Saturday, October 29, 2011

Challenging the Old Boys Network in the Vatican

By Bill Quigley

Editor's Note: This article was first published October 24 at Minnesotan readers may find the author's report on recent events in Rome of particular interest as it mentions Twin Cities-based biblical scholar, theologian and archeologist Dorothy Irvin.

We never thought it would end up on a hard wooden bench inside a police station in Piazza Cavour. Maryknoll priest Fr. Roy Bourgeois, young Erin Saiz Hannah of Women’s Ordination Conference in the US and Miriam Duignan from from the UK were sitting there when my wife and I arrived. They were being detained by the Rome police.

It started when the Rome police spotted the three women in long white church liturgical garments robes, the man in a roman collar dressed all in black, and their supporters walking several blocks down the middle of Via della Conciliazione directly towards the Vatican, the headquarters of the institutional Roman Catholic Church and the Basilica of St. Peter.

The group sang Alleluias and carried a long purple banner, "Ordain Catholic Women," a big red and white banner proclaiming "God is Calling Women To Be Priests" (in English and Italian), and a black and white Call to Action banner

The group wanted to deliver a petition, printed on pink paper, signed by more than 15,000 people who asked the Vatican not to expel Fr. Roy Bourgeois, 72, from the church for saying that women are called to be priests in the church. Fr. Roy faces expulsion from his Catholic community, Maryknoll, for refusing to recant his belief that women can and should be allowed to become priests. Bourgeois, a decorated Vietnam veteran, has been a faithful member of the Catholic missionary group, Maryknoll, for 44 years. For twenty years, he has worked with School of Americas Watch in the US, a group of thousands who challenge the role of the US military in training human rights abusers among Latin American militaries. Along with the petition was a list of hundreds of priests who asked that Fr. Roy not be expelled just for speaking out about a matter of conscience.

As the tour buses and other traffic veered around the marchers, pedestrians on the street cheered. The huge dome of St. Peter’s Basilica dominates the area which is thronged with pilgrims and tourists, and saturated with souvenir shops and vendors selling religious medals, holy cards, statues, refrigerator magnets, flags, and postcards.

The police presence quickly outnumbered the group and stopped them as they tried to enter Vatican Square.

Protests were not allowed in the Vatican said the police. But we are here to deliver a petition, the group responded. But you are carrying signs said the police. We can put the signs down responded the group. But the women are dressed like priests and that is a protest the police insisted. But we are legitimately ordained priests they told the authorities.

After much back and forth with Vatican authorities the police said Fr. Roy could go into Vatican Square because he was a real priest. When Fr. Roy insisted all the priests, men and women, should be allowed to enter, an undercover policeman violently grabbed the banners away from those peacefully holding them and the authorities arrested Fr. Roy, Erin Saiz Hannah who the police decided organized the event, and Miriam Duignan, who was acting as the translator.

Erin and Miriam were jammed into a police car and with lights flashing and sirens blasting were taken away. Fr. Roy was taken away in another police car.

After several hours’ detention inside the Rome police station, the three were released after they signed statements promising to return to Italy if the investigating magistrate decided to try them on the charges of protesting without a permit. The banners were seized as evidence and not returned.

As the three were released from police custody to cheers from the rest of the group gathered outside the police station, the group insisted the petitions must still be delivered. Ultimately they were delivered to high ranking church official who promised to consider them.

So, who were these people?

Three of women who marched alongside Fr. Roy in priestly garb are members of Roman Catholic Women Priests, an international group of more than a hundred ordained Catholic women priests, deacons and bishops from the US, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Latvia, Scotland, South Africa, and Switzerland. Priests Ree Hudson from St. Louis, and Janice Sevre Duszynska a priest and Deacon Donna Rougeux of Kentucky marched.

The organizers of the march were Women’s Ordination Conference, Call to Action and the international Erin Saiz Hanna and Kate Conmy were there representing Women’s Ordination Conference, a group of thousands of Roman Catholics in the US who have been advocating for women priests since 1974. Nicole Sotelo and others from Call to Action, a 25,000 member organization of Catholic lay people, religious, clergy and bishops working for justice inside and outside the Catholic Church, were present. Therese Koturbash and Miriam Duignan from Canada and the UK represented a website in 26 languages with more than 1.5 million visitors annually. Dorothy Irvin, a world renowned biblical scholar, theologian and archeologist shared historical and archeological support for the presence of women priests in the early church. Others who needed to remain anonymous to retain their jobs joined is as well.

The group ended their Roman pilgrimage with a simple rooftop liturgy presided over by the women priests. Bread and wine were shared as people sang “Here I am, Lord.” In the background, the sun was setting both on the great dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and the men inside who think only they run the institutional church.

Bill Quigley is Associate Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years. He volunteers with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the Bureau de Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port au Prince. Contact Bill at

Monday, October 24, 2011

Council of the Baptized Launched in Minneapolis-St. Paul

History was made in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis when 19 men and women accepted commissions as members of the first lay-organized Council of the Baptized in the archdiocese.

The commissioning ceremony, which took place Saturday, Oct. 22, at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul, set a precedent as the first organization of its kind for the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. The Council’s mission is to hear the voices of the faithful throughout the archdiocese and to be the vehicle of communication among them and with hierarchical leadership. The Council’s purpose is to strengthen the Catholic community to carry on the mission of the Church in the world.

Nineteen women and men answered the community’s summons to leadership to serve the first two year term on the Council. By archdiocesan quadrant, they are: Dan DeWan, Tom Hallberg, Becky Leuer, and Mary Beth Stein from the Northeast quadrant; Michael Anderson, Bob DeNardo, Paul Mandell and Brent Vanderlinden from the Southeast quadrant; Don Conroy, Carol Larsen, and Mary Jane Santele from the Northwest quadrant; Nancy Gotto, Karin Grosscup, Lyn Yount, and Amy Zabransky from the Southwest quadrant; and Rosemary Desmond, David Jasper, Joan Mitchell, and Lisa Vanderlinden, members at large.

The call to leadership in the Council came from the approximately 400 Catholics at the Synod of the Baptized on September 17, 2011. From the 214 nominations, these nineteen people responded yes to the call. The Council’s charter provides for sixteen members representing quadrants of the Archdiocese and five members at large. The Council has one opening in the Northwest quadrant and one opening in the membership at large.

Synod participants are working on thirty-two proposals for position papers and programs that they will bring to the Council for endorsement and publication. Teams are meeting in homes to prepare position papers on subjects such as the need for lay preaching, the need for communication with youth and alienated Catholics, the need to welcome all to the Eucharistic table. The people will make their voices heard on their concerns of conscience through the Council of the Baptized.

Following the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and at its direction, many dioceses established Pastoral Councils. They were advisory to the bishop of the diocese, composed of lay people, and enjoyed varying degrees of influence depending on the bishop. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis had a Pastoral Council until the 1980’s when it was disbanded. The Council of the Baptized established today is entirely lay organized and has no official authorization but is consistent with church canon law:

According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which [the laity] possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons. (Canon 212 §3)

Also, Christian faithful, either as lay persons alone or in an association with clerics, may organize in "a common endeavor to foster a more perfect life to promote public worship or Christian doctrine, or to exercise other works of the apostolate . . ." (Canon 298 §1)

In that spirit and in concert with church law, the Council of the Baptized invites participation from all the faithful and dialogue with the hierarchical leadership in the spirit of Vatican II.

The Council’s organization was sponsored by the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), but it is now an independent organization with its own leadership and purposes.

Images: Kathryn Warneke.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Church in Flux

Thomas P. Rausch reviews
The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity
Ed. by Michael J. Lacey
& Francis Oakley

(Oxford University Press, 2011)

Editor's Note: This review was first published October 24, 2011 in America Magazine.

At the heart of the crisis of authority in modern Catholicism is the lack of connection between the authority claimed by the magisterium in questions of conscience and belief and what the faithful are willing to accept. And the gap continues to widen. Modern Catholics, at least in North America and Europe, insist on their ability to think for themselves, even if Vatican officials, members of the hierarchy and even many of those preparing for the priesthood continue to presume a world of deference to their authority that no longer exists.

This is the thesis of the present volume, edited by Michael Lacey and Francis Oakley. Their purpose is to contribute to an intra-Catholic dialogue. To illustrate this they have assembled an excellent collection of essays, sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California.

The first essays provide some historical background. Oakley returns to the argument he sketched in an earlier volume; he maintains that the conciliarist constitutionalism of the councils of Constance (1414-18) and Basel (1431-49), recognizing the rights of bishops in extraordinary cases over popes, endured in universities and religious orders down to the latter half of the 19th century, in spite of the defeat of the conciliarist party at Basel. He sees its later rejection not as doctrinal development but as a radically discontinuous change in the church’s self-understanding. Lacey traces Leo XIII’s arguments against liberalism and popular sovereignty, concerned as he was to defend the unity of throne and altar as the modern democratic nation-state was emerging. Joseph Komonchak gives a nuanced interpretation of Pope Benedict’s 2005 address to the Roman Curia, contrasting a “hermeneutics of discontinuity or rupture” with “the hermeneutics of reform.” He sees Benedict’s aim as defending a “continuity of principles,” to persuade traditionalists like the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre of the legitimacy of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

The second section looks at various theological, canonical and philosophical issues. Francis Sullivan, raising the question of how particular traditions might differ from authentic embodiments of the Tradition, traces developments that effectively reversed longstanding positions, using slavery, religious liberty, salvation outside the church and capital punishment (undergoing change) as examples. His conclusion is that some longstanding traditions are really human traditions, not authentic expressions of the word of God.

Using a concept from Charles Taylor, John Beal argues that canon law is still embedded in a “baroque social imaginary,” for it provides for no separation of powers, while bishops and pastors are accountable only to their superiors, not to those they serve. Gerard Mannion’s article on the magisterium suggests that “dissent” in a church that leaves little room for genuine debate, discussion and the lived experience of people and blurs gradations in teaching authority is another name for having the courage of one’s convictions or doubts.

Lisa Sowle Cahill shows how Catholic moral theology since Vatican II has become more biblically based and focused on relations, more integrated with social ethics and done by lay theologians as well as clergy. Cathleen Kaveny calls for a renewal of the casuistical tradition in Catholic theology—that is, an effort to integrate principles and rules with particular factual circumstances in regard to particular cases. She laments the lack of a common formation for Catholic moralists today such as once was provided for priests being trained to hear confessions. Charles Taylor, writing on magisterial authority, regrets that too often authority transgresses the contingency of moral judgments or falsely sacralizes simplistic readings of the natural law or historically based conceptions of gender, using homosexuality or women’s ordination as examples. He also calls for a greater respect for the “enigmatic,” reminding his readers that the prophetic spirit cannot be confined to one hierarchical level.

The final section addresses practical questions. The sociologist William D’Antonio and his associates argue from their surveys that the Catholic Church in the United States has become virtually a voluntary association, with Catholics increasingly finding authority in their individual consciences. In a fascinating article that traces the pre-history of the birth control controversy, Leslie Tentler shows how confessors, particularly after 1965, were largely responsible for this new emphasis on conscience. Uncomfortable with church teaching against birth control, they encouraged married penitents to follow their consciences, with a resulting decline in the number of penitents and a loss of authority for confessors, particularly in sexual matters. As an educated laity became increasingly autonomous morally, the church drifted into irrelevancy.

Finally Katarina Schuth, O.S.F., who has long studied trends in the formation of priests, paints a disheartening picture of the relations between priests and parishioners in the future. She outlines the differences between older priests, who see themselves as “servant leaders,” ready to collaborate with the laity and lay ministers, and younger priests and seminarians, often called “John Paul II priests,” who subscribe to a cultic model of priesthood, stressing separateness, an ontological difference from the laity and an ecclesiology less related to Vatican II. With the shortage of priests, these younger priests no longer face a long apprenticeship before becoming pastors; many are made pastors within three years or less of ordination. The influx of seminarians today from other countries (about 25 percent), many with weak academic backgrounds, has led to adjustments in seminary curricula. Furthermore, perhaps one-third of seminarians have experienced a “reconversion.” Unfamiliar with parish life, many tend to be inflexible, overly scrupulous and fearful.

The book, with its balanced and scholarly essays, represents a sober assessment of contemporary Catholicism. In his epilogue, Oakley notes four common themes: the deepening divisions over the interpretation of Vatican II and between clergy and laity; an “ecclesiological monophysitism” that stresses the unchanging divine dimension of the church at the expense of the confusion, variability and sinfulness that accompanies its embodied existence; the fact of change, everywhere apparent but too often unacknowledged; and the efforts of authority to impose all-or-nothing teachings on the faithful. This is a book that should be widely read by bishops as well as theologians.

Thomas P. Rausch, S.J., is the T. Marie Chilton Professor of Catholic Theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Quote of the Day

. . . The reasons to use both [bread and wine at Communion] are many. First of all, it plants us firmly in the Jewish roots of the liturgy. A good article on this can be found here. Second, it reconnects us, as Vatican II attempted to do, to the whole rich history of the early Church. For the first thousand years, Christians received under both species. This is not to say that they had any less respect for the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Tertullian notes in the 3rd century: ” The possibility of letting either our cup or our bread fall to the ground makes us painfully anxious.” Yet that did not prevent the reception under both species. It was more the effect of the Gregorian Reforms of the 11th century that created a more rigid class distinction between priest and assembly than any theology that began restricting the reception of the Eucharist to one species.

This leads directly to my second concern [about Bishop Olmsted's withdrawing permission to give communion wine to the laity except under certain limited conditions]. Why are seminarians singled out for special reception of both species? This only fosters the documented growing trend among young priests to shy away from lay collaboration in their ministry. The seminarian has no special place in the congregation. He is another member of the common priesthood of the faithful who offers along with the priest the sacrifice of Christ on the altar. Singling him out is particularly dangerous. More than half of the laity in recent polls say that priests don’t want them to be leaders, but only followers. The laity want to help their priests. They want to be a part of the parish and participate in its functions. They want an active part in the liturgy. Yet there is a decreasing interest among young priests to collaborate with the laity in their parishes, possibly out of a renewed emphasis in many seminaries on the “cultic” identity of a priest. The danger of the new guidelines is to reinforce that tendency and to downplay the common priesthood of the faithful at Mass.

– Nathan O'Halloran, SJ
"Liturgical Minimalism in Phoenix"
Whosoever Desires
September 23, 2011

Related Off-site Link:
The Case in Phoenix – Rita Ferrone (Commonweal, October 6, 2011).

Dissent: Lessons from Slavery

By Robert McClory

Editor's Note: This commentary was first published October 10, 2011, by the National Catholic Reporter.

In a blog posted Sept. 21, "Can We Talk?", I wondered if it might be possible to have a civil debate on the troublesome hot topic of dissent from church teaching. Is dissent ever legitimate or is it not? I carefully read the many responses, which displayed a range of thinking on the subject. For a few, there was no need to talk. And I quote:

“Religion is intrinsically totalitarian...”
“Most modern dissent was caused by Vatican II which never was needed...”
“There is orthodoxy and [there is] Heterodoxy...”

For others discussion would be ideal but it cannot happen:

“No on ever changes his/her mind… based on another’s point of view...”
“I have no problem but it is useless.”
“People talk but do not listen...”

The majority however found the concept intriguing:

“Yes, I have hoped for that...”
“I am totally supportive...”
“I pray the Holy Spirit will lead us in the right direction...”

So I’m encouraged to proceed, adopting two excellent suggestions from readers. First, we are talking here about “dialogue,” not debate. And second, ideas will be presented with the caveat, “Of course I could be wrong.”

As a discussion starter, I think both conservatives and liberals can agree that some church teachings at various times can and have changed over the centuries. And we can talk about this without specifying what levels of teaching may be altered or what may not be altered.

It’s pretty obvious that change is a phenomenon of the Christian experience. As an example, consider the subject of slavery. It is not one of the current hot buttons but has a long been a subject of discussion and analysis in the Catholic Church.

One of the most penetrating accounts of slavery’s history can be found in the first 119 pages of A Church That Can and Cannot Change by John T. Noonan, Jr., a respected Catholic intellectual and veteran judge on the federal circuit court of appeals for the ninth district. In a highly readable style, Noonan shows how the church, along with the rest of Western civilization, openly tolerated and often supported slavery for some 1,800 years before coming to a complete change of heart and mind.

At issue, writes Noonan, was the “intrinsic character of a relationship in which one person bought, sold, mortgaged and transferred another person without regard to that person’s will or education or vocation, in which the one owned is a chattel of the owner.”

That slavery was acceptable in God’s sight seemed self-evident to the Jews based on the law handed down at Mt. Sinai. As recorded in Leviticus, God tells his people, “The slave and the slave girl shall come from the nations round about you…. They may become your property and you may leave them to your sons after you; you may use them as slaves permanently.”

Despite the radical equality of all preached by Paul in the New Testament --
“In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, man nor woman” -- Paul tolerated slavery. He urged masters to stop “bullying” their slaves and encouraged slaves to “obey your masters” -- yet he never criticized slavery as an institution.

Nor, it seems, did Jesus, who healed the slave of a centurion, yet did not comment critically on the status of slaves in this case or elsewhere.

Throughout the centuries, popes, bishops and theologians called on slaveholders to treat their slaves charitably and not abuse them. There was no suggestion that slaves were less than human.

Slaves could become Christians, and they did. Slaves like Felicity, Blandina and Vitale are among honored saints and martyrs in the church. In the seventh century Pope Gregory the Great owned slaves himself, and on one occasion was so impressed with the noble faces and obvious intelligence of some young pagan slaves he encountered that he wanted to go to their native land, England, and convert their relatives and friends to Christianity. That was his goal, not the elimination of the slave trade itself.

Some fathers of the church like Gregory of Nyssa were troubled by slavery, seeing it as a sin of pride and contrary to human nature. They chided slave owners for their arrogance but none was an advocate of abolition.

Even as Christianity emerged as the glue that held Western Europe together in the second millennium, the practice of slavery continued to flourish.

Writes Noonan: “No pope or general council laid down as law that Catholic Christians might not lawfully enslave [even] Catholic Christians defeated in battle along with their wives and children.”

Thomas Aquinas, the great medieval theologian, held that slavery was “a corporeal condition” created by “human reason for the utility of human life.” No vocabulary to confess the sin of slave owning or trading can be found in the writings of Aquinas or other moral teachers. Much attention was paid to offenses such as theft, robbery, adultery, fornication, incest and rape.

“No word,” writes Noonan, “designated as an offense the owning of another person.” In fact, anyone who assisted a slave in running away from his master committed a sin, according to Catholic teaching of the time, because he was cooperating in stealing the master’s property.

Very gradually an awakening occurred. A singular break with tradition took place in the 13th century when the city of Bologna bought all the slaves within its jurisdiction and set them free. The action was widely discussed and celebrated. However, no other city followed Bologna’s example.

With the discovery of the New World, popes and kings worked in cooperation to oversee the slave trade. For example, Pope Nicholas V in the 16th century granted to the king of Portugal “full and free faculty” to “conquer, crush, pacify and subjugate” the population of Guinea and “to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery.”

Yet, increased attention to the slave trade brought forth for the first time prophetic voices, like that of Bartolome de Las Casas, a Spanish Dominican priest who accompanied Columbus on one of his journeys. He wrote about the cruelty he observed and concluded that “Christ granted no power to apostle or preacher of the faith to force the unwilling” to obey and no power… to seize their possessions and enslave them.”

Las Casas is often remembered for his debate with the renowned theologian Sepulvida in 1550. One by one he took apart the arguments for waging war and enslaving Indians, finding them “completely absurd.” The prominent theologian Thomas Cajetan, also a Dominican, declared, “On a living human being, so long as he is held in slavery, violence is continually inflicted.”

Popes at last began to speak out against the wholesale enslavement of Africans and Native Americans but still stopped short of pronouncing slavery itself immoral and forbidden.

By the 19th century, the moral justification of slavery was in retreat, though its practice continued in the United States and elsewhere. The first official papal condemnation came in an encyclical by Gregory XVI in 1863. He said the faithful should be “dissuaded” from the “inhuman traffic” in “blacks or any other kind of persons.”

The pope did not explain why it took so long for the church take a stand, nor did he ground the condemnation on the natural law or the liberating message of the Gospel. Some quibbling followed. John England, bishop of Georgia and the Carolinas and the leading prelate in the U.S., argued that the pope spoke only against the international slave trade, not against slavery itself.

Nevertheless, the handwriting was on the wall. By the 20th century there was no more arguing. The Second Vatican Council listed slavery as “especially contrary to the honor of the creator.”

It was left to Pope John Paul II to put a stamp of finality on the discussion. In his 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor, he spoke of certain acts that are incapable of being ordered to God, that are always and everywhere intrinsically evil. Among these he listed slavery along with genocide, homicide and abortion. There can never, ever, said the pope, be an excuse for such actions.

So what has all this got to do with dissent? I think slavery illustrates clearly that something gravely evil can for long periods of time be viewed as not at all evil by the leaders, the experts and vast numbers of the laity. This blindness to slavery persisted age after age for some 1,800 years.

How can it be that something so obvious to us -- the evil in essentially denying basic rights to another human being -- was perceived as not evil at all or only dimly so for such a period?

Noonan says part of the answer may be that the leading Christians -- popes, bishops, theologians -- had little or no personal experience with slavery. They did not see first-hand how it degraded and crippled the human body and spirit.

Of course no one asked the slaves what they thought. So the leaders wrote and spoke about slavery rationally and from above, fashioning horrible accommodations that made sense only when presented at a safe distance from real life. The history of slavery tells us that there was something essential in the Gospel message that had to be teased out, its implications drawn out slowly over a long time and with great difficulty.

And I have to wonder if our ancestors in the faith missed this elephant in the living room, the question what else may we still be missing?

Of course I could be wrong, but that’s where dissent comes in. It is closely related to change. The institution of slavery survived for so long because few thought there was anything to dissent about. Only when voices were finally raised did the church as a whole remove its blinders.

This doesn’t prove all dissent is good, only that sometimes it is -- sometimes even necessary. I believe the tension in a particular issue between dissenters and those who choose not to dissent can be healthy and productive if both sides are respectful and agree that loud diatribes and silent stalemates are useless.

Catholicism’s culture wars have gone on long enough. What do you think?

See also the previous PCV posts:
Gerald Arbuckle on the "Critical Role of Dissent"
Nicholas Lash on Dissent and Disagreement
Civil Discourse. In Church?

Recommended Off-site Links:
Robert McClory on a Catholic Understanding of Faithful Dissent (Part 1) – Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, June 10, 2008).
Robert McClory on a Catholic Understanding of Faithful Dissent (Part 2) – Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, July 8, 2008).