Tuesday, June 20, 2017

SAVE THE DATE: 37 Congreso de Teología

The Asociación de Teólogos y Teólogas Juan XXIII will host their 37th Theology Congress September 7-10, 2017 in Madrid, Spain, on the subject "Women and religion: From discrimination to gender equality". This congress is in Spanish.

LOGISTICS:

Date: September 7-10, 2017

Place: Salón de Actos de Comisiones Obreras, calle Lope de Vega, 40, Madrid, Spain

Registration: You can pay in advance through an electronic funds transfer. See Inscripciones page for instructions. You can also pay at the door in cash on the first day of the conference. Participants are responsible for their own accommodations, travel, and food. The cost of registration in euros is:
  • Full Congress: 30€
  • Saturday and Sunday: 20€
  • Sunday only: 10€



PROGRAM:


The program has not been finalized but here is what we know:

Lectures:

  • 1st: "Critical analysis of patriarchal society" - Soledad Murillo (University of Salamanca and UN consultant)
  • 2nd: "Bodies, sexuality, and women's rights" - Justa Montero (Asamblea Feminista de Madrid)
  • 3rd: "Priesthood of women, patriarchy and power in the Churches" - Lidia Rodríguez (University of Deusto)
  • 4th: "Sexual identities and Christianity" - Krzysztof Charamsa (Polish theologian; former member of the International Theological Commission)
  • 5th: "Liberation theology and gender" - Marilú Rojas Salazar (Comunidad Teológica, Mexico)
  • 6th: "The urgency of a political spirituality" - Emma Martínez Ocaña (Theologian and psychotherapist)
Roundtables:

  • Women's movements:
    • In Latin America -- Ana Marcela Montanaro (Carlos III University of Madrid)
    • In Africa -- Alicia Cebada (Carlos III University of Madrid. Responsible for training programs of Fundación Mujeres por África)
    • In Spain -- Beatriz Gimeno (LGBTI feminist activist)


  • What are we doing/what are they doing with our bodies?
    • Wombs for rent -- Laura Freixas (Writer)
    • The prostitution system -- Laura Nuño (King Juan Carlos University)
    • Diversity and sexual dissidence -- Violeta Assiego (Lawyer and LGBTI activist)
Communications:
  • Men and women in MOCEOP -- Ramón Alario and Teresa Cortés
  • Women in the Anglican Church -- Deborah Champman (Anglican priest)
  • Women's Movements in Islam -- Artiqa el Yousfi (Asociación ONDA)


Photo: Speakers (Top L-R): Soledad Murillo, Krzysztof Charamsa, Justa Montero. (Bottom L-R): Emma Martínez Ocaña, Marilú Rojas Salazar, Lidia Rodríguez

Saturday, June 17, 2017

François Houtart and Miguel D'Escoto -- Servants of the Oppressed

by Frei Betto (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Gente de Opinião (em português)
June 12, 2017

François Houtart passed away on June 6th in Ecuador. He was 92 years old and had the revolutionary enthusiasm of a youth of 20. Our last encounter was in March 2017 when I gave a series of talks in Quito at the invitation of President Rafael Correa. François went with me the whole time. We went together to Pucahuaico, where the body of Monsignor Leônidas Proaño, an indigenous bishop identified with liberation theology, is buried. The chapel at the foot of the Imbabura volcano was full of native and working class people. Houtart presided at the Eucharistic celebration.

The next day, Rafael Correa offered us lunch. He had been François' student in Louvain, Belgium, where Houtart taught Sociology and Religious Studies for years to students from the periphery of the world, among whom were the Colombian Camilo Torres and Brazilian Pedro Ribeiro de Oliveira who told us:

"In 1975, I went back to Belgium to begin my doctorate. The first working meeting with Houtart, my adviser, dismantled everything I had prepared for the thesis on popular Catholicism. He said it was insufficient because it did not have a sociological explanation. To add to my astonishment, he added: 'As you should not be unaware of, only Marxist theory is really explanatory. The rest are merely descriptive.' I stumbled out of there, not understanding how a priest, who had been an expert at the Council [Vatican II], even collaborating in the writing of Gaudium et Spes, had become a Marxist without leaving the Church. Gradually I understood it: he was actively opposing the US war against Vietnam, and so he had discovered in the theory of class struggle a theoretical tool capable of elucidating what was at stake in that war, the anticolonialist movements of Africa and Asia, and the Latin American dictatorships. The best part is that he convinced me once and for all. The last time we participated together in a Sociology of Religion conference, we were the only sociologists to use Marxist tools to explain religious facts. I joked with him, asking him to take a long time to die, so I wouldn't be alone using Marx to understand religion ... "

François was tall, he had very clear eyes and smiled easily, even when expressing, at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in 2005, pertinent criticisms of the Brazilian government in the presence of President Lula. A slow speaker, his scientific reasoning was didactic, since he had left Europe to live in Latin America and to devote himself to the social movements of countries of our continent, Africa and Asia. In 2016, he advised the national congress of the MST [the Landless Workers' Movement] in Brasilia.

We stayed together on several occasions when attending events in Brazil, Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia. I always wondered how a man over 80 years of age found so much enthusiasm to travel around the world, often carrying a heavy suitcase with books of his, without ever complaining about lodging in a native tent high in the Andes, in an MST settlement in Brazil, or in a rice planters' hut in Vietnam.

In his years of study in Rome, François had as a colleague a young man named Karol Wojtyla. He told me that the Polish seminarian had an obsession with learning languages. He used the holidays to travel to the regions of Europe where he would learn a new language. On one occasion he accompanied Houtart to Belgium, interested in improving his French and learning Flemish.

One night, Wojtyla returned to the house in heavy rain. His Polish shoes had been ruined by the water. François found a Belgian seminarian who, as he wore the same size as the Pole, could give him a new pair. Decades later, now a priest, the donor of the shoes wanted to be received by Pope John Paul II. The bureaucracy alleged lack of time. When he sent a note to the pope, reminding him about the shoes, the doors of the Vatican opened.

In 2016, Houtart invited me to Ecuador for a seminar on Pope Francis' socio-environmental encyclical Laudato Si'. From the work together in those days came the publication, signed by both of us, Laudato Si - Cambio Climático y Sistema Económico ("Laudato Si': Climate Change and the Economic System" -- Quito, Centro de Publicaciones, Pontifícia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, 2016).

During the trip we made last March to the Andean region of Ecuador, François told me about his participation at the age of 15 in the resistance against the Nazi occupation in Belgium. He and a friend decided to build a homemade bomb to derail a train of Hitler's soldiers. They were unsuccessful and the attack cost him a tug of his ears from his mother. He also told me that he had more than ten brothers and sisters. A decade ago, with everyone alive, they gathered to commemorate the 1,000 years of the sum of their ages.

During John Paul II's visit to Cuba in January 1998, Fidel invited Houtart to advise him, accompanied by Pedro Ribeiro de Oliveira, the Italian theologian Giulio Girardi, and myself. These were days of intense community work.

Worker training

 In 2016, François sent me an interesting account about his formation, which I'm transcribing here in Spanish:

"During my seminary years in Malines (Belgium), I participated in numerous meetings of the JOC ["Jeunesse Ouvrière Catholique" -- "Young Christian Workers"] in Wallonia and Brussels, during vacations. That's where I found out about the situation of the working class of that period (1944-1949). Just after the post-war period, Europe's reconstruction effort was accompanied by over-exploitation of labor, and the social conditions of young people were particularly scandalous."

"The regional and national JOC congresses provided information on the broader framework of the economic and social situation. In addition, I was able to visit different factories and coal mines. The Belgian JOC put me in touch with the movement in France, the Netherlands, England, Germany and Spain, and little by little the international dimension also became an important part of my introduction into the world of work."

"On many occasions, I met with Monsignor Cardijn (founder of the JOC) and was very impressed by his combativeness, his insistence on the incompatibility between social injustice and the Christian faith, and his knowledge of the lives of young workers. I also discovered the pedagogical method -- not starting from above imposing knowledge, but from below, discovering reality: seeing, judging, acting."

"This experience prompted me to ask, after my priestly ordination, to begin studies in Social and Political Sciences at the Catholic University of Louvain. I spent 3 years there, staying in permanent contact with the JOC, following certain sections, traveling through Europe for meetings with the movement. My undergraduate thesis was devoted to the study of the pastoral structures of Brussels, having discovered, on the one hand, their absence in the working class environment, and on the other, the identification of Christian religious culture with bourgeois culture, creating a divorce from the working class and, in particular, young people."

"During the last year of my studies in Louvain, I was the chaplain of the Young Workers Home in Brussels, a service of JOC for youth who had faced Juvenile Justice."

"On the European level, I had the most contacts in France, particularly in the Paris region -- St Denis and other suburbs. I became friends with some worker priests, and I even stayed in their homes."

"After getting a scholarship at the University of Chicago (1952-1953), to continue studying Urban Sociology and the Sociology of Religion, I lived in a parish where I worked as chaplain for JOC in the city. It was also the occasion of many meetings with JOC in the United States. During Easter vacation in 1953, I went to Havana to attend a JOC Congress of Central America and the Caribbean where Cardijn was present. I was able to have meetings with the local sections and meet with the national chaplain of Cuba. That put me onto the Latin American problem which I had wanted to know about for some time. After the congress I accompanied the JOC chaplain of Haiti to Port-au-Prince and I spent a week in the country in visits and meetings with the Haitian movement."

"Then I gave classes for a semester at the University of Montreal, and also participated in the activities of the movement. From there I moved again to Latin America and for 6 months I traveled to almost all the countries, from Mexico to Argentina, always with JOC, thanks to contacts made during the international congresses. It was a great learning experience, discovering the continent from below. Once more I discovered the chasms between the rich and the poor and the unbelievable exploitation of urban and rural young people. I was struck by the role of the priests attached to the movement in the renewal of a Church so alienated from the people and so close to the social elites and oligarchies. They were active in all fields: social, liturgical, pastoral, biblical. Many of those priests belonged to religious orders and quite a few of them had studied in Europe."

"That contact with Latin America was what made me begin, in 1958, a socio-religious study about the continent as a whole, with teams in each country, several times with members of JOC. It ended in 1962 and was published in some forty volumes, which led the Latin American Bishops' Conference to ask me for a synthesis in three languages to distribute at the entrance to the Second Vatican Council to all the bishops and to be with them as a peritus during the 4 years of conciliar work."

"Meanwhile Cardinal Cardijn had asked me if I would agree to be the international chaplain of the movement, which obviously interested me a lot, but my bishop, Cardinal Van Roey didn't approve this idea."

"Then, having worked in Asia during vacations at the University of Louvain, where I was teaching Sociology of Religion, I also got in touch with JOC in Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam, South Korea and the Philippines. With my colleague, Geneviève Lemercinier, we took charge of a training seminar on social analysis for JOC activists in Hong Kong. In South Africa, in the middle of the apartheid era, I participated for 3 days in a national meeting with young white, black, and mixed race workers, which was prohibited in principle, in a convent of the Oblate Fathers in Bloemfontein."

"Everywhere in Latin America, Asia and Africa, I met in the following years with former members of JOC, both in trade unions and in development NGOs, or in progressive and also revolutionary political parties, like in Nicaragua or Bolivia."

"The lessons I've learned from JOC have been numerous and fundamental. First was knowledge of the working world, its struggles, its organizations. Then the method -- seeing, judging, acting -- which gives a very effective reflection framework for the analysis of realities and for the implementation of an action that is adapted to them. If I studied Sociology and if I continued the research work constantly, it was to refine the "seeing" in very different and complex societies. This also allowed me to discover that society could be read from above, but also from below, and that the Gospel option was to read the world with the eyes of the poor and oppressed. There is no neutral science, especially within the framework of the human sciences."

"The pedagogy of JOC and its adaptation to a specific environment of young workers, often hardly literate, has taught me to use simple language, to correctly structure the reasoning so that it is understood -- in a word, to get off the academic pedestal and also learn from those who have practical knowledge that is often despised by so-called 'wisdom'."

"Finally, it's also JOC that has led me to delve deeper into the social dimension of the Gospel, and to understand that what the Lord asks for is love in practice. It's not just about a personal attitude, but this love implies building a just society and following the example of Jesus in his society, where he proclaimed the values of the Kingdom of God -- love of neighbor, justice, equality, mercy, peace -- and fought all the oppressive economic, social, political and even religious powers. Not in vain did he die (executed) on the cross."(Quito, 01.03.16)

His passing

Nidia Arrobo Rodas, who worked with François at the Fundación Pueblo Indio del Ecuador [Ecuador Indigenous People's Federation], tells of his final moments:

"Our dear François went as he lived, with total serenity, whole, lucid, diaphanous, on his feet...The night before, after an Act of Denunciation at IAEN (Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales) about the Tamil genocide, we ate supper as usual, the "soup" he liked so much, and for him it was vital to have it in communion in our mini-residence at nightfall and, as usual, he went off to sleep...Of course he kept working in his room...We don't know until what time...Because even at eleven at night we were still receiving his emails."

"At dawn, we guess he got up to go to the shower and his strength failed him...He had gotten out of bed, he had sat down in his recliner very near his bed, and with his hand on his heart he stayed sleeping in the deepest sleep of his life, very placidly, without making any noise, very quiet...A massive heart attack...At half past seven in the morning...he awoke in God."

"Precisely in April we had gone to the cardiologist, at my request, because he was feeling very agitated and like he was lacking oxygen...The cardiologist asked him to have surgery on his coronary artery because it had narrowed and the pacemaker was no longer responding as it had when it was put in four years ago. He said: François, the surgery is imminent...He chose to have it in Belgium at the suggestion of the cardiologist himself...But as much as he insisted, he didn't make the decision to travel right away: 'I have many commitments, I have to end the Houtart professorship in June and then I'll go," he told me. Again I told him it was a long time to wait...But he was the absolute master of his will and his decisions...He chose to finish everything he had planned here and travel to Belgium in June for his surgery which, as he would say sportingly, was a very small thing."

"With this, he had tickets bought and bags ready, to travel yesterday (June 9), but first to Bogotá, then a week in Cuba, then a week in Brazil and arrive at the end of June in his Belgium ..."

"I knew he chose freely to live with us, he felt happy, he was happy...and I think that deep in his heart he wanted to end his days right here."

"The final celebration took place -- at my request -- in IAEN, that  Wednesday, exactly at five in the afternoon, the day and time he was to have ended his professorial program this year."

"We are desolate...We were happy with his jovial presence, full of friendship, fineness of spirit, delicacies and incredible details; but at the same time I know he was happy in our midst...He always said so and this fills me with joy and gratitude."

"Nonetheless we feel he is among us, he is alive, goes on, and will go on living and resurrected in the liberation struggles of all the impoverished all over the world, and in the birth pangs with which the INDIGENOUS PEOPLES and our Pachamama moan."

"As is noted in his will, we cremated him...and as soon as possible his ashes will rest with those of his mother in his native Belgium."

Miguel D’Escoto

Two days after Houtart left us, I lost another friend, also a priest and a revolutionary like him, Father Miguel D'Escoto, dead at 84 years. Minister of Foreign Relations of Sandinista Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990, he presided the UN General Assembly in 2008 and 2009.

A diplomat's son, D'Escoto was born in Los Angeles in 1933. He became a priest through the Maryknoll order and was one of the founders of the New York publisher Orbis Books that in 1977 in the United States published my book Cartas da prisão under the title Against principalities and powers.

It was D'Escoto who received Lula and me in Managua on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution in July 1979. He took us to the house of Sergio Ramirez, then vice-president of the country, the night of July 19, when we then met and talked at length with Fidel Castro.

In January 1980, he came to São Paulo in the company of Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua, to participate in the first world congress on Liberation Theology. He was one of the Sandinista Night speakers at TUCA, the theater of the Catholic University of São Paulo.

On Sunday November 29, 1981, in Managua, we met again in his house which belonged to the executive who presided over the Nicaraguan Central Bank at the time of the Somoza dictatorship. Daniel Ortega, the Secretary-General of the Sandinista National Liberation Front René Nuñez, Fathers Gustavo Gutiérrez, Pablo Richard, Fernando Cardenal, Uriel Molina, and the Social Welfare minister, Father Edgard Parrales, were there.

D'Escoto had just come back from Mexico and he described in detail the recent conversations about Central America between President López Portillo and General Alexander Haig, US Secretary of State. In the minds of the guests, an undisguised satisfaction at the efficiency of Sandinista espionage within the Mexican government.

We talked about the circumstances of the Church, the international campaign against the Revolution and the Sandinista Youth, now under the care of Fernando Cardenal. I was worried about the mechanistic nature of the Marxism that had spread among the Sandinista youth, mere apologetics from old Russian manuals. I stressed the importance of the priests in power -- D'Escoto, Parrales and the Cardenal brothers -- publicly explaining their life of faith. I feared they would project a more political than Christian image.

On Saturday November 16, 1984, in Managua, I returned to D'Escoto's house. I asked him why he hadn't gone to the OAS meeting in Brasília. "In order not to give credit to the OAS," he answered, "which continues to serve as a tool in the hands of the United States against the sovereignty of the people of Central America."

We celebrated the Eucharist under the wicker porch in the backyard. We read and meditated on the Gospel of Matthew 4:25 ff. D'Escoto blurted out: "My body and mind are tired, because they no longer follow the fast pace that circumstances impose on me. I dream of enjoying solitude, taking time for myself and not having to be always on the phone. However, I know that for the moment, this is just a dream. From my intimacy with Jesus, I take the strength that sustains me."

At the end of the celebration, he said to me: "I want two things from you: I am reading with great pleasure Dom Pedro Casaldáliga's latest book. I know he'll be going to Spain soon. Ask him to come through Nicaragua first. And ask Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns to come to Daniel [Ortega]'s inauguration next January 10th."

"Why don't you call Dom Paulo now?," I suggested.

We tried but the cardinal of São Paulo wasn't home.

Eleven days later I personally gave the message to Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns. The following year, Dom Pedro Casaldáliga visited Nicaragua.

In March 1986, I met him again in Havana with Rosario Murillo, current vice-president of Nicaragua and wife of Daniel Ortega, and Manuel Piñeiro, head of the Americas Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba. We talked at length about the situation in Nicaragua and the explicit support bishops Obando and Vega were giving to Reagan's aggression policy. D'Escoto was of the opinion that the priests, religious, and laity should courageously confront the archbishop of Managua, leaving, if necessary, for ecclesiastical disobedience. The latter led to the suspension by Pope John Paul II of his priestly functions, a measure repealed by Pope Francis.

In January 1989, in Havana, we saw each other at the commemoration of the 30 years of the Cuban Revolution. He entertained himself in a long conversation with Leonardo Boff about the theology of the Trinity. "It is the basis of my spirituality," I heard him say. And he lamented the situation of his country: "The hardest thing for the people of Nicaragua isn't American aggression, but the lack of support from the Church."

We had other meetings later,such as during the period he presided the UN General Assembly, which led him to disbelieve entirely in the effectiveness of this important institution manipulated by the interests of the White House.

With the disappearance of François Houtart and Miguel D'Escoto, the cause of the poor and liberation theology have lost something in Latin America. They have left us a legacy of how to live the Christian faith in a world divided between a few billionaires and multitudes of destitute people, and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in this troubled beginning of the twenty-first century.

Frei Betto is a writer, author of Paraíso perdido – viagens ao mundo socialista (Rocco) among other books. Photos: Frei Betto with François Houtart (top) and Miguel D'Escoto (bottom).

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Teresa Forcades: "I left Harvard University for the convent"

by Antonio Gnoli (English translation of this e-mail interview by Rebel Girl)
La Repubblica (in italiano)
June 12, 2017

It isn't easy to imagine what a nun's life might be without thinking of the condition in a certain sense of exclusion in which it is mostly poured out. So when I first met Teresa Forcades and heard her speak not of God but of men and women, not of souls but of bodies, not about abstinence but about sexuality, I felt disconcerting wonder. It was as if an actually loving conscience were hiding in the cycle of religious words. Teresa Forcades is a Benedictine nun of Catalan origin. She is just over fifty years old and observes the rules of the cloister, with some room devoted to socializing. She is a doctor (she studied in the United States), a theologian (Ph.D. in Barcelona and Berlin), she is interested in psychoanalysis and feminism.

How did you move from medicine to theology?

"I would have willingly served as the medical officer in any small village in Catalonia, where there's greater contact with people. But when I finished university, I felt a need for recollection. For about a year, I retreated alone in a country house."

How did you spend the day?

"The hours were marked by a simple order: eating, sleeping, meditating. I had the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola with me. But I wasn't ready for a different life. I was young, still eager to deepen the study of medicine. I was preparing for admission to an American university. I was accepted and spent a certain time in a hospital in Buffalo. It seemed like a secure career but fate had other things in store."

What?

"I met Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, a Roman Catholic theologian and feminist, naturalized American. She was the one who drew me to theology and feminism. But it was difficult to keep the hospital together with new interests. I had also applied to Harvard and the university had accepted my resume. I found myself in a complicated situation: I didn't want to give up my theology studies."

Did you have to choose between the Church and the University?

"More precisely between a final interview that would have then allowed me to get into the best hospitals or..."

Or?

"In that period -- it was 1995 -- I returned briefly to Spain, to the monastery of Montserrat. I was confused and restless. But that place felt familiar to me."

Was it a Benedictine monastery?

"For cloistered nuns. I spent a few weeks in prayer. One day, I was summoned by the abbess who told me she knew about my past as a doctor, especially as an infectious disease expert. She asked if I could explain to her and her sisters what the AIDS virus, which in those years claimed many victims, was. We organized the meeting on an afternoon during which I also wanted to talk about homosexuality and how in people's minds the wrong message was being passed that the illness was to be attributed to the sin of being gay."

How did the nuns react?

"To my great amazement, very well. There were many questions and the discussion continued during dinner. It seemed to me that I had found my world. The next day, I expressed to the abbess my intention to enter the convent. She started to laugh. She wasn't expecting it. I was convinced that I preferred Montserrat to Harvard. She tried to curb my enthusiasm. She advised me to go to Harvard and, if after the two-year scholarship, I still felt the "call," we would talk about it again. Time didn't affect that decision. In fact, I took the vows in 1997."

And how did your parents react?

"My father was incredulous, my mother very angry. Only my sister firmly supported the decision. As for my friends, almost everyone thought I was crazy. Leaving the prospect of Harvard for the convent was an inconceivable choice."

Is yours a bourgeois family?

No. My father was a salesman and my mother, a nurse. They separated when I was eleven years old. I was the first of three sisters. One day, my father, while accompanying us to school, told us that he had fallen in love with another woman."

How did you take it?

"I kept silent. It was a strange reaction. It seemed like a huge gesture to me but at the time I feared for him."

What year was it?

"It was 1977. The caudillo Franco had died a couple of years earlier, after a very long agony. Spain seemed like an immobile country. Isolated from everything. I remember that when I went to Paris in 1978 with my sisters and my mother, I felt a sense of freedom and was moved by everything I saw there."

Do you have any memory of the Franco dictatorship?

"As Catalans, my people were not in favor of the regime. In the family, the story of my two grandfathers circulated. The paternal one had fought for the Left. The maternal one was a doctor and during the civil war he was arrested by the Republicans. He didn't have Franquist sentiments, but the fact that he was one of the authorities in the country convinced the "reds" that grandfather was an enemy of the people and as such he was to be shot."

Was he executed?

"My grandmother wept and begged the commander. She handed over the family jewels and said she was expecting a child (she was pregnant with my mother) and that if the father were shot nobody could take care of their livelihood. This was to save his life."

How did you experience your role as a novice?

"At the beginning there was enthusiasm. Then the doubts began, accompanied by a feeling of oppression, boredom, a lack of perspective."

Were you realizing the difficulty of those vows?

"I felt the comfort of prayer and the simplicity of that world, governed by a harmonious silence. And yet I seemed to sink into despair. It was as if I didn't have the strength, the conviction, the tenaciousness to sustain that choice. I wondered if God would help me. I saw happy people around me and in contrast, I experienced a sense of deep uneasiness."

Did you know what was wrong?

"I didn't get any cultural stimulus around me. I had been around the world and discussed with the most open minds, learned languages. Suddenly I found myself in a kind of dead calm."

Did you doubt your vocation?

"I was in crisis. I had not yet taken the vows. It happened at that time that I fell in love with a young doctor. It was a test of my true feelings. I had to choose between God and the world. It was at that point that I felt the strong need to become a nun."

What does it mean to be called? I'm asking you because maybe in that "voice that's calling" there might be suggestion, misunderstanding, self-projection, with the use of weapons and murder.

"There can be all that; only time determines the degree of authenticity of that voice."

Don't you feel the weight of exclusion?

"On the contrary, I feel at the center of everything I do." What do you mean by centrality?

"I don't mean domination or control of an environment. I'm thinking rather of radicalism without dogma. Every time you search for a center, you're looking for a void."

Doesn't it risk being an illusion?

"I imagine the center not as a principle of stability but of rupture."

Perhaps both are needed.

"Stability and rupture can also alternate. Like order and disorder. History teaches it. But I think my life is resting in an invisible center that can not be defined. And that's why I would call it a mystical experience."

I read in your Siamo tutti diversi! ("We Are All Diverse!", published by Castelvecchi) that you connect the experience of a void back to Lacan's thought.

"It might be surprising that a nun reads Lacan and draws any useful hint from his thought. I've been dealing with psychoanalysis and in particular the notion of the 'unconscious subject'. Freud argues that the inner authenticity of a person has been repressed."

That can thus be liberated?

"It's the role that psychoanalysis should play. We're talking about a modern ideal -- liberating man's strengths! From the moment he substituted himself for God, man has developed an infinite desire for himself. In theory, he thinks he can do everything."

And in parctice?

"Society, the State, the Church are the institutions that oppress him. So the subject finds that he has no authentic interiority. That's why Lacan says that interiority is a void and that this void can be represented as the subject's death."

Does the subject's death come after the death of God?

"There would not be that without this."

Yet we want to become authentic people.

"In the worldly horizon, our identity comes from outside -- like desires are, it is induced. In childhood, it comes from the relationship with the mother. We think that our authenticity results from this original relationship, but this isn't so. The mother passes away and we seek a new identity that we will find in something else or some other situation. This is what drives Lacan to say that there is no authenticity in us. We are only inhabited by a void."

Is desire also a form of void?

"The desire that takes place in the void is precisely what I call mysticism. But it's an undetermined desire."

Desire always arises as a form of absence.

"But it is almost always caused by what is missing from outside -- a pair of brand name pants, an elegant jacket, a custom-built car. I don't mean desire in that sense. Augustine went so far as to say that everyone desires God, but not everyone gives the same name to [that desire]."

What does it mean to desire God in the era of His death?

"For me it means defending the truth."

Everyone argues, religiously, that they want to defend it, even with the use of weapons and murder.

"That's not the truth; it's just fanaticism. On the other hand, truth can't be a relative concept, so each one has his own good truth ready to use."

So?

"The truth for me is all that it is not. But the point is that one must argue that "is not" every time." Don't you feel privileged?

"In what sense?"

I'm thinking of the simplicity of your sisters, the fact that they don't own or use sophisticated instruments, that they don't deal with philosophy and homosexuality, that they respect the cloister.

"I'm very envious of the sisters who live in their cloister permanently. I wouldn't talk of privilege, but of a disposition to complete an action. As for the cloister, after the Council of Trent, the partial one was introduced. The monastery community decided on the dispensation, how to apply it and when to revoke it."

How is your life in the monastery?

"It's divided into equal proportions between work and prayer."

What do you mean by work?

"I mainly engage in intellectual activity -- I translate, write articles, teach. This year my lesson is divided into two parts: the need of the soul, which is inspired by Simone Weil's book The Need for Roots, and feminist theology in history."

You've talked about "queer theology." What does that mean?

"Queer is a term that started to circulate in the nineties. It can mean 'crossing', 'passage', 'transition'. Then it took on the meaning of bizarre, strange, extravagant."

It has been brought back to the transgender universe.

"That's true and it's a possible variation. What I mean is dealing with a theology out of the pre-established schemes. Theology is not the conceptual defense of God's existence, which could create many misconceptions. No. It's a form of co-creation."

Meaning?

"I think God didn't just create the world and us in seven days. Co-creation means that we continue to do his work with other tools."

But we aren't perfect.

"Creating is also risk-taking. Without risk, says Weil, there is no freedom. God has created unique pieces. It is up to us to continue to be so."

For you, does that mean being a nun?

"It means that too."

You could be approaching heretical thinking.

"I have never been indoctrinated in conservative Christianity. Each passing day we should be willing to learn something new."

Don't you fear excommunication?

"I'm prepared, I don't fear it. Excommunication has been the worst thing of Catholicism. Equal to the Greeks' ostracism."

Are you happy?

"I am every time I go back to the monastery. Every time I do something that helps to change things. Augustine has said, 'God created us without us, but he did not will to save us without us.' Happiness is also this awareness of our being human for and with others."

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Film: "Teología de la Liberación. La Iglesia de los Pobres en el siglo XXI"

With the deaths this month of two great figures in liberation theology -- Maryknoll Fr. Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann and Belgian priest and sociologist François Houtart -- one becomes aware of the gradual dwindling of the first generation of this movement that is now enjoying a revival under Pope Francis.

So it is not surprising that there is a renewed interest in this 2014 documentary about liberation theology that Madrid born filmmaker Andrés Luque Pérez made for Spain's TV2.

Filmed mainly in Brazil, Peru, and El Salvador, the documentary provides an excellent introduction to the subject of liberation theology, including much historical footage such as John Paul II's public reprimand of Ernesto Cardenal and scenes from Archbishop Oscar Romero's death.

After a broad historical retrospective on liberation theology, the film moves to segments on the key sub-issues that theology addresses: the poor, the environment, landless peasants, indigenous populations, women, globalization. One can't help but wish the film had been made a little later when surely there would have been material on Pope Francis and an added segment on migrants and refugees.

The film features many of the great figures of liberation theology including Jon Sobrino, Leonardo Boff, Sergio Torres, Gustavo Gutierrez, Rafael de Sivate, Ignacio Ellacuria, Pedro Casaldáliga, Pablo López Blanco, Fray Betto, Leonardo Lego, and Juan José Tamayo. As one watches it, it's impossible not to feel nostalgic knowing that some like Ignacio Ellacuria are no longer among us, and others like Pedro Casaldáliga are still alive but too disabled by illness to participate in such a project today. One is thankful that Pérez has captured and compiled their testimony.

Watch the film (approx. 44 min, in Spanish/en Español):

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Papal Almoner puts his apartment at migrants' disposal

Vatican Radio (English translation by Rebel Girl; em português)
June 6, 2017

Vatican City (VR) - The Papal Almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, is the man entrusted by Pope Francis to express his charity towards the neediest.

Food distribution, the installation of a dormitory, showers, a barbershop and laundry near the Vatican are just some of the initiatives of this Polish man who was born in Lodz on November 25, 1963.

What few people know is that the prelate -- who has been serving in the Holy See for years -- has put his apartment at the disposal of migrants fleeing war areas. So for months he has been sleeping in his own office in the Vatican.

A gesture that's "natural and spontaneous, but there's nothing heroic in this," says Msgr. Krajewski, when surprise is shown at his choice. "The Gospel teaches us to help those in need, and the first need is housing," he reminds us.

The decision responds to Pope Francis' strong appeal during the September 6, 2015 Angelus that every parish, monastery and religious house would welcome at least one refugee from Syria or North Africa fleeing from war and hunger.

On returning from the Greek island of Lesbos, where he went to meet the refugees, Bergoglio brought three families, who were until just recently housed in Santa Ana Parish in the Vatican, and later in the Sant'Egidio Community.

The Archbishop welcomes groups of immigrants in his apartment -- inside the leonine walls, offering them hospitality until they can become independent and find a more permanent home.

"A few weeks ago," says Msgr. Krajewski, "other families arrived, and the lovely thing is that for the first time in my house, a beautiful little girl was born. And I confess, I feel a bit like a grandfather, an uncle. It is life that is continuing, a gift of God."(JE)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Catholic Worker activist calls on Archdiocese of NY to open unused churches to the undocumented

The late Peter Maurin, considered in many ways to be a co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement with Dorothy Day, often proposed that every parish should have a house of hospitality. He believed that this simple gesture alone could solve the problem of homelessness. Today, a young Catholic Worker activist, 36 year-old Felix Cepeda, has put a new spin on Maurin's dream, calling on New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan to open the doors of New York's Catholic churches, particularly those that have been closed as part of the Archdiocese's effort to consolidate parishes, to the city's undocumented immigrants who are in need of sanctuary.

Cepeda first issued the challenge to Cardinal Dolan in late April in an open letter which was later shared with a Catholic Worker online forum. Wrote Cepeda,

"The Catholic Church in NYC provides amazing services to the poor and we have to celebrate that. At the same time it is not enough, as we see in our streets, the amount of homeless brothers and sisters living without a home is growing every day. As a Catholic Church in NYC we need do more in the fight for justice...We have an amazing opportunity to do just that, in the dozens of closed churches that we have in NYC. At least one of these closed temples and its rectory should be used to offer sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation, create housing for the homeless and also to offer space to the oppressed communities and social justice movements and church reform groups of NYC, in order to support them. At the same time, not one of our open churches is offering sanctuary in NYC to undocumented immigrants facing deportation. I urge you, Cardinal Dolan, to at least allow one parish to start offering sanctuary. There are around 11 individuals at this moment receiving sanctuary in NYC Churches. Sadly none of these are Roman Catholic Churches..."

Then Cepeda, who was born in New York of undocumented parents from the Dominican Republic who have since returned to their homeland, turned to time-honored Catholic Worker tactics. He is maintaining a vigil outside St. Patrick's Cathedral, holding a sign that reads "No Human Being Is Illegal" to drum up support for his cause and briefly attempted a hunger strike, though he had to call that off on the advice of his doctor.

Needless to say, the Archdiocese does not share Cepeda's vision. "Catholic Churches in the Archdiocese of New York that are not currently being used for regular Mass and Sacraments are not appropriate places for sanctuaries. They do not have the facilities necessary for people to reside there," said archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling, adding that the Archdiocese was already doing a lot for immigrants.


Cepeda is no stranger to Catholic social teachings on the poor and the stranger. For a while he pursued a vocation as a Jesuit seminarian but was asked to leave the order due to problems with obedience. The young activist, who was exposed to Dorothy Day's writings in his seminary in the Dominican Republic,  dreams of opening a Catholic Worker house of hospitality in that country. In 2014-15, he had a street mission going in Santo Domingo with a North American Catholic missionary, David Janicki. They gave out food and Janicki, an amateur violinist, also offered his music to Santo Domingo's homeless. But, while Cepeda has a community of people willing to help,  funds and live-in volunteers for a house in the DR have yet to materialize and Janicki has moved back to Dallas where he is working as a research and marketing forecaster, while Cepeda commutes between his parents' home in the DR and the New York Catholic Worker.

Cepeda is still dreaming and working for his dream to come true. Last year he renewed his attempt to solicit volunteers for a prospective house of hospitality in Santo Domingo and has also set up an online fundraising page to raise the $80,000 he needs to buy a house which he plans to name after Dorothy Day. And as for opening New York's Catholic churches, he's still pushing. "We [the Archdiocese] are sitting on this treasure," Cepeda says, "It's a crime."

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Teresa Forcades (theologian and nun): "A theology that moves beyond any stereotype of women is necessary"

By Alberto Echaluce (English translation by Rebel Girl)
El Diario Vasco
May 23, 2017

The Catalan nun and theologian Teresa Forcades (1966) offered a lecture yesterday on "Spirituality and gender" in Portalea, in a convocation organized by a group of women from the Eibar church arena who have been meeting fortnightly in San Andres parish for more than 11 years. Forcades, a native of Barcelona, has a degree in Medicine. She moved to the United States to study Internal Medicine at the State University of New York. Back in Spain, she entered the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat. Her Theology degree wasn't validated by the Spanish Catholic schools because she got it from a Protestant school. Even so, Forcades published  the book La teología feminista en la historia ["Feminist Theology in History"] in 2007, in which she places it in the framework of critical theologies or liberation theology, doing a historical review of women who throughout history have experienced the contrast between theological discourse and their experience of God. In 2013, she created, together with Arcadi Olivares, a populist platform to promote the self-determination of Catalonia. In 2015, Forcades left the Benedictine convent to run in the Catalan autonomy elections, though she hasn't stopped being a nun.

Don't you think that reading the Sacred Scriptures leaves women in second place? Don't you think that a very stereotypical and to some extent chauvinist image of women emerges from that reading?

It depends on how the Sacred Scriptures are read and interpreted. If the statement "women should remain silent in church" is taken out of its historical context, it's simply sexist. If you take the context into account, then that statement preserved in the Bible, in addition to being sexist, testifies that in the first centuries there were women who did talk in the Church and an image appears of the first communities that contributes to questioning the history of humanity as it has been told to us, and I'm not just referring to the religious environment. In Saint Paul's letter to the Romans, for example, appears the name of Junia, a woman apostle, whom Saint Paul regards with reverence. In the Middle Ages, the name Junia (female) was changed to Junias (male).

What work have you been doing in favor of the promotion of spirituality from a gender perspective?

In 2007, I published La teología feminista en la historia, where I've gathered the testimony of women theologians like Cristina de Pizán, Isabel de Villena, Moderata Fonte, Lucrezia Marinella, Teresa de Jesús, María Jesús de Ágreda, Juana Inés de la Cruz, Marie de Gournay, Bathsua Makin, Anna Maria van Schurman, Margaret Fell, Mary Astell, who range from the 14th to the 17th century. In 2015, I published Por amor a la justicia: Dorothy Day y Simone Weil ["For love of justice: Dorothy Day and Simone Weil"], a work focused on the lives and work of these two great 20th century women committed to workers' struggles who, after declaring themselves atheists and first living as such in their youth, experienced the presence of Jesus in their lives in a way that was surprising to them. My latest book, which will appear in October is Los retos del Papa Francisco ["The Challenges of Pope Francis"]. In it I address, among other things, the question of women in the Church. Apart from the books, I give courses and various talks about spirituality and theology done by women and especially about the need to formulate a theology that is able to move beyond any stereotypes.

Has it been costly for you to maintain such revolutionary positions in the field of spirituality and gender?

Up to now it hasn't been very costly. I have the support of my community and also my bishop who, even though he thinks differently, isn't an authoritarian man. In spite of that, during the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the fundamentalist Catholic groups were strong and there was a lot of criticism of me on the Internet that now, with Pope Francis, has disappeared. My critical stance towards the interests of the big pharmaceutical companies and towards certain political interests in Catalonia has been more costly.

Have you gotten pressure to not work in the political arena?

From the Church no, none. What my community asked me to do was that while I was active in politics, I would ask for a period of exclaustration to avoid media pressure on the monastery and that's how we've done it.

What were the reasons that led you to study Protestant theology?

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza is a Catholic feminist theologian known worldwide for her Biblical interpretation work. I translated one of her books and she encouraged me to ask for a scholarship to Harvard, which is where she is a professor. At Harvard, even though its origins are Methodist, they don't just teach Protestant theology, but there are Catholic and Orthodox professors and Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist ones too. What drew me to Harvard wasn't Protestant theology, but the quality of the teaching there. Then, when I was already a nun and after finishing my doctorate on the Trinity, I moved to Berlin to do the post-doctorate and they invited me to give classes in the School of Theology of Humboldt University, which is Protestant but has a chair devoted to Catholic theology. However, I didn't work in that chair but in the gender studies one.

How do you draw the youth audience to religious faith in these times?

My experience with young people is especially in Germany (Berlin), which is where I've given classes in the university. I've observed that among them the tendency that was in effect a few years ago to separate spirituality (personal experience of faith) from religion (institutionalized experience) is diminishing. Young people of today are more sensitive to the limits of individualism and more open to community experiences. The best way to put them in touch with religious faith is still proposing experiences of silence, of encounter with oneself, and contact with credible testimonies to which they can formulate their questions and concerns.

On holy masculinity and religious pedophilia

by Juan José Tamayo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Redes Cristianas
May 18, 2017

The young teacher "Daniel" wrote a letter to Pope Francis informing him of the sexual abuses that he and other underage people had suffered since childhood from some priests and laypeople of the Archdiocese of Granada. Francis called him twice to apologize, show his support, and commit himself to investigate the case and to tell him he would make it known to the Archbishop of Granada who, to tell the truth, didn't show the same diligence as the Pope since he delayed in responding to the calls of the sexually assaulted young man. "The truth is the truth, and it shouldn't be hidden, whatever the cost," Francis said.

The Pope's solidarity with people who have been sexually abused by church people contrasts on the one hand with the silence and cover-up by a sector of the Catholic hierarchy that is obstructing the investigation of justice and seems to be on the side of the pedophiles and, on the other hand, with the absolving rulings of judges who doubt the testimony of the people who have been the object of pedophilia and who have even blamed them. There would appear to be a complicity between a sector of the judiciary, the church hierarchy, and pedophiles. Maybe judges in Spain still feel reverential respect for people belonging to the clergy at its different levels -- priests, bishops,...Let's leave it as a "maybe".

I'm not going into judging the sentences here, because it's not my job. I do want to make a theological reflection about pedophilia, which is my field. The root of such an abominable, violent and criminal practice is found, in my opinion, in the patriarchal structure of the Catholic Church and in hegemonic masculinity, even more, in holy masculinity. As the North American feminist philosopher Mary Daly states in her pioneering feminist theology book, Beyond God the Father (Boston, 1973, 19), "If God is male, then the male is God." God's masculinity converts the male into the sole representative of God on earth and into lord and master in all fields of human being and doing and especially within the church institution -- organizational, doctrinal, moral, religious-sacramental, sexual, etc. And not any male, but the cleric in his different degrees -- deacon, priest, bishop, archbishop, pope -- who is elevated to the category of holy person.

Holy masculinity legitimizes all the male's actions, however perverse they may be, as a representative and spokesman for God -- religious wars, patriarchal violence, religious, symbolic, and psychological violence, religious intolerance, authoritarianism, etc. With such behavior, God is converted into a violent being and, in the end, a murderer. Holy masculinity is turned into a necessary condition to exert power, all power, in the religious world. This power begins by the control of souls, continues with the manipulation of consciences, and even gets to the appropriation of bodies in a perverse game. It's about diabolical behavior programmed with premeditation and treachery, practiced on defenseless people who are intimidated, and exercised from a purported sacred authority over the victims, which is resorted to to commit the crimes with impunity.

Power over souls is one of the main roles of priests, if not the main one, as is reflected in the expressions "priest of souls," "shepherd of souls," etc. whose objective, they say, is to lead souls to heaven and assure their salvation, according to a dualistic conception of the human being that deems the soul the true and immortal identity of the human being, and that it must be protected from all contact with the body that contaminates it and makes it impure. This is a form of violence.

Power over souls leads to control of consciences. Only a clean, pure conscience, uncontaminated by what is material, guarantees salvation, it is argued. Therefore the mission of the priest, in the most classic conception of ordained ministry, is to form his parishioners in the right conscience that requires renouncing their own consciences and submitting to the moral dictates of the Church. Thus one arrives at the highest degree of alienation and manipulation of conscience. Violating personal conscience, twisting individual conscience, forcing someone to act against conscience is one of the most serious and subtle forms of violence exerted frequently by religious leaders and ideologues over believers who credulously follow their moral guidelines.

The end of this control game is power over bodies that leads to the crimes of pedophilia committed by clerics and people who move in church and clerical circles. Those who exert power over souls and over consciences think they also have the right to appropriate bodies and use and abuse them. This, undoubtedly, is the most diabolical consequence of hegemonic holy masculinity. The greater the power over souls and the more tyrannical the control of consciences, the greater the tendency to abuse the bodies of the most vulnerable people who fall under their influence -- credulous people, boys, girls, adolescents, young people, disabled people, etc.

Pedophile violence is the greatest scandal of the Catholic Church in the whole 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, the one that has brought the most discredit on this 2000 year-old institution. Some of those who presented themselves as models of self-giving to others, gave themselves to crimes against unprotected people. Some of those who were thought experts in education, used their supposed educational excellence to abuse the boys and girls entrusted to them by their parents to receive a good formation. Some of those who presented themselves as guides of "innocent souls" to lead them along the good path of salvation, devoted themselves to defiling their bodies and nullifying their minds.

Did the Vatican not know about the widespread, programmed and perverse pedophilia problem and such humiliating practices for victims? I think it knew perfectly well, since reports and denunciations reached it that it systematically archived until it forgot about them. But it did not act according to the gravity of the crime. Quite the opposite. It imposed silence on the victims and informants to save the good name of the Church, threatening severe penalties that could lead to excommunication if they dared to speak. This way of proceeding created a climate of permissiveness, an atmosphere of obscurantism and an environment of complicity with the abusers, who were exempt from guilt while the blame was transferred to the victims, who were blocked from going to the courts before the image of authority given by the pedophiles.

The victims' loss of dignity didn't matter, or the often irreversible damage and sequelae, or the serious physical, psychic and mental wounds with which those affected had to live for life. It lacked compassion and sensitivity towards their suffering. There wasn't any act of contrition, or repentance, or intent to amend, or reparation for the damage caused, no act of rehabilitation occurred, justice wasn't done. Such an attitude was a new and more brutal aggression.

The permissiveness of the crime, the silence, lack of punishment, cover-up, complicity and refusal to collaborate with justice turned pedophilia not only into individual sexual aggression, but into a practice legitimized structurally and institutionally -- at least indirectly -- by the church hierarchy at all levels, in a chain of concealment that ranged from the highest ecclesiastical authority to the pedophile, passing through the intermediary links of religious power.

It also happens that most cases of pedophilia occurred in male-run institutions and training centers for men. This shows that patriarchy even resorts to sexual abuse in order to demonstrate its omnipotent power in society and in religions and, in the case we're dealing with, over the most vulnerable people. A power legitimated by religion, which makes men "vicars of God" and spokesmen for His will. It is the most perverse way to understand and practice masculinity, one which depersonalizes and reifies those who it has previously destroyed. Masculinity and violence, pedophilia and patriarchy are pairs that often walk together and cause more human destruction than a hurricane.

What to do in the face of the metastatic cancer of pedophilia spread throughout the ecclesial body? Zero tolerance, denounce it, collaborate with justice, bring the guilty parties to the civil courts, and, most importantly, that judges lose their reverential fear of holy persons and judge them according to their responsibility in the crimes, and the crime of pedophilia is undoubtedly of extreme gravity! We are not in a confessional state where people invested with sacred authority merit privileged treatment, but in a non-denominational state where justice is equal for all.

And within the Church? It is necessary to go to the roots of the pedophilia phenomenon, to the root causes of such diabolical behavior, found in dominating masculinity turned holy, in the equally sacred power of men consecrated to God, in the phallic-sacred power over bodies and the patriarchal system prevailing in the Catholic Church.

As long as hegemonic masculinity is elevated to the rank of holy and remains the basis of the exercise of power, as long as patriarchy is the ideology on which the ecclesiastical apparatus and the organizational form of it are based, this criminal behavior against defenseless people will recur. More sibylline methods will be sought, but things will not have changed.

Therefore it's necessary to change the current authoritarian mental, organizational, legislative, legal, penal and religious structure of the Church which is patriarchal, homophobic, and based on male hegemony, to one that is really egalitarian, inclusive, and one of parity. And change the image of God the Father and Master!

Juan José Tamayo is director of the Chair of Theology and Religious Studies, Carlos III University, Madrid.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Jorge Costadoat SJ: "The situation of women in the Church is an injustice, a loss and a sin"

by José Manuel Vidal (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
May 6, 2017

The prestigious Chilean Jesuit theologian, Jorge Costadoat, joins intellectual depth with a clear critical and prophetic denunciation capacity. On this last note, he denounces that the situation of women in the Church is "an injustice, a loss and a sin." He also believes that, in the long run, we could move towards a "non-clerical Christianity." that the future of Theology is "in the theology of the signs of the times," while recognizing the immense reformist work of Pope Francis.

Father Jorge Costadoat is in Spain to present the book titled Francisco: palabra profética y misión. Homilías, discursos y testimonios ["Francis: Prophetic Word and Mission, Homilies, Speeches and Testimonies"] edited by Reflexión y Liberación journal, by Religión Digital and by Mensajeros de la Paz, where it has a chapter, because it is a choral book written by many people. And with the speeches of the Pope. A book of support for Francis, above all.

Welcome, Father Jorge.

Many thanks.

What's your personal situation at the moment? Are you the director of the Larraín Center?

No. I was for 12 years. And towards the end of last year I left that position and Fredi Parra, who was formerly the dean of the School of Theology at the Catholic University in Chile, took it. Now I work as a researcher at the center.

A researcher of that center?

Yes, I'm still under contract with the Catholic University, devoted full-time to research, and in particular I do research at the Manuel Larraín Theological Center.

In your case, the new winds of Pope Francis aren't noticeable?

Not at all.

You were retaliated against, forced a bit to leave the canonical mission by Cardinal Ezzati, during times in which Pope Francis was already there. That is, we aren't talking about the old regime.

No, this new Pope thing didn't matter at all. Not even my being a Jesuit.

Did that hurt you?

Very much, yes. The truth is that I had a yellow card. I had been having difficulties for a while, first, with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That ended some 12 years ago. And then Ezzati, three years before what happened two years ago, had warned me that I was at the point of a second yellow one. I was never clear what the problem was. It was a very vague answer and to this day I don't know exactly what the problem was.

They showed you the yellow [card], not the red one -- you're still a Jesuit, working at the university.

I never had any problem with the Society of Jesus. The problem was the University. One belongs to the Catholic University as a theologian to the extent one has the bishop's trust. It's the bishop who gives you the canonical mission.

Because Catholic University belongs to the Archdiocese of Santiago.

Exactly. So when the bishop summons me and tells me he's not giving me the canonical mission, I thought they were going to simply throw me out. And that's what happened. It became disgraceful that the reason why I was thrown out of the university was that I taught with a lot of freedom. Saying that to a university professor...It happened in a situation of very great university change in Chile, which particularly affected private universities.

The rector of the University and the higher council put pressure on the bishop, such that I wasn't thrown out and they left me as a researcher.

I remember that the faculty cloister mobilized. Practically everyone in favor of you.

Yes, I had very great support from the professors.

You put some distance between you. You went to Rome for a few months.

No, that was earlier. I was in Rome five months doing a sabbatical semester. I came back in January and in March they threw me out.

I see you're taking it peacefully. Calmly.

Look, my thing isn't belonging to or having a career in the Theology School. My thing is Theology and no one has kept me from that. I'm doing it with pleasure, more and more concentrated on research. They are important subjects for Latin America. I'm working with a team in the Manuel Larraín Center. We've won public competitions for doing research.

Is there public money for theological research?

Yes. You always have to enter through a competition. There's a national competition for researchers -- it's called Fondecyt, and in it there's philosophy, sociology, etc. There isn't Theology in particular but there are other disciplines, i.e., you can apply. We entered there, we won a competition and we just accomplished it with Carlos Schickendantz who's my colleague.

He's another Argentinian-Chilean theologian.

He's Argentinian. A diocesan who's been living in Chile many years now. And he's also under a full-time contract for research. He's the director of our collection.

What are you researching specifically?

The Theology of the signs of the times.

Very interesting.

For us (I'm saying it a bit exaggeratedly), it's the future of Theology.

The future?

Yes, and I'm going to make another exaggeration: all the other theologies are ancillary to the Theology of the signs of the times. It's an exaggeration but what's happening? It's that our intuition is that one has to think basically about what God is saying today, in the present.

Traditionally, theology has been concerned with the revelation of God in the past and how this revelation has been transmitted in the tradition of the Church by the magisterium and by theologians. And that is perfect, it's a theological collection that serves us today, but that fundamentally serves as a basis for how God is acting now. The God who spoke in the past, continues to speak in the present and we feel that what we have to interpret, fundamentally, is something in the present. The great events of history.

A new theological current?

This started with Gaudium et spes, a document structured on the basis that the Church responds to the great events of the era. In Gaudium et spes what's detected as the great sign of the times is the great transformations -- and accelerated transformations -- that are occurring.

This theology comes especially from Schillebeeckx, Congar... All those people who remained in the Council and who are the breeding ground for Latin American liberation theology. They're the ones who generated the trunk to which we, at a certain historical distance, are linked.

We aren't doing the theology of those years, 40 - 50 years have passed since then. There are other themes. We have focused especially on methodological matters and some signs in particular. Right now the subject of women's theology is emerging as very important. A very important subject with much future in the Church. A central theme. In fact, Virginia Azcuy also has a contract with the Manuel Larraín Center.

What?

The theologian. The one who formed Teologanda, an extraordinary feminist theology movement in Latin America. And it also covers Iberoamerican theology. We're working together. They're subjects that weren't there explicitly at the beginning of liberation theology, that were developed later.

And the whole ecological subject that wasn't a theme 40 years ago and is now. That is to say, other subjects have emerged that require a liberationist faith stance and here we are. The migrant theme too, for example.

Migrants, refugees, that is, the new signs of the times.

Exactly.

The book in which you're involved -- what's the fundamental purpose of a book such as this that contains homilies, speeches, testimonies and a series of commentaries made by different authors?

I have the impression that the Pope, to a certain degree, is quite alone. He has resonated enormously with the people of God and also with others who aren't Christian. Among the laity, in the Church in general. But something is happening, like his thoughts, his actions aren't getting through the bishops or have gotten through with much difficulty.

There are many people who have the feeling that a great pope is leaving us, and a pope who has hit the nail on the head on Latin American theology and the Church, which is the option for the poor.

Is he leaving without us taking advantage of him?

Exactly. And he could die and another pope come who isn't going to give us the signs that Francis is giving. This pope already is, in a certain sense, out of the ordinary -- along the lines of the Latin American Church, of what he's been in his 50-year trajectory, there's no one who has been successful like him.

However, in his time he didn't consider himself to be a liberation theologian; he had his reservations about the Marxist versions there were in those days. But he's linked to the Argentinian theology of the people, which can also be considered a liberation theology in some respects.

The interesting thing is that today the liberation theologians are all exultant with this pope, because deep down he's responding very well to what that current is, that as for the rest, Marxism is not essential in it.

I know the Latin American theologians. It was, in some of them. They even flirted with Marxism because there weren't many alternatives forty years ago for social change, beyond that. But it wasn't essential. What was essential, and still is, is the recourse to social sciences. Because if you want to auscultate reality, the events of the era, to influence that reality through theological mediation, you also need the mediation of the social sciences because otherwise, it's going to be something very homemade.

The Pope has put the option for the poor label in the center again.

This is the great mystical and theological discovery, I think, of the Latin American church. Notice that in the four Latin American Episcopal Conferences, the preferential option for the poor is stated and endorsed as something central to which the Church has to respond. It's quite interesting because it's what's happened in the Latin American postconciliar period. That is to say, the Church is understood as a regional church starting from an integrating main focus that is the preferential option for the poor. And that is in the four Conferences with a remarkable importance; it has permeated throughout the Church in Latin America.

And this remained frozen at a certain time.

In practice, one could say so. But the Conferences proclaimed it, including the Santo Domingo Conference which was a conference in which the Vatican intervened. A grotesque intervention, by the way. Even so, in that Conference there's an endorsement of the option for the poor.

Theoretical endorsement, you mean. But afterwards, in the episcopacy and in ministry, it was toned down.

Exactly.

And now what the Pope's doing, I imagine, is recovering this.

Of course, something has emerged from the ashes that responds to a central insight of the Latin American Church.

Could there be a turning back? Is this spring which we are experiencing reversible in a later pontificate?

In the history of the Church, that isn't new. It's hard to think there's going to be a Pope like this one -- daring, who speaks off the cuff. Parla a braccio, as the Italians would say.

It's rolled up.

Yes, and he speaks without fear of making a mistake. Something completely new. Consequently, if the Pope speaks and makes a mistake, the rest of us can do the same. And there's no drama. The Pope can be infallible when he speaks solemnly and the other times he can be fallible.

He's said it himself. People will have to understand that when he makes a mistake, he's trying to communicate.

It's a whole catharsis for what we're accustomed to.

When the Pope was infallible on everything, the rest of us would have to keep quiet. There wasn't any dissidence. Everything was monitored, punished.

There are matters that aren't on the agenda that was put on the Pope, and the Pope has come out with them. He's been asked to reform the curia and is into it. But he came out with the option for the poor, and this has been, in my opinion, the most important thing. Because, a pope isn't there to make policy and although he has to do it, it's secondary. Here, the important thing is that the Pope proclaims the Gospel, and does it.

This means breaking eggs -- breaking, because the Gospel cost Jesus his life. The normal thing for a Christian would be to talk freely; because of that itself, he has problems. If a Christian doesn't have problems in an unjust world, what's it about?

But the cycles of the Church aren't usually so short either. We've come from a cycle of involution and the logical thing would be to think that another John XXIII and Paul VI cycle is being repeated.

The interesting thing would be if the trend settled in. But in a Church that's 2000 years old, that requires a lot of time.

Because the trend, in your opinion, is seeping into the people. That's obvious.

Yes, but I don't know if it's seeping in at a high level, in the hierarchy. I have serious doubts.

Into the clergy, you're saying, in the higher and lower clergy.

Yes. In the Church, the bishops and priests. I don't know if priestly formation today is permeable to any type of ministry. I doubt it.

Why is it so hard for them to leave the old inertia? Leave the palaces, for example. In Spain, all the bishops live in palaces (with a few exceptions) and the Pope, from the start, leaves his palace and goes to Santa Marta.

In Latin America they don't live in palaces. The bishops have very discrete lives, even humble and poor ones. It's what I've seen and that's very good. The issue is the relationship the priest establishes with others. I think there's a fundamental problem here. I have the impression that the priesthood and the understanding of the priesthood have not assimilated the great criteria of the Council.

The big criterion is that baptism is the great sacrament that makes us all equal as brothers and sisters. One might view that there's a priestly ministry that's at the service of the people of God. This would obligate a different way of relating, one of equality, of fraternity and exchange. Everyone responsible for the Church and each one in their respect.

But if you have a priestly formation where they tell you you're representing Jesus Christ and you have to teach -- and obviously that the others have to learn -- in those terms, it's very hard for the priest to learn anything from anyone. He knows it, and that's what the seminaries, the libraries are for and for him to study as much as possible and the next day, he's going to relate to everyone else in those terms.

Clericalism, bureaucracy -- what the Pope has denounced so much.

Fatal.

Changing that is very complicated. And if that doesn't change, this institution, which in the end is very clericalized, doesn't change either. Or does it?

Yes, of course, tremendously. So much that, I say, exaggerating: Is there anything worse that a lay priest? Precisely because we haven't had a sufficiently adult laity.

Mature.

Mature, adult, that says what it thinks. That believes new things. Everyone's waiting for what comes from above, from the bishops, from the priests. Because the ways of relating, in many cases, aren't adequate. Everything depends a lot on the creativity or permission of the clergy.

I think we should all got to a more fraternal model of Church, where the priest would really be a brother on the way, with everyone's creativity, creating a new Church. In new versions.

With new ministries too.

Yes. New things can be invented.

A married priesthood, for example. Why not allow it?

Clearly so.

Will the priesthood of women take longer?

It will take longer, but I don't think there are any theological reasons with enough weight to prevent it. And I think this situation of women in the Church is the greatest challenge of all.

Because it's a countersign of the times.

Totally. Here you have a case of the signs of the times and the importance of listening to the voice of God in history. How can it be that women don't participate in any important Church decision made at a high level? Of course they say later that the women in the chapels are the mothers; that's all true. But that women don't participate in a synod on the family and vote...

They brought the voices of some women to the synod and listened to them. But they don't participate in the decisions. No young women understand that nowadays. We men don't even understand it.

There isn't any global institution now that doesn't have women. I don't know if the International Olympic Committee [Translator's note: The IOC has women on its Executive Board] ...But in everything else, it seems like a big countersign.

In the book, you address the subject "From introverted spirituality to missionary extrovertedness". Explain this to us a bit.

The title contains a play on words. This Pope has proposed an interesting and tremendously evangelical ecclesiology. And it's that the Church is for proclaiming the Gospel. For proclaiming it to others and not always for ourselves. Normally, our problem is that the generation that understands us no longer understands us, that's our own.

The Pope says, "That's to be seen; what's fundamental here is proclaiming to those who are far." The Church has to go out, the outgoing Church is the Church that goes out to proclaim to those who don't know the Gospel, to the alienated, to those who left and to those who've never been. And this should be the final goal.

When you put the target so far away, everything in between is ordered according to that goal. And it's a beginning of healing everything in between. Even those who might be very close to the center, we have to adjust to the fundamental. Here the center isn't the Pope or the Church, which would have to revolve around the Vatican and the Pope. No. The center is the Gospel, and that requires ordering things differently.

So, we've gone from a Church that's turned inward, even spiritually introverted, a chapel Church, to a Church that battles it out in the street with all the risks that holds. The Pope has said it, "I prefer a beat-up Church to a Church that's sick from being moldy."

This change in dynamics is taking time. It's already been four years and it seems like the gears are creaking.

Yes, you don't see much.

What might be needed so that we would see more? Because I imagine that there must be some bishops too who are persuaded that this is the trend we have to follow. That we have to get in this car because, in the end, we're facing a unique historic opportunity.

Basically, I'm waiting for all this creativity of the laity. The problem is that in the Church we're all a bit stunned. Sleepy. And if the laity doesn't also see some signs of change in the clergy and in the hierarchy, it isn't used to initiating new things.

There have always been exceptional people who open up opportunities with initiative, without asking anyone's permission. Perfect. There ought to be many more but they could also have more support. And I'm not seeing this. My judgment might be unfair; I'd have to go out and see how things are going.

But, apparently, there isn't much creativity. And it's not getting to those who've never been there. That's the ultimate parameter. When you're reaching those who are really far, you're hearing signs that the Gospel is coming.

And we have the clear example. Because Francis is reaching the alienated, the popular movements, atheists, agnostics..., everyone. He does know how to do it and is showing us the way. Why aren't we following him on this too?

I'm following him.

Here, Tarancón used to say that the bishops had cricks in their necks from looking to Rome so much. But now either they aren't looking or I don't know what's going on.

I don't know what's going on at the level of the Conferences. Because when a Conference is deadlocked, it's very hard to make decisions in one direction.

That is, you're trusting more that the Catholic grassroots will assume this trend?

It's what I'm hoping. I can't understand how the relationships are put together. Looking at the long, the very long term, what I think might happen is that Christianity might develop in a non-clerical version. A non-priestly/ministerial one.

There are so many changes happening in the world that what I believe and hope is that it be conjugated another way, with other religions, with other cultures. That something new comes out, a Christianity that would be less fearful and that would go out to meet others, without caring about what will result in the long run. I think that will be the healthiest. Which doesn't mean that clerical Christianity will cease to exist because it has a great resistance capacity. The danger is that it won't often represent the Gospel.

So there would be a co-existence of various types of Christianity as there is now too.

Maybe. But I'm hoping something new, airier, will come out, that responds to what the new generations need. Because Christ is living, it's a matter of faith. And if he's alive and acting through the spirit, he will go on and you have to trust in this. There will continue to be Christian expressions of another order, new ones.

Finally, it's always the return to the Gospel.

It's the fundamental thing.

But that personal, pastoral conversion is very hard for us...

I think it would be very interesting to go out to look where that's taking place. As the Lord says: the Gospel is like a mustard seed.

You have to go out to observe because there are things one finds when one is looking. And there are always shoots beginning to take flight. To gain importance. I believe a lot in this. Sometimes you don't see it. And you don't see it on television because the Pope has all the cameras.

It's true.

There might even be many priests and bishops who are starting novel things but they don't have cameras. And what isn't in the media, doesn't exist. It's obvious and it's something that the hierarchical Church is also taking a long time to understand and put into practice -- making visible the sorts of seeds there are now.

Is popular religiosity coming back, purified? How do you see it? Here we've just celebrated Holy Week on a big scale. The only young people who are signing on to this new popular religiosity trend are the guilds, the brotherhoods. The other young people are absent.

That might be different in different parts of the world. Here in Spain, popular festivities are very strong. And I understand that this hasn't been lost, although at the same time young people are participating less. In Latin America they're still strong. Very strong.

Religiosity in Latin America is still powerful. It has quite a bit of independence but at the same time it requires the timely service of the priest.

Just like here.

What may be happening are very big mutations. Juan Martín Velasco, in Spain, studied this phenomenon of mutations in religiosity, It's happening and with quite some independence from the Church, and it's not clear that it's diminishing. In fact, the statistics say that 50 years from now the number of Christians in the world will be more or less the same as now.

There will be different combinations of religiosity. We aren't necessarily going to a more secular world. Or we'll go on being a two-sided character, that in some big areas we're religious and in others we're completely atheist.

But these two realities co-existing.

Yes. And Christianity should be an integrating principle of the person as a whole. The one who lives with realities that are antagonistic, sometimes doesn't work. That distance would have to shrink.

That breaks new ground and it's complicated.

And of course it demands a very great lucidity of Christian life and work. One needs to convert areas of life that aren't easy, starting with money.

There are so many very Christian and very rich people...We've had 2000 years for there to be a change in the matter. And even so, it's possible to be rich and Christian. A millionaire and a Christian. How is that possible in a world where there's so much destitution, so much hunger, so much war, so many migrant refugees? Jesus would say that something is wrong with that. And so forth, other areas.

On this, especially, there has been constant denunciation on the part of Pope Francis. Of this economy that kills, the discard economy.

The concentration of wealth in the world is hair-raising, that eight people can have as much wealth as 3 billion people. And moreover it's a trend that isn't stopping.

It seems like it's growing.

Rich people who are able to buy whole countries, what's up with that?

You're experiencing that situation in Chile too same as here, I imagine. It's globalized.

We too. There's great wealth that's concentrated. Inequality in Chile is great. Even though it has remained, for fifty years there haven't been great variations. Suddenly, the Gini index has gone down a bit, but the trend towards inequality has remained.

What improves the relationship is redistribution. Years ago, for example, in Chile, income inequality was 1 to 14. And by virtue of state redistribution it went down to 1 to 7. That's important, that there are taxes as a way to shrink the differences.

Are you in this dynamic of redistribution of wealth?

Yes.

And at the church level? It seems like your hierarchy has lost prestige.

It's lost a lot of prestige. The hierarchy, nowadays, according to statistics, is at an 18-20% prestige level. It's very low for what it's traditionally had. This basically has to do with the cases of abuse by priests of minors.

The famous Karadima case.

Abuse and cover-up. What the people can't bear is, there having been abuse, that that abuse wasn't denounced. And when it has been denounced, there hasn't been justice but it's been covered over.

There's been a lot of learning in this, but everything still isn't being done. I think there may have been problems of this type in the Church forever -- what was done, out of ignorance, was that if a priest abused a youth and a complaint arose, the superior would send him on a spiritual retreat to be converted or get him off to another city.

From here, they were sent to Latin America.

Clearly, it was thought that the person had committed a sin. But today science tells you it's a sin but it also might be a sickness that has no cure. Therefore, that priest ought to be removed from being a priest.

And, in any case, it's a crime you have to denounce.

Exactly. This learning is taking place, although it's hard. In Chile, protocols have been created in the schools, in churches, in different parts.

But this is being done by force because of the media pressure.

As has happened with all the important rights that have been established in the West. Behind every right there's a struggle. Women haven't come to acquire the dignity, the prestige they deserve in the 20th century except though the women who struggled to get it. And in the end they convinced us men ourselves.

In this the pressure, the media and the courts of justice have caused those responsible to bite the dust and realize that what happened, could not happen, and that this isn't only a sin, it's a crime. And crimes are to be denounced, however much it hurts. Because, although it's hard for a superior to have to bring an underling to the police, today he has to do so, if the case comes up. Before, it wasn't understood that way -- he was his spiritual son, he had to be protected...

Cardinal Castrillón, a Colombian, used to say that a bishop is a father. And a father never denounces his son.

That was the logic and it required sort of understanding. That logic doesn't work today. The paradigm has changed; there's learning in favor of the human being.

The logic and paradigm have also changed in relation to women, as you said earlier. And now you're adding a new dimension as if inviting a fight. Do women in the church have to fight to gain their recognition?

Certainly. It's a critical situation, the one of women in the Church. Disgraceful. And at this point, women count in their favor many men who are willing to support their greater participation in the decisions that would have to be taken at the highest level. It seems to us that it's an injustice, a loss and a sin. The situation of women in the Church today is not simply negligence. At this point, it's a sin.

The Commission on the Diaconate that Francis established, seems to point along those lines.

The Pope is opening opportunities and you have to understand that a 2000 year-old institution can't make changes overnight but he's not sitting idly. The Pope is beginning to make some changes in those directions and this study of the female diaconate is very important.

He's reproached for not going more rapidly because he also doesn't have much time left, or it's predictable that he doesn't too much time left. It's the law of life.

Yes. However, it's surprising all he's done.

You see the glass as half full, don't you?

Yes. It seems to me that he's done infinitely more than what is expected in little time. I would like him to have more backing. That other people would raise their voices and more bishops would row in the same direction.

In the situation of honoring divorced people who have remarried, I can't see why, if the synod has opened the possibility of it being a reality, the bishops of the world have been so shy to support Amoris Laetitia. It's clear that even when the document doesn't say it totally explicitely, it brings forth all the elements to come to that conclusion.

There have been some bishops who've had the courage to speak clearly, like the one from Malta, the German one. But there are so many more bishops who I don't know why they don't risk backing the Pope on this matter.

Including various cardinals, as we all know, the dubbia cardinals.

And it being about a central issue for the future of the Church. About understanding what the human reality is. It's not a question of mercy in the sense that I grant it...It's a matter of understanding the human phenomenon, what it means to be a couple today, to be a married couple, to form a family. With all the complications there can be.

I accompany a Christian base community in Santiago de Chile that started from a land takeover. Of very poor people.

In the working-class world, the Church is being slowly built up. In the end, the couples come to have a house, they form a family. But at the beginning, it starts from a young couple who have a boy or a little girl. Sometimes that relationship fails and another begins. He brings one child, she another, they have a third one.

That is, the family is built bit by bit and they never get to get married in the Church, or at all. They decide to get married when they have the house in which they're living together. And for that, 10, 15 or 25 years may pass. Are you not going to give communion to a family that's Christian because it's not in order? Because it's had a history?

If the Gospel isn't for these people, it's all wrong. It's an outgoing Church that puts itself in the situation of the one who is last, that wants to reach the last one. And if it doesn't reach that one, everything in between is questionable.

In the same dynamic would be the relationship of the Church with the gay world, with the LGBTI world, I'd imagine.

They're ongoing discoveries and behind which there always has to be a struggle. The struggle of homosexual persons is what has allowed the non-homosexual world to open its eyes, become sensitive, and see that there are other versions of sexuality. Other sexual conditions that aren't a sin. Here too, there are basic scientific facts.

At the beginning of the century homosexuality was thought to be a perversion. Then science says, "it's not a perversion, it's an illness." So the attitude changed. Then science says it's not an illness, that it's a condition, a possible version of human sexuality. Now we're saying that if it isn't a sin or an illness, if it's a sexual variant, we ought to treat it a different way.

Even so, you uphold it in your articles (on your Religión Digital blog and in other writings) and brickbats rain down on you for maintaining something that seems very common sense, very much of the Gospel.

Well, but brickbats are useful for us to advance. Let's put it that way.

In the end, you're optimistic and hopeful, aren't you?

Yes, but you have to go into battle. It's obvious. Things don't come out by themselves. It's not a matter of evolution. The one who is there for an evangelical cause has to risk that there will be no results. It's not the measure. If it went badly for the founder of Christianity, it has to go badly for the rest of us who want to open some way. Almost necessarily, Jon Sobrino and all those people would say.

Many thanks, Jorge. A pleasure. Let's go into battle and keep on rowing, ok?

Keep on rowing, very well. Delighted, and thanks to you.