Friday, November 24, 2023

Women theologians dare the Church to reform or die In a new book, seven women theologians, each with their own perspectives, address the challenges facing the Catholic Church today

By Isabelle de Gaulmyn (in Paris) | France
November 24, 2023

The disadvantage of a book written with several authors is that it necessarily goes off in several directions. Such is the case with a new 180-page book on the Catholic Church written by seven women theologians, six French and one Italian. The title – Se réformer ou mourir – pretty much says it all – the Church must "reform or die". 

Biblical scholar Anne-Marie Pelletier (a member of thePapal Study Commission on the Women's Diaconate) and Marie-Jo Thiel (a medical doctor and theology professor at the University of Strasbourg) outline the obstacles and prospects regarding the role of women in the Church. Italian historian and author Lucetta Scaraffia (former editor of "Donne, Chiesa e Mondo", the monthly women's magazine issued by the Vatican daily, L'Osservatore Romano) adds her own views on the issue.  

Meanwhile Véronique Margron, the Dominican sister who is currently president of the Conference of Men and Women Religious in France (CORREF), reminds us what the sex abuse crisis has brought to Catholics, particularly with regard to the relationship between power and abuse. 

Ursuline Sister Laure Blanchon, professor at the Jesuit Faculty of Theology (Centre Sèvre) in Paris, looks at the Church's preferential option for the poor. And Isabelle de la Garanderie, a consecrated virgin who has a doctorate from Centre Sèvre and teaches highschool religion, shares reflections on Church reform.                                

Reforming a Church that's still too clerical
But we would like to express a particular preference – albeit a subjective one -- for Anne Soupa's. Readers may remember that she's the lay theologian who "applied" to be Archbishop of Lyon in 2020. Soupa offers a beautiful reflection reforming a Church that she sees as overly clerical. She starts from what seems most promising to her, namely the baptismal way. Baptism is the only sacrament "capable of lifting all the muted but powerful exclusions that structure the Church", and, in particular, the difficult relationship between the laity and the clergy.

Soupa thus moves away from overly ecclesial debates to focus on a more spiritual vision, and insists on the role of the baptized in the Church she so earnestly desires. She refuses to despair in the face of the crisis facing the institution, asserting that we must continue to bear witness, "because Christianity can only be transmitted from face to face. And all it takes is a few".

The institutional Church, she insists, must not hide the Church of Christ, which is something much more. Catholics must return to a "vigorous, ardent and well-argued proclamation of the resurrection", prepare for the Kingdom, and place love at the heart of their message, she says. In this way, the Church's "purified, scintillating" Christ-like purpose must emerge from its now anachronistic structure.

Se réformer ou mourir (Paris: Salvator, 2023)

Laure Blanchon OSU 

Thursday, November 23, 2023

For this group of trans women, the pope and his message of inclusivity are a welcome change, by Nicole Winfield and Trisha Thomas AP Story

TORVAIANICA, Italy (AP) — "Pope Francis’ recent gesture of welcome for transgender Catholics has resonated strongly in this working class, seaside town south of Rome, where a community of trans women has found help and hope through a remarkable relationship with the pontiff forged during the darkest times of the pandemic.

Thanks to the local parish priest, these women now make monthly visits to Francis’ Wednesday general audiences, where they are given VIP seats. On any given day, they receive handouts of medicine, cash and shampoo. When COVID-19 struck, the Vatican bussed them into its health facility so they could be vaccinated ahead of most Italians.

On Sunday, the women — many of whom are Latin American migrants and work as prostitutes — joined over 1,000 other poor and homeless people in the Vatican auditorium as Francis’ guests for lunch to mark the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor.

The menu was evidence of Francis’ belief that those most on the margins must be treated with utmost dignity: cannelloni pasta filled with spinach and ricotta to start; meatballs in a tomato-basil sauce and cauliflower puree, and tiramisu with petit fours for dessert."

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

A Thanksgiving Prayer by Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

 I give thanks that we are all one- connected 
in infinite love. 
It does not  matter what religion, race, gender, race or culture we belong to.
Each  of us is a magnificent image of  God  
with access to boundless grace flowing
 through every cell inside us and all around us.  
Let us be grateful for this sacred energy
that enables us to live life boldly, courageously 
 in service to our sisters and brothers.
As we give thanks for our blessings, this Thanksgiving Day, may we live as blessings in service of others.
May see the face of God in  those who are  marginalized, impoverished, ridiculed, hated and abandoned. 
May we share our abundance with them and work together for a more compassionate, just and peaceful world.
Amen. May it be so.
Bridget Mary Meehan

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Disclosing God’s Love by Robert McElroy

From National Catholic Reporter:

Disclosing God's love

Members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops, organized into 35 groups based on language, begin their small-group discussions

Members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops, organized into 35 groups based on language, begin their small-group discussions Oct. 5. in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican.The Oct.4-29 assembly concluded with the release of a synthesis statement, which included recommendations. (CNS/Vatican Media) 


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Editor's note: Following is the transcript of San Diego Cardinal Robert McElroy's address to the Religious Formation Conference on Nov. 10 in Chicago, which is published here with permission. 

“It is with great joy that I join with you today. For last month's meeting of the synod in Rome has convinced me with even greater depth that the conversion to a synodal church constitutes the call of the Holy Spirit to the people of God in this epoch of history. And I am ever more convinced, also, that the degree to which religious communities have already enshrined synodality in their life and ministries equips them to become uniquely powerful witnesses to the synodal conversion to which the spirit is leading us.

The very nature of the synodal assembly in Rome testified to the identity of the church as the entire people of God in a piercing manner. Bishops, laywomen and men, religious, priests and deacons all sitting around common tables together in union with the pope, dialoguing in deep faith and insight, and voting equally upon the interim report — that will be the basis for future action. These dimensions of the assembly experience point to the reality that we were truly all journeying together on this pilgrimage on Earth in the name of Jesus Christ. It was a stark contrast with past synods, where bishops alone voted and the bulk of the sessions were spent listening to a seemingly endless series of speeches that left participants passive and disengaged. 

The "i" had to become the "we," and the "we" had to seek, at every moment, the grace of the Holy Spirit to ensure that our earthly perspectives, interests, alignments and desires did not cloud the call of the Gospel.


The starting point for the synod was the instrumentum laboris, which reflected the global process of discernment that brought together the experiences, the joys, the sorrows and the hopes that millions of Catholics shared about the faith that animates their lives.

Uniting these testimonies of faith was a deep devotion to the fundamental and enduring mission of the church which it receives from Christ, the one sent by the Father. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the church witnesses to the Gospel in its fullness and thus cooperates with the coming reign of God. It is this mission which is the heart and soul of a synodal church.

The method of dialogue in Rome was conversation in the Spirit, a process of deep discernment which truly opened up the hearts of the synod participants. Beginning with the word of God and prayer, the participants at each table would share their initial reflections on the question at hand, each listening to the other, with substantial pauses between contributions for prayer and reflection. Then, building upon a series of such rounds, each table moved toward more directly addressing the issue for that session.

This method diminished frictions and magnified commonalities, precisely because all came to see with a greater understanding the faith of the other. As you in religious life fully recognize, such a process of discernment allows the grace of God to be recognized more clearly in our midst, and points to the commonality of our identity as disciples of Jesus Christ, bound together in our love for God and the church, even amidst sometimes contentious topics.

The synod was a profound experience of the universality of the church. Because we switched tables five times during the course of the synod, each of us came into contact with the face of the people of God in every continent and across a multitude of cultures. It was fascinating, transformative and powerfully transcendent to witness God's diverse tapestry of grace at work throughout the world.

There were enormous issue areas on which there was broad consensus — the centrality of the kerygma; the missionary identity of the church; the importance of placing the Eucharist at the center of every element of ecclesial life; the need to expand and invigorate ministries open to the laity; the church's imperative to go out of itself to embrace and advocate for the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed and the hopeless; the importance of a paradigm shift in the church's invitation to, and treatment of, women; and the need for a global rather than a national or mono-cultural perspective. 

Cardinal Robert McElroy speaks.

Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego speaks Nov. 10 to the Religious Formation Conference's 2023 Congress in Chicago, on how women and men religious can help transform the Catholic Church into a synodal church following the path of the Holy Spirit. (NCR screenshot/Religious Formation Conference) 

But there were also areas of deep divide — on how to meaningfully include the laity in the church while maintaining the integrity of its hierarchical nature; on how deeply inculturation and decentralization should proceed in the Catholic community; on questions of the diaconate; and inclusion for LGBT communities.

Yet both the areas of consensus and those of division only served to underscore more deeply that the vision of synodality which Pope Francis has proposed for the church will be critical to guiding the people of God along the pathway to which the Holy Spirit is calling us.

Synodality is not rooted in specific outcomes, no matter how important. It seeks nothing less than a recasting of the culture of the church that will endure for generations. For this reason, the Holy Father has insisted the synodal reflection and action that we are undertaking throughout the world must be thought of as a process of conversion. 

A specific architecture of synodality underlies Pope Francis' call to transformation in the life of the church. It is rooted in the methodology of seeing, judging and acting, and it springs from his belief that synodality is vital to "plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands."

It is essential to understand 10 distinguishing marks that characterize Pope Francis' vision of a synodal church, and the manner in which these distinguishing marks shaped the global dialogues which have taken place during the past two years and the dialogues of the assembly in Rome. 

1. Synodality points to the reality that the whole of the people of God are journeying together in the life of the church and in synodal action. This means that we cannot operate from a mindset of complacency or one that accentuates the differences among the baptized. Rather, we must view ourselves as the people of Israel were called to do in the desert, united in their faith and in their understanding that God was calling them to an ever new way of life. As we were reminded at the Roman assembly, our individualistic perspectives on issues needed to be replaced by a communal understanding rooted in our common identity as disciples of Jesus Christ. The "i" had to become the "we," and the "we" had to seek, at every moment, the grace of the Holy Spirit to ensure that our earthly perspectives, interests, alignments and desires did not cloud the call of the Gospel.

Discernment, both individual and ecclesial, is not primarily cognitive, but spiritual and intuitive. Our intellect provides critical guidance, but is not the central element in apprehending the mystery and the call of God within our souls and within the soul of the church. 

The synthesis of the synodal assembly . ..”