Archive for June 2012

Bishop Gumbleton heard

June 27, 2012

Tom Gumbleton could hear.Today’s bishops refuse to heed Martin Luther’s comment: that the ear is the most important organ.

Bishop Gumbleton recently said:

We have 30 million people in this country alone, those in Western Europe and other parts of the world who have moved away from the church, and has anybody in our leadership said, “Why don’t we listen to them. Why are they moving away?”

Apparently only one Albany, NY bishop Howard Hubbard who raised the issue in his diocesan column.

The rest apparently don’t care.After all they are the bishops.They are the teachers.Nobody  else has  access to wisdom or the Spirit.

Let em go.We are on our way to a smaller purer church, the “little flock” (of quiescent sheeple)

Gumbleton heard early.

As an episcopal wanna be in 1969 he was sent out of his comfy perch in the Detroit chancery to deal with angry picketers who were complaining about episcopal silence  during the Vietnam war.

Gumbleton heard, decided the picketers were right and never looked back as he follow Jesus into troubled waters.

For over 40 years Tom Gumbleton has been one of the greatest bishops in US history,always situating himself on the firing line—an anti-imperialist, defender of the poor and the gays.

All because he “heard.”

Why aren’t we in the streets?

June 19, 2012

The acclaimed biologist and conservationist Edward O. Wilson (The Social Conquest of the Earth) recently asked the intemperate question:

‘We’re destroying the rest of life in one century. We’ll be down to half the species of plants and animals by the end of the century if we keep at this rate.’

The 82 year old famed Harvard prof and champion of global diversity  complained that “ ‘very few people are paying attention’ to this disaster.Taking a shot at the next generation he asked:

‘Why aren’t you young people out protesting the mess that’s being made of the planet? Why are you not repeating what was done in the ‘60s? Why aren’t you in the streets? And what in the world has happened to the green movement that used to be on our minds and accompanied by outrage and high hopes? What went wrong?’

In one word: turbocapitalism, capitalism run amok, a feces feeding frenzy of trivia, a steady diet of high calorie bull shit.It’s all around us so much so we can’t see through the bubble. TS Eliot: We’re distracted from distraction by distraction.It’s hard in this swamp to keep focussed despite the great availability of counter-narratives—one of which used to be Christian faith.

I turned on my TV and saw the Greek idiots running trough the streets with their flags…World Cup baby!The country descending into a decade of chaos but hey, we won !

It seems the only part of Canada with any cojones or political jam is quebec with its long internalized history of the value of the collective over the untrammeled ego of ME and MINE.

Here’s Harper putting the boots to democracy and people watching reality TV on a regular basis.Or reading the Toronto Stun and its alternative universe.

In the 80s the STAR gave Tom Harpur a massive front page to warn people about our nuclearized future unless we did something about it.Most papers  however are not the STAR.They are corporate!

Remember that pathetic sycophant Tony Blair  when he hopped a jet to Australia to suck up to Rupert Murdoch to curry favour with the press baron .That sad man  pledged an end  to “the ‘rigid economic planning and state controls’ of the ‘Old Left’ Anything to please the right wing carnivore who then ordered the Sun to go Labour.

In North America  we had 2 terms of people voting for GW Bush and Mike Harris and now the absolute worst Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto. It is to weep—then get up and resist.

Why do ,people vote against their own interests?

Thomas Frank wrote a good book on this: What’s the Matter with Kansas? Why does a poor state, once the seedbed of agrarian populism vote Republican,Basically they get snookered by diversionary cultural wars—abortion, prayer in schools,stem cells.The corporate media augmented by wads of cash from Republican millionaires  play these sidebars up and the poor fall for it thinking that there actually will be a change in abortion laws. Meanwhile the rich continue to pick their pockets on  a regular basis.

In Canada the Catholic pro lifers vote for the most anti-life, anti-common good PM we’ve ever had HArper and his gang of Harrisites like Baird, Flaherty etc.

Capitalism—never underestimate the power of the dollar to subvert the people.

Michael Moore mad a movie about it: Capitalism :A love story.

David Suzuki and the Great Work

June 17, 2012

Recenly at a panel discussion at the University of Guelph,our prophetic Canadian voice on ecology,David Suzuki snapped.

Suzuki said he is sick and tired of fighting to save the environment because when you fight, there’s a loser. He said different parts of society have to come together as one, not as stakeholders, for such an important goal.

Who can disagree with that?

The indefatigable champion f our life support systems has been battling for decades against the corporate dominance of our economy, and we might say the chief protaganist and enemy of a greener Canada. Suzuki has continuously been refused a meeting with Prime Minister Harper a man seemingly constitutionally unable to understand what the Alberta Tar Sands are doing to the environment and to our reputation.

Suzuki and virtually millions of Canadaians are disgusted at the failure of the federal Toriews to understand the grievous threat their policies are to a greener world.

“We’ve got to leave the corporate sector out of it. It’s already driving us in the wrong direction,” Suzuki said.

“We need big solutions and the big solutions have got to be government. The challenge is well beyond what we do in our individual lives.”

On the same panel with Suzuki was another voice of eco-sanity Barry Smit, a University of Guelph professor and co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“Air, water and soil aren’t economic entities. They’re sacred,” Smit said. “Nature doesn’t care about the economy.”

Truer words were never spoken.

The natural world is the absolute bedrock of our whole life on earth, Men,yes it’s usually the captains of energy, like the Calgary oil barons, driven by greed and unaware of our sacred natural world who are driving this mad rush over the cliff.GDP is no measure of planetary health. Science and nature herself ( and it is incontrovertible now) is telling us our present direction is unsustainable.

David Suzuki is an atheist yet he is more passionate and organized  than the Catholic religious communty’s clerical leadership.How ironic that this present assault on creation and the mass extinction of species  has moved full speed in Christian countries—in religion co-opted by cash and consumerism.The faith community, particularly its largest denomination , Roman Catholics  have done little to rally behind people like David suzuki. There are virtually no diocesan plans to combat this,Pelvic obsessions are turning our spiritual energies in a twisted direction. This is a scandal.

We need a profound wake up in this historical institution. Our prophet must be the late Thomas Berry  who is correctly calling this generation yo a new Great workout is our response to the accelerating despoliation of the planet, the Body of God (McFague),We are destroying the fundamentals of the greater Economy, the Earth, the great geo-biological system which has sustained us for millions of years,We need to be present in a new way to our planet .Berry would say we are at the end of the Cenozoic era. Can we move into the Ecozoic era. This is our great challenge.

Catholic schools have a huge role to play in this regard.The earth is our prime sacrament,We are ripping it apart. It is no way to be a “sacramental people.” Curricula need to be rewritten with this in mind.

Don’t wait for the religious leaders. They appear to be distracted.

Believing man is political man

June 13, 2012

A propos of  my piece on ‘activist’ Anglican bishop  Dennis Drainville yesterday, Chris Hedges wrote about 92 year old Dan Berrigan speaking to the Occupy Movement in NYC. Dan has always believed that “believing man is political man”, as in polis, (Greek) engaged in the city.Today’s bishops seem to be dis-engaged from life as we know it. They seem  to be obsessed with church and not the kingdom,They seem absolutely trapped in the pelvic area. Their absence from the real issuers of the POLIs  borders on scandal.They do not seem to “get” that there is something wrong about male celibates pontificating about female bodies is staggeringly sexist—particularly when you condemn the use of condoms. We need a OCCUPY church movement so that the church can move ahead as a real player in history.For this to happen there must be other spokespeople for a clerically dominated institution. Hats off to Dan’ fidelity. Chris Hedges writes:

This is the only way to bring faith to the public and the public to the faith,” Berrigan said softly as we spoke before the demonstration in the park that was once the epicenter of Occupy Wall Street. “If faith does not touch the lives of others it has no point. Faith always starts with oneself. It means an overriding sense of responsibility for the universe, making sure that universe is left in good hands and the belief that things will finally turn out right if we remain faithful. But I underscore the word ‘faithful.’ This faith was embodied in the Occupy movement from the first day. The official churches remained slow. It is up to us to take the initiative and hope the churches catch up.”

There is one place, Berrigan says, where those who care about justice need to be—in the streets. The folly of electoral politics, the colossal waste of energy invested in the charade of the Wisconsin recall, which once again funneled hopes and passion back into a dead political system and a bankrupt Democratic Party, the failure by large numbers of citizens to carry out mass acts of civil disobedience, will only ensure that we remain hostages to corporate power.

Berrigan believes, as did Martin Luther King, that “the evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and the evils of racism.” And he has dedicated his life to fighting these evils. It is a life worth emulating.


Bishop as social activist?

June 12, 2012

Recently the Anglican bishop of Quebec Dennis Drainville posted a powerful rejection of the anti-democratic Harper government. To many this was verboten, but judging from responses on his blog, most thought his personal blast was appropriate and in then prophetic tradition.Drainville says he has always been a social activist.

My own thinking is that it should go with the territory.Anybody standing in a leadesrship position in the church should be a social activist. When you say  “Christian “, it should not be necessary to add “social activist. Since creation is unfinished, Christians must always be “active” in promoting the values of the Kingdom, It should not be necessary to hide this. One longs for bishops like this in the Catholic church, virtually silent on the major issues of the day particularly climate change. The  single most important issue in our lifetime goes virtually unaddressed by so-called leaders like Toronto’s Tom Collins.It is no secret that the cardinal is a pal of  Tory cabinet minister Jason Kenney and shares his right-wing agenda.Catholics looking for leadership here are doomed to disappointment.

Bishop Drainville speaks

As I watch the unfolding of events in Ottawa I see the opposition parties locked into a parliamentary party system which by its present structure has rendered them uncreative and ineffective. The changes in parliament over the last 30 years have diminished the role of Parliament to such a point that it no longer has the capacity to serve the interests of the common good. Parliament rather, has become the opposite of what it was meant to be: the forum wherein the needs and aspirations of all its citizens are expressed and llegitimized through the proposing of policies and legislation and the intentional and rigorous debating of the same with the aim of building up the Body Politic to the common good of all its citizens.

How sad and distressing it is to see the sham, the play acting that presently characterizes the statements and actions of the supposed Government of Canada. (It does not even deserve the name of government ) I thought that I was cynical and had seen too much in my life regarding politics and public posturing, but never in the over 40 years of following parliament have I seen this depth of depravity. In the last 12 months I have seen clearly  the rise of tyrranical policies and the application of such mind and state control that the people of Canada , unless they soon react, will find themselves not only slaves to  a corporate and political domination they never chose but they will experience the extinguishing of any of the hopes and dreams that they once had for a nation firmly based upon the foundations of compassion, justice and peace.

For God’s sake, for all of our sakes, wake-up Canada

Religion of empire

June 8, 2012

The alternative reality of Jesus, in Aramaic, malkuta Yahweh suggests “power with” rather than “power over”.The pyramid had already been toppled by the Holy One in the Moses revolution where the king (in tis case Pharaoh) was  dethroned) and God was experienced at the base empowering the slaves. This is the Judaism Jesus promoted. It is obvious reading the synoptics’ constant admonitions that Jesus insisted on “taking the lower place”, walking with rather than commanding. People grasped the vision. It threatened the top-down empire; it challenged patriarchal power; it was deeply subversive. Jesus was killed fpr this subversion. This vision (”the Way” ) was shattered by Constantine and has never fully recovered. The Way was betrayed by an ideology of power.


In a similar vein Wes Howard-Brook reflects on the latest Vatican imbroglio with the nuns.

Much has been written about the ongoing assault by the male Catholic hierarchy on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, as well as individual women religious whose writings have been deemed “erroneous.” Non-Catholics might be inclined to dismiss this as merely an internal church issue. However, there are important implications for interfaith conversation between Jews and Christians that have not been as widely considered.

In its most stark terms, the women religious have largely embodied what I call the “religion of creation” while the bishops speak from within the “religion of empire.”

. . . .

What is crucial to note for the purpose of Jewish-Christian conversation is that “the Catholic Church” is deeply divided between those who seek to maintain traditional power and authority and those who put the Gospel at the center of personal and communal discipleship. There can be little effective dialogue between Jews and “religion of empire” Catholics. However, “religion of creation” Catholics, such as the women religious and their supporters, share much in common with progressive Jews, as we do with many Muslims, socially engaged Buddhists and Hindus.

 Just as Jesus challenged not the “Jews” of his day but the upholders of the religion of empire, so Jews today might recognize that the problem isn’t with “Catholics,” but with those, like the bishops, whose loyalty is less to the Way of Jesus and more to defending their own, institutional authority. From Moses through the prophets – ancient and current – the Voice of YHWH empowers women and men to speak truth that topples entrenched power and reveals the joyous reign of the Creator God. May that one Spirit fill us all with strengthening courage to stand against domination in all its forms and in solidarity with one other.

A Watershed moment in Ontario

June 7, 2012

It is a welcome development that the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association has come out strongly behind new provincial legislation that allows gay and lesbian Catholic high-school students to organize themselves on school grounds under the banner “gay-straight alliance.” Welcome because gay and lesbian students can be subjected to brutal bullying that has led in some cases to suicide, and they need all the support they can get. And also welcome because there are some powerful forces opposed to that part of the law.

So opines the conservative Globe and Mail editorial of June 7,2012. The Globe joined the Toronto Star editorial board which expressed similar sentiments.

What has this all been about one might ask.

In the end it is about a man sent from Rome the present Archbishop Thomas Collins who failed once again to listen to the great common sense of the baptized, the vast majority of Catholics.The “sensus fidelium” was ignored.

Many of these are classroom teachers.They have gay relatives and friends and they intuitively have rejected the Vatican dicta  that homosexual acts are “acts of grave depravity”  and homosexual people  are “intrinsically disordered” .Kevin O’Dwyer, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association spoke for the membership and  said his 43,000 members welcome the legislation, which passed third and final reading on Tuesday, because it allows schools to protect students from homophobia and other forms of discrimination.

OECTA president Kevin O’Dwyer

This may be a watershed in the Catholic firmament.

Theologically it positions the Cardinal Archbishop on the margins of Catholic thinking.and lagging behind the teaching of the second Vatican Council which  outlined a tfundamental ecclesiological truth  defined during the Council.  We are an absolutely egalitarian people, a communio, a discipleship of equals. This church, this people of God exists prior to any internal architecture. This fundamental structure, trinitarian and thus relational, must be our way forward. This exciting development, is one the first shoots of a new paradigm  one which sees the church moving from hierarchy to dialogue where the entire people of God participate in decision making.This has been a hard swallow for Roman hierarchs.

The great document on the church Lumen Gentium phrased it this way:

The whole body of the faithful who have received an anointing which comes from the holy one cannot be mistaken in belief…this sense of faith (sensus fidei) aroused and sustained by by the spirit of truth, the people of God, guided (of course) by the sacred magisterium which it faithfully obeys, receives not the word of human beings but truly the word of God…” (12).

Now we are only 50 years down the road from the beginning of Vatican ll, a short historical time.In this period , aided and abetted by catastrophical church scandals of the pedophilia crisis and the shocking dereliction of duty by institutional leaders—clerics–Catholics have begun to ubnderstand the “sensus fidei”, that each has a voice. Now that voice is being claimed and the baptized are beginning to claim a much greater ownership of the church of which they are majority members. No bishop can proceed without listening to the “sensus fidelium”. In this case Kevin O’Dwyer represents the wisdom of the sensus fidelium.Thomas Collins has been told erroneouly by Rome that  he is the Teacher in his diocese.But our theology now insists that one cannot teach without listening to the sensus.

The idea of the “sensus fidelium”, that the Spirit is given to the entire church and all the baptized have a voice in this church is still anathema to bishops sent by Rome like imperial satraps. “Father knows best” which suited the arcane medieval structure dominated  and often served well by educated clerical celibates has vanished. Rome In its  isolated ignorance has not noticed  that that old church was slowly dying dead, transformed by the gale force irruption of the Spirit at Vatican ll. The new wine of mature, well-fermented lay thinking  has burst the old medieval wineskins.   The much needed transformation of an inert, theologically backward, scripturally ignorant mass has slowly but surely grown into a more responsible group of educated  believers. Newly awakened the baptized have begun to “pick up their pallets and walk”(Mark 2:9). Almost overnight (50 years since the beginning of the Council) the non-ordained have inexorably  morphed into a priesthood of all believers, an idea which had taken decades to sink in. The realization has finally permeated many: the Catholic Church is not the papacy, the bishop is not the church and the priest is not the pope in his parish.

We are present to a new moment.Pope John XXlll was correct when he said at the beginning of the Council.”It is still yet dawn in the Catholic church.”

The Gospel and Springsteen

June 5, 2012



Unitarian pastor Jeff Symynkywicz has written a very readable book about Springsteen’s vision and value system.It is The Gospel According to Bruce Springsteen: Rock and Redemption. In it he says the following:

Springsteen has spoken about the incredible internal landscape that his Catholic faith bequeathed to him and how Catholic education gave him “a powerful world of potent imagery that became alive and vibrant and vital.”

The internal world was often frightening but it “held out promises of ecstasy and paradise.”

The brother is on to something. and it connects to a sentence I read today in Souled Out, American Catholic columnist E.J.Dionne’s look at the use and abuse of religion in politics today.

Dionne quotes the late pope JP ll s as saying he believed in angels. The question is was this what he was really saying or was he making a claim for transcendence as a key part of our lives? I believe the latter. Angels of course do not exist (angelos is the Greek word for messenger–the mediator between heaven and earth) and the ancients knew this but it was their colourful way of saying what poets (and you have to love poetry to appreciate much of scripture) have always struggled to infer. Mystery is at the heart of existence. Elizabeth Barrettt Browning put it beautifully in her poem Aurora Leigh when she said  that “earth’s crammed with heaven and every common bush is afire with God.”

Springsteen was grateful that the wild landscape of scripture lit up his interior world and he it led him as he matured to figure out the power of myth to speak truth.

This is the Catholic sacramental imagination. The divine is apprehended in the everyday, the eternal in the present. God is afoot in our world.

Maybe the Transcendentalist Emerson had it right:

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”

Roll Over Beethoven

June 4, 2012

Georgie Duchart assailed me in the halls of SMC.It was 1956.

“Have you heard that song about Beethoven” he asked,  referring to Chuck Berry’s fantastic Roll Over Beethoven (and tell Tchaikovsky the News).In those days hipsters were all listening to George Lorenz (the Hound) broadcasting from Buffalo. CFRB and CKEY were now dead zones for teens.

I‘m gonna write a little letter, 

Gonna mail it to my local DJ. 

Yeah an’ it’s a jumpin’ little record 

I want my jockey to play. 

Roll Over Beethoven, I gotta hear it again today. 

Berry nailed the changing mood. Rock and roll was supplanting Patti Page and the old big band singers. Sinatra was searching for hits Irving Berlin was done at the age of 60.

You know, my temperature’s risin’ 

The jukebox’s blowin’ a fuse. 

My heart’s beatin’ rhythm 

And my soul keeps a-singin’ the blues. 

Berry was 30 before he hit it big but he quickly appealed to our  teenage  lives

They’re really rockin Boston 

In Pittsburgh, P. A. 

Deep in the heart of Texas 

And ’round the Frisco Bay 

All over St. Louis 

Way down in New Orleans 

All the Cats wanna dance with 

Sweet Little Sixteen 

The news was: the music was rapidly changing and Chuck was the first great folk poet of rock and roll, a bat-shit crazy brilliant exponent of the jump blues. All the cats in those years were influenced by Louis Jordan the bridge from the small combo blues to rock and roll. My friend Georgie was probably listening to WKBW found at the end of the dial around 1540.And that’s where you found the blacks who produced the music: on the very margins not of the dial but society.

All this came home to me on a “Beethoven Day” as i drove to Hamilton listening to all those Chuck Berry songs full blast on the CD player.You talk about Road songs and Bruce Springsteen, the lure of feeling free in your car. Chuck Berry was there firsthand here I was belting it all out.

Up in the mornin’ and out to school

The teacher is teachin’ the Golden Rule

American history and practical math

You studyin’ hard and hopin’ to pass

Workin’ your fingers right down to the bone

And the guy behind you won’t leave you alone

Ring, ring goes the bell

The cook in the lunch room’s ready to sell

You’re lucky if you can find a seat

You’re fortunate if you have time to eat

Back in the classroom, open your books

Gee but the teacher don’t know how mean she looks

And then to the EROICA that same night, Ludwig Von’s great symphony at the beautiful Koerner Hall.

Imagine that : Beethoven bookends.

How did we get from Beethoven to Chuck Berry? An amazing migration. European music, classical, waltzes, quadrilles)  poured into port cities like New Orleans, migrated up the Mississippi to Chicago and Detroit accompanied by looking for work. They  left the cotton fields of  Mississippi and Georgia. They brought their African field  hollers, heavy on rhythm ( “the beat”) and they met  The electric guitar pioneered by Les Paul.

And Ludwig met CHUCK BERRY.

More cracks in the armour of Catholicism

June 1, 2012

If there is one neuralgic issue which befuddles intelligent Catholics it is the adamantine resistance of the olf men of the Vatican to come to terms with women.

We all know denying all seven sacraments to female Catholics  not only makes no sense but is deeply insulting to every baptized member, male or female. Why this persists seems to be a mystery. Tradition must evolve and has in many instances in the church but this ridiculous, ongoing intransigence is deeply alienating to most Catholics. Priest of 50 years John Shea recently asked why.

Dear Archbishop O’Brien,
I am writing to you and to all the ordinaries of the dioceses in the United States to ask you and your fellow bishops in your role as teachers to provide a clear and credible theological explanation of why women are not being ordained to the priesthood in the Catholic Church.
I write not to challenge the teaching of the church as set forth in the 1994 Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, concerning priestly ordination. My concern is the theological explanation of this teaching. Theology I take to be essentially what Anselm said it is, “faith seeking understanding.”
I teach in the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College. As you might expect, in the school we have a number of students — women and men — who are preparing for ministry of one kind or another. As serious students of theology and ministry, the issue of women’s ordination is extremely important for many of them — how this issue is now understood and has been in the past, what the requirements for ordination are, and especially what a clear and adequate theological explanation of this teaching might be. For some of our students, this issue is the most important one they wrestle with. For some of them, what resolution they come to determines whether or not they stay in the Catholic Church.
Yet, in the Catholic Church there is a rule of silence. We are told that women’s ordination cannot be discussed. The issue that cries for theological explanation is not to be discussed in schools that have theological explanation as one of their prime reasons for being. In other settings, however, rather abstruse arguments are put forward, usually around “bride of Christ” symbolism or with a suggestion such as ordination is “God’s gift to men.” Several years ago, as you know, Pope Benedict XVI declared that the ordination of women was a “grave crime” akin to pedophilia. My sense is that these comments are found to be more puzzling, or bizarre, or embarrassing than seriously theological. They beg the issue, raising more questions than they answer.
 In case you are wondering who this person is who is writing to you, I am an Augustinian priest, solemnly professed for 50 years, teaching at the School of Theology and Ministry of Boston College. Before coming to Boston College in 2003, I taught for many years in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University. My areas of expertise are in pastoral care and counseling (Fellow, American Association of Pastoral Counselors) and the psychology of religious development (Ph.D., Psychology of Religion, University of Ottawa), areas that today would be considered practical theology.
 I also have graduate degrees in theology, philosophy, pastoral counseling, and social work.
I mention this background because in all of my study, in all of my training, in all of my counseling experience, and in all of my thirty years of teaching I have not come across a single credible thinker who holds that women are not fully able to provide pastoral care. Likewise, I have not come across a single credible thinker who holds that women are deficient in religious development or maturity. From the perspective of practical theology — a theology of the living church — I find there is absolutely nothing that does not support the ordination of women to the priesthood.
 Therefore, I too am looking to you and your fellow bishops for a serious theological explanation of the church’s teaching on women’s ordination.
Not being an historical or a sacramental theologian, I have attempted to keep abreast of some of the contemporary research. Perhaps in the mainstream of that research is Gary Macy’s The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination: Female Clergy in the Medieval West. Macy, a serious scholar by any account, begins the Preface of the book by saying: “The fact that women were ordained for the first twelve hundred years of Christianity will surprise many people. It surprised me when I first discovered it.” Chapter 4, “Defining Women Out of Ordination,” is as disturbing ecclesially as it is fascinating historically. Without doubt, patriarchy was alive and well in the medieval church.
All the historical reasons offered against the ordination of women ultimately boil down to the one theological explanation the Vatican actually did offer a number of years ago: women cannot be ordained because they are “not fully in the likeness of Jesus.” It seems to me, however, that to hold that women are not fully in the likeness of Jesus is to engage in heresy. It is to say that women are not fully redeemed by Jesus. It is to say that women are not made whole by the saving favor of our God. The statement of the Vatican on the ordination of women substitutes gender biology for Christian theology, privileging Jesus’ maleness instead of his full humanness.
 Archbishop O’Brien, can you actually support this theological explanation offered by the Vatican? Is the theological reason why women cannot be ordained because they are “not fully in the likeness of Jesus”?
 As you know, for centuries the question in the church was whether or not women had souls, and if they did, were they equal to those of men. Now, with an understanding of the person more as body than soul, the question is whether or not women have bodies equal to those of men. Is not Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo, the Patriarch of Lisbon, right when speaking on this issue he clearly affirms the “fundamental equality of all members of the Church”?
 Since 1986, I have been calling every four years for open discussion of women’s ordination at the chapters of my province, the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova. In September of 2010, I wrote to Father Robert Prevost, O.S.A. in Rome, the Prior General of the Augustinian Order, asking “that I be officially recognized as stepping aside from the public exercise of priesthood until women are ordained as priests in our church.” Eventually, I heard back from the Vicar General saying there was “no category” for what I am asking. In February of 2011, I wrote to you, the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston; to my Provincial, Reverend Anthony Genovese, O.S.A.; to Reverend Mark Massa, S.J., Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College; and to Dr. Thomas Groome, my chair at the school, informing them that I was stepping aside from active ministry as a priest until women are ordained.
As a way of giving some context in my letter to Father Prevost, I told the following story. In 1991, I was invited to India to give a paper at a conference in Madras (now Chennai) honoring the life and work of Father D. S. Amalorpavadass. After the conference, I offered a workshop on “Listening Skills in Pastoral Counselling.” As I was describing these skills, a priest from a neighboring country said: “Can I ask you a practical question?” I said: “Of course.”
 And then he proceed to tell me that the most pressing pastoral problem he was facing was that mothers were killing their own baby girls. The families were too poor to provide a dowry for them and it would be too difficult to keep them. Later, as I was reflecting on the horror of mothers being made to kill their own daughters,
 I asked myself: “How can the church respond to this?” And then it came to me: “How can the church talk about the dignity of women when it also sees women as inferior to men, as in a ‘state of subjection,’ as not fully in the likeness of Jesus?” I write to you to ask you in your role as a bishop in the church to craft a serious theological explanation of why women are not able to be ordained.
I also ask that you speak with your fellow bishops so that you can lift the rule of silence on this issue. If you agree with the church’s statements on women’s ordination, please have the courage to teach about this issue in a way that mature, intelligent adults can appreciate, taking into account Jesus’ relating to women and the actual history of ordination. If you have serious theological problems with the church’s statements on women’s ordination, please have the courage to teach about this issue with pastoral care so that the hemorrhaging in our church can begin to stop. Whatever your position ultimately may be, our church — including the students of theology and ministry at Boston College and elsewhere across the country — is in desperate need of your honesty, openness, informed clarity, and leadership.
A friend of mine is fond of saying that in the church today authority trumps theology every time. If this is true, it is clearly not a strategy for the long term. Is there a better way? Can authority and theology actually strengthen each other for the good of all the people of God?
 It is the beginning of Lent, a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, a time of for all of us in the church to be mindful of how we are in our caring and in our justice. Archbishop O’Brien, is providing a serious theological explanation of why women are not being ordained in the church something you can do as part of your teaching responsibility as a bishop, as part of your caring and your justice?
John J. Shea, O.S.A., Ph.D., M.S.W.