Denunciar y anunciar – prophesying while walking in a graveyard

In striving to engage imagination this week, I am acutely aware of standing amid very dry bones.  Liberation theologians say how proclaiming the reign of God means both denunciar (denounce) and anunciar (announce). The first step, then, in prophesying, is naming what in our context is no longer alive nor life-giving.  We must stand at the cross and witness what is dead before hoping to shout alleluia at the empty tomb. Fatima Salleh says we must “forsake that which will not bring you {us} to Jesus” – this forsaking looks like seeing la realidad: recognizing, naming, and denouncing that which no longer serves. This honest naming moves toward a prayer of grief and lament.

I lament the revelation of sexual misconduct by liturgical musician/composer David Haas which reawakens the grief of the revelation Jean Vanier’s sexual misconduct and so, so many others in the Church. There is something wrong with the way we think and talk and catechize about sexuality in the Catholic Church – something really wrong.  There is something really wrong with how we do power and accountability and pastoral oversight/accompaniment, as well.

I lament that, in my own (very recent!) experience, women’s religious congregations, striving to center mission and radical, counter-cultural Gospel living cannot both make space for new members and care for the aging majority – at least not for this new member. 

I lament that a massive failure of political leadership has caused those who are marginalized to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

I lament a legal and criminal justice system which seems broken beyond repair.

I lament health care and education systems, so many of which began as ministries, which have become corporatized, prioritizing profit over human beings.

I lament that I fear for the safety of my black and brown students, for their testimonies of being raised hearing they need to work twice as hard because of their skin color. 

“The way things are now is not the design of God,” (Madeleva Declaration).  In community organizing training, I was taught to see the gap between “the world as it is” and “the world as it should be” – and then build power to narrow that gap.

               After all this denunciacion, after naming that which is not alive nor life-giving, what is the word God gives? When God calls, “prophesy, daughter!” what is the vision? 

A few strands of vision, trusting I catch only glimpses, believing this is a collective dream sung by a multitude of voices. 

I announce a Church which honors the reality of human sexuality with all its variance and diversity, and which takes as a starting point the lived experience of real humans of all genders, ages, and states of life instead of abstract philosophical ideals. 

I announce Church where women’s preaching is simply the norm, and where the girl that I was could name herself “preacher” instead of just “poet” because she would see the preaching of women imaged.  (potential action step – how can Catholic Women Preach be shared more widely? How do we dream that initiative to the next level?)

I announce the expansion of restorative justice and peace circles, moving away from death-dealing retributive justice which allows neither mercy for offenders nor resolution to victims.

I announce a transformation of higher education which doesn’t rely on the McDonaldization of adjunct labor nor leave students saddled with debt for decades after graduation.

I announce the abolition of prisons and ICE detention and police, trusting the wisdom of those who have been a part of these systems (with and without power) to create life-giving, human alternatives.

I announce the continued waking up of white folks to systemic racism, the creation of affinity circles for us to do our work and grow in racial endurance and solidarity, with both a sense of urgency and a great sense of mercy and a wide margins for us to make mistakes and learn from them.

I announce a world where ongoing (culturally appropriate, trauma-informed, justice-oriented, liberating) human/spiritual formation, annual retreats, sabbath, and spiritual direction are widely available for all.

I announce that we can pray and look for surprises, finding unexpected allies in polarized ecclesial and political spaces.

The work of the Spirit, the living out of the Paschal mystery, is ongoing throughout history.  “Love is the measure by which we shall be judged,” Dorothy Day quoted St John of the Cross. At the heart of the prophesy is love – not love of ideals but love of flesh and blood humans with all our messiness and imperfection and contradictions. “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

3 thoughts on “Denunciar y anunciar – prophesying while walking in a graveyard

  1. “I announce a Church which honors the reality of human sexuality with all its variance and diversity, and which takes as a starting point the lived experience of real humans of all genders, ages, and states of life instead of abstract philosophical ideals.” This is an important point. I am curious to discuss how the members of this group, in all our different situations, can bring this vision into being.”

    I love the closing quotation from Bonhoeffer – the idea that community is created by loving the people in front of us rather than loving an abstract ideal of what community should look like.

  2. Rhonda,

    As mentioned in our small group, I thank you for giving space and specifics to your lament of the Church. It does make much sense that we cannot jump to anunciar pero tenemos que denunciar. It seems a lot of us in our group are with you in this grieving place.

    I am struck by your last quote from Bonhoeffer “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.” What does your community look like these days? Who are those people around you physically or virtually or in prayer that perhaps God is surrounding you with or that God is summoning to your heart/mind as you live and vision community? Especially as you do your own personal grieving in the transition of your life. I wonder how these specific people(s) can accompany or clarify God’s lament and vision of the Church that is happening in and through you.

    Gratefully,
    Catherine

  3. “There is something wrong with the way we think and talk and catechize about sexuality in the Catholic Church – something really wrong. There is something really wrong with how we do power and accountability and pastoral oversight/accompaniment, as well.”

    Rhonda, I so agree with the above statements. What do you think you can do to help others learn the real meaning of sexuality so that we don’t have such a distorted and negative way of looking at it? Is there a way to help others really come to celebrate, appreciate and cherish their sexuality as a gift from God as opposed to something negative?

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