Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pope Francis Has a Woman Problem

By Jennifer Labbadia
Deputy Director of Development at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good

Note: This commentary was first published March 31, 2015 by The Huffington Post.

Two years into Francis' revolutionary papacy, and it's clear: the Catholic Church still has a significant woman problem, and it isn't getting much better. Shortly after his election, Francis called for a new theology of women, saying that "it is necessary to broaden the opportunities for a stronger presence of women in the church." To date, the church hasn't gotten the memo.

So in the context of Women's History Month, how can the church step up its game?

First the church must acknowledge where it's gone wrong. Women today face a myriad of systemic injustices, which manifest themselves into unfortunate everyday realities. They endure domestic violence, sex trafficking, the gender wage gap, lack of access to education and widespread poverty among many others.

Why hasn't the church spoken more forcefully against these structural sins? Instead, the Church too often limits "women's issues" to sexual ethics, most notably contraception and abortion.

There is no better example than last month's Vatican Conference on Women.

At the four day conference, after discussing gender stereotypes ad nauseum, the Vatican shifted gears to the number one issue facing women globally: the morality of plastic surgery.

At a time where the sexual exploitation of women is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, where women's access to education remains limited, and where there is a scandalous pay gap between men and women globally, the Catholic Church needs to focus on gender inequality, not the morality of plastic surgery.

Amid this bleak picture, there are signs of hope.

Under the leadership of Pope Francis, the Church is rediscovering the radical discipleship of women throughout its history. And now it can begin to examine new ways to promote gender equality both in the Church and in society. Pope Francis has said that we need a new theology of women, but perhaps more than that we need to recognize more fully the contribution women make every day in this church, a contribution that goes far beyond sexual ethics and femininity.

Kerry Robinson is one such example. A prominent lay woman in the United States, she uses her intellect, business acumen and fundraising capabilities to help create a better managed missionary church.

Robinson isn't alone. Religious women have been fulfilling Francis' call for a missionary church for decades. Sister Dorothy Stang, of the Sisters of Notre Dame De Namur, exemplifies this spirit. She spent much of her life courageously fighting for the rights of poor farmers in the Amazon and sought to protect the forest's rich natural resources from loggers and ranchers. Her prophetic leadership wasn't without cost -- she was martyred in 2005.

These two examples aren't exceptions. Catholic women everywhere are on the front lines and in the trenches, serving the excluded, defending the poor and spreading the joy of the gospel. If these women give it all up in service of the church, they too should be a part of its decision-making authority.

As my colleague Christopher Hale rightly notes, this is the way it was in the beginning:

After Jesus' death, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to remove his body. On the way there, she encountered a gardener. The gardener revealed himself to be the risen Christ. As Mary ran to tell the other disciples the good news, she held within her the very reason of the church: to share God's saving love in Jesus. In that moment, some argue that she was the church.
The gardener knew what Pope Francis and the church must learn: when you want to get a tough job done, give it to a woman.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Current Culture War and the Way Toward Reform: Integral Consciousness

Following are two excerpts from Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution (2007) by Steve McIntosh.

There is in the developed world an increasingly bitter clash of worldviews wherein these stages are battling for control of the laws and mores of their societies. This cultural struggle is found not simply between liberals and conservatives; in the developed world, we actually face a three-way conflict between the values of traditionalism, modernism, and postmodernism. Or perhaps more accurately, we are faced with a tug of war between traditionalism and postmodernism for the soul of the modernist majority. But however we characterize the culture war, we can see that the stakes are high. Because progressive development is sorely needed, and because the cost of the culture war is developmental stagnation, we need to find the peace of greater agreement in order to make meaningful progress. With integral consciousness we can see how the values of each worldview stage are both part of the solution and part of the problem—each stage embodies both dignities and disasters. Traditional consciousness identifies the need to reduce lawless violence and evil in the world, yet it creates oppression. Modernist consciousness identifies opportunities for development and discovery, yet it creates gross inequalities. And postmodern consciousness identifies the need to honor and include everyone, yet it also creates blindness to comparative excellence. Because each of these worldviews is very much alive and well within the developed world today, not only are they each continuing to produce their particular kind of progress, each of them is also continuing to act out their particular kind of pathology. And this is where the cultural battle is joined.

– pp. 74-75

When it comes to practicing the integral worldview, we have to remember that we are called to actually create this new level of consciousness ourselves. Those of us who can discern the emergence of this new stage of civilization here at its beginnings have the privilege of receiving the creative impulse of the first wave of integral values.

The truths of integral philosophy can be used to produce cultural evolution on many fronts. Wherever we find the culture war—in the workplace, in our schools, and even in our own families—we can skillfully work to raise consciousness by showing how different values apply to different life conditions. As we begin to see how just about every human problem is a problem of consciousness, we can then see how best to raise consciousness by distinguishing between the healthy and pathological values of a given stage, and by translating the values of one stage into terms that can be better appreciated by other stages. Think about all the ways that we can help keep well-meaning postmodern consciousness from literally dissolving the crucial structures of traditional and modernist values upon which our further evolution depends. And conversely, think about all the ways we can communicate the evolutionary necessity of postmodern values to traditionalists and modernists by showing how our civilization’s actual survival largely depends on the success of postmodernism.

– pp. 90-91

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Love and Sex Campaign 2015 . . .




Pope Francis has asked lay people around the world to share their experiences on the Church's teachings and practices regarding sexuality, marriage, and family. This information is meant to help the bishops as they grapple with these complicated issues at the Synod on the Family in Rome this coming October 2015. Each of our experiences matters to help the total picture emerge. Now is the time to Claim Our Voices and take the following action steps.


Survey 1: Deadline March 10

Has your pastor or parish staff urged you to go to the Archdiocesan website to tell the hierarchs how they can be more supportive of healthy family life? The Archdiocesan website links to a survey provided by the Vatican. It can be accessed directly by clicking here.

Don't be put off by the difficult wording of the questions. Simply find a few questions that mention topics which you have concerns about. Write whatever message you want the bishops to hear. We have been assured that all submissions will be accepted even if they don't exactly answer the question or if most of the questions are not answered at all.

Survey 2: Deadline April 15

After you have done that survey, click here for an easier survey we urge you to take too. It is sponsored by Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI) and this data will get to the bishops of the Synod also.


CCCR/Council of the Baptized is asking what we can do in our own local church, this Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, to promote healthy psycho-social development in families. First, how big is the problem? Can you relate some stories about the issues of contraception, divorce and remarriage, same-gender relationships, living together before marriage--issues to be studied by the bishops. Write your story to post on the CCCR website. Post it here.

Listening Sessions

Host a Listening Session in your home or parish. You invite the people, and CCCR will provide the program and facilitator. All concerns raised will be included in a report going to our archbishop, the papal nuncio, the pope, and all the US bishops attending the Synod in Rome.

Contact Mary Beth Stein marybsaint@hotmail.com 612-805-7091.

Position Paper

Council of the Baptized has published a position paper on this topic entitled: Toward a Healthy Christian Theology of Sexuality. Get a handle on the issues by reading this paper. Just click on the title. You may print and distribute it as you see fit.

What you can do: Invite some friends or fellow parishioners to talk about the position paper. Click here for two pages of suggested topics and questions that could guide small group study related to this document and topic.

Printable Summary of Actions

Click here.