Monday, July 23, 2012

Bp. Patricia Fresen

Our womanpriest community, Mary Magdalen, First Apostle, yesterday welcomed Bishop Patricia Fresen from Germany, originally a Dominican nun in South Africa, now an ordained priest and bishop in our movement. We celebrated Mass, presided over by our pastor Mary Smith, who, as usual, delivered a homily that compares with the best researched homilies I have heard from theologians who teach in a school of theology.
After our liturgy and a snack, we listened to Fresen describe her dream of an inclusive non-hierarchical church without top-down power. There would be no popes and cardinals dictating commands and inciting fear by excommunicating those whose conscience directs them to disobey. Power would reside in the people, all the people. Leadership positions would circulate to prevent corruption and abuse.

In the discussion afterward, we heard about hopeful developments in our movement, but one young, idealistic theology student was troubled by our criticism of the present structure. Aren’t we just as bad when we argue against them? Saying women should be ordained and violating our church’s rule? And why bother with ordination when we criticize the status ordination has?

Bishop Fresen briefly described her journey with its Yes to the divine call that welled up in her, a vocation that clearly was not an ego-driven decision, but entailed painful losses. She explained that women claim ordination as a way to counter the hierarchy’s use of ordination as a tool of exclusive power. By getting ordained, to use an expression by another member of our group, we’re getting right into their garden.

I answered his point about argumentative criticism and say more here. Every reform movement has to explain the need for reform; it has to state what is wrong with the present structure. This necessarily involves an adversarial stance—standing against something. We can’t always loll in the lap of sweetness and light; we can’t be all pleasant when someone or something needs to be corrected. Then we have to criticize, to oppose, to say what is bad and how we want to make it better. This often involves anger, and that’s good. Yes, it is. Anger in the service of improving a bad situation is good.

Also good was the opportunity to hear the young man’s statement. We were glowing in the affirmation that streamed in from all sides, and this sobered us by showing the need for deep reflection and more work to spread our message.
One more point. Harsh rhetoric does not characterize dissent in our church. If anything, the hierarchy is still tiptoed around, and I attribute that to the wall of fear they built. Consider the gentle way people of conscience oppose the bishops, the way women theologians intellectually correct the hierarchy, the reflective and quiet way nuns deal with the Vatican’s oppression.
I am proud to participate in a worldwide challenge to patriarchal power that is manifestly motivated by divine inspiration.

July 24
I received an email from Patricia with this request:
I have just read your blog and it is so good, in contrast to the article by the young journalist in the Times. Since you write so well and have such a solid theology, could I ask you a favour? Could you possibly write a short response to the article, making two very important corrections?
The journalist states that I am dreaming of establishing a church which is all that I described. As you know, that is not at all the case. I, and we in RCWP, are not wanting to establish a church at all but are hoping for and working towards very different structures in the church, as you explain so well. The other point that really concerns me is that the journalist talks about different churches, as though we in RCWP are in a church other than the Roman Catholic church. These two misunderstandings really worry me.
The Times later published a correction.


Shift from top-down power, August 7, 2012
I ended my previous post by saying I’m proud to participate in a worldwide challenge to patriarchal power that obviously is spurred by Spirit. A shift in consciousness is happening, with evidence of it popping up everywhere.
The Shift Network, Inc. seeks to unite many smaller movements in this “growing global movement of people who are creating an evolutionary shift of consciousness.” The network aims to empower “a more enlightened society, one built on principles of sustainability, peace, health, and prosperity.” Overturning top-down power makes up a huge part of this movement, and our Catholic womanpriest movement addresses this directly. Scroll down to the previous post for more on it.

Another piece in the movement is the surge of support for nuns in response to the Vatican's attacks on them and all women. This week, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is conferencing to consider its response to the Vatican. What I find most significant is that Barbara Marx Hubbard, futurist and visionary, is addressing them. Barbara promotes conscious evolution, urging us to participate actively in our expansion of awareness, and she plays a large role in the Shift Network.
My friend Sondra Lewis commented,
This whole shift is like a tsunami that is still way out in the ocean. Without any sophisticated monitors you don't see it coming until it hits shore. Our "sophisticated monitor" is noticing and connecting what is happening below the radar.
This is all so exciting. Consider, by contrast, the words of Stanley Kubrick, filmmaker best known for 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, quoted in The Week:
The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile, but that it is indifferent.
What a bleak, empty life it would be to believe this, to have no awareness of inner reality! I couldn’t live like that. No creative artist works without inspiration from the inner world, but many lack awareness of this Source of their creativity. I wonder how aware he is.

May all my readers grow in awareness of their divine connections.

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