Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Joy with Ivone Gebara

Tonight it was my joy to hear Ivone Gebara speak in Claremont, California, giving the Pat Reif Memorial Lecture (the 7th since Pat's death in 2002).

(See end for names of women in photos.)

Pat was a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), which later became the ecumenically inclusive Immaculate Heart Community. A strong feminist from the 1970s on, she also demonstrated in Nevada against nuclear weapons and worked to develop resources for the poor in the Los Angeles area.
She taught philosophy at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles until it closed down in 1980 because the Archdiocese advised financial backers to withdraw support. IHMs were taking actions in line with Vatican II--standing up to the Archdiocese for things like smaller classroom sizes in Catholic schools. I knew Pat through Women-Church liturgies.

Hearing Ivone was a powerful experience, much like the first time I heard Virginia Ramey Mollenkott in 1975. She spoke with clarity and simplicity, unlike some feminist theorists and theologians who use a technical vocabulary difficult to understand. Her English bears only a slight Portuguese accent.

Ivone's kindness during the question period and in talking with women afterward was remarkable. Reflecting on her insights and the whole evening afterward, I could only conclude: I have met a saint.

The six previous speakers in the Pat Reif Memorial Lectures were:
Mary E. Hunt, WATER; (2003) Chun Hyun Kyung, Union Theological Seminary, New York; (2004); Beverly Harrison, retired, Union Theological Seminary, New York; (2005) Musa Dube, University of Botswana; (2007); Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Harvard Divinity School; and (2008), Venerable Dhammananda, Abbot of Songdhammakalyani Monastery, Thailand.

Each of these women has made a unique contribution to feminist theology and practice, but I felt that Ivone's lecture tonight was the closest in spirit to the life and thinking of Pat Reif.

I hope to obtain a text of her speech or to find out where it will be published. Meanwhile, she gave me permission to quote her. Her talk yesterday was titled "Happiness and the Construction of Right Relationship--A Feminist Perspective," and she generously gave us the text of it in an email attachment.

Tonight's topic, "Feminism & Religious Identities," was more political. She might get silenced again for these words, as she was placed under a two-year silencing in 1995 by the Vatican's Congregation of Faith and Doctrine, then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

I will provide here quotations from the latter part of her speech, as reconstructed from my notes. Note: she reminded us that she was speaking from her own context in Brazil and Latin America, not criticizing North American feminists.

Excerpts from "Feminism & Religious Identities"
by Ivone Gebara
Claremont School of Theology, March 31, 2009
Patricia A. Reif Memorial Lecture

"...We activists build good arguments but we have created a big abyss between us and local Christian communities. We were absent--and if present, we were regarding it in a very critical way. We looked at a celebration [church service, Mass] as a laboratory piece for critical study, but [our stance] has had consequences in the daily life of poor women. We are very critical about churches and very strong as we face our own vulnerability. [But there is] a vacuum, a gap [between us and other women].

We began to build alternative places with lots of [other women], in Chile, Brazil, where we could celebrate [our faith], places for us intellectuals. [But our groups were] not renewed with new generations who had not lived their struggles as we have. Our children have been educated in our critical ways (smile). We became desolated mothers.

Small groups have a small history. If they want to spread, they must:
1) be better institutionalized
2) have more diversity
3) be not just "everybody knows everybody" groups of friends.

We need to be more than a group of friends. We must work to enlarge our constituency.... We must help those who are hurting. There are bigger problems in the world than those in our university or religious congregation or group of friends.

I am arriving at a conclusion that I don't want to admit: I was in a hard but romantic struggle. I believed that my arguments could move hearts and move institutions. But the Christian church is still patriarchal and male.

If we are doing something in the margins, we are still using the Bible texts for the strongest people, not stopping the thirst for war, profit, and domination.

Most of us radical feminists with a Christian orientation are losing our chance. We are inside the educational institutions, but we are not educating [others] to the urgency of political change. As an ecofeminist, I believe 'All are connected to all.'

Like a dog kicked by the master, we hate to hear the sound of the same boots, so we have gone outside the church. But women inside of the churches are still not organized to be a real political force.

We move only on the surface of the male patriarchy, but it is inside us. We are colonized by it. It takes possession of our [minds] when we thought its force was [outside]. We must hold hands strongly.

Some declare themselves no longer inside the Christian church--lots of women inside Brazil and Latin America. They do not believe the church has anything to say to them, yet they struggle against the church. We must recognize their power [the Roman Catholic Church's power] in civil society.

The recent case [of the sexual abuse and abortion of the 9-year-old] in Brazil moved lots of feminists to know more about the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. Institutional churches are a cultural phenomenon. We must deal with them to change cosmologies, beliefs, and social laws.

Our identities are challenged by some components of their theology. Theology is a component of religious identity. But if we are close to the poor, we are more worried about them than about our identity. We Christian feminists can't erase our convictions while inching [toward changing the church]... there are so many women in the church that feel emptiness.

In spite of [struggles, being discounted], most women feel that their churches are part of their own body. Religious institutions are part of their cultural tradition. It is true for women in poor communities [as well as us] that being part of the church is important, and yet they feel contradictions about how the church treats them.

Things go slowly in culture and in the human heart when we are working for deep change. We need new strategies to move our institutions. [We must use] not backlash but strategy. We must use our capacity to speak out against the present policy of religious institutions. We must organize and put pressure on the state through email, small periodicals [and whatever we can]. We don't [accept it] when an unjust law comes from our church. [We must create] a massive struggle to denounce new forms of oppression of women [in our churches].

We gave freely to our churches, without salary, and now we have to ask permission to have a role. We must be more active locally and internationally. We have no space in the church as a building. You have to ask permission to have a feminist celebration!

The new generation feels that the feminist struggle is finished [because they think] the concept of equality is not [more than jobs, opportunities, etc. ]. [They think] rights, privileges, opportunities are an individual issue, not a social issue. How will we continue when the post-feminist generation comes [into maturity]? [They will find that equality is more than just] growth of individuality and the search for security.

... My religious identity is a mirror of myself, my society, my present life. [We must be] erasing war from the world... Each one of us can betray our beliefs; our beliefs are able to die for a new pair of sandals... We can deny them as Peter denied Jesus.

Our new identity is not monolithic--[we must recognize] our everyday make-up as full citizens of the world. Our new religious identity must be in following the emancipatory impulse always present in human history. Whether Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, [or whatever else] we must go beyond the traditional concepts. The old concepts are exhausted in their ability to provide [sustenance] for the present generation. They are producing death with the appearance of life.

Our new identities invite us to be a stone in the shoe of the system. ...I will end with [lines of poetry from] my dear friend Dorothy Solle, who like Pat Reif spent her entire life fighting for the poor:
To be alive is to be vulnerable.
To be faithful is to resist
And to resist the temptation of searching... "
# # #

[Note: please help me complete the quotation from Solle.]
A time for questions followed her talk. One young woman said she had left the church. Another said, "All of my friends are leaving the church. It is very difficult for me--for example, to decide whether I want to marry in the church. Society views me, a Latina, as 'weak' if I am still Catholic."
Ivone answered, "One stays in the church, the other has left. I have no answer; I can only share feelings. In Brazil lots of women have left the church--including theologians, both male and female, who are committed to the church.
Personally, I am a Catholic nun. I have one foot in, the other foot outside, and sometimes the weight of my body goes more outside than inside. I feel inside myself divided.
The church is not the hierarchical church. What people have influenced my life? More were not from the hierarchy of the church. I was called to be a nun not by the hierarchical church... but by my feeling, my desire to help the poor by being attached to human suffering. The church was a kind of instrument, a means, where I could live out [my commitment.]
My history made me "in" and I'm still in despite my critique. Because I am in, I have some authority to speak from within.
The church is not the hierarchy, the priesthood. I would like to see another organization of the church, not hierarchical but more brothers and sisters.
At the same time, I can understand the problem: you feel alone. Sometimes I say, 'She feels alone because she is in--me too!"
Do I love to be where I am? Yes. Am I always comfortable? No, sometimes it is very hard, but friends of mine that have left also have hard times.
You ask, 'Where do people go for comfort after leaving the church?' [I ask,] where do they go while in the church? We must fight, recreate, change daily life.
My question is not how to build a new church. My question is how to build ourselves not to be wolves to one another--because we are. How can we be more close to one another? All of us are uncomfortable, those who left and those who stay."
From the audience, "Let us be comfortable in our uncomfortableness."
Ivone: "Yes, let us do bread together, eat, take time together. We are always running... we have no time for gratuity. Most important is not 'I'm in church--you're not' but still having coffee, asking 'What are you feeling?' and 'What am I feeling?' We must try to reconnect our life, our solidarity together."
1) Left to right: Vivian Engel, IHM; Stephanie Glatt, IHM; Ivone, Audrey Sorrento, Cynthia Bond, Tracy Hawkins, Rosemary, and Theresa Yugar.
2) Left to right: Vivian Engel, IHM; Stephanie Glatt, IHM; Ivone Gebara, Rosemary Radford Ruether.
3) Vivian Engel, IHM; Stephanie Glatt, IHM; Ivone.
4) Rosemary and Ivone.
5) and 6) Ivone with Kathleen Mirante, a medical doctor.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ivone Gebara in LA

Dr. Ivone Gebara speaking and greeting admirers at Mount St. Mary's College, Doheny campus, this evening in Los Angeles.
Her topic was "Happiness and the Construction of Right Relationship--A Feminist Perspective."
A leading feminist theologian in South America, she speaks and writes on eco-feminism and liberation theology.
She is also a Brazilian Sister of Our Lady (Canonesses of St. Augustine).
Her most recent books are:
Out of the Depths: Women's Experience of Evil and Salvation and
Longing for Running Water: Ecofeminism and Liberation (Biblical Reflections on Ministry).
Dr. Gebara has long been a spokeswoman for poor women in Brazil.
In 1993 she said that abortion was not necessarily a sin for poor women, in an interview with VEJA magazine in Brazil.
In 1995 she was placed under a two-year silencing by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (NCR, May 26, 1995).
What a waste to have her gentle voice silenced! Her presentation was gracious, warm, and thoughtful this evening.
She briefly alluded to the recent child sexual abuse and abortion case in Brazil, which took place not far from where she lives, Recife. She taught at the Theological Institute of Recife for nearly twenty years.
In answer to a question about Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, who rushed to announce excommunication of those involved, she said he's not a mean person but just very focused on canon law.
A conference of Brazilian bishops later clarified that Sobrinho's announcement did not actually constitute excommunication and recommended against applying that penalty in this case.
Her talk was the seventh annual Pat Reif Memorial Lecture.
Dr. Alexis Navarro presented a remembrance of Pat (1929-2002), an IHM who taught at Immaculate Heart College until its closing and then directed the Masters in Feminist Spirituality program.
Many in the audience had cherished Pat's friendship and outspoken feminism, including me. I worshipped with her monthly for ten years in Women-Church home liturgies.
Dr. Gebara will speak tomorrow on a different topic at Claremont School of Theology, 7 pm.
Photos (left to right):
1) Dr. Gebara with ________.
2) Dr. Gebara with Laurie Wright-Garry, asst. professor of religious studies; Marlene Abboud, M.A. student, Rosamond Rodman, asst. professor of religious studies, and Maria Covarrubias, M.A. student.
3) and 4) Dr. Gebara with Theresa Yugar, a MSMC alumna now in the doctoral program at Claremont Graduate University.
5) Dr. Gebara autographing books.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Just So You Know

Sent to me by my 85-yr.-old uncle... I'm posting it just so you know this kind of message is circulating on the internet.

Photo of tombstone in a cemetery with the following words on it:

United States of America

Born: July 4, 1776

Died: November 4, 2008


When will we ever learn?

Professor Joseph Olson of Hemline University School of Law, St. Paul , Minnesota , points out some interesting facts concerning the Presidential election:

Number of States won by:
Republicans: 29

Square miles of land won by:
Democrats: 580,000
Republicans: 2,427,000

Population of counties won by:
Democrats:127 million
Republicans: 143 million

Murder rate per 100,000 residents in counties won by:
Democrats: 13.2
Republicans: 2.1

Professor Olson adds: "In aggregate, the map of the territory Republican won was mostly the land owned by the taxpaying citizens of the country. Democrat territory mostly encompassed those citizens living in government-owned tenements and living off various forms of government welfare..."

Olson believes the United States is now somewhere between the "complacency and apathy" phase of Professor Tyler's definition of democracy, with some forty percent of the nation's population already having reached the "governmental dependency" phase.

If Congress grants amnesty and citizenship to twenty million criminal invaders called illegals and they vote, then we can say goodbye to the USA in fewer than five years.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Prayers against Gun Violence

Monday is National Day of Prayer to End Gun Violence. Please pray in memory of someone you know who was shot by a gun and make contact with a violence prevention organization.

I will be remembering my daughter Ellen's godfather, Jim Vaszko, who was shot in San Francisco as he rode his bicycle on May 1, 1990, as well as Martha Vargas, who was killed in 2003 in Sun Valley, California, and for whom this blog is named.

A deranged man driving around in a car picked out Jim and other victims on that May Day 19 years ago.

I remember kneeling to plant pansies and alyssum near my front door, with Marie (3 yrs. old) by my side when my husband drove home from work at midday on May 2. His face was stormy.

"What happened?" I asked. "Someone died?"

"Yes," he sobbed, falling onto my shoulder.

"Your mother?" I asked.

"No, Jim Vaszko!" he cried.

"Bicycling, hit by a car?" I asked. Jim was the original "less is more" person and did not own a car or a television.

"No--he was murdered," John sobbed. "On his bike in a park."

We flew up for the memorial Mass, where the serenity of his mother and father took us by surprise.

The song "On Eagles' Wings" from Psalm 91 was sung, including these lines:

You will not fear the terror of the night,
Or the arrow that flies by day...
Because you have made [YHWH] your refuge,
No evil shall befall you...

[She] will raise you up on eagles' wings,
Bear you on the breath of God,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you, hold you in the palm of [her] hands.

Hearing this assertion of faith in God's love and care, up against this tragic evidence of evil, was very moving.

(The song can be found in Breaking Bread from Oregon Catholic Press in Portland.)

Sarah Brady of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence writes:

Please join us this Monday, March 30, 2009 for the national Day of Prayer to End Gun Violence.

At noon, we will collectively pray for an end to the senseless gun violence that plagues our country and for the 280 people shot every day.

This day is of special significance to me as it is the day my husband Jim was wounded in the assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan and it begins a month of anniversaries of gun violence that are all too familiar: April 4, Martin Luther King; April 16, Virginia Tech shooting; and April 20, the tenth anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School, to list only a few.

However and whenever you participate on this day is up to you. You can take a moment by yourself, or organize something with your faith community, family, or prayer group. You can pray silently, ring a bell, light a candle, sing a song, read poetry or scripture, meditate, or any other prayerful activity.

Be sure to add your name to our prayer partner list so that we can send you some prayer ideas and you can make sure you are counted as participant.

In this new day of hope and optimism, let us acknowledge our individual and collective power to create change through prayer.

Let us, with the assurance of our faith, act on creating communities safe from gun violence where all children have the opportunity to grow and prosper, and where everyone can live without fear of being cut down by firearm violence.

For more information on the March 30th National Day of Prayer to End Gun Violence, to sign up as a prayer partner, or to download a flyer, go to http://www.godnotguns.org/.

Please join thousands of us across the country on Monday, March 30 at noon for the National Day of Prayer to End Gun Violence.

Sincerely, Sarah Brady, Chair
Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence

1225 Eye Street NW, Suite 1100

Washington, DC 20005

Child Sexual Abuse in Brazil

Today's New York Times presents a front-page update on child sexual abuse in Brazil and problems with access to safe, legal abortion:


One positive development: "...a conference of Brazilian bishops overruled Archbishop Sobrinho [his excommunication of the doctors and mother], saying that the child's mother had acted 'under pressure' from doctors who said the girl would die if she carried the babies to term, and that only doctors who "systematically" performed abortions should be thrown out of the church."

It's a strange world where this counts as good news.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Earl Warren on Catching Hell

Thank you to Juanita Wright Potter for this note in regard to the excommunication of the Brazilian doctors and mother for arranging for the pregnant nine-year-old to have an abortion:

Just read this via Writer's Almanac, and I think it connects with the Brazil story:

"Everything I did in my life that was worthwhile I caught hell for."

-- Earl Warren, 14th chief justice of the United States

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Prayers for Women's Ordination

In case you ever need a prayer service for women to gain the right to become Catholic priests, here is one provided by the Women's Ordination Conference for use today, the National Day of Prayer for Women's Ordination.
Feel free to use it any time. :)

A Liturgy - Break the Silence on Women's Ordination.
Shatter the Stained Glass Ceiling.

World Day of Prayer for Women's Ordination
March 25, 2009: Feast of the Annunciation

Please note: The inclusive liturgy below is intended simply as a guide. Please feel free to adapt the liturgy to meet the needs of your community gathering. For example, you may wish to break up the "celebrant" text among all members of your community, use alternative readings, or shorten the liturgy for a prayer service.

In addition, we recommend you choose songs that are familiar to your community. If you have any questions or need additional assistance planning your gathering, contact Erin Saiz Hanna.

Welcome to the family of God, where all are truly welcomed and honored!

Today we gather in solidarity with those who prophetically speak out publicly in support of women's ordination. This year's World Day of Prayer calls us to join in community and prayer on the feast of the Annunciation, so like Mary, we can prophetically and publicly proclaim "yes" to breaking the silence on women's ordination and speaking out against injustice, sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia in our Church and world.

Opening Song

Celebrant: Let us begin in the name of God, Source of All Being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit,
All: Amen.
Celebrant: May our God be with you.
All: And also with you.

Greeting of Peace:
God, grant us the peace and unity of your dwelling place as we gather in the name of the Christ who left your peace among us. Let us share that peace with one another.

Opening Prayer
From Praying with Celtic Holy Women by Bridget Mary Meehan and Regina Madonna Oliver.

Mary, Blessed Mother of Jesus,
Reflection of God's warm mothering love,
Embrace us this day with the strength, peace, and healing we need
To reflect the presence of the Holy One in our world.

May we be prophetic voices for people of the world
Who suffer poverty, hunger and oppression,
Assuring them that they are God's beloved people.
May we work for justice and peace around the globe.

Flower-garland of the ocean,
Flower-garland of the land,
Flower-garland of the heavens,
Mary, Mother of Jesus,
We praise you, we thank you, we love you.
All: Amen.

First Reading - Isaiah 7: 10-14
10 Once more YHWH spoke to Ahaz and said, 11 "Ask for a sign from YHWH your God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as sky!"
12 But Ahaz answered, "I will not ask! I will not put YHWH to a test!"
13 Then Isaiah said, "Listen, O House of David! Is it not enough for you to weary those around you, must you also weary my God?" 14 Therefore the Holy One will give you a sign: This young woman will become pregnant and will give you birth. You will name the child Immanu-El."

Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 40:5-10 or Psalm 45

5 How many wonders you've worked for us,
YHWH, my God!
How many plans you've made for us;
You have no equal!
I want to recount them again and again,
but their number is too great.

6 You don't desire sacrifice or oblation,
Instead you made my ears receptive to you;
You asked no burnt offering
or sacrifice for sins for me.

7 And so I declare,
"Here I am! I have come!

8 In the scroll of the book
it is written about me."
I desire to do your will, my God,
And your law is written in my heart.

9 I'll proclaim your justice
in the Great Assembly,
and I won't keep my mouth shut,
and you well know.

10 I have never kept your generosity to myself,
but announced your faithfulness and saving action;
I have made no secret of your love and faithfulness in the Great Assembly.

Second Reading - Hebrews 10:4-10
4. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

5 And this is what Jesus said, on the coming into the world:
"You who wanted no sacrifice or obligation
Prepared a body for me,

6 In burnt offerings or sacrifices for sin
You took no pleasure.

7 Then I said, just as it was written for me
In the scroll of the book,
'God, here I am!
I have come to do your will.'

8 In saying that God doesn't want burnt offerings and sacrifices-which are offered according to the Law-
9 and then saying, "I have come to do your will," Jesus abolishes the first Covenant in order to establish the second.
10 By God's will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.

Gospel Acclamation

Celebrant: Our God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Celebrant: A reading from the holy gospel according to John:
All: Glory to you, O God.

Gospel Reading - Luke 1:26-38
26 Six months later, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,
27 to a young woman named Mary; she was engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David.
28 Upon arriving, the angel said to Mary,
"Rejoice, highly favored one! God is with you! Blessed are you among women!"
29 Mary was deeply troubled by these words and wondered what the angel's greeting meant.
30 The angel went on to say to her, "Don't be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God.
31 You'll conceive and bear a son, and give him the name Jesus- "Deliverance."
32 His dignity will be great, and he will be great, and he will be called the Only Begotten of God. God will give Jesus the judgment seat of David, his ancestor,
33 to rule over the house of Jacob forever, and his reign will never end."
34 Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have never been with a man?"
35 The angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you-hence the offspring to be born will be called the Holy One of God.
36 Know too that Elizabeth, your kinswoman, has conceived a child in her old age; she who was thought to be infertile is now in her sixth month. 3
7 Nothing is impossible with God."
38 Mary said, "I am the great servant of God. Let it be done to me as you say."
With that, the angel left her.

Celebrant: The holy gospel of Jesus, the Anointed One
All: Praise to you, O Christ.

Homily: Shared discussion on the theme "Break the Silence on Women's Ordination. Shatter the Stained Glass Ceiling." (Those gathered share their thoughts on the theme.)

Prayers of the Faithful:
(The following prayer can be read as an alternative intercession response.)

Response: Out of our depths we cry to you.

Sophia Wisdom: Our world community today, broken, unhealed and full of suffering, cries out for women's voices and leadership.

We need women priests...to witness daily for nonviolence in a world gone mad with the power of weapons and guns and greed.

We need women priests...to put their bodies on the line and witness to the Powers that Be to stop bloodshed.

We need women priests...to name our government's squandering of the people's money.

We need women priests...to call our government, church, and all institutions to transparency, conversion, and accountability.

We need women priests...to speak up to the government and voice the basic needs of the grassroots -- which have gone unmet for so long.

We need women priests...to preach the Good News to the poor, the oppressed and exploited, and to empower them mightily.

We need women priests...to boldly proclaim the Gospel so that it afflicts the rich and comfortable -- who need shaking up.

We need women priests...to name the injustices-which are many-that take us away from the fullness of our humanity.

We need women priests...to demand respect for our Earth and her life-giving waters.

We need women priests...to restore us and our lives to wholeness/holiness-and to recreate us as community.

We need women priests...to celebrate the holy passages of our lives, the sacraments, including the Eucharist.

Offertory Song

Celebrant: Blessed are you, God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.

All: Blessed be God forever.

Celebrant: Blessed are you, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.

All: Blessed be God forever.

Celebrant: My sisters and brothers, let us pray together that these our gifts may be acceptable to God our Creator.

All: May God accept these gifts from our hands, for the praise and glory of God's name, for our good and the good of all the church.

Celebrant: Ever gentle God, Christ washed the feet of the disciples as an example for us. Accept our gifts and our worship. By offering ourselves, as a spiritual sacrifice, may we be filled with the spirit of humility and love. We ask this through Christ, our brother.

All: Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

Celebrant: May our God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
All: We lift them up to God.
Celebrant: Let us give thanks to our gracious God.
All: It is right to give God thanks and praise.

Celebrant: Blessed are you, compassionate and faithful God. We do well always and everywhere to give you thanks. You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank you is itself your gift to us. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness, but makes us grow in your grace, through Jesus, the Anointed One, our brother. In our joy, we sing to your glory with all the choirs of angels:
Holy, holy, O holy God, Spirit of Love and God of Peace,
Heaven and earth are filled with your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is the One who comes in the name of our God.
Hosanna in the highest.

Celebrant: How wonderful the work of your hands, O God!
As a mother tenderly gathers her children, you embraced a people as your own, and filled them with longing for a peace that would last, and for a justice that would never fail. Through countless generations, your people hungered for the bread of freedom. From them, you raised up Jesus, the Living Bread, in whom ancient hungers were satisfied. He healed the sick, though he himself would suffer. He offered life to sinners, yet death would hunt him down. With a love stronger than death, he opened wide his arms and surrendered his spirit. Loving God, let your Holy Spirit move in power over us and over our earthly gifts of bread and wine, that they may become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

All: On the night before he met with death, Jesus came to table with the women and men he loved. He took bread and praised you, God of all creation. He blessed and broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples saying: Take this, all of you, and eat it: This is my body which will be given up for you.

All: When supper was ended, he poured a final cup of wine, and blessed you, God of all creation: He passed the cup among his disciples and said: Take this, all of you, and drink from it. This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.

Celebrant: Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.

All: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Celebrant: Ever gentle God, we commemorate Jesus, your son. Death could not bind him, for you raised him up in the spirit of holiness, and exalted him as the first of creation. May his coming in glory find us ever watchful in prayer, strong in love, and faithful to the breaking of the bread. Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, your whole church offers thanks and praise, together with Benedict, our pope, with all our bishops, men and women, and all whose lives bring hope to this world. Awaken to the undying light of pardon and peace those who have fallen asleep in faith, and those who have died alone unloved, and unmourned. Gather them all into communion with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with all your saints. Then, at last, will all creation be one, and all divisions healed, and we shall join in singing your praise through Jesus Christ, Eternal Word.
All: Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, All-Loving God, forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer of Jesus

Celebrant: Let us pray together as Jesus taught us.

All: Our father/mother in heaven
Hallowed be your name
Your kin-dom come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from all evil.
For yours is the kin-dom, and the power and the glory
Now and forever. Amen.

Celebrant: The peace of God be with you all.
All: And also with you.
Celebrant: As we share our joy, let us take one another's hands and wish our neighbors peace.
The bread is broken.
Celebrant: This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the brokenness of our world. How blessed are we who are called to this supper.
All: Jesus, you make me worthy to receive you. By your word, I am healed.
Celebrant: This is the table of Jesus Christ. All are welcome to participate in this feast.

Communion Song

Closing Prayer
Celebrant: Let us pray, All-Sustaining Mother, Gracious Father, you renew us with food and drink from heaven. Bless and strengthen your people. May they remain faithful to you and always rejoice in your mercy. Grant this in the name of Jesus, the Christ.
All: Amen.
Final Blessing
Celebrant: Our God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Celebrant: Let us pray for God's blessing. May God bless all gathered here in the Spirit as we minister to one another as the People of God.
All: Amen.
Celebrant: May God bless the church and move her forward in prophetic obedience to the Spirit.
All: Amen.
Celebrant: May God bless all creation, and set us free in Her love. We ask this in God our Creator, in Jesus in whom we share the Good News, and in the Holy Spirit who sets us free.
All: Amen.
Celebrant: The Mass is ended. Go in the peace of Christ and bring compassionate presence to all the world.
All: Thanks be to God!

Closing Song

* Liturgical Readings for the Feast of the Annunciation from The Inclusive Bible by Priests for Equality
Erin Saiz Hanna, WOC Assistant Director, created the 2009 World Day of Prayer for Women's Ordination Inclusive Liturgy with input from Roman Catholic Womenpriest, Bridget Mary Meehan.

"In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or citizen, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus." - Galatians 3:28

"Humankind was created as God's reflection: in the divine image God created them, female and male, God made them." - Genesis 1:27


© 2008 Women's Ordination Conference PO Box 15057, Washington, DC 20003 (202) 675-1006 written for today, a National Day of Prayer for Women's Ordination sponsored by the Women's Ordination Conference.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fighting Hate with Hate

My daughter Marie attended the 3rd annual National Young Women's Leadership Conference sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation in Washington, D.C., this past weekend, March 21-22.

To start the conference on a lively note, three young conference organizers ran up and down the aisles leading the 600 attendees in various chants, which included:

Racist, sexist, anti-gay:
Born-again bigots, go away!

Pro-life, that's a lie.
You don't care if women die!

Gay, straight, black, white,
We unite for women's rights!

Having attended a church youth group where born-again Christianity was the norm, Marie was dismayed by the anti-Christian slur but didn't say anything.

Her non-Christian friends, some of whom are Jewish, were the ones who first voiced their personal offense at these chants.

Then the whole group of eight students attending from Pitzer College in Claremont, California, discussed the problem.

As leaders of their campus Feminist Coalition, they didn't like hearing these complex issues reduced to "us and them" dualism.

They felt that even the labels "gay" vs. "straight" and "black" vs. "white" left out a lot of sexual and ethnic identities.

Marie is a Gender Studies major and was raised by a born-again feminist pro-choice mother. She grew up helping me sell my pro-choice book on abortion that aims for dialogue with pro-lifers, not hatred.

"All of us are politically liberal but were upset by continual inferences that conservatives and Republicans were the 'evil other,' " she comments.

Eleanor Smeal and others in the Feminist Majority have spent years in oppositional politics and have been wounded in the process, so their stance is understandable.

However, they need to understand that slurs against "born-agains" can offend other Christians who do not identify with the right-wing politics associated with many born-again believers.

After all, being born a second time--spiritually--is a central Christian teaching, taken from The Gospel According to John, chapter three.

Jesus tells Nicodemus, "...no one can see the kin-dom of heaven without being born from above."

Nicodemus objects, "How can anyone enter the second time into the mother's womb and be born?" and
Jesus explains that he's talking about being "born of the Spirit."

Many feminists are trying to move beyond "us and them" thinking.

At the Women-Church liturgy I attended on Sunday, we discussed the human tendency to create separate circles, the inner and the outer circle.

We read together a "Liturgy of the Circle of Love" taken from Miriam Therese Winter's Women Prayer/Woman Song as adapted by Diane A. Ward:

Whenever there is alienation,

Whenever there is misunderstanding,

Whenever there is insensitivity,

And a hardening of the heart...

We must work to become a single unbroken circle,

A wide open, welcoming circle.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Coptic Christians & Mother Irini

Dr. Nelly van Doorn-Harder spoke at Claremont School of Theology today in a lecture sponsored by the Council for Coptic Studies of the School of Religion, Claremont Graduat University.
Her two lectures were titled "The Role of Women in Developing Coptic Visual Culture" and "Mother Irini's Vision for Coptic Spiritual Identity."
Pictured are (l. to r.) the Coptic Church Ecclesiastical Choir, Dr. van Doorn-Harder with Bishop Serapion of southern California, and Dr. Karen Torjesen, Dean of the School of Religion, with Bishop Serapion.
Dr. van Doorn-Harder is a native of the Netherlands and teaches at Valparaiso University in Indiana. She is the author of Contemporary Coptic Nuns and other books.
Mother Irini was Mother Superior of the Church of Abu Seplain (sp?) in Cairo from 1962 until her death in 2006. Her reknown and spiritual authority within the Coptic Church is similar to that of Mother Theresa in the Roman Catholic Church.
Dr. van Doorn-Harder explained that although women are not ordained in the Coptic Church, Mother Irini did raise the status of women as measured by her prominence and the prominence of other biblical and saintly women in visual Coptic culture (esp. that in the mosaics, paintings, and photographs of the beautifully remodeled convent).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Today in 1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom's Cabin in response to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which required US citizens to return escaped slaves to their former owners.

American author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) had a lasting impact on American literature and politics. The novel’s melodramatic dialogue and events cast the slavery debate in stark terms of good and evil. Stowe’s novel drew greater numbers of people to the abolitionist cause in the North and stirred outrage in the South.

This quotation is from Encarta. For further details see:


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dying to Give Life

Today on Women's eNews Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem writes a commentary on his sister's death called "Mothers Should Not Die Giving Life."


Though she was a well-educated woman, teaching science in a high school, she died in a small clinic in Nigeria after giving birth. The clinic did not have competent staff to attend to a post-partum emergency.

About 500,000 women die per year in events associated with pregnancy and childbirth.

"It's the No. 1 killer of women of childbearing age in the developing world," writes Abdul-Raheem. "The risk of a woman dying as the result of pregnancy in a developed country is 1 in 7,300. In Africa, it is 1 in 26."

See the report of Ann Starrs in Oct. 2007:

The U.S. Agency for International Development estimated in 2001 that the global economic impact of maternal and newborn mortality was $15 billion a year in lost potential production, half associated with the deaths of women and half with newborns.

Other studies by the World Health Organization have estimated that preventing nearly all those deaths would cost only about a third as much, or $4 billion to $6 billion in international development aid to the 75 countries where 95 percent of maternal and newborn deaths occur. That's only 2 percent of current aid levels, well within the grasp of donor countries.


No. 5 of the Millennium Development Goals is to reduce such deaths by three-quarters.

There will be a live chat on these issues on March 25 at 10 am EST, organized by Women's eNews and the UN Millennium Campaign.

If you can't chat, pray--March 25 is also a World Day of Prayer for women's ordination (
http://www.womensordination.org/ ). Let's pray for women to survive pregnancy as well as to gain the right to be priests.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Continuing Outrage...

I'm receiving mail from women who continue to express their anger over the words and actions of leaders in the Roman Catholic Church.

Deborah Sandoval writes:

This is not a woman having an abortion, this is a child... somebody's baby who still plays with dolls.

The murder happened when this monster stole this child's innocence with the church further supporting this monstrosity with excommunication instead of prayer...

Jesus loves his children, isn't that what the song says? ...This is a child, a baby. She should have been protected...

Wasn't the rape enough? Should she be further victimized by a pregnancy that would be too heavy for her tiny body, doctors poking and prodding and then childbirth... Too bad the Archbishop can never know the reality of this.

Thank you, Deborah, for your well-expressed outrage.

I too wish the Archbishop could lie on a table and have someone poke around his insides as he suffered strong contractions... he truly has no idea what birth is, how traumatic for a grown woman, much less a child.

Here are some words of Jesus that Brazilian Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, and others at the Vatican should bear in mind:

Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.
--Matthew, chapter 18, verses 5-6.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Vatican Sounds Embarrassed

Thank you to Kathleen Thurmond for telling me about this AP news report:

On Sunday the Vatican newspaper published a statement that shows a teeny-weeny bit of backing down from the cruel stance articulated by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re a week earlier.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Prayers for Dr. George Tiller

Thank you to Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Times for this excellent summary of the heroic service of Dr. George Tiller and the trial against him, to open in a Wichita courtroom on Monday, March 16.


Let's pray for him, for the women he has helped, and for women to continue to have access to abortion in Wichita and elsewhere in the US.

Friday, March 13, 2009


The following persons have been either excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church, silenced, or abused by Catholic priests.

In recognition of their suffering and/or the courageous and valuable work for which the Church has censured them, we honor them here and praise God for the witness of their lives.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kin-dom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:10-12

(Additional names of excommunicated or silenced persons may be contributed through "Comments" at the end of this post.)

Fr. Roy Bourgeois, Maryknoll priest, USA
Dr. Rivaldo Albuquerque, Brazil
Aline Frybarger, USA
Victoria Rue, Roman Catholic priest, USA

Whom Would Jesus Excommunicate?

Thank you to Bridget Mary Meehan for this letter and statement from Roman Catholic Womenpriests in regard to my commentary online today at Women's eNews, http://www.womensenews.org/, "Vatican Expulsion Should Start Outcast Honor Roll."


Dear Anne,

Thanks for your excellent article in Women's News. Here is our Roman Catholic Womenpriests response to this latest Vatican outrage. If you wish to use it, or link to it or add it to your responses, feel free to do so.
Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP
Media Contact

Press Release: March 12, 2009
Media Contact: Bridget Mary Meehan
sofiabmm@aol.com 703-505-0004

For Immediate Release

Roman Catholic Womenpriests Call the Vatican to Compassion

In response to the Vatican Excommunication of Brazilian Child’s Mother and Doctors

On March 7th, 2009, Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho announced the excommunication of the mother and doctors who participated in an abortion that saved the life of a nine year old fourth grader.

The 80 pound child was brutally and repeatedly raped and finally impregnated by her stepfather.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, affirmed the excommunications even though it was the doctor’s professional opinion that the pregnancy could kill the child.

Ironically, on the same day that Pope Benedict spoke about the dignity of women, these top church officials withdrew the sacraments from the child’s mother and doctors who, after all, were trying to save the child’s life while the man who violated the body and soul of a small child remains in good standing with the church.

The church had the opportunity to act in a pastoral compassionate manner. Instead, it perpetuated further violence in a family already torn apart by violence.

One can only wonder how Jesus, who walked among us acquainted with grief and suffering would have acted.

It was Jesus who told us to remove the beam from our eyes before we judge the actions of others. It was Jesus who directed us to forgive seventy times seven.

In the spirit of Luke 4:18 where Jesus announced his compassionate, justice-oriented ministry, Roman Catholic Womenpriests serve everyone including women and families traumatized by rape and sexual abuse with its life-long sentence of depression and anxiety.

In inclusive grassroots communities we are breaking open the alabaster jars of sacramental grace united with those we serve.

All are welcome always and no one is left out or sent away.

There should be no such thing as excommunication in the house of God.

For many Catholics, the Eucharist is the heart of our faith.

This decision made by the prelates contradicts the basic tenets of Catholic social justice teaching.

This hypocrisy is the last straw.

Roman Catholic Womenpriests call the Vatican to reflect the compassion of Christ to this child, her mother and her doctors.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Police Response to Miscarriage

For a horror story of police misresponse to a couple trying to arrange respectful burial of the remains of a miscarriage, read Steve Lopez's column in the Los Angeles Times today, "Grief was just the beginning." http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lopez11-2009mar11,0,879453.column

Jessica Tebow and Michael Ohlde had been hoping to have a child, but Jessica's first pregnancy ended very early in a miscarriage at her home.

She didn't know what to do with the remains: flush them down the toilet? Or bury them?

She called her doctor, who gave her the options of either bringing them in for a genetic test or calling a mortuary.

Jessica put the little plastic bag in the freezer, and a few days later while he was at work Michael called a mortuary, which demanded a death certificate. Where to get one?

Call the LA County Coroner's Office, the voice on the other end of the line recommended.

Before he knew it, police were speeding to his apartment, breaking in, and ransacking the place.

By the time he and Jessica got there, six police officers were at their door with police cars out in front--a spectacle for the neighbors.

If police response to the remains of a miscarriage could get so out of control in a city and nation where abortion is legal, what could happen if the pro-life forces manage to make abortion illegal again?

Steve Lopez did some research and uncovered the Miscarriage Support Group of Southern California, which advises couples in circumstances like this. www.cayennewellness.com

Some couples ending a pregnancy, either by miscarriage or by legal abortion, choose to hold a private memorial service for the remains, like the couple in Ch. 12 of my pro-choice book, Abortion--My Choice, God's Grace: Christian Women Tell Their Stories (Pasadena: New Paradigm, 1994--also available on Amazon).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Vatican Rules on Rape

Thank you to Letha Dawson Scanzoni for letting us know about the Roman Catholic Church's latest outrage: excommunicating the mother and doctors of a nine-year-old rape victim because they saved her life by aborting the twins she was carrying.

Read about it in the New York Times or another of these online sites Letha provides:




The child was apparently sexually abused by her stepfather over a period of three years. The abortion was legal because Brazil permits the procedure in cases of rape and to save a woman's life if giving birth would be too great a risk.

But Il Papa knows best--so halfway around the globe, a Cardinal in Rome states that Brazil was wrong: the two unborn babies had a right to live, a right that outweighed the possible death of the 80-pound child who was carrying them.

Let's count the crimes here: 1) a child is raped, 2) the Roman Catholic Church wants to force her to carry twins to full term and undergo the agony of birth--difficult for mature women--or maybe a Caesarean (that should be easy) 3) the Church doesn't mind the risk to the girl-child's own life and sanity 4) a Brazilian archbishop excommunicates the child's mother and her doctors, 5) local priests may actually deny the eucharist to these people, 6) The Vatican interferes in the governmental decisions of Brazil... The list could go on.

Meanwhile, priests who commit sexual abuse of children are not excommunicated but rehabilitated.

Did the Vatican call for prayers for this child and her family? Who is paying for the counseling this child surely needs? Is a priest or nun visiting the child and her mother and assuring them that Jesus loves and forgives their decision--or even approves it?

Or will the child be taught that she committed a great sin--a murder? That her mother and doctors committed a great sin for which the church will not forgive them? If the child was not excommunicated, the mother will be taking her to Mass--but only the child can receive the Eucharist?

Has the Vatican read John 8:1-11 lately?

Another irony: the man who committed the rape will not be excommunicated.

Women's groups around the world need to start an honor roll of people excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church, starting with Maryknoll priest Fr. Roy Bourgeois, who attended and affirmed the ordination to the priesthood of a Roman Catholic woman in Kentucky last August.

Then add the names of the doctors and mother in this case and the names of many others.

Perhaps someone would fund travel for a support group of the excommunicated.

I hear the voice of Jesus here:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kindom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:10-12

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Vigils on Prop. 8 in CA

My friend Jeanne sends me the following news--vigils across California today as Prop. 8 reaches the state Supreme Court on Thursday.

UPDATE: Over 1 million people have now watched "Fidelity," making it the most-watched online video in the history of California politics. And 362,609 people have signed our letter telling the California Supreme Court to invalidate Prop 8, reject Ken Starr's case, and let loving, committed couples marry.
To see this special video and sign the letter to the state Supreme Court, click here now:

On Wednesday, March 4 -- the night before the state Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the validity of Prop 8 -- Californians will stand together in at least 27 vigils across the state to send a unified message that the inalienable right to marry cannot be stripped away at the ballot box.
Led by Marriage Equality USA, these powerful and poignant "Eve of Justice" statewide vigils are being supported by several national, state and local organizations, including the Courage Campaign, Human Rights Campaign, Join The Impact, Equality California, Amnesty International, GLAAD, PFLAG, California Faith for Equality and the Progressive Jewish Alliance.
Please join us on Wednesday as we stand strong together -- gay, straight, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender -- in community vigils across California, from San Diego to Stockton. To find location information about your community vigil, click here:
On the morning of Thursday, March 5 in San Francisco, as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., marriage equality supporters will be gathering outside the California Supreme Court building at 350 McAllister Street in United Nations Plaza.
With financial support from the Courage Campaign and many others, our friends at Marriage Equality USA are setting up a JumboTron so thousands of people can watch the proceedings together. If you can make it to San Francisco on Thursday morning, please join us outside the California Supreme Court starting at 8 a.m.
Meanwhile, on the morning of Thursday, March 5 in Los Angeles, marriage equality supporters will also be gathering at City Hall (Rm. 340 at 200 N. Spring Street) and at the West Hollywood Auditorium (647 N. San Vicente Boulevard) to watch the oral arguments broadcast from the state Supreme Court in San Francisco.
Remember: No matter what the Supreme Court decides following the March 5 oral arguments, the fight for equality will continue across California and the country.=0 A
Thank you for supporting the marriage equality movement and pushing for progressive change in California.
Eden JamesManaging Director
Courage Campaign Issues is part of the Courage Campaign's online organizing network that empowers over 600,000 grassroots and netroots activists to push for progressive change in California.