people go berserk and assassinate people in movie theaters, workplaces and public spaces because the mental health system is so bad that most fall through the gaping cracks in it, I want to scream.
I understand Habakkuk who said to God: “”So why don’t you do something about this? Why are you silent now….You stand around and watch! “(Hab 1:13 MSG). And, “God, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? …Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day: Anarchy and violence break out…Law and order fall to pieces.  Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head”. (1:1-4 MSG).
Now, my guess is that you understand Habakkuk too.  And you understand the prophet’s meanings not only on the wider scene, but in your own lives. “How can that saint suffer so? How can this young father of two have incurable cancer?” “How come I struggle with such pain in my back or head or how can I deal with the insecurities of cancer or heart trouble?” “Why did I lose my job when I have mouths to feed and rent to pay?” “Why don’t I have somewhere to live?” “Do something, God.” We long to have Divine intervention to make things right and we don’t want “pie in the sky bye and bye”. We don’t want to wait for heaven for it to be right. Well, neither does God. And that is why God asks for us to be steadfast in practicing, in exercising, our faith.  “Faith is the assurance concerning things that we hope for (expect), as it was the substance of things now in existence.  And it is the appearance (revelation) of things not seen”. (Heb. 11:1 P’Shitta Text- Aramaic text.) Faith IS the substance we can hold on to, especially in troubled times.   The Aramaic word for faith is haymanootha.   Its meanings include confidence, firmness, faithfulness and being trustworthy.  The Semitic root of that word is amen which means “to make firm” “true” “lasting” and “enduring”.  According to Aramaic scholar Rocco Errico in And There Was Light (1998:230) “it is a quality or attitude of perseverance”.  We are to persevere in practicing and living our faith. We are to be trustworthy and faithful in our covenant with God.  We are the answer to prayers for justice and peace and we are the answers to someone else’s prayer. God is not silent unless our mouths are silent. And, maybe it is we who are standing around and watching.
In the beginning of the second chapter of Habakkuk, God, who is in dialogue with the prophet, says that the time will come when “those who steadfastly uphold justice will live” (Hab 2: 4(b) TIB (The Inclusive Bible).  The Message says (same verse) “The person in right standing before God…is fully alive, really
alive”. God is telling Habakkuk –keep the faith-keep doing what God wants you to do, enact justice, preach justice, live justice-live the faith, keep our covenant (to love God and love your neighbors as yourself) and you and the people will live, even in the midst of ALL that is wrong.  By the end of Habakkuk’s vision his song, his tune, changes. And it changes because he is in dialogue with God and he is listening. God did not chastise Habakkuk for taking God on, God entered into dialogue with Habakkuk.  If we are speaking with God, God is speaking to us as well. By the end of his song the prophet says,(paraphrased) we are still living in devastation, we are still in big trouble, and I wait for disaster on our attackers but I believe that it is going to be okay as God saved Israel in Moses time, God will do it again.  “I’m singing joyful praise to God…counting on God’s rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength…” (Hab 3:18-19a MSG).  Habakkuk kept the faith and gave the people hope.  Let us take heart and gain strength in the midst of our troubles.
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, after remembering Timothy’s sincere faith which was passed on to him from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (1: 5),  Paul, Timothy’s spiritual parent, encourages Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (1:6). He does not want Timothy to be shy with God’s gifts in leading his community of faith but bold (powerful) loving and self- disciplined.  It is because of Timothy’s strong faith that Paul can encourage his gifts. Indeed that faith can be Timothy’s best gift.  It is interesting to note that Paul begins his encouragement of Timothy’s gifts by reminding him of the faith of his grandmother and mother and saying “that is why I want to remind you to fan into flame the gift of God…” Yet, whoever chooses the Sunday readings in the Roman Missal chose to leave out the reference to Timothy’s mothers in faith. The reading omits verse 5 and begins with verse 6 even though the phrase “that is why…” has no referent.  It is critically important for us to remember our mothers and fathers in faith and to build on and pass on that legacy.  To keep the faith Paul is saying that Timothy needs to pass it on-boldly. I remember well the faith of my grandmother Ella and my mother Anne. I would not be writing this now if they had not passed that faith on to me. And they did it in the midst of much trouble and turmoil. We were poor economically and my mother was our sole wage earner though she was sometimes too ill to work. We knew hard times and yet I learned to live by faith. That faith was reinforced by my strong faith community and its Pastors.  We were rich in faith and the flame was lighted within my heart and nothing could extinguish it. Fan the flame of faith and God’s gifts to you into a blaze!  Turn the fading embers into a flame of passion for God and God’s work for you.
In the Gospel, (Luke 17:5-10) the apostles, upon hearing Jesus tell them to forgive those who sin against you endlessly with endless forgiveness, plea “increase our faith!” They thought that MORE was better.  Jesus told them: “There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake’ and it would do it” (17:6 MSG).  Jesus is saying if you have faith you have power-all kinds of power-use it.  For Jesus, faith is also a relational concept. When people expressed faith in him they were healed, made whole, transformed. He was often moved by the plight of the other person who had faith in him. Having faith is a two way street. As the Aramaic definition tells us, it involves trust and trustworthiness, confidence in one another, and perseverance. Let us be the trustworthy, steadfast followers that Christ can have confidence in even as we have confidence in the love of Christ for us and for all. Let us fan the often dying embers of our faith that is both weakened and strengthened by troubles and doubt, into a flame, a blaze that burns bright, clears the underbrush and makes the way for new life.
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, ARCWP
Co-Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community

Thursday, October 3, 2013


St. Francis Day of Action - Friday, October 4, 2013 Print E-mail
Please tweet Pope Francis and members of hierarchy on Friday, October 4, the Feast of St. Francis, and let them know you support the ordination of women in Roman Catholic Church.
It's time to create a truly collaborative relationship with women in the church, just as St. Francis did with St. Clare. Taking action is easy! Simply tweet one of the following or write your own.
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"Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible & suddenly you are doing the impossible" StFrancis of Assisi #ordainwomen @Pontifex
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"I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, God can work through anyone." St Francis of Assisi #ordainwomen @Pontifex @USCCB
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Need to "investigate further the role of women in the church"? #ordainwomen @Pontifex @USCCB #fem2
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"È necessario ampliare gli spazi di una presenza femminile più incisiva nella Chiesa." #ordainwomen #fem2
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"A new balance" for the #Catholic church? Include women in significant ways #ordainwomen #fem2 @Pontifex @CardinalSean
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"Thinking with the Church?" @Pontifex? Ask a woman. #ordainwomen #fem2 @CardinalSean @Cardinal_Wuerl
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On the Feast of St. Francis, let us remember his peer, St. Clare @Pontifex @CardinalDolan @CardinalSean #ordainwomen
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Happy Feast Day @Pontifex! Who is St. Francis w/o St. Clare? #ordainwomen @CardinalSean
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La Chiesa è la totalità del popolo di Dio? #ordainwomen @Pontifex @CardinalSean @Cardinal_Wuerl #fem2
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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Article on Popular Irish Priest Reformer Fr. Tony Flannery and Ongoing Saga with Vatican/Will Pope Francis Change Hard Line Approach of CDF/Curia?

OCTOBER 4 – OCTOBER 17, 2013. 

                                     FR. TONY FLANNERY
Redemptorist preacher Tony Flannery is the most headstrong of the six Irish priests whose outspoken and unorthodox views have been targeted for silencing by the Vatican.
Flannery’s determination not to be bullied into submission by the centuries old Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, CDF, has pitched him into direct confrontation with Rome’s agent in Ireland, Archbishop Charles Brown.

For some time now it has looked likely that Flannery was doomed to lose but the dramatic resignation earlier this year of the bookish German Pope Benedict XVI and the election of the lively Argentine Francis I, the first Jesuit pontiff from Latin America, has stirred hopes that the reign of intellectual terror in Roman Catholicism may be coming to an end. For once will the might of Rome back down? Will Flannery be restored to public ministry and his good name be upheld?  As battle rages, it remains to be seen if Francis can reverse an entrenched tradition of secretive authoritarian reaction in Rome and reconcile Catholicism with democracy and Vatican bureaucracy with consultative decision-making.  
Oh, what a difference a Pope makes.
Just 18 months ago, the beleagured Flannery faced excommunication from Mother Church and robust removal from his religious order for his “scandalous” writings. As a member of a religious order which for decades was feared by the simple faithful for its hell-fire and brimstone preaching at parish missions and retreats, Flannery came under the surveillance in 2012 of Pope Benedict’s official representative in Ireland, the New York-born Archbishop Charles Brown.
Although not being a career diplomat, Brown was a rising theologian on the staff of the CDF and was an unapologetic disciple of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger whose theological trademark was to denounce relativism as the chief heresy in the modern world. Brown was horrified to discover that the Galwegian who preferred colourful open-necked shirts to the drab clerical garb – and to watch a GAA match rather than talk theology - was a skilful exponent of popular talks which watered-down strict church teachings and questioned traditional attitudes to birth control, divorce, abortion, priestly celibacy and the ordination of women to the priesthood.
But Flannery had to learn that CDF procedures fail to fail to meet the most elementary requirements of due process – the accused is unaware that he (or she) is under investigation until formal charges are brought against him; accusers remain anonymous and the grounds on which the charges are based are not given; the time given to respond to those charges is ridiculously inadequate, often as little as three weeks; the accused is not allowed legal reservation but may seek the support of one (and only one) “friend” who may not accompany the accused into the interrogation room. 
Proceedings are held in secret, questioning is conducted in a hostile and negative manner. The CDF is both prosecutor and judge with no appeal from its findings. Sentences are frequently quite disproportionate to the alleged offence. There has been excessive use of the sentence of automatic excommunication, latae sententiae.

Flannery had not anticipated censure. Remote from the workings of the Holy See because of his pastoral ministry, it came as "a shock, a bolt from the blue" when he was telephoned to be told that the CDF "had their sights" on him. In due course, he was ordered to issue a public statement, accepting all church moral teachings and also agreeing that that women could never be priests. He was also warned about the requirement for total secrecy about his relations with the CDF and to shun the media.
Summoned to Rome to meet the superior general of his order in February 2012, he was told that he was in serious trouble and that the then Prefect, Cardinal William Lavada, was taking personal charge of his portfolio. He was handed two A4 pages on un-headed and unsigned paper by his superiors which had come from the CDF. The first page contained four extracts from articles he had written for Reality on structures in the church and the need for reform, the nature of priesthood, the new missal, priestly celibacy and the role of women in the church. On the second page, his superiors were ordered to "seek to impress upon Fr Flannery the gravity of his situation".
He was not to be allowed to write or to give newspaper interviews. Further, he was to be instructed to withdraw from his leadership role in the ACP and also from public ministry and to undertake a period of spiritual and theological reflection. Flannery was angry as he wondered who "who had produced this document" of diktats and given them to his superiors. He wanted to confront his CDF accusers face to face, to show them that their quotations from his articles were cited out of context. He has not yet been given that opportunity.
Angrily, he realized his Redemptorist superiors in Rome, instead of standing up for him, had bought into the CDF’s way of thinking and acting. He realized that when it came to the test I as an individual would not be of any real significance . . . [and] I would be viewed as dispensable".
Returning to Ireland, Flannery wound up his pastoral duties including saying Mass in community and hearing confessions. He did not publish or give interviews and entered into a period of reflection in a retreat house in Ireland. However, he stuck with the ACP, which openly supported him. In early summer 2012 Flannery received another document from the Vatican, the contents of which exacerbated an already delicate situation. He had two meetings with his superior general, one in Ireland and the other in Rome.
In Rome he was told there had been another "very angry letter" from Cardinal Levada.
Back in Ireland, his period of reflection having ended, he resumed his pastoral duties while preparing a response to the new Vatican document, which he sent to his superiors in late June 2012. This positive outcome was a relief.
But there was a new twist to the story. By September 2012, with a new head of the CDF – Cardinal Muller – in place, there were further demands that his author's statement be amended. New instructions to discipline Flannery were issued: he was to go on a further extended period of reflection to a retreat house outside of Ireland and he was to cease all ACP involvement. Believing he was being bullied by the CDF and his superior general, he again felt angry and prepared an extensive response.
But when Flannery refused to cease contact with the ACP, his superior general invoked rule 73, number 3, of the order. This imposed a 'formal precept of obedience' which obliged him to obey or run the risk of being dismissed from the order. Flannery refused to conform or sign any pledge. To do so would only humiliate him. In mid-January this year, the author went public in The New York Times and held a press conference in Dublin outlining his case.

All of this is documented in his book, A Question of Conscience, published last month,   lifting the lid on the machinations of the CDF. In a foreword former President Mary McAleese, asked “what mother treats a son as Tony Flannery  has been treated?” 
Going on an autumnal offensive, Flannery’s AIP colleague Fr. Brendan Hoban, claimed that Brown was the voice of ex-Pope Benedict. Hoban astutely cast Brown as being out of touch with the more liberal Francis. (See “Archbishop Brown’s Bad PR: Charlie Brown and Benny”, Phoenix September 20, 2013.)

At the Humbert Summer School on September 1 in Hoban’s hometown of Ballina, County Mayo, an emboldened Flannery declared that while his persecutors were unsure of how they stood with Pope Francis, he was sure that the CDF would back off, though it would never reverse its judgement and allow him to return to public ministry.
A tidal change favouring Flannery came with the publication on September 19 of a ground-breaking 12,000-word interview, carried out by the editor of the Italian Jesuit magazine Civilità Cattolica, Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ, which was simultaneously published on several Jesuit websites around the world in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish including The US Jesuit magazine America. 
In his interview the Pope called for the church to be “home for all” ( the vision of Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council, 1962-65) and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine and limited below the pelvis views on moral teachings (the Benedict-Brown model.)
Francis desired to “heal the wounds” arguing that priests must be “merciful” because “the people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials”.
Significantly, Francis’s interview was given page one lead coverage by The Irish Times, which quoted Flannery as saying, “What the Pope said seems to amount to a fairly substantial critique of the way in which the Curia and, in particular, the CDF have been operating.”
And Flannery added: “It changes the rules of the game in the sense that it appears that the Curia has largely been taken out of the business of dealing with disciplinary matters and it has been handed back to the local church to deal with it.”

Suddenly, it looked that Flannery would win, especially as both the Pope and the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin agreed that the problems should be resolved by the local hierarchy, not Rome.
But nothing is ever straight forward even with divine planners. Archbishop Martin is not involved in this dispute’s arbitration, according to Flannery, who describes the Irish Episcopal Conference as dysfunctional and as showing no leadership in his book. “The one among the bishops who has most capacity to lead” is Diarmuid Martin, but “for whatever reason he has not assumed that role,” writes Flannery.

Most likely Diarmuid feels that in the baroque politics of Maynooth he would be swamped by the rest of the hierarchy as Flannery is from the diocese of Clonfert, whose Bishop John Kirby is on Brown’s retirement and replacement files.
Nor is it all sweetness and light on the Muller-Brown axis: the German and the Yankee are shedding sweat in second-guessing which tune the fiddling Francis will play next – collegiality or cconformism?
As British Prime Minister Harold McMillan was wont to say, matters will be determined by events.
Yet, the Franciscan script for October kicks off with a meeting in Rome of the special advisory Council of eight cardinals appointed to come up with a roadmap for change.  It will be open season for innovative proposals. Although still of the belief that the ban on the ordination of women is irreversible, Francis told Spadaro that “it is necessary to broaden the opportunities for a stronger presence of women in the Church." 
A tempting quick-fix for Francis is to take up the suggestion of Fr James Keenan, a Boston Jesuit, that it is canonically possible for him to appoint women to the college of cardinals. Top of Keenan’s list is Linda Hogan, professor of ecumenics at Trinity College Dublin who is not a cleric and is a married female. And the indefatigable Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan, the Irish-born theologian leading the 160-strong Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, has urged Francis to dent the machismo of the church’s all-boys club. Also cheering on Francis’s committee of eight via an Open Letter to Francis released on October 1 are an alliance composed of theologian Cathy Molloy, Sister Dairne McHenry, Brendan Butler and, last but not least, Tony Flannery.

There is no light yet at the end of the tunnel for Tony, who is intent of his own volition in stepping-down from the ACP leadership team at its October AGM. At ant moment the sanctions might be lifted, but he lives under the shadow of an overnight automatic excommunication: once Roma locuta est, its decision will be final. There is no room for the prodigal son in an unreconstructed Roman Curia.
Flannery can still win but his fate hinges on which Francis turns up on judgement day. 
If the reformist hand of history is on Francis, he may choose as the next suitable posting for Archbishop Brown to move to Guantanamo Bay as prison chaplain. No doubt, a magnanimous Flannery would supply a testimonial

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Another Interview with Pope Francis Reveals His Agenda for Reform of Clericalism

 Interviewer: I think love for temporal power is still very strong within the Vatican walls and in the institutional structure of the whole Church. I think that the institution dominates the poor, missionary Church that you would like.
Pope Francis:"In fact, that is the way it is, and in this area you cannot perform miracles. Let me remind you that even Francis in his time held long negotiations with the Roman hierarchy and the Pope to have the rules of his order recognized. Eventually he got the approval but with profound changes and compromises."
Will you have to follow the same path?Pope Francis;"I'm not Francis of Assisi and I do not have his strength and his holiness. But I am the Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic world. The first thing I decided was to appoint a group of eight cardinals to be my advisers. Not courtiers but wise people who share my own feelings. This is the beginning of a Church with an organization that is not just top-down but also horizontal. When Cardinal Martini talked about focusing on the councils and synods he knew how long and difficult it would be to go in that direction. Gently, but firmly and tenaciously."

Despite Excmmunication, Door to Women's Ordination Open" by Fr. Roy Bourgeois
..."Long ago, as a young priest in Bolivia, I learned that power is an addiction, and that our all-male, clerical culture sees women as a threat to male power. In living with the poor of Latin America, I was taught that change would not come from those who abuse their power and oppress others, but from the oppressed themselves. Change will come—not from the top down, but from the bottom up.
At the core of the crisis in the Catholic Church today are men who claim that only they can know the will of God. And the God they tell others to worship is effectively male and heterosexual. Most young Catholics are leaving the Church because it is anti-women and anti-gay. If the Catholic Church does not change, it will go the way of the dinosaurs.
In the midst of my sadness and disappointment in Pope Francis, I nevertheless have great hope because I know that any movement rooted in love, justice, and equality cannot be stopped. In July, Pope Francis told reporters, ”On the ordination of women, the door is closed.” He should know that no one—not even the Pope—can close a door that God wants to open.:"

Monday, September 30, 2013