frontline: pope john paul II - the millennial pope

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND SEX a roundtable discussion - transcript

PART I:  THE CHURCH'S VIEWS ON BIRTH CONTROL AND WOMEN

RICHARD SIPE

And I say that the Pope is a wonderful image of stability, but that stability is the center of a hurricane. The sky is blue, everything is calm, but the reality is he's part of a tremendous crisis in the church, because the average person, worldwide, does not believe him, in terms of sexual teaching. We're at a kind of Copernican crisis, where sexuality is, from the Church's point of view, and from the pope's point of view, the world is flat. And that this teaching is the center of the universe. But that's not what's happening. People, and the experience of people, does not experience the truth as the solution. The main body of the church does not believe the church's teaching on sexuality.

DALE O'LEARY

Then we have a lot of work to do, don't we? At least I do! This is my work. And I do it first of all by helping people understand what the church's teaching on sexuality is. Which is that we were made in the image and likeness of God, and every sexual act is meant to be an image of the love of Christ for the church -- faithful, committed, covenanted, open to children.

There aren't any other kinds that work. And then what I do on the other side, is to go to the journal articles, and show that the sexuality the world is preaching is having devastating effects. We are in the midst of an epidemic of sexually-transmitted diseases. One parent families. Broken-hearted girls. I've held these broken-hearted girls in my arms, I know what the world's morality does to the human heart, to the woman's heart. And we have the truth about sexuality. Where it is meant to be, where God made it. And it's so beautiful. And alright, if there's only thirty of us -- and it's not true, because there are thousands of people with me, trying to do this -- and the media's fighting us, you know there are people who are opposing us. But we are not going to give up. It's not going to change. When the next millennium comes, the Catholic Church's teaching on sexuality will not have changed.

SUSAN MANGELS

And it really doesn't matter if there are thirty or thirty million, it's a mistaken, rather myopic, I think American idea that somehow democracy is the answer to faith, that if we can only vote on this then we can determine truth. And I think, to me it's analogous to what St Augustus said about the idea that if truth is something I can determine in my own brain, then what a small truth that is. It really doesn't matter if 99.9% of the Catholics and Christians think, Hey, this is not a democracy, it's based on truth. Jesus did not take an opinion poll when he was on earth and today he's not taking opinion polls to ask what people's opinions are and to say, Gosh, you know everyone's unhappy with this so we've got to change it. Truth does not change.

RICHARD SIPE

Well, but the truth of sexuality is not the truth that the church is teaching

DALE O'LEARY

Of course it is!

RICHARD SIPE

Oh no. No. It does not take into account the genetics. It does not take into account developmental. It does not take into account the sexuality inherent in the person, man and woman.

DALE O'LEARY

Of course it does! Of course it does! And that's the most exciting thing. And the more --

RICHARD SIPE

That's not the way I read the Pope's teaching...

DALE O'LEARY

Well I guess I'm the one here who is married, and I was married before I was a Catholic. So I had an experience of the world's way on this issue. And then I became a Catholic and I listened to the Holy Father, and I have now had the opposite experience. So I can speak from my personal experience. When I accepted the Holy Father's teaching, the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church, and began to practice it, I was furious at how I'd been lied to before. Because I saw that what was -- The change that happened in my marital relationship, in terms of respect, in terms of love, in terms of who I was as a person. And I was thrilled. And it was so exciting because I truthfully -- it's not being promoted the way it should be--I had to go to some woman friend, and she explained it to me very delicately, and it was wonderful. It works.

When I say that it works, I know personally from my life that this teaching works, and I know from my daughters-in-law, I know from my women friends. I see the joy in them, the joy in their marriage, the respect that their husbands show them.

WOMAN'S VOICE

When you say 'it' you mean natural family planning?

DALE O'LEARY

Yes. The whole church's teaching, on openness and generosity to life. And when I see the other --the use of artificial means of contraception-- I see a NO. I didn't understand the teaching really. I thought the church said "Well you shouldn't separate the procreative from the unitive". And what I found out it really meant is that you can't. When you are -- If in the middle of the most intimate act of your marriage is a great big NO, which is what artificial contraception is. That NO spreads out into everything. And you get unwanted children, because you're having an intimate relationship with a NO. And I know what the failure rates of the various forms of artificial contraception have, and everyone that fails, you get a child that wasn't wanted. That doesn't happen among the people I know. You know. It's this joyous sense of "We're going to accept that our love makes something". It's marvelous, it's exciting, it is something that works. All I can tell to people is "Try it." Because the tragedy of this age is that we have a whole generation of people who talk a lot about sex and who have never had real sexual intimacy. Because every sexual act contains in it a NO.

LYNN POWELL

...It's different in my tradition, in the Baptist tradition. Once you are married in a relationship of love and commitment, there is no other justification needed for the expression of that love sexually. That that is a God-given gift, the sexuality between man and woman, and there is no NO in that. In and of itself, it is all YES. If there is love, if there is respect and commitment and honor, it is all YES. And it has nothing to do with whether that possibly or will result in a child...

SUSAN MANGELS

I remember when I first read Love and Responsibility it was in the early '90s, and I kept flipping back to the front of the book to say, "Wait a minute, he wrote this in the 1060s?" This is as if he's looking back t o say this is what happened, and he was saying no, based on who the human person is, based on who a man is and who a woman is, if you go about living your lives this way, taking sexuality away from what God, the creator of people, has created it for, you're going to see the carnage. And we have. We've seen abortion skyrocket, we've seen pornography and abuse of women become prevalent. It's a real fear for many women in this society. And so I think he's worth listening to on these issues, because I think he speaks the truth...

SISTER MARA FAULKNER

My mother had six children in seven years, and it almost broke her and broke her marriage. And I would never have said, "God will give her the grace to have child after child after child". And - I can hardly talk about this: I remember my father sitting in the kitchen until 2, 3 in the morning, so there wouldn't be another child in this family that couldn't support them in any way. And ... it breaks my heart. And the illogic of saying that... I mean I agree with a lot of what you said about contemporary sexual morality, I think it's barren and destructive as well, in many ways. But I think that artificial birth control, as well as the rhythm birth, you know, natural family planning, if you want to say it has a NO at the heart of it, they both do, if you're going to follow the logic through to the end, or neither one does....

Roundtable 2

RON MODRAS

The history behind the church's teaching on sexuality is not a pretty picture. It is based on pre-scientific thinking that male sperm was virtually human, that a young boy masturbating was doing something worse than rape, because there was no natural conception here. You look at that now and can see alright, that teaching came out of a pre-scientific era. But we know better now.

The Holy Father teaches about family life without having had a family life. I respect your saying that you can adopt this natural family planning and it works for you. You are following your conscience. But please allow other Catholics, hundreds and thousands and millions of Catholics, who have also followed their consciences and say it doesn't work for them. And that following the church's teachings has put a terrible strain on their marriages.

DALE O'LEARY

I really have to say, it isn't that they say it doesn't work for them, it's that they haven't been told how to do it, and they haven't tried it. They have been told, "Don't worry about it" by the media and by, unfortunately, the silence where there should have been voices. And now we have to say "Look, if we've made mistakes in the past, we're very sorry to the Holy Father for everything we've done wrong in the past, but this is where we are now, and this will work". '

And the thing is, what is temptation? Temptation is when you look at two things and you say, "Here's two good things. And the only way I can get those two good things is to commit an act which is wrong. And so I guess I have to commit the act that's wrong". And that's temptation, that's the essence of temptation, is to --

SISTER NANCY HYNES

Excuse me, but I don't think it's wrong. And the church's teaching, in the Middle Ages, taught that the sexual act itself, within marriage, was still somewhat of a sin. And so we have shifted away from that. This is what I wanted to say before. We've had two thousand years of discussion of the highest men in our church, discussing a Just War theory. Which is a matter of life and death. Okay? We have had zip on birth control, on celibacy, on women's ordination. They cut off the discussion of that. It is my firm belief that if popes had been women, able to bear children, we'd have two thousand years of discussion about this. And we'd have had less about the Just War theory. And it took them two thousand years to discover that wars are not just, and to come out against them.

So to say that we have always had the truth -- I mean Augustin spent eighteen years with his mistress, and it was fine for him to say "Now we should cut off all relations", once he'd had eighteen years. I mean, excuse me, I love Augustin, it just gets me a little bit tired when he talks about celibacy and how women sort of lure men into sin.

DALE OLEARY

But he's speaking from experience!

BETTINA FERRARA

Well, that doesn't say much about women, does it? I mean the assumption being again that we are the ones who are of sin, and the men are perfectly fine and in fact in his letter to priests on Holy Thursday, 1995 I think, when he tells priests how they are to relate to women as mothers, and/or sisters, and builds a spiritual case for that. Then he goes on all these paragraphs, about how the woman as mother and the woman as sister, and how they're to relate. And then toward the end of the letter he says, "Now we want to pray for our priests who have gone astray, because", and I'm paraphrasing here slightly, but I'm pretty much on the mark. Essentially it said, "Because they have succumbed to a woman. A woman has pulled them away from priesthood".

So we spend three quarters of the letter talking about relating to women as sisters and mothers, and then we have this thing that says, and those priests who have fallen away, whose fault is it? it's a fault, and it's a woman's fault...

RICHARD SIPE

This Pope has said some beautiful things about women. But he has also said some very significant things about women being at fault. One, you relate to in terms of that letter. Also he spoke to a woman who was going to the Conference on Women, I believe in Beijing. And it's well-publicized that he said to her, "Women are the cause of men's failings".

He also said, about 1990, in a public statement, that there can be lustful sin within marriage. And the Pope's basis, the whole theology, but the basis for it, is in his 1960 book, Love and Responsibility, where both the things are said that are philosophically underlined, "Humanae Vitae," and all the teaching on contraception. But also, if you read that very closely, he de-sexes women, and de-sexes men. He talks about Man generically, abstractly. And he talks about sex as an urge, not as a quality of being, as a God-given quality of being. And out of that comes this contradiction, where women are exalted, but they're blamed at the same time.

DALE O'LEARY

But that's the whole human condition. We are exalted, we are made to be children of God, and we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Are we saying that only men have sinned? Oh I will admit men have sinned--But certainly the Holy Father has never said that, nor ever could say that!

DALE O'LEARY

I hear these sorts of comments and I read the original text, and I just do not see any negation of my sexuality, of what it means -- I mean how can you be a mother, the Virgin Mother Mary excepted, unless you are united with your husband in an act of intimacy? This is a beautiful and wonderful thing. And this idea that somehow the church blames women, is just reading very 20th century ideology back across the ages.

RICHARD SIPE

No it is not. It's so well-documented in 'The Hammer of Witches,' which was the official teaching of the church, and in seminaries, says this explicitly over and over. And you, as our art historian, who knows the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and Adam and Eve are there, and Eve has the apple, and she's taking it from the serpent. And the serpent is clearly a serpent, except that it has the head and the torso of a very well-developed woman. So that the art is so clear, that the woman, even the devil-woman, is giving to the human woman, who then gives to the man the apple.

SUSAN MANGELS

Well I don't know what Michelangelo's theology was, and he I believe is the one that painted the Sistine Chapel, but the Holy Father says terrific things about human sexuality and what it is to be a man and what it is to be a woman, and the complimentarity of the two in his letter to women, on the dignity and vocation of women. That should perhaps be a document that we table here, because it says great things about a woman's sexuality being lived out either in her motherhood, in her physical motherhood or in the motherhood of the spirit, for those of us who God has called to be celibate. We're mothers in either sense, if we live our vocations right, and there is a spousal love that comes with that, the Holy Father says that. He's very positive on the sexuality of women.

RON MODRAS

I have to disagree because I have read the Holy Father, not only in the English translation but also in the original Polish. And I read him very carefully. And he says wonderful things about love, but he does not define love the way any of us would. He defines it as 'an act of the will of benevolence'. For him, what we would call love involves desire, pleasure, joy. He describes that in terms of concupiscence, and he says that concupiscence takes away the crystal clarity of love. His is a very cerebral concept of love. And when people hear him talk about love and then come away with his conclusions, they're confused. It's because of his really very peculiar definitions.

Bettina Ferrara

I found -- and he calls that letter that you're referring to a meditation, which I think is interesting, it's not an encyclical. And when he refers to it in the letter he says, "My meditation on", you know, "the vocation the dignity of women". And it's either virginal, or motherhood. But it does seem to me, it's kind of like looking through a lens with gauze on it, it's very soft and romantic and not, there's no earthiness in it.

SUSAN MANGELS

Have you read the conclusion?

BETTINA FERRARA

I have read it.

SUSAN MANGELS

Where he says, "Let's give thanks for all the women who are working hard, who are suffering, who are struggling?" Precisely! We all do, it's the human condition, we sacrifice for the things that we love, and that's a beautiful thing.

RICHARD SIPE

But, when it comes to the test of equality, it fails. When it comes to the test of power, when it comes to the test of sharing equally the power, the Gospel of St Paul, that there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female, but we are all one in Christ. That essential element of the Gospel -- and I think that's absolutely essential to the Gospel -- I think that sexism was historically a distortion of the Gospel. And I think that that core is not realized. And I think that's the storm that separates and surrounds all the calmness of the tradition, and all the certainty that this is the absolute truth.

SUSAN MANGELS

And the Pope speaks to the sin of sexism in that letter on women, where he says, "Because of original sin, men will have a tendency to dominate". Because of sin, not because of anything good. And that original sin destroyed that original unity of men and women in which they were both created equal. And he said because of sin that's why it happens. Not because of the way God created us, because of man's fault.

RON MODRAS

So why can't you recognize it in the Catholic church? Do you say there's no sexism in the Catholic church? Are you saying that our all-male leadership in the curia is in no way sexist?

SUSAN MANGELS

I think that human beings have faults, I don't think the church has faults.

VOICE

But the church is made up of human beings.

SUSAN MANGELS

The church is inspired by God.

RICHARD SIPE

And the church is not at fault?

SUSAN MANGELS

The human beings within the church have faults. It's beyond just us. If it was just us getting together to form a corporation, that would be a very interesting concept. But the church is from God. And God is not just us.

RON MODRAS

That's a very unbiblical concept. The church is the people of God, those who are called together. It's the bride of Christ because we are the disciples of Christ. But we are the church.

And this was taught at the Second Vatican Council, that to be the Bride of Christ or the Body of Christ means to be the disciples of Christ. We are followers and we are human beings. And the early fathers of the church spoke of the church as being very sinful. The early fathers of the church spoke of the church being a whore, because of its sinfulness. And therefore to idealize the church--what happens is that we come to idealize, it's not us, but some abstraction out there. And of course it's the majesterium, it's the leadership that speaks of it, as if they are above fault.

We are a very human church, and we have had very human popes, and a very human curia. And part of our right as Christians is to be able to criticize it and to point out the sinfulness. That is a very ancient Catholic tradition.

PART II:  POPULATION, BIRTH CONTROL & THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

DALE O'LEARY

In 2040 world population will begin to decline precipitously. And this is what all of the people who are the experts in this know. And it is aging rapidly. We are at a very, very crucial time in the history of the world. But even if you gave me 47 million reasons why we should commit sins to save the world. I mean that's what people who want to sin always say: "I've got to sin to save the world."

RON MODRAS

The assumption that you are making is that birth control is a sin. Now, Catholics accepted that for a long time because popes said it. But then after the Council, with so many changes, we began asking questions. And we said, "Why? Why is it a sin?"

DALE O'LEARY

And the Holy Father's explained it!

RON MODRAS

The Holy Father brought together experts from all over the world: bishops, theologians -

SISTER NANCY HYNES

...Lay people. Married people.

RON MODRAS

...And they talked. And their conclusion was that birth control was allowable. There was nothing in the tradition that would say that we cannot change that. One could understand why historically the church was against birth control, but today, those reasons no longer exist.

And Pope Paul VI did not go along with his tremendous body of experts because of one argument, the so-called ecclesial argument, the argument of the Church. Namely, if we say that we can allow birth control--this is what the Anglican bishops said, way back in 1930, And Pope Pious XI said "no." If we change the teaching on birth control, we would have to say that the Holy Spirit was with the married bishops in the Anglican church, and not with the Pope.

And the only argument they could come up with therefore was, we can't admit that we were wrong. Listen, if all of us Christians are the church, why can't we Roman Catholics, with a celibate leadership, with bachelor leaders, learn from married bishops? And frankly, we are...

RICHARD SIPE

Well, the Pope goes into the Philippines, he goes into places that are economically terribly deprived, that are over-populated, and he talks about birth control and abortion. And the people don't believe him. They admired him --

DALE O'LEARY

I went to the Philippines last year, I met with the Catholics, I was at a mass on the grounds where he had been, and what I saw was a people of faith. And they've got a big population, but they've got great vocations to the church, and what they said was "We're going to go out and evangelize the world". And it was the most incredible experience, because we were seeing the real poor. I mean the really poor people. They're praying and singing, responding to their cardinal, loving the Holy Father. It is an incredible thing. They are the very ones that give me the courage to fight on...

SRICHARD SIPE

I think that this pope, who is such a glamorous and good spokesmen, and gives a good image of the church, but he's not credible. He's not believed on birth control, and he talks to people in overpopulation and in poverty.

After the Pope went to the Philippines, I had a monsignor come in to me, and he was in tears. He said, "I have the greatest test of my faith". He said the Pope went to the Philippines, and in the midst of all that poverty -- he had been in the Philippines and had been a war-prisoner there -- he said in the midst of all that poverty, in the midst of all that need of those people, he talks about abortion and birth control. If the question of birth control is solved in a scientific way, that will in a sense agree with the sensus fidelium, the whole Catholic sense. That it will solve, it will unfold the authority problem in the church, which is at the basis.

DALE O'LEARY

Let me say something very clear. This teaching has been set down, it will not be changed. Not in this millennium, not in the next millennium, and those who are fighting it, will pass away. The spirit of this age is going to dissipate like every age before it, and the Church's teaching will stay firm, and a hundred years from now it will be more prophetic than it is today.

And the tragedy, the tragedy is that the ordinary Catholic is not being told this. They are being deceived into believing that this is something that can be changed. That if we had different priests or different bishops or someone else, this could be changed. It can't be. And it is wrong...

DALE O'LEARY

I am with Mother Theresa. The place of unimaginable poverty is here. It is HERE! And it is not in the Philippines.

I have been in the Philippines. I have seen the shining faces of the poor, and I have been awestruck by their faith, and their strength. And I talked to a priest who was there in the Philippines, and we said, "We have vocations, and they come from the families of the poor. But is this country who believes that a child is a burden, and that the death of children is better". This is the country where there is poor!

RICHARD SIPE

But the teaching on birth control you say will never change. And I say, that you are saying that the earth is flat, and that the earth is the center of the universe. I think that the change which needs to take place, and that the sexual revolution which is a very, very mixed bag, but is part of the switch of a paradigm from--that teaching on sexuality to a much more human teaching on sexuality.

DALE O'LEARY

There's nothing human about the sexual revolution. There's nothing pro-woman about the sexual revolution.

RICHARD SIPE

Yes there is.

DALE O'LEARY

It is the Catholic teaching on sexuality which is the validation of what it means to be a woman. And a hundred years from now the world will understand that, and this era will have gone the way of all the eras that we fought before this.

And just try it! If only I could just reach out to people and say just try it. I've been on the other side, I know what it's like.

I mean this is the whole thing, the whole emphasis on this age, if we just gave the poor less children, they would be rich. No they would be poorer! They would be - Having less children doesn't make you rich, it makes you poor, and we are the poorest country.

SISTER MARA FAULKNER

In lots of ways I agree with you. I think the question of world population is much more complicated than reproductive rights, much more complicated, and the fact that countries that aren't Catholic at all are also overpopulated, seems to, and they have different religious traditions. But one of the things I think is that, I don't know how to say this exactly but--I'm going to muddle through this. That because so much of our energy and attention seems to have to go to questions of sexuality, we aren't addressing, as a church or as a world, the much bigger questions about poverty. Which is, why is the northern hemisphere rich and the southern hemisphere poor, and how are we ripping off the south? Each of us sitting here.

SUSAN MANGELS

And John Paul II speaks of that in his letter on social concern, where he was slammed by political conservatives for taking such a liberal stance in the idea that this world belongs to every person, because they are a child of God. And that the rich north has to, out of justice, help the impoverished south.

And what that doesn't mean is let's ship 'em birth controls and not penicillin, which is unfortunately what has happened. I know people in Africa who have free clinics, who have a plethora of contraceptive devices and they don't have penicillin, and they don't have malaria pills...

RICHARD SIPE

What's related to your question is also the question of HIV in Africa, where some of the populations, 50% are infected. And where in the light of that, the basic Catholic teaching is that condoms should not be used.

SUSAN MANGELS

The basic Catholic teaching is that we all should live chaste lives. And that HIV, there are many issues with HIV, but one of the big issues of HIV is sexual promiscuity.

LYNN POWELL

And there are women in Africa, for example, who are living chaste lives within their marriage, they are faithful to their husbands, and their husbands come home and infect them. If there was a condom there, they wouldn't be infected.

DALE O'LEARY

This wonderful faith in condoms! It just seems like this age is worshipping at that altar, and I will not worship at that altar, and the church will not.

RON MODRAS

And the Church should not worship at the altar of natural family planning. Before Communism fell in Poland, the Poles could not get artificial contraceptives, they couldn't afford the Pill, and they heard about natural family planning from their bishops. And Poland had one of the highest abortion rates in all of Europe. You cannot say no contraception and no abortion at the same time. You say it, but it obviously hasn't worked. You say that it works for you, and that's wonderful. But for 30 million Poles it didn't work, and more millions of other Catholics it hasn't.

DALE O'LEARY

I cannot believe that a person who practices natural family planning, as the church sees it, and does that, then if they conceive a child is going to go out and have an abortion. I'm sorry. I don't believe that. I just don't believe it.

RON MODRAS

What happens is they have more and more children which they cannot afford. And you have child abuse, and you have spousal abuse, and you have people whose marriages are being torn apart.

SUSAN MANGELS

You may be linking a correlation there to the number of children with spousal abuse which I don't think has ever been proved. I think if we're going to discuss spousal abuse, which may not be on the topic of today's discussion, we have to look to other correlations...

RICHARD SIPE

According to the official teaching of the Church, if there's a married couple, and one of the partners is infected with HIV, say someone who's a hemophiliac and got it through a blood transfusion, they cannot use a condom, according to church teachings.

I don't know that John Paul II has reaffirmed that teaching, but certain of the bishops have. However, certain of the bishops have come out against that also, and said that is not logical. The thing that it seems to me is that we're talking about the surface of all the behavior, and not talking to the question that we are created as sexual beings. That inherent in each of us, as man or woman, is that we are sexual beings. Not just have sexual urges. And that that is the difference. And you're talking about behavior, and you're talking about sin, and you're talking about behavior, and right or wrong.

DALE O'LEARY

Of course, we are either male or female.

RICHARD SIPE

But what does that mean, to be a sexual person? And what does that mean, for instance, in terms of sexual orientation? Sexual orientation? Sexual orientation is a given, just as gender is a given, just as certain objects of sexual excitation are givens. Those are givens by God. Those are givens by God, scientifically, over and over this is proven and clarified. It is not therefore -- therefore you have to open up the question about, what about homosexual relations? Are they always sinful? Is that the truth, or is that the eye of the hurricane? Is out here the question that that has to be solved, and talked about?

DALE O'LEARY

All sexual relations outside of a marriage between a man and a woman are contrary to the teachings of the Church. This is what John Paul says. Now, I happen to be a very good friend of Father Harvey, who is the head of Courage, which is the Catholic organization which works with people who have same-sex orientation temptations. And originally he thought, "Well, there's nothing we can do". But since then, he has worked with many men, and women, who have, not easily, but have found freedom from same-sex attractions, and have married successfully. What we have learned is that this is a preventable, preventable, and treatable developmental disorder. And that's very wonderful news. And what we as Christians have to do is to love, to love and to care for each one of these people and to give them the strength to live chastity, and to support them in their struggle.

RICHARD SIPE

I'm all for love, but I disagree with you. That it's very well established that there are genetic elements.

DALE O'LEARY

That is not well established! I have very carefully read every single journal article on the subject, and in fact they do not say so. This is a deceit, and it is tragic that it is being perpetrated. I went through and read everything, Chandler's book, all the journal articles, and in fact what they said --

RICHARD SIPE

You've read Fred Berlin? You've read Richard SIPE?...

DALE O'LEARY

I've read all the different articles on this subject in terms of the genetics. All the things which are sited by the general writers. And it wasn't that they had arguments and there were other arguments, they didn't even say that it was genetically determined.

RICHARD SIPE

The pope has in recent years, when the bishops come to Rome - they have to come every five years - he has said to the bishops (I know this. from bishops who have been there), "You may not speak out on questions of abortion, homosexuality, contraception, women's priesthood or women's ordination, in any other terms other than what is officially taught".

DALE O'LEARY

Truth in packaging! Truth in packaging! If you are going to stand up and say, "I am speaking for the Catholic Church", you've got to say what the Catholic Church says.

RICHARD SIPE

And the Catholic Church taught the earth is the center of the universe, and that was the official Church teaching up until 1993!

SUSAN MANGELS

Mother Theresa once said, "God does not ask us to be a success, he does not ask us to be brilliant, he asks us to be faithful". And that's what being a Catholic is about. What she said, "Truth in packaging." Having the integrity to say, "I'm a Catholic, so I follow what the Catholic church says". The Catholic Church says, what the Holy Father and the bishops united to the Holy Father which formed the majesterium say, that I don't want to splash out on my own. If I want to do that, there are plenty of other religions we can choose. I've been there! I chose the Catholic faith because I wanted to buy into the package, because it has to do with personal integrity. Buying into what you say you are, and it's a great thing!

RICHARD SIPE

And the package said, in official terms, that Galileo was wrong, that the earth is the center of the universe. That was a teaching. That was hell.


PART III:  HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE ORDINATION OF WOMEN

DALE O'LEARY

The Pope's made a list of all the things we've done wrong in the last 2000 years and he said we will go into the new millennium on our knees, we're sorry for all the mistakes we've made. But we are not sorry for the things that we've done right! And we can not be sorry for the truth. The Pope doesn't make up the truth!...

SISTER MARA FAULKNER

I think that the Pope does need to be on his knees to the many gay people who have been told that - and have taken this into their being, it's the internalization of this teaching that I think destroys people's lives - they have been told that they are disordered in their very being, that who they are is an aberration and a sin, if they act on it. And who have had chastity, celibacy, imposed upon them from the outside rather than from the inside as the gift it was meant to be.

SISTER NANCY HYNES

And in my experience, homosexual people have a very loving relationship with their partners. And I can't see denying 10%, or whatever it is, of humanity, their very nature. And it is my belief that it is in their very nature, and that we've got to stop denigrating that and learn to accept it. I think it is unconscionable that the Pope should say, or the bishops, "Practicing homosexuality, homosexuals, must stay away from the sacraments and cannot darken the door of my church. However, parents, you can love your gay daughter or your gay son, but they just can't receive the sacraments".

I think that's the scandal of the Eucharist today. We are denying people from the Eucharist, which is the most important or central symbol of unity. We say, "Gays, you may not apply." We say "Remarried, divorced people, you may not apply." We say, "Married priests who did not go through the process of dis-leiticization need not apply." We put so many no no no's out there. And to have the organization of the church focus on a tight little eye of the storm and let everything whirl around out here seems to me to be very exclusive, and not inclusive.

I've been part of many Protestant ceremonies in the past, and they always welcome any believing person to the Communion table. And it just shocks me and horrifies me when I hear of priests turning away people from the Communion table.

And it shocks me even more that women are not allowed the fullness of their baptism. The fullness of our baptism as a priestly people is, those who are called to priesthood should be ordained to priesthood.

RICHARD SIPE

In a hundred years that's going to happen.

DALE O'LEARY

No it isn't!

SISTER NANCY HYNES

No! In five years.

DALE O'LEARY

No it isn't, and the tragedy here, is that if you give people a hope for something that is never going to happen, that is cruel. Women can be called to be an image of the bride, they cannot be called to be an image of the bridegroom. The Holy Father has said it, and no subsequent pope can unsay it.

SUSAN MANGELS

He said it's not his venue to do it, he said, "Neither the Church nor I as Pope have the power to do this". What does that tell us?

RON MODRAS

It's telling us that he's trying to tie the hands of his successors.

SUSAN MANGELS

Implicitly that tells us that that was how Jesus Christ chose to do it. And Jesus Christ being God could have chosen to do it in any way that he pleased. He did not...

DALE O'LEARY

The priest is the sign of the bridegroom, and it doesn't work if it's a woman. And what we are defending is the goodness of the difference between men and women, the basic goodness of creation, that God made a two-sexed universe. And that's what I find in feminist writing they're really ticked-off about. They really don't grasp the perfect goodness of complimentarity of two-sexed universe.

SISTER SUSAN FAULKNER

That's not what I'm ticked-off about. I'm ticked-off about the implication that God is male, and therefore Jesus had to be male, and therefore the priests have to be male.

DALE O'LEARY

We're not allowed to believe that God is male, but we must believe that Jesus is male!

RON MODRAS

There are basically three arguments that the Holy Father gives why women cannot be ordained priests. The first is that Jesus called only men to be the twelve Apostles. The second is that the priest must be an image, or icon of Jesus, he must image the bridegroom, as you put it. And the third is, well, the church has never done this.

Now there are answers to all three of those arguments. First of all there's the assumption that all the Apostles were priests. Jesus was a layman. He called laymen to be part of his movement. If he was critical of any group, it was of the Jewish priests. It was only about three hundred years later that the whole concept of priesthood was placed upon the leadership in the early church.

DALE O'LEARY

Oh, come on!

RON MODRAS

May I talk a little bit please?

DALE O'LEARY

You can, but it's wrong to say things that really aren't true.

RON MODRAS

Ah, you can correct me after. Who led the Eucharist in the early church? The New Testament doesn't say, but there is a very ancient book, the teaching of the Twelve Apostles, which says, "Allow the bishops to lead the Eucharist. Allow them along with the prophets. It appears from that document, this early Church document, that the first leaders of the Eucharist were prophets, those who were regarded as having a very special tie to God. We can presume that, apostles and prophets. Now we know from the New Testament that there were women prophets. A very good argument can be made is that women prophets in the early church led the Eucharist.

DALE O'LEARY

The Church very carefully took the question, "Can women be ordained?" in light of the changes in our understanding of the equality of women. It looked at all of the arguments, all of the fathers of the Church, all of the arguments that were made by both sides. And it came up with the answer: we have no authority. And then it tried to explain this, people didn't accept it. It kept explaining. Finally it said, the issue is closed. It is closed, it cannot be changed.

SISTER MARA FAULKER

That is the problem right there! To close the issue, to close discussion. People of God, the church is the people of God. The people of God told Pope Paul VI: "Allow birth control". This would be in 1968. He ignored them, he leaned on one argument, and overturned the lay-people, and the priests who were advising him, and the theologians.

RICHARD SIPE

And he used Pope John Paul II's argument as essential to his - So it's really Pope John Paul II's who infused his thinking in "Humanae Vitae"--in condemning birth control.

SISTER NANCY HYNES

But Paul VI did it before him.

RICHARD SIPE

He advised him. He was the advisor for the minority...

SISTER BETTINA FERRARO

I can only speak out of, if I can speak...(near tears) of what is such a profound and intimate and real part of the fiber of my being. To have experienced the call to the ordained priesthood. I can argue from the eyebrows up, but I think that a piece of it that is often left out is the affective experience of loving the Church, of willing to give my life for the Church, and having that Church say to me, "Because God created you a woman, you are constituitively unable, by virtue of gender, to have a call to the ordained priesthood".

It doesn't tell me just that it will not accept it. It doesn't tell me that it doesn't like it or it's uncomfortable with it. I am told in a statement of John Paul II that I am constituitively, by virtue of my creation, unable to have a call that I feel is part of the integrity of who I am.

When I am at Eucharist, the pain of that sometimes is so bad. I know that the call is not a right. Nobody has the right to ordination. The call to any kind of vocation that we are in is a gift of God. It is a grace. I did not look for it. I am not interested in power. I resent those who say that it is a power issue. And quite frankly I resent some of the national organizations that posit themselves as speaking for those of us who are called to orders. I do not belong to those organizations, I do not care for how they, you know, say their theology. So I am not part of that broad brush that people condemn me for.

What I struggle with, in terms of the present position of the Pope, in saying this is the definitive truth, is the fact that, when the call is a gift, and we have ways of testing that gift, to even disallow a testing of it, to say that it doesn't exist, is such a violation of who I feel God is calling me to be. Of who, I would say I know, it's more than a feeling. It's part of the integrity of who I am. And this Pope, because of I think a lot of what we've talked about - his Marian devotion, the gender identification, the bridegroom and the bride, fear--I don't know. I think there are lots of reasons, and quite frankly I am tired, you know, of the argument. Because at the end of it all, I stand before my God at the end of my life, the God who I believe gave me this gift. And loving a Church that will not even allow that it's possible that God has given me this gift...

I find it inconceivable that God, from the beginning, as John Paul says, it is in the mind of God from the beginning that women could never be called to serve the people of God through the ordained priesthood. That my God is so gracious, is so loving, is so much bigger than any of us, or the church will ever be, that this is impossible. It's a violation to me, that I cannot be begin to tell you how painful it is. I just can't.

RON MODRAS

The traditional Church has made martyrs before, and may make a martyr of you. But I would recognize you as, if not a priest today, then certainly a prophet. And it takes the whole Church to recognize prophets. And not just those in high places. The Church, I often hear, is not a democracy. But there is a long-standing tradition in the church of reception, of the so-called sense of the faithful, and it's the total body of the faithful that discerns and decides. And, eventually the leadership catches up with it. And the sense of the faithful is that the Church, today, is not teaching the entire truth on birth control, and the church leadership today, is not teaching the entire truth with regard to women in roles of leadership in the Church.

DALE O'LEARY

It breaks my heart. It breaks my heart because, as a woman, we would gladly give people what they think they need. And this is such a serious question. We've looked at it, and the answer is no. And it's hard to say no to someone who feels so passionately, but it is no. And that's why the Holy Father has said we shouldn't be bringing it up as though it were a debatable point. Because then we'll just have more broken-hearted women. And the thing is, because I believe passionately that it's what God has said, and it is an act of love. The fact that women cannot be ordained cannot be anything but an act of pure love from God as Father.

And what we need to understand is perhaps there is something in the way we have lived our vocation as women, or particularly the way women religious have lived their vocation, that has not been full enough. And that once this door is understood as firmly closed, another door will open that will be more beautiful, and be the door that will allow women to fully give everything they have, in a way that we probably haven't even foreseen.

RICHARD SIPE

But you don't believe in prophecy.

DALE O'LEARY

I believe absolutely in prophecy, but I believe that the discernment of prophecy comes from this whole body of the Church, as magisterial teaching. And the Church looked at this question with great sincerity. I know bishops, believe me. If they could have given in on this, they would have. They don't like to say no to women, the Holy Father does not like to say no to women, but there was some thing that I don't think we understand yet. One of the beautiful things about the way theology works is, a teaching of the Church gets challenged, and we say, This is it. But then, in defending that teaching, we begin to understand what we haven't understood fully before. And we begin to explain it. And I think there may be still a great deal about what does it mean to be a religious woman, a sister, that we have not understood. And once this door is closed...

SISTER NANCY HYNES

I don't understand that the search for truth includes closing a door. The image that I have in my mind is Pope John Paul II embracing his would-be killer, his assassin, who shot him five times. He's willing to listen and to forgive that man, who threatened his life. He is not willing to have an audience with Theresa Cane who respectfully asked him to open the door to discussion about women. I don't understand that. Truth is not a gold nugget that you wrap in cellophane and put on the mantelpiece. This is Virginia Wolfe. But it's also my truth. Truth is ongoing, and I'm learning more and more each day about my responsibility.

DALE O'LEARY

But you see how really cruel that would be, to raise a hope where he knows --

SISTER NANCY HYNES

How does he know?

DALE O'LEARY

Because he's the Pope!

RON MODRAS

There never was a discussion.

DALE O'LEARY

I've got a shelf full of books this long!

RON MODRAS

There was a committee of biblical scholars, to look at the sacred scriptures --

SISTER NANCY HYNES

Bachelor biblical scholars.

RON MODRAS

And their answer was, there is nothing in sacred scripture that would prevent the Church from ordaining women. And the Pope was furious at their conclusion. He wanted his own. He does not have an open mind, he has never had an open mind, and there has never been a discussion on this issue. He's tried to stop it, but it's going on anyway, because the spirit will blow where it will.

SUSAN MANGELS

The priesthood is about service, and I think Bettina spoke to that when she said she wasn't after power, what she's after is service. Service is serving the one you're serving as that one wants to be served. If not, it's not service. The Church has said, "Men will serve me this way, women will serve me in other ways".

SISTER NANCY HYNES

No no no.

RICHARD SIPE

Who has said that?

SUSAN MANGELS

The church! The Pope and the bishops in union with him, and the faithful, who are in union with the Pope and the majesterium. Those of us who are Catholic, because we believe what the church says in its beautiful fullness.

RON MODRAS

She said something very important here: "We who are Catholic". And she assumed that those of us who disagree with the Pope and her on this issue are not fully Catholic. That there is a virtual schism in the Church, and that we are somehow cafeteria Catholics.

SISTER MARA FAULKNER

Do you think that?

SUSAN MANGELS

Yeah, I think we're running fast and loose with judgements about what we're thinking. I'm thinking that --

RON MODRAS

Are you judging that I, and those of us who disagree with you right now, are not truly Catholic?

SUSAN MANGELS

I'm judging no one. I'm saying that, in order to call myself a Catholic and to be Catholic, I have to buy into the whole package of what the Catholic church is, or I lose my personal integrity as a Catholic. And Jesus Christ -- I don't know where you stand on everything, I will not judge you.

DALE O'LEARY

But somebody will. There will come a day when all of us will have to stand before the Judge, and we will be accountable. And --

RON MODRAS

To your truth?

DALE O'LEARY

No! To the only truth that is, to Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life.

RON MODRAS

And who had an open table, and who ate with women, and with prostitutes, even though it was against the custom of the day, who called women `disciples'. And who sent Mary Magdelene to the apostles, so that she was called the Apostle of the Apostles.

RICHARD SIPE

And didn't wear a miter, and didn't wear vestments, and didn't carry a crosier --

SUSAN MANGELS

And didn't need to because a woman's dignity come from being a child of God, and not from being a member of the clergy!

RICHARD SIPE

No, I'm talking about the Pope. The Pope wears all these things, Jesus Christ did not do that. What I'm saying also is that what's being operated on is a model which is homo-social. God is a father, Jesus Christ --

DALE O'LEARY

Yes! God is a father!!

RON MODRAS

Well, hold on. You just said that was heresy.

DALE O'LEARY

I didn't say he was a man. I said he's a father.

RICHARD SIPE

Well, okay. But God is male, Jesus is male, the spirit is talked about as male, the bishops are male, the priests are male, and if you open up the real question of what sexual nature has to do with the theological reality, you have to redefine. This is the great crisis around. Because the average Catholic around the world does not buy the Cjjhurch's teaching on contraception. That's absolutely true. The Church's teaching on abortion is also even questioned by over 50% of people, Catholics. The idea of homosexuality being a sin, and sex activity outside marriage, and masturbation being mortally sinful -- that is not believed by a lot of priests and bishops and Catholics.

Good people who are searching for the truth, and who do not believe that they can exist in the eye of the hurricane, and move with it, but who believe that part of the struggle is the whole thing. Yes, the calm image, and the tradition, and so on, as articulated at this time, but don't forget, the Spirit will elect a new pope, and that pope --

DALE O'LEARY

Will not change one of these teachings, not one, not a hundred popes from now. Not one.

RICHARD SIPE

Oh yes they will.

SISTER NANCY HYNES

That has been our tradition throughout two thousand years, that we have changed. The Pope apologized to Galileo, right?

SUSAN MANGELS

That's not an essential doctrinal teaching!

RICHARD SIPE

Celibacy. Has it changed? It's changed dramatically. And if you understand the development of celibacy, and when it was articulated in 11, 1039, that this would be universal for all the people in the Latin Right, who practiced celibacy? The cardinal in England had fifteen children. St Peter --

DALE O'LEARY

We can all bring all the scandals of the Church. I was brought up in an anti-Catholic family. I knew all the scandals, I knew all the sins. What does this prove? That men are sinful.

RICHARD SIPE

No, I'm talking about teaching and practice.

DALE O'LEARY

The Church has always taught that married men can be ordained. Today, in the Eastern Rite, married men are ordained. There has been no change in that teaching. Today, the Pope can choose tomorrow to say married men can be ordained as secular priests in the Latin Rite.

RON MODRAS

So you are admitting therefore, that celibacy in the Latin Rite is a whim, or a decision, of one man.

DALE O'LEARY

That's right.

RON MODRAS

And you are very happy with this kind of totalitarian governmental system?

RICHARD SIPE

And that can't change?

DALE O'LEARY

He can decide tomorrow, to ordain married men in the Latin Rite just as married men are ordained in the Eastern Rite.

VOICE

So where's the truth? Which is the truth?

DALE O'LEARY

The truth is that married men can be ordained, and as a sign to this age, which is sex-obsessed, we have chosen, for this moment, to keep a celibate priesthood in the Latin Right.

RICHARD SIPE

We? We, we. Who `we'?

DALE O'LEARY

The church. The Pope. That's what popes are for! That's the marvelous thing about it!

RICHARD SIPE

The Pope. Okay. Because Nancy doesn't agree with that, and Ron, and some of us others don't necessarily agree.

DALE O'LEARY

That we can make arguments on. You can go to him and make all the arguments you want.

SISTER NANCY HYNES

No! He refused an audience with Theresa Cane.

RICHARD SIPE

The Pope said you cannot discuss celibacy as a discipline. I was at the International Conference. I have a picture and Pope John Paul and I are shaking hands, right there, the two of us, and I tell friends he's saying, "Sike, keep up the good work".

DALE O'LEARY

But we cannot -- The teaching is that married men can be ordained. It is not that men who have been ordained and promised to be celibate can go off and get married, however. That is a very different thing. And also, one of the problems --

RICHARD SIPE

Have you heard his statements on that? On celibacy? No. It cannot change, and it cannot be discussed, as homosexuality, as abortion, as remarriage--these are things that cannot be discussed.

SUSAN MANGELS

He discusses all of these in his writings.

RICHARD SIPE

No, he does not discuss them. He says certain things about them. He does not discuss them.

RON MODRAS

What is very interesting is that the Holy Father has given up the ship. At the beginning of his pontificate he spoke incessantly about marital ethics. He stopped doing that. And in 1997, the Vatican issued a letter to confessors, saying, "You might as well stop, give up the ship, that you will simply be putting people into bad conscience". They recognized that nothing they say will change people's minds. That is a recognition I think of the sense of the faithful. That they listen to the Holy Father's arguments, and those arguments have been found wanting.

DALE O'LEARY

Then we women who believe these teachings have got to go out and teach our children and teach other women, and that's what I find is happening. I find that maybe you know I don't have a great public platform, but one by one, woman by woman, I am bringing people to understand the teachings of the church as they are. And the Holy Father encourages me in this work. I've dedicated my life to that cause, and it's very exciting. And I'm not the least bit discouraged. And I find that everywhere I go in the world, I meet other women who are doing exactly the same things. And the Holy Father is talking over the heads of all the theologians to the hearts of the children. We will win!

home | discussion | interviews | his faith | testimonies on faith | the church and sexuality | the pope and communism

biography | anecdotes | his poems | "abba pater" | encyclicals | video excerpt | tapes & transcripts | synopsis | press | teachers' guide
FRONTLINE | pbs online | wgbh

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

RECENT STORIES

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS
../etc/bio.html ../sex/ ../etc/faith.html ../interviews/ ../talk/ ../