Abstract of the Paper by Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, India

Jesus’ call to “Do this in memory of me”, is re-lived by women all over the world as they give off their bodies in the Eucharistic ritual of birthing and nurturing their young. Dying to one’s self so that another may have life in a process that never ends. Being poured out, almost drained to the last drop, for another.

As they preside at life’s Eucharistic banquet, women break the bread of their lives to feed the hungry of the world – in kitchens, community centers, classrooms, pavements, refugee camps. Theirs is a daily enactment of the Last Supper as they continue to provide in the face of hunger, illiteracy, discrimination and exploitation.

In a celebration that uses Christ’s body and blood to symbolize deep spiritual truths, women also perceive an affirmation of the sacredness of their own bodies and blood that symbolize the intermingling of the human and the Divine in the Eucharistic cup.

Tragically, while it is women who set the tables of the world and spiritualise the meal, at the Eucharistic table of the institutional Church, women are banned form performing these roles. And despite the Divine seed having nestled in a female form, women are denied participation in the radical embodiment of the Divine in human flesh, evident in the exclusively male representation of Christ. Ironically, instead of silencing women, the prohibition of women’s ordination to priestly ministry has provoked women to discover their own priesthood and so uncover the paucity of patriarchal priesthood. Further, it has pushed the understanding of the sacraments to deeper levels challenging the Church to transform the ways in which it lives out the Christian belief that Christ lives among us in the flesh and blood of the Church.

Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, India, holds a Ph.D in Medicine and is the head of the Tissue Bank in Tata Memorial Hospital. She is a founding member of the Satyashodhak, a Mumbai based group of Christian feminists and is a member of the CBCI Commission for Women, Mumbai Women’s Desk Core Team.. As a writer Astrid has published articles in the journal In God’s Image, Daughters of Sarah, Magnificat, Women’s Link, The Month, Vidyajyoti, Jnanadeep among others; Books; Body, Bread Blood; Community of Men and Women and a couple of others.

Facing the Reality of Clergy Sexual Misconduct in the Church: A Step Toward Justice and Healing

Nila Bermisa, Philippines

The recent events of sexual abuse within the Church publicized by the news media have rocked the Catholic Church both as an institution and as a faith community. The fact that this topic has dominated the headlines worldwide highlights the extent of the sexual abuse in the Church by clergy and religious. The Philippines has been one of the countries where this abuse was most publicized. This seems to be an indication of the power and influence of this institution, the same power that has seemingly been corrupted giving way to sexual abuse and violence against women by clergy both diocesan and religious priests, and brothers.

The article provides some understanding of the root causes of sexual violence within the Church particularly in the Philippines, and presents what might be possible avenues toward justice and healing among survivors, the faith communities and the Church. Part I deals with the clarification or explanation of terms, giving case examples of the various kinds of sexual abuses within the church in the Philippines. The legal definitions are examined along with the descriptions of the CBCP (Conference of Catholic Bishops in the Philippines) as stated in their latest “Guidelines on Clerical Sexual Misconduct.” Part II is a political and socio-cultural analysis of sexual violence (especially against women) in the Catholic Church in the Philippines. It looks at how culture and religion as well as colonization have perpetuated sexual violence in the country. Part III presents current responses to these sexual violations or perversions of sexuality by the church and faith communities. The impact of the response (on parties concerned), both positive and negative, is also discussed.

The presentation ends with a theological reflection, and envisioning the future based on sharing of women survivors and church members regarding their vision of a transformed and healed faith community and church.

Nila Bermisa, mm, Philippines, is a sister of the Maryknoll Missionaries. She is currently the academic dean of the Institute of Formation and Religious Studies in Manila and a candidate of Doctor in Ministry at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, California

The Antiquenas Sexual Leaders

Sr. Silvina Espanueva Tejares, Philippines

The small Christian communities in thediocese of Antique are mostly led by women. Despite the obvious patriarchy in the Church and the discrimination there is against feminine leadership, our Antiquena leaders continue to get hold of the helm and their ministerial contributions cannot be watered down. Most of our leaders are working mothers whose eyes are fixed on their family first and foremost, laboring from early morning to late in the evening. Overworked as they are, they still find time to be servants, shepherds and even midwives to their needy neighbors. It is interesting to look into the sense of embodiment and bodiliness that allows them to mirror the embodied Jesus who moved around in a down to earth manner to take care of the sick, the hungry, the naked, the prisoners and the strangers. It is equally interesting to see how they express their own sexuality as leaders considering the presence of male leaders.

Part I describes the Antiquena Leaders’ Experiences as sexual leaders, including responses to questions like “How do they see their bodies, care for them and use them?”, “How do they see themselves in relation to their husbands?”, “How do they understand the words in Genesis 2, 21-25 (Paul’s writings will be referred to also)?”, ” How do they express their sexuality as leaders?”, “What problems do they encounter (with the male leaders and their parish priest) being female leaders?” Part 2 gives a backgrounder on Sex and Culture in the province of Antique, the women’s worldview of sex/sexuality, the words they use to refer to sex. The third part is about our Religious tradition’s views on body and sexuality, with particular focus on Genesis 2 and Paul’s writings. Part 5 is a dialogue between the experience of women leaders regarding their body and sexuality and what is said by our Church writings and Scriptures. What do Church and Scripture have to say to the experience of our women leaders and what have the latter to say to our Church teachings and practice? In the last part, a pastoral response is recommended to help the women leaders see their bodies and express their sexuality in a more informed and enlighted way, to become more effective and compassionate leaders, and how the Church should treat our women leaders as dignified collaborators in the Church.

Silvina Tejares, Philippines, is a member of the Religious Missionary Sisters of the Lord’s Table (Mensa Domini Sisters). She does counseling and teaching and is a member of the Formation Team, Mill Hill Missionaries Formation Center, Manduarriao, Iloilo City She is a Doctor of Ministry from the CTU, Chicago. She also has Masters degrees in Guidance and Counseling and in Religious Studies (MST)

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