Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Sister Joan Chittister OSB: On Being Pro-Life, Not Same as Opposed to Abortion

"I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is."

A Catholic nun's explanation of the term "pro-life" from 2004 is resurfacing after recent antiabortion events. On PBS's Now With Bill Moyers, Sister  Joan Chittister ...

"On the Limit of the Gestures and the Figure of Francis" A Thoughtful Analysis of Ambiguity of Pope Francis from Chile Visit


By Nicolás Panotto
Speaking to a reference member within the Chilean Catholic Church about the Pope's visit to his homeland, he tells me the following sentence: "This has been not one of the worst visits of Francisco, but of a Pope to a Latin American country in the last decades". This strong expression summarizes the widespread sense of bitterness that has remained on the palate of much of the Chilean population, both in members of the Catholic Church itself and the general public.
Francisco's visit can be evaluated as a thermometer that crossed from high temperatures, when without waiting for it, he apologized to the victims of sexual abuse during his meeting with President Bachelet in La Moneda, until a dry and icy iceberg towards the final, when on his last day of stay, in front of the question of a journalist on that same scabrous subject, the Pope changes his compassionate countenance and his soft voice towards a strong expression and a threatening tone, affirming that the accusations against the very questioned bishop Barros - wrapped up in sexual abuse coverings of minors inside the curia - are pure "slander." With that tiny word, he threw overboard all attempts at politically correct escape, as they had been piloting until now,
Between these events, each event of the visit was giving something to talk about. Perhaps the presence in the jail of women of Santiago and their words about dignity, or the fervent message at the Catholic University gave some respite. But apparently, the citizens had already given their verdict: the attendance at the events, and even in the already classic caravans of the "mobile pope", were surprisingly scarce and showed little enthusiasm for the arrival of the Pontiff. The same thing happened with the three public masses - in Santiago, Temuco and Iquique - where the attendance was poor, as were the messages of Francisco and the liturgy itself. Nothing new. More of the same. Gone is that hope for the poignant pastoral words of the Pope, who have achieved so much fame in previous years.
Francisco has always been a paradoxical figure. It has raised all kinds of feelings, ranging from the implantation of a sense of greater sensitivity and "humanity" on the ecclesial institution, of "reform" through the moves within the old Vatican dynamic, even of "revolution" when addressing critically various social problems, such as global economic injustice, environmental crisis, among others. But on the other hand, we already know that these issues are not the most delicate nor those that give a talk within the Catholic Church (and society in general) - namely, those referring to the family, sexuality, the place of woman, the ecclesial leadership structure and the untouchable dogmas-, about which Francisco has acted, sometimes as a good politician -elegantly evasive touching sensitive fibers-,
To the surprise of many, the visit to Chile made it clear that gestures (virtual) are not enough, as many have been warning for some time. Within the immense and complex structure of the Catholic Church, a simple movement can provoke a "butterfly effect": a single phrase said by the Pope induces deep mobilizations within communities and organizations in different parts of the globe. Francisco is more than aware of it, so he has opted to flood television screens and activity agendas with these small samples of change, which undoubtedly "renew the spirit" by removing the dust from the stagnant image and retouching appearances to calm the waters, showing a certain face of change.
But this is not enough. We do not mean to say that there is a Machiavellian act here, but rather to reinforce the fact that these processes have reached issues that do not touch the deep roots of the historical questioning of the church and its social role. Maybe something that Francisco did not calculate is the fact that people, seeing a certain intentionality of transformation, asked themselves: will things finally change? Perhaps the Pope thought that the parishioners and society in general would be content with small things. But in reality, only the hornet's nest moved. The demands are much greater, and by opening the floodgates towards a new image, what was done was to trigger even more the demand for a radical turnaround. And now the Pope faces a scenario where instead of placating the waters, What he did was to awaken a community and a group of voices that put him between a rock and a hard place. And as it happened in Chile, getting on the defensive is the worst thing that can be done.
These events reflect two more things. First, that the figure of Francisco falls in the middle of a context of strong political polarizations in the continent -and in each country in particular-, where the dispute between socio-political, ethical and even economic projects puts in check any social agent that Pretend public visibility. "On which side are you?" Seems to be the central question to measure any movement or word. Being "politically correct" or giving the image of "neutral" today is not a strategic path. It is or it is not. You choose one side or the other. Many thought that Francisco was in a corner, but in reality his positioning is much more ambiguous than it appears. Meanwhile, the ambivalence of his actions in the middle of this increasingly divided and turbulent sea makes his figure - and with it,
Second, all this also highlights the complexity of religious identifications in the contemporary globalized world. These processes continue to reinforce the fact that today we live in a time (post-secular?) Where institutional forms and theological discourses are increasingly stressed from a community of subject-believers who demand, speak, act, ask , they question, without allowing themselves easily to consent to any accommodative practice, and even less so in an imposed manner. Francisco has been trying to do a "facelift" to the church, when at the back of the room, behind the backyard portal, everything remains almost the same. Just as we notice an empowerment of citizens whose action exceeds even the most minute political predictions, in the same way the religious phenomenon, The dynamics of faith and the processes of belief can no longer be easily contained by an institutional hierarchy or a theological bend. If Francisco intends to keep the church in peace with simple gestures that do not go deep and do not meet the social demands on the role of the institution, the Chilean failure will be only the first.



 “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.”
What would it take?
To believe?
To change your life?
To risk for the sake of the Good News?
In today’s Gospel we hear that Jesus taught in the synagogue and the people were astonished, amazed.
People saw the difference between the scribes and Jesus. Something was authentic, clear, true. Speaking with authority wasn’t about external power but an internal resonance, depth – Jesus knew something deep down. When you hear truth, you know it. They were meeting Truth, in Love.
Jesus also healed – he exorcised a demon here.
He healed the vulnerable among them.  The dark spirit recognized him as the Holy One of God, and saw something would change as a result. It did!
Jesus’ fame spread throughout the land – and people were amazed.
But is that enough? To be amazed? Must it not also lead us somewhere?
Years ago, when I was between doctoral coursework and my dissertation, I had the privilege of a summer in Ghana, West Africa with Dr. David Abdulai and his family. Dr. Abdulai was a Ghanaian physician working in Tamale, in the western region of the country, a place without many resources and certainly not many doctors. His story was amazing. As I remember it, he was a street kid when some Catholic sisters encountered him and helped him with his education. He eventually went to medical school and then further training in Europe.
He returned to Ghana and had a plum position as a doctor for Germans working in the capital, Accra. He married a wonderful woman who was a nurse.
Their faith was important to them, and they regularly prayed together. At one point their prayer led them to discern a call to the margins where health care was harder to come by. They went to Tamale, the other side of the country, and they started Shekinah Clinic, a free clinic.
People traveled from all over, walking hours upon hours to line up for care. At one point, seeing the need, Dr. Abdulai asked each of the surrounding villages to build a hut for people to stay in while they were awaiting treatment on the clinic grounds. The huts were open to any and all in need. He started to build community. He built bridges between traditional medicine healers and more Westernized medicine– because each had something important to offer. 
I was in awe. 
One day as we were driving to a gathering, I said, “What you are doing is amazing, Dr. Abdulai! Why are others not doing more of this?”
His answer: 
“Exactly because of what you said. You say this is amazing. This is not amazing. This is simply the Gospel.” He followed with, “If you say this is amazing, then often enough you don’t have to do it. But it’s the Gospel. And we must.”
What does it take?
Yes, some simply saw and were amazed.
Some responded.
Our Gospel today is a wonderful ‘in-between’ passage, because just a few lines earlier in Mark we read of the call of the disciples.  They saw, they heard Jesus’ call, and they followed.
And immediately after (today’s passage) Jesus taught in the synagogue and exorcised the demon. Jesus went with Peter to the house of Peter’s mother-in law, who was sick. Jesus healed her. And then she served. Service was her natural response. By the end of that evening we hear that the whole/entire town came to the door  - and Jesus healed.
We too are in an ‘in-between’ time.  We are between the beginning of the New Year and the beginning of Lent. Both are times that invite us to growth. And Jesus is eager to encounter us. 
“If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.”

Jesus desires to encounter us, right here and now, asking for more than amazement. As Pope Francis so beautifully writes in The Joy of the Gospel:  “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them”(#3).
What follows this?  Missionary discipleship.

In this ‘in-between time’ and in the midst of much happening in our nation and world today, a question asked of us is
“Where does the Gospel needs to be preached today – whether as a resistance to wrongs and evil spirits or in support and creation of right and good in our part of the world today?”
Let’s not simply be amazed. Let’s act also.
What would it take?
To really believe? To act?
To ever more pattern your life on his life?
To be the Good News  to all we meet.
In between our readings the psalm response for this Sunday is: “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.”
That’s the start. Openness to encounter.
Pray to be open(ed). God is eager, present.
What will move?
Everything -- from how you see others and creation to how you respond to needs and longings. 
“If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.”
It will take you beyond amazement - to proclaiming by our words and deeds, the Good News that overcomes evil spirits, heals and creates anew.
And so, shall we go? Together.
Yes, together, with the Risen Christ, we go!

Michael Morwood Retreat - Albany, NY - June 1-3, 2018

God, Jesus and Prayer
through a 21st Century Lens

A weekend retreat with 

Michael Morwood, Adult Faith Educator

June 1-3, 2018

$95 includes Friday Evening wine and cheese reception and lunch and dinner on Saturday

Holiday Inn Express and Suites
16 Wolf Road
Albany, NY


Book now! 
Limited seating 

About the Presenter: Michael Morwood’s particular interest is in helping adult Christians examine what they believe and why they believe it, what they imagine and why they imagine the way they do. He is the author of ten books including Praying a New Story, Children Praying a New Story and It’s Time: Challenges to the Doctrine of the Faith. Michael Morwood resigned from priestly ministry in the Catholic Church in 1998 following the banning of his book Tomorrow’s Catholic: Understanding God and Jesus in a New Millennium by the then Archbishop of Melbourne, Australia, George Pell.

Friday, June 1
5:30pm -7:00pm – Wine and cheese reception
7:00pm -9:00pm – Presentation and discussion

Saturday, June 2
9:00am – 12:00pm – 2 presentations and discussion with breaks
12:00pm -1:00pm - Lunch
1:00pm – 5:00pm - 2 presentations and discussion with breaks
5:00pm - 6:00pm Dinner
6:00pm - Informal gathering for follow-up questions

Sunday, June 3
9:00am - 10:30am - Presentation and discussion
11:15am - 12:15pm - Liturgy
12:15pm - Conclusion of retreat 

The retreat is sponsored by the Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Seminary and People’s Catholic Seminary. For more information: upperroomicc@gmail.com.  

RESERVATIONS: Please send form below with retreat payment by April 1, 2018 to Upper Room, PO Box 421, Watervliet, NY 12189. Please make checks to: Upper Room. To book a room for the weekend, please contact hotel for group discount under the name of Upper Room.

Name: ______________________    Phone ______________

Address: __________________________________________

Monday, January 22, 2018

The 11st Brigid of Faughart Festival, 27th January- 4th February 2018, I wish I could be in Ireland for this Celebration of Brigid

When I am in the Drogheda area, I visit Brigid of Faughart's Site! I feel  the embrace of Brigid's spirit of joy and healing there. It is a mystical place! This summer I plan to visit with some friends from the U.S. Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP, www.arcwp.org

Dear Friends  
It is only 
days until the 11th Brigid of Faughart Festival begins.
  We in Brigid of Faughart Festival Team are excited to welcome you to come and be a part of this important festival which has many interesting and educational events.  Our first event on Saturday 27th January is our Pilgrimage Walk to Faughart Shrine where we will gather at Lisnawilly House, Mount Avenue, Dundalk at 9.30am and start at 10am. 
To view or print our Festival Programme please click on http://www.brigidoffaughart.ie/print-programme/.
This unique modern festival celebrates four different, yet interrelated themes exploring Brigid and her legacy as an environmentalist, healer, poet and spiritual teacher.
Festival Events include:
  • Pilgrimage from
    Mount Avenue​
    Dundalk to Faughart
    27th January.
  •  Exploring the Sacred Sites of Faughart Saturday 
    ​27th January.
  • Dr Sharon Blackie author of “If Women Rose Rooted “ lecture and forum exploring the need to reconnect with our native feminine wisdom.
  • Various workshops including Creative Writing, Movement Medicine, Sound Healing, Circle Dance, Gardening, Healthy Food and Be the Change
  • Celebration of Brigid in Song and Prayer with Carmel Boyle, Ann Mc Donald, Dolores Whelan, Fr. Tom Hamill on Lá Fheile Bhride, 1st February, The Oratory, Faughart.
  • Day of Healing, 1st February, 1-8pm, Healing sessions in various modalities available.  
  • Brigid Cross Making with primary school children and adults.
  • The Archaeology of Faughart.
  • ‘The Wooing of the Soul’, a one woman play. 
  • Kate Fitzpatrick, author of “Macha’s Twins”, “Brigid, Culture and Transformation”
  • Stories & Conversations for a Healthy and Resilient Culture facilitated by Davie Phillips.
  • An Evening Weaving Poetry, Music and Song in An Tain Arts Centre.
  • Closing Ritual, Ravensdale Community Centre, 4th February
  • ​Art Exhibition​
    ​  By Una  Curley  Oriel Centre ​  Dundalk

Study asks: Why are young Catholics going, going, gone? Jan 22, 2018 by Julie Bourbon, National Catholic Reporter

20171031T1250-0033-CNS-ENCUENTRO-REGIONAL-VIRGINIA crop.jpg

Young people stand during a daylong regional encuentro Oct. 28, 2017, at Herndon Middle School in Herndon, Virginia. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)
Young people stand during a daylong regional encuentro Oct. 28, 2017, at Herndon Middle School in Herndon, Virginia. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)
BALTIMORE — "A new report on young adults who no longer identify as Catholic is attempting to understand why so many have "disaffiliated" from the faith they were born into. It comes at a time when more young people than ever before are leaving the church, even as those losses are being offset by Hispanic immigration to the U.S. 
Whether it's feelings of being judged by religious leaders who don't know or understand them, or being forced by their parents to attend church, or witnessing the sexual abuse scandal and the hypocrisy of church hierarchy, young people are expressing a desire both to break free from organized religion and to be part of a community.
"Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics" looked at a sample of former Catholics, aged 15 to 25. This group is often characterized as "nones" because they claim no particular religious affiliation. The "Going, Going, Gone" report notes 2015 Pew research on all Americans that puts the number of disaffiliated young millennials (ages 18-24) at 36 percent and disaffiliated older millennials (25-33) at 34 percent.
Highlights from the new survey, which was conducted by St. Mary's Press in collaboration with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, include: 
  • Approximately 12.8 percent of young adults in the U.S. between 18 and 25 are former Catholics.
  • Approximately 6.8 percent of U.S. teenagers between 15 and 17 are former Catholics.
  • Seventy-four percent said they stopped identifying as Catholic between ages 10 and 20, with a median age of 13.
  • About one-third (35 percent) are "done" with religious affiliation but still believe in something bigger, perhaps even God.
  • About 14 percent say religious affiliation and faith are "nonsensical."
  • Nearly half (46 percent) are looking for another faith expression or practice that better aligns with their sense of spirituality.
The report was presented Jan. 16 in Baltimore before an audience of several hundred invited guests. The session included a lively panel discussion with audience participation and was part of a conference billed as "A National Conversation" that also included two days of workshops and discussion among Catholic leaders. 
The study included survey questions and open-ended interviews, with some participants who were asked to tell their stories of disaffiliation. Thus, it went beyond the numbers to dig deeper into the why: Why are young Catholics leaving the faith?
"We weren't interested in the quantification of the question but the qualification of the question," said John Vitek, president and CEO of St. Mary's Press.
Both ecclesial and societal factors were found to negatively impact participation in organized religion, leading the authors to identify three broad categories of former Catholics: the injured (someone who's had negative familial or ecclesial experiences), the drifter (someone with uncertain faith and lack of engagement with a faith community), and the dissenter (someone who actively rejects or resists the church).
The study reported what it called "six common dynamics of disaffiliation," as follows:
  • An event, series of events, or insight triggered a process of questioning or doubt.
  • Cultural secularization led some to see faith and religion as options among many options.
  • Disaffiliation brought a sense of happiness, relief or freedom.
  • Religion was forced on them as children, and they won't do the same to their own children. Religion should be a choice.
  • Living a moral life doesn't require religious belief.
  • Whether a believer or disbeliever, the person might believe if a rational argument could be presented for doing so.
The panelists at the presentation reported that, again and again, what they hear from young people is that a fear of being judged keeps them from joining a church, yet they desire a spiritual connection just the same. 

"The seminary basically taught me how to preach to a white community," said Muth, who is white.
"The focus on people finding community in a society that's increasingly disparate is intense," said Josh Packard, associate professor of sociology at the University of Northern Colorado. "On the one hand, you've got people looking for community. On the other, they feel judged and can never be a part of it."
A rejection of traditional authority figures and of a structure that doesn't allow for questioning or conversation is also driving young people away. Some priests and church leaders get that, the panelists said, and some just don't.
"People are increasingly coming to find community, so everything you're doing is either fostering it or it's not," said Packard. "Is your sermon fostering community or is it not?"
Panelist Fr. Joseph Muth Jr., pastor of St. Matthew Church in Baltimore, agreed.
"Sometimes those two levels of church [institution and people] meet and sometimes they don't," he said, before recounting his own experience of being transferred to a predominantly African-American parish and having to relearn how to be a priest. 
Elizabeth Drescher, an adjunct associate professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University, spoke at one of the sessions the day after the report was presented. She has studied and written about "unaffiliation" and says those trying to understand it typically approach in one of two ways, which she saw during the evening discussion.
It usually comes down to, she told NCR, asking either what's wrong with the unaffiliated — "Are they superficial? Are they narcissistic? Did they have bad parenting?" — or asking, "Why don't they like us?"
The truth, she said, is neither. It's much more complicated. At a time when we live longer lives, and religious identity is not sealed upon us at birth and violently enforced by the authorities, and global culture has been reshaped forever by a digital revolution, traditional Western religious structures no longer fit the bill."

Christina Moreira ARCWP A Program on The Ordination of Women from the Feminist Perspective in Barcelona, Spain, Feb. 5th. See Link for Details


Christina Moreira Vázquez, Presbítera ARCWP/Asociación de Presbíteras Católicas/Association des femmes prêtres catholiques 

"New Survey: Catholic Women Disengaged and Disengaging- and Don't Listen to U.S. Bishops" by Patricia Miller, Religion Dispatches


My Response: Most Catholic Women (65% of Baby -Boomers down to 53% of Millennials) support women deacons.
Until women are officially welcomed as deacons and priests by the Vatican, I believe, this "disengaging" bored attitude will continue! Inclusivity and hospitality should be the hallmark of our church if we are to reflect the face of Christ as extravagant love in our world today!  Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP, www.arcwp.org

..."Nearly five years into Pope Francis papacy, with its great expectations for a revival of Catholicism among the flagging faithful, a new large-scale survey of American Catholic women finds the flock faithful but disengaged from the rituals of the church and eager for a greater female presence in its institutions.
The survey of some 1,500 self-identified Catholic women was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University for America magazine.
The survey found that while 98 percent of American Catholic women say they believe in God in some way, only about one-third (35%) attend mass even fairly regularly, and just under one-third (30%) say they attend confession once a year, which is a significant repudiation of the bedrock obligations of Catholicism by women who call themselves Catholic.
“While Catholic women remain affiliated with the church, they are disengaged and disengaging,” said Rev. Matt Malone, S.J., editor in chief of America, who called the survey a “wake-up call” for the U.S. Catholic leadership.
“We are at a crisis point” in American Catholicism, Notre Dame professor Kathleen Sprows Cummings told America, noting that historically “it’s always been the women who are more engaged” in the church.
And levels of engagement were even lower for women born after Vatican II, with fewer than 20% attending mass once a week. Overall, only 35% of Catholic women said attending mass weekly was very important to their sense of being a Catholic. The most important factors to respondents’ sense of being Catholic was “helping the poor” and “receiving the Eucharist/Holy Communion,” with nearly half (45%) saying both were very important to their sense of being Catholic.
Despite low levels of regular engagement with the obligatory rituals of the church, 82% of the respondents said they never had considered leaving the church. Twelve percent of the women surveyed had considered leaving the church for a time, while six percent had left but returned—most commonly because they had disagreed with the church’s stance on a particular issue, often regarding sexuality and reproductive rights, and the status of women in the church.
Overall, women were fairly satisfied with their level of inclusion in their local churches. A total of 57% said the priests in their parish did a good job of including women in the parish community and half felt women were well-represented on parish councils and in lay ministry positions. However, the survey also showed that women clearly were looking for greater formal inclusion in the ministry of the church. Sixty percent of the women surveyed supported women being ordained permanent deacons, which had been raised as a possibility by Pope Francis, while another 33% weren’t sure; only 7% of women opposed the ordination of women as deacons.
Women of the Baby Boom generation showed the most support for women deacons, with 65% registering approval, while Millennials showed the lowest levels of support, at 53%. And just over 50% of women who attend mass weekly support women deacons.
In another sign that Millennial Catholic women may be trending more conservative then their mothers and grandmothers—possibly because so many more progressive-leaning women have left the church—one-quarter (26%) report using natural family planning as a method of contraception, which is the second-highest rate following women born before the availability of modern contraceptives.
Politically, the women who responded to the survey trended Democratic. Some 60% were either Democratic (41%) or leaned Democratic (18%), while just under one-quarter (24%) were Republican and 14% leaned Republican. Three-quarters of the Catholic women surveyed said they planned to vote in the 2018 mid-term elections, which the survey notes would be equivalent to 18.7 million voters. More Catholic women said they intend to vote for Democrats (55%) than Republicans (37%).
Republican Catholic women were three times more likely than Catholic Democratic women to say that Catholic social teaching would help them decide how to vote, but even then only 20% looked to Catholic social teaching. Not surprisingly, 38% of Republican Catholic women said “protecting life” was very important to their sense of being a Catholic, while for Democratic Catholic women, “helping the poor” was most important, with 52% citing this value. Neither Democratic nor Republican women pay much attention to the statements of the U.S. bishops, with only 7% saying they were helpful in deciding how to vote.
For Democratic women the specific Catholic teaching that was important to them and likely to effect how they voted was on care for the environment, with 47% saying it affected how they voted. For Republican women, the most important teaching that affected how they voted was on abortion, with 51% citing this teaching, making it the single most salient teaching on Catholic voting behavior. The least important issue across the board was the church’s teaching on artificial birth control.
The survey portrays a church in which not only are many of its followers deeply disengaged from the sacramental life of the church, but as divided as American society in general over key social issues. "