Video: Scaling Up ‘People Power’ in Catholic Church

Time marker: 1:52:48-1:55:52

At a panel on People Power and Peacebuilding, I asked the panelists: “Pope Francis has encouraged a process to look at how the Catholic Church can scale up its nonviolent action. The Catholic Church is in a unique position as a supranational entity as well as a highly locally identified entity. And, in it’s most positive formation, has a long experience of peacebuilding, but what he’s encouraging now is how to bring nonviolent action alongside that. What kind of impact do you think a Vatican council or Vatican department on Nonviolent action and peacebuilding could have in various conflicts around the world?”

(Time marker: 1:52:48-1:55:52; learn more about the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.)

Anthony Wanis-St. John (associate professor at the School of International Service at American University) responded first, followed by Véronique Dudouet (Program Director, Conflict Transformation Research, Berghof Foundation; Member of ICNC Academic Council), and then Maria Stephan (Director, Program on Nonviolent Action, U.S. Institute of Peace).

You can watch the 2-hour panel discussion and learn more here.

Description: In recent years, nonviolent movements have filled streets and dramatized crises to force political and social change from Tunisia and Egypt to Nepal or Liberia. Such civil resistance campaigns inevitably will need skills—of dialogue and negotiation—that are honed and taught by practitioners of peacebuilding. After decades in which the fields of nonviolent action and conflict resolution have evolved separately, new reports underscore that they need to collaborate to prevent social conflicts from turning violent and to build more inclusive societies. Learn more about People Power and Peacebuilding.

Speakers:
Carla Koppell – Opening Remarks
Vice President, Applied Conflict Transformation, U.S. Institute of Peace

Maria J. Stephan, Moderator
Director, Program on Nonviolent Action, U.S. Institute of Peace

Anthony Wanis-St. John
Associate Professor, School of International Service, American University

Véronique Dudouet
Program Director, Conflict Transformation Research, Berghof Foundation; Member of ICNC Academic Council

Abdallah Hendawy
Egyptian activist and political commentator; consultant, Program on Nonviolent Action, U.S. Institute of Peace

Jitman Basnet
Nepali Journalist/Lawyer and Former Prisoner of Conscience

What President Obama’s Climate Talk Means to Faithy Millennials

obama greenpeaceDan DiLeo wrote an excellent analysis in the Millennial Journal about President Obama’s June 25 climate address. (Dan works for the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change.)

There are so many ways to unpack this very important speech that it’s hard to choose one angle in — but this is a start in listening to young people of faith forging their future.

Here’s an excerpt from DiLeo’s essay President Obama on Climate Change:

On Tuesday, June 25, 2013, President Obama unveiled the most ambitious plan to date by any U.S. President to address the increasingly urgent climate crisis. Although the speech was addressed to both the nation and the world, the address is particularly relevant for millennial Catholics. This is first due to the fact that he unveiled his plan to young people at Georgetown University and spoke directly to “your generation.” Additionally, the Catholic Church has explicitly and repeatedly advocated for public policies to address the climate crisis. Finally he mentioned two issues that have found resonance on Catholic college campuses and with millennials: the Keystone XL Pipeline and divestment from carbon-intensive industries.

The President began by recounting the scientific facts of climate change: “scientists ha[ve] known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap heat, and that burning fossil fuels release those gases into the air [. . .] The overwhelming judgment of science — of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements — has put all [of the uncertainty around climate science] to rest. Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data, have now put that to rest. They’ve acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.”

Timothy Shriver: ‘The Next Pope Should Be a Mystic’

An excellent reflection on the sede vacante, the vacant seat of St. Peter.

Mother Teresa's feet and sandals. A reminder to the next pope.

“There’s no need to rehash the recent disastrous track record of the all-male Roman Catholic hierarchy. The sordid abuse of children by priests, the sinister coverups, the callous treatment of nuns, the deaf ear turned toward Catholics who happen to be gay or divorced — it’s all on the front page. The Catholic Church is hemorrhaging moral authority.

What’s much more devastating is that it is losing believers, too. If you can’t trust the messengers, why trust the message? It is not too much to say that the crisis in the church is contributing to a crisis of faith in the Gospel itself.

This is a crisis not of management nor of theology. This is a crisis of the spirit. But before the church can address its great moral collapse, it will have to recover its spiritual bearings. The next pope should be a mystic.

A mystic? Absolutely! Contrary to popular perception, a mystic is not a magician or a crystal-ball-gazer. A mystic is rather a person who has had an experience of God’s love so unmistakable that it changes him or her forever, imparting a confidence that cannot be shaken, a humility that cannot be doubted, a freedom that exudes love and gentleness and authenticity. A mystic knows from experience, not books, that we are each beautiful beyond our understanding, loved beyond our capacity to love, united beyond our perceptions of difference and division.” —Timothy Shriver is the chairman of Special Olympics.

Read the whole column.

Can A Pope Resign? Well, It’s Been Awhile …

St. Peter's Square begins to fill as news of BXVI's resignation filters out.

After nearly eight years since being named to the chair of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI announced this morning that he is resigning at the end of February.

If you live in the post-Modern, post-Christendom uber-hip world, you might not understand the full weight of this morning’s announcement.

A pope hasn’t “resigned” in 600 years.

“…in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”

As a cradle Catholic who loves the church enough to fight with her when she fails to live up to her gospel call, the words “the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant” are words that strike a dark loneliness in my stomach and soul.

Continue reading “Can A Pope Resign? Well, It’s Been Awhile …”

Fr. Roy Bourgeois Faces ‘Laicization’: Hero or Heretic?

Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois, the longtime peace activist and founder of the School of Americas Watch, has received a letter from his Maryknoll order that he has 15 days to publically recant his support for women’s ordination in the Catholic Church or he will be kicked out of the Maryknoll family and stripped of his priestly functions.

He’ll be defrocked, unfrocked, or laicized, depending on your denomination. The Catholic church and his order will no longer recognize his right to exercise the functions of the ordained ministry.

The National Catholic Reporter tells the story:

The letter, which is dated March 18, is signed by Maryknoll Fr. Edward Dougherty, the order’s superior general, and warns Bourgeois that his dismissal will also be forwarded to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith “with a request for laicization.”

NCR received the letter in a fax from Bourgeois this morning. Bourgeois, who attended and preached a homily at the ordination of Roman Catholic Womanpriest Janice Sevre-Duszunska in August, 2008, was notified by the same congregation shortly after that event that he had incurred a Latae Senteniae, or automatic, excommunication for his participation. Dougherty’s letter references that event and says Bourgeois’ continued support of women’s ordination since — specifically mentioning his Feb. 12 participation as a panel speaker at a showing of the film Pink Smoke Over the Vatican — has been “in disobedience to the explicit instructions of your Superiors.”

If Bourgeois does not respond with 15 days, the letter says he will be given a second warning, after which Dougherty will dismiss him for “publicly reject[ing] the teaching of the Holy Father.”

In the Catholic Church, a priest, deacon, or bishop may be dismissed from the clerical state as a penalty for certain grave offenses, or by a papal decree granted for grave reasons. This may be because of a serious criminal conviction or heresy. A Catholic priest may also voluntarily request to be laicized for any personal reason. Voluntary requests are by far the most common means of laicization, and the most common reason is to marry. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI put an end to speedily granting laicization requests by priests or their bishops. John Paul ruled, soon after becoming pope, that no priest under forty could be granted an administrative laicization.

Part of the irony – or hypocrisy – in the case of Fr. Roy is that he is being defrocked for standing up for his conscience while hundreds of other priests were not defrocked when they were convicted of criminal action. I guess this indicates which kind of “sin” the Vatican feels better equipped to deal with: criminal behavior can be corrected from within but freedom of conscience is resistant to hierarchical pressure. Well, ever has it been thus.

When Fr. Roy was ordained, a phrase was sung over him: “You are a priest forever, like Melchizedek of old.” And when he was baptized – like all Catholics – he was anointed with oil as a sign that he was consecrated to God, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and joined to Jesus in this threefold mission as priest, prophet, and king.

While the Vatican may view the laicization of Fr. Roy as a punishment, many of us “laity” out here view it as a gift. Now Fr. Roy can move into the fullness of ministry in the Catholic church as represented by the people of God, rather than the inwardly focused bastion of clericalism the Vatican wants to defend.

So, as the story of Fr. Roy’s laicization unfolds, let us all welcome him home as a hero. As the Catholic community of Christ let us anoint Fr. Roy with the words of Pope Paul VI: “The holy people of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office; it spreads abroad a living witness to Him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips which give praise to His name. The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief.”

Interview with Jennifer Sleeman, Catalyst for Sept 26: “A Sunday Without Women”

Jennifer Sleeman, Cork, Ireland

Jennifer Sleeman’s call for Sept. 26 to be “A Sunday Without Women” on behalf of justice for women in the Catholic church, is picking up steam around the world. Sleeman, an 80-year-old Catholic convert from Clonakilty in Cork, Ireland, is an active member of her Catholic church. She is also the person mainly responsible for Clonakilty becoming the first Fair Trade town in Ireland and has received an award from the Cork Environmental Forum, in recognition of her “outstanding contribution to sustainability in Cork city and county through partnership and participation in the promotion of environmental care.”  I interviewed her last week over email.

Rose: What was the context for you suggesting the Mass-boycott day? What prompted you and why did the media pick it up?

Jennifer: Rose, I’m delighted to answer your questions. It is so exciting seeing the idea traveling world wide! I was aware that a lot of individuals and groups have been campaigning for equal rights in the Catholic Church and the idea of Boycott was to pull it all together. I was greatly encouraged and helped by friend who had a mailing list. It never crossed my mind that Sept.  26th is just after the Pope’s visit to England. I have been wondering a lot why I decided to risk it and why now — is there a spirit at work?

Rose: Other than the media, who has responded to your call?

Jennifer: I have had the most fantastic support from both women and men. Letters (proper ones on paper!), cards, emails, phone calls. 99.9% positive.

Rose: What are your plans for Sept. 26? Will you gather with others?

Jennifer: I don’t know what I will do on the 26th.

Rose: Is there any message you’d like to send to Catholic women around the world?

Jennifer: We are the majority. Together we have strength and our absence, the empty pews will be noticed. I would love the focus to go away from me and onto all women and men who see the great need for change in the Church. If people have ideas to gently reinforce the message, go for it.

The movement to “boycott Mass” for justice for women in the Catholic church may not be the perfect instrument. But in the language of social movements it would be considered a “weapon of the weak” — a nonviolent way that a subordinate class wields power over a a dominant power structure that purports absolute control (See James Scott and Karl Gaspar). Sleeman’s call is not only for justice for women but fits in a stream of actions and speeches that are geared to confronting the “restorationist” movement happening within the institutional hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

South African Catholic bishop Kevin Dowling described it this way:

“Restorationism: the carefully planned dismantling of the theology, ecclesiology, pastoral vision, indeed the ‘opening of the windows’ of Vatican II — in order to ‘restore’ a previous, or more controllable model of church through an increasingly centralized power structure; a structure which now controls everything in the life of the church through a network of Vatican congregations led by cardinals who ensure strict compliance with what is deemed by them to be ‘orthodox.’ Those who do not comply face censure and punishment, e.g. theologians who are forbidden to teach in Catholic faculties.

Lest we do not highlight sufficiently this important fact. Vatican II was an ecumenical council, i.e., a solemn exercise of the magisterium of the church, i.e. the college of bishops gathered together with the bishop of Rome and exercising a teaching function for the whole church. In other words, its vision, its principles and the direction it gave are to be followed and implemented by all, from the pope to the peasant farmer in the fields of Honduras.”

Read Bishop Dowling’s entire talk here. And let me know if you are taking action for women on Sept. 26. I’ll add you to the map.

Catholic Hierarchy’s Organized Crime – A Round Up

Cartoon by Charlie Moore
Cartoon by Charlie Moore

I’m a practicing Catholic. I practice and practice and practice. I hope when I get to the pearly gates, Saints Peter and Mary Magdalene will tell me that all my practicing made me perfectly eligible for heaven. God willing. Until then, we muddle along here in the earthly realm that, while shot through with light-bent beauty, is also riddled with sin-punched hearts.

The Catholic hierarchy is on trial right now in the world court of public scrutiny for aiding and abetting child abusers. If the Catholic church indeed represents “organized religion,” then – given the multiple jurisdictions crossed transnationally moving priests to avoid being caught and punished – this is certainly an example of organized crime. In this context Jesus’ words in Luke come to mind:

“Watch yourselves carefully,” said Jesus, “so you don’t get contaminated with Pharisee yeast, Pharisee phoniness. You can’t keep your true self hidden forever; before long you’ll be exposed. You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known. You can’t whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public; the day’s coming when those whispers will be repeated all over town” (Luke 12:1-3, The Message).

Structural sin has long been a concept in Catholic theology. Structural sin, said Pope John Paul II, (see Sollicitudo rei socialis) proceeds from the accumulation of personal sins. It is, said the Pope, “a question of a moral evil, the fruit of many which lead to ‘structures of sin.'”

This is a time for the lens of such scrutiny to be turned on the Catholic church hierarchy itself. But the church leaders can not heal themselves from the inside out. They must humble themselves before the laity and ask for forgiveness and help in shaping the Catholic church more into a body that is less occluded with secrecy, silence, dominance, and clericalism, and that with greater transparency allows for the light of Christ the shine through.

Below are excerpts from a few commentaries I’ve found particularly insightful on the “scandal.”

Women and Girls Need Not Apply, But Should by Phyllis Zagano

They kept women far from any power, then and since. It’s a male-run church, now steaming ahead full throttle in legalistic mode. Shocking headlines pop up daily about what one or another Catholic bishop knew or didn’t know about pederasty in his diocese. From Munich to Milwaukee, across Ireland and into nearly every country in the world, the tales multiply.

What’s not been heard so loudly is the story of diversionary strikes emanating from the Vatican, perhaps aimed at discrediting U.S. nuns who built the charitable and educational infrastructure of the church.

Two separate investigations — one led by the Vatican department charged with overseeing religious institutes worldwide, another led by Pope Benedict’s successor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — are burrowing into the lives and work of U.S. Catholic sisters.

The Vatican appointed an American sister to lead the larger investigation, but didn’t fund the effort. She’s asking the convents her teams are visiting to pay for the intrusion. Some say that is typical of how bishops treat nuns: ask them to do something, as well as the money to do it.

The other investigation focuses on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group for heads of most women’s religious orders and institutes. American Cardinal William J. Levada is directing a paper chase looking for doctrinal errors. He is the same man who called the (female) process server “a disgrace to the Catholic Church” when he was subpoenaed to testify about priestly pederasty.

Hello? What is going on? In the United States, not one bishop who oversaw pederasty or who used church money to break the minds and hearts of complaining victims has suffered any consequence. As Duquesne law professor Nicholas Cafardi points out in the lay Catholic magazine Commonweal, the only bishop to resign — Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston — got promoted to a cushy job in Rome. Law also belongs to the Vatican congregation that nominates bishops.

That’s right. The U.S. bishop who presided over the biggest pederasty scandal in history helps choose new bishops, and can even vote for another pope (at least until he turns 80 in November 2011).

Converting the Pope by Timothy Shriver

The capital of trust between the people of the church and their leaders is dangerously close to empty. The bishops cannot take the people for granted any longer. We were raised to love the gospel, to seek the truth, to serve justice, to grow in the bosom of the sacraments. But we will not do it under their leadership unless they change.

What’s needed is a conversion of the bishops and the pope himself. That’s right: It’s time for the pope and the bishops to convert their culture to one that is centered on loving God from the depths of their souls and to leading a church that is as much mother as father, as much pastoral as theological, as much spiritual as doctrinal. It is time for them to listen to the deep and authentic witness of the people of faith, to trust the spirit that blows where it will, to abandon their defensiveness of their positions and trust only the gospel, and not their edifice of control. Conversion is a total experience — letting go of the old and putting on the new.

The conversion we seek for them is the same conversion they invite for us: Put on a contrite heart and fall in love with God, recklessly, totally and passionately. Let the love of God be the only measure of their actions.

A time for prophetic leadership and accountability by Kerry Robinson

For American Catholics there is no consolation in the confirmation of what we have known all along: namely, the sexual abuse crisis is not uniquely American. Our season of Lent is long and protracted, and the heartbreaking discussions, discouragement and dismay are as fresh these weeks as they were in 2002. There are multiple opinions– constructive, emotional, factually inaccurate, prejudicial, insightful and heartbreaking. Whether one’s objective is to exonerate or excoriate the pope, surely what matters most for those who belong to and care about the Church is that the outcome be a genuine commitment to penitence and penance, stronger accountability, deeper humility, exemplary managerial and governance oversight practices, openness, restored trust and credibility.

German Bishop Expresses ‘Horror’ at Abuse Scandal

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, president of the German bishops’ conference, likened the spreading sex abuse scandal to other recent causes of “suffering in our lives,” including earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, and this week’s attack by terrorists on the Moscow subway.

“In many cases the victims could not put their injuries into words,” Zollitsch wrote, in a statement posted on his archdiocese’s Web site. “The wounds inflicted on them can scarcely be cured … This is a painful reality that we have to face.” Writing on the day when Christians commemorate the death of Jesus, the archbishop likened children and young people molested by priests to the crucified Christ, as fellow victims of “injustice and violence.”

How the Catholic Church could end its sex scandal by E.J. Dionne Jr.

The church needs to cast aside the lawyers, the PR specialists and its own worst instincts, which are human instincts. Benedict could go down as one of the greatest popes in history if he were willing to risk all in the name of institutional self-examination, painful but liberating public honesty, and true contrition.

And then comes something even harder: Especially during Lent, the church teaches that forgiveness requires Catholics to have “a firm purpose of amendment.” The church will have to show not only that it has learned from this scandal, but also that it’s truly willing to transform itself.

Last, but not least, Mark Shields and David Brooks on Lehrer NewsHour:

MARK SHIELDS: I think — I say this as a practicing Catholic. I think that the church has handled the child abuse scandal from the very beginning in the worst possible manner, that their first inclination seemed to be to protect the priests, and then to protect the bishops who were protecting the priests. And there seemed to be minimal concern, in too many instances, for the child, especially the most vulnerable and the least powerful, and, in some cases, handicapped children who were abused. Are there people who are delighting in seeing the church embarrassed and humiliated and exposed? Sure. But that — that is not — the facts are the facts. That was the first charge that was leveled against The Boston Globe when they revealed the stories about Cardinal Law, that this was part of an anti-Catholic — maybe there was a concern, but the facts stand for themselves.

JIM LEHRER: What about — what about this — the anti-Semitism angle?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, you know, as a semi-practicing Jew, the comparison between a child molestation scandal and the victims of the Holocaust is an offensive comparison. And I think Jews and most people are offended by that comparison. And I think — but what it speaks to is not — is an insularity in the response and a tone-deafness to the response. At least a small coterie of people who are making statements — and this was not reflective of church policy — but who are making statements who have been inside the corridors of a world and have difficulty perceiving how things are understood and interpreted outside.

MARK SHIELDS: The archbishop of Dublin, archbishop of Dublin, Archbishop Martin, made a compelling statement echoing — really taking great issue with the Vatican and its handling of this whole crisis and scandal.

JIM LEHRER: As a semi-practicing Protestant, who is going to win the Final Four?

Is It Time to ‘Green’ Your Sex Life?

[Warning: Frank talk about sex stuff.]

Sustainably grown mahogany sex enhancer
Sustainably grown mahogany sex enhancer

The October 26, 2009,  Time magazine ran Kathleen Kingsbury’s article titled Sex and the Eco-City. Who knew that “green” creep had made it into the bedroom? Kingsbury describes a market of organic lubricants, biodegradable whips and handcuffs, vegan condoms, and glass or mahogany vibrators (even hand-crankable models, eliminating the need for batteries).

To top it off, some Catholic church folks have incorporated these green concepts into their teaching on Natural Family Planning! NFP is now the “back-to-nature” method of birth control. As the old Catholic joke goes: What do you call couples who practices NPF? Answer: Parents.

Here’s an excerpt from Kingsbury’s article:

As the green movement makes its way into the bedroom, low lighting is a must–to conserve electricity–but so are vegan condoms, organic lubricants and hand-cranked vibrators.  Another big enviro-sex trend: birth control that’s au naturel.

Like all good Catholics, my husband and I had to attend church-run marriage prep before we tied the knot last year. I was surprised, however, during the hard sell on natural family-planning (NFP), that this updated version of the rhythm method was being advertised not only as morally correct but also as “organic” and “green.” I was even more surprised when I found out that some of the most popular instructors of NFP–known in secular circles as the Fertility Awareness Method–are non-Catholics who praise it as a means of avoiding both ingesting chemicals and excreting them into rivers and streams.

The search for phthalate-free alternatives helps explain the increase in sales of sex toys made of such materials as stainless steel, mahogany–yes, you read that correctly–and glass. …

The Roman Catholic Church is catching on to the organic trend. “People pay $32 for eye cream because they’re told it is good for them and the planet,” says Jessica Marie Smith, who repackaged the NFP program at the diocese of Madison, Wis. “We figured we could do the same with NFP.”

NFP detects ovulation by monitoring a woman’s temperature and the amount of cervical mucus. But this process is not 100% accurate. And several studies on climate change note that the best way to protect the planet is to have fewer children. “Around the world, more than 40% of pregnancies are unintended, and full access to birth control is still unmet,” says Jim Daniels, Trojan’s vice president for marketing. “Meeting that unmet need would translate into billions of tons of carbon dioxide saved.”

To that end, Trojan makes latex condoms as well as ones made of biodegradable lambskin. Other brands offer a vegan variety that replaces the dairy protein in latex condoms with cocoa powder. And no, they don’t all taste like chocolate.

Read the whole article Sex and the Eco-City by Kathleen Kingsbury. And a shout out to Cindy for spotting this article.