author of over two dozen books, most recently, Letters to Pope Francis: Rebuilding a Church with Justice and Compassion and Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation. He is a former Catholic priest who was first stopped from teaching liberation theology and Creation Spirituality by Cardinal Ratzinger, then expelled from the Dominican order to which he had belonged for 34 years. He currently serves as an Episcopal priest.
Catholic priest and the founder of the School of the Americas Watch, which just held its annual protest against the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. The organization was also in Honduras monitoring the recent elections. Bourgeois recently wrote a book called My Journey from Silence to Solidarity.
Pope Francis has used his first major written work to attack capitalism as a "new tyranny," while urging global leaders to fight poverty and inequality. In a document published Tuesday, Pope Francis denounced the "idolatory of money" and "trickle-down" economic policies, as well as consumerism and a financial system which he says rules rather than serves. The pope urged politicians to guarantee all citizens "dignified work, education and healthcare." However, the pope rejected change in two other areas: the ordination of women to the priesthood and the church’s view on abortion. We speak to two dissident priests. Matthew Fox is former Catholic priest who was first stopped from teaching liberation theology and Creation Spirituality, then expelled from the Dominican order. Father Ray Bourgeois is a Catholic priest and the founder of the School of the Americas Watch.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Pope Francis has used his first major written work to attack capitalism as a, quote, "new tyranny," while urging global leaders to fight poverty and inequality in a document published Tuesday. Pope Francis denounced the, quote, "idolatry of money" and "trickle-down" economic policies, as well as consumerism and a financial system which he says rules rather than serves. The pope urged politicians to guarantee all citizens, quote, "dignified work, education and healthcare."
The pope also criticized the media for how they cover economic issues. He wrote, quote, "How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"
In his 84-page document called "The Joy of the Gospel," the pope called for a more decentralized, less Vatican-focused church that puts the concerns of the poor and the marginalized at its center. However, the pope rejected change in two other areas: the ordination of women to the priesthood and the church’s view on abortion.
At a news conference, Bishop Rino Fisichella read out part of the document.
BISHOP RINO FISICHELLA: [translated] It is essential that we recover interpersonal relationships to which we must accord a priority over the technology which seeks to govern relationships as with a remote control, deciding where, when and for how long to meet others on the basis of one’s own preferences. As well as the more usual and more diffuse challenges, however, we must be alive to those which impinge more directly on our lives: the sense of "daily uncertainty, with evil consequences", the various forms of "social disparity", the "fetishism of money and the dictatorship of a faceless economy", the "exasperation of consumption" and "unbridled consumerism". ... In short, we find ourselves in the presence of a "globalization of indifference" and a "sneering contempt" towards ethics, accompanied by a constant attempt to marginalize every critical warning over the supremacy of the market which, with its "trickle down" creates the illusion of helping the poor. If the Church today appears still highly credible in many countries of the world, even where it is a minority, it is because of her works of charity and solidarity.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Bishop Rino Fisichella reading out part of Pope Francis’ first papal pronouncement.
Well, for more, we’re joined now by two guests, both longtime dissidents within the Catholic Church. In San Francisco, California, we’re joined by Matthew Fox, author of over two dozen books, most recently, Letters to Pope Francis: Rebuilding a Church with Justice and Compassion and Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation. He’s a former Catholic priest who was first stopped from teaching liberation theology and Creation Spirituality by Cardinal Ratzinger, then expelled from the Dominican order to which he had belonged for 34 years. He currently serves as an Episcopal priest.
And via Democracy Now! video stream we’re joined by Father Roy Bourgeois. In 2012, the Vatican dismissed Bourgeois from the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, which he served for 45 years, over his support of women’s ordination. Father Bourgeois is the founder of the School of the Americas Watch, which just held its annual protest against what’s now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Southern Cooperation at Fort Benning, Georgia. It used to be called the School of the Americas. The organization was also in Honduras monitoring the recent elections. Father Roy Bourgeois wrote the book, My Journey from Silence to Solidarity.
Matthew Fox, Roy Bourgeois, thank you so much for joining us. I want to start with Matthew Fox. You have written this open letter to the pope calling for rebuilding a church based on compassion, a radical message. Do you think he delivered that message?
MATTHEW FOX: I think that he delivered a tremendous message yesterday with his document about justice in the world. I think it goes far beyond church reform. And I like that, that his perspective is not just about caring for the church, but going beyond and taking on the powerful forces of the economies that we are currently dealing with, that he’s willing to really critique the economy with strong language and connecting it to the biblical tradition of justice and the prophetic work on behalf of the poor. As he says, priority for the poor is the gospel itself. So, I commend him for that.
Obviously, within the church itself, he’s still very weak when it comes to women issues. He said, for example, a few months ago, we need women in theology. Well, my goodness, for 45 years there’s been women in theology. And women have been first ignored and then condemned. In fact, the first objection by Ratzinger to my work, the number one is that I’m a feminist theologian; number two, that I call God "mother" and so forth. So, there has been women in theology that the Vatican for 34 years has turned its back on.
So, there’s a lot of work to do in the church itself, but I’m glad that he’s thinking beyond the church, and he’s seeing the church more as the people of God and not as hierarchy. He’s quite strong on that. And that was one of the key elements of the reform of the Vatican Council that, in fact, the previous two popes turned their back on. And as I wrote in my book, The Pope’s War, really they created a schism, because they did turn their back on the preferential option for the poor that the Vatican Council and the gospels are pretty explicit about that.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Father Roy Bourgeois, you spent many years as a priest in Latin America, and this pope is from Latin America. Your sense of his pronouncements now in terms of what the message will reverberate throughout Latin America, especially his call for greater decentralization of the church?
FATHER ROY BOURGEOIS: Yes, first, it’s very admirable that Pope Francis is addressing the whole issue of laissez-faire capitalism and the suffering of the majority of the people of the countries of the world. But at the same time, I think it’s important for Pope Francis to also address, as he refers to, the outcasts that comes about through capitalism, the outcasts in the Roman Catholic Church. And I’m referring to women, who are not treated as equals, who are denied ordination, and also, of course, the cruel and most offensive of all teachings, that of homosexuality, the suffering that it’s caused to gays and lesbians, the LGBT community. And that must be addressed.
Also, very important, the pope spent many years in Argentina before becoming pope. He knows about the dirty war. He lived through that, 1976 through '83, where School of the Americas graduates did tremendous harm, untold suffering and death there. We had our annual vigil just this past weekend. Some 4,000 people gathered from all over the country—students, veterans, lots of nuns and others, unionists, peacemakers. We came together to try and close the School of the Americas, now called WHINSEC, that really has enforced a U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and the issue that he's addressing, capitalism. This school has been all about protecting U.S. economic interests, exploiting cheap labor of these countries and their natural resources. Exploitation is what it’s all about. And it would be very important also for Pope Francis to get more specific and really join us in our efforts, and call for the closing of what he knows in Argentina and throughout Latin America as the School of Assassins.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask Matthew Fox about Francis’s, Pope Francis’s position on women, on this issue of the ordination of women, not to mention issues of abortion, though he had recently issued another statement, though he rejected church’s teachings against abortion, writing, quote, "This defence of unborn life is closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question." But he did warn Catholics not to make these issues—how would you say he put it, the primary ones?
MATTHEW FOX: That’s right. He said that, you know, there’s a certain addiction to the sexual moral issues in the Catholic Church. And certainly he’s spot on with that observation. And he said, "You cannot wrap theology in a condom," which is pretty—a vivid way for our—for a pope to speak about the exaggeration around sexual morality, which has become such a litmus test for some Catholics for the last 30 years. So, again, I think he’s trying to create some space there, certainly, and this is one reason I think that this particular pronouncement recently is essentially about the economic system of the world, that are not working except for a few. And he is so strong about it that he says we’ve introduced a new idolatry, a new golden calf, and that we have to say no to it. He’s speaking with that prophetic voice of saying no.
He also links things nicely. For example, he says that all—whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless against the deified market. The deified market. So, notice how he’s linking the environment and its suffering and pain with the suffering and pain of the poor people around the world. And of course it is linked. When you don’t have decent soil and decent forests and air, this obviously affects one’s health and survival, just as poverty itself does. So, I think it’s quite wise the way that he’s bringing in issues far beyond sexual morality.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Matthew Fox, to get back to this whole issue of centralization versus decentralization, obviously, as a former Jesuit, he understands the important role that the different monastic orders have had within the church, raising sometimes alternative or critical views. Your sense of how serious he is about trying to decentralize one of the most extremely centralized hierarchies in the world?
MATTHEW FOX: Yes. There’s no question he wants to do this. For example, in trying to reform the church, I remember one of the first payments he made was that "The church is in ruins." That’s a quote. Now, that’s also a quote from Saint Francis. But that’s strong language. I don’t think he’s naive. You know, in Argentina, where he comes from, 10 percent of Catholics are practicing. Ten percent. And it’s like that in a lot of places in Europe and below that. So, his first step was to appoint a crew of cardinals from around the world to investigate big curia, etc., etc., come up with ideas to reform the church. So I think that is one example of his effort to decentralize.
I think also he should be commended for his sense of ecumenism. For two years in Argentina, as a bishop or cardinal, he sat down with a rabbi, who was also a Ph.D. in science, and they dialogued together, and they created a book out of it. I think that’s significant, because, obviously, the Jewish people are a small minority in Argentina. He did not have to do this. But I think it shows a certain humility, that he was learning from this man, learning from his Jewish faith and learning from a scientist. And I think he’s very sincere about what I would call deep ecumenism or interfaith. And I think that could pay dividends, as well. In fact, one of the points I make in my book is, I think if he and the Dalai Lama were to go around the world together and speak on each continent to these real moral issues of our time, such as poverty and an unjust economic system, such as the ecological crisis, such as gender justice—and he has work to do there in his own church, for sure, and in his own mind.
But as part of Francis’s charism—he chose the name Francis—Francis had an incredible consciousness of gender justice. If you read his great poem, "Sister Moon, Brother Sun," every sentence goes back and forth between the masculine and the feminine. It shows an amazing consciousness of gender justice way back in the 13th century. This pope has to catch up to Francis in that regard. And I think it’s possible he will, because as a Jesuit, he’s willing to learn.
And I think that he has this awareness that the church as we know it—and he’s been very strong on this—has no future. The form in which we find it is not deep, and the young people have abandoned it, for good reason. And yet, he’s—I think he’s calling on the real meaning of church, as the people, like this young man who was just on previously in this program, real people standing up for justice and speaking truth to power. That’s going on with the Occupy movement, and it could go on with an unleashing of spiritual energy for a revolution of values. And I see he and the Dalai Lama together could help put wind in the sail of all of these grassroots groups, such as Father Roy Bourgeois’s brilliant witness for 40 years and more, to put wind in the sail of grassroots groups, where things are really going to change.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to read more from Pope Francis’s paper. He wrote, "[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system." Father Roy Bourgeois?
FATHER ROY BOURGEOIS: The word "inclusiveness" is very important. And let me just say, just to add onto what Matthew was saying also, I think it’s very important to remind ourselves in this conversation and future conversations of something very important, which really is at the very core of the crisis in the Roman Catholic Church today. And it’s this: The pope, Pope Francis, as we know, is male. He’s a man. He is the leader of an all-male clerical culture that has dominated the Roman Catholic Church for centuries. He and the men in this all-male clerical culture, that I have been a member of for 46 years, we have claimed and continue to claim that only we, as men, can speak for God. Only we, in a sense, can interpret the holy scriptures and know the will of God. And therein lies a serious problem. Women are viewed—and I say this with great sadness; as a Catholic priest, it saddens me to see this and this all-male clerical culture—women are viewed as lesser than men, as expressed in the church’s teaching. Only men can be ordained; women are not worthy. And also, very important, gays and lesbians are seen as lesser than straight.
What’s very important, I think, Pope Francis must simply come out to his 1.2 million Catholics—billion Catholics, and say, "We are all created of equal worth and dignity." We do not have this inclusiveness in the Roman Catholic Church. Therein lies the problem. And because we are all of equal worth and dignity, we must change the church’s teaching, beginning—I highly recommend that our viewers go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which talks about the church’s official doctrines and teachings. Some of them, and especially dealing with women and homosexuality, I would refuse to read, you know, on the air. It’s so offensive. It’s so cruel. It leads to suffering and, in some cases, when it comes to the homosexuality teachings, to suicide, to people becoming so shamed they take their lives. The pope must get serious and start talking about inclusiveness in the Catholic Church.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us. Obviously this is a continuing discussion. Father Roy Bourgeois, speaking to us from School of the Americas Watch, just outside Fort Benning, Georgia, which just held its annual protest against the U.S. Army School of the Americas. And I also want to thank Matthew Fox for joining us, author of over two dozen books, most recently, Letters to Pope Francis: Rebuilding a Church with Justice and Compassion and Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll look at the Supreme Court taking up the case of whether for-profit corporations must cover birth control in the health insurance they provide for their employees under "Obamacare." Stay with us.