All of you are the children of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus, since every one of you that has been baptized has been clothed in Christ. There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor free, there can be neither male nor female -- for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26-28 

News

In view of giving visibility and voice to the laity in the Catholic Church, CCRI has declared today as the beginning of a worldwide celebration of the Year of the Laity. This will go from the Feast of Christ the King, November 26, 2017, to this same feast, November 25, 2018. During this year, we envision the People of God taking on a decisive and influential voice in the governance of their Church. This will never come by a decree of the hierarchy but only by the People assuming this responsibility. Once accustomed to this new role, it is our hope that lay people, by virtue of their baptism, will recognize their responsibility to heed the signs of the times and continue to lead the Church in the direction intended by Jesus Christ.

For more information please click here to read the complete declaration.

Meditation on 9 phases of progressive enlightenment. Reflections on a Thangka painting portraying stages according to Mahamudra Practice
Hello everyone, In our gathering yesterday at MoM's Centering Prayer group, we spent some time gazing upon, meditating and praying with icons. I sensed a deepening and connection in this practice with most members there. One new member who hadn't centered before (we did have a centering prayer sit) discussed some difficulty in centering as one works with formlessness, esp. how to handled busy mind and thoughts/questions arising during prayer. We discussed the Buddhist notion of the 'monkey mind.' A part of that "monkey mind" teaching comes from a Buddhist Mahamudra Thangka (like an icon) from the East. Catherine, who was in attendance yesterday, requested the link the youtube video which describes successive paths to enlightens and inner unity..... Ronald Mendyke

Here is the link.
A letter from Charlottesville, VA.

'I received the following from David and Diane Brownold, and I am forwarding it to you so you can read firsthand about the dangers of being Jewish, the dangers of being considerred "other" in America today.'
- Susan Ann Adrians

Read the letter here. It is chilling.
INDIVISIBLE: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR RESISTING THE TRUMP AGENDA.
There are many good answers in here to the question, "Now what do we do?" It's a great read, with lots of fantastic suggestions.

Here's the link to INDIVISIBLE

 

Church Activities

Sisterhood
Sister Louise Akers Challenges The Church Patriarchy
by Barbara Lyghtel Rohrer

It probably should have been clear from the title of her doctoral thesis — “Patriarchal Power and the
Pauperization of Women” — that Sister Louise Akers would eventually find herself in trouble with the Catholic Church. In 2009 Akers joined a long line of intelligent, articulate Catholics who have been officially silenced by Church leaders. Cincinnati archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk barred Akers from teaching or speaking in any institution related to his archdiocese, where she had served and taught for decades. His reason? She refused to publicly renounce her belief that women should be allowed to become priests

Akers is a member of the Cincinnati Sisters of Charity, who take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Some reside in a common house, but many have their own apartments. They live simply, sharing possessions and patterning their lives after the founder of their order, Elizabeth Seton, the first American-born saint.

The daughter of a public-health nurse and a police of icer, Akers came of age during the 1960s and was heavily influenced by the civil-rights movement and the Second Vatican Council, which increased the role of laypeople in the Church, did away with the Latin Mass, and generally brought Catholicism into the twentieth century. Her ministry is best summed up as “Everyone Welcome at the Table,” the title of her 2009 keynote address at the annual conference of Call to Action, a national organization that advocates for gay rights, women’s ordination, and the rights of clergy to marry. She shares her views online through her website, paradigmsshifting.org.

Akers, who turned seventy this year, has a master’s degree in theology and received her doctor of ministry from the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has served as the founding coordinator of Cincinnati’s Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center and as the social-concerns director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). In 2006 she spoke at the Women’s Freedom Forum at the U.S. House of Representatives and participated in the fiftieth session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Her ministry has taken her to Malawi, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Canada, and Cuba. At home in Ohio, Akers created Urban Plunge, an immersion program for suburbanites who’ve had little or no contact with inner-city residents, and Women Walk/Talk, which brings together urban African American women and suburban white women to address the problems of poverty, lowincome housing, and domestic violence.

Akers lives in an apartment in a red-brick building in a working-class neighborhood. I met her there for two of three conversations we had. One wall of her dining room is covered with shelves of books and framed photos from her travels throughout the world. Around the time of our interview, Pope Benedict XVI resigned as head of the Roman Catholic Church and was replaced by Pope Francis. The last time a pope had resigned was six hundred years earlier. With her bright eyes, quick smile, and easygoing manner, Akers doesn’t seem like the sort of person who’d pose a threat to the Catholic Church. As angry as she can get over injustice, she reserves her judgments for institutions, not individuals. At one point I asked how she walks the line between the dictates of her conscience and Catholic teachings.

“It’s not easy,” she said. “As a young person I didn’t see religious life in my future. I thought I would get
married and have kids. But at the time that I joined the Sisters of Charity, I just felt it was what I was supposed to do — and I still feel that way. My spirituality has taken me places where I never thought I would go, including some that aren’t in accord with traditional Catholic doctrine.” As I was leaving Akers’s apartment the first time, I noticed a stack of bumper stickers on a table: SUBVERT THE DOMINANT PARADIGM, they said. She had the same sticker on her car. When she first put it on the bumper, she said with a smile, a priest told her most people wouldn’t know what it meant. Akers said she wasn’t worried. She knew what it meant.

Lyghtel Rohrer: In 2009 you were “silenced” by Cincinnati archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk — that is, barred from teaching in his archdiocese, as you had done for decades. What was the reason?


Akers: I’d been teaching a course for religious educators when the subject of women’s ordination came up, and I presented both sides of the debate. One of my students thought that was outrageous, and she wrote to Archbishop Pilarczyk, saying I was a heretic. The archbishop sent me a copy of the two-page, single-spaced letter and told me I could respond to it or not, but if I did, he wanted to see my response. I replied honestly to the woman — with a copy to Pilarczyk — saying, among other things, that I supported women’s ordination.
My position on the issue was no secret. Every year on Ash Wednesday I participated in an alternative prayer service on the steps of Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral in Cincinnati, asking the Church to repent of the sin of sexism. Another time I cohosted a v isit by Patricia Fresen from South Africa. She had been a Dominican sister and later had been ordained through an organization that ordains women priests in defiance of Church law. More than three hundred people came to hear her. I was interviewed by The Cincinnati Enquirer about her visit, and Pilarczyk was quoted in the same article, saying that the archdiocese had nothing to do with the event. So he knew where I stood.
After sending the letter, I met with Pilarczyk to follow up. He began by saying that I was supposed to be teaching doctrine, which is absolute, and not theology , which allows speculation and analysis. I wasn’t supposed to raise questions, in other words. I said I did teach doctrine, but that doctrine had evolved through a dialogue between the Church and theologians, and I was fostering a similar dialogue with my students. He then demanded I make a public statement that I had changed my mind and now agreed with the Church’s teaching against women’s ordination. I said I couldn’t do that; it would be a lie and would go against my conscience. That’s when he told me I would no longer be allowed to teach in any Church structure directly related to the archdiocese.
After the meeting I had lunch with my friend Judy Ball, who used to be editor of The Catholic Telegraph. She realized the significance of what had happened and wrote an article about it for the National Catholic Reporter. After the piece came out, the editor told me that it had received more responses than any thing else they’d ever published. Many were negative, but overall people’s reactions have been supportive.

Lyghtel Rohrer: Does silencing dissent hurt the Church?

Akers: I think it does. Initially those being silenced were all men. It’s only more recently that women have spoken out enough to be silenced. Silencing not only hurts the Church; it’s also not working. We’re not being silent, and more and more people are speaking up. The list is growing. Groups are forming. And the blame for the div ision within the Church is laid on the dissenters rather than on the inflex ible leaders who refuse to recognize valid dissent. The Vatican and the U.S. bishops see our emerging model as a threat to theirs. Our model is circular, whereas theirs is up-and-down. We feel that differences can enrich our faith; the Vatican feels that it owns the truth. I say we all have some truth, and let’s bring our truths together.

Lyghtel Rohrer: Would y ou say the Vatican has no interest in dialogue?

Akers: Its understanding of dialogue is that the Church leaders will talk and you will accept what they hav e to say , because they are the authorities. But look at the chaotic state of our world. For women and other marginalized people, the day s of that kind of “dialogue” are disappearing.

Lyghtel Rohrer: What role have women traditionally played in the Catholic Church?

Akers: For most of its history , women have been seen as having a complementary role to that of men, not an equal one. In the early Church, women actively participated in religious rituals and served as deacons under the priests, but the writings of the Church fathers take a misogynistic view of women. Saint Jerome, for example, said that women are a “pathway to hell,” and Saint Augustine viewed women as intellectually inferior and as a moral threat to men. This view of women was consistent through the Middle Ages, when Thomas Aquinas wrote in Summa Theologica that women are “misbegotten males.” When I first heard that in theology class, I expressed my disagreement, and the teacher — a young Dominican priest — said, “You don’t disagree with Thomas Aquinas.” I remember sitting there thinking, But I do. I couldn’t imagine how Aquinas had gotten the idea that women were inferior. I just couldn’t get ov er it. Of course, Aquinas was raised on the teachings of Augustine, who was raised on Aristotle, who was the original source of that misogynistic concept. Aquinas certainly wrote many wonderful things, but to think that he was the theologian in the Catholic Church until the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s is sad.
In the 1 980s the U.S. bishops tried to write a pastoral letter — a public statement to lay persons and clergy — about women. In the first draft they said sexism was a sin, but that statement was eliminated by the Vatican. They went through four drafts, all rejected by the Vatican, before they finally shelved the letter. To this day no document exists on the role of women in the Church. You name the issue — racism, migrant workers, capital punishment, prison reform, war, climate change, immigration — and the U.S. bishops have written pastoral letters clearly identifying the Church’s stance. But not on women. They did come out against domestic violence, but that’s it.

Lyghtel Rohrer: What changes would y ou like to see in Church teachings?

Akers: One would be the Church’s stand on birth control, an issue that involves both women and men. In his 1968 encyclical on responsible parenthood, Pope Paul VI went against the majority of the commission that drafted the document and included a paragraph condemning contraception. To this day the Church still upholds that position, even though 98 percent of U.S. Catholic women under forty -five who have had sex say they have used birth control at some time in their lives. In places like Latin America and Africa — and, to a lesser extent, in the U.S. — contraception is an economic issue: women can’t escape poverty if they can’t control the number of children they have. The Second Vatican Council stated in 1965, for the first time in Church history , a twofold purpose of marriage: procreation and love between husband and wife. Each has equal importance. It seems to me that the use of contraceptives can enhance married couples’ relationships by freeing them to enjoy intimacy without the possibility of pregnancy .
I also have difficulty with mandatory celibacy. It’s one cause of the shrinking number of priests. Celibacy wasn’t a law of the Church until the twelfth century , when it was put in place to keep married priests from leaving their wealth to their children, rather than the Vatican.

Lyghtel Rohrer: Would you like the priesthood to be open to gays and lesbians?

Akers: Yes, I believe the priesthood should be open to all men and women who feel called to it, whether they be gay or straight. The U.S. bishops’ 1997 pastoral letter addresses the issue of homosexuality with the adage about loving the sinner but not the sin, which assumes that homosexual relationships are evil. When that document first came out, a lesbian student of mine was crushed. It was so hurtful to her. It also didn’t go over well with many parents of gays and lesbians. But people’s views are changing fast in this country . Homosexual relationships are gaining acceptance.
When my nephew Dave was thirty -six , he invited me to lunch. As we ate, he talked about his friends, and after naming each one, he’d say, “He’s gay .” Finally I asked, “Dave, are you gay ?” For many years I’d thought he might be. His response was to burst into tears. I was the first family member he told.
Recently Dave asked if I remembered the name of the waiter who’d come over and offered him a napkin after he’d started cry ing. “His name was Jesus,” Dave said.
Sure, there continue to be challenges and difficulties for him, but I believe Dave’s sense of self has grown. His conservative parents have reversed their views because they love their son. Their acceptance has been amazing and inspirational.

Lyghtel Rohrer: The Church has a troubled relationship with human sexuality in general.

Akers: The traditional teachings of the Church don’t appreciate the value of sexuality. Cardinal Roger Mahony, who was involved in the major coverup of pedophile priests in Los Angeles, is quoted in a New York Times article as saying that he was “naive . . . about the full and lasting impact these horrible acts would have on the lives of those who were abused.” To me that speaks volumes about seminary training, or the lack thereof, on the subject of sexuality .
The Church needs to teach the inherent goodness of sexuality. Years ago it taught that even sexual intercourse between a married man and woman was evil. Now married sex is seen as an expression of the holiness of the union. But we are still a long way s from where we need to be. Rather than getting hung up on celibacy, Catholic priests and nuns, brothers and sisters, need to be free to choose the way of living that is the best expression of who we are. It’s not a matter of one way being better than the other. It’s that who we are shapes how we can be in loving relationships with other people and with the world.

Lyghtel Rohrer: Where do y ou stand on abortion?

Akers: The Church’s opposition to abortion is well-known. When giving presentations, I would often ask how many people knew the Church’s stance on abortion. All hands would go up. Then I would ask how many knew the Church’s position on capital punishment. A few hands would go up. I think the classic expression of the abortion stance was made by Archbishop Joseph Bernardin when he spoke at Fordham University in 1 983. He coined the phrase a “consistent ethic of life,” which later became known as the “seamless garment.” If we revere life, he said, it follows that we need to uphold life from the womb to the tomb, whether on the issue of abortion, capital punishment, or war. Today we might add drone strikes.
Life is sacred, but I don’t think to be against abortion is automatically to be against choice. Nobody I know is proabortion. They are pro-choice. To me there is a difference. A woman who is poor and already has children and finds herself pregnant again may choose to hav e an abortion because she can’t take care of another child. I do not fault her for that.
So although I cannot say I am pro-abortion, I am pro-choice. I believe in allowing people to decide what is best for them in their particular circumstances, because their faith may be different from mine. I also believe there would be fewer abortions if we would provide contraception to all women and alleviate the conditions that make it difficult for them to care for the children they do conceive.

Lyghtel Rohrer: What about providing teenagers with birth control?

Akers: I personally do not support it. I realize many teens are sexually active — I believe our culture
encourages them to be — but there are strong arguments against teen sexual activity , because of the negative emotional impact it can have. I think trusted, mature adults — parents, counselors, healthcare workers — need to be in on conv ersations with teens before they become sex ually active.

Lyghtel Rohrer: How does the Church justify positions, such as its opposition to contraception, that many Catholics disagree with or simply ignore?

Akers: I think it is built into the hierarchical structure. If we had a more inclusive Church — with married priests, women priests, gay and lesbian priests — Catholicism would hav e a different face.
The 2,500 bishops who gathered for the Second Vatican Council defined the Church first as “my stery ” and second as the people of God. It wasn’t until the third chapter of their final draft that they dealt with the hierarchy .
Many Catholics, priests included, not only embrace the idea of the Church as the people of God but also
recognize a need for the Church to operate in a more participativ e fashion. We are not there yet.

Lyghtel Rohrer: What role should the Church play in helping to liberate women around the world?

Akers: Two-thirds of the poor people in the world today are female, so liberating women begins with economic justice. Catholic social teaching lay s a strong foundation for what the Church calls the “preferential option for the poor,” which means we should put the poor’s needs first. The liberation-theology mov ement recognizes the terrible reality of pov erty and class struggle and uses the gospel to adv ocate for social change. And of course Pope Francis has repeatedly shown in words and deeds his support for those liv ing in poverty .

Lyghtel Rohrer: What is Catholic social teaching?

Akers: Catholic social teaching is one of the greatest gifts the Church has given us. It’s a collection of
documents, encyclicals, and sy nod statements that address issues of justice, such as the rights of workers, the care of the environment, and the well-being of the poor. An estimated 1 5 million children in the U.S. are liv ing in poverty . We are the richest nation on earth. That is a crime.
We think poverty is just the lack of assets and bargaining power, but it’s more. I used to have a bumper sticker that said, Poverty is violence. The U.S. bishops in 1974 talked about the violence toward people who live in poverty that occurs in boardrooms: “Lives sometimes are diminished and threatened not only in the streets of our cities, but also by decisions made in the halls of government, the boardrooms of corporations, and the courts of our land.” That’s from the U.S. bishops!
I recently heard biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann talk about the predatory economy versus the economics of compassion. It’s similar to what he writes about in his book The Prophetic Imagination, where he points out that our faith was founded by prophets who opposed injustice and oppression. A prophet, for Brueggemann, is an iconoclast who challenges rev ered institutions and proclaims them basically empty . Martin Luther King Jr. was a prophet who challenged the institution of racism, which was considered sacrosanct at the time.
Many women today are challenging the false god of patriarchy , saying, Enough already! We aren’t asking for a bigger piece of the pie. Our goal is to change the recipe. We want sy stemic change. People sometimes ask me, “Do we really want to go that far? Do we really want to say that?” When I hear this, I think of Jesuit activist Daniel Berrigan, who in the 1980s said, “I would like to be a middle-of-the-road Jesuit, but the times do not allow for it.”

Lyghtel Rohrer: Are there limits to y our liberalism? Are there parts of liberation theology , for ex ample, that y ou don’t support?

Akers: I don’t think so. Some claim that liberation theology is really Marxism, because it acknowledges the class struggle, but I don’t see that recognition as a negative. I see that as naming what is happening. All liberation theologies — be they black, Latin, feminist, mujerista — begin with people’s lived experience.

Lyghtel Rohrer: What is mujerista?

Akers: Mujeristas are Latina women who want women’s rights but may not identify with U.S. feminism. Feminist theology in this country grew mostly out of the ex perience of white suburban women. Women of color have different lived experiences. Some African American women identify themselves as “womanists” — a word coined by author Alice Walker. But all these groups challenge the patriarchal sy stem.

Lyghtel Rohrer: How do y ou define feminism?

Akers: I would start with the belief in the dignity and v alue of women, which implies equality with men. But there is more. Feminist mov ements all ov er the world hav e deliv ered radical critiques of our way of living. They name the root cause of women’s pain as patriarchy . According to Rosemary Radford Ruether, a pioneer in feminist theology , feminism challenges our hierarchical sy stem of domination, where powerful men rule. It’s a system that has created wars, v ast injustices, and ecological disasters, and the Catholic Church is one of the strongest remaining bastions of it.
Women’s issues are important not only to women; they’re issues that should concern every one, in
every discipline, every profession. When men really understand feminism, they see how empowering it is for them, too. It can free both genders from the box es they are put in.
Nicholas Kristof and Shery l WuDunn’s Women Hold Up Half the Sky exhibit recently came to Cincinnati, and in it there’s a wonderful video of Goretti Nyabenda, a woman from Burundi, who was poverty -stricken, oppressed, and violently abused by her husband. Then she joined a solidarity group that gav e her better opportunities, and she became a business owner and community counselor. After six teen y ears of marriage, she say s, she and her husband are finally communicating. Her husband used to treat her as if she were nothing, but now that she is the breadwinner, he respects her and sees her as a partner. Ny abenda probably wouldn’t call herself a “feminist,” but what has happened in her life is in part the result of feminism.
Sometimes when I am speaking publicly , people who hav e problems with what I am saying describe it as “radical feminism.” It makes me smile when I hear that, because it’s redundant. All feminism is radical. It’s a radical shift away from patriarchy .