Monday, July 18, 2011

Negative Experience of Contrast: Synod and Council As Liberation

By Don Conroy

The experience of neglect, oppression, dependency, etc., are negative experiences of contrast to the way things ought to be and can be. Liberation theologies are a response to negative experiences; for example, poverty, patriarchal systems, and absence of civil and human rights. Another example of negative experience is excessive demands by ecclesiastical authority in governance and teachings.

Let's begin with teachings. When religious leaders make authoritative statements that address issues outside their discipline, such as the natural or social sciences, their statements are suspect if not entirely false. This was the classic case of Galileo in the 17th century, and this is the case today in their attempt to define the nature of the human condition of same-sex attraction. Another example of negative experience of contrast as what ought to be is the condemnation of artificial birth control by celibates; whereas, those of good faith who are not consulted in the condemnation and are directly affected ignore the condemnation. These are only two examples.

Now let's look at governance. The most striking fact that applies to the negative experience in Roman Catholic ecclesiastical governance is the systemic exclusion of over half its members from active roles in governance and praxis: women. (Praxis is structured activity of free persons.) Not only is it the case that women are relegated to a place of little or no power in church governance, the non-ordained baptized also have no representation.

Catholics who have been influenced by the Spirit alive in the documents of promise and the reforms consequent to Vatican II are now responding in a variety of ways to their experience. They are engaging in forms of liberation thought and praxis. One example of this is the call to the baptized to gather in a synod and be part of organizing a "council of the baptized," the members of which will act as representatives of the people in forming policy for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Liberation theologies are contemporary expressions of oppression. Our post-modern culture calls on us to examine and take personal responsibility to understand systems and relationships of power. Our social responsibility does not allow us to be defined and relegated to an inferior place in society. Liberation theologies address questions that, for clarity sake, can best be expressed in a negative form. Why should we contribute to a social system that places us in a marginalized passive role? Why should we accept a teaching that all are equal when it is clear that we are not included as equal? Why should we submit to a hierarchical system where some dominate others and deny them due process? How explain the exclusion of women from the Sacrament of Orders?

These are religious questions, not only about the existence of a God that is the ground of being, but also about the kind of God, the interest of this God in human existence, and the quality and character of a divine will for human history.

– Roger Haight
Jesus: Symbol of God

We find it necessary to raise our voices against oppression as we experience it. We come together for solidarity of expression and action. If we do not express our negative experience, the clerics in high position would not be advised of the destructiveness of their policies and practices. Come join us.


  1. One of the things that makes me really proud to be a Roman Catholic is that our enemies are so ignorant about us that the only thing that they can find against us are (1) the Crusades (9 of 10 of which we lost in our attempts to take back the Holy Land from the Armies of Islam that robbed, murdered and pillaged it from Christianity 300 years earlier and then began to kill Christians who wanted to visit it); the Spanish Inquisition 1480-1834, a Spanish government institution (that in a time of much brutality, over a period of 350 years, managed to execute between three and five thousand (about 15 people a year, less than the state of Texas does in some of their recent years); and Galileo. Ahh, Galileo. Sentenced to house arrest in a palace with servants and a government food budget because his proof that the earth revolves around the sun, something most scientists at the time believed, wasn't quite accurate).

    Not a bad record for the Catholic Church over 2,000 years.

  2. Uhmmm Ray, you left out the forced conversions, permission of enslavement as God's will, and the outright slaughter of the indigenous people in the New World as Catholic religious 'brought the Gospel' to them. Or doesn't that count?