Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Teresa the Rebel

By Elisabetta Muritti and Gloria Riva (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La Repubblica (in Italiano)
March 9, 2017

Interview with Sister Teresa Forcades. The Benedictine theologian in her fifties, born in the more popular and "atheist" Barcelona, astonishes women by her nonconformist thinking.

There is a small revival of female vocations ...

"In Spain, we are seeing late vocations of educated and independent women. And vocations of teenagers who are entering the monastery right after high school. The two cases are to be distinguished clearly. The influence of charismatic personalities and movements (such as the Neocatechumenal one), who look on the secular world with superiority and make the Church (and its affiliates) the outpost of a moral crusade, might be weighing on the girls. In late vocations like mine (28 years old, in the monastery at 30) various reasons coexist, but there is no fear of the world. If anything, the search for a space of freedom, from which to help those who suffer most and fight against injustice."

The Vatican has led an apostolic visitation to investigate the orthodoxy of US nuns.

"The nuns of the LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) account for 80% of the 56 thousand US nuns. The way they responded to Cardinal Rodé's visitation was exemplary. They practiced "constructive resistance", that is instead ceding to or opposing it, they took the opportunity to deepen their understanding of themselves and of the Church, as well as the bonds that unite the different communities. This attitude, neither high-handed nor submissive, is the main theoretical contribution that many female orders already offer. And then there are specific contributions. For years, many sisters have been revising history and theology from the gender equality perspective. Elisabeth Johnson explores feminine imagery and language and the relationship between theology and ecology; Ivone Gebara is a liberation theologian, committed against injustice; Margaret Farley argues for a moral theology that separates sexuality from sin and guilt. Today a queer theology is crucial -- thinking about sexual diversity from the theological perspective and, from there, developing an anthropology that promotes the originality of each human being and his/her freedom. In the community perspective, it's not about strengthening capitalist individualism, but the solidarity that makes us happy. Yes, I have faith in this moment being experienced by the Church, not because I'm waiting for a solution from Pope Francis, but because I expect that he will give space to proposals that come from below, from the margins."

Pope Francis has limited the web in the monasteries.

"Recommending to contemplative women religious and not to contemplative male religious to restrict the use of social networks reflects a still prevailing sexist prejudice in the Roman Catholic Church. In my monastery, the fact has not provoked changes. We continue to use the social media and try as always to use it responsibly."

About Catholic feminist theology, what's on the horizon? Women priests? The reformulation of chastity and sexual identity?

"There is the awareness that the 'woman problem' has not yet been overcome in the Church or even in 21st century society. In Europe in 2015, women earned 16% less wages than men for equal work -- everything else proceeds from that. How do theology and ecclesial practices continue to contribute to the exploitation of women? Why is their exclusion from the liturgical representation and Church government still being justified?"

What do you think of the new sexism?

"Most of the women, particularly the young, feel themselves to be "women" and different from "men". This gender diversity feels attractive to them and they don't accept that men or society impose anything on them, like switching from a paid job to an unpaid one or dressing in a certain way. But, with the imposition eliminated, there are many women who leave work after the birth of their first child or dress sexy, even if it means annoying shoes and cosmetic surgery. I believe, however, that this patriarchal model is not the society that men impose on women, but the one that men and women build together when they do not have the courage to be queer, to each develop their own originality."

Will you return to the convent?

"The exclaustration permit will end in August 2018. It's my intention to respect it."

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