Saturday, 9 November 2013

A Personal Understanding of the Celebration of the Eucharist

From a member of We Are Church (UK) to our e-discussion group

Although at this point I'm a reader only, I'd like to contribute my own personal understanding of celebration of Eucharist.

We seem to have lost the original meaning of Eucharist as a celebration of thanksgiving through table fellowship, and turned it all into a sacrifice which can only be enacted through an ordained priest, different from what we read in Acts of the Apostles when early Christian communities celebrated.

Jesus had spent a lot of his time having meals with people in open table fellowship, without distinction of persons. His table companions included women and men, pharisees, 'sinners', tax collectors, friends, disciples.. That's where also the people raised doctrinal/theological issues which he dealt in dialogue with them. It was his way of being among the people in the close friendship of sharing meals. The Last Supper was the culmination of this table fellowship. John has the washing of feet instead of breaking of bread in his Last Supper account, all of which expressed a total giving of Jesus himself, a bond of friendship, a powerful expression of love and of unity. (Of course when he said, (John, ch. 6) 'unless you eat the flesh of the Son of cannot have life in you' some went away unable to accept it. But he did then say 'It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh profiteth nothing', from which I would understand that he's typically presenting his message in pictures and they're taking it literally.

When the people celebrated Eucharist after his life on earth, they were doing as he used to do, and were strongly aware of him still present among them, to such an extent that they wanted to model their way of living closely on his. So after the celebrations they would go out 'with great rejoicing' and share life, what they had, with the poor, some sold property and shared the proceeds, and so on.

So for me, Eucharist is not just about Jesus sacrificing himself for us on Calvary and rising from the dead afterwards, it's about life as well as death and resurrection, total giving in love. It's about us as community of disciples celebrating with him among us and making a response to his giving. In receiving Communion we are receiving him into our lives, identifying with him 'you in me and I in you, that they may be one in us'. Then we go out in the strength of his empowering presence within us. The focus is on us, his disciples commissioned to go out and spread the good news, not on the bread.

There's an elderly lady I know, in the early stages of dementia, who sits in a wheel chair in a side aisle in Church. When after Mass her carer wheels her forward and then turns before the altar to go back down the centre aisle and out, the lady turns around in her chair and waves good bye to Jesus in the tabernacle ! So she leaves the church without him ! Now what's that all about?

Personally, I think the doctrine of transubstantiation has created far more confusion than understanding

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Prophets of our time? Your view needed.

A discussion has arisen on our e-group as to who are Prophets for our time and there is a suggestion that we should give our list some prominence on the website.

Jennifer has written this
One person's prophet will definitely be another person's heretic.  Jesus was just that, in his day.  He outraged Caiaphas and Co.  Challenging the power-brokers and the entrenched authorities to a new vision is the nature of prophetic ministry.  And what I believe needs fixing may not always be what you believe needs fixing. 

 In the 1980s, Sister Evelyn Woodward, Sister of St Joseph of Lochinvar in Australia published Poets, Prophets and Pragmatists.  She was addressing the challenges facing religious life at that time.  I have just read it again, and her book could be edited, removing reference to religious life and replacing it with "church", and it would fit square with the current state of the RCC world-wide.   
 She identifies religious communities as being divided into three categories.  I take the liberty to borrow her descriptors and apply them to our present RCC. 
 Who are the Poets, Prophets and Pragmatists she describes? 
 "Poets are individuals and groups who intuitively and deeply understand the nature and quality of human experience with delicate accuracy and empathy of perception.  They arrive at this understandiing before the logicians, philosophers, theologians, psychologists and anthropologists apply the scalpel of their intellects to the facts.  The poet sees, understands and raises to consciousness.  The poet is a visionary. 
 Prophets are men and women who are gifted with the ability to take the vision of the poets and challenge others with its power, goading them to a new consciousness and to a life rooted in the new consciousness.  They are the challengers of religious life.  (Jen:  replace "religious" with Church) 
 Pragmatists are those practical planners who can, without distortion, take the vision of the poets and the challenge of the prophets and in collaboration with them, put together ways of living.  They can dismantle old structures and indicate where new ones are called for.  They are the planners and evaluators, the troubleshooters and inventors in religious life. (Jen: replace "religious" with "church). (Woodward, E.  Poets, prophets and pragmatists; Collins Dove, 1987; p.2) 
 I love this analysis - the Dreamers (Poets), the Architects (Prophets) and the Builders (Pragmatists).  Who do we know who fits into this model?  I this some overlap categories, but it offers a framework for how we might focus how we go about nourishing change in our struggling Church. 
 Who are our poets, prophets and pragmatists at the beginning of the 21st century?  What can we do to support them and protect them from those who would tear them down?  
If you have a suggestion please let us know in a comment below and say why you suggest them.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Comments on the Departure of Sr. Susan Clark

It might be helpful to read the history of Community of St Peter before reading the article below which speaks of the latest blow by the diocesan authorities.  It comes from their newsletter for 16 June 2013.

Comments on the Departure of Sr. Susan Clark 

As a child the first book I took out of the Franklin Sylvester Library in Medina was one by Dr. Seuss. Like so many other children, the odd rhythm of the words and the strangeness of the artwork fascinated me. Later in life, I reflected that there was so much more to these books. Like all classic fairy tales, they helped children to face and negotiate a world where there was beauty and horror, goodness and evil, kindness and meanness, generosity and selfishness, togetherness and alienation, acceptance and isolation. So it was not altogether surprising that in the midst of this most distressing time I was reminded of one of Dr. Seuss’ works: How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Grinch hated the Who down in Who-ville and their celebration. He hated the noise and the feast. But most of all he hated the singing.

“And then they’d do something He liked least of all! Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, would stand close together with Christmas bells ringing. They’d stand hand in hand. And the Who would start singing. They’d sing! And they sing! And they’d sing! Sing! Sing! Sing. And the more the Grinch thought of this Who-Christmas Sing, The more the Grinch thought, “I must stop this whole thing!”

Few things mark the unique gift of this community more that its full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy. Few things bring us more joy than singing together and hearing the beauty of our choir. This community has weathered much in these past three years. We have stayed together, continued to worship, maintained and enlarged our ministries, and welcomed new members who enhance and expand our history to make something that is continuously old and new at the same time.

When it became clear that our initial efforts to remain together as a community were not going to fail, and that members were more committed than ever to stand up a sign of both hope and resistance, it was necessary for the powers that be to take more drastic measures to dispirit and scatter this community. When initial threats to our salvation were unsuccessful, they trucked excommunication out of the dustbin of medieval sanctions, in hopes of discrediting me, and shaking the well being of our members.

Now, having seen that such ancient draconian measures have little effect today, they have resorted to hitting at the heart of our life together: the liturgy, and specifically the music which inspires, consoles, comforts and binds us as a community at prayer. They know that the ministry of Sr. Susan Clark is in large part responsible for the joy of our liturgical life together and the success of our wonderful choir. As was stated in our newsletter: Sr. Susan had to leave because, “she was giving scandal”, and because she “was helping us to succeed against the direct wishes of the bishop.”

We cannot begin to express our gratitude to Sr. Susan for what she has shared with us over the past two decades. Far from giving scandal, she has given us beauty, hope and joy. If there is scandal in that, then perhaps those who are so scandalized might want to look elsewhere in the church to see what real scandal looks like.

Unlike most of the members of this community, however, Sr. Susan risked much in making a decision to remain with us. As a religious, her vow of poverty means that she has little or no resources of her own. Very few members of us risk losing our jobs, our homes, health care and so much more by making the choice we have made.

But she was forced to make a choice which pitted her commitment to her order, and her very livelihood and well being, against her love for this community and her ministry. Such a dilemma should give us all pause, and help us to realize how much she and others are risking to remain members of this community. In the gospel today (11th Sunday in Ordinary Time) we encounter first hand the systematic devaluing, marginalizing and condemnation of women by a duplicitous religious system. And Paul warns the Galatians about the dangers and weaknesses of using the law to ensure salvation. Unlike so many in authority today, Jesus confronts the rejection of this woman with great compassion and love, and Paul proclaims the primacy of love over the law. Sadly, Sr. Susan was confronted with only the law and judgment as the means to force her compliance.

I am most grieved that Sr. Susan had to be threatened in this way as a means of getting at our community. It was cowardly, mean spirited, and it revealed the desperation of a system which places power above the needs of people, conformity before compassion and blind obedience over the primacy of conscience. And it revealed once again the real end-game: the destruction of the Community of Saint Peter and the scattering of its members.

Sr. Susan remains a loved and valued member of this community. Much more than a music director she is our friend. Nothing and no one can take that away. Her superiors may be able to force her to no longer share her gifts with us, but it will be a hollow victory. People will see it for what it is: the abuse of a faithful woman of the church in order to placate the insatiable appetite for power and control. I ask that every member of this community write a card or letter of support to Sr. Susan and that we continue make every effort to include her in our life and welcome her into our homes. She will need our support and love now and in the weeks and months to come. We must not fail her.

In the face of all of this, our work is to continue to worship and pray and sing and sing and sing! The Grinches of this world may be able to take everything else from us in the hope of making us afraid and sad and unable to celebrate. But that will be up to us and not up to them. They cannot take away our joy. Only we can allow it to falter in the face of loss and threats to our well being.

In Dr. Seuss’ tale the Grinch, having stolen all the presents and the food for the feast, waits to hear the sound of the Whos down in Who-ville crying BOO-HOO!

“That’s noise I simply must hear. So he paused. And the Grinch put his hand to his ear. And he did hear a sound rising over the snow. It started low. Then it started to grow. But the sound wasn’t sad! Why this sound sounded merry. It couldn’t be so. But it was merry. Very! He stared down at Who-ville! The Grinch popped his eyes! The he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise. Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small was singing! Without any presents at all. He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It came! Somehow or other it came just the same.”

The removal of Sr. Susan from our community and from our weekly liturgy is a horrible loss. Yet, she will always be with us every time we sing and sing and sing! Her gifts are within us. We may have weeks and months of struggle. Our timing will be off and the perfection we have become accustomed to may have to be replaced with something more normal and imperfect.

I would like to believe that the Grinches in our story, seeing this community’s commitment to keep cele- brating, will then have hearts that grow three sizes and that they will join the feast. I have no idea if that will happen.

For now I say to those who are responsible for inflicting such pain and sadness on Sr. Susan: Shame on you! And to all of us gathered here: I say: we must keep singing. How can we not? We know and have experienced the deeper meaning of what we do here each Sunday through Sr. Susan’s ministry. We know that it is something internal, and not dependant on anything external. So let us keep singing: today and every Sunday. Strong enough and loud enough to be heard in Chardon or down on East 9th and Superior. For in the face of all we have been given and all we have shared and all we experience in this moment and in this time: How can we keep from singing?

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Defender of prostitutes

with thanks to Iglesia Descalza

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)

Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola

Gospel reflection for June 16, 2013 - 11 Sunday of the Year

Luke 7:36-8:3

Jesus is in the home of Simon, a Pharisee who has invited him to dinner. Unexpectedly, a woman interrupts the banquet. The guests recognize her immediately. She is a town prostitute. Her presence creates uneasiness and anticipation. How will Jesus react? Will he eject her so she won't contaminate the guests? The woman says nothing. She's used to being despised, especially in Pharisee environments. She goes to Jesus directly, throws herself at his feet and bursts into tears. She doesn't know how to thank him for his welcome -- she covers his feet with kisses, anoints them with perfume she has brought with her, and dries them with her hair.

The Pharisee's reaction is swift. He can't hide his contempt: "If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is -- a sinner." He isn't as naive as Jesus. He knows very well that this woman is a prostitute, unworthy to touch Jesus. She should be separated from him.

But Jesus doesn't eject or reject her. On the contrary, he welcomes her respectfully and kindly. In her gestures, he finds clean love and grateful faith. Before everyone, he talks with her to defend her dignity and reveal to her how God loves her: "Your sins have been forgiven." Then, while all the guests are in shock, he reaffirms her in her faith and wishes her a new life: "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace." God will be with her forever.

A few months ago, they called me to take part in a very unique Pastoral Encounter. A group of prostitutes was among us. I could speak with them at leisure. I'll never be able to forget them. Over the three days, we were able to hear their powerlessness, their fears, their loneliness...For the first time I understood why Jesus loved them so much. I also understood his words to the religious leaders: "I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you."

These women who have been tricked and enslaved, subjected to all sorts of abuse, terrorized to keep them isolated, many with hardly any protection or security, are the invisible victims of a cruel and inhumane world, largely silenced by society and practically forgotten by the Church.

We who are followers of Jesus can't turn our backs on the suffering of these women. Our diocesan churches can't abandon them to their sad fate. We must raise our voices to awaken society's awareness. We must give much more support to those who are fighting for their rights and dignity. Jesus who loved them so much would also be the first to defend them today.

Posted by Rebel Girl at 5:21 PM

Monday, 6 May 2013

Saving The Catholic Church - Newsletter

Here is news of what another group is thinking and having the courage to say

Keeping the Faith, by Waking Up the Faithful

May 1, 2013


Pope Francis has settled into his job and, except for one serious disappointment, most of the Vatican II Catholics seem to be saying, “So far, so good.” Of course, the Benedictites and other Restorationists are holding their breaths and no doubt are working diligently on some new strategy of obstruction.

This month we will first talk about what we think Francis has done right and speculate on that serious disappointment. Then we will talk about the Pope’s new advisors and the need to reform much more than the Curia. After that we will raise the serious question of why the Church does not have a formal Constitution delineating rights and responsibilities of all the Church. We will wind up with how all of this has affected those of us in the pews and, of course, some Afterthoughts.

Pope Francis

There is much about which to be pleased and optimistic during these first weeks of the papacy of Francis, including his humility; the dialing back of tasteless, embarrassing pomp and ceremony; and his clear propensity for engaging directly with the People of God. All are welcome changes from the way the Vatican has operated under the Pope’s two predecessors. In response, there is a different feeling among most practicing Catholics and others who have been estranged. It is called hope.

The re-appointment of the Curia leaders on temporary basis, and the warning that changes are coming lest incumbents don’t get too comfortable, was particularly promising. There is some merit, I think, in letting them experience uncertainty for a while. It must be a unique sensation for most.

Ignoring the claim of Benedict XVI that “There is no one who knows how to reform the Curia,” Francis appointed eight cardinals outside of the Curia to do just that, reporting directly to him. Brilliant!

He has taken on the Vatican Bank and promised more transparency. He canceled the $32,500 bonuses that each of the five cardinals overseeing the Bank was paid every year on top of their regular salary.

Wait a minute!

He canceled the $32,500 bonuses that each of the five cardinals overseeing the Bank was paid each year on top of their regular salary.

That deserves to be said twice and reflected upon. What has been going on here for Lord knows how long? What else would we be outraged about, if we knew?

He also appointed the Rev. José Rodriguez Carballo, leader of the Franciscans, to head the department that works with religious men and women around the world. This was seen as a wise move toward healing of the relationship between the Vatican and American women religious, which makes excellent sense.

Then, however, the congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirmed the 2012 censure of the Leadership Council of Women Religious as undermining the faith in the United States, apparently with the Pope’s agreement. That is so repugnant and seems so out of character for this new Pope that I have a theory about it.

Perhaps, since the current leader of the CDF inherited the censure mandate from his predecessor and, since his appointment is now only temporary, the Pope may not have wanted to connect those two things and embarrass him. Perhaps when the new leader of the CDF is announced, he will be asked to allow the newly appointed leader of the department that works with religious men and women around the world to review the decision and make a new recommendation for resolution. That could not be more logical.

I hope my theory is correct and that the mandate disappears in another puff of white smoke.

A Few Good Men and Hopefully, Some Women

Fortunately, the Pope’s new cadre of advisors has not yet been tagged as “the Gang of Eight.” In fact, I don’t believe they have any group appellation, formal or not. That is probably a good thing. The theory is that they are an informally assembled, highly diverse and unbiased task force brought together to reform the Curia, which certainly needs it. However, many other things must also be reformed.

The guiding principle must be that the Curia assists and serves the Pope. Too often the model has seemed to be that the Pope is merely the spokesperson of the Curia.

This group of advisors should be made permanent. The size is just about right, and it should never include a member of the Curia, although it does have one now. The makeup should always be diverse and that means that it should include women. Four and four would be an acceptable ratio.

Some way must be found to make this group accessible to the just short of 1.2 billion Catholics not located in Rome. The people in the pews must have a voice that is heard and heeded. A while back I suggested that there be an ombudsperson in every diocese with a direct line to the Pope. A significant portion of these should be women who are passionate for justice and unwilling to be ignored. Perhaps this group of advisors might be the permanent vehicle for such a communications link.

The Reform of the Curia

The appointment of eight non-curial cardinals to do this job was a good first step, but I hope they heed the words of John XXIII: “we are the Church.” Something must be done to end our disenfranchisement: as long as the bishops are appointed from above and responsible to no one but the Pope, we have no way to communicate officially with the Vatican.

Returning to the early days of the Church, the people of a diocese should be allowed to elect their bishop, who would then be accepted by the Pope. Bishops’ terms of office should be limited to six years, with one re-election allowed. Until that is done, the bishops will continue to be a wall that divides us.

Nomination of women to key positions with substantial authority is the road to the needed reform. Women, too, trace their roots to prominence in the early church when they fully functioned as deacons, and much evidence indicates they did so even as priests.

The Need for a Constitution

All developed nations have a constitution. Such documents are the solid foundation for establishing laws of governance and discipline. The rights of the governed are clearly delineated. The duties and the limits of government are equally clear. This is the framework upon which the laws are supported and measured. So is the process for making laws; the procedure for testing them and to change them.

The Roman Catholic Church has no constitution. Part of that is because the Church is a monarchy; but even monarchies have constitutions. Operating without a constitution, canon law and canon lawyers have no touchstone for reality, human rights or justice. They mix issues of dogma and governance, often using the former to justify the latter.

Pope Francis would be well served to appoint a small team of constitutional experts from around the world to draft a Church Constitution, with clear-cut statements of rights and responsibilities for his consideration and adoption. Then the entire Code of Canon Law must be rewritten to conform. I suspect that many of those canon laws will not meet the criteria of what is right and just.

Only after this is accomplished can the core issues of dissent within the Church, which threaten its survival, be successfully addressed: Education, Equality, Transparency and Governance & Discipline.

What About Those of Us Sitting in the Pews

Based on the indications thus far from Pope Francis, we in the pews seem to have the most to gain if he is successful; and the bishops, minions of the Institutional Church, have the most to lose. Somehow we must project our support for those changes despite the barrier of the USCCB. It is 35 years since we have had a Pope with whom we can identify, and we must show our eager support as loudly as we can.

This newsletter will do its best, but getting involved with organizations like Accelerating Catholic Church Reform will help us to be heard. This is not a time for complacency.

Despite our euphoria over what might be, we must, however, remain cognizant that all around us the corruption of the Institutional Church is still evident. Child rape and its cover-up continue, most recently in the Archdiocese of Newark.

An officious Apostolic Administrator—not an installed bishop—has decreed that there are to be no more Penance Services with General Absolution; all chalices and patens must be gold (do you suppose Jesus ever saw a gold chalice or paten?); and women are not allowed to touch or wash chalices, patens and other vessels used in the Consecration. (Apparently they can hold them while distributing Communion, but that may be the other shoe waiting to fall.)

Where do they find these ignorant, self-centered and arrogant people?


During the past several months we have welcomed many new readers of this newsletter. For them and any other readers, we have two archive files available: 2012 Newsletter-January (inaugural issue) to June and 2012 Newsletter-July to December. They will bring you up to date and are free for the asking. Just send me an e-mail.

Finally, for some reason, the announcement that the USCCB has hired a Sarah Palin advisor to be Cardinal Dolan’s spokesperson makes me smile. Will there be a liturgy change to: “Body of Christ, you betcha!”?

Wake Up the Faithful!

Bob Betterton

Thursday, 2 May 2013

A birthday celebration.

Today, the Feast of Joseph the Worker is also the birthday of Pierre Teilhard deChardin.
Chris McDonnell offers this short posting

May 1st was the birthday in 1889 of Pierre Teilhard deChardin, that is 124 years ago today.

His life sparkles with scholarship and faith. Ordained in 1930 as a priest in the Society of Jesus, his life experience spanned the scientific world and his Christian belief. In 1950 he was named to the French Academy of Sciences for his ground-breaking work in palaeontology whilst at the same time his writings incurred the displeasure of Rome. He was for many years, up to his death in 1955, forbidden to publish his writings or lecture in Catholic Institutes. He was effectively silenced. But he continued to write.

During one of his expeditions in the Ordos desert in China he found himself without the means to offer Mass. Instead he wrote the famous meditation, La Messe sur le Monde, The Mass on the World, a faith-filled statement of his Christian belief. That was in 1923. The opening paragraph sets the tone of the whole essay.

“Since once again, Lord-though this time not in the forests of the Aisne but in the steppes of Asia-I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real
itself; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labours and sufferings of the world”.

The book in which it was included, Le Milieu Divin, the Hymn of the Universe, was refused the Imprimatur by Rome. That restriction on his publishing lasted through to his death in New York City on Easter Sunday in

His great work, the Phenomenon of Man, was submitted to Rome in 1941, was  further refused and in subsequent years, the restrictions on him were increased.

Yet through it all, he remained faithful to his faith, his priesthood and the Society of Jesus. In more recent years, there have been signs of a slow accommodation to his thought, beginning in the years of the Council where  his privately circulated thoughts are said to have had a considerable influence.

Back in the ‘80s, I was visiting Lindisfarne, Holy Island, off the Northumberland coast. I knocked on the door of the local Anglican chaplain who invited me in, gave me tea and we talked for an hour, much of it about deChardin. He had never read La Messe sur le Monde. So when I got home, I typed it out and sent it to him. I will always remember the letter he sent me in which he said “We may never meet again, but thanks for a lift on the way”.

Too many theologians of the 20th Century received similar treatment from Rome, as do others, priests, sisters and layfolk, in our present time. Somehow we must understand that restrictions such as those experienced by men like deChardin, in the end will not stand the test of time.

Now we have Papa Francesco, himself a member of the Society of Jesus. It would be good, if at some time in the coming years, he was able publicly to recognise and proclaim the value of deChardin’s life of faith, his prophetic writings and the bridge he built between science and belief.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Is Pope Francis inaugurating the third millennium?

by Leonardo Boff
Earthcharter Commission

The first millennium of Christianity was marked by the paradigm of community. The Churches had relative autonomy regarding their own rites: Orthodox, Coptic, Ambrosian from Milan, Mozarabic, from Spain, and others. They venerated their own martyrs and confessors and had their own theologies, as seen in the flourishing Christianity of North Africa with Saint Augustine, Saint Cyprian and the lay theologian Tertullian. Those Churches recognized each other, and even though a mostly juridical vision in Rome was already appearing, the primacy of charity predominated .

The second millennium was characterized by the paradigm of the Church as a perfect and hierarchichal society: an absolutist monarchy centered in the figure of the Pope as supreme head (cephalic), endowed with unlimited powers and, most recently, with infallibility, when he makes declarations as such in matters of faith and morality. The Pontifical State was created, with an army, a financial system and legislation that included the death penalty. A body of experts of the institution was created, the Roman Curia, responsible for the world ecclesiastical administration. This centralization produced the Romanization of all of Christianity. The evangelization of Latin America, Asia and Africa was accomplished within a process of colonial conquest of the world, and meant that the Roman model was transplanted, practically annulling the embodiment of the local cultures. The strict separation between the clergy and the lay was made official. The lay had no power of decision, (in the first millennium the lay participated in the election of bishops and even of the Pope), and were turned into childlike non-entities, in law and fact.

The palatial ways of the priests, bishops, cardinals and popes were affirmed. The titles of power of the Roman emperors, starting with those of Pope and Sumo Pontiff, were transferred to the bishop of Rome. The cardinals, princes of the Church, dressed up as the high Renaissance nobility, and so it has remained until now, scandalizing more than a few Christians, who were used to seeing Jesus of Nazareth as poor, a man of the people, persecuted, tortured and executed on the cross.

All indications are that this model of Church ended with the resignation of Benedict XVI, the last Pope from this monarchical model, in the tragic context of scandals that have touched the very heart of the credibility of the Christian message.

The election of Pope Francis, who comes «from the end of the world», as he presented himself, from the periphery of Christianity, from the Great South where 60% of Roman Catholics live, will inaugurate the ecclesiastic paradigm of the Third Millennium: the Church as a vast network of Christian communities, rooted in the various cultures, some more ancient than the Western cultures, such as the Chinese, Indian and Japanese, the tribal cultures of Africa and the communities of Latin America. It is also embodied in the modern culture of the technologically advanced countries, with a faith that is also lived out in small communities. All these incarnations have something in common: the urbanization of humanity, where more than the 80% of the population live in huge conglomerates of millions and millions of persons.

In this context, it will be impossible to talk of territorial parishes, but of neighborhood communities, of the buildings, of the streets nearby. In that Christianity, the lay will be protagonists, encouraged by priests who may or may not be married, or by women priests or women bishops, bound more by spirituality than administration. The Churches will have different faces.

The Reformation will not be restricted to the Roman curia, that is in a calamitous state, but will be extended to the entire institution of the Church. Perhaps only by convoking a new Council, with representatives from all of Christendom, will the Pope have the security and the master lines of the Church of the Third Millennium. May the Spirit not fail him.

Leonardo Boff

Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro,,

Monday, 1 April 2013

Losing my religion for equality…by Jimmy Carter

Women's Press brings us this article by USA President Jimmy Carter.
Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God. 
I HAVE been a practicing Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.
This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Pope who pays his own bills

Leonardo Boff
Earthcharter Commission

Actions, not words, convince people. Ideas can illuminate, but it is examples that attract and move us. Examples are understood by everyone. Most explanations tend to confuse more than clarify. Actions speak for themselves.

What has marked the new Pope Francis, the one «who comes from the end of the world», namely, from outside the European frame of reference, so charged with traditions, palaces, royal spectacles and internal power struggles, are the simple, popular gestures, obvious to those who appreciate a good common sense of life. Pope Francis is breaking protocols and showing that power is always a mask and theater, as sociologist Peter Berger pointed out so well, even when the power purports to be of divine origin.

Pope Francis simply obeys the command of Jesus of Nazareth who explicitly said that the great of this world give orders and dominate, “but it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister" (Mark,10,43-45). Very well, if Jesus said that, how can the Pope, guarantor of His message, act otherwise?

Certainly with the establishment of the absolutist monarchy of the popes, especially beginning with the second millennium, the ecclesiastic institution inherited the symbols of Roman imperial power and of the feudal nobility: colorful clothing (such as the Cardinals'), tinsel, crucifixes and rings of silver and gold and palatial habits. In the great religious convents of the Middle Ages, life occurred in regal spaces.

In the room where I stayed, as a student, in the Franciscan Convent of Munich, that dates back to the times of William of Ockham (XIV century), one Renaissance painting on the wall was itself worth several thousand Euros. How can one reconcile the poverty of the Nazarene, who did not have a corner where to rest his head, with the miters, golden bishop's staffs and the stoles and prince-like vestments of present day prelates? That is honestly not possible. And people who are not ignorant, but fine observers, notice the contradiction. All this ostentation has nothing to do with the Tradition of Jesus of Nazareth and His Apostles.

According to some newspaper accounts, when the Secretary of the Conclave tried to place on the shoulders of Pope Francis the «muceta», the little richly adorned cape, the symbol of papal power, Francis only said: “The carnival is over, put those clothes away". And he appeared dressed in white, as did Dom Helder Camara, who left the colonial palace of Olinda and went to live under a humble roof in the Church of Las Candelas, in the periphery; as Cardinal Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns had done, not to mention Dom Pedro Casaldaliga, who lives in a poor little house, sharing the room with a guest.

To me, the most simple, honest and common gesture of Pope Francis was when he went to the hotel where he had stayed (he never stayed in the big central house of the Jesuits in Rome) to pay his bill of 90 Euros per day. Pope Francis walked in, and he personally gathered his clothes, packed his suitcase, greeted the staff of the hotel, and left. What civil potentate, opulent millionaire, what famous artist would do such thing? It would be a betrayal of the intent of the Bishop of Rome not to see in this gesture, so normal for all mortals, a populist intent.

Did he not do the same when he was the Cardinal of Buenos Aires and went to get the newspaper, went shopping, used the metro or the bus and preferred to introduce himself as, «father Bergoglio»?

Frei Betto coined an expression that is a great truth: «the head thinks from where the feet step». In effect, someone who always walks in palaces and sumptuous cathedrals, ends up thinking according to the logic of the palaces and cathedrals. For this reason, Pope Francis celebrated Sunday Mass in the Chapel of Saint Anne, inside the Vatican, considered the Roman parish of the Pope. And after Mass he went outside to greet the faithful.

It is worthy of note, and charged of theological content, that he did not present himself as the Pope, but as «the bishop of Rome». He asked for prayers not for the Emeritus Pope, Benedict XVI, but for the Emeritus Bishop of Rome, Joseph Ratzinger. With this Francis retook the most primordial tradition of the Church, that of considering the Bishop of Rome «first among equals». Because Peter and Paul were buried there, Rome acquired special preeminence. But that symbolic and spiritual power was exercised in the style of charity, and not as juridical power over the other Churches, as occurred in the second millennium. I will not be at all surprised if, as John Paul I had wanted, Francis decided to leave the Vatican and go live in a simpler place, with a great exterior space to receive the visits of the faithful. The time is ripe for this type of revolution in papal customs. And what a challenge is presented for the other prelates of the Church to live in voluntary simplicity and shared sobriety.

Leonardo Boff

Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro,,

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Was the Collapse of his Theology the Main Reason for the Resignation of Benedict XVI?

by Leonardo Boff
Earthcharter Commission

It is always risky to choose a theologian to be pope. He can turn his particular theology into the universal theology of the Church and impose it on the whole world. I suspect this has been the case with Benedict XVI, first as a Cardinal, appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, (ex-Inquisition), and later, chosen as Pope. This was not legitimate and became the source of unjust condemnations. In effect, he condemned more than one hundred men and women theologians, for not being in tune with his theological reading of the Church and of the world. 

Reasons of health and feelings of impotence in the face of the gravity of the crisis in the Church led him to resign. But not only that. The text of his resignation speaks of the “diminution of vigor of the body and of the spirit” and of “his incapacity” to confront the questions that made the exercise of his mission difficult. Behind these words, I believe there hides the more profound reason for his resignation: the awareness of the collapse of his theology and of the failure of the model of Church he wanted to implement. An absolutist monarchy is not so absolute that it can overcome the inertia of the aged curial structures. 

The central theses of his theology were always problematic for the theological community. Three of them ended up being rebutted by the facts: the concept of the Church as a «small reconciled world»; that the City of Men only acquires value before God by going through the mediation of the City of God, and the famous «subsistit» that means: only in the Catholic Church does the true Church of Christ subsist, no other Churches can be called Churches. This narrow conception comes from a sharp intelligence that is hostage to itself, not having sufficient intrinsic strength or the necessary following to be implemented. Did Benedict recognize this collapse and coherently resign? There are reasons for this hypothesis. 

The Pontiff Emeritus found in Saint Augustine his teacher and inspiration. In fact, Augustine was the subject of personal conversations with him. From Saint Augustine he took his basic perspective, starting from his theory of original sin (transmitted by the sexual act of procreation). This causes all of humanity to be a «condemned mass». But inside humanity, God, through Christ, set up a saving cell, represented by the Church. The Church is «a small reconciled world» that carries the representation (Vertretung) of the rest of the lost humanity. It is not necessary for the Church to have many members. A few suffice, so long as they are pure and holy. Ratzinger incorporated this vision. He complemented it with the following reflection: the Church is made up of Christ and the twelve apostles. This is why she is apostolic. She is just this small group. This excludes the disciples, the women, and the masses that followed Jesus of Nazareth. To him, they do not count. They are reached by the representation (Vertretung) that «the small reconciled world» assumes. This eclesiastical model does not take into consideration the vast globalized world. Benedict wanted to make Europe into «the reconciled world» to again conquer humanity. He failed because no-one undertook this project, and it was even ridiculed. 

The second thesis is also taken from Saint Augustine and his reading of history: the confrontation between the City of God and the City of Men. In the City of God there is grace and salvation: she is the only path that leads to salvation. The City of Men is built by human effort. But, since it is already contaminated by humanism and her other values, it does not obtain salvation because it has not passed through the mediation of the City of God (the Church). This is why she is plagued by relativism. Consequently Cardinal Ratzinger harshly condemned the Theology of Liberation, because it sought liberation by the poor themselves, and made the poor the autonomous subjects of their own history. But since the Theology of Liberation was not created within the City of God and her cell, the Church, it is insufficient and vain. 

The third is a very personal interpretation that Benedict gives to Vatican Council II when talking of the Church of Christ. The first Counciliar draft said that the Catholic Church is the Church of Christ. The debates searching for ecumenism, changed is to subsists, to make room for other Christian Churches that, in their own way, also realize the Church of Christ. This interpretation, as maintained in my doctoral dissertation, earned an explicit condemnation from Cardinal Ratzinger in his famous document Dominus Jesus, (2000), where he affirms that subsists comes from «subsistence» that there can be only one, and it is found in the Catholic Church. The other «churches» present «solely» ecclesiastic elements. This «solely» is an arbitrary attachment he makes to the official text of the Council. Some notable theologians and I, myself, have shown that this essentialist reading does not exist in Latin. The meaning is always concrete: «to have body», «to objectively realize». This was the «sensus Patrum», the meaning of the Fathers of the Council. 

These three central theses have been refuted by the facts: inside the «small reconciled world» there are too many pedophiles, even among the Cardinals, and thieves of money from the Vatican Bank. The second, that the City of Men does not have saving gravity in front of God, is built on the error of limiting the action of the City of God solely to the realm of the Church. Within the City of Men the City of God is also found, not in the form of religious consciousness but in the form of ethics and humanitarian values. Vatican Cuncil II guaranteed autonomy to the terrestrial realities (another name for secularization) that have value independently of the Church. They are of value to God. The City of God (the Church) is realized by the explicit faith, by the celebration and by the sacraments. The City of Men is realized by ethics and politics. 

The third, that the Catholic Church is the unique and exclusive Church of Christ and, even worse, that outside of her there is no salvation, a medieval thesis resurrected by Cardinal Ratzinger, was simply ignored as offensive by other Churches. Instead of «outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation», in the discourse of popes and theologians was introduced, «the universal offer of salvation to all human beings and the world». 

I have a serious suspicion that this failure and the collapse of his theological structure took away his “necessary vigor of body and spirit” to the point, as he confesses, of “feeling incapable of exercising his ministry”. Captive to his own theology, he had no alternative other than to honestly resign. 

Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro,,