Saturday, May 26, 2018

"Ireland Votes to End Abortion Ban in Rebuke to Catholic Church" By Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, New York Times, My Response

My Response: I know that this has been  a heart wrenching decision that divided families in Ireland. It is clear that the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy no longer controls the Irish people with the fear of hell-fires like they did back in the day that my parents grew up there in 20's, and 30's.  

Today, this referendum demonstrates that the majority of the Irish (especially the young) believe that women can be trusted to make the right choices about their reproductive lives and the bottom line is following one's conscience in all moral decisions. I believe we cannot judge another person's situation or choices. 

On one occasion, a young woman came to me in distress -considering an abortion because a sonogram seemed to indicate that the fetus was not developing normally. I listened to her pain and suggested a second opinion before she made her final decision. After this consultation, she decided against the abortion. Several months later she delivered a healthy baby boy. About a year later, she brought her toddler to visit me. She was a happy single Mom, and they were both flourishing!  

Contraception is available over the counter in Ireland, unlike in the United States. The U.S. bishops support restrictions on contraceptives and do not provide contraceptive health care insurance coverage for their employees. In my view the church's policies are a major part of the problem. 
  
A pro-life church must be a pro-woman church, and this is where the institutional church has often failed on a global level to uphold women's rights as human rights. Perhaps, that is one of the lessons that  Ireland's historic referendum brings to the Vatican. 
Of course, this is another reason we need women priests and married priests!  
Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP, #womenpriestsnow, https://arcwp.org






https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/26/world/europe/ireland-abortion-yes.html

DUBLIN — "Ireland voted decisively to repeal one of the world’s more restrictive abortion bans, sweeping aside generations of conservative patriarchy and dealing the latest in a series of stinging rebukes to the Roman Catholic Church.

The surprising landslide, reflected in the results announced on Saturday, cemented the nation’s liberal shift at a time when right-wing populism is on the rise in Europe and the Trump administration is imposing curbs on abortion rights in the United States. In the past three years alone, Ireland has installed a gay man as prime minister and has voted in another referendum to allow same-sex marriage.

But this was a particularly wrenching issue for Irish voters, even for supporters of the measure. And it was not clear until the end that the momentum toward socially liberal policies would be powerful enough to sweep away deeply ingrained opposition to abortion.

“What we have seen today really is a culmination of a quiet revolution that’s been taking place in Ireland for the past 10 or 20 years,” Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said at a counting center in Dublin before the results of Friday’s vote were released, giving an early indication of the final outcome. 
“This has been a great exercise in democracy,” Mr. Varadkar said, “and the people have spoken and the people have said: We want a modern constitution for a modern country, and that we trust women and that we respect them to make the right decisions and the right choices about their own health care.”

The “yes” camp took more than 66 percent of the vote, according to the official tally, and turnout was about 64 percent







A mural in Dublin of Savita Halappanavar, who died in 2012 of complications from a miscarriage after a hospital rejected a request for an abortion.CreditBarry Cronin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


“Today is a sad day for Ireland and for people who believe in genuine human rights,” the deputy chairwoman of one of Ireland’s biggest anti-abortion groups, Cora Sherlock, said in a Twitter message. “The struggle to defend the most vulnerable has not ended today, it’s just changed.”

The vote repeals the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution — a 1983 measure that conferred equal rights on the fetus and the mother and banned abortion under almost all circumstances. Before the referendum, the government had pledged to pass legislation by the end of the year to allow unrestricted terminations up to 12 weeks if the amendment was set aside."

Homily by UU Minister (retired) on Bishop Michael Curry's Homily at Royal Wedding


  
"Bishop Michael Curry, on the occasion of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, opened his homily with an invocation to a "loving and liberating God." 

Consider that theological assertion, and then consider the history of his people, and finally, consider the audience he was addressing. He is the descendent of enslaved Africans. The ancestors of his audience, which included the British Royal Family and assorted other aristocrats, were the perpetrators and perpetuators and profiteers of the Atlantic slave trade. In their house, and to their faces, set as is their custom, into bland non-committal, Bishop Curry told them that God was all about liberation. 

Bishop Curry was there in the role of spiritual teacher, the one with spiritual authority. Given the protocols of Christian worship, Bishop Curry had the authority to speak as long as he needed, without interruption, and without rebuttal. All his congregants could do was roll their eyes, or grimace, or, as Prince Harry did, give an odd half-smile, as though he was aware both of his bride's frank and undivided attention to the Bishop, and his family and friends' discomfort. 

Bishop Curry was there because somewhere back in time, the enslaved Africans were converted to Christianity by the enslavers. It was an unlikely event with an unlikely consequence. 

At the time, Christianity was the glue that held the world together. It was the religion that undergirded European political and economic power. It was the ideology that authorized the conquest of the New World and the genocide of its peoples. It was the religion that justified the kidnapping, enslavement and ruthless exploitation of the people from Africa. 

Christianity was the user manual for the operating system of the world. It was the religion of humanity's highest strata. 

But then, Christianity fell into the hands of humanity's lowest: the people who were considered disposable commodities, mere property, tools by the economic, social, and political systems of this world. 

The conversion of the enslaved Africans set off a slow-motion explosion that still sounds along the ages.  

The Africans turned the Christianity they were taught upside down, backward, and on the back of the beat. They turned it from the sanctification of the earthly powers over them to a source of their own spiritual power to resist their oppression and exploitation.

Out of the elements of the old Christianity of Constantine, the Africans created a new, and truer, Christianity. From the user manual for the operating system of the world, they created a guide to hack, and subvert, and overthrow "the powers and principalities." 

If one is inclined to think in terms of humanity's salvation story, it was a turning point, as significant as the parting of the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh's Army, or the resurrection of the Christ to expose the rotting roots of Roman power. The conversion of the enslaved people set off a slow-motion explosion that will someday end the supremacy of the white European Empire over all of Creation. Surely, it was a work of God, the loving and liberating God whom Bishop Curry praised. 

So, let's grab a screen shot of the scene yesterday, one frame in God's epic movie of salvation and the reconciliation of humanity to God's self and to each other. It is the stuff of fairy tales, as every commentator commented. So let us name the fairy tale, and tell the whole story. 

An errant, somewhat rebellious prince, the younger brother, has traveled the world and met his bride, Meghan Markle, an accomplished actress and a strong, spirited, and independent woman. They fall in love and are to be married in the castle of the Prince's family, with the Queen and all her court looking on. And in the middle of this glittering ceremony, a holy man rises to speak. His message is delivered with loving grace. But just by presence, the fact that he was chosen to re-present the Gospel of Jesus to that congregation, conveyed that  all of this (the castle, the chapel, the glitter, the hats and dresses, the cars and carriages),  all of this was built by a power that is spent, and  all of this is doomed to fall, to be replaced by the power of love, the kind of love embodied that day by the love of the prince and his bride for each other, an expansive, inclusive, adventurous, and liberating love. 

And then, the choir sang like angels. 

It is the stuff of fairy tales, the revelation of ancient curses, the naming of the inexorable movements of human history, the parting of the dreary veil of the present to reveal a more brilliant future. In other words, it was a wedding; and it was church. "

 

Olga Lucia Alvarez Benjumea ARCWP

Catholics for the Right to Decide in Colombia created this depiction of Olga Lucia Alvarez Benjumen ARCWP

Homily for Trinity Sunday by Linda Hogan, Catholic Women Preach, May 27, 2018

Linda Hogan

http://www.catholicwomenpreach.org/preaching/05272018

"Today the Catholic church celebrates Trinity Sunday. 
It is an expression of faith in the doctrine of the Trinity, that great feat of philosophical creativity, fused with Christian hope.  Indeed, the development of the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the many examples, in the early Christian tradition, of intercultural exchange and adaptation – because the questions with which the second and third century Christians were grappling found their settled answers through the philosophical and theological categories of the Graeco-Roman world. 
Interestingly the gospel for Trinity Sunday recounts the great commission of Jesus to the 11 disciples, thus suggesting another context in which we might think about the importance of inter-religious and inter-cultural exchange.  Matthew writes that the 11 went to Galilee, to the mountains, where Jesus commissioned them to ‘go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’.  Now, throughout its history the church has responded to this commission in different ways, sometimes, it must be admitted, with detrimental effects.  However, the ecumenical and inter-religious understanding that has framed more recent practice, and that connects with the gospel values of justice, dignity and respect, suggests a new way of going into all the world. 
So, what might this commission entail today? In thinking about this question, I would like to focus on two different, but inter-related dimensions.  In the first instance, going out to all the world entails being involved in the urgent task of protecting human dignity and promoting human flourishing.  That there is a need for such a task is self-evident.  According to the most recent Human Development Report  almost 800 million people, 400 million of them children, continue to live in extreme poverty. Yet, at the same time one-third of the world’s food is wasted every year.  There is, of course disagreement about the policies that will best promote human flourishing and help us address this scandal.  However, notwithstanding these differences it is important that this work continue.  Moreover, the church has a key role to play in animating and structuring this conversation, and in being part of a coalition of actors who are committed to ending extreme poverty across the globe in this generation.
The second aspect, relates to the importance of religious pluralism and the challenges it poses for the church and for political institutions world-wide. It is true that pluralism has long been a feature of political life, however it has acquired a heightened significance today.  Indeed, we seem to be living in an environment in which the politics of fear is gaining ground and in which a new intolerance has gained traction in previously tolerant and democratic societies.  Engaging this pluralism and promoting religious tolerance and inter-religious co-operation is important dimension of the church’s agenda, as it goes into all the world, and as it seeks to promote gospel values through social institutions that foster human dignity and human flourishing.
So what will this entail for the church? Can it be the promoter of the kinds of a multi-religious, cross-cultural conversations that are so necessary today? What will it take to create the spaces in which such dialogue can take place?
These are challenging questions, questions to which the church has not always had an ethical response.  So as the church engages with this pluralism it will be important that it do so from a position of respect for the integrity and the value of the different religious and moral traditions.  It is inevitable that people motivated by different theological and philosophical world-views will hold diverse views on values by which individuals ought to live their lives and on the nature of the institutions that best protect human dignity.  And this is the context in which the church must find a way, not only to speak, but also to facilitate and enable an inclusive conversation about human dignity and flourishing. 
We desperately need a multi-religious, cross-cultural, ethical conversation about how to live a moral life today.  Indeed, we need multiple, local, national and global conversations of this kind, and I wish to suggest that at least part of the church’s agenda as it continues to go out ‘into all the world and make disciples of all nations’ ought to be focused on being a champion for and enabler of such conversations.  Of course, it would be naïve to assume that such conversations will generate full agreement on how best to secure human dignity.  Yet, notwithstanding its limitations, an ethical conversation of this kind is vital for human flourishing, and is a crucial dimension of enacting this commission. "

Video: "New Ideas on Faith and Contemporary Science" Sister Joan Chittister OSB

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=575V-CgiVOE

Sister Joan Chittister talks about new ideas in faith and contemporary science that are challenging the traditional hierarchical view of women's place and role in society. She is a Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pennsylvania; an author of over forty-five books; and a founding member of The Global Peace Initiative of Women, a partner organization of the UN. TEDxWomen was curated and produced by The Paley Center for Media. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

A Funny Story!


 

Sitting by the window of her convent, Sister Barbara opened a letter from home one evening.
Inside the letter was a $100 bill her parents had sent. Sister Barbara smiled at the gesture.

As she read the letter by the window, she noticed a shabbily dressed stranger leaning against the lamp post below.
Quickly, she wrote, "Don't despair. - Sister Barbara," on a piece of paper, wrapped the $100 bill in it, got the man's attention and tossed it out the window to him.

The stranger picked it up, and with a puzzled expression and a tip of his hat, went off down the street.
The next day, Sister Barbara was told that a man was at her door, insisting on seeing her. She went down, and found the stranger waiting. Without a word, he handed her a huge wad of $100 bills.

"What's this?" she asked.

"That's the $8,000 you have coming Sister," he replied.

"Don't Despair paid 80-to-1."

Friday, May 25, 2018

"Ireland’s own 5th-century female bishop: Brigid of Kildare" by Maeve Callan, Irish Times

Diarmaid MacMurrough is infamous for initiating Ireland’s invasion but he also abducted and raped Brigid’s successor

St Brigid: “was referred to as a bishop not out of courtesy or metaphorically. She was really ordained.”. Image: Cuala Press
St Brigid: “was referred to as a bishop not out of courtesy or metaphorically. She was really ordained.”. Image: Cuala Press
In March, Mary McAleese, the former President of Ireland and a devout Catholic, declared the Catholic Church “an empire of misogyny” that has “kept Christ out and bigotry in”, and denounced women’s exclusion from the priesthood as “pure codology”. Of those polled by Amarách Research, 78 per cent agreed with her sentiments. Similarly, surveys show strong support for female ordination among Catholics in various countries, including Ireland.

No wonder, then, that Channel 4’s Jesus’ Female Disciples’s recent announcement of the discovery of Cerula, a late fifth- or early sixth-century female bishop in Naples, caused excitement. Many claimed it would rewrite our understanding of Christian history. Several articles noted that Cerula was unlikely to have been the only female bishop of her day, but didn’t mention that Ireland also had a female bishop at that time, Brigid of Kildare (d.524).

Some sources deem Brigid’s ordination accidental. Mél, the presiding bishop, was literally drunk in one version, “intoxicated with the grace of God” in another. Yet a bishop Brigid remained, according to multiple medieval accounts.
A third text voices patriarchal objections through Mél’s assistant, MacCaille, who insists “a bishop’s order should not be conferred on a woman”. Mél replies, “No power have I in this matter. That dignity has been given by God to Brigid, beyond every (other) woman.” Thus Mél serves merely as God’s instrument, lessening his blame, but strengthening the ordination’s divine origin: Brigid was a bishop because God himself ordained it, and her.

Increasing the story’s significance, these texts all use Brigid’s ordination to explain how Kildare’s abbesses came to hold episcopal rank for centuries. Brigid’s historicity can be elusive, with some claiming she never existed but was a pagan goddess repackaged as a Christian saint. These accounts show an actual succession of women, and not only one semi-mythical saint, with episcopal status – that is, until the Synod of Kells-Mellifont ended the practice in 1152.

Darlugdach, Brigid’s closest disciple, became Kildare’s second abbess, and thus the first to share Brigid’s status as bishop. According to Brigid’s biography, a love affair briefly sidetracked Darlugdach, who atoned for her lapse by wearing fiery clogs. Her sexual indiscretion was otherwise forgotten, but sex was weaponised against Brigid’s second-to-last such successor, Mór, by Diarmaid MacMurrough, King of Leinster. Diarmaid’s greatest infamy is generally regarded as initiating Ireland’s invasion, after being ousted from Ireland by rival kings in 1166 and allying with Normans like Richard de Clare, better known as Strongbow. Yet Diarmaid was a man of many atrocities.

In what has been likened to his crech ríg, or raid inaugurating an Irish king’s rule, Diarmaid began his reign in 1132 with Mór’s abduction and rape, replacing her as abbess of Kildare with his niece Sadb. Sadb held the office until her death in 1171; thus she was the abbess who saw her status demoted in 1152. That same year her uncle abducted Derbforgaill, another king’s wife, which is often claimed as the cause of Diarmaid’s exile and thus Ireland’s invasion nearly two decades later. Derbforgaill’s abduction perhaps reminded Sadb of her own path to power and her vulnerability when men like her uncle ruled.

Diarmaid took his revenge upon those who ousted him, but neither he nor his chosen successor lived long enough to enjoy it. Diarmaid died in 1171 and Strongbow five years later, both said to be brought down by saints’ curses, including Brigid’s, whom, the Annals of the Four Masters reports, Strongbow saw killing him.

Strongbow’s supposed beliefs often get scorned as superstition and Brigid’s episcopal ordination hasn’t fared much better. Yet examples such as Cerula’s suggest female bishops may have been more common than previously thought. Perhaps Brigid actually ruled as an ordained bishop, a status that eventually became honorary for her sister successors, until even the honorifics were abruptly ended at the insistence of an Italian representing the pope at the Synod of Kells-Mellifont. Such synods were part of larger church reform throughout western Christendom, demanding greater conformity and insisting ordination ought to be exclusively male.

Prior to this reform women were ordained to various offices, with some recognized as presbytera and episcopa, the female forms of priest and bishop. What such titles specifically signified remains unknown, but the Brigidine sources are comparatively clear. According to Prof Gary Macy, author of The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination: Female Clergy in the Medieval West, Brigid “was referred to as a bishop not out of courtesy or metaphorically. She was really ordained.” Moreover, the texts that proclaim her episcopal status extended it to all abbesses of Kildare, ultimately ending with Sadb in 1152.

Contrary to common assumption, medieval history is not monolithic. Multiple medieval Irish texts celebrate female agency and authority, the power of female saints, and the strength of bonds between religious men and women and especially among sisters. By the 12th century, however, as Mór’s rape and Sadb’s demotion demonstrate, female religious authority experienced relentless opposition, and Ireland wouldn’t see another female bishop until 2013. Fittingly, this bishop, Patricia Storey, is Brigid’s heir, Bishop of Meath and Kildare.

Bishop Storey is of course Protestant, the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion in the British Isles, followed by Libby Lane, Bishop of Stockport, in 2015. The Church of England now has 13 female bishops, while the Church of Ireland holds at its one – one more than the Roman Catholic Church is likely to ever officially recognise. Despite all that has changed between then and now, Catholic women remain largely where the 12th-century reform left them, denied access to ordination. In 2016, Pope Francis pronounced the door to the priesthood perpetually shut to women, citing his papal predecessors.

Catholics generally prefer a more progressive approach to gender issues than what the all-male celibate hierarchy allows and some, such as  President McAleese, are tired of waiting for the Magisterium to catch up. Yet, as multiple texts attest, such approaches are less a radical innovation than a return to certain medieval Irish Catholic roots.
Maeve Callan, associate professor of religion at Simpson College in Iowa, is the author of The Templars, the Witch, and the Wild Irish: Vengeance and Heresy in Medieval Ireland, published by Cornell University Press and Four Courts Press. She is working on a book on gender, sanctity and power in medieval Ireland

"Film follows woman's breakthrough church role"

https://dailygazette.com/article/2018/05/23/film-follows-woman-s-breakthrough-church-role


Small towns don’t necessarily have small stories.
More than two decades ago, Sister Mary Lou Liptak became parish life director at St. Lucy/St. Bernadette Church in Altamont. She was one of the first to take the position after it was created by the Albany Diocese.

A woman in a leadership position didn't sit well with everyone who attended the church. But it made for a really unique situation.
“It’s a pretty revolutionary story when looking at the Catholic Church,” said Nick Viscio, a filmmaker from Altamont.

It’s also a story that Viscio and his wife, Marie, have been working to tell for the past few years. Finally, on Friday, they’ll be showing the fruits of their labor with a screening of “A Calling” at Proctors.

The film follows the story not only of Sister Liptak, but of the changing views on women and their role in the church. It’s told through interviews with Liptak and members of the church.

“I’m blown away that people are shocked that we have a woman who is a spiritual leader,” Borden said. It’s important to have a good faith leader regardless of whether or not they are male or female, said Borden.
That ideal doesn’t necessarily reflect the Vatican's policies. Yet Viscio said the film is in no way an anti-Vatican policy film.

“It’s counter-image to how the world views the Catholic Church. It’s not as dug in [as people think]. These changes are happening,” Viscio said.
Although Pope Francis has said time and again that women will never be allowed to be priests, he has also said he would like to see women’s roles in the church expanded. But many say the sentiment has remained just that: a sentiment, a hope without a plan.
Having Sister Liptak as parish life director has changed the attitudes of many in the church.
At first “It didn’t sit well with everybody,” Viscio said. But as time passed, that feeling seemed to dissipate, and most came to see her leadership as just that: faith leadership.
“It’s all my daughter has known,” Borden said.
Her daughter, who is now in her teens, grew up with a female faith leader, which Borden said is unique for a small-town Catholic church.

The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) Sent a Letter to Cardinal Tobin and the USCCB to Ask for a Major Overhaul of Their Programs for Priestly Formation, Future Church Supports this Campaign and Asks Catholics to Contact Cardinal Tobin and Committee to Express Concerns

o
My Response: I highly recommend reading the entire article on priestly formation and the reforms recommended as a step forward toward a more pastoral, non-clerical priestly ministry in the institutional church. 
The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests focuses on our oneness with the community of the baptized. We are non-clerical, egalitarian justice seekers creating a new paradigm of mutual partnership in ministry. We  welcome all, as spiritual equals, who gather with us  in our inclusive, grassroots communities to celebrate sacraments. Our preparation program is custom designed for a renewed priestly ministry in a community of equals. Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP, https://arcwp.org, https://pcseminary.org

https://www.futurechurch.org/press-releases/futurechurch-supports-auscp-effort-to-reform-priestly-formation-program-urges




In January 2018, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests issued a letter to Cardinal Joseph Tobin and the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations urging them to reform the current program for seminary formation.
They wrote, “a new Program of Priestly Formation needs more than minimal editing….It needs in-depth revision.”
The AUSCP recommended review of five major areas.  Chief among them is the inadequate formation of candidates in Vatican II’s pastoral vision and values. 
According to the AUSCP, “the implementation of the program of priestly formation has resulted in many priests in the last several generations of priests who see Vatican II as little more than an historical footnote rather than the guiding vision for our Church in the modern world.”
Further, AUSCP is concerned that some recently ordained clergy “see Vatican II as a distortive moment in the Church’s pilgrimage through time,” believing they must correct the “damage done” by Vatican II’s implementation.
AUSCP argues that the current program for forming priests is no longer effective in light of today’s demands for the Gospel.  The dramatic rise of the “nones”, the alienation of Catholics, and the paucity of persons drawn to the priesthood all argue for a “formation program that is pastoral in the spirit of Vatican II” and one that is effective for our times.  In devising a new program, the AUSCP calls on the Committee to “consult deeply and broadly with laity who are affected by the priests our seminaries educate… and whose input essential.”
FutureChurch shares AUSCP’s concern about the state of priestly formation and supports these efforts for reform.  In February 2015, the Center for Applied Research reported that younger cohorts of priests are increasingly less inclined to welcome lay men and women as co-workers than their Vatican II counterparts.  It is clear that current formation programs do not prepare priests for a church where women and laity have a growing role in the life, ministry, and governance of the Church - a troubling trend that does not bode well for the future life of the Church and the Gospel mission.
FutureChurch urges all Catholics to share their concerns about current priestly formation standards with Cardinal Tobin and the members of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.
WRITE YOUR OWN LETTER OF CONCERN
Share your concerns about priestly formation to Cardinal Tobin.  
DOWNLOAD A TEMPLATE LETTER and ADD YOUR OWN CONCERNS AND EXPERIENCES.
Print and mail your letter to:
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.SS.R.
ATTN: Rev. Ralph O’Donnell
USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations
3211 Fourth Street N.E.
Washington D.C.  20017
Resources
reform-priestly-formation-program-urgeswww.futurechurch.org/press-releass/futurechurchttp://www.uscatholicpriests.org/priestly-formation-1

CONCLUSION of Association of U.S. Catholic Priests Recommendations for Reform of Seminary Formation Programs: 
Our observations, concerns, and recommendations regarding the above five key facets of formation for priesthood in the Catholic Church in the United States persuade us that the next edition of the Program of Priestly Formation requires significant revision of the current model of “seminary” formation. The current seminary model was established nearly 500 years ago. Times have changed, and continue to change at an ever-faster pace. We are convinced that the what, whither, and how of priestly formation need to be reconceived.

Forming missionary disciple priests who can effectively provide the desired “new evangelization” needed to build a “civilization of love” requires priests adequately prepared to serve today’s people in the United States. They are living in a secular culture that offers an abundance of religious and spiritual options. The dramatic rise of “nones” among us, the disaffiliation of huge numbers of our own “baptized and raised Catholic” people, and the continuing paucity of persons drawn to service as priests—all these factors and others argue that the current model for the formation of priests is no longer effectively serving God’s People in our country. We need a formation program that is pastoral in the spirit of Vatican II to meet the needs of our time and place. We pray that our bishops will exercise the charism of their office to achieve these goals.

SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE ON HIGH SCHOOL SEMINARIES
We observe that almost all high school seminaries have closed. By the end of the 1970s high school seminary administrators considered a success rate to be 10% of incoming freshmen graduating as seniors four years later and continuing into a college seminary. Eventually they realized that most ordained me had not attended a high school seminary at all.
We think that it is not supportable for a person who has recently attained puberty to start on a formation track aiming toward a celibate profession. Indeed it may be contradictory to healthy psychosexual development. We recommend that any resources spent on high school seminaries be channeled toward diocesan and other Catholic high school systems in order to present all church ministries as a credible career choice and vocation. We recommend that the new edition of the Program of Priestly Formation not even mention or make reference to high school seminaries.

ENDNOTES

[1] In effect, the pastoral dimension becomes the application to real life of abstract theological statements, biblical texts, and canon law. The current Program of Priestly Formation is overly focused on spiritual, philosophical and theological abstractions rather than on facilitating candidates’ experience of living pastoral service faithfully. The current Program also seems to ignore literature, art, music, and science, which can expand horizons, as they relate to pastoral service. Candidates need to expand their horizon to embrace all of humanity.
[2] Vatican II was intentional in putting “ministry” in front of “life” in the title of its document on Priestly Ministry and Life (Presbyterorum ordinis). Our current edition of the Program of Priestly Formation overly emphasizes intellectual and, even more narrowly, academic formation. The program is filled with class hours and hours connected to study for those classes. The very outline of the year is typically academic, e.g. two semesters (or several quarters), the usual academic year vacations and time off during semesters, a long summer vacation, and so on. The shape is academic, not pastoral as in what goes on in a parish. Likewise, the focus is on getting academic degrees (according to the standards of the Association of Theological Schools and the various regional accrediting agencies), e.g. M.Div., M.A., and now even S.T.B., S.T.L.) These academic accrediting agencies utilize faculty from similar institutions for accrediting review and renewal. In effect candidates for priesthood are being trained to be theologians rather than “pastors.” Likewise, a life in pastoral service bears little or no resemblance to the academic year either in terms of content or rhythm. If a formation program focused on a pastoral orientation it would also call up lay people from ministerial settings to be part of a review of a program.
[3] PPF5 notes that various “visitations” of U.S. seminaries in 1986, 1988, 1990, and 1995 “played an important role in shaping the fourth edition… and entered into the fifth edition” of the PPF and are seen as “a basis for future visitations.” Such past visitations make it important that the attitude of this new edition should be different—realistic, but positive and visionary, pastoral, servant-oriented, non-clerical, and most importantly, reflective of Vatican II. More attention needs to be given to how to implement PPF5 #26’s call for greater emphasis on the radicalism of the gospel at work in [the candidates’] lives.” Such witness needs to be pastoral in terms of focus, dispositions, and work. (Cf. Optatam Totius ##19-21)
[4] Many theologates in the United States currently provide a pastoral year midway between a four-year theological program. This not what is recommended by Ratio Fundamentalis (2016). The latter puts a full-year of pastoral formation at the end of (four-to-six years of) theological preparation as the appropriate time to apply what has been learned. It should also be noted that the Ratio Fundamentalis (2016) restricts the time allotted to any pastoral ministry during the previous academic years so that it doesn’t interfere with academic and spiritual formation. It is our opinion that, if our next edition of the Program of Priestly Formation follows this approach, it will diminish even more shaping candidates pastorally.
[5] Both the Ratio Fundamentalis (2016) and the Program of Priestly Formation (5th edition) seem to misunderstand the relationship between pastoral and theological. We encourage that the new edition would incorporate an understanding of these issues so as to foster a truly pastoral approach to priestly formation. Pastoral deals with being (a disciple), living (the gospel beatitudes), and doing (what is right and good, loving and holy). It deals with personal (individual and communal) and concrete experience in the real world. It also deals with the ministries (by whom, how, when, where, and why) that support, foster, and celebrate the mystery of living out of the Divine revealed by Jesus Christ. On the other hand, theological refers to a second order discipline that defines, orders and relates/connects the meanings of different personal and concrete experiences of faith by means of various abstractions drawn from appropriate patterns of intelligibility, systematically and/or historically. It functions in an abstract, conceptual and impersonal world. In this sense, the Jesus of the gospels is not a theologian. Likewise, one does not need to be a theologian to live the Christian life. Likewise, one does not need to be a theologian to engage in pastoral service, to be a priest. To engage in genuine and fruitful pastoral service as a priest one needs to be a person of deep experience of being, living, and doing in the faith of Jesus Christ, to be a person who readily recognizes the legitimate diversity in the ways of being, living, and doing, and to be a person who has learned how to communicate and elicit these gifts with and from others.
[6] Each diocese needs to prepare an outline of formation opportunities, appropriate to its own situation, that will involve all priests over the long term. There is no end to ongoing formation. We recommend that two weeks a year should be required. Likewise, priests of different ages need to gather together in these ongoing formational and educational opportunities. Attention needs to be given to utilizing DVDs and internet opportunities (e.g. having a speaker in one city meet with a group of priests in another by utilizing Zoom or other ways).
[7] In this context the current PPF5 places unrealistic expectations and responsibility on seminary administration to alone adequately assist candidates in discerning the psychosexual maturity and readiness for a life-long celibate life. 

My Letter to Editor Published in Sarasota Herald Tribune Today

The Trump administration policy of separating children from their parents who seek asylum in the United States is a human rights violation that contradicts our nation’s welcoming history toward immigrants from many nations.
Emma Lazarus’ poem reflects our spirit: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
In a joint complaint, several immigrant-rights organizations reported that during this separation it can be difficult for parents to learn where their children are and even more difficult to communicate with them.
A New York Times article documented “around 700 cases of family separation since October 2017, HHS admitted it had lost track of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied minors who were placed in foster care; several of those minors were discovered being trafficked.”
It is a tragedy that traumatized, desperate families fleeing violence and death threats in their countries are being separated from their children.
We the people of this country need to push our representatives to pass immigration reform legislation and fix this mess, as well as lobby our leaders to reach out to the countries from where people are fleeing drug violence with supportive policies that address the root issues.
Our words and actions can lead to more just and compassionate immigration policies so we can live up to Lady Liberty’s message.
Bridget Mary Meehan, Sarasota

Vikki Marie Shares her Story in "Catholic Women Called"

Vikki Marie reminds us in her "Catholic Women Called" video, that it is not easy to pursue this path, but ultimately, it is a path that leads one to serving the People of God, especially those who feel left behind by the institutional Church. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

"Pope tells bishops not to accept gay seminarians"

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pope-homosexuality/pope-tells-bishops-not-to-accept-gay-seminarians-report-idUSKCN1IP36J

My response: If this report is accurate and I hope it is not, Pope Francis is conveying an inconsistent message. I am deeply disappointed by his rejection of gay seminarians. What a slap in the face to the thousands of gay priests and bishops who have served the people of God lovingly and faithfully over many years. Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP, #womenpriestsnow



“Keep an eye on the admissions to seminaries, keep your eyes open,” the pope was quoted as saying by newspaper La Stampa’s Vatican Insider service. “If in doubt, better not let them enter.”
The Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on the remarks, which Vatican Insider and Il Messaggero said were made at a closed-door gathering on Monday.
Francis’s meeting with Italian bishops came just a day after a Chilean man who suffered clerical sexual abuse quoted the pope as telling him in a private conversation that God had made him gay and loved him that way...
But it said practicing homosexuals and those with “deep-seated” gay tendencies and those who support a gay culture should be barred.
The reported comments to the bishops might appease conservatives who have grown alarmed at the way Francis has dramatically shifted the language the Church has used about homosexuality since his election in 2013.
“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” the pope said on his first overseas trip in 2013. In 2016, he said he had ministered to people with unfulfilled homosexual tendencies as well as homosexuals who were not able to remain chaste, as the Church asks them to.
“When a person arrives before Jesus, Jesus certainly will not say: ‘Go away because you are homosexual’,” he said.
Pope Benedict wrote in 2005 that homosexuality was “a strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil”.

"The (Holy) Ghost in the Machine: Catholic thinkers tackle the ethics of artificial intelligence" by Jack Jenkins, See Sister Ilia Delio's View



https://religionnews.com/2018/05/22/the-holy-ghost-in-the-machine-catholic-thinkers-tackle-the-ethics-of-artificial-intelligence/
Many faith groups are grappling with the ethics of artifical intelligence. Image courtesy of Pixabay/Creative Commons


(RNS) — "At first glance, Pope Francis’ January message to a cadre of business and political leaders gathered at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, appeared largely focused on the plight of the poor — a hallmark of his papacy.

But it also contained a reference to an unusual topic for a pontiff: artificial intelligence.

“Artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological innovations must be so employed that they contribute to the service of humanity and to the protection of our common home, rather than to the contrary, as some assessments unfortunately foresee,” wrote Francis.

The pope’s message in Davos was one of a spate of recent Catholic discussions of a technology that is rapidly making its way into our everyday lives, in virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, the phones in our pockets and, soon enough, in self-driving cars.


Like Francis’ message in Davos, most have focused on the potential ethical and theological questions posed by the rise of AI, and Catholicism’s proper role in answering them.

In a conversation in Rome facilitated by the Vatican last year, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, reportedly weighed whether or not the phrase “artificial intelligence” is an oxymoron and criticized AI scientists’ use of the term “electronic person.” That came on the heels of a July 2017 roundtable on the topic at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, Calif., where speakers from business and technology mixed with academics and theologians.

“The church … has always understood that technology is judged by morality,” the Rev. Eric Salobir, an organizer of the forum, said at the time.

In April, at Santa Clara University, a Jesuit college in California’s Bay Area, University of Notre Dame professor Mark Graves delivered the dean’s lecture on “Robots Reading Theology: AI, Cultural Analytics and Machine Ethics,” citing Thomas Aquinas to describe a form of “machine ethics” that would apply to AI.


Sister Ilia Delio. Photo courtesy of Ilia Delio

Some observers are concerned Catholic theology hasn’t caught up with modern advancements to participate productively in the AI debate. “Pope Francis is absolutely right in raising the bar of our attention to technology,” said Sister Ilia Delio, a Catholic nun and head of the science-and-theology focused Omega Center. But first, she said, the church has to adapt its theology “to meet the needs of a world in evolution.”

“The difficulty with the church is that technology, like everything else, runs on the principles of evolution,” she said. “Evolution runs on the principle of greater complexification, and that’s where the church is resistant.”

Catholicism is hardly the only faith group grappling with the burgeoning conversation about tech, AI and ethics. Jewish and Muslim thinkers are sorting through these subjects as well, and recently a group of primarily Protestant computer scientists published a series tackling the “questions for Christians about AI and its role in society.” Representatives from several Christian traditions also participated in a fall 2017 AI-focused conference sponsored by the Pacific Coast Theological Society.

Not all of these groups agree on what AI means. Artificial intelligence is a broad term used to describe everything from machine learning, such as product recommendations on Amazon.com, to “strong AI,” or efforts to build devices with the intellectual ability equal to a human’s.






“When we talk about AI, we don’t always mean the same thing,” said Levi Checketts, adjunct professor of religious studies and philosophy at Holy Names University in Berkeley, whose doctoral dissertation focused on applying Catholic moral theology to new technologies.

The moral quandaries AI presents are rapidly becoming real-world issues: It was revealed earlier this year that Google is assisting the U.S. military by using machine learning to analyze drone footage, prompting a rash of resignations by Google employees who oppose the project on ethical grounds.


A fully armed MQ-9 Reaper drone taxis down an Afghanistan runway Nov. 4, 2007. Photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson/U.S. Air Force/Creative Commons

“There’s a very strong moral question about whether (AI-assisted weapon systems) can be used to wage a just war,” Checketts said. “Should a machine be making decisions on the battlefield for human beings? Will a machine be able to follow the responsibilities of just-war theory?”

In other words, the issues posed by technology vary wildly depending on how humans deploy it. Seventy years ago, Catholic theologians had to re-evaluate the just-war concept after nuclear weapons were developed, and Checketts said AI could force a similar re-examination of Catholic principles about violence.

A more quotidian area of concern is Catholic social teaching and theological understandings of work. The self-driving car is just one emerging technology that could cost people jobs. “Labor itself is seen as an important part of human dignity,” Checketts said. “Not just ‘Are people starving?’ but ‘Do people have the ability to work for a living, to meaningfully engage with the world?’”


Meanwhile, as we get closer to producing machines that mimic a brain, profound questions remain: Can a robot be considered a person, spiritually speaking?

The question has already been broached to some degree by the Rev. Christopher Benek, a Presbyterian pastor in Florida who has garnered attention for arguing that AI could come to know God.

“I don’t see Christ’s redemption limited to human beings,” Benek told the tech blog Gizmodo in 2015. “If AI is autonomous, then we should encourage it to participate in Christ’s redemptive purposes in the world.”

Many Catholics, however, are less than enthused by the idea of redeeming robots.

David Chiang, an associate professor of computer science and engineering at Notre Dame who uses machine learning to develop natural language processing technologies, said he was largely unconcerned by the issue. He cited IBM’s chess-playing robot Deep Blue to illustrate how most AI programs — while impressive in terms of results — utilize “brute force” methods as opposed to more sophisticated processes used by the human brain.

He remains skeptical as to whether “strong AI” will ever truly rival a living person.

“As a Catholic I don’t believe that so-called artificial intelligence will ever be intelligent,” Chiang said, although he acknowledged, “It’s really an article of faith for me (rather) than a well-worked-out philosophical position.”


Levi Checketts. Photo by Jiyoung Ko

“There are enormous questions about natural law for AI,” Checketts said, noting that Aquinas and other classical Christian thinkers have put intelligence at the center of personhood. “Can AI be baptized? That really, really complicates common theology.”

Delio, who teaches theology at Villanova University outside Philadelphia, said that in order to answer such questions, “we would need to understand who God is in a complex world.”

“What is the meaning of salvation and redemption in an unfinished universe?” she added. “That’s what technology builds on — an unfinished universe that we help finish. Catholicism has a closed universe. It’s a closed system.”

As for robot persons, Delio is dubious.

“The key issue here is one of freedom,” she said. “And that, I think, only belongs to organic biological human personhood. To be called into a relationship and to respond to that relationship is still … unique to the human person as an image of God.”

Delio thinks the church needs to take a broader approach, including people from different faiths and those of no faith to engage with the questions surrounding AI.

“I think there needs to be not just government regulations, but a type of interdisciplinary forum that has philosophers, theologians, computer programmers and technologists all in conversation about what types of technologies do we want and should be developing for the future,” she said.

Checketts and other Catholic thinkers aren’t waiting. For him, the sheer size, influence and global reach of the Catholic Church, combined with the popularity of Pope Francis, position it to play an outsized role in shaping future conversations about AI. He cited the pope’s efforts to highlight the importance of addressing climate change as a model.

“The Catholic Church should also be engaged in discussions with tech people, be engaged with discussions with governments … and in that way, using its size, using its influence, it has the possibility to, hopefully, help direct change in a good and strong way.”