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Dissident Nun Sister Joan Chittister – The LifeSiteNews Interview

LifeSiteNews.com
LifeSiteNews.com

(Editor’s note: The following is the full interview with Sister Joan Chittister who is to deliver a Lenten mission for the Canada’s National Catholic Broadcasting Council (NCBC), which airs the daily Mass on Vision TV.  LifeSiteNews reported on the upcoming on the mission here)

LSN: It's been reported that you hold positions that are divergent from Catholic magisterial teaching.  Would you say that's correct?

JC: Well, yes, I guess it is correct.  It's not an opposition position.  It is a position of query, of theological and scriptural commitment and search.  I'm asking the question, for instance, how do we understand God if God made women inferior to men, incapable of functioning as full adults, full moral agents, in a society.  What makes God a sexist?  And if God is not a sexist, when are we going to discuss this question as a Church?  The way we treat women is a result of our theology.  What we keep them out of, what we allow them to do, what we respect in them.  It emerged out of making a statement some years ago that I felt that the question of the role and place of women in the Church was a necessary discussion, and that it stood on strong theological concerns.

LSN: How do you see the Church being sexist, as you said.  In what particular ways do you see that happening?

JC:  Well, I think it's pretty obvious.  It's not going to take a rocket scientist to figure it out.  For instance, we have always had marital instructions for women that their role was submission to the husband.  Now when we see that on television, and we see it in China, or Japan, or Islam, we think it's terrible.  But it was our operational theology for years and years.  And even now we claim that there's very strong separate roles for women.  We argue that they are not – not only are they not fit matter to be ordained, as if Jesus came to earth to be male instead of flesh, but we don't even see women as fit matter to have their feet washed in a church on Holy Thursday.  Now, we have a double standard, and we have had it for a long long time.  It needs to be reviewed.  We have a Church that is based, like the rest of society, admittedly, on a patriarchal system – men are at the top, men are the last word, men are the first authority in everything.  The problem is - it seems to me, as a follower of Jesus, when I look at Jesus and the way Jesus dealt with men and women in his society and I look at the way the Church excludes women from the heart of the system, both in the Vatican, and in chanceries, and in dioceses, and in seminaries everywhere, that I have to wonder how it is that secular institutions are leading the development of women in society, rather than churches.  I think that's shameful.

LSN: Would say that the Church's teaching on contraception would enter into this as well?

JC: Well, the Church teachings on anything that separates a woman as a moral agent, or keeps women out of the discussions, the theological discussions and decisions that determine those questions – I have never ever made a pronouncement on the answers, but I am steadfastly committed to the fact that in the light of the continuing development of science and the social status of women everywhere, that these questions, whatever they are, about women in the Church, have to have women in the Church as part of the participating seekers and answerers of those questions.  In other words, it's a matter of saying, you know, everything written about us is written without us.  If a woman is a full moral agent, then she should be part of the decision making process on those questions.

LSN:  Okay.  So you don't have a stand on contraception?

JC:  Well, I'm a nun.  And I, I mean, I believe that – in the first place, the Church is not opposed to birth control.  The Church is great on arithmetic, they just have a problem with chemistry.  That's a whole question about the manner in which a family is planned.  But that there should be, can be, must be, will be family planning is a pretty, I think that's taken for granted.  But, yes, we have questions there about how that's done, but I think they properly belong to people who are married.

LSN: Okay.  Where do you stand on something like the woman's right to choose?

JC:  I believe that that's – let's put it this way.  I'm opposed to abortion.  I have no problem with that whatsoever.  I would never see abortion as a birth control method of choice.  But having said that, I would never condemn a woman who finds herself in the position where she believes that, or her doctor believes that, abortion is the only answer for her at that moment.  My problem lies in the fact that we make it an absolute.  We say that we can never, under any circumstances whatsoever allow abortion, and yet we allow death – men, men can kill for a number of reasons.  Men can kill to defend themselves, men can kill to defend the country, men can kill to punish the people that they believe should be killed.  And we never call those deaths absolute.  We allow men to sit down at a table and plan the destruction of the globe and we never ever say that that is totally, absolutely, gravely immoral and sinful.  But in abortion, we allow no discussion whatsoever of possible times when it would not be a matter.  That just seems to me to be anti-Catholic.  In every other dimension of moral, of the moral life, we recognize grades and degrees of innocence and guilt.  This is the one place where we say there are no grades or degrees of innocence.  There's only total absolute evil and sin.  I don't understand that.  I'm raising the question.  How do we explain that?  Am I opposed to abortion?  Get it straight.  As a birth control method of choice, I certainly am.  My major question is: why is this the one ... issue in which we never see any moment when it may not be as grave an issue as it might be under other circumstances?

LSN:  Okay.  So are you questioning whether there shouldn't be grey areas in terms of other kinds of deaths, or are you saying there should be grey areas in terms of abortion?

JC:  I'm saying we should be theologically consistent.  I'm just simply saying that these are questions.  They're obviously questions, and I think they need to be treated by the Church as if they were questions.

LSN: Would you think with the positions that you are questioning Church teaching on, do you think that the fact that you are questioning Church teaching on these things, would that present a problem for you presenting on a Catholic program?

JC:  Well, you see, I'm more concerned about your questions than I am about my presentation.  Because you're obviously not – you aren't even interested in the program.  What you're trying to do is to create some situation where a program on spiritual development in the 21st century is questionable.  And I'm not happy about that at this moment.  I consider it bad journalism in the first place, because you didn't call about the program.  So I don't know how to answer you, Pat.  I just think it's irresponsible.  If I said to you, now you're a journalist ...  The reason I want to know that is you’re a journalist, and can you really present those questions objectively if you're writing a story?  Now, I think that would be unfair, and I think what you're doing is unfair.  To say, do I believe that there are theological questions in this culture and this century that we haven't faced before that we need to face?  I think that's fair game.  But then to say to me, if you have questions, do you qualify to give a presentation in a Catholic Church?  I mean, who are you representing? ... For whom do you work? ... I really think you ought to stick to the news at hand.  I don't mean to be unhelpful, on the contrary.  But I don't like being manipulated.

JC: Now we're into infallibility.  We have two infallible teachings in the Church.

LSN:  Okay.  Which teachings are those?

JC: Well, I expect you to know because you're the one asking the question.  And this doesn't fall in either of those.

LSN:  Okay.  Well that would be somewhere where we differ in our opinion.

JC:  Is this infallible?

LSN:  What?

JC: I don't know.  Whatever you're talking about.  What are the infallible teachings in question?

LSN:  Well, the question about women's “ordination”, contraception…

JC:  Ordination is a question of infallibility?

LSN:  Absolutely.

JC:  Oh, well then what happened to Peter and his mother-in-law?

LSN:  What do you mean?

JC:  Well, Peter had a mother-in-law.

LSN:  Yes?

JC:  Well, was Peter allowed to be a priest?  What are we doing here?

LSN:  Yes.

JC:  We had married priests all the way to the 13th century.  None of them were priests?

LSN:  I'm not talking about married ordination.  I'm talking about women's ordination.

JC:  Ah.  Women's ordination.  I see.  That's your problem.  Women, right.

LSN:  My problem isn't with women.  My problem is with women's “ordination”.

JC:  But women couldn't be ordained.  But you do know that men could be ordained, right?  So it's only women?

LSN:  Yes.

JC:  Ah.  And on what do you base that?

LSN:  On the teaching of the Church and the will of Christ.

JC:  No, no, no.  What's it based on?

LSN:  The idea that only men can be ordained?

JC:  Yeah.

LSN:  It's based on the fact that that's the way Christ ordained it.

JC:  Christ didn't ordain anybody, Patrick.

LSN:  Christ decided that men were to be ordained.

JC:  No, Christ didn't decide that men would be ordained.  You have to have a little more theology before you begin to ask questions, Patrick.  You can't overlay it with another whole theology that is your own.  You're either asking questions because you're interested in the answers, which is a good journalistic question, or you're asking questions because you want to shape them one way or another.  I really think – I'm happy to come to Canada.  I think this is a great program that they're doing, allowing, they're enabling a wonder reflection on life for a Lenten season for the entire Church.  I think it's phenomenal, and I think that to try to upset that in any way outside of or because of your own personal questions or in order to, somehow or other, mix those questions at this time, I think that's a journalistic disservice.

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Dr. Miriam Grossman speaks to large audience in Mississauga, Ontario Steve Jalsevac/LifeSite
Lianne Laurence

VIDEO: How DO you to talk to kids about sex? US sex-ed critic gives practical tips

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

MISSISSAUGA, ON, August 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Talking to their children about sex is “anxiety provoking to say the least,” for parents, says American sex-ed expert, Dr. Miriam Grossman.

“Some people just can’t even do it, and that’s okay,” the New York-based psychiatrist told the crowd of 1,000 who packed a Mississauga conference hall August 18 to hear her critique of the Ontario Liberal government’s controversial sex-ed curriculum.

After Grossman explained how the Liberal sex-ed curriculum is dangerously flawed and ideologically driven, she used the question-and-answer session to give parents much appreciated and sometimes humorous practical advice on how to teach their children about “the birds and the bees.”

“If you feel you can’t do it, maybe there’s someone else in the family or in the constellation of people that you know you can trust that could do it,” said Grossman, author of “You’re teaching my child WHAT?” and an internationally sought-after speaker on sex education.

A child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist with 12 years’ clinical experience treating students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) clinic, Grossman said explaining sexuality and procreation to children is “a process,” that “shouldn’t ideally happen all at once. A child is not a miniature adult, and absorbs…new information differently than adults do.”

And parents need to be sure just what their child wants to know.

To illustrate this, Grossman referred to her earlier story about a father who gave his son every detail on human procreation after the boy asked him, “Dad, where do I come from?”

After the father finished, his son replied, “Well, that’s funny, because Johnny told me that he came from Montreal.”

“Try to find out what your child is really getting at, and, don’t give it all at once,” Grossman said. “You start with a little bit at a time…and you know, there’s so many variables here, and people have their own traditions and their own ways of explaining things, and something that might be right for my family might not be right for your family.”

She also advised that, when confronted with a four, five, six or seven-year-old asking about a pregnant woman, or where babies come, a parent can ask, “What a good question that is. What do you think?”

And parents can also legitimately put off the discussion when appropriate, telling the child, “That’s really not something you need to know about right now.”

“Wow, what a novel idea: Telling a child that they could wait until they’re older to discuss that subject,” Grossman said, adding that parents wouldn’t brook a six- or even fifteen-year-old child asking how much money they made or had in the bank. “Excuse me? Not every subject has to be an open book.”

However, the time will come when a child needs to know “about how her body’s going to change, about reproduction, about how a new life is created.”

That time, Grossman advised, is puberty, or “as puberty is beginning,” and this is especially so for girls, who, if unprepared for the surprise onset of menstruation “might think [they’re] dying.”

“The actual nitty-gritty about the birds and the bees and intercourse” can “be told in bits and pieces, or it can be told all at once, if you feel it’s necessary,” she said, adding that it’s beneficial if the parent acknowledges his or her awkwardness, because the child will think: “This must be such an important subject that my mother or my father is sitting there squirming, but he’s doing it anyway. I’m really loved.”

“And the children need to understand that as you grow up, you change a lot, not only physically but emotionally,” Grossman said, “and what may seem odd or disgusting when you’re ten years old, or whatever age, it becomes something very special and beautiful when you’re older and you’ll understand it later. You don’t have to understand it now.”


Know your child and guard your home

But as an essential foundation for this discussion, parents must both know their children and guard their home from the encroachments of a culture that Grossman described as “very, very sexualized” and “really horrible.”

“Children need parents who are loving but are also firm and authoritative,” she asserted.  “They don’t need best friends. They need us to guide them, to know what they’re doing, to be on top of what they’re doing.

So parents need to be aware of whom their child is “hanging around with, and what kind of movies are they watching…what’s going on with your child.”

“You need to know that anyway, even if it’s not about sex education,” she pointed out. “Try and know your child. Every child is different.”

And Grossman emphasized that it is “extremely important to be careful about what your child is exposed to in the home, in terms of television and Internet, obviously.”

Children need to understand that “just like you have garbage you take out of the house, you put it in the garbage bin, it’s dirty, it smells…there are other things that also don’t belong in the house.”

And children learn quickly what is, and is not, permissible inside the home, Grossman said. “Me, I keep kosher…If I go into a store, my kids know from a very young age, we don’t eat that.”

So they are used to the idea of “the world outside and the inside world, of inside your home, and inside your heart as well.”

Parents can also convey this by telling their children that “the world is an upside-down place, and sometimes the most special, holy subjects are…just thrown in the gutter. And that’s a bad thing. In our family, in our tradition, we don’t do that.”

“Sexuality is one of the subjects that in this upside-down world, it is sometimes just in the gutter,” she said. “And so I want you to tell your child to come to me when you have questions, I will give you the straight story about it.”

Grossman herself is “not even sure,” as she stated in her seminar, that sex education should be in the schools: “I believe sex education should be at home for those parents that want to do it.”

She also noted that parents “can make mistakes. We all make lots of mistakes but it’s okay, you can always come back and do it differently,” adding that this is “another wonderful message for your child. You know what, it’s okay to make mistakes, you can always go back and try and fix it.”

Grossman urged parents to visit her Facebook page, website and blog. “I have so much information you can get there that you’ll find useful,” and added that she will be publishing books for children, and has posted her critique of New York City’s sex-ed curriculum, which is similar to Ontario’s.

The parental backlash to that sex-ed curriculum, set to roll out in the province’s publicly funded schools this September, has been “amazing” Grossman noted.

Grossman’s seminar was sponsored by Mississauga-based HOWA Voice of Change along with the Canadian Families Alliance, an umbrella group representing more than 25 associations and 200,000 Ontarians opposed to the curriculum. The report on her devastating critique of the sex-ed curriculum can be found here, and the video here.

Ontario readers may find information and sign up for a September 2 province-wide protests at MPPs offices here. So far, there are protests planned for 92 of Ontario’s 107 constituencies. The parents’ movement seeking removal of the curriculum is urging all concerned citizens to join this special effort to influence individual Ontario legislators.

See related reports:

Ontario’s dangerous sex-ed is indoctrination not science says U.S. psychiatrist to large audience

Videos: US psychiatrist tells parents “stand firm” against dangerous sex-ed

See the LifeSiteNews feature page on the Ontario sex-ed curriculum containing nearly 100 LifeSite articles related to the issue

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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Did the pope just endorse a gay children’s book? Of course not, says Vatican

Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete
By Pete Baklinski

ROME, August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- While mainstream media is gushing with news today that Pope Francis allegedly praised a children’s book that promotes gender theory, the Vatican is decrying what they called the "manipulation" of a cordial letter from an official in the Secretariat of State to suggest that the Vatican is promoting teachings contrary to the Gospel.

Italian children’s author Francesca Pardi was reported by The Guardian to have submitted a parcel of children’s books promoting the acceptance of homosexuality and gender theory to Pope Francis in June after Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro publicly banned the author’s newest book, Piccolo Uovo (Little Egg), from children’s schools. The book was criticized by pro-family leaders for promoting non-natural family structures of two men and two women.

In a letter accompanying the books, Pardi wrote: “Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us. We have respect for Catholics. ... A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?”

The Guardian is reporting that Pardi has now “found an unlikely supporter in Pope Francis,” who through his staff has responded to the author and is presented as “praising her work.” It quotes the following from a July 9 letter to Pardi from the Vatican.

“His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values,” wrote Peter B. Wells, a senior official at the Vatican Secretariat of State, in a the letter The Guardian is reporting it has seen.  

While the letter gently calls the author to use her talents to spread “genuine human and Christian values,” The Guardian takes it as the pope’s endorsement of gender theory.

“Pope Francis sends letter praising gay children's book,” the paper’s headline states. “Italian book that explores different family types including same sex was banned by mayor of Venice, but pontiff becomes unlikely supporter,” reads the subtitle.

In a press release that Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi sent to LifeSiteNews on Friday, the vice speaker of the Vatican, Ciro Benedettini, made clear that the friendly reply letter to the author in no way approves of attitudes or positions that are contrary to Catholic teaching and the Gospels.

The Vatican's statement also says that in the original letter from the secretariat of state Wells merely "acknowledged receipt" of the materials sent by Pardi, and also made clear that the letter was private and not meant for publication. 

"In no way does a letter from the Secretary of State intend to endorse behaviors and teachings not in keeping with the Gospel," says the statement, decrying the "manipulation" of the letter.

Benedettini said the blessing of the pope at the end of the letter was meant to be for the author herself, and not to affirm positions concerning gender theory that are contrary to the Church's teaching. Using the letter to this end is erroneous, he said.

Pope Francis has strongly condemned the notion of “gender theory” on numerous occasions, saying that it is an “error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion.”

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Lisa Bourne

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Poll suggests most US Catholics wrongly believe Pope Francis backs gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A considerable majority of U.S. Catholics are in conflict with Church teaching on abortion and marriage, a new study says, and a startling number of those also believe Pope Francis backs homosexual “marriage.”

Despite Church teachings, Catholics in America also closely parallel the general populace in their support for abortion and homosexual “marriage,” falling short in the Biblical call to be “in the world but not of the world.”

The findings suggest what many Catholics have said is a climate of confusion in the midst of the Francis pontificate. Concerns over that confusion prompted a coalition of pro-family groups to respond with an international petition effort asking the pope to reaffirm Church teaching, drawing more than a half-million signatures.

The survey, conducted by Public Religions Research Institute, found that 60 percent of all U.S. Catholics favor legalized homosexual “marriage,” compared to 55 percent of all Americans. Likewise, 51 percent of Catholics think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 53 percent of the general population holding this view.

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a sacramental union between one man and one woman, mirroring Christ and the Church respectively as bridegroom and bride.

The Church also teaches that life begins at conception, that each human life possesses dignity as a child of God and is to be afforded protection, making abortion an intrinsic evil.

Catholics, accounting for 22 percent of adults in the U.S. population, have a favorable view of Pope Francis, the study said, but they are very confused about his take on homosexual “marriage.”

Of the Catholics who back homosexual “marriage,” 49-percent also think the leader of the Catholic Church backs it along with them. Fifteen percent of those Catholics who oppose homosexual “marriage” also mistakenly believe Pope Francis supports it.

Pope Francis has made numerous statements in support of life, marriage and family, but the confusion remains.

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"After Ireland and the U.S. Supreme Court both approved same-sex 'marriage,' a strong reaffirmation of Church teaching could save the sacred institution of marriage, strengthen the family and dispel the lies of the homosexual revolution," TFP Student Action Director John Ritchie stated.  "Young Catholics -- even non-Catholics -- look to the Church as a beacon of morality and stability in our Godless culture, but some of our shepherds have issued confusing statements."

TFP Student Action is a part of the lay Catholic organization American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, and is part of the alliance behind the Filial Appeal, the petition asking the Holy Father to reinforce Catholic teaching at the Vatican’s upcoming Synod on the Family in October.

Ritchie explained how the confusion was aiding the Church’s enemies, and warned of the potential consequences.

"This prayerful petition asks Pope Francis to clear up the moral confusion that's been spreading against Natural and Divine Law," he said. "If the enemies of the family continue to chip away at holy matrimony, the future of the family and civilization itself will be in even more serious peril."

At press time more than 500,000 signature had been gathered for the appeal, including five cardinals, 117 bishops and hundreds of well-known civic leaders.

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