God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Moments of reflection


Traveling through the world for the last 5 weeks has given me the opportunity to see so many different landscapes – from Corsica to the South of France and the South of Spain – not to forget Bavaria with blue skies and the snow-covered Alps in the background –  the Garden State of New Jersey and finally New Mexico with the desert coming from Colorado with the Rocky Mountains.

Nature can be a blast – it can lift up the mood and it can almost trigger a certain way of talking with each other or even being silent in the presence of each other. Nature, an incarnation of the divine somehow tells you the story of all created being part of something much bigger, much serener, much more enchanted and connected then the good old bible story of  Adam and Eve being told by God to be masters of the world.

Even speaking over death and dying suddenly gets another meaning and a lightness is felt on this heavy thoughts of own mortality as if the comfort of the natural cathedrals changes the tune and mood of those engaging in such talks.

And one suddenly wonders whether the talk of man as the crown of creation is really the adequate language to use or whether this tribal expression coming from the good very old times has outlived its meaning and even damages our understanding of creation and the divine.  And how all is connected and inter-connected in a mysterious way and often only discovered listening to the guts and the feelings and the spirits guiding us.


And then suddenly there are more questions about how we talk about God, the universe and us – there are creeping questions into the conversation whether we got it really right thinking that there is a God somewhere sitting in the heavens – or now better universe or beyond the boundaries of all the known and unknown galaxies?
And whether the thinking of the divine as an opposite of mankind does still make sense or whether we need another language bringing our knowledge of modern science and the core elements of the biblical story into singing one tune.
Discovering ourselves as part of an universal conscience developing – the creation which is according to Paul still in labour – and all existing part of this process evolving more reflective.


Lots to reflect about, alone and together – as I said in a earlier blog – traveling is an adventure and we come home as changed persons – hopefully somebody will notice.

Filed under: Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

Who am I to judge – a developing story

“The history of homosexuals in our society is a very bad history because we have done a lot to marginalize them. It is not so long ago and so as church and as society we have to say sorry,”, so the German Cardinal Marx somehow in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting and it seems the walls of the fortress Catholic church seems to coming down. Even worse Pope Francis re-affirms his “Marxist Cardinal”, as he jokey called him and the tremors can be felt on twitter and in statements all over the Catholic world. Cardinal Napier fears for the worst according to his twitter account and even revokes God’s help on this subject. Also in the USA bishops feel either called to testify to the effect that Catholic wording has contributed to the hate and discrimination of LGBTI people while others see no harm in calling their brothers and sisters “intrinsic evil”. It seems Orlando has taken off the gloves in the Catholic church when it comes to the question of same-sex love and its consequences in life.
This is in principle good so because it opens up a debate and reflection on a seemingly hot potato clerics were not even allowed to whisper loud in the times of Pope Benedict XVI without risking to be reprimanded heavily.  The rifts, the different opinions, the soul-searching can now start in earnest – and as with most things in our days society has been in the lead while the church tries to catch up with matters important for those not falling in the “hetero” category.
I guess if we agree that we all are on our way to understand God’s good creation, if we agree that listening to each others stories without judgement or prejudice would be the order of today then Orlando might become a turning point in the relationship between the biggest faith communities and the LGBTI community in this world. A tragedy turned into a blessing for those at the margins of our church longing to be fully accepted in their God-given way of love and commitment. The teaching of the church always has developed – from how we saw slavery till the judgement on democracy, freedom of religion and so many more – because our knowledge and insight developed. Even in the bible we see this development from a God of war and killing fields slowly being recognized as a God of peace and love and understanding. We as church are always on the way, we always have to listen, to discern – and maybe the biggest sin of a faith community can be to be so anxious of new insights or more closeness to God and his children that there is simply a refusal to walk forward.

Moses, Abraham and all the prophets called the chosen people again and again out of all safety zones to conquer the promised land. All those stories also tell us of failure, of turning back to the seemingly “good old days” , telling us of penance, of God’s willingness to forgive and to continue the alliance between God and mankind.

Let’s remember that the concept of homosexuality is a very modern and new one. No Jew of the Old Testament nor Jesus did know about it. So let’s start to discern, lets start to look anew at what is God telling us – let’s listen to voices like Pope Francis and Cardinal Marx and dare to dream of the people of God including all in his love without labeling some as “intrinsic evil”.

Working in the fields of the HIV pandemic which indeed has hit the LGBTI community the hardest the influence of faith of the lives of people is clearly to be seen. The religious views of Ronald Reagan contributed heavily to the ignorance government showed in the USA when HIV emerged because it was just killing gays. With proper unbiased action 32 million people would not have to suffer today and millions would still be alive. Faith can change the world for better or for worse.

Filed under: Catholic Church, HIV and AIDS, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Being silent…

Being silent at the beginning of the new year seems to me the only way of responding to all the madness happening around me. I can’t remember a year having started so chaotic and full of negativity. Looking to South Africa, we see the aftermath of the irrationality of our president for which mostly the poor will pay dearly. The Rand continuous to fall and the political parties are busy to capitalize on a very unhealthy social media storm over racism. In Africa it seems more leaders are tempted to extend their ruling into a life-time dictatorship and the battle between Daesh or ISL and the rest of the world continuous to cost precious lives. In the USA Donald Trump, since yesterday supported by Mrs Palin shows that even the word ‘stupid’ can be topped and in Europe the bill is paid for having a European Union not built on social equality and human rights but purely materialism and finances. The refugee crisis in Europe reveals the shadows of the so-called Christian Occident.  Looking from politics to the churches it seems that there are also wars going on – in my church it seems that preaching the gospel and trying to bring it to the people does not sit well with some of the people higher up the hierarchy or in the administration of the Vatican while the Anglican church seems to be split answering the question whether God’s creation of different people with different preferences was a good question or should be welcomed by God’s own people.
But there is the Year of Mercy – the door of mercy is wide open since the beginning of December and maybe this is the only ray of hope in this chaos of uncertainty, brutality, stupidity and maybe even clash of cultures and civilizations. I ask myself where will we be at the end of the year? Will reason and love prevail or will the world continue to spiral into the darkness of self prophecy and negativity? I am not sure – I will wait and see, but continue to do my little bit in the hope that all those millions of unnamed decent people doing the same by following their dream and vocation overcome at the end the madness of a world where according to Oxfam the 26 richest persons have as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population. And the richest 1% now has as much wealth as the rest of the world combined. Not sure I can be silent about that…

Filed under: Africa, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mercy is needed – acknowledgement of realities also

Continuing to watch and follow the synod I must admit that the synod meeting unfolding in its second week brings some interesting insides: Cardinal Dolan forgets that he has signed a letter, Cardinal Sarah brings the Gender theory and ISIS together on the same level, talking about two “apocalyptic beasts” and what stroke me most is that seemingly the highest rank in our church does not understand the continuation of a synod as an institution rather than a single event. Vatican II and its consequences seems far away judging from the published content of the mysterious letter signed by Cardinals Dolan, Mueller, Pell and some more.
I also notice that the word “mercy” could become a bit of a trap, if used to cover up for a change of realities. To elaborate: In this moment in time the Synod is considering not the doctrine but the pastoral care. To have an appropriate answer of care towards people living in today’s situation one has to acknowledge this situation, but also realize the advances in academic reflection. Otherwise the trap is to remain unchanged but just use different language – which seems to be on top of the list for most synod fathers. So I am just merciful if you can’t live up to my expectations but all the expectations are exactly as they have been 100 years ago as well as the general situation and nothing has changed.
I admit, this is not an easy task:
We have to see that the teaching of the church and the pastoral care in terms of marriage has been developed over centuries and it was not fixed from the beginning and the times of Jesus. We also have to acknowledge that the orthodox sister church developed an alternative way of dealing with failure which was never condemned or even really questioned by the Western church. We have the fact of longer lives, a complete different understanding of sexuality and gender. And we have certainly a different and more developed understanding of God’s commitment and unconditional love than e.g. those people living in the middle ages.  The earth is not flat anymore and our planet is not the center of the universe. Human development is accelerated and when previously it took a hundred years for changes to be noticed or even implemented, it takes now only a couple of years.
We are the people of God on pilgrimage through times and we have to ask ourselves what all this means in relationship to God and each other now in this point in time. Human life, human situations, human knowledge changes, the factor not being changed in all this is the mystery of God’s love speaking of marriage as a grace, a blessing, and a lifelong covenant of love.

So lets talk about mercy within the acknowledgement of a changed framework of people’s living and if we do so, we will be close to God in whose image we are made and who’s unconditional love keeps us going day after day. Doing so, we will life a dynamic faith as it is indeed needed to keep a relationship between God and human mankind going. Relationships are always dynamic, otherwise they are dead. At least the lively debates of the synod fathers we can only imagine when listening to the daily briefing via the Vatican Press Office show that all is not lost in our church and that alone gives hope. And for those who are so anxious about doctrine: Nobody wants to rock the boat and sink the ship, we just trying to come closer to the mystery of God’s plan with human mankind.

Filed under: Catholic Church, Networking, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Synod impressions

As expected the lines are drawn in the sand between hardliners and those giving space to the spirit, but there are also some voices not expected to be heard during the first days of the synod. In his opening statement as a the synod’s general relator, Cardinal Péter Erdő, the archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest told the assembly that it was impossible to allow divorced remarried to receive communion. Referring to Pope John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, Erdő said “integration of divorced and remarried persons in the life of the ecclesial community can be realized in various ways, apart from admission to the Eucharist…In the search for pastoral solutions for the difficulties of certain civilly divorced and remarried persons, it is presently held that the fidelity to the indissolubility of marriage cannot be joined to the practical recognizing of the goodness of concrete situations that stand opposed and are therefore incompatible,” he said further and continued: “Indeed, between true and false, between good and evil, there is not a graduality, Even if some forms of living together bring in themselves certain positive aspects, this does not mean that they can be presented as good things.”
This opening statement triggered two interventions, one from the pope himself almost rebuking this opening remarks in stating that nobody is trying the change the dogmatic teaching of the church and that this synod is a pastoral gathering following the first such meeting and from Cardinal Marx. He pointed out that saying in the beginning that nothing can change would mean that the synod starts again where they have been two years ago.
So there is a clear indication that this Synod not starts from scratch again but is a continuation of the meeting two years ago. There is also a clear expectation of the majority that pastoral approaches and languages have to be developed and changed to be able to proclaim the gospel in our times.
Now it remains to be seen how the synod fathers go about it – there is a great variation of opinions from the so-called far right with Cardinals Sarah, Mueller or Napier trying to stop any possible development and those on the so-called left like Cardinal Marx and Kasper.
It remains a question how much the Synod acknowledges the advance in the last 100 years of knowledge of the human sexuality and incorporates it into the pastoral approaches. Especially when it comes to homosexuality and the fixation of the sexual act within the marriage there should be some movement if the church wants to remain relevant. Here we can also see the divide between Europe and Africa, where there is a clear line of disagreement visible how to approach the aforesaid topics. While there are differences in realities like polygamy or concepts like ubuntu the global village is growing closer together. Instead of  trying to keep the lid on teaching versus realities it would be great if the African bishops would contribute in making the teaching and pastoral work of the church more diverse from their own real traditions. The African church has more to offer than defending the old Platonist shaped Roman-European teaching.

I also noted the Canadian Archbishops Paul-Andre Durocher remarks to the Synod, where he proposed three courses of action for this Synod. He asked “that this Synod considers the possibility of granting to married men and women, well-trained and accompanied, permission to speak in homilies at Mass in order to show the link between the Word proclaimed and the lives of spouses and parents. That in order to recognize the equal capacity of women to assume decision-making positions in the Church, the Synod recommends the appointment of women to positions they are able to occupy in the Roman Curia and in our diocesan curia’s. Finally, concerning the permanent diaconate, that this Synod recommends the establishment of a process that could eventually open to women access to this order, which, as tradition says, is directed non ad sacerdotium, sed ad ministerium  which means not to priesthood, but to ministry.

Even if many say that the topics discussed at the Synod are not really relevant for the daily life of people including Catholics – as they have made up their minds already long ago – it is amazing to see the interest in the Synod’s discussion. I interpret this as a yearning of the people of God for spiritual guidance, for meaning in life but in a way touching the lives instead of judging the lives all the time – with one word: mercy and the encouragement to live a life to the fullest. Add acknowledgement of modern sciences and their results and we will develop into a church which arrives finally in the 21st century making God’s love and commitment towards his creation touchable and to be experienced for the people of today.

 

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, chaplain, General, Networking, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 27th, 2018
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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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