Welcome back for the next part in our series
describing events where Fr. Bryan Hehir is the featured speaker along with gay activists and proponents of the gay culture. In our last post, we shared how Fr. Hehir was featured in a speaker series at a gay-friendly church (that participates in the Gay Pride parade) along with a gay activist whose organization published and distributed a graphic guide to safe gay sex. Today we cover his joint appearance with a “Catholic” lesbian feminist theologian who supports women priests. We previously discussed Fr. Hehir keynoting a conference April 30-May 1 along with a proponent of gay priests who wants everyone to “stretch the imagination” by watching gay-themed movies and reading gay novels.
Lets cut to the chase. Fr. Hehirs judgments on where he speaks and who he implicitly endorses in his roles as President of Catholic Charities and Archdiocese Secretary for Healthcare and Social Services, leave many people with more questions than answers. To be up front with readers, I am not what you would call the brighest shining bulb in the chandelier when it comes to theology, so you will need to discount what I write appropriately. But after you read the two links above and this post, you can reach your own conclusions.
It was the thick of the sexual abuse crisis in the church. On October 2, 2002, Fr. Hehir was featured along with lesbian feminist theologian Mary E. Hunt at a Regis College symposium, “Women, Church and Society: The Heart of the Matter” as part of a discussion series in response to the sexual abuse crisis. Here’s a report on the event and some excerpts.
Hehir and Hunt established the terms of dialogue. The intellectual context for the symposium was set forth in the October 3 position papers presented by Father Bryan Hehir and theologian Mary E. Hunt. Hehir spoke on “The Consequences of the Crisis: Defining the Issues.”
…in twentieth-century Catholicism, teachings on sexuality have been “a chronically afflicted area,” and there are issues that need to be examined and re-examined…dissent is an expected part of the theological tradition of which we are a part…He ceded to Dr. Hunt discussion of any perception of the influence and role of women (Fr. Hehir)
There’s the matter of calling Catholic teachings on sexuality “chronically afflicted” but let’s put that aside for now. We repeat for clarity, Fr. Bryan Hehir “ceded to Dr. Hunt discussion of any perception of the influence and role of women. “ Who is Mary Hunt? Surely, she must be of the reputation and level of orthodox Catholicism of, say, someone like a Harvard Prof. Mary Ann Glendon or a Prof. Mary Shivananden for Fr. Hehir to unconditionally cede discussion of the womens’ perspective on the Church to her, right? Nope.
Hunt is a Catholic lesbian feminist theologian who is Co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) and is an advocate for women priests. This biography says she served on the national board of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, is an LGBT Religious Archives Network advisory board member, and member of CLOUT (Christian Lesbians Out) and of Dignity. By the way, Bryan Hehir did not just bump into Mary Hunt at this program unaware of her background. She, like Fr. Hehir, was trained at the Harvard Divinity School. More importantly, Bryan Hehir co-presented with her in 1983 in their 6-week lecture series called “Matthew, Marx, Luke, and John” at the Marxist-leaning Institute for Policy Studies’ Washington School for progressive activists in Washington, DC, but that is a whole ‘nother story. Anyhow, hiere is how Hunt described herself at a talk in 2005 on “Eradicating the Sin of Heterosexim“:
I am a Catholic feminist theologian who is a lesbian, living happily for more than twenty-five years with a wonderful woman. We adopted a daughter, who is now four years old from China on December 12, 2001…For some people, we look like a new model of the Catholic Family of the Year. For others, of course, we are the epitome of everything that is evil.
Hunt and her lesbian partner Diann Neu were winners in 1988 of the Paulist Center’s Isacc Hecker Award.
For being catalysts of women’s religious speech and creativity. Mary Hunt and Diann Neu co-founded the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual. Based in Maryland, WATER is a feminist educational center offering women the resources to develop their spiritual nature and assume leadership roles in their faith communities.
Hunt is downright prolific, so you can find literally hundreds of citations for her out there. Here are a few more.
From Hunt’s chapter, “Lovingly Lesbian: Toward a Feminist Theory of Friendship” in the 1995 book “Sexuality and the Sacred: Sources for Theological Reflection”
The cost of heterosexism has been so high as to erase the lives and loves of many lesbians from history….the ultimate ephiteph for any woman, regardless of her sexual preference, is lesbian….The idea…is that all women take friendly their friendships with women, and the only word we have to indicate this revolutionary reality is lesbian.”
From The Wanderer, October 16, 1997, reporting on a woman priest movement gathering in Oakland CA
Critical Mass: Women Celebrating Eucharist,” held in Oakland on Oct.5th, was supposed to be a turning point in the history of women in the Catholic Church. The ritual presented in Bishop Begin Plaza in downtown Oakland, two years in the organizing by the stars of the feminist theology set, was to inspire women to throw off the chains of patriarchy, wrest control of the priesthood from men, and begin functioning as self-proclaimed, self-ordained priests. “Some of us are called to the priesthood,” said the liturgy’s emcee….About 250 to 300 people attended – they were mostly women, nearly all white, a mixture of aging, rich housewives; young, angry lesbians; and Church bureaucrats…
While the celebration was described as “the Mass as we know it with the Mass we can only imagine . . . a mixture of liturgy and theater,” the ritual bore no resemblance to a Catholic liturgy.
The stars of the show were introduced (feminist bigwigs like Mary Hunt and her partner Diane Neu, with representatives from the Women’s Ordination Conference, Woman Church Convergence, WATER, and the Women’s Office of the Archdiocese of Chicago – most of them aging matriarchs), followed by a demonstration of the gestures to be used in the ritual (viewed from the back, this spectacle looked rather like an army of kindergarten teachers doing the “itsy bitsy spider” song).
When Kathleen Ward Atchason left Wicca, or witchcraft, to join the Roman Catholic Church she never dreamed she would encounter witchcraft within the walls of Christendom. …Concerned that such programs encouraging goddess worship were incompatible with the Bible, Sylvia Dooling, wife of a Presbyterian pastor, founded Voices for Orthodox Women, or VOW. Its goal is to try and influence the Presbyterian Church to be more orthodox through the proper channels of the church. “We have grown from twelve members two years ago to 1,000 members today,” Dooling tells Insight. “Presbyterian women are concerned about this.”
Mary Hunt is a feminist who does not share Dooling’s concern and is pleased with the growth of feminist philosophy in the Christian church. Hunt is a Roman Catholic and codirector of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, or WATER. An editorial on the front page of Waterwheel, WATER’s quarterly newsletter, reads, “Starhawk gets it right in her new introduction to the twentieth-anniversary edition of The Spiral Dance, the book that launched Goddess religion into the contemporary mainstream. ‘How do I learn this… how do I pass this on?’ ” Hunt tells Insight that while her newsletter quotes Starhawk, a Wiccan high priestess, that she and codirector Diann Neu consider themselves to be Catholic, although WATER is not affiliated officially with the Roman Catholic Church. “We seek to influence it however and receive funding from some Catholic bishops,” she says.
One issue of the newsletter features a liturgy for All Saint’s Day, honoring the gracious Mother Goddess, “Wisdom-Sophia,” written by Neu. Participation of a young woman, a middle-aged woman and a crone are required. “This liturgy is a resource for others to use on their own or in their denomination. We are not promoting Wicca,” says Hunt, “but it is certainly something that is a help.” Hunt and Neu hope to transform the church by inducing it to have a more feminist agenda. They hold workshops and sponsor events on such issues as spirituality, sexuality and anti-racism. Yet the church to which they profess to belong does not agree. “The Catholic catechism forbids divination, sorcery and magic as a mortal sin against the first commandment-and that includes Wicca,” explains the Rev. Mitch Pacwa, a Roman Catholic professor at the University of Dallas and author of Catholics and the New Age.
Sorry for the repetition here readers. In case it was not clear to you, Fr. Hehir “ceded to Dr. Mary Hunt discussion of any perception of the influence and role of women.”
I am delighted to participate in “Imagining a Queer World.” My focus is on “Feminist Theo-ethics: Queering Imagination and Action” which I approach in three moves. (1) First, I look at the context and moral framework in which we find ourselves and explain why I think a new approach is necessary. (2) Second, I suggest that we begin to act accordingly by changing the default conversation among us from homosexuality to
heterosexism. (3) Finally, I draw out some of the implications for strategic actions for justice that accrue from such a change.
Feminist biblical scholar Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza has called these unjust structures “kyriarchy” or interlocking structures of lordship. She relies on the Greek word for “lord” used so loftily within the Christian tradition to underscore that the “lording over” is the problem. Kyriarchy helps to explain what is not ever a single, individual problem, but always a structured, socialized injustice.
This is “queering” which means bringing insights from those who have been marginalized for transgressing sex/gender boundaries—including those who are lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender and our friends—so as to rethink moral questions. Queering involves more than sexuality—it is deliberately transgressive of the many structures of oppression that reinforce the structures of heterosexist lordship.
Queering is an effort to reshape our context into one that reflects respect, dignity, and the means for all to flourish. My goal is to build communities of ethical concern and action. Thus, engaging and involving “the rest of us” is crucial.
To be fair, Mary Hunt may be a fine, intellectually bright person. We don’t mean to sound judgmental. But at this point, it almost doesn’t matter what Mary E. Hunt had to say about the crisis in the church from a woman’s perspective. That Fr. Bryan Hehir, then President of Catholic Charities USA and a year later Secretary of Social Services for the Archdiocese of Boston judged this the right person to author position papers with on the situation of the Catholic Church and be featured with on the panel and to “cede discussion of any perception of the influence and role of women” to, raises some serious questions. Lets combine that with him speaking at the gay-friendly Paulist Center in a series with a gay activisit, and his plans to speak this Friday, April 30 with a gay priests and gay culture proponent and one cant help but at least minimally question his judgment to be a cabinet secretary and senior advisor to the Cardinal archbishop. If you’re troubled by all of this, visit our Take Action page and voice your concerns to the right people.
But don’t let us sway you. You make up your own mind.