Saturday, July 14, 2012

Celebrating Religious Freedom, Remembering Those the Vatican Has Bullied and Silenced

Here's how Joseph O'Callaghan, an emeritus professor emeritus of medieval history at Fordham and former chair of the board of Voice of the Faithful in the diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, chose to celebrate the Catholic bishops' "Fortnight of Freedom":

First, he asked, 

When they [i.e., the bishops] speak of religious liberty, one may well ask: "Religious liberty for whom? The bishops? Or all the Catholic people?"

And then he proposed,

In observance of the "Fortnight of Freedom," Catholics could dedicate each day to those Catholic theologians and leaders who have been bullied, threatened, silenced or wrongfully excommunicated by the pope, the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith (CDF) and the bishops. The following are worthy of being so honored . . . .

I encourage readers to have a look at his list of major Catholic theologians and leaders whom the magisterium has attacked and sought to silence in the lifetime of many of us.  It includes stellar theologians of the 20th century who were silenced before Vatican II, only to be brought back to the council as experts--e.g., Congar, Murray.  It also includes theologians who were significant voices at Vatican II and were later silenced--e.g., Schillebeeckx and Küng.  Schillebeeckx was a student of Congar.

It includes important voices in the contemporary U.S. Catholic church that church officials have marginalized and/or silenced, including my dissertation director Roger Haight and Charles Curran.  And it includes religious women who have been or currently are in the gun-sights of the hierarchy, including Joan Chittister, Louise Lears, Margaret McBride, Elizabeth Johnson, and Margaret Farley.  

I like that O'Callaghan puts the Leadership Conference of Religious Women as a group in his list.

If a secular corporation did business this way--deliberately muzzling and marginalizing its best and brightest--people would call its leaders crazy.  Since behaving this way assures that one's corporation fails to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing society.

When Catholic leaders behave this way . . . .

The video: a performance of the African-American spiritual "Oh, Freedom" by the Princely Players with pictures from the slave period and afterwards held by the Library of Congress and National Archives.  The YouTube video was uploaded by a user whose username is Swflprof.  In my view, those who developed and have sung this spiritual within the African-American community know what the struggle for freedom is really about--far more than most of the Catholic bishops will ever know.

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