Aug 22, 2009

Roman Catholic Women Priests and Brother Roger of Taize

This may seem like a strange link to make, between the status of the Roman Catholic Women Priests' movement and Brother Roger of the ecumenical community of Taize. Brother Roger, one of the most extraordinary ecumenical figures of the 20th Christianity, was murdered four years ago on August 16th by a deranged Romanian woman during the Vespers service at Taize.
(see website

As we learn from the interview below with Cardinal Walter Kasper, Brother Roger had moved increasingly closer to Catholicism towards the end of his life, "without breaking fellowship with anyone," to the point where he was allowed, with the permission of John Paul II, to receive communion at Catholic services -without formally converting to Catholicism or renouncing his fellowship with the Reformed tradition that nurtured him. As the interviewer rightly points out, "This road does not belong to the usual categories." In other words, Brother Roger occupied an 'inter-space' between formal Catholicism and the Protestant tradition (for want of a better phrase) and the Pope had no problems acknowledging this special status - between two Christian traditions - and honoring it with inter-communion. Hmmmm. How easy to make special accommodations when the figure is a man (of great holiness, granted). The point I'm trying to make, however clumsily, is that in some ways the Roman Catholic Women Priests' movement also occupies an 'inter-space' for the moment, not recognized by Rome, but somehow suspended between the Roman Catholic tradition and ...other Christian groups who accept and ordain women to the priesthood. And I guess what I'm trying to say is - do labels really matter? Is it necessary to debate whether these sincere women are Roman or not, when in fact they are suspended between two traditions and are pioneers in much the way Brother Roger was a prophetic witness of the future unity of all Christians. Can the Spirit of Wisdom Sophia not call certain individuals to a prophetic 'inter-space' as a witness to the future wholeness and justice of ministry in the whole Church? Here is the interview:

Brother Roger often described his ecumenical journey as an “inner reconciliation of the faith of his origins with the Mystery of the Catholic faith, without breaking fellowship with anyone.” This road does not belong to the usual categories. After his death, the Taizé Community denied the rumors of a secret conversion to Catholicism. One of the reasons those rumors arose was because Brother Roger had been seen receiving communion at the hands of Cardinal Ratzinger during the funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II. What should we think about the statement that Brother Roger became “formally” Catholic?
Born in a Reformed family, Brother Roger had studied theology and had become a pastor in that same Reformed tradition. When he spoke of “the faith of his origins,” he was referring to that beautiful blend of catechesis, devotion, theological formation and Christian witness received in the Reformed tradition. He shared that patrimony with all his brothers and sisters of Protestant affiliation, with whom he always felt himself deeply linked. Since his early years as a pastor, however, Brother Roger sought at the same time to nourish his faith and his spiritual life at the wellsprings of other Christian traditions, crossing certain confessional limits in doing so. His desire to follow a monastic vocation and to found for this purpose a new monastic community with Christians of the Reformation already said a lot about this search of his.
As the years passed, the faith of the prior of Taizé was progressively enriched by the patrimony of faith of the Catholic Church. According to his own testimony, it was with reference to the mystery of the Catholic faith that he understood some of the elements of the faith, such as the role of the Virgin Mary in salvation history, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic gifts and the apostolic ministry in the Church, including the ministry of unity exercised by the Bishop of Rome. In response to this, the Catholic Church had accepted that he take communion at the Eucharist, as he did every morning in the large church at Taizé. Brother Roger also received communion several times from the hands of Pope John Paul II, who had become friends with him from the days of the Second Vatican Council and who was well acquainted with his personal journey with respect to the Catholic Church. In this sense, there was nothing secret or hidden in the attitude of the Catholic Church, neither at Taizé or in Rome. During the funeral of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger only repeated what had already been done before him in Saint Peter’s Basilica, at the time of the late Pope. There was nothing new or premeditated in the Cardinal’s act.


Richard Wagner said...

Hello there,

Just want to say thanks for your work on this blog. It's really great. We also have JSTB in common. I did my M.Div there in the mid 70's. I wanted to send you an email about my new book but I couldn't find an address for you. So I'm going to include it here, if you don't mind.


For Immediate Release
Monday, August 1, 2011

Contact: Richard Wagner, Ph.D., ACS

Gay Catholic Priest Breaks Silence Over Church Abuse of Power

Richard Wagner, Ph.D., is the only Catholic priest in the world with a doctorate in human sexuality. He is a gay man and the author of the seminal work - Gay Catholic Priests; A Study of Cognitive and Affective Dissonance. The media firestorm that erupted after its publication and the backlash within his religious community because of its publication eventually destroyed his public priesthood.

Now Richard speaks out again. His latest book, SECRECY, SOPHISTRY AND GAY SEX IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH; The Systematic Destruction Of An Oblate Priest, provides an intimate and disturbing look into the unseemly inner-workings the Catholic Church. It is a story of how this institution deals with dissent in its midst, and to what lengths it will go to silence a whistle-blower. It involves the highest levels of the Vatican bureaucracy, secret documents, corporate incompetence, canonical corruption, and institutionalized homophobia on an epic scale.

His account of ecclesiastical malfeasance is both timely and in sync with current trends in the popular culture, from the gay marriage debate to the revelation of rampant clergy sexual misconduct.

Richard's story reveals Church corruption, criminality and abuse of power that was once cloaked in secrecy to avoid detection. His is a story of a religious institution that will even violate its core principles to protect its public image. In other words, this is a story of a Church out of control.

At the same time Richard's story is unfolding an unimaginable scandal, involving hundreds of Catholic priests across the globe, is also brewing. Cardinals, bishops and provincials worldwide are furtively shuffling pedophile priest from one crime scene to another. Plus they are involved in a massive corporate cover up of their own crimes and those of their brother clergy.

While Richard is being singled out for 13 years of Church vitriol, public character assassination and communal shunning these same Church leaders and others are lying, prevaricating and sabotaging any effort to uncover the burgeoning clergy sexual abuse scandal that now rock the front pages of newspapers all over the world.

The public panic, among Church officials, exhibited toward Richard-a single up-front gay priest in their midst-is in stark contrast to their apathetic and anemic response to the systemic clergy sexual misconduct and abuse that engulfs them.

Richard has first-hand knowledge of this clergy abuse. He was repeatedly sexually molested by his superior as a 14-year-old boy in an Oblate seminary in southern Illinois.