Archive for December 2012

Order of Canada?

December 31, 2012



Heather Maxine Reisman, Toronto, for her achievements in business and for her social engagement in support of charitable causes. 

Order of Canada honoree Heather Reisman and husband

Gerry schwartz the majority owners of Chapters Indigo

Bookstores, have established a program called the

“HESEG Foundation for lone soldiers”. HESEG offers

grants of financial support to former ‘lone soldiers’ in the

Israeli military to pursue post secondary education in

Israel. At its peak, HESEG will distribute $3M per year to

provide scholarships and other support to former ‘lone


Unlike Israeli citizens, the  Lone Soldiers  are under no civil obligation to participate in the Israeli army. On the contrary, they volunteer to participate in Israel’s occupation forces. The HESEG Foundation, promising financial assistance, thus encourages individuals to take part in the occupation. Like Israeli soldiers, Lone Soldiers may participate in military activities at various checkpoints that restrict Palestinian movement while strengthening the occupation of Palestinian lands. The HESEG Foundation thus encourages individuals to participate in activities which are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Convention and several other related instruments of international law (e.g. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 3, etc.)

Moreover, the HESEG Board of Directors makes the selection of scholarship recipients. This Board is composed primarily of members or retirees of the Israeli army, some of which are criticized for major violations of international law under their command. Notably Doron Almog, who escaped arrest in London in 2005 on charges of war crimes.Reisman and Schwartz are therefore directly linked to the Israeli army, and work jointly with it. The Israeli army has shown its gratitude to the foundation by providing the couple with the firearm of a “Lone Soldier” American killed in action during a ceremony praising the importance of foreign troops and the financial support provided by Reisman and Schwartz.

From a legal point of view, the boycott strategy focuses on the Israeli army since it is the subject of such criticism from international institutions following its noncompliance with international human rights and humanitarian law. In effect, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is one of the longest occupations in modern history, and is highly criticized because of its ongoing legal violations by international legal bodies. Moreover, according to recommendation C of the UN Norms on the responsibilities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights, any involvement by business enterprises in war crimes, crimes against humanity, acts

On July 9, 2005, a call endorsed by 170 Palestinian civil society organizations was announced. It appeals to the people of the world to impose boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it recognizes the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Don’t shop at Chapters/Indigo and encourage others not to – support independent book retailers.

Heschel and King

December 26, 2012



On the cover of my upcoming book is a picture of myself holding a holy text.It is called Who is Man by Rabbi Abraham Heschel. The reb who died at age 65 in 1971 shortly after welcoming my friend Philip Berrigan from prison was to me the great religious prophet of the times, along with Martin Luther King. They both insisted that the holy was alive in secular society, that it had long ago refused to be bottled up in the sanctuary. Their lives and words still resonate more than ever and thanks to a secular paper The Philadelphia Enquirer this article appeared on Christmas  Day 2012. Note the prophetic cooperation of rabbi and catholic nun

Speak and Act as Prophets Did:

The Teachings of Dr. King & Rabbi Heschel

By Sister Mary Scullion and Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Forty-four years ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. Forty years ago, his close friend and prophetic partner, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, died. In biblical tradition, “40” is a ripe number, suggesting a pregnant pause before a major transformation – Moses and the Israelites wandering 40 years in the desert, Jesus’ 40 days of temptation. What do we learn from their teachings, a generation since their deaths?

The two of them were, in their day, an odd couple. King was a product of the black Baptist church, raised in the oppressive confines of the Jim Crow South and the crucible of American racism. Heschel, descended from a long line of Polish Hasidic rabbis, fled Nazi-dominated Europe (where most of his family was killed).

A towering Jewish intellectual, theologian, and mystic, Heschel brought ancient Hasidic spirituality into the tumultuous world of social activism in the 1960s. Given his writings on the religious struggle of the modern person in a confusing world, and on the urgent relevance of the ancient Hebrew prophets, it was no surprise that he found a kindred spirit in King.

Today, religion is often divisive (even violently so); in the 1960s, Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel modeled a friendship rooted in deep admiration and mutual affirmation of their respective spiritual traditions. Today, we debate the role of religion in the civil arena – usually resulting in rancorous and judgmental culture wars; King and Heschel were public theologians and spiritually grounded activists, witnessing to the power of faith in the service of social transformation.

he iconic photograph of the two of them together at the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery is emblematic of the best possibilities of the vision of the civil rights struggle. (Later, Heschel noted famously of that experience, “I felt my legs were praying.”)

Heschel and King worked closely together in spiritually rooted prophetic opposition to racism, poverty, and militarism in American society. Like the biblical prophets, they spoke truth to power – but also spoke truth to the disempowered, who can only win their fair share of democratic power by learning and acting on the truth. They spoke truth to their own supporters, even when those supporters urged them to hush – as many did when they spoke out against the Vietnam War. The two of them witnessed to the absolute unity of means and ends, as embodied in nonviolence. The two of them likewise demonstrated a deep unity of prayer and social action.

A biblical generation later, many Americans who likewise see the connection of faith and social transformation are drawing on the legacy of these two brothers. What issues would Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel address today?

Perhaps the mass imprisonment of more than two million Americans, most of them black or Hispanic. Perhaps the breathtaking increase in poverty and economic inequality. Perhaps the horrendous violence in our society.
Perhaps the physical and legal attacks on American Muslims and Hispanic immigrants. Perhaps the government dysfunction that threatens our financial stability. Perhaps our collective failure to address the climate crisis that threatens the web of life, including human life, on our planet.

These two prophets would speak forcefully to the image of God in each person, the inherent dignity in even the most marginalized of our sisters and brothers. They would give voice to the “beloved community”
as the ultimate answer to the crises of poverty, homelessness, addictions, and violence. They would translate the language of Torah, Prophets, and Gospels into a concrete and compelling vision of justice and peace for our world today.

And they would not be content with rhetoric alone: In their generation, they modeled putting faith into action, and today they would urge us to collective action to address injustice and work for the common good. They would insist that any genuine vision must translate into concrete policies, legislation, and real public action.

But now that is our task. Today, no less than in his day, we are confronted with what Dr. King called “the fierce urgency of now.” As much now as then, we are challenged by Rabbi Heschel’s words: “In a free society, when evil is done, some are guilty; all are responsible.”

Forty years have passed since Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel worked and witnessed among us. Perhaps, like a biblical generation that represents a pregnant pause before a major transformation, we may be ready to act for a transformative rebirth in our time.
_ _ _

Sister Mary Scullion is executive director of Project HOME. Rabbi Arthur Waskow is director of the Shalom Center. Their organizations are among more than 50 sponsoring the King-Heschel Festival at Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia on Jan. 4 and 5. For more information,

Thank you, Charles Darwin

December 24, 2012


Darwin set us on the evolutionary path, the sine qua non of understanding  God and Jesus in an evolutionary world. Teilhard insisted that God was more the Omega than the Alpha, always luring us onward, always ahead of us. Christians have always borrowed  from the culture and December 25 is the classic example.

 Christmas 2012

 (The Divine Unfolding)

Through your own incarnation, my God,

All matter is henceforth incarnate

Teilhard de Chardin

Christmas melts the coldest hearts

The shortest day and the longest night

Dancing, feasting, fires and tarts

moves our inner axis to the cause of right.

The old Romans scoured the sky

for the first signs of lenghtening day

missed the babe emerging from the sty

and a deeper clue to the life-giving way.

Those clever folk of yore wisely scanned the stars above

filaments of mystery in a cosmos  frightening

missed the miracle of Word made flesh. Love

incarnate, a new creation, the deepest truth of things.

Winter solstice, December 21 and four days later on

Lo the renewal of light, the naked eye espied

The very birth day of Sol Invictus,Unconquerable Sun

“We’ll take it for the risen one” we cried.

We continue to gather two millenia now, an Advent gestating

We have seen something fresh, a new way of being

The  mystery of Christ, new patterns unfolding

The  Galilean points to a new way of seeing.

Wassail and rejoice; Hope has bought us gifts galore

Reconcilaition, forgiveness, compassion beyond compare

Tears, kindness, justice, peace and much much more

A heart attuned to the stars and grace, grace everywhere.


Michael Moore, still prophetic

December 20, 2012



Michael Moore solidified his role as the most effective Catholic in the United States with his spontaneous response to gun madness in the USA.

The  irony here is that by far the USA is the “ most religious” country in the advanced industrial world. The truth is its brand of religion is cloying, sentimental, ahistorical and damn near irrelevant. Name me a Catholic bishop who would stand bravely and speak powerful truths to a bloated, self-important church and nation.You can’t.

The prophetic has died in the American hierarchy. Moore deserves the Biblical descriptor though I do not think he courts it.

One must always contextualize  religion to truly understand its dynamic. Christianity lost its way with the Constantinian arrangement (4th century).The early Christians were called “Followers of the  way”—and that meant Jesus invitation to pursue the reign of justice which at a minimum gets you into trouble. as Bonhoeffer said in Nazi Germany, “When Jesus calls you, he bids you come and die.” This powerful Christic movement descended ultimately into a religion of creeds and hierarchies, long on abstraction, mass attendance etc. The  age of faith, active engagement became the age of belief. Add to this the supermarket culture of America where prophetic religion was overwhelmed by a consumer culture overlaid by a rancid American exceptionalism Often as A.N. Whitehead said  “Religion is tending to degenerate into a decent formula wherewith to embellish a comfortable life.” Not so for Moore.

The prolific communicator amazingly challenged this religion of “cheap grace” His films were a direct assault  to the religion of empire which  America espoused. He, like Jesus, risked ridicule, death threats yet he persevered. He was forced to hire Navy Seals to protect him, so many death threats he received.

This is his latest unvarnished truth about the country he loves and challenges to be better.

Earlier today, a crazy man went to an elementary school and attacked 22 children in China. A few hours before Connecticut, an elementary school was attacked in China by an insane man, and 22 children were his victims. But all he had was a knife. Total number of dead in the Chinese elementary school? Zero. 

I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to just say a few words about what happened today, because I’ve been concerned about this issue for a long time. Yes, we need more gun control. Yes, we need free mental health services in this country. But I really believe that even if we had better gun control laws and better mental health, that we would still be the sort of sick and twisted, violent people that we’ve been for hundreds of years, that it’s something that’s just in our craw, just in our DNA. And to get that out of our DNA is going to take a lot more than passing a bill in Albany or D.C. That’s not going to do it. 

And, you know, other countries, I mean, they have their crazy people, and they have people that—there have been shootings and killings in Norway, in France and in Germany. But there haven’t been 61 mass killings like there have been in this country just since Columbine. Sixty-one mass shootings in this country. I like to say that I sort of agree with the NRA when they say, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” except I would just modify that a bit and say, “Guns don’t kill people,  Americans kill people,” because that’s what we do. We invade countries. We send drones in to kill civilians. We’ve got five wars going on right now where our soldiers are killing people—I mean, five that we know of. 

We are on the short list of illustrious countries who have the death penalty. We believe it’s OK to kill you when you’ve committed a crime. And then we have all the other forms of violence in this country that we don’t really call violence, but they are acts of violence. When you—when you make sure that 50 million people don’t have health insurance in your country and that, according to the congressional study that was done, 44,000 people a year die in America for the simple reason that they don’t have health insurance, that’s a form of murder. That murder is being committed by the insurance companies. When you evict millions of peoples—millions of people from their homes, that’s an act of violence. That’s called a home invasion.All the wrong people are in prison in this country. 

I can’t believe we’re just standing blocks away from the biggest criminal operation that this country has ever seen, right down that street, and not one of them has gone to prison for what they’ve done. When you have eliminated so many millions of jobs, when you’ve ruined communities like mine, Flint, Michigan, you have killed people, because—because having seen firsthand the effects of these corporate decisions—the alcoholism, the drug abuse, divorce, suicide, all the social problems that go along with this act of violence—but we don’t call it violence, and no one’s ever arrested for it—I think it’s a real shame. And frankly, as an American, this is not how I want to be remembered.

Fr Escobar: Can it get worse?

December 18, 2012




Have we reached the nadir in the institutional Catholic church or is T.S. Eliot correct: “The sickness must grow worse?”

Here I refer to the report from Colombia that Fr. Alfonso Llano Escobar, S.J. a much respected Jesuit scrivener had been silenced for daring to criticize the writings of Joseph Razinger the present pope. Fr Escobar had been a popular commentator for thirty years in the newspaper El Tiempo. No longer. His career is over. His superior, ever faithful to Rome, has immediately pulled the rug on the popular priest. He was sworn to absolute silence.Immediately.

What heinous crime has Fr.Escobar committed?

He dared, in a most gentle and pastoral way, to challenge Ratzinger’s new book Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. In particular this in Escobar’s words:

The Infancy of Jesus. That’s the title of the third volume of the trilogy on Jesus of Nazareth by theologian Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI. It has been published in nine languages, including Spanish, and will be published in a first global edition of one million copies. With a series of articles in the press and interviews on radio and television, I would like to guide readers of this book by the Pope, which offers a special difficulty — the virginity of Mary — which will give theologians and the media a lot to talk about.

To begin with, the latter are wondering why the Pope is going back to a point that seems now passé, namely, Mary’s virginity

And so Fr.Escobar goes on. Or did until the anti-intellectual curial thought police brutally descended upon him as they have on so many others in the decades of the reactionary Woytyla/Ratzinger papacies. There is  no other words to use other than: This is a scandal. This is an egregious assault  on scriptural scholarship and a terrible blow to the great intellectual traditions of the Church.It is a fearful rearguard action which uses  crude hierarchical power to bludgeon priests and academics into outdated theological positions.

The virgin birth story is a theologoumenon, a theological fact.It is not history as much of the New Testament is not pure history. Most Catholic scholars know this but for fear of absolute maginalization and silencing  can not state it.

While this is no place to delve into this “entrance myth”, the infancy narratives  a brief synopsis must do here.

The earliest scriptural writer Paul never spoke of the story. The myth had not yet been created. Paul states that Jesus was “born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4) and “according to the flesh” he was “descended from the House of David” (Romans 1:3).Mark follows about twenty years later and begins with Jesus’ baptism. As the significance of Jesus grew, Matthew did what many writers of antiquity did.He acknowledges Jesus special status and his uniqueness is retrojected back to his birth. Virgin births and special births are common in antiquity (Buddha, Horus, Romulus and Remus, Alexander etc).

Writing for a Jewish audience Matthew searches the scripture for clues and he finds it not in the Hebrew original but in the popular Septuagint where the Hebrew almah which does not mean virgin but “young maiden” is found. This now becomes parthenos (virgin) in Matthew’s Greek text. This is classic  haggadah midrash, a uniquely Jewish way of studying scripture. And so the  myth begins to grow.The story has shaped the Catholic world. After the Council of Trent (1545 CE) and with a celibate clergy needing a female figure, Catholicism promoted the Virgin cult. We ended up not with a healthy Mariology but a Mariolatry.

The Virgin Birth is a story about Jesus not Mary.

Christianity is about Easter, not Christmas. As one of my high school students phrased it, “Jesus had to be raised before he was born”. The special birth only comes when we look through the prism of Easter and work backwards. It is only when  one realizes that the life is significant that “birth” narratives begin. It took over fifty years for this story to germinate and flower in its Christmas magnificence-stars, angels, heavenly choruses, magi etc.. These are the tools of powerful story tellers.They still thrill us but as adults we need to move beyond the “first level of naiveté” Ricoeur) which is fundamentalist to a more mystical. metaphorical level .

The brief excursus above merely touches the beauty and the power of the Christmas story and the Virgin Birth.

And now Fr.Escobar becomes the latest victim of Vatican censorship.

Our great Canadian biologist and non-believer David Suzuki mused about this  years ago. Had there been o human father, if Jesus like the mythical  legends of old been really conceived with no male in the picture, if he  had truly been born of a virgin he would have been female, since he would lack the Y chromosome the contribution of a male donor.

We will not go there. This is not what scripture is about. The message  apparently has not reached the Vatican. Sadly we can look forward to more failed attempts to put the fundamentalist genie back into the bottle.

Violence–American as apple pie

December 15, 2012


In China the same day as the Sandy Hook massacre a deranged man attacked 22 school kids with a knife. Guess what?  Nobody has died.The sad man had no assault rifle


Why can’t Americans add 2 and 2?


Instead we have medical experts on the Piers Morgan show prattling on about “mental illness.” What a waste of time.In a country of over 300 million, you will find lots of mental illness.Especially in a culture which glorifies violence. “As  american as apple pie,” as Rap Brown said. There is “permission giving” everywhere in a deeply sick culture.This is a culture which OKs drones dropping out of the air regularly—in some Asian land; which invades other nations on no pretext and murders hundreds of thousands; that produces violent films on a regular basis, that glorifies football as a legitimate sport and leads the world in most social pathologies.


So mental illness is here to stay. Accept it.


But lock up the guns! In China you can’t get them.In Connecticut a kindergarten teacher had three automatics in her house.And she died by one of them.


Barbara Demick in the LA Times wrote that bloggers in China were praising their country’s strict gun laws in the wake of both incidents. Demick wrote:


Zhang Xin, a prominent real estate developer and one of the wealthiest women in China, deplored the lack of political will in the United States.


“Really, why can’t these politicians put aside their difference and prohibit the sale of firearms?” wrote Zhang Xin, in her widely followed microblog on Sina Weibo.


And there’s poor Obama wringing his hands muttering about “hugging his children”, the same line he used last time a mass murderer got loose.. What a weak response.


Who has the guts to refuse NRA money and enact serious gun control?








Ariel Sharon was honest

December 14, 2012



The Israeli government’s announcement that it is to expand settlements in the West Bank in response to the UN vote on Palestinian statehood violates human rights and international humanitarian law, Amnesty International said today.

Settlement construction is the cause of forced displacement, a myriad of human rights violations and is a flagrant violation of international law. Israel must immediately halt all construction of settlements and related infrastructure as a first step towards removing all settlers from the occupied territories,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program.

“This announcement sends a strong signal to the world that the current Israeli government has no respect for human rights and international law. Building settlements violates the rights of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and is prohibited in all circumstances.

Israel said on Friday 30 November that it had authorized an additional 3,000 housing units to build or expand settlements in unidentified locations in the occupied West Bank. The announcement came a day after Palestine was recognized as a non-member observer state of the United Nations (UN) by a vote at the UN General Assembly in New York.

Ho hum. What is new? The US continues to look away and do nothing as Israel  gobbles up Palestinian land. At least Ariel Sharon got it right:

Every time we do something you tell me America will do this and will do that . . . I want to tell you something very clear: Don’t worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it.”

Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon to Shimon Peres, October 3, 2001, as reported on Kol Yisrael radio.

The dying game: football

December 13, 2012


Jonathan Kay forsaking his bizarre anti-Palestinian rants he indulges in for the National Post,  wrote a thoughtful column on the coming extinction of football. He began his article with the  growing revelations of the damage done to NFL football players. He then morphed into Rush Limbaugh’s wacky “left wing plot” theory. You know the  rant.The left wants to kill everything that made America great—like football!

Look where football is still huge —in all those Republican states where education funding is the lowest. Canadians would shudder at the brainless football culture in Texas and the Midwest. It even permeates elementary schools-12 year old kids bulking up to get into football factories and the like.  It is a sad residue of another time—like boxing and cock fighting. It is however deep in the culture, though many parents are finally asking questions about its pervasiveness..I am convinced it has much to do with a faux idea of manhood, legalized violence and a big part of the war culture.

Kay continues:

The removal of football as a mass-market sport would be especially traumatic to the country, for it is difficult to overstate how existentially important the game is to Americans, especially in the South and Midwest. A United States without high-school football on Friday night, college gridiron on Saturday and NFL on Sunday will be like Canada without any level of hockey — virtually unimaginable.

 And yet it will happen. That’s because, however invincible football may be as a cultural force in America, it is smashing up against the immovable object of childhood safety. The result will be a whole generation of children growing up with the knowledge that football is not an ordinary sport like basketball or soccer. Simply put, it exceeds the engineering design limits of the human body. And the carnage comes, not just in the form of broken bones, but also broken brains. There are ways to make hockey and soccer safer. But there is no helmet technology in the world that can get us around the fact that a human skull decelerating from full sprint to dead stop in a tiny fraction of a second — an event that comprises the very essence of “good,” “hard-hitting” football; and not just a penalized aberration, as in other sports — cannot protect the mushy contents therein.

 This is the reason I stopped coaching football 40 years ago. I could  no longer bear the violence and the potential for serious injury.

In 1979 I wrote an article stating that Catholic schools should immediately ban the game. Part of my reasoning, maybe the major part, was on philosophical  and theological grounds—anti-violence,anti a Jesus ethic, power over love, the image of God in humans smashed. Then there was the cost, the rising tide of feminism demanding equal  funding in school sports.

Since I wrote the article, football has greatly diminished in  popularity and sponsorship. Phys ed programs have expanded the teaching of  lifelong sports as healthy recreations. For teenagers soccer as a fall game, indeed a more universal one is a healthy substitute. Maybe even rugby where the murderous helmet is absent could be justified. Still the dinosaurs hang on largely jocks of another era.

But the game is surely dying. Not soon enough for me and the thousands of kids who will be spared serious injuries

As a sidebar this week the great bishop of Richmond, Va Walter Sullivan died. Three years after my article appeared in 1979,  Sullivan banned the game in Catholic schools. That surely was  a brave thing to do in the US culture.



Roy Bourgeois leading the way

December 8, 2012


I have been a Catholic priest in the Maryknoll community for 40 years. As a young man I joined Maryknoll because of its work for justice and equality in the world. To be expelled from Maryknoll and the priesthood for believing that women are also called to be priests is very difficult and painful.

The Vatican and Maryknoll can dismiss me, but they cannot dismiss the issue of gender equality in the Catholic Church. The demand for gender equality is rooted in justice and dignity and will not go away.

As Catholics, we profess that God created men and women of equal worth and dignity. As priests, we profess that the call to the priesthood comes from God, only God. Who are we, as men, to say that our call from God is authentic, but God’s call to women is not? The exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, our Church and our loving God who calls both men and women to be priests.

When there is an injustice, silence is the voice of complicity. My conscience compelled me to break my silence and address the sin of sexism in my Church. My only regret is that it took me so long to confront the issue of male power and domination in the Catholic Church.

So writes the great priest Roy Bourgeois, unceremoniously tossed out of his order after an exemplary priesthood defending the voiceless and the poor. Most of his Maryknoll family agreed with him  but were not openly vocal about this gaping wound in the Body of Christ. They refused the dirty job of expelling a brother they love and left it to Rome to toss him out.

Roy’s  great sin is telling the king he is naked, telling a patriarchal and sexist leadership that denying women all seven sacraments is simply wrong, a sin against the inclusionary God who desires  “a discipleship of equals.”

Educated Catholics and those of common sense cannot get their minds around this vicious expulsion over what seems  fairly routine, common sense. Women are equal to men. Full stop. The insight has been building for two centuries now.The last forty years has solidified its  veracity. What bubble  are these  clerics living in? What parallel universe do they inhabit? Pope John Paul ll was simply wrong when he stated that the church could not change its mind on this matter. What he and his curia failed  to understand  is common coin in today’s Catholic Church: you are simply one voice. The wisdom of the people (sensus fidelium) needs to be heard. The spirit is no longer your private preserve.

The consistent oppression of women inside the church is sinful and needs to be corrected. Such glaring injustice  can not be allowed to stand.

We know that change never comes from the top. As the NCR  editorial of December 3, 2012 stated, a clamor must be raised in every church venue to stop the  ongoing oppression. The reactionary backlash against women and prophets like Roy Bourgeois is doing much harm to the Body of Christ. The Catholic church has in the last 20 years squandered so much credibility. A King Canute-like resistance to such glaring truth that “all are one in Christ” must end.

Ironically it is the lay voice which needs to carry the day on this issue. The Vatican has little power  over the informed consciences of the baptized.

We thank brother Roy for his honesty and his bravery.Like another priest of the 16th century, his conscience told him, he could not do otherwise.

NCR editorial rocks Catholic world

December 5, 2012



The call to the priesthood is a gift from God. It is rooted in baptism and is called forth and affirmed by the community because it is authentic and evident in the person as a charism. Catholic women who have discerned a call to the priesthood and have had that call affirmed by the community should be ordained in the Roman Catholic church. Barring women from ordination to the priesthood is an injustice that cannot be allowed to stand.

 So begins the  National Catholic Reporter (NCR) editorial for December 3, 2012.

What seems like common sense to the faithful, most of whom live in the real world of men and women is apparently anathema to the increasingly isolated clerics in the Vatican. And it might be added to their carefully vetted Yes men in too many dioceses. The Roman Catholic Church is paying a steep price for the John Paul ll/Benedict XVl advancement of a very narrow band of brothers who in the words of Notre Dame theologian Richard McBrien “listen to a constituency of one-Rome.”

The NCR editorial was prompted by the growing number of Catholics who have been abandoning the institutional church in record numbers all over the educated world. These questioners can no longer stomach the adamantine intransigence of an all male hierarchy which still can not admit the obvious: the failure to allow women to every sacrament in the church is pure discrimination and is totally out of synch with the call for inclusion in God’s reign of justice which Jesus proclaimed.

Vatican ll was a “signs of the times” Council where the Roman church pointed to new Spirit signs which had lain dormant for far too long and which called for attention and attention. Deeper truths were on the immediate horizon.The church must heed the “signs’. Pope John XXlll in the middle of the Council (1963) flagged the growing and insistent reality of the voice of women:

 Women are gaining an increasing awareness of their natural dignity. Far from being content with a purely passive role or allowing themselves to be regarded as a kind of instrument, they are demanding both in domestic and in public life the rights and duties which belong to them as human persons.   Pacem in Terris #41

The  clamor has grown louder despite Rome’s bizarre attempts to silence it forever and regress to the status quo ante. It got so bad that the present pope  had to rein in John Paul ll from making this an article of faith.As Pope John XXlll said: This discipline could be changed with a snap of the fingers.

The  voices kept multiplying as women took their place at every level of secular society yet  the church which proclaims justice, did little to advance this obvious move to inclusion. Rome fought this at every level of church life. It continuously advanced the prejudices of another age as the mind of God today. The culture bound prejudice, an intellectual fossil of a misogynist age, masquerading as serious rationale for female sacerdotal exclusion  was absolutely inadequate and embarrassing for a historic church which had given the world universities and which prized reason and critical thinking. To this narrow end, Rome promoted men so desirous of “the first place at the banquet” that they agreed to episcopal advancement  promising they would loyally and blindly carry out Rome’s short sighted dicta: No women at the altar. Six not seven sacraments for you. These men had little sensitivity to the feelings of half the human race as women watched the “men’s show” unfold before their eyes. Male clerical leadership did not realize the deep hurt that this exclusion caused in the hearts of those who had been the centuries’ old nourishers of the next generation of Catholics. Rome carried on as if “feminism” was an attack on the Body of Christ rather than the gift that it is. Both Catholic men and women became tired of justifying something so unjust. Millions left in disgust.More writhed in embarrassment.

Even a Roman Commission said NO!

In 1976 the Papal Biblical Commission which included the brilliant Canadian Jesuit David Stanley voted 12-5 in favor of the view that Scripture alone does not exclude the ordination of women, and 12-5 in favor of the view that the church could ordain women to the priesthood without going against Christ’s original intentions. Not only that but the Church should ordain women. Stanley lost his job in Rome for his candor and honesty. As we now know this was but a temporary setback for the cause of female ordination. The question  simply would not go away and could not be shut down by papal fiats.

Now we are at a new moment in a Church which proclaims that it is “semper eccelesia reformanda’, always in the process of renewal.

The expulsion from the priesthood of such a stalwart priest as Roy Bourgeois for his demand for gender justice  is simply another shot across the bow, another failure to heed the cry of the Spirit, a refusal to listen deeply to the magisterial voice of the sensus fidelium.

The  NCR  has bravely lanced the boil and stated , “We must speak up in every forum available to us: in parish council meetings, faith-sharing groups, diocesan convocations and academic seminars. We should write letters to our bishops, to the editors of our local papers and television news channels.”

Fifty years after  the opening of Vatican ll Catholics are discovering their magisterial voice, a voice which the bishops  have a duty to hear, a voice  which admits them to a central place in every and all decisions which affect the church. The game has just begun.