Saturday, June 18, 2011

How to begin the Revolution

When Prof. Kueng [As quoted in The National Catholic Reporter, June 11, 2011] suggests a 'peaceful revolution' many people behave as though they have never heard of such a thing in the church. Several contributors to these pages have raised the question, 'How do we begin that peaceful revolution?'. Perhaps recalling some historical examples may help us to understand what a peaceful revolution would look like. The 15th century Council of Constance accepted the resignation of one anti-pope, dethroned two others, and elected the next pope. Likewise, when John XXIII convened Vatican II, the papal curia tried to take over the council by preparing the proposals for the college of bishops to adopt. They refused and gave the church one of the most fruitful councils that it had ever had. The curia and subsequent popes have tirelessly worked since then to overturn Vatican II's results.

Revolutions--peaceful or otherwise--do not begin with those who are in power, but with those who use the power they have to challenge the status quo. A group of Episcopalians, when asked by several Roman Catholic monks how the Episcopal Church managed to achieve approval of the ordination of women to the priesthood, replied, "Three retired bishops ordained a group of women to the priesthood and then turned to the wider church and asked, 'Now what?'" The moment was ripe in 1976 and now almost every Church in the Anglican Communion has accepted the ordination of women. The Roman Catholic bishops who have ordained women priests in Europe and the United States have not acted in vain despite their excommunication by an increasingly weaker Vatican. Maryknoll priest Fr. Bourgeois has not acted in vain by assisting at the ordination of women priests despite his excommunication. Every act of civil disobedience, based on the church's own teachings of justice and human dignity, weakens the power exercised unjustly by a papacy, curia and hierarchy determined to use that power as a violent means to oppress and control others. The church, like a nation, cannot continue to exist divided against it self, half slave and half free.

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