October 9, 2019
There isn't much room to do cartwheels in a crowded press room and somersaults are definitely out of compliance with the journalists' basic rules of etiquette, so it took a good two hours just to come down from the excitement of listening to Bishop Erwin Krautler today.
I was jazzed...and moved...and transformed.
First, hard science that softens hearts
The one thing I did not expect as I came to Rome for this synod was to experience my own conversion. I have been inspired by Greta Thunberg, donated to groups like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, 4Oceans (at the urging of my granddaugher:), read Laudato Si and many other articles and books about the degradation of our earth. I am open to learning and try to do my part, but as I have listened to the voices of the Amazonian people, experienced the exhibit "The Amazon: Our Common Home" at a nearby church, and reread the Instrumentum Laboris this morning, drafted in part by Bishop Krautler, tears welled up in my eyes at the wisdom set before us -- a wisdom that has only started to sink in. I, we, are being invited to look beyond the shiny lights of our consumer cultures to see something gentler and truly more beautiful -- a people and a world where all life and all creatures matter.
Before we heard from Bishop Krautler, environmental experts 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Carlos Alfonso Nobre and Dr. Ima Célia Guimarães Vieira of the National Commission for the Medium Environment in Brazil gave us a realistic picture of how the destruction of the forest, land, water and people in Amazon is playing out.
Dr. Ima Célia Guimarães Vieira who has been working in the oldest natural history museum in all Brazil for over 30 years, talked about the severe loss of biodiversity in the Amazon. She advocated for the indigenous peoples -- people who choose isolation. The Amazon has the highest population of people who chose to be isolated in the world, and "we need to protect them and their wisdom for caring for the land, grant the territory to them, and respect their desires."
Dr. Nobre, a scientist who has been studying the Amazon for more than 40 year gave us a stark timeline.
"The Amazon is the very ecological heart of the planet and we are very close to collapse. If we lose 20 to 25% of the total forest, we will lose it all, forever. The great Amazon forest will become a savannah. Right now we have 15% deforestation and are at huge risk. We may not have more than 15 or 20 years to reverse the situation. This is the picture science is showing us in a very clear cut manner."
Dr. Nobre gave me a whole new appreciation for the genius and wisdom of our 82 year old Pope and the people who designed this synod.
"This initiative, the synod, is also connected closely to Laudato Si which also called for the contribution of science," said Nobre.
He told us that they would be circulating a document indicating what science says about the challenges facing the Amazon, but also offers solutions. Dr. Nobre says that technologies can help and that some technologies can empower people of the Amazon to improve the quality of their lives.
He said their model is a decentralized model that can create quality of life for the communities in the Amazon.
And the Good News? The potential for healing is greater than the power of destruction from mining, hydro electric dams, deforestation, and other practices. Nobre ended saying the whole of the synod is bringing current science and solutions "so the Amazon can continue to be a forest."
The Vatican itself is working to offset the carbon footprint of this synod. The Secretary General of the Synod of bishops on the Amazon, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, announced that the Vatican will offset the Synod’s carbon emissions by planting up to 100 acres of trees in the Amazon.
And that is Good News too!
A Prophet Speaks Without Fear
Bishop Erwin Krautler, CPPS, is under constant police protection because of his work.
Those who exploit the land, the people, who traffick girls, women, drugs, and guns don't like our bishop. The thugs want him dead.
Bishop Krautler is one of the authors of the working document for this synod and he was animated as he talked about Brazil. This man on a mission who knows his work is time bound, boldly and passionately shared critical insights.
Waving his hands, he told us that the people and the land has been attacked and that the church has the obligation to call people’s attention to everything that is happening and the Pope made it possible.
"We must tell people what is happening, giving people scientific information.
The church supports the scientific evidence and it will tell the whole world what is happening."
Bishop Krautler, noted "we are on the ground and we see everything," but even the destructive fires in the region, are no longer being talked about. "No one is speaking about the consequences anymore."
He made some passionate pleas, sayng "Brazil does not need more power stations" like the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam that has dried up the Xingu river, damaged the health of the people and "killed thousands and thousands of fish" and other natural life. These projects have been promoted as "clean energy" but "that is an utter lie. We can use the power of the sun for our energy needs."
Krautler's Urgent Mission to Create a More Vibrant Amazonian Church with Married Priests and Women Deacons
Bishop Krautler wants a more vibrant church in the Amazon, a church that can carry out the work of saving the Amazon, its people, and our planet. As a prophet with a laser sharp focus on the nearly intractable problems we all face; as a pastor who has nothing to lose, but the planet and its people, Krautler will not be muzzled by anyone if he thinks an idea should go forward.
Christopher Lamb of The Tablet asked the bishop why having married men in the priesthood was so important for the region.
But before he asked, he brought the whole room to a reverent quiet, as he apologized aloud in front of the bishop "to the indigenous people of Amazonia" for the "racist and demeaning comments" from “parts of the Catholic media”. I think he spoke for many of us who have felt the utter horror of those narrow minded comments and I was deeply grateful for his touching and healing words.
Krautler responded, "For us, the indigenous people are the first people and the Catholic Church has protected them through their missionaries." He reminded us that during the period of 1997 – 1998, missionaries helped get the rights of indigenous people protected under the constitution. But, again, "there is a campaign against the indigenous people" and the people feel the church is not standing next to them, helping to protect their lives."
So we need to increase the presence of the church. And we need another way to increase that presence - married men.
Krautler kept it real. "I am saying this with great sincerity. There is no other option. The people do not understand celibacy."
With a smile he said, "They ask me, 'Where is your wife?' They continue to ask me this over and over. They feel sorry for me. So now I tell them, 'She is far far away.' Of course, I am talking about my mother," he said with a laugh.
Someone asked about his 2015 meeting with the Pope and if it was he or the Pope who began talking about married priests.
In 2015, I met with the pope informing him about the Amazon and I continue to play that role. I had presented three aspects that needed to be addressed:
· Amazon destruction
· Indigenous people
There are thousands of communities who do not have the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the core, the apex of our faith, and these people are practically excluded from the heart of the church. There is not church without the Eucharist.
We want our people to have not only the Eucharistic prayer, but the Eucharist.
What are the possibilities for priesthood today? Now we have only celibacy. And in my opinion, we hold celibacy is above the Eucharist. The Lord didn’t say, what you want, when you want, once in a while.
Two thirds of our communities are animated by women. We have to think about this. We have to proclaim the women and their work. We need concrete solutions. So why not women deacons?
After the press conference was over, journalists crowded around him to hear more. It was there that he noted that 2/3rds of the bishops at the synod are supportive of married priests and that many, although he wasn't sure how many, were supportive of women deacons.
One journalist pressed him on women priests. Any one who has read his interviews knows he is also in favor of women priests. He finally said that he was supportive of women priests as well. "Why not?" he said as he was ushered away.
When I am in the presence of holy people, I know it. And today, I was in the presence of a holy man, a prophet, and a true disciple of the Gospel for our times.
I hope the police continue to protect him. Like our precious Dorothy Stang, he is going to carry out his work until the end. And for that I am deeply grateful and forever changed.
Learn more about Bishop Erwin Krautler and his fierce defense for lifting the ban on women's ordination to the diaconate and priesthood!!
You can also read a July 2019 report of interview with Bishop Krautler reported by the media outlet Novena.
Women in the Amazon and Women in Rome
Pictured above: An indigenous woman participating in the afternoon prayer in the Synod hall and Christiane Murray, the new Deputy Director at the Vatican Press office. (Photos: FutureChurch)
More than once in my life, I have been accused of caring about the wrong thing; women's ordination, women in governance, or married priests. I have been told those are the concerns of the privileged, not of the women who are poor and at the margins.
The critique is a good one. I am white, western, and privileged.
And any insights I have had into my own privilege have come only through the sometimes jarring pain of waking up to another person's reality (like driving while black or praying while indigenous), along with a healthy dose of humiliation at my own lack of awareness.
So I have had to reflect on why these issues of women in governance and ministry have aligned with my deep care for women who are marginalized, kept in poverty, beaten, trafficked, and violated.
In 1971, the Synod of Bishops summarized in two short sentences why these things are interdependent. They wrote:
While the Church is bound to give witness to justice, she recognizes that anyone who ventures to speak to people about justice must first be just in their eyes. Hence we must undertake an examination of the modes of acting and of the possessions and life style found within the Church herself.
I think Mary McAleese may have summed up the problem as it pertains to women most succinctly in her Voices of Faith address in 2018.
Because it was held in the Jesuit Curia after the Vatican refused to allow her to speak there, she started with the Jesuit's own documents.
It was here in this very hall in 1995 that Irish Jesuit theologian, Fr. Gerry O’Hanlon put his finger on the underpinning systemic problem when he steered Decree 1411 through the Jesuits 34th General Congregation.
It is a forgotten document but today we will dust it down and use it to challenge a Jesuit Pope, a reforming Pope, to real, practical action on behalf of women in the Catholic Church.
Decree 14 says: We have been part of a civil and ecclesial tradition that has offended against women. And, like many men, we have a tendency to convince ourselves that there is no problem. However unwittingly, we have often contributed to a form of clericalism which has reinforced male domination with an ostensibly divine sanction. By making this declaration we wish to react personally and collectively, and do what we can to change this regrettable situation.
“The regrettable situation” arises because the Catholic Church has long since been a primary global carrier of the virus of misogyny. It has never sought a cure though a cure is freely available. Its name is “equality.”
Down the 2000 year highway of Christian history came the ethereal divine beauty of the Nativity, the cruel sacrifice of the Crucifixion, the Hallelujah of the Resurrection and the rallying cry of the great commandment to love one another. But down that same highway came man-made toxins such as misogyny and homophobia to say nothing of anti-semitism with their legacy of damaged and wasted lives and deeply embedded institutional dysfunction.
The laws and cultures of many nations and faith systems were also historically deeply patriarchal and excluding of women, some still are but today the Catholic Church lags noticeably behind the world’s advanced nations in the elimination of discrimination against women.
Worse still, because it is the “pulpit of the world” to quote Ban Ki Moon, its overt patriarchalism acts as a powerful brake on dismantling the architecture of misogyny wherever it is found.
That is it, in a Mary McAleese nutshell.
Prayer for the Burning Amazon Forest
One of my Irish colleagues, Colm Holmes of We Are Church International read a prayer yesterday at the beginning of an ICRN planning meeting. It was absolutely perfect for this time in our human and planetary lives. Colm has given me permission to share it with you.
Loving God, the Amazon is on fire!
We come before you with a heavy and contrite heart.
We know Your heart must be deeply grieved
as You hear the cries of the innocent trees, creatures,
rivers and indigenous communities as their home burns.
We pray that in Your mercy, You will forgive us
For our way of life, for we have created the markets
For beef, timber and minerals taken from the Amazon.
We pray that You will forgive those who have set the fires
in the Amazon, those who have cut down the ancient trees,
those who plunder its precious resources,
to fulfill human desire for things.
Oh God, Your mercy is infinite
And only Your power can save us from choosing destruction,
Grant us Your grace to turn to better and kinder ways of living.
Rain down your love to heal the scorched earth and its inhabitants.
May Your love, justice and peace reign for all creation always.
In the name of Your son, Jesus the Christ we pray. Amen.
(Clare Westwood, adapted from the GCCM prayer)