When I was 12 or 13 I went with others from my church youth group one night to hear a Christian singer named Larry Norman. One of his songs stayed in my head, a song that said “The Christians in Russia all live underground…” and went on to describe how it wasn’t safe to be Christian in communist countries.
I was thinking of that today because I would like to tell you about the group I’m going to be speaking to on Saturday, but one of the other speakers would lose his job if his employer found out he had spoken at the same event as a woman priest. If that seems farfetched, well, think of Fr. Roy Bourgeois. The second phase of his trouble began when he was a member of a panel speaking about the documentary about women priests, “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican.” One of the women who will be ordained a priest in Baltimore on June 4 lost her job at a Catholic college last year when someone found out she had been ordained a deacon. Last week a bishop in Australia was forced to resign for questioning whether perhaps women should be priests. There are women priests who have been ordained in South America, whose names and even the countries where they live are being kept secret,
Someone who is reading Matthew Fox’s new book, “The Pope’s War,” which tells about Ludmila Javarova, a woman priest ordained in secret in Czechoslovakia in 1971 at a time when the church was persecuted there, said, “What’s happening now is like what happened to the church under communism!”
Which is pretty ironic, isn’t it? Our last two popes experienced the tyranny of communism as young men. It seems pretty clear that their opposition to Liberation Theology stemmed from a fear that what happened in Eastern Europe would happen in Latin America, without understanding the different situation there. And now here’s this new movement for life and renewal in the church, being persecuted in turn.
I don’t mean to point fingers. What I do want to point out is the danger for all of us, of becoming like the thing we resist. That’s a human trait, and it’s not just limited to people in the Vatican.
We are part of a wonderful movement in the worldwide church – a church that’s bigger than Catholicism, bigger than the United States. God is doing something new in the world, with little communities all over that are empowering women, working with the poor, a church of equality that breaks down denominational boundaries. Let us be sure not to become the thing we resist. Let’s be sure to be open, transparent, and unafraid to look at our shadow side. Let’s celebrate the movement of the Spirit more than trying to control each other. Let’s celebrate each other! – and all the different ways the Spirit breathes in the world.
Each Sunday at St Romero’s I include a prayer for our sister churches, Spiritus Christi, Mary Magdalene, and Shekina Baptist in El Salvador. Lately I’ve been adding Carpenter’s Church in Lubbock, Texas, and The Simple Way in Philadelphia – so many pockets of hope, lights for the world. We need to appreciate each other, encourage each other. We need to celebrate the different ways we go about building the Kindom of God, and learn from each other. We are part of a huge network – women priests and Catholic Worker houses and little Evangelical congregations, all on fire to change the world. God bless us all.
This weekend we will have a visitor from El Salvador, Pati Chacon from Shekina Church in Santa Ana. Come and welcome her on Sunday, and help to build those ties!
Blessings and love to all, Chava
Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Church in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14603