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

Podcast: Rethinking Just War with Fr. Claude Mostowik

Fr. Claude Mostowik, Pax Christi Australia with Rose in Rome 2016.
Fr. Claude Mostowik, Pax Christi Australia with Rose in Rome 2016.

At the Vatican conference on Just Peace, held in April, I was so pleased to meet Fr. Claude (left), a leader in Catholic social justice movements in Australia-Oceania. He has a delightful artistic eye and brought a stunning image of the Aboriginal Christ by Richard Campbell into our gathering.

Fr. Claude is working with Asylum seekers in Australia who are living in brutal conditions under the anti-immigrant policies of the government. On the eve of ANZAC day, an event marking Australian and New Zealanders involved in military action in World War I, Fr. Claude participated in a discussion on national radio about how we can “rethink just war.” See more below and listen to the podcast.

Last week amidst the news of the Pope’s latest message on the family, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International hosted a conference titled “Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence.”

The three day encounter brought together some 80 theologians and peace activists from many conflict zones, including Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Colombia, Pakistan and the Philippines.

The goal of the conference was to explore ways in which their positive experiences of non-violent activism can shape theological thinking and Catholic teaching in schools, universities, seminaries and parishes, moving away from ‘Just War’ towards the concept of a ‘Just Peace’.

In a message sent to the meeting Pope Francis praised the initiative of “revitalising the tools of nonviolence”.

Around the world it raised headlines suggesting that the Catholic Church was moving to shift ground on one of it’s most venerable teachings, the Just War Doctrine.

So on this eve of ANZAC day, marking Australians participation in the War to End Wars, we are taking a look at just what sort of new thinking may be on the horizon.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

Vatican to Release Report on U.S. Nuns Investigation

7542756After 5 years, the Vatican has announced it will make public the investigation of U.S. Catholic sisters that has so disturbed American Catholics and others around the world.

In 2013, I wrote in Sojourners:

“Even as Pope Francis washed the feet of women on Holy Thursday—a papal first—he reaffirmed in April the highly controversial interrogation and hostile takeover, initiated under his predecessor, of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an organization representing the majority of U.S. Catholic sisters. On Holy Thursday in the juvenile detention center in Rome, Pope Francis explained the important symbolism of the foot washing. ‘It means, “I am at your service,”‘ he said to the youth. What an opportunity the pope has to extend this same gesture to Catholic nuns in the U.S.”

Some say Pope Francis was not properly informed about the unfolding process with U.S. Catholic sisters. Others say his inclination was not to overturn what was started by his predecessor. But all of his public acts indicated that open, positive, respectful conversation with women religious is something he deeply desires and knows that he needs.

Perhaps, in advance of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. next autumn, this tide too is turning. Here’s an excerpt from the Detroit Free Press:

On at least one front, the Vatican’s perceived war against America’s Catholic nuns may have reached a peace settlement.

On Dec. 16 at the Vatican, top Catholic church officials and three American nuns, including one from Michigan, will hold a press conference to publicly reveal the final report of a five-year investigation of congregations of Catholic sisters in the U.S., the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman told the Free Press.

The inquiry of nuns, known as an Apostolic Visitation, sparked a vast outcry by many American Catholics, who viewed it as an attack on the workhorses of the Catholic church, the women who taught and ministered to generations of Catholics and help run parishes and social outreach programs to society’s poor and marginalized.

Rosica, president of Windsor’s Assumption University, said he could not divulge contents of the report, but said it should allay the fears of many Catholic sisters about the investigation.

“It will hopefully be a very positive message for women religious in the United States,” Rosica said Tuesday, after he spoke at Detroit’s Catholic Cristo Rey High School, where he received hundreds of letters from students inviting Pope Francis to visit Detroit in 2015. …

Read the rest of the article 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

Catholics Post Own Online Vatican Survey, US Bishops Too Slow

eqsurvey-300x250In my earlier post Pope Asks Global Catholic What We Think, I noted that the U.S. Catholic bishops were slow in promoting the Vatican survey to hear from Catholics around the world on issues such as church and family life, outreach to divorced and separated persons, outreach to same-sex couples and gay people, and how to be a church of mercy and welcome in preparation for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in 2014.

In the true American “can do” spirit, lay Catholic organizations have stepped into the gap of leadership and have posted the Vatican survey online themselves. Results will be sent to both the US Catholic bishops and the Vatican.

Since these are not multiple choice questions but open-ended, I expect that Catholics individually, in small groups, and as worshiping communities,will bring thoughtful and extensive responses to the Pope’s question. I pray that the Spirit keeps moving through our church and the sense of the faithful is strengthened.

Read more below in Michael J. O’Loughlin’s piece for RNS:

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a progressive-leaning organization that exists to promote “public policies and effective programs that enhance the inherent dignity of all, especially the poor and most vulnerable,” has created its own online survey and is encouraging its members to share their thoughts. Chris Hale, a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance, said that survey results will be sent to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as Vatican officials, including Pope Francis.

Since the survey was launched earlier today, Catholics in Alliance has collected over 300 responses, with many citing Pope Francis’ apparent openness to gay and lesbian Catholics more fully into the life of the church as an opportunity for reform. Hale says that the survey is meant to assist bishops, not challenge them. “We want to provide a model for how bishops could engage their flock on these important questions about the life of the Church. We want the lay faithful to be tremendously involved in the upcoming synod, and we think this is a great way to begin that process,” he told me.

James Martin, the Jesuit writer, wrote on the blog of America magazine that he expects at least some bishops to poll Catholics in their dioceses, and suggested that the “Holy Spirit is at work in her church and in her people. And she will let her voice be heard, this time through these polls, because she desires to speak.”

Read the whole article here.

Pope Francis Drives Ford Focus

Pope FrancisWhen Pope Francis needs to get from one place to another in his domain of Vatican City, the smallest state in the world, he drives a “humble” Ford Focus. On Saturday, he encouraged new priests and nuns to adopt humility in their choice of transportation and gadgets–a word, I think, that applies to all Christians.

As part of his drive to make the Catholic Church more austere and focus on the poor, Francis told young and trainee priests and nuns from around the world that having the latest smart phone or fashion accessory was not the route to happiness.

“It hurts me when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car, you can’t do this,” he said.

“A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world,” he said. …

The ANSA news agency said the pope’s car of choice for moving around the walled Vatican City was a compact Ford Focus.–Read whole story here

There was no word yet on whether the Vatican’s Ford Focus fleet was electric or not.

Pope Francis: The Danger of Being ‘Merely Philanthropists’

mixed media 205 x 185 x 80 cm
Doubting Thomas poking at Christ’s chest wound by Michael Landy (Picture: National Gallery)

Below I include Pope Francis’ reflections this morning on the Feast of St. Thomas offered during Mass in the Santa Marta guest house where he lives. The accompanying art by Michael Landy illustrates to me the dangers of “mechanizing” our experience of touching of the wounds of Christ:

“After the Resurrection Jesus appears to the apostles, but Thomas is not there: He wanted him to wait a week. The Lord knows why He does such things. And He allows the time He believes best for each of us. He gave Thomas a week. Jesus reveals himself with His wounds: His whole body was clean, beautiful and full of light, but the wounds were and are still there, and when the Lord comes at the end of the world, we will see His wounds. Before he could believe, Thomas wanted to place his fingers in the wounds. He was stubborn. But that was what the Lord wanted – a stubborn person to make us understand something greater. Thomas saw the Lord and was invited to put his finger into the wounds left by the nails; to put his hand in His side. He did not merely say, ‘It’s true: the Lord is risen’. No! He went further. He said: ‘God’. He was the first of the disciples to confess the divinity of Christ after the Resurrection. And he worshipped Him.

And so, we understand what the Lord’s intention was when He made him wait: He wanted to take his disbelief and guide him not just to an affirmation of the Resurrection, but an affirmation of His Divinity. The path to our encounter with Jesus-God are his wounds. There is no other. In the history of the Church several mistakes have been made on the path towards God. Some have believed that the Living God, the God of Christians can be found by the path of meditation, and indeed that we can reach higher levels through meditation. That is dangerous! How many are lost on that path, never to return? Yes, perhaps they arrive at a knowledge of God, but not of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity. They do not arrive at that. It is the path of the gnostics, isn’t it? They are good, they work, but they have not found the right path. It is very complicated and does not lead to a safe harbour.

Continue reading “Pope Francis: The Danger of Being ‘Merely Philanthropists’”

Pope Francis Takes Next Steps for Transparency of Vatican Bank

transparent_pig_250Pope Francis has vowed to take on the “third rails” of Vatican power: the Roman Curia and the Vatican Bank.

From news this week, he’s moving forward on cleaning house in the Vatican Bank! All of this is in line with the document released by the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council a few years ago on reforming global finance, a document that was sort of buried until Pope Francis started acting out of it. Here’s an excerpt from the Vatican Information Service release:

“The Holy See Press Office issued a press release on May 8 with the information that the Financial Intelligence Authority of the Holy See and Vatican City State (“Autorita di Informazione Finanziaria”, AIF), signed a Memorandum of Understanding that day, 7 May, in Washington, D.C., USA. The memorandum’s cosignatory was the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), its United States counterpart at the US Department of Treasury. The purpose of the collaboration is to strengthen efforts to fight money laundering and the global financing of terrorism.

The Memorandum, signed by Rene Brulhart, director of AIF, and Jennifer Shasky Calvery, director of FinCEN, will foster bi-lateral cooperation in the exchange of financial information. “This is a clear indication that the Holy See and the Vatican City State take international responsibilities to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism very seriously, and that we are cooperating at the highest levels”, said Brulhart. “The Vatican has shown that it is a credible partner internationally and has made a clear commitment in the exchange of information in this fight.”

Read more.
Read more on the the Justice and Peace document for reforming global finance.

President of LCWR Addresses Global Gathering of Catholic Sisters

florencedeaconIn Rome on May 4, the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Sr. Florence Deacon, addressed 800 leaders of women religious throughout the world.

“Serious misunderstandings” exist between Vatican officials and Catholic sisters, said the head of the U.S. sisters’ group that was ordered to place itself under the review of bishops.

Deacon’s 20-minute address was LCWR’s most public statement to date of their relations with the Vatican. Women religious around the world are watching closely how the process between the Vatican and LCWR moves forward.

“It’s had a huge impact in Australia,” Mercy Sr. Catherine Ryan from Australia told the National Catholic Reporter. “We watch it very carefully because the LCWR … has huge significance for our lives,” said Ryan. “I don’t see that the religious women in Australia are any different than the religious women in America.”

Here’s an excerpt from Sr. Deacon’s address:

“What this assessment shows is that there is serious misunderstanding between officials of the Vatican and women religious, and the need for prayer, discernment, and deep listening.

We determined that we would do this negotiation outside of the glare of the media and we turned down thousands of requests. We could have been on every news program on every major channel in every part of the world if we would have said yes. Continue reading “President of LCWR Addresses Global Gathering of Catholic Sisters”

Catholics Discuss Ordination of Women: Do I Call Her ‘Father’?

In December, the National Catholic Reporter wrote an editorial calling for discussion on women’s ordination in the Catholic Church. (The Vatican has forbidden this discussion to be had by anyone in the institutional church or on any church-owned properties. This means no priest can talk about it and no discussion can be had in Catholic schools, universities, or church basements.)

As any teen counselor can tell you, the best way to ensure a conversation spreads like wildfire is to drive it underground.

The National Catholic Reporter (part of the Catholic faithful, not a Vatican-affiliated institution) had such a huge response from readers to their December editorial that NCR followed it with a series of articles on the history of church authority, roles of women, and theology of ordination. (The links to the articles are below.)

I extend an invitation to non-Catholics Christians (pardon the generalization) to read these articles, as well as to Catholics. Much of the content focuses on our common Christian heritage (eg before the Reformation).

Protestants, evangelicals, and Anabaptist tend to cede history before the 1500s to Catholics. Please, don’t do that.

Contemporary Catholics need our Protestant kinfolk to fully claim the early church and the first 1500 years of our common history. (And I dare say, with the rise of “complementarianism,” not a few Protestants need to reclaim their history of women in leadership.)

Here is the NCR series:

“In April 1976 the Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded unanimously: “It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate.” In further deliberation, the commission voted 12-5 in favor of the view that Scripture alone does not exclude the ordination of women, and 12-5 in favor of the view that the church could ordain women to the priesthood without going against Christ’s original intentions.”–Editorial: Ordination of women would correct an injustice (12/3/12)

“The account in Acts of the Apostles 6:1-6 of the apostles choosing seven men to take care of table service is usually considered the origin of the office of deacon, yet no one in the story is called diakonos and the apostles appoint them for the diakonia of the table so that the apostles can devote themselves to the diakonos of prayer and the word. All perform diakonos of different kinds.”–Early women leaders: from heads of house churches to presbyters (NCR, 1/18/13)

“The Council of Paris in 829 made it extremely clear that it was the bishops who were allowing women to minister at the altar. Women certainly did distribute Communion in the 10th, 11th and perhaps the 12th centuries. Texts for these services exist in two manuscripts of this period. All of this changed over roughly a hundred-year period between the end of the 11th century and the beginning of the 13th. For many different cultural reasons, women were gradually excluded from ordination. First, many roles in the church ceased to be considered as ordained — most importantly, abbots and abbesses. Powerful women in religious orders went from being ordained to laity. Second, canon lawyers and then theologians began to debate whether women could be ordained to the priesthood or diaconate.”–The meaning of ordination and how women were gradually excluded by Gary Macy (NCR, 1/16/12)

“The exercise of doctrinal authority throughout much of the first millennium presupposed several basic convictions. First, the doctrine that the bishops taught pertained to public revelation. There was no sense that bishops received some secret knowledge available only to them. Indeed such a view, known as Gnosticism, had been roundly condemned. Second, what the bishops taught was not foreign to the faith of the whole church. In apostolic service to their communities, the bishops received, verified and proclaimed the apostolic faith that all the baptized in their churches prayed and enacted. The apostolic faith consciousness of the whole people of God would eventually be referred to as the sensus fidelium.”–Richard Gaillardetz, Putting the church’s shifts in spheres of authority in historical perspective (NCR, 2/4/13)