James Alison: Love in a Changing Catholic Climate

jamesalisonJames Alison, priest and theologian, has written a great analysis of the final documents from the Synod on the Family vis a vis gay, lesbian, and transgendered Catholics. Alison takes the bishops’ lack of commenting as a good sign, because they clearly thought about the issue a lot during the synod.

One telling example of that his conversation was occuring was when New Ways Ministry director Francis DeBernardo asked Ghana’s Archbishop Palmer-Buckle whether the African bishops, or any bishops, would support a statement from the synod condemning the criminalization of lesbian and gay people. Palmer-Buckle’s answer included, “We know that all are sons and daughters of God and have dignity. We are doing what we can. It takes time for individual voices like that to be heard, when you are dealing especially with something that is culturally difficult for people to understand.”

In addition, Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp said, “It is better that the synod said nothing on this issue than if they said something harmful.”

So I commend to you James Alison’s generous analysis in The Tablet. Here’s an excerpt below:

There were two weak-minded “ways out” of the current hierarchical impasse in the Church on matters gay – the first, a bombastic reaffirmation of current teaching as obviously right, the solution of the deluded pure; the second, that the teaching is right, but that there is a problem with the language in which it is communicated – the solution of the cowardly cosmeticians. I’m delighted to say we got neither. The low-key reaffirmations of loyalty to current positions in the final document have “pro tem” written all over them; and the general dropping from view of matters LGBT towards the end of the synod suggests that something much more interesting may have happened.
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Binders Full of (Catholic) Women?: Week in Review

CWSBetty Thompson at Solidarity with Sisters sent this roundup about Catholic women and equality in the church sparked by this week at the Synod on the Family in Rome:

10/7/15 – Church-history expert Phyllis Zagano applies current and historical insight to Archbishop Durocher’s call for ordination of women deacons.

10/7/15 – Theologian Mary E. Hunt on “Synod system stacked against women,” with bonus brief canon law lesson.

44 women from around the world speak to the Synod on Family in a new book, Catholic Women Speak: Bringing Our Voices to the Table. Many perspectives, e.g., Italian historian Lucetta Scaraffia (an appointed non-voting auditor at the Synod) says the absence of women in Church decision-making is like “breathing with only one lung.” Order through publisher Paulist Press, Amazon, etc. NCR reviews book as “compelling, expansive, diverse.” One of the authors is Rhonda Miska, who led us in song at our 2014 Spiritual Leadership conference.

Visitation Sisters in Minneapolis open their doors to welcome neighbors into their contemplative way of life. Part of Global Sisters Report’s 6-part series on contemplative religious life.

Want an evening of spiritual refreshment with people nationwide? By phone or in person, be part of the monthly hour of communal contemplation on Mon., Oct. 12, 7:30pm, with the Women’s Alliance for Theology and Ethics (Silver Spring, MD). For me, it’s like that drink of fresh spring water that Sister Janet Mock described at the LCWR Assembly in August.

Theologian Mary E. Hunt, in Baltimore Sun Op-Ed on Pope Francis’ USA visit, sees “disconnect between the pope’s rhetoric about equality and the…virtually all male-led [institution]…. To be a decision-maker in Catholicism requires ordination.” Also calls for strong Papal action on sex abuse, and an end to the “gay charade” in the Church.

Reflecting on Pope Francis’ visit, St. Joseph Sister Christine Schenk asks “Why wasn’t a woman invited to preside at a papal prayer service? …Our common prayer needs to mirror the whole church, not just those gifted with a Y chromosome.

Powerful Carmelite and Ignatian insight into “Christ Consciousness: Part 1” in video (57:22) with Carmelite Sister Constance Fitzgerald and Jesuit Father Brian McDermott, part of Baltimore Carmel’s day of recollection for its 225th anniversary.

Note from Rose: I’ve issued a challenge for Catholic women to purchase 5 copies of the book Catholic Women Speak: Bringing Our Gifts to the Table and give them to 5 pastors of Catholic parishes. (The first run of this book from Paulist Press sold out almost immediately. So you may have to pre-order it on Amazon.)

Megan McKenna: A Convening on ‘The Family’ Should Start With Breakfast

monkimageThe World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September (and all the other related gatherings that have been pushed to the periphery, such as the global Women’s Ordination Conference)and the Synod on the Family in Rome in October (participants in which 99.75 percent are men)  present opportunities for a more diverse image of what it means to be a Catholic family (large C or small).

Megan McKenna, Catholic spiritual writer and peace and justice advocate, has a great reflection based on John 21 (the “breakfast with Jesus” scene on the banks of the Galilee) on how important it is for the global Catholic family to come first to the table of Christ–as sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, children and parents, partners and singles–in a spirit of kinship and communion before launching into any conversations about “the definition of family,” who is in and who is out in marriage, and the education and raising of children. Jesus was notoriously non-conformist in who he identified as “family.”

Read an excerpt here:

This is how Eucharist is to be celebrated—drawing everyone back into intimacy, all forgiven with a shared meal, awkward though it might be among them. Jesus’ words—Children, come and have your breakfast—welcome back into my company—welcome home to my heart. We are one; we are in communion because of My love, My life, death and resurrection. Come and eat. …

This is how the Synod on the Family should begin—with a proclamation of the Good News to the Poor—with God’s simple invitation repeated again to everyone—come and eat; break bread with me; let me feed you. The opening prayer should be a greeting of welcome—a place to stand after Resurrection, as Jesus’ stands with all of us, no matter how we have behaved. Did the disciples deserve Eucharist and being drawn back into intimacy with Jesus?

…What if we admitted that we need a theology of marriage based on the mystery of the Trinity, where the third party is God, marrying the two persons. [even now the sacrament can be celebrated without a priest—the couple marrying one another in the presence of God, and having it witnessed later by a representative of the Church]. What if this sacrament—of two married in the presence of and with the Trinity speaks of communion and universal family and incorporation as one for all people, revealing the mystery of our God as community? …–Megan McKenna  (Read more here.)

Download the whole article and read more about Megan McKenna here.

Synod on Family: Like Watching Sausage Getting Made


As an editor, I’m always interested when the fine art of copy editing gets political! I decided to run a “compare docs” program on the first and second versions of the report from the Synod on the Family currently going on at the Vatican. (See above. Scroll down to Part III in document for the “juicy” stuff.)

In case you are just catching up, on Monday, 13 Oct, the Vatican released an update from the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. Basically, at the half-way point, they wanted to let folks know what was going on.

Pope Francis is trying a “sunshine strategy” at the notoriously closed-door Vatican. Parts of the synod were even “live-streamed”! He seems to believe that many of the worlds 1.1 billion Catholics — and certainly most of its priests can handle the truth of how things are done, that they can handle spirited discussion, that they can handle more than one idea at a time. (This seems generally to be true, except for one or two really piqued U.S. cardinals.)

Pope Francis trusts that people are complex and intrinsically beautiful and that so is truth. In this, he is totally in sync with his predecessors.

After the first update on Monday, 13 October, the document went to small groups (based on language groups) for review. The agreed upon changes were then entered into a new document, which was released on Thursday, 16 October. (The final document will probably be released next week.)

You’ll recognize it by edits that now identify some families as “broken” (not “wounded”) and calling churches to “provide for” homosexuals (not “welcome”). These changes were ONLY made in the English language version, not the official Italian version.

Theology, like politics, can be messy to watch being made. However Pope Francis may be recalling the words of he predecessor a few years ago when Pope Benedict XVI said at Christmas in 2012 :

“I would say that the Christian can afford to be supremely confident, yes, fundamentally certain that he can venture freely into the open sea of the truth, without having to fear for his Christian identity. To be sure, we do not possess the truth, the truth possesses us: Christ, who is the truth, has taken us by the hand, and we know that his hand is holding us securely on the path of our quest for knowledge. Being inwardly held by the hand of Christ makes us free and keeps us safe: free – because if we are held by him, we can enter openly and fearlessly into any dialogue; safe – because he does not let go of us, unless we cut ourselves off from him. At one with him, we stand in the light of truth.”

Here’s the link to the original English version as of 13 Oct 2014, prior to the small group review. (Scroll down about halfway through the post.)

Here are the links to the 3 English-speaking small group (Circuli Minori) reviews: English Group (Circulus Anglicus) “A” – Moderator: Card. Raymond Burke English Group (Circulus Anglicus) “B” – Moderator: Card. Wilfrid Napier, OFM English Group (Circulus Anglicus) “C” – Moderator: Mons. Joseph Kurtz

Here’s the link to the English version current as of 17 October 2014.

Serve up some buns and sauerkraut with that sausage!–Rose Marie Berger

Is Nationalism a Heresy? Bishops of Africa Discuss.

african synod posterCardinal Sodano, dean of the Roman Catholic College of Cardinals, addressed the Synod of African Bishops (happening this week in Rome) on how Christian values shape patriotism, nationalism, and love for one’s country.

“Nationalism,” of which the U.S. seems to have a very bad case, is a deviation or heresy that is wholly anti-Christian.

“Love of one’s nation — concretely, of one’s people, one’s compatriots — is certainly a Christian duty, but we also have to add that the deviation of nationalism is wholly anti-Christian.

Christianity has always condemned every deformation in this concept of nation, a deformation that frequently descends into nationalism or even racism, the true negation of Christian universality.

In reality, the two basic principles of the Christian community have always been as follows: the dignity of each human person, on the one hand, and the unity of the human species, on the other. These are two inviolable frontiers, within which various concepts of nation can evolve, depending on time and place.”–Angelo Sodano, Roman Catholic cardinal

Read Cardinal Sodano’s whole address here.