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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.



Commenting Guidelines

'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.