Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Ewe's responses to the Vatican Survey on "The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization"

When it was first published, I submitted responses via a U.K. site to the Vatican survey, “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”  However, this survey is also available in some U.S. diocese’s including mine.  So, today I submitted responses to my diocese.  Here are my responses.  This is a long article because this is a long survey.

1. The Diffusion of the Teachings on the Family in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Magisterium
a: Describe how the Catholic Church's teachings on the value of the family contained in the Bible, Gaudium et Spes, Familiaris Consortio and other documents of the post-conciliar Magisterium is understood by people today? What formation is given to our people on the Church's teaching on family life?

It does not matter amongst many people what is taught because the hierarchy has lost its moral authority due to the enabling of priests who rape children, clergy who are unmarried and lack any primary experience in family life, clergy aligning with the American Republican Party, and an overall tone of sexism, misogyny and homophobia (ironically amongst a group of men that includes many active homosexuals).  Thus the hierarchy and its teachings are considered irrelevant by many, many people. 

There are the small minority who are the pious and especially the pious plutocrats belonging to groups like Familia (Legion of Christ), Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, Neo-Catechumenal Way, Legatus, etc... who take a very literal view of the creation story ignoring Pius XII's teachings in Divino Afflante Spiritu and who tend to readily comply with whatever emerges from a clergyman's mouth no matter how absurd.  However, whether or not even they “understand” it is another story because quite honestly, in light of primary experience and awareness of human physical, sexual and psychological development, some of what is taught is incomprehensible.  It relies upon the flawed foundation of Aquinas based upon Aristotle's incorrect understandings about human biology and psychology. 

If one assumes a medieval understanding of humanity, then perhaps it can be understood.  But the internet makes it difficult to keep people as ignorant as in the Middle Ages.

b: In those cases where the Church's teaching is known, is it accepted fully or are there difficulties in putting it into practice? If so, what are they?

Based upon observing the average family size, I would say that the teachings on birth control are largely ignored. It is not a matter of difficulty putting it into practice; it is just soundly rejected as being invalid by most people.  I think the last count was something like 97% of Catholic women in the US use artificial birth control. 

Teachings with regards to homosexuality cause damage.  A very close family member who is homosexual once explained the church's teaching in this way.  She said, “I knew since I was a kid that sin was separation from God.  I also knew that God made me this way.  So, I reached a point where I said, if sin is separation from a God so cruel as to make me despised, then I think I'm ok with that.” 

The family attended her wedding this summer to her partner of 20+ years.  They have raised a beautiful daughter together.  Their nuclear family is more solid than that of many hetero couples.  Their actions align more with the gospels’ instructions to care for the poor than that of many pious people.  I like their chances of getting into heaven better than those of many ordained clergy. 

The sexist stereotypes for gender roles are just so flawed that they are ignored by most.

Many people leave the church due to feeling cast out after already suffering the tragic heartbreak of a broken marriage. 

I think the church would do better to educate and empower women instead of this retro attempt to re-enslave them.  The church hierarchy teaches that the primary purpose of a female is to bear children and then is surprised that there is imbalanced focus on women's sexuality...surprised that there are tons of children born to women out of wedlock.  The church hierarchy teaches women they are incomplete without a man and then is surprised that girls hastily rush into sexual activity.  

c: How widespread is the Church's teaching in pastoral programmes at the national, diocesan and parish levels? What catechesis is done on the family?
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has a web page to promote family but most Catholics don't know the USCCB exists.  Most Catholics do not have any affiliation with the church anymore and of those who do, very few know or care what the church teaches about family.  The materials provided are unrealistic about married life and promote gender stereotypes. 

The level to which individual pastors cover this catechesis varies but most are wise enough not to chart into waters where they are unqualified to sail.  Those silly enough to head there just inspire more people to leave the church. 

The hierarchy seems to have an incorrect assumption that people aren't following doctrine because they don't know it.  I think many people are aware of church teachings and just see it as contrary to the gospels.  I know this is the reason many of my children's contemporaries left the church – that of course combined with the hypocrisy of the hierarchy lying about protecting rapists.

d: To what extent — and what aspects in particular — is this teaching actually known, accepted, rejected and/or criticized in areas outside the Church? What are the cultural factors which hinder the full reception of the Church’s teaching on the family?

The church hierarchy is not seen as a light to the nations.  It is seen as homophobic, sexist, misogynist, antiquated, pre-occupied with protecting financial assets and image, and aligning too closely with oppressors rather than the oppressed.  Indeed the church is seen as oppressor in the US, especially with the Catholic hospitals forcing their ideology upon non-Catholic employees and patients. 

I think the biggest thing hindering reception of the church's teaching on anything is that a day does not go by that another clergyman isn't caught lying, abusing, enabling abuse, etc...   These aren’t just restricted to topics pertaining to sexual assaults of minors.  They do have a common thread of demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice truth to protect traditions and clerical culture.  The church hierarchy cannot profess to be guardians of the truth when they so freely and comfortably deviate from telling it.  “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (MT 15:3)

2. Marriage according to the Natural Law
a: What place does the idea of the natural law have in the cultural areas of society: in institutions, education, academic circles and among the people at large? What anthropological ideas underlie the discussion on the natural basis of the family?

None.  The whole "natural law" teaching is based upon Aristotle's flawed understanding of human biology, reproduction, sexuality and psychology. 

b: Is the idea of the natural law in the union between a man and a woman commonly accepted as such by the baptized in general?

c: How is the theory and practice of natural law in the union between man and woman challenged in light of the formation of a family? How is it proposed and developed in civil and Church institutions?

Facts...factual understanding about human biology, reproduction, sexuality and psychology are the biggest challenges to the church's teachings which are based upon false premises dating from Aristotle's time.

Justice - justice via human rights and not bullying others also confounds the hierarchy's efforts to promote teachings based upon Aristotle's flawed premises.

d: In cases where non-practicing Catholics or declared non-believers request the celebration of marriage, describe how this pastoral challenge is dealt with?

Usually badly in a very unchristian manner and with a high degree of condescending arrogance
but this is the case for practicing Catholics seeking marriage often as well.

3. The Pastoral Care of the Family in Evangelization
a: What experiences have emerged in recent decades regarding marriage preparation? What efforts are there to stimulate the task of evangelization of the couple and of the family? How can an awareness of the family as the "domestic Church" be promoted?

Marriage preparation in many parishes is a joke.  In one parish to which I belonged, an alcoholic priest with very abusive behaviors insisted that he be the sole person to instruct couples in marriage preparation.  But compared to the guy who replaced him, that guy was warm and effective.  The second pastor didn’t return phone calls or other attempts at communication.  He pretty much only talked to people whom he "liked" and the rest he happily told to go find another parish or another religion.  His stated motto is "the people need me more than I need the people."  If you approach the diocese for assistance getting the pastor to respond, you possibly get a reply but nothing that inspires the pastor to actually be pastoral or do his job.  Somehow, neither of these men comes across as authorities on family.

Legion of Christ came to the parish via the Lay Apostolate "Familia" and subsequently bullied lots of people out of ministry and/or the parish.  The last several weekends you could have driven a bus down the middle of the pews on either side the attendance at Mass was so sparse.

To evangelize (word meaning "to bring message of good news") one must be seen as having good news to tell.  Clericalism, criminal sexual assault of minors and its enablement and cover-up, bullying, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, etc... are not seen as good news.  If you don’t have good news to tell, how can you evangelize anyone?  Yet, those are the things the hierarchy trumpets regularly.

b: How successful have you been in proposing a manner of praying within the family which can withstand life’s complexities and today’s culture?

Very successful.  I am the primary educator of my children in their faith.  They are all grown and in their 20s, attending weekly if not daily Mass, working in ad intra and ad extra ministries.  They are champions of social justice and advocate for the marginalized.  They speak truth to power. 

I kept them away from superficial Jesus rah-rah pep rallies, spoke sincerely to them without using the hierarchy's favorite theological method of "making shit up", allowed and encouraged them to question and taught them the tireless patience required in ministering to under-developed clergy – which is sadly the overwhelming majority of clergy these days.

c: In the current generational crisis, how have Christian families been able to fulfil their vocation of transmitting the faith?

I have no idea what the "current generational crisis" is.  But all my children have been or are catechists after watching their mother share the faith for years in this role.  They set me up to write a blog so that I could reach more people and provide encouragement during this time of abysmal church leadership. 

But, most people just give up trying to speak truth to power and walk away.  Yet somehow when I taught Religious Education, I would get Catholic school kids to come to my classes. 

d: In what way have the local Churches and movements on family spirituality been able to create ways of acting which are exemplary?

The lay apostolates tend to espouse ignorance, reject critical thinking and often use bullying tactics.  Amongst their little mutual admiration clubs they are seen as exemplary but outside of that alternate reality they are usually seen as hypocritical, willfully ignorant, judgmental, bullying, and aloof.  Their kids often struggle when interacting with the rest of the world and as time passes, many have deep brokenness which they carry into adulthood.  I think this arises from psychological scarring they experience from parents more intent on being “right” and “perfect” than on humbly walking the journey with their kids.  I think it also comes from sheltered isolation, painting the world God created as “evil” and trying to infuse a sense of their moral superiority over the rest of the world.  These kids seem to struggle more than other kids with the cognitive dissonance process which for most people fuels the maturation process. 

It is quite interesting to have children from these families with superiority complexes and teeming with ignorance try to dominate religious education classes.  It is also quite interesting to have their parents excuse their disrespectful behavior because, after all, the parents think they are better than you too.  Oh, it's exemplary alright but usually of "how not to raise a family."

e: What specific contribution can couples and families make to spreading a credible and holistic idea of the couple and the Christian family today?

Let's start by having real families rather than these “Stepford Wives” type families contribute to creating the holistic ideas.  The problem you have right now is the clergy are rather clueless about family life but have made up a bunch of b.s. over the centuries that is based upon romantic notions of sexist stereotypes.  Then they turn to their flatterers for "candid input" which conveniently looks just like what they already said.  Those with true candor are marginalized or worse yet demonized.  So, if you want to be credible, stop already with the goose-stepping lay apostolates and start talking to real people.  Have the humility to say "maybe we were wrong."

f: What pastoral care has the Church provided in supporting couples in formation and couples in crisis situations?

OK this question made me laugh aloud.  Pastors usually have one clinical counseling class and that is it.  This combined with zero experience about marriage make most of them ineffective at best.  Given that they have no more training than any other unlicensed counselor - which is what they are - they do about as much good.

Let's see, my favorite recent story is about the priest in a neighboring parish who mentioned a couple having marital problems by name during one of his weekend homilies. 

Not to worry though.  The damage is somewhat mitigated by the fact that it is often difficult if not impossible to get a clergyman to respond during a crisis. 

4. Pastoral Care in Certain Difficult Marital Situations
a: Is cohabitation ad experimentum a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage?

I can't tell you how much I love the Latin term for living together before marriage.  That just screams, "we are out of touch" to a world that tweets in 128 character messages.

Yes, it is a reality and I think it's a very high percentage. 

What percentage of priests are in sexual relationship or regularly have "celibacy lapses?"  Why are you less hung up about them and their sex lives than you are about the laity?

b: Do unions which are not recognized either religiously or civilly exist? Are reliable statistics available?

Is the pope Catholic?  There probably are statistics available but I do not have ready access to them.

c: Are separated couples and those divorced and remarried a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage? How do you deal with this situation in appropriate pastoral programmes?

What planet do the authors of this survey inhabit?  I cannot approximate the percentage but it is handled very poorly.  The previously mentioned alcoholic pastor with an abusive personality used to insist on working with the people who filed annulments.  Women coming from abusive marriages don't feel that comfortable talking to a guy but especially not to an abusive guy about their marital issues. 

d: In all the above cases, how do the baptized live in this irregular situation? Are they aware of it? Are they simply indifferent? Do they feel marginalized or suffer from the impossibility of receiving the sacraments?

Let's call their situations "irregular" and ask if they feel marginalized....let's mark that as a great big "yes!"

e: What questions do divorced and remarried people pose to the Church concerning the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation? Among those persons who find themselves in these situations, how many ask for these sacraments?

Many just leave the church because they think if they are divorced they are ineligible for sacramental care.  That is incorrect.  They are free to receive communion unless they remarry...that is unless they remarry and give a care about the church's rules.  Less and less do.

Reconciliation has its regular emotionally needy people who as John of the Cross said go there to excuse themselves rather than accuse themselves.  I used to go to reconciliation regularly but the priests in my area are so clueless and arrogant that I don't anymore.  Also, I don't know of a priest I'd trust right now to hear my confession.  The last regular confessor I had tried to use the sessions to manipulate me.  Thus, he abused the sacrament.  And because of this, I do not know when I will return to that sacrament again.

f: Could a simplification of canonical practice in recognizing a declaration of nullity of the marriage bond provide a positive contribution to solving the problems of the persons involved? If yes, what form would it take?

Simplification can help many things.  For one thing, that question could use a healthy dose of simplification.  Canon law is a joke.  It is ignored at the whim of bishops and it is enforced at the whim of bishops.  Canon law is so focused on clergy it flies in the face of the gospel.  The whole code needs revision but I have little hope that the same guys who wrote this complicated question would be effective simplifying Canon Law.

I think most people who do not pursue an annulment just don't want the hassle or expense.  Marriage in the church amongst this younger generation takes new turns.  For example I attended the wedding of one of my daughter's friends.  It was at a Protestant church.  At the reception the groom apologized to me for not being married in a Catholic church but the Catholic clergy were inflexible.  So they got married in a Protestant church and just go to communion when they are at Mass.  And here's the real kicker.  Neither were raised Catholic or have been through RCIA.  Through interactions with my family, they just decided their beliefs aligned with the Catholic Church.  So they decided they were Catholic and started going to Mass and receiving communion...end of story.  And when their kids are ready for communion, they'll just start taking them.  They have side-stepped the rule book.  It is irrelevant to them.  Using communion as a coercive device is less and less relevant and thus less and less effective.   Effective or not, it was never a Christian or appropriate practice.

g: Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases? Describe this pastoral ministry? Do such programmes exist on the national and diocesan levels? How is God’s mercy proclaimed to separated couples and those divorced and remarried and how does the Church put into practice her support for them in their journey of faith?

Yes.  Annulment process and Diocesan Tribunal.  The effectiveness varies by parish and diocese.

5. On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex
a: Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?

About 1/3 of U.S. citizens live in a jurisdiction that permits some form of same sex marriage.

b: What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?

That this is evil and that they bring about great destruction in society.  Some clergy say they love the people in such unions but mostly the institution and the individuals are demonized.  Regardless, from talking to people in same-sex unions, I think they find the, “We love you - you disordered people you…” message lacks sincerity.  I think many if not most Catholics are tired of the hypocrisy from the hierarchy.  Why are people in loving relationships banned from communion while men who raped children or who enabled or covered-up those rapes not only permitted to receive communion but to consecrate the hosts?  In the case of the bishops who enable and cover-up sexual abuses, why do they get to ordain other ministers?  It is fascinating that the negative impact to the hierarchy’s credibility is so apparent to most and eludes those in power and their fan club.

c: What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?

Stop bullying them and stop denying their children care and sacraments.  This would be a wonderful start.

What pastoral care do you give to gay priests who have sexual relations or have steady "special friends?" They get to celebrate Mass and consecrate hosts, last I checked.  Seems like the lay people should be able to come to Mass, have their children baptized, etc....  But, then as previously mentioned, the hierarchy seems perfectly at ease with the hands of rapists and their enablers consecrating the host so maybe this logic escapes you.

It seems that the hierarchy prefers that priests who have sex (which according to multiple reports is 50% or more of them) live double lives.  I have heard from multiple clergy and former clergy that the hierarchy encourages such men to live a lie...and then wonders why it has no moral credibility as the primary purveyors and protectors of "truth.”

d: In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?

Exactly the same as you do for children of any other person. 

6. The Education of Children in Irregular Marriages
a: What is the estimated proportion of children and adolescents in these cases, as regards children who are born and raised in regularly constituted families?

No idea

b: How do parents in these situations approach the Church? What do they ask? Do they request the sacraments only or do they also want catechesis and the general teaching of religion?


c: How do the particular Churches attempt to meet the needs of the parents of these children to provide them with a Christian education?


d: What is the sacramental practice in these cases: preparation, administration of the sacrament and the accompaniment?

Why would it be different than for any other kid?

7. The Openness of the Married Couple to Life
a: What knowledge do Christians have today of the teachings of Humanae vitae on responsible parenthood? Are they aware of how morally to evaluate the different methods of family planning? Could any insights be suggested in this regard pastorally?

People do not care.  The birth control debate is done for everyone except a bunch of men feigning celibacy whom I suspect use condoms themselves given Pope Benedicts relaxation of condom use by male homosexuals.  Why not adopt the recommendations of the Pontifical Council instead of perpetuating Humanae vitae?

b: Is this moral teaching accepted? What aspects pose the most difficulties in a large majority of couple’s accepting this teaching?


People’s biggest difficulties with Humanae Vitae are that it was written and promoted by single guys, many of whom are gay, who pretend not to have sex and who do not have experience in healthy married sexual relations.  However the fact that it is based upon dated flawed understanding of human biology, sexuality and psychology also plays a key role in invalidating it.  Catholic couples are able to reconcile the respectful care of the wife’s health with welcoming new life into their union.  Perhaps the hierarchy’s lack of primary experience in this area prevents them from understanding this.

c: What natural methods are promoted by the particular Churches to help spouses put into practice the teachings of Humanae vitae?

Don't know.  Don't care. Irrelevant

d: What is your experience on this subject in the practice of the Sacrament of Penance and participation at the Eucharist?

People use birth control rampantly, don't think it's a sin, don't go to confession and go to communion least those who stay in the church.  There is another set of people who just leave the church.  They are the majority.  Please keep in mind that the catechism teaches that “the church” is “the people of God” most of whom do not darken the threshold of ecclesial buildings anymore. 

e: What differences are seen in this regard between the Church’s teaching and civic education?

That civic education is based upon facts and the church's teaching is based upon Aristotle's flawed understanding of human biology, anatomy, physiology, sexuality, psychology, etc...

That civic education empowers women and teaches them to care for their bodies while the church's teaching is seen as reflective of its many sexist misogynist leaders.

That civic education values women's entire person while church teaching reduces the value of women to their wombs.

That civic education meets people where they are and church teachings "tie up heavy burdens and place them upon others."

f: How can a more open attitude towards having children be fostered? How can an increase in births be promoted?

I think this question is based upon an incorrect assumption.  People welcome children but they do so as they feel is healthy for the marriage and individuals.

Why do you feel there should be an increase in births?  What agenda are you driving?

8. The Relationship Between the Family and the Person
a: Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the human person. How can the family be a privileged place for this to happen?

I’m not sure I understand this question.  Can families help people determine their vocations?  Yes, but only if they do not erect barriers between God and the person – by decreeing what God can or cannot call the person to do.

b: What critical situations in the family today can obstruct a person’s encounter with Christ?

I think the biggest thing to obstruct people's encounter with Christ is the hypocrisy of the clergy, clericalism, bishops who enable priests who rape children, bishops who lie, bishops who bully, etc....

I think you have a very distorted notion of wherein lies the church's problems. 

c: To what extent do the many crises of faith which people can experience affect family life?


9. Other Challenges and Proposals
What other challenges or proposals related to the topics in the above questions do you consider urgent and useful to treat?

The inaccurate reading of scripture to perpetuate marginalization of women stands in the way of the church hierarchy having any credibility with most women.  The church hierarchy’s overt efforts working with extremist political groups to reduce women’s rights are unconscionable and will continue to be an impediment to the clergy’s credibility.  Until the hierarchy can humbly consider “maybe we were wrong” it will continue to look in all the wrong places to solve problems.  Meanwhile the church (the people of God) will roll on with or without the hierarchy.  Right now, the majority of the church rolls on without the hierarchy.

10: If you have any further comments to make about this consultation please do so here.

I realize we begin Advent this weekend but let us recall the words said on Ash Wednesday, "Turn away from sin and return to the gospel."

I think the biggest issues facing the church have to do with a long-standing history of the hierarchy turning away from the gospel in favor of seeking secular power on certain topics.  Thus, I find myself wondering if this survey has more to do with trying to build a database with demographics for use in political lobbying activities than it does with the hierarchy conducting a much needed self-examination.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Ewe's Papal Audience in Rome

Despite publishing my letter to Pope Francis requesting a private “theology of women” discussion with him, and despite subsequently sending him the same letter directly to his Vatican address as well as via the U.S. Papal Nuncio, I not only did not have a private papal audience while in Rome, I didn’t even receive the courtesy of an acknowledgement that he or the Nuncio received my letter. 

In the packets I mailed Francis and the Papal Nuncio I included a copy of my unpublished book manuscript for which this blog is named, “Questions from a Ewe to her Shepherds.”  True to the title, it contains a lot of well-researched questions about women in the church.  Since Francis professes a desire to strengthen the “theology of women” I assumed he would appreciate receiving this work about women – which, by the way, a few noted theologians have already read, praised and encouraged me to publish.  

Receipt of that multi-year labor of love also went unacknowledged.  Thus, it is difficult not to question Francis’ sincerity when he says he feels women are asking deep questions that deserve answers.

Anyway, though I did not have a private papal audience, the tour operator did get us swell seats for the general Wednesday papal audience.  So, I was able to watch the iconic Francis glide within a few feet of me twice as his pope-mobile passed. 

During that papal audience Francis spoke about forgiveness and quoted from John 20:21-23 where Jesus says, “'As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them ‘Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained’.”   Francis then said that through the Sacrament of Reconciliation priests - today’s apostles - continue the work forgiving sins that Jesus entrusted to the first Apostles as mentioned in that reading from John 20:21-23.

Now, I know Frank is a busy guy and might not have had time in the last two months to read either my blog or an 82-page (150-page if double-spaced) book manuscript.  But, I would like to think he at least had time to read the sentences immediately preceding and following the ones he quoted from John’s gospel. 

John 20:19-20 says this: "On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord."  

Yes, my dear friends, if Francis had taken the time to read the two verses preceding the ones he used, he might not have erred and attributed the commissioning Jesus gave to the disciples about forgiveness as something reserved only for Apostles.  He would have realized that Jesus' burst of holy absolution air landed on the disciples, not the Apostles.  "So what?" you might ask.  Why should we care who was present for the forgiveness flurry that day? 

Let’s take a moment for a quick review of the difference between “disciple” and “apostle.”  A “disciple” was any follower of Jesus and included oodles of women.  However the word “apostle” means “one who is sent” and the church considers only the twelve men named in one gospel passage as “the Apostles.”  The church hierarchy restricts ordination only to men because of belief that today’s clergy via ordination continue the apostles’ work.  And, since it believes Jesus only had male apostles, only males are ordained.   

Consequently, the hierarchy gets very picky about the differences between “apostles” (i.e. something only men can be) versus “disciples” (something men or women can be)…unless the gospels’ wording inconveniently doesn’t support marginalizing women.  In those cases, where the gospels say “disciple” the hierarchy mentally substitutes “apostle” and carries on in its merry marginalizing ways.  But, please don’t be so foolish as to think where scripture says “apostle” just anyone is permitted to substitute “disciple.”  I am learning that this kind of moral relativism dishonestly representing the gospels is reserved only for men with pointy hats.

Let’s also pause for a quick sanity check.  Most of the male apostles abandoned Jesus during his Passion but a group of devoted female disciples walked his entire Passion with him.  Furthermore, it was to women disciples that the resurrected Jesus first appeared on Easter morning.  Thus, I think it’s very, very, very likely that women were some of the disciples in the locked room that first Easter evening.  So why don't women administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

O.K., we looked at the sentences preceding the ones Francis quoted.  We readily see that he erred by saying that Jesus commissioned apostles when in fact scripture clearly indicates he interacted with disciples which could be women.  But this is not just an errant statement.  In fact, Francis broke the 8th Commandment – intentionally or unintentionally, he bore false witness against the gospel. 

Now, let’s quickly recall the sentence which followed those Francis quoted.  John 20:24 says, “Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.”  Hmmm, one of the Apostles wasn’t even there.  Yet, most likely, women were.

I mentioned these passages to the monsignor who was our group’s spiritual director and he seemed to think my concern was about Thomas being a full-fledged apostle.  This gospel passage from John is considered a key one in establishing "ordination" of the Apostles - though Jesus ordained precisely zero people.  If Thomas wasn't there, how could he be "ordained?"  Thus the monsignor responded, “I think Thomas received the Holy Spirit in abstentia.”

Riddle me this, Batman: How does the Holy Spirit pour out its gifts to Thomas in abstentia but somehow floats past the women disciples likely present in the locked room?  Had they sprayed themselves with Holy Spirit repellent preventing it from resting upon them?  I sent that very question (absent the part about Holy Spirit repellent) to the monsignor and he responded that it was a good question.  However, reading Section 104 of Francis’ recently released Apostolic Exhortation entitled “Evangelii Gaudium” we learn that Francis probably doesn’t think it’s a good question. 

In Section 104 Francis talks about the church having “profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded” regarding women.  My question certainly might seem to qualify as both profound and challenging.  But perhaps years of inhaling incense alters one’s brain because in his very next sentence, Francis contradicts himself and helps us understand that he has no intention of addressing profound challenging questions like mine.   He adamantly states that any question associated with the all-male priesthood is off-limits, "The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion...".   Thus, questions like mine are not “lightly evaded”; they are overtly, painfully, unjustly, and inhumanly evaded with greater distance of avoidance than must be respected for a physical restraining order. 

In the stratification of evasive tactics, these questions require a lot more effort than "light" evasion, but, mind you, they will be evaded.  It's just going to take more effort to evade them than other topics the hierarchy wishes to avoid.  For example, the hierarchy must make-up stories to discredit the very apparent depictions of early Christian women leading worship services such as appear in the Roman catacombs and other similar archaeological evidence.  Making-up alternate realities and histories takes no small amount of effort - hence ignoring them cannot be done with everyday "light" evasion tactics like sipping a diet cola.  One needs full-octane, classic-Coke strength robustness in those evasive efforts. 

Francis’ entire Section 104 is filled with unfounded and sometimes insulting statements about women and ministry.  Yet Francis fences as “unquestionable” all his pious sexist statements and unfounded assumptions because to question them would be to tamper with that already shaky foundation justifying the all-male priesthood.  Indeed, most of the profound questions women have will lead very quickly to questioning the unstable foundation forming the hierarchy’s justification for barring women from the priesthood. 

It’s starting to seem like the only “profound questions” asked by women Francis is willing to address are the ones he’s asking not the ones women are actually asking.  It’s kind of like trying to repair a sinking ship without talking to the crew or restricting the crew from talking about the huge hole in the ship’s hull.  What are the chances of fixing a ship when such restrictions apply?

When the hierarchy sacrifices correct reading of scripture to preserve papal utterances does the organization have any authority?  What is our responsibility when we see this trade-off between truth and protecting clerical culture and traditions?

Rest assured Francis, regardless of the volume of verbal or printed papal prattlings refusing to discuss women’s true concerns, I and many other faithful will continue to illuminate inconsistencies and incorrect scripture usages that marginalize women.  We will continue to question in search of truth.  We will continue to ask as Jesus did, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (MT 15:3) 

Take it from a real mother, “Because I said so” is almost never an effective parenting technique and its efficacy diminishes if not disappears the more your children mature.

Here is the English translation of Evangelii Gaudium Section 104:
Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded. The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.  It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power “we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness”.  The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all. The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others. In the Church, functions “do not favour the superiority of some vis-à-vis the others”.   Indeed, a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops. Even when the function of ministerial priesthood is considered “hierarchical”, it must be remembered that “it is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members”.   Its key and axis is not power understood as domination, but the power to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist; this is the origin of its authority, which is always a service to God’s people. This presents a great challenge for pastors and theologians, who are in a position to recognize more fully what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life.