Catholic Women Can Talk til They’re Blue in the Face!

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Here we are again…International Womens’ Day 2018.  The women of Voices of Faith once again address the matter of womens’ place in the Roman Catholic Church.  For the fifth year the group, funded by the Gotz Foundation, met in Rome, hoping against hope that they will be heard by a patriarchal church. Once again they invited leaders of the male hierarchy to “dialogue fearlessly” with them.  So far, less than a handful of clerics have accepted the invitation in the past 4 years.  

This year to add insult to injury, Cardinal Farrell (recently appointed Vatican Discatary of Laity Family and Youth)  would not grant approval to three of the women on a list of panelists scheduled to speak at the gathering in the Vatican. (One of these women was the former president of Ireland, the country that educated and fostered Cardinal Farrell’s vocation to the priesthood.)  After several attempts to discuss the matter were ignored, rather than eliminate the censored women, Gotz elevated them from panelists to keynote speaker and featured speakers. The foundation also decided to move their venue to a Jesuit facility outside the Vatican.

Jesus met with similar treatment from religious leaders of his time, so this fact should encourage Voices of Faith to not be deterred from their important mission to the church and the world.

An inability to hear has been a weakness of Jesus’ chosen male followers.  It seems that Jesus himself had to grow beyond a long inherited misogynist view toward women. Comparing Jesus’ attempt to dialogue against a healing request from a Syrophoenician Gentile woman with his instant response to a Roman Centurian’s similar appeal indicates some innate gender conflict.

When the church insists with “infallible certainty” that Jesus would never have ordained a woman or had  not invited women to his Last Supper the church only succeeds in portraying Jesus as gender compromised. Fortunately Christian women have managed all these long years to believe otherwise, in spite of the idolatrous heresy the church continues to preach.

The Syrophoenician woman would not accept being treated like a dog being fed crumbs under the table, or being dismissed at the suggestion of the apostles. She persisted and argued her cause. Jesus demonstrated his human capacity to change his mind and granted her request with a miracle. The women at Voices of Faith persisted too. Yet Catholic women are forced to talk among themselves until they are Blue in the Face. Sadly Jesus’ church is so shackled by “divine infallibility” that now even the mind of God is incapable of change.
 

 

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Coming Forward, Speaking Out!

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It took more than 4000 years to bring women to this moment of solidarity against the sexual harassment, abuse and violence that men have committed unchecked and unquestioned against women and children. Now with dangerous memories voiced and shared publicly it is as if the floodgates have been opened and they have a life and power of their own.

Men are toppling before our eyes from every position of power, including ecclesial. Many men are running for cover lest they become the next ones held accountable for their degradation of women/children. Other men are stunned by the exposed failures to protect women/children and are burdened with the task of restoring the good name of institutions that perpetuated the assaults.

Women have always known about the sexual abuses heaped upon women. In fact the earliest human writings, the old testament, have many a text of terror where women are violated by men. So today’s awful and painful revelations are not shocking.  What is shocking is the courage and strength that women are displaying openly against sacred taboos and patriarchal systems that have justified and excused the violation of women for so long.

Some who feel “victimized by the truth” want the women’s “Me Too” movement to stop.  Enough already!  But hopefully the movement’s momentum will grow and continue until every abused woman and child finds its voice and feels safe enough to tell its story.  New testaments are being revealed and recorded in our midst. They have the potential to usher in a new age of equality for all. Meanwhile old testament stories about women need to be retold from the perspective of the abused women of long ago. At the least I am left with a new understanding of the concept “tongues of fire hovered over them”.

Swindled and Blindsided

                           “Oh, What Did I Do?”

I’m one of those Evangelical Catholics who voted for Trump. I was convinced that I was following my conscience. I attend mass every Sunday and expect my pastor to be my moral guide in most areas of my life.

I must admit, however, in the area of birth control, I felt ok with my wife’s practicing birth control. We were both open to having children, but just not more than we could provide with food, shelter, health, education and love. We knew that the church was not against birth control per say, and even encouraged “natural” family planning. Our first two children were the result of that method and so we realized that it did not work for us, We felt God could not be offended if we used a method that did. Even at that, we always felt some guilt about it, and my wife often abstained from Eucharist until her child bearing years were over.

Being active in our church’s anti-abortion campaign was a way for us to prove to God and ourselves our genuine respect for life and for the unborn. Voting our conscience meant voting against candidates who supported a woman’s right to choose. Gratefully our church had made our political decisions easy and clear. All other moral or political issues could be ignored, or minimized as merely “character flaws” as long as a candidate claimed to oppose abortion. We did not have to weigh party platforms or any impact an election would have on our democracy or on our relations with our global neighbors. Being anti-abortion was equivalent to being on God’s side and what else could matter?

These past months of political chaos, created by Trump and his advisors have left me uneasy and remorseful. The lack of compassion shown toward immigrants and the sick and disabled are difficult to watch on nightly news. I was horrified by the hatred and violence openly displayed in Charlottesville, and by Trump’s reluctance to renounce Nazism and white supremacy publicly. I was sure I would hear and see a stronger stance from my pastor and the bishops but I am both disappointed and still waiting for the same degree of moral guidance that I was given during the election campaign.

Every day the threat of nuclear war escalates. Massive flooding and other natural disasters around the world are proving that climate change is real. Both are threatening the stability of life on our planet. I feel helpless and responsible while my church and the other evangelical religious leaders continue to give consent to this ineffective and morally diminished administration.

While our intelligence agencies are working feverishly to trace Russia’s collusion and interference in our elections, I can’t help feeling that they might just as easily examine our evangelical and catholic churches as co-conspiritors in swaying the results of this past election from inside our country. Many of our religious leaders have been involved in hacking the consciences of American citizens in order to influence the results of the 2016 elections and to gain political power in our government. They too, in the name of religious liberty, have had a significant role in undermining our democratic process.  Now I anxiously wait for them to repent and to call us to repent of our failure to develop free and mature consciences and to shed our childlike dependency on moral authorities.

Render to Caesar…

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The collusion of church and state, once again, is wreaking havoc on the world.  The 2016 U S elections allowed a christian right wing to usurp what was once a democratic system.

Religious leaders in Jesus’ time tried to trap him by questioning  his allegiance to politics or religion. Jesus settled the problem of divided loyalty between Roman Law and Jewish religious law.  Jesus pointed to the image imprinted on the Roman coin.  Caesar had made it perfectly clear what he demanded from the people … paying taxes with the coin that was inscribed with his image.  Everything else belonged to God.

Jesus himself would be confused today about loyalties between government and religion.  With the inscription “In God We Trust” on all our currency, the distinction between God and the power of money is greatly blurred.  Money has become the God in whom we trust.  Trusting in money, do we need to trust in God?  Today they are one and the same, as inscribed on our currency.

In our day it takes enormous sums of money to elect our leaders, so it seems natural to religious authorities to anoint elected leaders as if chosen by God.  By trusting in the Government to provide, we can feel that we are exempt from taking responsibility for our nation’s actions and our own lives.  With God’s name inscribed on our currency, God  no longer appears to be in the heavens, and all is not right with the world.

This is a time of weak men preaching weak messages in weak churches. What we need more than ever are bold and prophetic cries against this prevailing idolatry of money.  It is the only hope for our people, our nation, our world.  But who would dare? Like the people of Jesus’ time our loyalties between religion and government are not only confused they are very much fused: Caesar and God have become one and the same.  We are rendering to Caesar the things that are God’s and no pharisees have come to put us to the test and question it.

 

 

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Found in the Upper Left Corner

 

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The mystic woman

My friend, Evelyn Mattern, had died shortly after she had published a book about women mystics titled, “Why Not Become Fire”.  The legacy of the women  in her stories had not been part of my catholic education. From my friend’s book I learned quite a lot about these women of the past who lived with strong courage, faith  and deep conviction in their own experiences of God. They defined God in their own terms and often exceeded the limits put upon God by the church of their time. Some dared to describe the divine in feminine language and images of love.  In the past woman mystics had been  depicted  as religious fanatics and in some cases mentally unstable.  They lived under threat of execution by the defenders of the faith. Many in fact died at the hands of the church.

Discrediting women especially in the realm of religion was/is  important for maintaining a patriarchal system that must control the souls and bodies of the people.  Such freedom of thought about God was/is dangerous to male establishments.  We fool ourselves if we believe otherwise.  Church and state are not separated when it comes to the status of women (and other minorities) in our own time.  It is just disguised now as “religious liberty”  But with the present political regime change, bigotry will be permitted to drop its disguise.  “The truth shall set us free”,  but first it will divide us and make us miserable.

I found this image several years ago when I was playing with the idea that artist, Helen Broncato, promoted in “Why Not Become Fire”.  By dropping black ink into pools of water and allowing images to emerge we can find surprise paintings that call to us from our unconscious/soul.  My mystic image was hiding in the upper left corner of the paper.  It only needed three black lines and a few  shadows to bring her into focus. It’s not always the big picture where we need to focus.

 

He’ll Never Do It Again!

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img_0168Expecting Violence Everywhere

Domestic violence must not be kept hidden.  Women and children victims carry hidden scars throughout their entire lives. The experience distorts their understanding of love, since it is executed and excused in a guise of parental/romanic love.

At every level of society silence and shame give great cover for the abusers. Our rape culture, drug and alcohol addiction, are logical offspring of the self doubts and the sense of powerlessness left in the  victims of domestic violence.  Perhaps the ability to remain silent toward violence in our homes conditions us to tolerate ongoing abuse and violence on an international scale.

Thousands of years of violent histories cause one to question where God stands on the matter of violence.  The story of salvation, is riddled with broken promises of peace and demands for forgiveness. The God  portrayed in our sacred stories and liturgical dramas, stands idly by, threatens violent punishment for transgressions, and condones violence against our enemies as part of a divine plan. Women become devout followers of Jesus because they can say of their abusers,”we forgive them, they know not what they do”.

Abuse, forgiveness, abuse, forgiveness,….that is not how love works,…that is not how peace comes about…that is a cycle that has to end.   Divine revelation is incomplete until  the silence of God breaks out in a new word….STOP!  

With this word God calls the human family to put an end to its violence toward one another.

 

 

Where are you heading my dears?

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What’s Wrong with This Picture?

I painted this picture as a challenge parable for the women who were gathering in Philadelphia for the 2015 Women’s Ordination Conference.  I thought it was self explanatory.

These women having waited too patiently (2000 years) for full equality in the church finally believe in the authenticity of their call from God. They have taken ordination unto themselves.  They have assumed the sacrament reserved for men only, and have created communities of faith around themselves.  But they continue to hold onto the hope that  Roman Rite Catholicism will eventually recognize the error of its refusal to include women into its priesthood.

Usurping the mind of Jesus, the official church in Rome claims not to be able to ordain women because Jesus did not do so.  The patriarchal Bishops would rather hold to these limiting views of the mind of God/Jesus. They prefer to allow the celibate male priesthood to diminish and to create the ever growing scarcity of Eucharist in the Catholic communities of the western world.  I can understand the inability of the male mind to stretch their boundaries.  I can’t, however, understand the tremendous energies these courageous and creative women spend in working to reform the Roman Rite Catholic Church.  Shouldn’t the release of the spirit contained in the vision of Vatican II give ordained women the freedom to launch a new Vatican II catholicism in keeping with its long tradition of change.

Approval and inclusion from the  patriarchal/hierarchical/legalist leaders of the Roman Rite would surely be a warning to women that they are heading in the direction of dangerous stormy waters. So what’s wrong with this picture for ordained women?

Now what?

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This painting portrays a person who is at her wits end.  One of those times in life when all seems lost….when one has no place to turn.  Faith in an intervening God has waned and we are left to hope against hope.

It is just at these times when our God questions loom large and God seems too small for the task. Is God perhaps beckoning us to a new quest, to see with less understanding and more unknowing? Is this where we let God be whoever/whatever God is or is not?

Perhaps we are overwhelmed because we are not willing to be just human and must face the fact that we are ultimately unable to control the world and life around us?  

OVERWHELMED can lead us to complete trust or total despair.  It’s a choice…..choose life.

Shatter the damn slipper, Cinderella!

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 Bound to Fit in.

Glass slippers.  Many girls have them but not every woman will allow herself to wear them.  Fairy godmothers have fashioned them for us out of nothing. They serve as accessories to dreams of satin gowns,  golden carriages and  royal balls. They are transparent and extremely fragile.  One must walk most carefully in them. They readily slip off when a woman moves too rapidly or when she travels in unfamiliar places.

Men seem to be attracted to women who fit into and wear glass slippers willingly.  Girls who dream of princes and hope to escape their destined limited life of drudgery are especially willing to wear them.

Cinderella shows us that, at the end of the day (midnight), such dreams fall apart…leaving her back in her own mundane world waiting to be found by a prince.  Cinderella had been keeping the matching slipper and had been open to wearing glass slippers.  But royal balls come to an end and without the fancy gown and cosmetics, Prince Charming doesn’t even recognize the natural beauty of the belle who fled from the ball. He is searching for a woman who can fit into the glass shoe perfectly. Whoever fits in the glass slipper is  the woman who fits his expectations and dreams.

The awakened Cinderella watches her step sisters resort to self mutilation to make the shoe fit. But she will have none to it. Fairy tales written by men and even revised by Disney will not be her creed to live by.  Today’s Cinderella has dreams of her own.  The glass slipper is the promise of the prince and a fairy tale life. She must shatter the slipper she holds dear in order to choose her own walk in life.  By rejecting glass slippers, she can take bold steady steps toward freedom. There will be many glass surfaces to shatter on the way; but freed from glass slippers, she can run in any direction and enter any arena. And yes, even political ones!

GOOD INTENTIONS?

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Is the Universe a Friendly Place?

Einstein had this question about the friendliness of the universe from the point of view of an earth human.   Now after the moon landing and its follow up excavations (already having set off a bomb on that celestial body 10/09/09 ), planning for Mars One, the first human settlement, various intrusions with space stations and satellites, and at this very moment the “probing”of the planet, Jupiter, I would ask,” does the earth have good intentions about its relationship toward the universe?  Do we already see it as the next virgin territory that waits to be exploited and raped by its human inhabitants?  Is the human fear of scarcity and our tendency to lay claim, to colonize, to dominate our true motive behind space exploration?  Will there be deadly clashes among nations to protect our interests in outer space?  That’s been the story line of history.  Or will there be a new story line  of searching for partners for sharing the great mysteries of creation with awe and homage ?  Will we finally find enough and more than enough for all to share?  Can our imaginations conceive  of universal peace projects with all of creation, instead of countless versions of star wars?