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God is our Mother
JBK Happy Colour
Next Sunday we celebrate Mother’s Day, a pause to honour the woman who is responsible for our being alive. Whatever the circumstances of our conception, she chose or accepted her pregnancy and allowed us to be formed in her womb, nourished us with her life, and brought us through labour and delivery to birth. If we were fortunate, she fed us her milk and soothed us with her caresses as needy infants. She was our world -- our identity was so bound up with her -- we were one.
As a child I learned my basic mental images of God from a book of Bible stories we had and which was read often, in part, because we didn’t have many books around our home. Most of the stories I remember were about an angry, judgmental God in the Garden of Eden, a judge separating the sheep and goats, a king ruling the earth. I don’t remember any stories about a baker woman or a seamstress, a mother eagle or a brood hen.
However, when we consider our innate maternal experience, it need not come as a surprise that writers of the Sacred Scriptures use feminine images of God, especially maternal ones. Deutero-Isaiah, particularly, uses a number of them. In Chapter 42:14 God “cries out like a woman in labour” with gasps and pants. In Chapter 46:3–4 God is described as having carried the house of Jacob “from the womb". In Chapter 49:15 we read the promise that even though a mother may forget (as if she could) her child, God will never forget you. And, in Chapter 66:13 the Lord tells Jerusalem, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”
Images from motherhood describe Jesus as well. Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem evokes a mother’s comfort and concern. He says, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings” (Luke 13:34 and Matt. 23:37). Lk 15:8-10 (the parable of the lost coin) illustrates the concern and joy of God, and in Luke 13:20-21 Jesus describes the reign God being like a baker-woman mixing yeast & flour.
The mystics often express their experiences of God in feminine as well as masculine imagery. The unnameable Father is utterly transcendent, and the unnameable Mother is manifest everywhere, and, though radically opposite, both are one. Dame Julian of Norwich, a medieval English mystic, describes God as both Father and Mother: “God rejoices that he is our Father, and God rejoices that [she] is our Mother.” Anselm of Canterbury depicts Christ is “the great mother” who brought forth sons [and daughters] through [her] death and who comforts the frightened with [her] gentleness.
With a consistent thread of feminine images running throughout the Sacred Scriptures and the writing of Mystics, what is surprising is the ongoing resistance to using feminine language to name God. My experience is that if I want to name God as other than Father, there is resistance. Usually it comes as, “Jesus called God father, he never called God mother.” We need to remember that in the cultural world of Jesus, it is not surprising that masculine pronouns were used for God. But I don’t think that was to suggest that God has a masculine gender, for God is spirit. Our language about God should help us to understand and encounter God, but we should not confuse the reality of God, which is beyond language, with the limits of our language.
It seems to me that Mother’s Day is an appropriate occasion to recapture some of the biblical maternal images for God to help us see further truths about God. We describe God in feminine terms, not because God is actually a woman, but because feminine or maternal traits say something true about God and about our experience with God. God is more than the male sovereign or judge of all mankind. God is the tender-hearted, nurturing, sacrificing provider, giving us birth and life from within. We recognize God’s care for humanity as consistent with our deep inner knowing of being loved and cared for as we were nurtured and formed in our mother’s womb.
Without God as Mother, we have only half the picture. We are made in the image of God: male and female. By using maternal metaphors for God alongside the paternal ones, we embrace the fullness of God’s love for us. In this sense, the motherwork of God is work that can be done by men or women. It is a work of care that preserves and protects all humanity, especially mothers and their children.
[Jane Kryzanowski, Regina, SK is bishop for RCWP Canada]
OUR KIDS RE CHURCH -- A survey by parents of their children
Calgary Catholic parents, Special to The Review | May 1, 2020
I recently e-mailed my 8 kids individually and asked them about their faith and why most have “abandoned” the Catholic church. I assured all that this was confidential between each of them and me and to not to worry about hurting their mother’s or my feelings. I just asked them to be as honest as they could. The following were their answers.
#1 (Born 1952): Dad & Mom; I don’t feel that you are in any way guilty for my step back. I made the decision, or no decision, in recent years. Re priest abuse for example I think that things went on that you weren’t aware of, but you aren’t alone in that. There were monsters in the closet, it’s just that the closet was school, church, the playground and work and invariably those in a position of respect or power. That said here are my thoughts/position:
1. I grew up in the faith, learned my catechism, married in a church and basically followed the path of a Catholic girl. We baptised our kids and sent them to Separate schools, mainly because I felt that they could only make an informed decision about their faith by participating at all levels until they were adults.
2. I waffle back and forth about whether there is a God and usually fall on the ‘no’ side. I think this is a product of the scientific age, but if there is a god, why is being a practising Catholic the only option? I believe I can follow Christian values without going to church – I have a wonderful example in my non-Catholic husband.
3. Finally, my respect for the catholic church is low. The scandals that have come to light over the last 20 years make respect difficult, many were covered up for decades and there doesn’t seem to be much remorse. The handling of the priests scandals is a prime example; Cover it up and if pushed, just stonewall. I know the church is not alone in this situation, but considering its position in the world, it had the opportunity to be a leader, instead it used its power to cover up and sadly it continues to do so. Historically the church has taken the easy road to protect its assets as opposed to its members (see its record in WWII, and don’t get me going on the residential schools.) It is in essence a wealthy corporation and keeping it wealthy is the number one goal of management. Yes, I have known some good priests, but for all the good ones, I have known, or known of, as many bad ones, whether predators, alcoholics or bullies. So it is hard for me to sit through a sermon about love thy neighbour and charity to others. I know you have found a faith community where the priests are women and I applaud that and their initiative. But until the mainstream church can recognize the need to integrate married men and women into their leadership, they won’t have my support. As you know in the middle ages, priests married. Maybe the pope and cardinals are afraid they would look weak by agreeing to such a fundamental change, but it would be better for all.
Read More -- Seven other children's comments
Womanpriest: Tradition and Transgression in the Contemporary Roman Catholic Church (Catholic Practice in North America)
Jill Peterfeso (Author)
While some Catholics and even non-Catholics today are asking if priests are necessary, especially given the ongoing sex-abuse scandal, Roman Catholic Woman Priests (RCWP) look to reframe and reform Roman Catholic priesthood, starting with ordained women.
Womanpriest: Tradition and Transgression in the Contemporary Roman Catholic Church is the first academic study of the RCWP movement. As an ethnography, the book analyzes the women priests’ actions and lived theologies in order to explore ongoing tensions in Roman Catholicism around gender and sexuality, priestly authority, and religious change.
In order to understand how women priests navigate tradition and transgression, this study situates RCWP within post–Vatican II Catholicism, apostolic succession, sacraments, ministerial action, and questions of embodiment. The book reveals RCWP to be a discrete religious movement in a distinct religious moment, with a small group of tenacious women defying the Catholic patriarchy, taking on the priestly role, and demanding reconsideration of Roman Catholic tradition. Doing so, the women inhabit and re-create the central tensions in Catholicism today.
Kindle and other electronic formats
[Editor's note: This book is openly available for free in digital formats thanks to a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The free edition may be ordered from the following:
I truly appreciated the video "How the Virus Stole Easter". It speaks so loudly of faith, and hope, of peace and joy, of on-going resurrection in daily life, of living life as followers of Jesus.
[Judith Pellerin, Regina, SK]
Today for the first time I clicked on several "Related Links". They hold many gems. For example the link to the Vatican II documents offers a very handy search engine for the documents. I was familiar with several of the other links, but I would suggest to followers of The Review to check out the "Related Links".
[David Jackson, Edinburg, TX]
Editor's note: See the bottom of this page for "Related Links".
1972: Dr. Bernhard Stein, bishop of Trier (Germany) and president of the liturgical commission of the German episcopal conference ‘sanctions the possibility of women admitted to the priesthood, his only doubts being the appropriate timing of such an action.’ Declaration taken up in Deutsche Tagespost, Nov. 17-18, 1972, p. 14, quoted by G. May in Zeitschr. Sav. Stift. R.C.K.A. 60 (1974) 384-385.
1976: Experts of the Vatican’s Pontifical Biblical Commission determines there are no scriptural reasons preventing women's ordination.
1976: The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (formerly known as the Office of the Inquisition) issues Inter Insigniores stating the Church does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination. Their reason: because women do not image Christ — because they do not look like him, people will be confused. Women, the CDF says, do not bear an iconic resemblance — imago Dei — of Christ therefore they cannot be priests.
1978: The second Women's Ordination Conference is held in Baltimore, Maryland. WOC membership exceeds 3,000 people. Responding to Inter Insigniores, the program heralds: ‘It’s time to lay to rest the heresy that women cannot image Jesus in the priesthood.’
1979: Pope John Paul II visits U.S. After an all night vigil in Washington, Women’s Ordination Conference members greet the pope as he emerges. Then President of Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), Mercy Sr. Theresa Kane addresses John Paul at National Shrine. She publicly urges him that all church ministries in the Church should be open to women.
1980: Women as Altar Servers: Clarifying a 1970 document permitting some expansion to include lay people in service during mass, Pope John Paul II stipulates that women are not permitted to be altar servers.
1983: The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (formerly known as the Office of the Inquisition) calls upon bishops to refuse support to those who defend the priestly ordination of women.
1983: Women as Altar Servers: Canon law is revised so as to permit laypeople’s, including women, service during mass in special circumstances. Canon 230, § 3: ‘When the necessity of the Church warrants it and when ministers are lacking, lay persons, even if they are not lectors or acolytes, can also supply for certain of their offices, namely, to exercise the ministry of the word, to preside over liturgical prayers, to confer baptism, and to distribute Holy Communion in accord with the prescriptions of law.’ Women are still not permitted to serve as altar servers.
1994: Sister Lavinia Byrne, IBVM, of England learns that under pressure from the Vatican, the Liturgical Press of Collegeville, Minnesota orders all 1300 copies of her book, Women at the Altar: The Ordination of Women in the Roman Catholic Church to be burned. Published in 1993, the book is a ‘a journalistic account of reactions to the ordination of women priests in the Church of England.’ It argues that the Catholic tradition could be appropriately developed to encompass women's ordination, as the key building blocks are already in place. The arguments from Scripture and tradition had been revisited and found not to be absolute. In the introduction, she writes, ‘The ordination of women to the priesthood is the logical conclusion of all the recent work of Catholic theology about women and in particular about the holiness of all the baptised. It is not an aberation from what the Church teaches, but rather a fulfillment of it so that not to ordain women would now be to compromise the Catholicity of the church.’ Byrne intends her book neither as attack nor directive. The Vatican reacts otherwise. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith begins its investigation in earnest, bans the book, orders destruction of all copies printed by the Catholic publisher. Byrne states her intentions for the book were in good faith at a time when debate and discussion were open and free. Subsequent to the ‘burning of books’, in May 1994, Pope John Paul II issues his Apostolic Letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis which states that women’s ordination is no longer open to debate. He restricts priestly ordination to men only. As for Byrne, the CDF demands that she recant her work and make a public statement supporting the ban on women’s ordination. Rather than recant, Byrne asks to be dispensed from her vows. The Irish Times reports in its story, The Accidental Rebel that Byrne says, ‘I am resigning because of the pressure from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. I'm being silenced as a member of a religious order. The CDF won't to talk me directly but to my religious superiors, and that strategy of not dialoguing with me has become untenable.’ BBC News, A Nun on the Run from Rome
1994: The Vatican attempts to silence discussion about women’s ordination. In what later comes to be known as ‘the papal No’, John Paul II issues Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (OS) stating that women’s ordination is no longer open to debate. He says the door is closed and forbids discussion about women’s ordination among faithful Catholics to the point of saying that mere discussion will put one out of communion with the Church. Since then, and the subsequent Responsum ad Dubium (1995) issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which claims the statement is infallible as an expression of the ‘ordinary and universal magisterium’, discussion remains officially forbidden. Key theologians and canon lawyers from around the world reject the notion that the document is infallible. Elizabeth Johnson, csj, Professor of Theology at Fordham University provides a concise summary in her, Disputed Questions, Authority, Priesthood, Women. OS does not fulfill the criteria for being an expression the ‘ordinary and universal magisterium.’ Theologian Nicholas Lash says that to claim that it is and to forbid discussion is ‘a scandalous abuse of power’ by the Vatican. Two fine articles explaining these points are:
• Nicholas Lash, On Not Inventing Doctrine
• Peter Burns, S.J., Was The Teaching Infallible? (both links open on website www.womenpriests.org).
1994: The Vatican changes canon law so as to permit women altar servers. The change is permissive and not prescriptive. Before 1994, women and girls were not permitted to serve in this capacity.
1995: Less than a year after Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is issued, Mercy Sr. Carmel McEnroy becomes its first victim when she is fired from her tenured position teaching theology at a US American seminary when she is accused of ‘public dissent’ from church teaching on account of being one of over 1,000 people who sign an open letter to Pope John Paul II asking him to reopen dialogue on women’s ordination. Her book, Guests in Their Own House: The Women of Vatican II (1996), is deemed to be the first and most insightful account to date of the 23 female auditors who participated in Vatican II. Her detective work for this book was done long before the days of online resources and connectivity. The book wins the 1997 Catholic Book Award for History/Biography.
1995: Women’s Ordination Conference celebrates its 20th anniversary with a conference in Washington, DC.
1996: Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW) forms after women from six countries draw up its charter. They point out that women play no part in the decision-making of the male, celibate, clerical hierarchy. The work by Women’s Ordination Worldwide for Catholic women's ordination means finding a way forward where there is no path.
1997: The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger excommunicates Sri Lankan Father Tissa Balasuriya when he refuses to withdraw statements that include support for women’s ordination in his book The Eucharist and Human Liberation. Father Balasuriya appeals to Pope Paul VI. The Pope upholds the excommunication.
2001: Women’s Ordination Worldwide holds its first international conference, Now Is the Time, in Dublin, Ireland. Keynote speaker Sister Joan Chittister, osb is threatened with sanctions by the Vatican should she attend. With the full support of her order, she defies the hierarchy’s threats and delivers her address, Discipleship for a Priestly People in a Priestless Period.
See here for statement of support from her prioress: Statement of Sister Christine Vladimiroff.
WOW’s press releases about the event are here: Now is the Time: A Celebration of Women's Call to a Renewed Priesthood in the Catholic Church Dublin, Ireland 29 June to July 1, 2001 and here WOW International Conference Dublin 2001
2001: Women’s Ordination Worldwide participates in a Shadow Synod of the People of God - Voices of Catholic Christians Around The World. The People' s Synod assembles in Rome from 4 - 7 October 2001 to offer the concerns and needs of many at the grassroots of the Roman Catholic Church to the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
2001: Women as Altar Servers: Boys and men preferred. The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of Sacraments tightens up regulations about women or girls as altar servers when it prescribes, ‘The authorization [by a local bishop] to allow women servers may not, in any way, exclude men or, in particular, boys from service at the altar, nor require that priests of the diocese must make use of female altar servers, since it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar.’
2001: The Vatican forbids women to train for the diaconate. Women’s Ordination Worldwide responds with a call for restoration of the ordained women’s diaconate. In it’s press release, WOW Challenges the Vatican On Its Declaration Against Women Training for the Diaconate - Oct. 3, 2001, WOW points out that ‘This declaration by men in positions of authority in the Roman Catholic Church forbidding women to train for the diaconate is another painful example of the entrenched sexism which afflicts the church. It is both a serious attack on the personal dignity of women, their sisters in Christ, and an attack on the Church who cannot fulfill her mission unless ALL the gifts of her members are put to the service of her mission to the world. A church in which women are not allowed to fulfill their God-given calling to serve as deacons and priests alongside their brothers is not a credible sacrament of the God of Jesus Christ, in whose image both women and men are equally made.’
[This is the fourth excerpt of a timeline we are serializing here. For the full timeline, see the Women's Ordination Worldwide website.]
On new deacons commission, Catholic women warn Pope against cementing their "second-class status" in ChurchRead the full article here.
Women's Ordination Conference release
In a press release April 8, the same day the Vatican announced the formation of the new commission, the Women's Ordination Conference (WOC) cautioned the pontiff that it supported a commission on women deacons that was "open to the movement of the Spirit and the reality of the historical record, not one that seeks to justify a foreordained conclusion."
Cardinal Hollerich: “Women have to share power in the Church”
Mada Jurado, novenanews.com | April 11, 2020
“Women have to share power in the Church”, Luxembourger cardinal and President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) Jean-Claude Hollerich has insisted.
– “It is not possible nowadays that decisions are only taken by men.”
– “Celibacy is not a command of divine law.”
– Light a candle at the window for Covid-19 sufferers, end to nationalism in EU.
Women demonstrate what the priesthood of Jesus truly means
Christine Schenk, ncronline.org | April 16, 2020
It is such a surreal time right now.
Like everyone, I have carefully observed coronavirus shelter-in-place directives. The disruption of my usual routine has led to occasional feelings of unreality, but it has also brought unexpected blessing.
CAULDRON OF THE FEMININE
by Pearl Gregor
In Cauldron of the Feminine, a profound exploration through dreams of the shift away from a patriarchal religion to freedom, Pearl leaves the sky gods and travels unwittingly to the underworld. Gregor asks tantalizing questions about women’s initiation, descent to the substrate of our consciousness, and healing by embracing the Sacred Feminine archetype. Her story is told through dreams soaked in the imagery of the goddess Inanna, Queen of Heaven and her dark sister Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld.
[Pearl Gregor, New Sarepta, AB, a frequent contributor to The Review, is the author of a series of three books,
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