The Network of Spiritual Progressives wishes to be a place in which progressives from various religious communities (as well as "spiritual but not religious" people) can feel safe in coming together to work for a New Bottom Line to replace the materialism and selfishness in the world with an ethos of love, kindness, generosity,caring for others, ethical and ecological sensitivity,and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe.
But what do we do if one of our religious communities is directly involved in racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic or attacking "the Stranger" (whoever the demeaned Other of any given society happens to be at a particular historical moment, when the Bible actually commands us not only to love our neighbor, but specifically and unequivocally to "love the Other" (the stranger, in Hebrew: ger).
This has come into particular highlight this very week, because the Inquisition office (now renamed the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith) has sent a letter to Father Roy Bourgeois threatening him with ex-communication (which effectively means an end to his income and to his teachings inside the church) for daring to publicly support the ordination of women and to offer remarks in a ceremony ordaining a woman as priest.
Roy Bourgeois isn't just any priest. He is, along with John Dear and Sister Joan Chittister, one of the most courageous Catholic voices for peace and non-violence and the founder and leader of the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW). The ultimatum and ex-communication would be effective the day before the annual
demonstration of the SOAW at Fort Bennings where the School of the Americas is housed and where it trains South and Central American police forces in the techniques of torture, repression, and counter-insurgency. We at the Network of Spiritual Progressives have been calling for support for this demonstration which begins on Friday and goes till Sunday (if you happen to be coming to the demonstration and would help us distribute information or sit at our table to help us get the word out about our Global Marshall Plan campaign, please let us know by email).
So the Inquisition will now in one fell swoop be able to rid itself of the progressive Catholic who has created the most important spiritual progressive demonstration taking place anywhere in the country for peace and against torture, and simultaneously terrify other priests into not daring to question the Church's doctrines of women. It should be noted that the very progressive teachings of the Church against war and poverty have not served as a basis for the excommunication of any priest or other church officials who have publicly supported the US war in Iraq or Afghanistan or supported the notion of a violent war against terror. The Inquisition answers to no one,and so its arbitrary power is used against those who support progressive causes, but not against those who support authoritarian and reactionary and violent causes.
We urge all those who feel strongly opposed to this attempt to silence dissent within the Church and to oust its most celebrated peace-priest to take the following steps:
1. Write to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, Rome, Italy and protest.
2. Write to your local newspapers and protest.
3. Write to your local Catholic church and priests and protest.
4. Write to the National Catholic Reporter, Commonweal, and to national news sources like the NY Times and Washington Post and CNN and NPR and let them know that the NSP is protesting this move against Father Bourgeois and re-affirming our commitment to equal rights for women plus our commitment to strengthen the demonstrations in Fort Benning until the training of this sort is stopped and made illegal in the U.S.
Now here's the key: we want to communicate this message in a respectful way to the Catholic world. We are not anti-Catholic. Our organization contains many faithful Catholics and is co-chaired by Sister Joan Chittister (Benedictine Sister). We seek to recruit faithful Catholics into the NSP, and we do not wish to give them the impression that we are challenging their entire faith. Moreover, at the SOAW demonstration this weekend you'll be able to meet many Catholics who have anti-war, anti-violence and pro-peace and generosity perspectives--and they represent a major part of American Catholicism.So please help us communicate our outrage at the attempt to silence or excommunicate Father Roy Bourgeois without doing so in a way that indicates respect and genuine caring connection to the many Catholics who remain committed to peace and social justice but who may be afraid to speak out on this issue for fear of losing their connection with the Church (including many many Jesuits, for example, who share our progressive peace-oriented and social-justice oriented perspectives and would be part of the NSP, but are fearful that they too would be thrown out of their livelihood should they speak out clearly on these topics).
Please read the materials below so that you can see more documentation of the issues discussed here.
Love and blessings,
Rabbi Michael Lerner
P.S. If you ARE coming to the SOAW demonstrations this weekend, please note that I will be leading a workshop on the topic of How to Best Support our new PResident and how to raise the issues connected to the Global Marshall Plan--sometime on Saturday in the convention center in Columbus Georgia, and you are invited! And that we will have a table at the actual demonstration on Sunday. We need help in distributing our information and person-ing a table at the demonstration, so please let us know if you'd be willing to donate a little time for that.
Also, people in Southern Florida may wish to attend a similar talk I'll be giving next Monday night in Palm Beach, Florida (details will be on our website of the NSP www.spiritualprogressives.org by Thursday).
Catholic News Service photo/Paul Hering