Thursday, June 22, 2017

"COLOMBIA: The Jesuits face Álvaro Uribe", Human Rights in Colombia

After the capture of his brother Santiago, former president Álvaro Uribe took a few days to reflect quietly. A couple of days later he read an extensive statement in which he dispatched against a series of characters whom he accused of being responsible for the situation of Santiago Uribe whom he called "political prisoner." On the father Javier Giraldo said that it was "A priest in the service of the terrorism. Defamator of profession " in reference to the fact that from the Center for Research and Popular Education, CINEP, Giraldo documented the case of Eunicio Pineda, one of the testimony that the Prosecutor later used to found the accusation against Santiago Uribe.
Indeed, as Coordinator of the Human Rights Data Bank and Political Violence of CINEP, Giraldo has documented hundreds of cases and his contribution has often been key for crimes and massacres not to remain in impunity and forgetfulness. Father Giraldo, a Jesuit, rejected Uribe's unfounded accusations through an interview in Noticias Uno. Now Jesuit priest Alejandro Ángulo, founder of CINEP and National Peace Prize 2013, responds to Uribe through this letter:
Why Defend Human Rights?
You have the right to defend your rights. This is a basic principle. And basic means that it does not depend on codes, nor institutions, nor laws. If one did not have that right to defend them, our rights would not exist.
And then why do some people believe that human rights defenders have no right to defend themselves and to help defend the rights of others? This is the million dollar question because, in general, what lies behind that denial of defense is a million hectares or many millions of pesos.
In fact, those who defend human rights are working for you, for me and for themselves. Because to defend human rights is to defend the right to the integrity of life, that of one and that of others. And those rights were invented so that ordinary people can defend themselves when their own governments attack them. It sounds absurd but it is: there are governments that kill their citizens, claiming the good of citizenship. So they kill one for their own good. And that is why international human rights law is to protect itself from governments that abuse their legitimate force that is intended for defense and not the offense of citizens. For that defense the legitimate government is authorized to maintain an army and a police force.
In fact, armies are designed to defend themselves against other countries in international wars. And the police, which is a civilian institution, is destined to collaborate in maintaining the public order in the country. It should not be an armed body.
But it happens and happens that in Colombia, due to the circumstances of the armed insurgency, the army is dedicated to internal warfare and the police are militarized. And since these circumstances are those of internal war, the whole Colombian panorama of the integrity of life has been overshadowed by a civil and dirty war, in which anti-guerrilla strategy, social repression and common criminality are mixed. The proliferation of homicide as a social relation is telling us that killing is not a solution to any problem. And that using murder as a means turns against the murderer. With this, the defense of human rights is becoming more urgent every day. And human rights defenders deserve special consideration, because in that proliferation of violence, The only useful resource is to defend the integrity of life at all costs. It is better for governments to defend defenders than to try to silence them.
By: Alejandro Angulo - CINEP

"The Role of Religion in Furthering Patriarchal Agenda " by Nishat Amber

"...What is alarming is how deeply this religiously-endorsed patriarchy is seeped into the common psyche and behaviour. Incidentally, the Supreme God in all religions is always envisioned as a male. Scriptures are mostly written and interpreted by men who tweak and translate them to suit their own vision of the desirable social-order and preferable gender-dynamics in the same... 
Orthodox Catholicism forbids women from becoming priests simply because a priest essentially plays the part of Christ and the latter happens to be a male. Also, as per Christian traditions, since Jesus selected only male apostles and did not ordain women, the inclusion of women is not considered desirable. Hence the exclusion of women from priesthood continues. In Islam, women cannot lead prayers as ‘imams’ in mosques and in mixed gatherings. Women can lead prayers in women-only gatherings as is the general pattern in South Asia, thereby, conforming to the policy of segregation as advocated by the Holy Scriptures.
Women priests in Hindu temples are extremely rare because women are ‘biologically’ unfit for the job as menstruating women are deemed impure and unfit for ‘sacred’ duties pertaining to God. This is also the reason why women are denied entry to places of worship when they are menstruating. The fear of divine reprisal prevents women from demanding equal rights in religious affairs and a more egalitarian social-order. They simply accept this discrimination as ‘natural’ and ‘god-ordained
Through generations, women are conditioned to not only accept, but also gladly embrace, the status of a second-class citizen as assigned to them by their respective belief-system. This has a spill-over effect on other social indicators as well. The concept of role of genders in society is very much impacted by such religious underpinnings. Hence women are reduced to socially, economically and spiritually inferior beings whose primary role is procreation. Their natural realm is the home and their duty is that of a home-maker. Such blatant discrimination can only be normalised and ingrained in the common psyche by evoking the name of God.
What is ironical is that most of the organised religions of today were not discriminatory to begin with. In fact many scholars contend that religions were not patriarchal in the early stages of organised life. It is believed that early religions, or more appropriately worship, centred on female Goddesses during prehistoric times. It is believed that prehistoric societies and belief systems were matriarchal, as evident from their feminine-themed iconography..."

"Dance Then, Wherever You May Be"

Call 1-888-738-3058 Now to Protect MEDICAID, Message from Sister Simone Campbell,NETWORK


Senate Republicans have finally released their healthcare bill to the public, and it confirms what we already knew: this cruel bill would cause massive harm to our families and must be rejected.

Senate leadership is rushing the bill (which they are now calling the Better Care Reconciliation Act) to a vote by June 30 and get it one step closer to President Trump's desk. To be clear: this is the American Health Care Act (AHCA) but worse. Today, and the next few days, are our last best chance to stop this immoral bill.

We need you to call your Senators at 1-888-738-3058 NOW to oppose the GOP health plan and protect Medicaid.
Call twice to reach both Senators.

After the House passed the AHCA in May, you told your Senators that the AHCA was beyond repair, and many of them promised to craft a better bill. Instead, they made the cruel cuts to Medicaid even deeper, kept most of the harmful aspects of the House bill and changed the name. This bill endangers over 70 million children, disabled people, seniors in nursing homes, and hardworking individuals and families who rely on Medicaid for healthcare.

Lives are on the line, and your calls can make the difference. We need to let Senators (in Republican and Democratic offices!) know that people of faith support healthcare and are against this bill.

Call your Senators at 1-888-738-3058 NOW.
Call twice to reach both Senators...and keep calling until we stop this bill!
When you call, here’s what you might say:

“Hi, my name is [NAME] and I am a constituent from [CITY/TOWN]. As a person of faith, I’m calling to oppose the Better Care Reconciliation Act. I oppose any efforts to cut or cap Medicaid, and no one should lose coverage as a result of any healthcare replacement. Please protect the human dignity of the millions of Americans who would lose coverage and oppose the Better Care Reconciliation Act.”*

*Also add your personal story!

Millions of lives are on the line. Please call your Senators (call twice!) at 1-888-738-3058 to stop this bill.

Then, when you’re done, forward this email to all your friends so they can make their calls as well. If you know anyone in Alaska, Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, or West Virginia forward this email to them -- it is ESPECIALLY important that they make their calls!

In solidarity,
Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS
Executive Director

P.S. Share your belief that healthcare is a right on social media! Share these graphics on Facebook and Twitter with NETWORK's call to action.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"When Priests Display Misogyny, They Subvert the Persona Christi" by Rebecca Bratten Weiss

"One of the most compelling elements, for me, in the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus, is the way he interacted with women. At a time when women were relegated to the margins of society, easily discarded, punished for the wrongdoings of men, Jesus did the radical thing, and treated women like human persons. I’d like to point out here that the etymology of “radical” is “radix” or “root” – and Jesus’ radicality in treating women like persons has to do with roots and origins, going back to the original unity of men and women, the original equality, immortal souls hungering for their creator. When he meets the Samaritan woman at the well, his emphasis is less on the number of men she has been with, and more on the thirst she has for the living water that will never run dry. Perhaps when we thirst, we try to slake our desires with those earthly goods and pleasures that never quite suffice? Men and women both, we do this.
Women were drawn to Jesus, healed by him, traveled with him. Women stayed by his side when Judas had betrayed him, Peter denied him, and all the other of the Twelve but John run away. Women prepared him for burial, and it was to a woman that the resurrected Christ first was made manifest.
And this is why it is so contrary to the persona of Christ, when priests exhibit misogyny. Oh, no doubt they can find select precedents among church fathers, saints, and theologians, but none of these groups are guaranteed to be infallible, and when their words run counter to the example of Christ, they carry no authority beyond that which can be evaluated in relation to reason and evidence.
Exhibit A in this regard: the blog of the self-styled “Fr. Z”, who here deplores the devotion to Divine Mercy because it is, apparently, feminine.
I would not actually recommend that you peruse this piece, if you wish to avoid a near occasion of sin...."

"When the Unexpected Comes Knocking" by Rev. Patty Zorn ARCWP

We are called to be Mystics in Action Everyday!

Carl Jung says that it is to the mystics that we owe what is best in humanity and that mystics bring creativity to religion itself. The Prophet who struggles for justice has been called “the mystic in action. We are called to be mystics in action everyday!

Deep Peace to You by Ashana

Tell your member of Congress: Catholics oppose discrimination

Conservative members of Congress have reintroduced HR 644/S 301, a bill that would impede access to critical health services for many in our society and allow several entities to usurp the consciences and health rights of individual employees, patients and service beneficiaries. If passed, this bill will imperil access to reproductive healthcare for millions of women. We can’t let the Catholic hierarchy impose one narrow set of religious beliefs on everyone else, nor be allowed to enact one religious viewpoint into public law.
Tell your member of Congress to oppose HR 644/ S 301.

Sen. Clarence William Nelson

District: FLS01
Phone:(202) 224-5274
Fax:(202) 228-2183

Sen. Marco A. Rubio

District: FLS02
Phone:(202) 224-3041
Fax:(202) 228-0285

Rep. Vernon G. Buchanan

District: FL16
Phone:(202) 225-5015
Fax:(202) 226-0828

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Thoughts of a RC Woman Parish Priest: In Response to Pope Francis’ Praise of Parish Priests by Judy Lee RCWP

Today, June 20,2017 Pope Francis gave an inspiring speech praising parish priests in various parts of Italy who entered into the dark corners of society and reached out with the hands of Christ by keeping the poor and marginalized primary in their service.
Rev. Dr. Bridget Mary Meehan of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests responded in her blog that she hoped the Pope would also end the darkness of the church by including women priests in his consideration for Holy Orders. I would like to illustrate the ministry of three RC woman priests,members of Roman Catholic Women Priests, Eastern Region who attempt the kind of service the Pope desires of priests. Even as illness causes a curtailing of services of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Pastors Judy Lee and Judy Beaumont and Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia press on as parish priests among the poor and homeless and marginalized. We present here some of the recent activities of two RC women Priests and then ,for reference, the articles on Pope Francis’ Speech and Rev. Dr. Meehan’s Response.
Here (above) we minister to and with a church member and her family as she deals with hospitalization for advanced cancer and critical corollary problems. Linda has been in the hospital for almost 40 days now and her Health Plan, for those on Disability, is inadequate for discharge planning. Also she has so many Doctors who do not coordinate with each other that she is hardly seen as a whole person and her cancer treatment has fallen by the wayside while the family needs much assistance in negotiating the medical and hospital systems that are critical to her life. Pastor Judy Lee is working with the oldest children and the husband to help them get the best care for her and she is also challenging the systems directly herself. She has helped them apply to two Cancer Foundations for help with daily living expenses so they do not become homeless as their Mom receives treatment. She has anointed Linda with the family present and participating twice and prays with the family as often as she can. This is a family that is falling between all of the cracks and suffering with a lack of real safety net for the poor in America and in this area. Pastoral work with Linda and this extended family of over 20 people includes many helpers from the congregation. This large and close family keeps vigil in the hospital almost daily.
Below Judy Alves is with one of the little nieces who visit the hospital and Judy Alves, a Lawyer, is also the mentor for Linda’s 15 year old twins. She takes them to tutoring, and enriching educational opportunities and monitors school progress while their Mom is so ill.
Here (below) are some members of the Core leadership Group with the three Pastors serving this community after a recent Mass. We must be fed in order to feed the sheep.
Another pastoral activity is helping to prevent homelessness with supporting formerly homeless people in housing and helping them to find new housing when needed. Brenda (left) is seeking housing for her family of two and four pets. Mr. Gary is continually thankful for his apartment in housing for the physically disabled, and Patricia is delighted with her housing in Senior Housing.
Below Patricia shows her home to our parishioners . Patricia lived in the woods for almost two years before meeting our Pastors and then living behind our church for seven months. She remains a member of our community and was confirmed in 2016 along with Brenda and two members of Linda’s family, her eldest son, Quayschaun and her mother, Mrs. Jolinda Harmon.
Two months ago Patricia lost her beloved cat Sarah who died suddenly. Sarah was her companion in the woods and in her church and Senior Housing. (above Pat and Sarah relax in their room behind the church). Pat was truly bereaved at Sarah’s loss and we shared her grief. Last week Pastor Judy Beaumont and I brought her a little kitten that completed her home and family again. Assisting homeless animals often brings joy to our people as well.
Our church members were so happy to participate in the ordination of RIMG_0951ev. Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez at our church, welcoming a new Pastor who would serve the poor and outcast in Colombia, South America.
Pope Francis, will you welcome your new women Roman Catholic Priests of the Poor as well?img_0652
From Radio Vaticana:
Pope Francis pays tribute to “Italy’s parish priest”
Pope Francis pays tribute to Father Primo Mazzolari in Bozzolo, near Cremona – ANSA
Pope Francis pays tribute to Father Primo Mazzolari in Bozzolo, near Cremona – ANSA
20/06/2017 12:58SHARE:
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday made a pilgrimage to northern Italy to honor two 20th-century parish priests whose commitment to the poor and powerless challenged many faithful – inside and outside the Vatican – to step outside their comfort zones.
The Pope flew by helicopter to Bozzolo, near Cremona in the region of Lombardy, to pray at the tomb of Don Primo Mazzolari, parish priest of a small town, a scholar who wrote about St. Francis and Blessed John Henry Newman, he opposed the Mussolini regime and emphasized the importance of the poor. Sanctioned for a time by diocesan authorities, Father Mazzolari was a friend of Pope John XXIII and praised by the future Pope Paul VI. He died in 1959.
The Pope then travelled to Barbiana, near Florence to pay tribute to Don Lorenzo Milani, a wealthy convert to Catholicism who founded a parish school to educate the poor and workers.
In Bozzolo, Francis stood in silent prayer before the simple tomb of Mazzolari, and then delivered a long tribute to the priest whom he described as “Italy’s parish priest.”
The Pope quoted Mazzolari’s writings about the need for the Church to accompany its flock and recalled his exhortation that a priest’s job isn’t to demand perfection from the faithful, but to encourage them to do their best.
Quoting Mazzolari’s own words he said: “Let us have good sense! We don’t to massacre the backs of these poor people.”
He said the legacy of priests like Don Mazzolari is a bright one that challenges us to leave our comfort zones.
“Don Mazzolari tried to change the world without regrets for the past; he was not one who hung on to the Church of the past, but tried to change the Church through love and unconditional dedication” he said.
Pope Francis warned against those men of the Church who “do not want to soil their hands” and who “observe the world through a window”; he warned against those who engage in what he called “separatist activism” where one runs Catholic institutions like banks or businesses; and he spoke out against the temptation for spiritualism which dehumanizes and is devoted only to the apostolate.
Don Mazzolari, the Pope said, conceived the Church going forth into world in the firm belief that that is the only way to reach out to those who do not come to Church any more.
“He was rightly described as ‘the parish priest of those who are far’ because he always loved those on the peripheries and to them dedicated his mission.
Pope Francis concluded his speech with an exhortation to all priests to “listen to the world”, to “step into the dark areas without fear because it is amongst the people that God’s mercy is incarnate.”
He urged them to live in poverty and said that the credibility of the Gospel message is in the simplicity and poverty of the Church and he reminded them always to treasure the lesson of Don Mazzolari.
Bridget Mary’s Response: 
As a movement for inclusiveness within the Roman Catholic Church, we are on the peripheries, serving the rejected, marginalized Body of Christ. When will Pope Francis leave his comfort zone and embrace a church for everyone including women called to Holy Orders? Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP,

"A Spiritual Retreat Can Rearrange Your Mind" by Cindy Lamothe, Sarasota Herald Tribune

"I wanted to go somewhere so I could figure out how to stop having all of these negative experiences,” she said. Not long after, she packed her bags and boarded a plane to gather with over 200 people on a week-long spiritual retreat in the heart of Ireland.
While there, Kozlowski learned to meditate and listen to herself, experiencing moments of awe and transcendence. She loved the feeling of deep calm and inner peace the group meditations gave her, and attended the retreat three more times.
“It brings awareness to what goes on inside of your subconscious mind,” she explained. “Every single time that I would leave, I would have a better understanding and more acceptance of myself.”
As interest in mindfulness meditation, adult coloring and other calming techniques grows, more people are turning to spiritual retreats as a way to unplug and reset. In the last few years, revenue for “wellness tourism,” which includes meditation and other spiritual retreats, increased by 14 percent, from $494.1 billion in 2013 to $563.2 billion in 2015, a growth rate more than twice as fast as overall tourism expenditures, according to the Global Wellness Institute.

In a recent study in the journal Religion, Brain & Behavior, scientists from The Marcus Institute of Integrative Health at Thomas Jefferson University discovered that changes take place in the brains of retreat participants. The findings, although preliminary, suggest that engaging in a spiritual retreat can have a short-term impact on the brain’s “feel good” dopamine and serotonin function — two neurotransmitters associated with positive emotions..."

NBC News: "Meet the Man Who Wants NYC Catholic Churches to Offer Sanctuary to Immigrants

Across the country, churches and congregations have rallied to offer support to undocumented immigrants facing deportation. Now one activist in Manhattan is pushing the powerful Archdiocese of New York to do more to help immigrants.
Felix Cepeda, 36, wants the Roman Catholic Church to open at least one of its shuttered churches and provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants – a step that would be as bold as it could be potentially risky.

Pope Francis 'Tribute to Italy's Parish Priest", Link to "Two Faces of Francis"

Bridget Mary's Response: As a movement for inclusiveness within the Roman Catholic Church,  we are on the peripheries, serving the  rejected, marginalized Body of Christ. When will Pope Francis leave his comfort zone and embrace a church for everyone including women called to Holy Orders? Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP,

"Don Mazzolari, the Pope said, conceived the Church going forth into world in the firm belief that that is the only way to reach out to those who do not come to Church any more.“He was rightly described as ‘the parish priest of those who are far’ because he always loved those on the peripheries and to them dedicated his mission.Pope Francis concluded his speech with an exhortation to all priests to “listen to the world”, to “step into the dark areas without fear because it is amongst the people that God’s mercy is incarnate.”

Olga Lucia Alvarez Benjumea ARCWP: My Experience of Priesthood, Seven Years After Ordination in Colombia, South America

Olga Lucia Alvarex Benjumea ARCWP, Colombia, South America

May I share my experience as a woman priest in my 7th year of ordination?

Thank you! With your permission I'll tell you.

When I was ordained my close friends questioned me from head to foot:

"Why did you become a priest ? To be like the priests? "Dressed like them?" "Celebrating just like them?" "We need priests, yes, but different from them." "Very easy, to be a priest, they only seek” power, and to be revered", "Everything very comfortable, they just expect that people come to the temple". "Why does the Church reject you?"

My answers: I became a priest to make the Gospel known, breaking the walls and the distance between the altar and the faithful, following the example of the pioneers of the Gospel: Mary, the mother of Jesus, who runs carrying him in her womb to share him with his cousin, crossing dangerous territories; and Mary of Magdala, who also hurries to deliver the announcement, as Jesus mandated her to bring it to his friends in Galilee. Although the boys did not believe her very much. It seems that same thing happens today. Isn't it?

The alb I use is a Guajira manta. I put on my adornments and earrings and even a little perfume.

We have no temples. We go wherever they call us, request a service, look for and support.

I go there walking, by bus, by Metro. Or by Transmilenio (Bogota). I do not have bodyguards.

Sacramental blessings and graces: we receive them free of charge from God, and free of charge we share them.

The Church does not reject us. The Church are you, are all of us. No, we have not left the Church. No one can erase, snatch away or remove my Baptism. In the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy there is a norm written by men, it is Canon 1024, which says: "Only baptized men can be ordained." It is a law, quite strange. We are asking that it be abolished, and for this to happen we hope to count on your support. The issue is more one of culture and society than a religious matter, that is why it concerns all of you with more reason.

I believe, the Gospel has a feminine face.

There is another Canon very interesting and not so negative, but it does not apply, can 1026 says: "It is necessary that whoever is going to be ordained enjoys the necessary freedom; It is strictly forbidden to compel anyone in any way and for any reason to receive the orders as well as to remove from their reception one who is canonically suitable. "

Up to here my brothers and sisters. Another day we continue ...

 * Catholic Woman Priest

Monday, June 19, 2017

People's Catholic Seminary and Christian Mystics

People’s Catholic Seminary (PCS), a seminary without walls, offers programs  in theology and spirituality for groups and individuals. Program facilitators accompany groups and individuals throughout the programs.

Currently PCS is offering a 12 week program on the Christian Mystics. This program explores the life of six mystics using text from Bridget Mary Meehan’s book, Praying with Visionary Women, along with supplemental materials from YouTube and Blogger, an on-line vehicle for sharing information. Through the use of Blogger, participants post responses to assignments. Other participants are able to read the posts and respond to them. This cohort model is a great learning opportunity for those who like to work and interact in groups.

Courtney Allen is currently enrolled in the mystic’s program. Her response (below) to an assignment on Catherine of Siena is a very good example of the quality of work submitted by the program participants.

About Courtney Allen

 Courtney Allen is an Italian-American Catholic with a deep and abiding love for the faith, and for the ways it can grow through the gifts of inclusive visionaries.  As a former academic medievalist, she has a special place in her heart for women mystics and is delighted to explore their modern-day relevance with the ARCWP.  Courtney currently resides in Southern California and enjoys a career in the museum field, while she discerns God's call regarding how she can be of most useful service.

Catherine of Siena by Courtney Allen

The treatment of body as sacred space is prehistoric.  In Greek thought, the concept for development of mind, body, and spirit toward virtue was termed “arete.”  Arete meant striving for the highest good, the most excellent self, that state of holiness in which one desired to dwell.  This process required an integrated approach, with the improvement of all components depending on each other and leading one’s quest to the most sacred purpose: contemplation.  Henri Nouwen refers to this intersection of mind, body, and spirit as “the heart,” the place within ourselves where we can best listen to God.  From ancient to contemporary, mystics have offered testimony on the sanctity of self-unity. 

Much medieval Christian theology builds upon the foundations of ancient philosophy; however, attitudes of body positivity did not always make the transition during this period, and were replaced in some cases with mortification practices.  Catherine of Siena did not ascribe to contemplation through integration.  In fact, she believed the exact opposite – that the body and spirit are in fundamental conflict, as evidenced in her Treatise of Prayer (18. Light of reason), in which she states: “the fragility of the body is a cause of humiliation to the soul.”  Today, we may deem Catherine’s separation from her body as unhealthy, rather than a method of discipline to heighten the spirit.  We might note in her Dialogue (particularly Treatise of Prayer, 19) the obsession to become “perfect,” as a sign of body dysmorphia.  We may ask why her family would enable such behaviors, or point to them as a cause of her lack of confidence in her own control or agency.  We might ponder how plague throughout her family changed her relationship to life and death, and thereby her body.  We could simplify Catherine’s piety as self-loathing, pointing to her Treatise of Divine Providence (7), in which she claims that “self-love…is the principle and foundation of every evil.”   

However, there is a more telling issue at the center of these discussions, and that is the aversion to our own discomfort.  As people of faith, God asks us to sit with people who are in pain, including self-inflicted pain or inescapable pain that lives inside them.  Places of discomfort and pain are where God is most present, and where we are most needed.  Naturally, this is not as comfortable as sitting with someone like Hildegard – someone whom we, through our contemporary lens, identify with as strong and empowered.  Or with someone like Julian, who encourages us to believe in our goodness by virtue of being made in God’s image.  We can learn from Catherine in a different way.  Catherine’s vulnerability holds up a mirror to our own souls in a way we would rather not acknowledge.  Everyone feels less than worthy of God at some point, forgetting our belovedness, forgetting that God’s love is not something we can earn but rather something that is freely given.  In those moments, I would hope to be reminded of my belovedness, not judged for my insecurity. 

Furthermore, women are often judged by their bodies and their relationships to their bodies, while men are judged solely on their work.  Rather than accuse Catherine of being complicit in her own oppression, without regard to the historical context, a feminist perspective asks us to focus on Catherine’s strengths and her offerings to us!  We can glimpse this best not through her treatises, but rather her letters.  Of the approximately 385 letters that remain, possibly the most powerful are her letters to Pope Gregory XI from around 1375-1378, at the end of the Avignon Papacy and approaching the Western Schism.  Catherine holds the Pope responsible for the divided Church, stating in her first letter to him that “temporal things are failing you from no other cause than from your neglect of the spiritual.”  Catherine believes that the Church has come to hold earthly wealth too dear, but that Catholics (including some clergy, though not all) may return by God’s healing.  She encourages the Pope to let go of conflict and forgive with kindness, reminding him in her second letter that “these sheep…cannot be won back by wrath or war.”  Pope Gregory XI eventually does relocate the Holy See to Rome, but does not heed Catherine’s pleas; consequently, she declares “you should use your virtue and power: and if you are not willing to use it, it would be better for you to resign what you have assumed.” Catherine masterfully walks a fine and dangerous line, writing directly about her concerns, but in a conversational tone that indicates she is trying to engage, rather than berate, the letters’ recipient.  Catherine speaks truth with love, and with a long vision toward unity.  She reminds the Pope that action is required for change: “If you want justice, you can execute it.  You can have peace.”  Justice, peace, and unity require conscientious work.

The same conscientious work is needed in the Church today.  While the Church remains united and rooted in its progressive stances on such critical issues as charity, pluralism, and the environment, we are in the midst of another sort of schism.  The Church is diversifying and growing globally, and yet the same system exists that enables organizational, doctrinal, and policy power to be held by a select few, while large demographics (such as women and LGBTQ folks) are not recognized as being called by God to the same leadership roles.  This inequality alienates Catholics from our religious home.  When we think about reform in the Church today, what we really mean is radicalism, returning to our roots: a community of disciples in which individual and differing voices are heard, represented, celebrated, and loved.  Respectful, kind, and open communication is critical to building unity; however, dialogue requires a place at the table.  A place at the table requires the constant presence and persistence demonstrated by Catherine.  We can use her tools: initiating brave conversations with a wide range of people, including those in power; voicing our ideas repeatedly and in written form, especially when they are not solicited; and building allies for support.  We do this out of love of our faith and the belief that it can and should be more inclusive.  That we can do better.  That the body of the Church should be striving for arete.

Catherine, you led a life peppered with self-doubt.  Yet through your trials, you surrendered your heart to God.  You accepted God’s call to “rise out of yourself,” from an interior life that at times was tumultuous, in order to bravely speak truth with love.  Guide us to transform our feelings of brokenness into belief in belovedness, and to share the message of belovedness with others through service.  Remind us to love God in our wholeness, in our bodies, and in our imperfection.  Give us strength, bravery, and compassion to open difficult dialogues and to advocate for inclusion.  Help us to grow each day in our understanding of the “two things [necessary to be] blessed: who we are, and who God is.” 

For more information about PCS, contact Bridget Mary and Mary Theresa at or visit the PCS website at Individual programs are available on request. Group programs begin again in the fall.

"I can't get the institutional church out of my system" Tom Smith

(From The Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church)

"It used to be more intense, but the struggle is still there. Even now, it is sometimes a battle worthy of war images, but most often it is a quiet, cold conflict that simmers in my soul. I doubt if I will ever get it completely resolved. I may need a couple more lifetimes to be reconciled with it, or, at least, a finely tuned purgatory.

The institutional part of the Catholic Church that once powerfully attracted me now haunts and hurts me. I can't quite get it out of my system. And this conflict messes with my spiritual life.

When I was a young man, I became a priest after 12 years of training in two greenhouse seminaries. I was a priest for seven years, five of them teaching religion to high school boys. I then left the priesthood, was laicized but continued working within the institution as a parish director of religious education, and ultimately at the diocesan level in two different dioceses. I also worked for 10 years at American Airlines, but when I retired in 2006, I was the director of pastoral services for my diocese.

I self-identify as a Catholic and, to all appearances, I am a "practicing Catholic," attending weekly Eucharist at my parish most of the time, participating in parish-sponsored small faith groups, and accepting some leadership roles within that faith community.

So I know the institutional church from the inside looking out and from the outside looking in. There is much about the institution that I flat out reject, and I can say that more freely now that I am no longer a public person representing the institutional church.

I have come to believe that, of the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world today, the institutional church focuses on only a portion of them. For centuries, the official church, consciously or subconsciously, focused on the religious education of children and zeroed in on adults with little developed spiritual maturity. The church's dogmatic and doctrinal rigidity, the either-or moral absolutes, the frozen liturgical rituals, the overpowering hierarchical structures, all seem aimed at adherents who are at an early stage of spiritual awareness - as I was until I was about 30. Unless we are lucky at the parish level, the rest of us are left mostly on our own to find an adult faith.

St. Paul said it well in 1 Corinthians 13:11: "When I was a child I used to talk like a child, think like a child, reason like a child. When I became an adult I put childish ways aside." Much of the institutional church presumes we are still children, and that focus interferes with my spiritual journey. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I am no longer a child. I can handle ambiguity, mystery, both-ands, expandable morality, spontaneity, my own informed conscience, and personal spiritual experiences.

To discover support for these adult spiritual traits within the church, I have to sift through the predominantly child-centered veneer. At this point, many Catholics simply leave the church and find their spiritual resources elsewhere or conclude that the church doesn't connect with their adult lives in any meaningful way. I am tempted to follow them out the door.

But I remain stuck in the middle, trying to balance my spiritual life with parts of the church that remain relevant to me. I am deliberately a cafeteria Catholic, skipping most of the institutional food and being selective about the rest of the buffet. Who can eat all of that fatty food anyway?

I do have criteria for determining what helps my soul see what is real and beneficial. There are four of them:
I must take time for prayer and meditation in order to recognize the God within me.
I must have a community of believers to share my story, create and discover our own story, and roam around within the story of God in and for all of us.
I must experience some ritual that celebrates this God within and among all of us.
I must do something for other people as Jesus did, some service that helps them in some way.

When I live within these four impulses of the spiritual life, I'm OK. When I slip away from any one of them for a long enough period, I lose my spiritual footing.

At this point, I still experience sufficient support within the umbrella of Catholicism to keep me connected to the official church. My parish community, Pope Francis, spiritual teachers like Fr. Richard Rohr, NCR, and the remarkable service provided to humanity through our hospitals, schools and charitable organizations all meet one or more of my criteria for my spiritual life. Obviously, there are spiritual resources beyond Catholicism that also nourish these four principles.

Life, love and suffering fuel my spiritual journey. I choose the direction and the help I need along the way. Despite its faults, I continue to choose part of the institutional church as an aid to living one or more of these criteria for spiritual growth. I also choose to live with the internal conflict this choice entails. My spiritual growth is what matters most.

Most of the time that choice is worth it. Other times ... not so much. This is just what it is."


Tom Smith is the author of eight books, most recently Church Chat: Snapshots of a Changing Catholic Church. He and his wife, Fran, live in Shiloh, Illinois

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Upper Room Liturgy - June 18, 2017

Dennis McDonald, ARCWP, and Mary Theresa Streck, ARCWP led the Upper Room Community with the Theme, You are the Body of Christ. Dennis's homily starter follows the first reading by Henri Nouwen. 

Opening Prayer: Divine sustenance of life, we gather today around this table to remember a meal long ago, at which bread and wine were used by Jesus to proclaim the call to be life-givers to the world and those around us.  As we bless bread and wine today, let us celebrate the gift of ourselves that we present and offer at this liturgy. Let us bless and encourage one another, in our response to the needs of the afflicted, the forgotten, and the oppressed.  May we continue to be transformed by the power of the Spirit so that we might be the Living Body of Christ. Amen.    

A reading from Can You Drink the Cup? By Henri Nouwen

No one in our family would ever drink from his or her glass before everyone had been served and my father had lifted up his glass, looked at each of us, spoke a word of welcome, and emphasized the uniqueness of the occasion.
Lifting up the cup is an invitation to affirm and celebrate life together. As we lift up the cup of life and look each other in the eye, we say: Let’s not be anxious or afraid. Let’s hold our cup together and greet each other. Let us not hesitate to acknowledge the reality of our lives and encourage each other to be grateful for the gifts we have received.

We lift the cup of life to affirm our life together and celebrate it as a gift from God. When each of us can hold firm to our cup, with its many sorrows and joys, claiming it as our unique life, then too, can we lift it up for others to see and encourage them to lift up their lives as well. Thus, as we lift up our cup in a fearless gesture, proclaiming that we will support each other in our common journey, we create community.

Homily Starter by Dennis McDonald, ARCWP:

I loved reading about Nouwen’s family gatherings and the welcome offered by his Father each time. He was saying to those present, more than you’re welcome here, but we are blessed to have you here for this special occasion. It was especially significant that he looked each person in the eye, pulling them in to the life of the family.

Jesus during the meal shared with companions, looked, I am sure, at each disciple and pulled them in with that glance and  the words spoken, “this is my body, this is my blood, do this in memory of me”.       

The call of Jesus was that the disciples then, and we now, become like him, body and blood, our very being to respond to those in need, those looking for a better way, a way out of darkness, out of imprisonment, out of the pain of life.  The Body of Christ is transformational, bringing about a new world of love, acceptance and wholeness.  It is following in the footsteps of Jesus, who transformed the lives of those who sought him out. He engaged fully as a human, body and blood, in assisting each person to see that they too were worthy of being fully human and filled with the divine presence.
Augustine in a homily stated: If, then, you want to know what the body of Christ is, you must listen to what the Apostle tells the faithful: “Now you are the body of Christ, and individually you are members of it.”

If that is so, it is the sacrament of yourselves that is placed on the Lord’s altar, and it is the sacrament of yourselves that you receive.
You reply “Amen” to what you are, and thereby agree that such you are. You hear the words “The body of Christ” and you reply “Amen.” Be, then, a member of Christ’s body, so that your “Amen” may accord with the truth.

Our sharing of this common meal, bread and wine, or in our case, grape juice, signifies coming together as community, as the Body of Christ, ready to respond to his request, “Do this in memory of me”.  It is recognizing the sacrament that we are as we bring our body and blood to the table.  Will we heed the call, go beyond the sharing of bread and wine, and once nourished by this community, go out and share the Good News? The news that the Divine is within each person and in the midst of daily life, working through us, the Body of Christ to bring hope for the hopeless, release to prisoners and freedom to the oppressed.