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Francis: women are first communicators of the Resurrection.

CNS photo/Paul HaringAs I moved through St. Peter's Square pestering every American I could find, I noticed a trend. Young Catholics kept bringing up the same concerns about their faith: how the church treats abuse victims, gays and lesbians, people of other religions -- and women. (I wrote up some of that in the current issue ofCommonweal.) I hope they've been paying attention to Pope Francis since they left Rome, because he's been addressing the last of those topics with considerable vigor.

Francis's Easter Vigil homily led with the women who discover the empty tomb. "They had felt understood by [Jesus] in their dignity," Francis said, "and they had accompanied him to the very end." Even though the women initially react with fear to what they find, their "loving remembrance of their experience with the Master that enables the women to master their fear and to bring the message of the Resurrection to the Apostles and all the others." In their dignity, understood by Jesus, they bring the good news. And yesterday morning, he preached on John's account of Mary Magdalene weeping at the empty tomb -- until the risen Christ appears and bids her to tell the rest what she has witnessed. Francis then exhorted believers to see through her eyes: "Sometimes in our lives tears are the lenses we need to see Jesus," he said. And today, during his Wednesday audience, he extended his reflection on the role of women as first communicators of the gospel.

After criticizing attempts to "obscure faith in the Resurrection of Jesus," Pope Francis turned to the question of transmitting that faith. Again he noted that women were the "first witnesses to this event." Yet, "in the professions of faith of the New Testament, only men are remembered as witnesses of the Resurrection, the Apostles, but not the women." Why? To answer that question, Francis delivered a little lesson in historical-critical method:

According to the Jewish Law of the time, women and children were not considered reliable, credible witnesses. In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role. Here we can see an argument in favor of the historicity of the Resurrection: if it were a invented, in the context of that time it would not have been linked to the testimony of women. Instead, the evangelists simply narrate what happened: the women were the first witnesses. This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria: the first witnesses of the birth of Jesus are the shepherds, simple and humble people, the first witnesses of the Resurrection are women.... In the church and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord, in following him and communicating his face, because the eyes of faith always need the simple and profound look of love. The Apostles and disciples find it harder to believe in the Risen Christ, not the women however!

As I read that passage, I suddenly recalled the first time I'd heard that argument -- as a sophomore at Fordham, in a course on feminist theology, taught by Elizabeth A. Johnson.

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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OK, I know this is going to sound sexist and bitter, but that never stopped me from opening my yap:As Grant and others on here noted, Pope Francis's remarks about women in the Gospels and in Catholic life have been made before, and for quite a long time. That women are clasping these remarks to their bosoms in gratitude indicates to me that many women still feel unappreciated and misunderstood. Someone above noted discomfort with the notion of women as being "special," and I concur. Whenever someone tells me that I have a "special" role to play in some endeavor, it usually means I'll need rubber gloves, disinfectant, and/or a lot of Bufferin. As for women and mothers having some special charge to pass on the faith, well, that sounds pretty much like a ladies auxiliary set-up to me. We men will make up the club constitution and bylaws, while you girls pop out the potential members and keep them in the organization. Pffft.

I was struck by Ann Oliviers comment at 11:58 a.m.:

Its the Vaticans rigid practice of forbidding public discussion of obviously neuralgic problems that drives me crazy. Just ignore the toothaches, kiddies, and they will go away, it tells us. Even four-year old children know thats nonsense. Sex abuse, bishops cover-ups, married priests, woman priests, sexual morality just bury the topics and all will be hunky-dory! Yeah, sure. And chickens have lips.

That reminded me of something Ann had said earlier: forbidding discussion flies in the face of what used to be standard practice. I hadnt saved her earlier comment, so I wrote to her, asking her to send it to me. She couldnt find it, either, and so was kind enough to write it all up again. I think its excellent, and wanted everyone else to be able to see it, so Im going to post it here. Ive highlighted the parts which, in my opinion, are especially important.

The "Scholastic method" of doing theology and philosophy had its roots in some logical works of Aristotle which were known in the early medieval West, plus Muslim science had a quiet but strong influence on it. The method's strongest impetus came from the work of Peter Abelard, a world-class logician by any standard, a master debater, a musician, and most famously the lover of Eloise. He, of course, ended up in trouble with the Pope, as did many medieval theologians, but in spite of all the ferment, theology flourished. (As I see it, it flourished *because* of the ferment, the dialectical method.) By the 13th century the method of argument had come to require that each debater make careful distinctions, define their terms clearly, and present *all* sides of an issue fairly, and when a teacher presented his own view on a topic he had to do so in a highly stylezed format. First, he had to formulate the debated question clearly, e.g.," Does God exist?". Next he was required to present clearly and fairly *all* of the positions which differed from his own. Only after he had presented the other side(s) would he present his own position, and he was required to *give reasons why* he thinks his position is true. Last -- and this seems peculiar to medieval argumentation -- he was required to answer one by one each of the arguments of his opponents that he presented at the beginning, giving *reasons why* he said they were wrong.Fairness, clarity, evidence, and reason were the names of the game. The method flourished all the way into the 16th century in Spain, but the interest in the empirical sciences and scientific method came to dominate Western thinking. I'll just note that with all the vaunted strength of the Enlightenment's scientific method, it doesn't require clear definitions of terms (have you ever found a definition of "matter" in a physics book?), and neither does it require answering critics' views point by point (just look at the naive arguments against intelligent design these day).The Scholastic method is long gone from Catholic theology. Pity. If it were still with us, the Vatican would have to not just permit but encourage public debate of *all* sides of the important issues, even the sides it fears and despises most. New questions of natural law would be debated, with all sides given consideration, along with evidence both pro and con for all sides. Oh, for the 13th century!!! Sigh.

I usually get my information about public figures from the news rather than in my dreams. But with very little provocation, I can be persuaded to tell about the time I dreamed George H.W. Bush lived next door and came over to complain that we didn't mow our lawn or wash our car often enough.

The gospel reference to the women at the tomb seems to inspire homilies similar to the Pope's in many parishes, so I'm not surprised to read what he said at the Easter Vigil in Rome. Ironically, it was his actions on Maundy Thursday (washing the feet of women, including a Muslim woman) that spoke louder than these words, scoring him a good deal of controversy in certain quarters. Speaking as a woman, I thank him.

"... and this is the mission of women, of mothers and women, to give witness to their children and grandchildren that Christ is Risen! Mothers go forward with this witness!"Unfortunately, his comments imply that he too thinks it's perfectly OK for men to limit women's witness to the small world of the home, giving tacit support to the idea that is the prerogative of men to define how and to whom women should witness. He does not limit men to giving witness to their children and grandchildren exclusively or primarily. One hopes that even though this affirmation of women as the first witnesses to the resurrection (which breaks no new ground) that there is at least a glimmer of hope in this statement"...the women were the first witnesses. This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria."Perhaps at some point he will be able to act to develop the truth that God especially does not choose according to the criteria of traditional patriarchy.

I appreciate the reminder that Jesus first revealed his birth to shepherds, outcasts barred from the temple, and his resurrection to women, 2nd class citizens in his culture.How can you not love a Messiah like that?

What a difference a conclave can make!?! Instead of having to listen to B16's condescending screeds about the moral "dictatorship of relativism," we now hear encouraging words from Francis that women indeed have the preeminent role which sparked the Resurrection faith. [Even though Francis still has a lot of work to do in overcoming the lingering effects and artifacts of a life spent among aging celibate men with their ossified conceptions of women's roles in the human experience.]I suppose that more than anything I am thankful that Francis has applied his Jesuit intellectual formation and, at least it appears on first blush, does not become entrapped in fading and spent ideology.

I heard the same ideas about women-witnesses fifty years ago, at the Gregorian, in Rome.

This is wonderful Grant !In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role. .. The Apostles and disciples find it harder to believe in the Risen Christ, not the women however!And the implications of all this for reforming the Church, to orient her face to the world instead of self-referential introspection, are what ?And our role in bringing about that necessary reform, is what ?God Bless

What, precisely, are the "professions of faith of the New Testament"?The argument about the significance of women as unreliable witnesses has been a popular one for a good 110 years, give or take. I do not think that is particularly sound, and another Elizabeth (Schussler Fiorenza) might reference it as an example of the Christian tendency to apologize for unsavory aspects of their tradition by giving them Jewish origins.

Pope Benedict XVI made the point about the women being unacceptable witnesses in their day on pages 262-63 of Jesus of Nazareth, Part 2. His conclusion may not please everyone, though:"The Church's juridical structure is founded on Peter and the Eleven, but in the day-to-day life of the Church it is the women who are constantly opening the door to the Lord and accompanying him to the Cross, and so it is they who come to experience the Risen One."

They had felt understood by [Jesus] in their dignity " women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord"I can't help but cringe when I see women's "dignity" mentioned, or when they are said to be "special" .... this is a way to create difference which justifies different treatment. I would be happier if women and men could just all be treated equally as disciples.

Not only were the women at the tomb the first communicators, they were the first of all to be charged by Christ to go and proclaimhypagete apangeilatethat he was risen. He might have asked one of the angels, I suppose, or might have gone himself, as he did later, to the locked room where the Eleven were hiding. But he expressly entrusted that commission to those who had shown themselves most worthy of receiving it.

I sympathize with both Crystal and Anne C. Though I'm glad that he's making the right gestures and heading in the right direction, these arguments can be read in a rather paternalistic direction about women's genius and where it should be properly circumscribed--showing Jesus, but in the domestic, private sphere. I'm not saying this is in fact what Francis is saying, but doesn't seem inconsistent with what he says either. I'm also rather struck by the last line that Grant quotes: "The Apostles and disciples find it harder to believe in the Risen Christ, not the women however!" Weren't women among the disciples? We've long heard how apostles were only men, but all the other disciples too?

"But there is another form of poverty. It is the spiritual poverty, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-beloved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the 'TYRANNY OF RELATIVISM', which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the co-existence of peoples." [emphasis supplied] Address of Pope Francis, Audience with the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, 23 March 2013.-----Let's just say elements of Pope Benedict's papacy gave me pause. But the principal theme of his homilies, Wednesday audience talks, Sunday Angelus talks, it seems to me, was our encounter with Christ, the call to keep our eyes fixed on il volto di Cristo, the loving and merciful face of Christ.One of the great treasures of the conciliar liturgical reform is, I believe, the immensely rich selection of readings from the Church's great teachers and preachers that are found in the Office of Readings of The Liturgy of the Hours -- Popes Leo and Gregory, Ambrose, Athanasius, Augustine, Basil, Catherine of Siena, and the rest. When an English translation of a future revision of the Liturgia Horarum is done, I would not be surprised to find a half dozen selections that begin "From a sermon of Benedict XVI, pope."

I'm repeating myself from several days ago.During his Easter Vigil homily, Pope Francis spoke of "le donne discepole di Gesu'." The women disciples of Jesus. I thought that the official English translation weakened it a bit by saying,"the women who were disciples of Jesus."

"I would not be surprised to find a half dozen selections that begin From a sermon of Benedict XVI, pope.John Page, I see that you are a prophet, or at least the son of a prophet.Speaking of Benedict's Wednesday audiences, here is what he said on February 14, 2007:"The Gospels then tell us that the women, unlike the Twelve, did not abandon Jesus in the hour of his Passion (cf. Mt 27: 56, 61; Mk 15: 40). Among them, Mary Magdalene stands out in particular. Not only was she present at the Passion, but she was also the first witness and herald of the Risen One (cf. Jn 20: 1, 11-18).

Question: Did Benedict ever spend a Triduum preaching about women?

These words fill me with joy, because I believe they are spoken with respect and sincerity and because women are still the neglected and despised in so much of the world. Yes, our dignity is affronted every time an abortion for sex selection kills a female child, and every time a woman is raped, and in every honor killing, and for every girl sold into prostitution, and more. No one statement will resolve all concerns or issues. But I have no problem whatsoever having someone in the Pope's position stand up for the dignity of women. Perhaps some of the clergy and other men of the Catholic world very much need to hear this in societies that still count women as chattel, so that they too will stand up for the dignity of women and we can make some progress together.

To whom did Mary Magdalen go to announce that the tomb was empty? To her children and grandchildren?

What exactly does the "dignity of women" mean? Do men have a different kind of dignity? Why do women have some "special" role in the church as different from men's role? All this is about complementarianism, defining women's ontological nature as different from men's.Sure, it's nice that the pope mentioned Mary M and that he thinks women have some particular role in the church. But this role ("this is the mission of women, of mothers and grandmothers, to give witness to their children and grandchildren that Christ is Risen!') doesn't seem like anything new.

So women are somehow like the "simple shepherds"? Not intended to offend... but, still. On Easter Sunday the absent-minded LC priest who has been known to forget to say the Creed on Sunday, maundered on about that sinful woman, Mary Magdalen, conflating her with the sinful woman of Luke 7, though he thought the story might be in Mark. He looked about, perhaps reflecting that this was the 8:45 Mass, where a couple of pedantic old folks had tried to set him straight about Mary Magdalen before. So he took a deep breath and added:" and she came from a whole city of sinful women! And she had been possessed by seven devils, and you know nobody ever got possessed without inviting it, probably by practicing sorcery! Honestly, you can't make these things up.

Loved the remarks but talk - specially homiletic talk - is cheap if it doesn't mean something changes. So far nothing changes. And I'm not betting on it no matter how much we all like Pope Francis.

If you would like to know more about the importance of women in the New Testament, I invite you to join us for the 50th Anniversary of the Annual Georgetown University Institute on Sacred Scripture, where noted New Testament scholar and popular speaker, Sr. Barbara E. Reid O. P. of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, will lecture on "Fifty Years of Feminist Biblical Interpretation." We meet from June 11-13 on the campus of Georgetown University. The Institute on Sacred Scripture was established by Fr. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S. J. as part of the 175th Anniversary of Georgetown University in 1964 and has met consecutively for fifty years since. It is the oldest and longest running Institute of its kind in the nation. It was founded while Vatican II was still going on and is truly a product of the Second Vatican Council. And so we are also celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the opening of Vatican II with a special evening lecture, only for those registered in for the Institute, by Fr,. John O'Malley, S.J., who will speak on "Trent and Vatican II on Scripture. You can see our ad above and click on it or follow this link for more information and registration It would be great to meet you all in DC this coming June.

There is also this from the Pope --"One initial difference is that in the confessional tradition only men are named as witnesses, whereas in the narrative tradition women play a key role, indeed they take precedence over the men. This may be linked to the fact that in the Jewish tradition only men could be admitted as witnesses in courtthe testimony of women was considered unreliable. So the official tradition, which is, so to speak, addressing the court of Israel and the court of the world, has to observe this norm if it is to prevail in what we might describe as Jesus ongoing trial. "The narratives, on the other hand, do not feel bound by this juridical structure, but they communicate the whole breadth of the Resurrection experience. Just as there were only women standing by the Crossapart from the beloved discipleso too the first encounter with the risen Lord was destined to be for them. The Churchs juridical structure is founded on Peter and the Eleven, but in the day-to-day life of the Church it is the women who are constantly opening the door to the Lord and accompanying him to the Cross, and so it is they who come to experience the Risen One.Pretty much the same lesson -- from Pope Benedict in Volume Two of Jesus of Nazareth, pp. 262-63.

The distinction between the "confessional" tradition and the "narrative" tradition seems spurious at best. It is a not so subtle justification for the Church to follow the "confessional" tradition regarding women when it should be following the "narrative" tradition? Another one of Benedict's convenient distinctions like the "hermeneutics of continuity" to uphold the status quo.

Perhaps this is parsing things too closely.I have now watched, several times, a video clip of Pope Francis speaking of "mothers and women" passing on faith in Christ Risen to their children and grandchildren. He becomes very animated as he speaks, and is not reading from his text. He smiles and gestures,"Questo e bello, eh?" "This is beautiful, no?' He concludes, "Mamme e donne, avanti con questa testimonianza!"But the English text leaves out "donne" (women) at this second point, and has only "Mothers, go forward with this witness!" The smiling, animated Francis seems, however, to be extending his peroration not just to "mothers," but to "women" in general.John XXIII was often frustrated by the editing in the "official" ITALIAN text of what he had actually said, in Italian.

About women being special=OF course we are, on average, anyway. So are men. Even the psychologists have found that some of the old stereotypes of women and men have some foundation in fact. Women are generally better at using words, and men are generally better at math. It's not a matter of each lacking the other ability, and individual men and women do excel in the other. Further, men seem to be more aggressive than women, though this doesn't claim that women aren't aggressive at all, nor does it deny that some women are as aggressive as some men.It seems that our differences are matters of degrees. But there is still something amazing that women can do that men can't, and it is a wonder to me why so many women disparage the ability.

Joseph A. Komonchak 04/03/2013 - 4:03 pm SUBSCRIBER CONTRIBUTORI heard the same ideas about women-witnesses fifty years ago, at the Gregorian, in Rome.

I'm expecting those now enthusing guardedly over the openness of Francis to become gradually disillusioned as they uncover just another fusty patriarch beneath the promising gestures.That's hardly the case, though. Read the dialogues with Abraham Skorka, preferably in Spanish. I doubt the refreshing earthiness will come through in the English translation, due out at the end of April.

Crystal Watson 04/03/2013 - 10:45 pmWhat exactly does the dignity of women mean? Do men have a different kind of dignity?

Yep. We're very different in many ways. That may not last once the geneticists get their hands on us - give it a few hundred years - but it's been true all along up until now :O)

About men and women being different ...">Men and Women Not So Different, After AllAnd when the church says men and women are ontologically different, it's saying that they are different in God's eyes, that he gave them different natures.

Crystal --The Church definitely does not teach that our fundamental natures are different. It teaches that we are all, male and female, rational animals. Aristotle put it nicely -- he said male and female are like two parts of one flower. When Christ became man He shared our fundamental nature, and He did so in order to redeem us all. His own sex had nothing to do specifically with the Redemption. He didn't come to save just men. And that's why the refusal to ordain women -- supposedly because we aren't men like Him -- really misses the main point of the incarntion. We are all saved by His becoming human, not by His becoming specifically male.

Ann, I'm glad to hear that.

Ann Olivier 04/04/2013 - 1:25 am subscriber"About women being special... But there is still something amazing that women can do that men cant, and it is a wonder to me why so many women disparage the ability."I am blessed to be a mother and a grandmother. I would not be the same person had I not been. Still, that is not all I am. I believe that most of us are not disparaging the ability to give birth, but we ask to be recognized for the full range of gifts we've been given.

I hope everyone registered John Page's comment in the dead of night (1:21 a.m.), Even with my non-existent Italian, I can tell that "Mothers" is not an adequate translation of Mamme e donne." Francis would not be the first pope to be zealously protected from doctrinal deviation by those who surround him. The real test of a pope is not what he says, especially in official texts and translations, so much as the new assignments he finds for his most zealous protectors.

Sue, That homily ranks high among crazed idiocies that I've heard from the pulpit. Wow!Nevertheless, I think the Pope's comparison to simple shepherds was in reference to them being "unexpected" recipients of the message, because society of their time regarded them as too lowly. I don't think it's a put down of women's capacities for different forms of endeavor and achievement. Jesus didn't mind being compared to a shepherd, but now your reaction is making me think: maybe it was a sign of self-abasement that he compared himself to a shepherd? Surely all shepherds are lowly, there's no such thing as a grand shepherd! While I'm on this tangent... Sofia Cavalletti, the revered pioneer of early childhood religious education (the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a worldwide phenomenon now) states quite without apology that for young children, the Good Shepherd is a female figure. Finally, I'm surprised that Juliana and Anne are affronted by the Pope addressing mothers. (And I hope that by now Juliana has seen that John Page is right, it's mothers and women, not just mothers.) In any case, it does not seem to me irrelevant or insulting to address mothers with respect to sharing the good news with their children. Many of us owe our mothers a great debt of gratitude for their faith, shared with us. This isn't unimportant.What haunts me, however, is all the mothers I know who have done all that can be done and their children still don't believe, they walk away, they reject faith altogether. So far from this being a trite and easy task, it's one that risks deep disappointment and requires great faith.

Rita,I'm sorry if you interpreted my language as "affronted" . I was responding to Ann's question, not at all to the language of the Pope. I am generally thrilled by his election and his actions and words so far.

The most remarkable thing about this homily is not the content but the reactions. A year ago the same words would have led to people harshly criticizing the questionable bits, interpreting them negatively, and ignoring the bits that are more positive for women. There has been a sudden change of attitudes among readers, from suspicion to goodwill. That has to be a good thing!

Women were the first witnesses of the Resurrection, praise be to God! That is why this following "witness" saddens the heart:

Frank, why does the article you link to "sadden" your heart? Rita ("Im surprised that Juliana and Anne are affronted by the Pope addressing mothers.") and Ann ("But there is still something amazing that women can do that men cant, and it is a wonder to me why so many women disparage the ability.") - I don't see anyone disparaging women's ability to give birth and be mothers. The issue isn't acknowledging that women as mothers can witness to their children. But so can fathers, and it seems that this would also be emphasized, but never is. Studies have shown that most children take the religious denomination of the mother (if parents have different denominations or faiths) but the religious practice of their fathers. If their fathers were not involved in the family's faith life, or if it is perfunctory, the children are likely to also have a perfunctory faith when adults. I am so far pleased with what Francis has done as pope in reducing the sometimes scandalous spectacle of some members of the Catholic hierarchy as living examples of conspicuous consumption and imperial splendor, and especially in an apparent emphasis in putting action to the words "preferential option for the poor." Francis seems very open and he seems to understand that many women feel demeaned and excluded in the church. But, there is nothing new in giving homage to women in their maternal roles. It is hardly groundbreaking - it is how the church has always defined (and limited) women - and that is why I wondered why so many Alleluia choruses were being sung. Both of you may have missed the point that Juliana made, one which I share - Juliana wrote:"I am blessed to be a mother and a grandmother. ....Still, that is not all I am. I believe that most of us are not disparaging the ability to give birth, but we ask to be recognized for the full range of gifts weve been given."Why are males not also told that their primary witness is to their children and grandchildren as fathers as women are told it is as mothers? Why are males permitted (by other males) to offer their "full range of gifts" in service to the church but females are limited (by males) to specific, and mostly traditionally "feminine" roles?Ann, I don't think anybody is trying to say that women and men are the "same." They aren't. But the way the church defines "complementarity" is not a wholistic understanding of what that should mean. In the church's definition, instead of including both male and female in the leadership in a way that ensures true complementarity, specifically in the priesthood which also means in the development of doctrine which currently reflects male celibate thinking almost exclusively, the church is denying the feminine in God (God made them male and female in God's image). It is limiting women in ways that it does not limit men in how they serve the church, the family and society.

@ Dear "fusty patriarch" David Smith: There comes a time in every man's life - hopefully before we start pushing up daisies - when we understand that women really have been endowed by nature with a special "dignity."In case you missed it David, women in their very bodies mirror the creative prowess of the Divine in ways that leave men wanting. Many anthropologist theorize that this perceived deficiency is the root genesis of adolescent male initiation rites in most aboriginal cultures.The felt psychological lack by men is one of the reasons why men resort to chauvinistic power domination - men fear women's creative powers, so they try to control them. Monotheistic religious traditions are particularly susceptible to this twisted form of patriarchy. Unfortunately, this is the kind of patriarchy that has been going on in the Roman church for lo these last 17 centuries, ever since Constantine co-opted Christianity for the purposes of his political hegemony.Some wisdom I learn from a life shared with the world's most competent female nephrologist: Sit back and just watch and appreciate how really women really are the smarter and more beautiful of the species.

Sorry, an addendum to the 2nd paragraph in my posting above [I was distracted by the dogs wanting to be fed!]:Women are initiated into adulthood [Life] by nature when they first experience menses. Men have no equivalent biological process so human culture has created teenage boy initiation rites.

Juliana, thanks for the clarification. I am sorry if I misinterpreted your earlier comment.Anne, thank you for responding. I know what you mean, really I do. And I fully expect Pope Francis to stereotype and pigeonhole and otherwise "define" women in ways that are unfair and unjust before his (long, I hope) pontificate is over. How could he not? His culture, his milieu, his ecclesial experience all are shaped by others who have gone down the same road. I just don't think that is what he is doing here. We disagree, but I wish you well.

I am still betting on Francis. I thing he gets it and will escape his milieu.

I'm hopeful that Frances, because of his ability to listen, will finally hear what we women are telling him. Yes, as a member of the Jesuit order whose training historically has been to educate boys only, there is probably a great lacuna in his formation with regard to what girls and women really are. The Jesuits, I think, have been particularly lacking in their understanding of women -- they just haven't dealt with that many until relatively recently. But they seem to be willing to learn. So I'm quite hopeful. Also, Frances seems to *like* women, which not all men do.

Ann, my hopes are high too, and precisely for the reasons you adduce. Listening is 9/10th of the whole thing. I just don't want to expect him to be an angel; he's human, and there will come a day when we need to forgive him as we forgive all; but for now, I feel gratitude and like Bill, in my heart I do believe he "gets it" so I certainly want to give him a chance.But, Ann, I must correct your spelling! Francis, not Frances, which is feminine. Perhaps you are thinking of Francesco?

Rita, I know what you mean, and personally am hopeful about Francis. I think I was reacting negatively both to his image of women as simple uncomplicated souls, and the way he contrasted them with "apostles and disciples"-- as though women could not be, and were not, apostles and disciples. Nevertheless I think he means well and we are fortunate to have him.

I read these comments and they make me wonder: On my deathbed, 1) will I wish I had spent more time at work or more time with my family and 2) will I want to be surrounded by work colleagues or family. One never knows the future for certain, but I'm pretty sure both answers will be family. So it just leads me to believe that we are dramatically undervaluing that "something amazing that women can do that men cant." But, hey, I'm just a guy

I think the Jesuits actually are pretty good about women - they work with them a lot as colleagues at universities and retreat centers. JESUITS AND THE SITUATION OF WOMEN IN CHURCH AND CIVIL SOCIETY ....

PS - Jesuits like Robert Egan have written in support of women's ordination ....

Thank you, Crystal. The Jesuits have been very good on women in recent years. Remember that Ignatius admitted two women to the Society in his day. It did not pan out as he had expected but the important thing is that he had admitted them. He had an openness to women. Today, in their collaborative ministry Jesuits work with many women, some of whom direct the Spiritual Exercises, which is the highest compliment Jesuits could pay to anyone: to direct the Exercises. As a Jesuit Pope Francis holds the Jesuit view on the importance of women in the Church, as he had already articulated. I would not be surprised if he expanded the role of women in the church. One has to keep in mind that in the Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius assumed that the Risen Jesus appeared to his mother first, something which cannot be grounded in the tradition of the Church. so forward thinking are Jesuits on these important matters. There is a new Pope in town and happily he is a Jesuit. Wonders never cease.

John Page wrote,

I have now watched, several times, a video clip of Pope Francis speaking of mothers and women passing on faith in Christ Risen to their children and grandchildren. . . . But the English text leaves out donne (women) at this second point, and has only Mothers, go forward with this witness! The smiling, animated Francis seems, however, to be extending his peroration not just to mothers, but to women in general. John XXIII was often frustrated by the editing in the official Italian text of what he had actually said in Italian.

Tom Blackburn added,

I hope everyone registered John Pages comment in the dead of night (1:21 a.m.) . . . Francis would not be the first pope to be zealously protected from doctrinal deviation by those who surround him. The real test of a pope is not what he says, especially in official texts and translations, so much as the new assignments he finds for his most zealous protectors.

Heres another example. During an in-flight press conference on his way to the meeting of Latin American bishops in Aparecida, Brazil in 2007, Pope Benedict said: That Romero as a person merits beatification, I have no doubt. (Answer to Question 9). The quote can be found in John Allen's transcript of the press conference, and was also cited by Associated Press reporter Nicole Winfield. Did one of those zealous protectors, as Tom Blackburn calls them, kidnap it on its way to the Vatican website? I dont know, but when you look at the answer it provides for Question 9, the Popes statement is nowhere to be found.

Rita --My hopes are so high for Francis that I'm afraid I've been conned by his charm. I"m afraid that tomorrow he'll announce that women have to wear hats in church.One thing that fascinates me about him is that in Argentina he was known as shy and formal. Must be the Holy Spirit that has gotten into him.I fear I simply misspelled his name. Sigh.

I'm surprised no one is mentioning Pope Francis has Occupied the Vatican. The major issue of the 21st century is the obscene distribution of wealth. By his lifestyle as an Archbishop, and by the choice of his papal name, Pope Francis has shown that he gets it.

So maybe the Pope's most important appointment won't be a Secretary of State, but rather, translators with skill and integrity?

Regarding the translation lacuna that John Page has called out for us: sorry if this is a naive question, but what is the importance of omitting the word "women" in the translation? It seems as if several commenters here believe there is something nearly conspiratorial in the English translation; what is significant about the omission?

I am just hoping and praying that bishops throughout the universal church rise up and speak out in favor of women being ordained permanent deacons.

Jim, the traditional view of women restricted their role in the world to parenting (and to being receptacles for men's semen). Nowadays we know that women have a lot of other talents to bring to the world. But since they are still now excluded from diaconate, priesthood, and positions of governance in the Catholic church, there is always the suspicion that the Catholic clergy don't get it. Calling for "mothers" to be witnesses suggests that the suspicion is well founded. Calling for "mothers and women" suggests that they might be witnesses in other ways besides by parenting. Given the current sensitivity of this issue, it's an important nuance.

We might reflect on the way many of us have highlighted how women were the first ones to proclaim the resurrection and how Jesus chose them to see him first. Remember our frustration that this fact being downplayed. Now here is a pope who places this riveting story front and center. This is sensational.

Shephards at Jesus's birth? Another childish Benedict xvi, Jesus' Infancy.Do bishops do not have time to study Scripture,i.e. biblical scholars like ex.R.E.Brown, J.P.Meier.A kissing of Muslim women will follow the fight against Muslim countries like Pakistan with blasphemy law or the chicken policy of Cassaroli before John Paul II to Soviet Empire not to embarass them! Is he a man or ...woman but not like biblical Judith? Let's see..

Mr. Ciuba --A story doesn't have to be literally true to be true. If you leave out the shepherds, a truth is lost.

Gene Palumbo,Your research is outstanding on the Vatican's protectiveness of what it considers politically correct speech. It would seem the censors need close scrutiny, particularly when it comes to Francis. I am just savoring these early days of his papacy, hoping for more of the same.

Claire, thanks for that explanation - that does make sense. I do try to be sensitive to these things, even when I fail. Thanks, too, for not being too critical of my insensitivity.

Add me, a mother of six and certainly not one to disparage motherhood, to the list of those skeeved out by PF's comments on the specialness of women. I have been very surprised reading some comments from women I would consider much more "feminist" (for lack of a better word) than I ever have been--the fawning excitement that PF mentioned how special we are by these feminists strikes me as just plain weird.I'm not ready to write him off as an old man victim to the attitudes of his time and culture, but I remain quite wary anytime women are pigeon-holed into "special" roles within the Church.It doesn't take much to deduct that if the Church is a mess, it surely must be because same special women must be failing at their special role.(I grew up hearing about how women who had gotten "too big for their britches" had "forgotten their place and ruined the Church", so this is a particular hot button for me)

Some of you may remember fifty or so years ago when classified employment ads in newspapers were headed "Help Wanted Male" and "Help Wanted Female." The separation was based on the facile assertion that God or nature did not intend women to do certain kinds of work, usually the kinds that paid better.Women fought against that discrimination and eventually got help in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned the separate listings. Newspapers tried and failed to have the ban declared unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. At this distance, the whole thing seems both nakedly punitive and ludicrous, until we recall that well-respected people were making what they thought were serious arguments for the status quo.The Church today is where our society was back then, except that the evidence for women's competence is all the clearer after fifty years' experience. If there are any intellectually respectable arguments for excluding women from positions of true responsibility in the Church, they haven't yet been made. And the ban on even discussing the subject saves bishops the embarrassment of having to try, which perhaps is the real reason for it.

Yolanda, in your skeeved-offed-ness, I'm sure you didn't mean to blame women on here for being dupes.I understand Pope Francis's appeal. Look at that smiling face. That accessibility. The fact that the man has never been entangled with the Vatican bureaucracy. That he is known for his actions rather than all the smart books he writes. There's lots to be encouraged like.But being called "special" by the RCC hierarchy should make any woman's blood run cold. Women are special cases, set apart, ie., confined, to certain uses and jobs to be determined by what male theologians extrapolating from male theologians down two millennia of religious thought say the natural order is.

It's the Vatican's rigid practice of forbidding public discussion of obviously neuralgic problems that drives me crazy. Just ignore the toothaches, kiddies, and they will go away, it tells us. Even four-year old children know that's nonsense. Sex abuse, bishops' cover-ups, married priests, woman priests, sexual morality -- just bury the topics and all will be hunky-dory! Yeah, sure. And chickens have lips. Have they no conception that they will have to answer for this silence?

Correction: There's lots to be encouraged ABOUT.

John Prior,I recall those ads well. Coming out of college, the question in interviews was still, can you type?For a bit of humor - I read once that some very large percentage of Brits (60?) had dreamed of having tea with the queen.Well, last night I dreamed that Francis came to visit at my house. I was just thrilled to be in his company though ashamed that my house was not cleaned up and neat. He stayed for a good period of time, walking around inside and outside, visiting with neighbors, etc. I remember saying excitedly, "he is the pope of the whole world." He was so unassuming.Well, for various reasons, we did not get a chance to sit down and talk one on one. He was so much in motion. As he was preparing to leave, and I was perhaps waking up, I yelled "dumbbell" to myself. There I lost a chance to present a tightly worded, well-researched summary of recommended actions re: sexual abuse for his consideration. What a wasted opportunity!I have never to my memory ever dreamed of any pope. Hope must remain.

Carolyn, what a dream! I am smiling. Something very touching about all that. Thank you for sharing it. Yes, hope must remain!

This is bizarre but I had a dream about the pope too, about a week ago (I've never dreamed about a pope before). I was visiting the Vatican with a bunch of other people and we spent the day with him, just following him around and talking to him. What surprised me about him was that he was so much an ordinary, practical, decent person.

A keeper, Gene. Into MSWord and on the hard drive. Thanks to you and Ann.

What does it mean to say the Vatican "forbids discussion"? How could they even do so? Or are we just using loose language here?

Mark==What Rome has done and continues to do is to have theologians fired from their jobs teaching in Catholic theoogy departments and withdraw their licenses to teach in Catholic schools. See Hans Kung, for instance. It can put pressure on the heads of orders to which theologians belong to forbid them to continue their reseaarch about certain matters. It can put pressure on bishops to silence theologian priests of their dioceses. It can cancel the charters of nuns' organizations and assign priests to rewrite them to Rome's liking. See the American nuns. And, of course, it can excommunicate whom it disapproves of. It used to burn theologians' books and even theologians, but it has improved on that regard.Where have you been?

Ann O.,Language will have its little jokes. Isn't it amusing that to fire a theologian and to burn a theologian mean different things?You may well be right that the Church has a more modern and humane attitude toward dissent today and would never burn a heretic alive. But I don't think I would want to put it to the test by giving back to Church leaders the power they once had. Nothing leads people faster to dark places than absolute power joined to serene self-righteousness, and whatever it may have lost of the first, the Church has as much as ever it had of the other.

John P. ==Now that you mention it, I wonder whether the origin of "fire" (as in dismissing from work) might originally have had something to do with firing/burning theologians.

Ann--You are avoiding my question: What discussion has Rome "forbidden"? You have discussed what you have claimed they have forbidden. See the contradiction?

Ann, is this the kind of forbidding you are talking about? In this Reuters story from last year, Pope Benedict calls challenges to Church doctrine on the ordination of women "disobedience" to doctrine he says is "infallible teaching."The lead in says the Pope will "not tolerate" these challenges, but what he actually would (or did) do to stifle the talk is unclear. strikes me that in these days of instantaneous communication through various media, it would be impossible to enforce a ban on discussion of anything. However, as you suggest, the Church has ways of making it difficult for groups and individuals to raise questions or objections to certain things without losing their place at the Table.

Mark --If you tell your child, "If you do that again you're grounded for two weeks", the form of the statement is that of a hypothetical, but the message/command is, "I forbid you to do that". Learn how language works, Mark. It's not always what they teach you in kiddie grammar classes.

AnnIndeed, I am trying very patiently to understand how your language of forbids works, but you continue to avoid answering my question. How can the Church forbid the discussion we are having? Have they excommunicated you? Me? Have we been grounded?

The Vatican "forbids" discussion by people it has direct power over (e.g., anyone holding an office in the Church, the prerequisite for which is taking an oath of fidelity; professors under a mandatum, the examples that Ann O points out, etc. etc. etc.). Another handy tactic is ignoring arguments. When has a bishop ever responded to an article or an argument posted at Commonweal? For example, I think articles like Prof. Kaveny's on the contraception mandate are worthy of a response from the hierarchy. Where is that response, that, as AnnO says, "answers one by one each of the arguments, giving ... *reasons why* they were wrong"? This never happens. I have been reading and commenting at Commonweal for years and have NEVER in all my time here, seen a counter-argument from anyone in the hierarchy on any of the material presented.

The Vatican forbids when it has direct power to do so, and ignores when it doesn't. Either way, fruitful dialog does not occur. Not exactly a stunning example of the Catholic intellectual tradition's belief in the coherence of faith and reason.

Jeanne, I appreciate your answers, and I don't wish to be seen as baiting anyone.But, practically speaking, does the hierarchy have time to answer specific groups and people at all times? Didn't Pope Benedict directly address the Austrian clerics, as outlined in the Reuters article? He DID give reasons why, as far as the Church is concerned, the possibility of women priests is not up for debate (i.e., they were not among the chosen apostles at the Last Supper). Certainly, Pope Benedict did not address the counter arguments (the reason women were not chosen was because Jesus felt people at that time would not accept them, though he did bring women into his ministry time and again), and a better Pope might do so in a friendlier and more collegial way. But at some point--and perhaps my experience with the never-ending wrangles in Anglicanism affect my thinking here--isn't it useful to have an arbiter say, "Look, right now we see no reason to reverse two millennia of tradition on this point. If the Holy Spirit so leads us, we could revisit the issue, and we trust that, if we are wrong, the Holy Spirit will reveal it to us in the fullness of time."

Jean, I see your point, but at least the Anglicans have wrangles. The Holy Spirit seems unfortunately stuck with working through humans. Having open debate (like the medievals did), where actual arguments and counterarguments are had on specific points, seems a way to let such a "revisiting" happen and to "let the Holy Spirit reveal in the fullness of time." Unless we have the sudden appearance of a holy dove that speaks, it will happen through human wrangling. The question, to me is not whether the hierarchy has the time to answer specific groups and people at all times, but whether they have the confidence to rationally answer any groups at any time. Remember, we still await a rational answer to the arguments in favor of lifting the ban on birth control from the papal commission on the topic.

Wonderful responses to Mark, though perhaps none will ever satisfy. I believe it is called creeping infallibility. And Jeanne is so right about the church exercising power of over those it can, and ignoring others. Mark, I don't think you will ever find a Vatican direct order that says, "Catholics are forbidden to discuss these settled matters: women priests, married priests, contraception, etc. etc.That's not how it works. Indirect language, Vaticanese, whatever, is an art all its own. But everyone knows, as theologians are silenced (Roger Haight, right now), what one can say and what one cannot say.An interesting example is the question whether bishops were ever told not to report sexual abuse allegations to the authorities. Nowhere is that direct language specified, and the Vatican points to Crimen Sollicitationis, (sp?), the 1922, 1962, 2001 and other documents and says, see, there is no such stipulation. However! We have any number of cardinals saying never to report to police; the example of priests who did so who were drummed out of their positions or the priesthood. The names are in my files but I don't have hours to spend getting the citations.The curia works in wondrous ways to both own and disown liability for anything. It's a brilliant tactic, learned perhaps over centuries. Mark, please smell the coffee.

Jean,You said, . . . isnt it useful to have an arbiter say, Look, right now we see no reason to reverse two millennia of tradition on this point. Why is that useful? Also: maybe the arbiter sees no reason for change, but what about all the others who see it differently? Why, on this kind of issue (i.e. were not talking about an article of the creed), should the arbiter get to have his way, get to impose his will? Why should we walk away and say, Okay, you win. Maybe another day . . . .You also said, If the Holy Spirit so leads us, we could revisit the issue. . . . But what if the Holy Spirit is leading us or is trying to right now, is doing so by speaking to us through those who say that the time to revisit the issue is now, and not some point in the future? Finally, you say, . . . we trust that, if we are wrong, the Holy Spirit will reveal it to us in the fullness of time. But what if we are wrong, now, and theres no need to wait for the fullness of time to see that because the Holy Spirit is revealing it to us or is trying to -- now, if only we had eyes to see?

Jeanne-Thanks for responding. Thats a pretty serious accusation you are making against the Vatican, though. As was Anns original accusation. Can you back it up? Can you provide an example of someone the Vatican has forbidden to discuss anything? How, exactly, did they enforce the forbidding?CarolynI am pleased to see you offer that, not only does the Vatican not have the apparatus of power to forbid discussion, it has never even stated that Catholics are forbidden to discuss... So, that leaves us with the Vatican forbidding discussion in the sense that it has not forbidden discussion, it has not explicitly said it is forbidding discussion, and we Catholics are all here discussing that topics theyve indirectly forbidden us to discussdo I have that about right?Cream and sugar?

Mark,You really expect explicit instructions on such matters from the church? I see how literal and limited your interpretations are.You truly mean to imply that there were no consequences for priests who reported abusers to the police after their bishops did nothing? The Vatican and bishops certainly have the power, and have indeed exercised it to stop others - like removal from office and the priesthood. And when you don't, see what can happen. And did.Or being silenced, like so many have been? One example: "Yves Congar, a French Dominican and the 20th century's most prominent ecclesiologist, wrote the following as part of a letter to his mother in September 1956 when the Vatican had forbidden him to teach. It appears here in English for the first time. What I am blamed for is usually very little. Most of the time, whatever problem is raised about an idea in my work is explained in the preceding line in that same work. What has put me in the wrong (in their eyes) is not having said false things, but having said things that they do not like to have said. I have touched on problems without always aligning myself to the one point of view which [Rome] wants to impose on the comportment of the whole of the Christian world and which is: to think nothing, to say nothing, except what they propose...The present pope [Pius XII] has (especially since 1950) developed almost to the point of obsession a paternalistic regime consisting in this: that he and he alone should say to the world what it has to think and what it must do. He wishes to reduce theologians to commenting on his statements and not to dare to think something or undertake something beyond mere commentary; except, I repeat, in a very small and safeguarded area of inconsequential problems...It is clear to me that Rome has never looked for and even now does not look for anything but the affirmation of its own authority. Everything else interests it only as matter for the exercise of this authority. Except for a certain number of cases dealing with people of holiness and creativity, the whole history of Rome is about insisting on its own authority and the destruction of everything that cannot be reduced to submission... Practically speaking, they have destroyed me as far as it was possible for them. Everything I believed and had worked on has been taken away: ecumenism, teaching, conferences, working with priests, writing for Temoignage Chretien, involvement in conventions, etc.They have not, of course, hurt my body; nor have they touched my soul or forced me to do anything. But a person is not limited to his skin and his soul. Above all when someone is a doctrinal apostle, he is his action, he is his friendships, he is his relationships, he is his social outreach; they have taken all that away from me. All that is now at a standstill, and in that way I have been profoundly wounded. They have reduced me to nothing and so they have for all practical purposes destroyed me. When, at certain times, I look back on everything I had hoped to be and to do, on what I had begun to do, I am overtaken by an immense heartsickness.This is not just history but history in the making, today, on any number of issues.

Congar isnt the only one. Bernard Haring is another. He explains what happened to him in his book, My Witness for the Church. A few lines on the back cover describe it as follows:

Haring details and documents his own painful encounters with the CDF, particularly the trial concerning his own writings in the 1970s. In the end, he urges, and exemplifies, a mature love for Christ and the Church, calling us to wholeness and holiness: I wrote this book to show that we can love the Church in the midst of difficulties; to awaken hope for a new springtime in the Church in the midst of wintry frost.

For Haring, loving the church did not mean pulling punches or failing to speak truth to (the CDFs) power. He cites serious flaws in the charges against him, and asks, Was this document of indictment checked over by no one? Was no one assigned to carefully check the indictment to see whether or not it dealt justly with the aims of the indicted author?Here is an excerpt from his response to one of the charges:

The next, likewise unargued, accusation speaks of a falling into an ethical relativism which derives the criteria of a virtuous act exclusively from the historical situation. As I read this charge a strong feeling of disgust came over me. How should I disprove this extremely serious charge since there is not a single item of argumentation given for it? This charge weights all the more heavily since the Doctrinal Congregation presumably is familiar with the rest of my works. From them there is more than enough to show how constantly I have turned my efforts against the charge of historicism, which is made against me here. If I have done this with greater nuance than those theologians who have neglected the historical context of the language and the ethical statements, then I may be seen as having made a significant contribution in this regard so that it is inconceivable that I should be accused of having contributed to the promotion of historicism, of relativism. Has it occurred to no one in your Congregation how weighty the word unicamente (exclusively) weights? May I request that you personally read my book Medical Ethics itself so that you may realize the enormous injustice of this accusation?

He added that, despite the negative experiences, I would not like to skip mentioning that I have found much love and recognition in the Vatican, first of all by popes, but then also by many highly placed and not so highly placed persons. I admonish the reader not to be misled into too quick generalizations. Even today I have good friends in the Vatican. Even there, there are open and absolutely selfless men. I would glad add and women, but for women the Vatican has hardly been a place of much influence thus far. This does not foster a healthy climate, and here lies one of the points in which the Vatican is not representative of the world Church.

Gene,Those are very large and very deep questions you're asking. If our ultimate reliance for faith is in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, how do we recognize and receive it? Have we sometimes the self-assurance or effrontery to limit the Spirit's freedom to ways and means that we understand clearly here and now? Does God reveal his truth only through the exalted of this world? Or can it be a more distributed process requiring less declaring and more listening? Is it a gentle breeze or a whole gale?And what are the effects of human weakness? I suppose it is possible for anyone, even a bishop, to be so overcome by vanity and self-interest that he simply will not hear the truth. What is the Holy Spirit to do? Knock him down and force the truth upon him?I don't know the answers, but I'm glad to know that I'm not alone.

Hi, John,I want to say "thanks" but at the same time admit that I'm not sure how this relates to what I wrote. If it's that you found it flawed, or wide of the mark, I'd like to hear more about that, because as of now, I'm honestly not sure that I've fully grasped what you're saying.

CarolynThe insinuation in your second paragraph, being wholly unsupported, can be considered nothing more than a libellous calumny which I think it would be wise to retract, if not apologize for, post haste.Regarding Congars alleged silencing (for which youve provided a link to nowhere), despite his difficulties with Venerable Pius XII, my understandings is that he published many influential books in the 1950s. This is a most curious example of silencing, no? Even in the letter youve excerpted, which must have been written when he was having a very bad day, he acknowledges that, They have not, of course,... forced me to do anything...One lump or two?

Mark --The Vatican doesn't have to explicitly forbid everyone to stop discussing an issue. It can and does forbid the ones who matter the most -- the theologians -- to stop discussing the matter. If a theologian persists, there are severe professional consequences, sometimes without even an opportunity for the theologian to defend him/herself.You seem to think that general expressions (which are addressed to some members of a group) are the same thing as universal expressions (which are addresedto all of the group). True, the Vatican hasn't explicitly told *all* Catholics not to discuss certain things publicly. It would be mostly irrelevant if it did so because few non-theologian-Catholics do discuss theology publicly. But the Vatican does force theologians to stop public discussions, thus stemming criticism of the Vatican, though theologians in the last few decades do seem to be getting more courageous. It will be interesting to see how much of this talk Pope Francis will tolerate.Again I ask, where have you been?

Mark, while you're catching your breath on that fainting couch, maybe you could acquaint yourself with Google: concern-trolling in my threads.

Ann--You continue to make that assertion and you continue to refuse to support it with even one concrete example, or to answer the question I have asked you. If it is a serious wrong to forbid discussion, it is also a serious wrong to false accuse someone of same. What's good for the goose should be good for the gander, no?Grant-Thanks for the link. I few you have not read it carefully, as it provides more support for my view than yours.Father Congar reacted to the measures with anxiety and, at times, anger, although he always obeyed. At times his reactions were excessive, and he himself recognized this in moments of serenity.... Father Congar was appointed consultor of Vatican IIs preparatory theological commission. He took part in Vatican II as an expert from 1962 to 1965. After the council, his theology gave extraordinary impetus to ecclesiology.You had to go back 50 years, and this is the best example of silencing you can put forth?I trust you will not consider having a different opinion than yours a form of trolling and that you will not be forbidding discussion from a conservative point of view on this blog.

Jean --Thanks for the article about the German priests who depart from Vatican teaching. Here's what Benedict said, for those who didn't look up the article:"The pope responded specifically to a call to disobedience by a group of Austrian priests and laity, who last year boldly and openly challenged Church teaching on taboo topics such as priestly celibacy and women's ordination."'Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church?,' he asked rhetorically in the sermon of a solemn Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on the day Catholic priests around the world renew their vows."In his response to the Austrian group, his first in public, Benedict noted that, in its "call to disobedience", it had challenged 'definitive decisions of the Church's magisterium (teaching authority) such as the question of women's ordination ...'"By the way, note the language Benedict uses -- he doesn't talk about a *judgment* regarding the truth of a proposition, he talks about a "decision" (an act of the will) as justifying the proposition, It's as if he thinks that one *chooses* whether or not a statement is true. He's confusing a judgment (an act of the intellect) with a decision (an act of the will). I suspect it's his admiration of Bonaventure which leads him to think muddily about the will and intellect sometimes. He's certainly not talking Aquinas' language here. Also note: in the classic Scholastic language, decisions are never said to be "definitive", only judgements can define. Benedict's implicit principle here is: "what I *decide* is true *is* what is true", a highly dangerous view of what truth is. Of course, I'm sure that if he were asked about this, he would deny the explicit statement, "we can choose what is true and it will be true". But sometimes he contradicts himself.

Mark: You troll this blog almost seven days a week. No one disputes that the Vatican has silenced theologians. Do some homework.

Gene,I was responding to your comment of 3:30. I meant, although that certainly does not mean that you meant, that the guidance of the Holy Spirit is too important in the life of the Church to be left solely to those who claim to discern and declare it infallibly. The HS is a free spirit.

I am certainly encouraged by our new Pope and his enlightened outlook on women from his predecessors. My concern is: Is it enough to effect change? Is this going to be followed closely by changing the leadership make-up of the Church? On Holy Thursday, I would have liked to see 6 men and 6 women having their feet washed, not 10 men and 2 token women. Seeing women as "special" or communicating Christ to our Families - not enough. We (women) feed our families every day of every year - and yet, we are not good enough (because we don't have a "Y" chromosome) to change bread and wine into body and blood? We are not worthy of leading the Church, because that was the mores of 2K years ago. I don't buy it. I know what the catechism teaches, I know this is contrary to the whole Peter is the Rock business - I think Jesus preached with his life how much credence he gave to women and men alike. Women are not better than men - we complement one another. We are meant to work together. When the Pope starts moving in that direction - I will leap for joy.

Grant,Besides theologians, it wasn't very long ago, was it, that the Vatican was, if not silencing, which fortunately is hard to do these days, at least shushing whole congregations of nuns? But of course, they are women, and "a woman must listen in silence and be completely submissive. I do not permit a woman to act as teacher, or in any way to have authority over a man; she must be quiet." 1 Timothy 2:11-12Not an ounce of animus in that. It's just an ontological thing. Or possibly heartburn. Whatever we may think of popes and bishops these days, there's no denying they know and love their Paul.

'you continue to refuse to support it with even one concrete example, or to answer the question I have asked you."Mark -I gave the thoroughly concrete examples of Hans Kung and the American nuns who are now under fire, and other people on this thread have mentioned others. Do you read what others have to say when you don't like what they're saying? And don't ask me to look up citations for Kung and the nuns. They are so well-known you should have discovered them for yourself years ago. Get your head out of the sand. You're giving bad example to the young.Here's from Congar himself (in one of Gene's posts above). it is a perfect example of how the Vatican treats dissenting theologians --- it forgets the honorable Scholastic method that required accusers to give evidence against the accused:"The next, likewise unargued, accusation speaks of a falling into an ethical relativism which derives the criteria of a virtuous act exclusively from the historical situation. As I read this charge a strong feeling of disgust came over me. How should I disprove this extremely serious charge since there is not a single item of argumentation given for it?"

I gave the thoroughly concrete examples of Hans Kung... And dont ask me to look up citations for Kung... They are so well-known... that you dont know what they are? that you cant find them? If Kung has been silenced, that would certainly be a revelation to me, as it seems Im always hearing what he had to say.Its never too late to revise and extend ones remarks, to admit one misspoke, to correct the record. I do it all the time.

I think Teillard de Chardin was put on the "do not pass go, do not collect $200" list because of his Phenomenon of Man, which was forbidden to be published by the "church," i.e., the few, the proud and the rigid.

Mark --Now you're being incoherent. 'Bye.

Mark,You quote my second paragaph: "You truly mean to imply that there were no consequences for priests who reported abusers to the police after their bishops did nothing? The Vatican and bishops certainly have the power, and have indeed exercised it to stop others like removal from office and the priesthood." Mark's response: "The insinuation in your second paragraph, being wholly unsupported, can be considered nothing more than a libelous calumny which I think it would be wise to retract, if not apologize for, post haste."I do not retract, I do not apologize; in fact, J'accuse! 1) John Conley vs William Levada down to the Conley section, p. 7 in my Word file. Fortunately, Conley had been a lawyer before entering seminary and knew how to fight Levada in court over dismissal from his post. He won a tidy settlement against Levada, who of course went on to head the CDF in Rome.Jim Jenkins, who posts here, was chair of the SF Review Board under Levada and can certainly fill in the blanks about Levada's character.

2) Survivor and priest Bruce Teague' case: snip: "Five years ago, when the Rev. Bruce Teague noticed a convicted child molester was hanging around St. Brigid Church, he sent word to his superiors at the Diocese of Springfield. But after hearing nothing back from the diocese, Teague went to Amherst police, who issued a trespass order, threatening the child molester with arrest if he came back.Teague said that after his superiors got a copy of the order, he was reprimanded for going outside the church, touching off a dispute with diocesan officials over his leadership of the parish that eventually led to his ouster as pastor.His transgression? The child molester he turned in was another priest."My last allowed link: Tom Doyle quoting maybe four cardinals on not reporting to police, counter-posed against the Vatican's legal counsel saying but, but "there was nothing in canon law that ... precluded reporting. Maybe not, but irrelevant to what the reality was. As Bonhoeffer noted, Communicating truthfully means more than factual accuracyThere is a way of speaking which isentirely correct and unexceptionable, but which is, nevertheless, a lieWhen an apparently correct statement contains some deliberate ambiguity, or deliberately omits the essential part of the truthit does not express the real as it exists in God. The Vatican excels at this form of lying and mendacity.The end to my responses to Mark Proska.

Mark Proska accuses Carolyn Disco of a libelous calumny which I think it would be wise to retract, if not apologize for.Retract? Apologize? Where have I seen those words before?Oh, now I remember: it was in my invitation to Mark to do just that himself, after he had falsely accused others. He has never offered a defense of his position (not surprising, since none exists), nor has he retracted or apologized. My question: what standing does Mark have to ask others to do what he has refused to do himself? Lest there be any doubt about my claim that he falsely accused people -- and then refused to apologize or retract allow me to re-post a comment in which I laid it all out:

gene palumbo 10/04/2011 - 4:55 pm Extraordinary. Truly extraordinary.Mark Proska takes it upon himself to instruct us, Why not take the high road, and address the question? Indeed, why not? And why doesnt Mark begin by taking that road himself? For him it has been the road less traveled; he has set the gold standard for refusing to address the question.A prime example came in his comments last year on a post by Peter Steinfels. Its worth citing them again to show that hes in no position to be urging others to act in a way that he himself has declined to act. Allow me to prove that point by offering a more concise version of a comment I posted on that thread:
Mark Proska:As I read your comments above about Ed Gleason and the Commonweal editorial, I found myself saying, Somethings not right here. I decided to take a closer look. Heres what I found: I. Ed GleasonYou accuse him of making a case against the preaching of doctrine. Thats pretty strong. It also didnt make sense, given what we know (from Eds posts over the years) about the decades of basic pastoral work he and his wife have done. Sure enough, when I went and checked, it turned out that he never said what you claimed he said. He did imply that he disagreed with your particular take on doctrine, but thats very different from making a flat-out case against the preaching of doctrine. II. The Commonweal editorial ( As for why Avery Dulles was named a cardinal: According to you, Commonweal suggested that he was named only because he toed the line. But the editorial never says that. On the contrary, it lists reasons why he deserved to be named a cardinal, and adds, no one could begrudge Dulles his red hat. 2) As for Dulless motives: You said (and, in saying it, you gave the false impression that the quote you used from the editorial, was a quote referring to Dulles):
[I]t was implied that Dulles toed the magisteriums line to secure the red hat.

In fact, nothing of the sort was implied. The editorial never said that Dulles wrote what he wrote in order to be named a cardinal. In addition, the editorial never used the phrase you quoted (toed the magisteriums line) in relation to Dulles; it used it in reference to others:

The late Richard McCormick, S.J., and Gustavo Gutirrez come to mind as men whose lifetime of service to the church cannot be second-guessed, yet whose work has not always toed the magisteriums line.

3) As for Commonweals cheap shot (according to you) at Avery Dulles: The editorial spoke of Dulless efforts defending disputed papal teachings, and said it was hard to suppress the suspicion that [those efforts], rather than his broader achievements, figured uppermost in the Vaticans decision making. About Dulles himself, the editorial besides acknowledging his broader achievements said this: his theological work has been a beacon of lucidity. It added: a deep love for and devotion to the church are evident in everything he writes. Is that what you call a cheap shot?Summing up: you put words in the mouths of Ed Gleason and Commonweal. You falsely accused them. You owe them an apology and a retraction.

How did Mark respond? He flatly refused to address the question. I did not, he wrote, find your arguments compelling enough to need a response. Those arguments had according to him no substance. I was stunned when I read that. Can he really believe, I asked myself, that the blogs readers are so stupid that they wont see right through that? I solicited the opinion of someone who, I feel confident in saying, is one of the most moderate and most widely respected among all those who post on this blog. The response I got was, in its harshness, totally out of character for its author, but it was also totally accurate:

He loves to stir people up and be flippant, and he evades having his feet put to the fire. He thinks hes very clever, but hes really only clever by half. You essentially painted him into a corner, and he wasnt man enough to admit it or to craft any sort of thoughtful response.

He summed up by describing Marks response as cowardly.Another person Rita Ferrone responded to Mark on the blog:

Gene Palumbos comments are right on. They are demonstrably grounded in the facts, and are both morally cogent and civil. I find them completely persuasive, and am grateful to him for making clear who is telling the truth here and who is distorting it. It is sad. Mark continues to post, as if nothing happened. He obviously thinks it doesnt matter. Its yesterdays news. But I must admit that I will be hard pressed to take seriously anything Mark Proska might say in the future, knowing that his regard for the facts is so slight and his sense of responsibility for having unjustly vilified the Commonweal editors is nil, as this exchange shows.

That says it all. Yet now, the same Mark Proska enjoins the rest of us to take the high road and address the question. Might he begin by setting an example and doing it himself?

Gene, to respond to your earlier query, yes, I think that the Holy Spirit is always and ever leading us, including right now. However, until the way is clear to pretty much everyone, it's sometimes hard to make progress.Certainly, it's hard for the Spirit to lead when the hierarchy is stonewalling. I would submit it's equally hard for the Spirit to move when everyone is angry and yelling (as has been often the case in the Anglican wrangles). I think it is useful to have someone who can call a timeout occasionally, something the Archbishop of Canterbury really doesn't have the power to do.

AnnSorry, I dont think I can be any coherenter than I already have been.CarolynThanks for citing specific instances. That helps me understand your point, but I see your examples as somewhat akin to a publisher who turns down a proffered manuscript. Thats not what Id consider silencing the author or forbidding discussion of any topic. Granted, the topic of sexual abuse is much more serious, but youve only presented one side of the story. For the record, the only true censoring Ive seen from the hierarchy is the deletion of a few of my commentstalk about irony!GeneWhat can I say? Its painful to read your comment, but not for the reason you think.

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