About Becky Chabot

26. INFJ. 2. Gryffindor.

The Greatest Wedding Ever

This Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending what may have been the greatest wedding ever.  Now, I don’t say this to imply that the weddings of my friends that I have been privileged to be at weren’t great…but this wedding was definitely something special.  But, before I get to the wedding itself, I want to set the scene.

I went to Mass with two friends on Sunday.  The priest is a dear friend of mine and I was excited to get to hear him preach, as well as the chance to worship and pray in Spanish.  We arrived at the church five minutes before the scheduled start time, but as the Mass runs on Latin time, it was still almost 20 minutes before things got started.  Mass started and the bride and groom were part of the processional (which also included quite possibly the cutest flower girl I’ve ever seen!).  It was a fairly normal Mass…songs, readings, etc.

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“I messed up.”

While I certainly have my political allegiances, I realized today something that I don’t think I would have been able to articulate beforehand. In the wake of the whole Daschle scandal (and, for the record, I’d like to be clear on the fact that, if you want to argue for policies, you’d better be paying your fair share of those policies. And I’m sure if we audited Congress, there would be quite a few people on both sides of the aisle who would get in trouble), I was getting a little annoyed at the fact that this is the third person to withdraw from consideration because of legal issues.

And then I watched the evening news and heard words I am VERY much not accustomed to hearing from the President of the United States: “I messed up.”

And you know what? It helped a lot. Being willing to recognize your mistakes in public? Major points for any elected official. But especially the President. A friend wrote a few weeks ago in her blog about the Middle East peace process and how studies and interviews have shown that even hardliners are willing to consider compromise in exchange for apologies. I think there’s really something to that. When we are willing to fess up to the mistakes we’ve made, it opens up the possibility for true healing.

As a Church, this is something that we should take seriously. We need to be speaking to each other respectfully, and when we screw up, we should acknowledge it. It’s amazing how much difference a genuine apology makes.


Today, I sat in the largest classroom at my school with about 70 other people and watched the peaceful transition of power from George W. Bush to Barack Obama.  Power has changed hands peacefully in this country about fifty times (yes, I am aware that there have only been 44 presidents, but Grover Cleveland was sworn in for two non-consecutive terms AND the 25th Amendment (which transfers the powers of the presidency to the vice president in case of the incapacity of the of the president) has been invoked a few times, mainly for surgical procedures on the president…so that’s two peaceful transitions each time).  Think about that.  Power has changed hands peacefully.

As a student of theology and peace studies, there was something really powerful about being in a room with some of the brightest theological minds in the country.  One professor allowed his class, aptly entitled Christian Political Thought, go ten minutes early so that they could all go watch the inauguration.  There were tears shed, lots of laughter, and overall, a sense that things will get better.  I say this not as an endorsement of any candidate or party, but rather from a sense that, if that many people with divergent political and theological agendas can gather at my school to be present with each other, there is hope.

As I sat and wrote a paper tonight (on the question “Why the Church?”), I was reminded of the feeling I had this morning, a feeling of true community.  A genuine sense of all of us being in it together.  And that’s a pretty awesome thing to remember.

One way to use our gifts…

I have spent the past few years adding to my languages. What I mean is that, at current count, I have decent working knowledge of five languages (English, French, Spanish, Latin, and Portuguese). I enjoy languages and I love the challenge that they present, plus all the ways in which they interact. But, as a theologian, apart from doing my own translations of Latin American theologians for my work (which I do), it was hard to find an outlet for my passion for languages.

Until a random email arrived in my inbox from a friend and introduced me to the world of the projects sponsored by EATWOT (the International Association of Third World Theologians), Servicios Koinonia, and the Agenda Latinoamericana. Through them, I have had the chance to use my language skills to make texts available to the English-speaking world. Much of the theology that is coming out of Latin America today is progressive and would be of interest to many of us in the First World. The project, staffed by only volunteer translators, helps to make those items accessible to new audiences.

And so, here is a blurb about our recently completed project, the 2009 Latin American Agenda. If you can translate Spanish or Portuguese to English, let me know in the comments and I’ll put the coordinator in touch with you.

2009 Latin American Agenda

Today the emperor has no clothes. With indignation and nostalgia, attached to so many dreams and struggles, and responding to the disfigured dignity of the majority of our human race, we turn again to socialism: a new socialism. Obviously we are not trying to repeat experiments that—too many times—have culminated in deception, violence, dictatorship, poverty, and death. We try to revise, learn from the past, update our strategies, and avoid becoming complacent. In doing so, we seek to live, here and now, locally and globally, the ever new Utopia. We categorically proclaim that Utopia continues on, that it is not a chimera but a challenge. Thus, we ask how we are doing with Utopia.

Preoccupied by the daily construction of politics as the art of the possible, have we lost sight of what seems impossible but yet is truly necessary? Do we have to content ourselves with electing somewhat leftist government and continue, submissive and defeated, under the same right-wing capitalist system? What has happened to the old capitalist-socialist disjunctive? Of course plenty of people say that the times of left and right have now passed…Isn’t Utopia still just as necessary as “our daily bread”?

Utopia continues on, despite its many challenges, scandalously outdated in this hour of pragmatism, of production at all costs, of chastened postmodernity. The Utopia of which we speak we share with the millions who have preceded us—giving even their blood—and with the millions who today live and struggle and march and sing. This Utopia is being constructed: we are the artisans of Utopia. We proclaim it and we make it happen: it is the grace of God and our achievement. With this “utopian agenda” in our hands and in our hearts, we want to “give a reason for our hope.” We announce and we intend to live—with humility and passion—a coherent, creative, and subversively transformative hope.

—Pedro Casaldáliga, Bishop Emeritus of São Félix do Araguaia, Brazil

For nearly 20 years, the Latin American Agenda has been an indispensable tool for activists and scholars inside and outside of the Americas. It is a tool for imagining the “other possible world” and then working towards its construction. It includes commemorations of martyrs, from St. Stephen to Oscar Romero, the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador, and Sister Dorothy Stang; ample space to plan busy weeks working for social justice; and short articles on a different human rights theme each year. Tens of thousands of copies are distributed in over 30 countries in six languages—Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, French, Italian and English—each year.

In English, it is free as a downloadable PDF that can be printed from your home computer or taken to your local copy shop and printed and bound (as long as it is not sold for profit) available at http://latinoamericana.org/English/ . For questions and feedback or to volunteer as a translator for future editions, you can go to http://latinoamericana.org/contacto.php .

Edited by Bishop Emeritus Casaldáliga and theologian José María Vigil, the Latin American Agenda invites leading scholars and activists from many fields to reflect on a different issue each year, challenging all of us to discover how we can all contribute to the creation of a more humanizing world. This year, as the worldwide financial crisis causes us to reevaluate our blind faith in an unregulated free market devoid of oversight, the Agenda asks what other global alternatives exist. In the spirit of the World Social Forums, the contributors focus on the need to create societies that serve their people—societies built on individual, community, and state accountability; societies that demand freedom of speech and religion and the right to be free of gender-based violence and hunger; societies that takes seriously the Universal Declaration of Human Right’s recognition of political, civil, economic, social, and cultural rights. Here are just a few of this year’s contributors:

• Jesuit theologian Jon Sobrino writes of Jesus’ commitment to the creation of a humanizing society at the same time as he denounced the corruption almost intrinsic in state power

• Theologian Leonardo Boff speaks of the need to integrate environmental concern in all our work

• Writer María López Vigil suggests that any effort at societal transformation must confront misogyny

• Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and torture survivor Adolfo Pérez Esquivel describes what he thinks can work, based on his decades of work for human rights

• Economist Paul Singer analyzes the Brazilian government’s projects to help workers create their own sustainable businesses

• Theologian Ivone Gebara sees hope for a humanizing world arising from the neighborhood level

• Professor Joan Surroca proposes the careful easing down of “sustainable degrowth” as a creative way of reducing our dependence on ever-increasing growth

• Pastor Beatriz Casal retells the Book of Ruth, focusing on the sacrifices women like Naomi and Ruth have made throughout time

Better Late Than Never

It’s that time of year again.  No, I don’t mean Christmas or even Advent.  I mean finals.  One of the great ironies of graduate school, especially of theology school, is that the period that directly precedes Christmas doesn’t really allow for good Advent reflection.  It’s a time crammed full reading frantically, writing frantically, editing frantically.  It’s a time of oral exams and papers and in-class finals and a whole mess of stress.

This year, it’s really kind of snuck up on me.  For the past two years, our finals have been after Christmas.  Which, while I then spent Christmas break doing homework, was far nicer than having everything due before Christmas.  This year, I barely have time to write this blog entry because I have so much homework to get done between now and Friday.

But there’s a theological lesson in all of this.  When I finally arrive back in God’s Country (Minnesota, for those not in the know) on the 16th, I will have exactly nine days in which to cram all of my Advent preparations (as well as the practical things like, you know, buying and wrapping presents, writing a Christmas letter, getting Christmas cards in the mail sometime before Epiphany).  But that’s okay.  Because I’ll be able to really enjoy it without the cloud of work hanging out me.  And sometimes, a few days of uninterrupted joy are better than a full month of preparation.  Sometimes, it takes the stress of papers and life to remind us that peace is a lovely, lovely thing.  And so, like this blog which should have been written last week, a little time spent in Advent is better late than never.

The Excommunication of Fr. Roy

Author’s Note: The following blog is not mine.  It was written by Johanna Hatch and you will find her biographical information at the end of the text.  As I am still formulating my own thoughts and opinions on the impending excommunication of Fr. Roy Bourgeois, I’m going to let Johanna have the floor.

The Excommunication of Fr. Roy

By Johanna Hatch

The first and only time I met Fr. Roy Bourgeois was at the annual vigil at the gates of the School of the Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC), an action Fr. Roy started to bring awareness to the injustices visited on the people of Latin America by soldiers trained on American soil. My spouse Evan (at the time, a very new relationship) suddenly found himself standing very close to Fr. Roy. After a bit of hesitation, Evan summoned up the courage to go introduce himself and asked for a picture. Ever gracious, Fr. Roy obliged, put his arm around Evan, and grinned as I snapped the picture. He shook our hands, and was off.

We knew we were in the presence of a prophet, a great voice for justice who had given his life (and more than once, his freedom) in an effort to turn the attention of his fellow citizens to the suffering our government had inflicted on our neighbors. At the time, I didn’t know that Fr. Roy would take another prophetic stance for justice, on the issue of women’s ordination.

On August 9, 2008, Fr. Roy stood with Janice Sevre-Duszynska as she was ordained as part of the Roman Catholic Women Priests movement. While the movement has ordained 32 women to the priesthood and deaconate, this was the first time that a Roman Catholic priest in good standing has participated. Janice, who I also had the pleasure of meeting once, is a compassionate and creative woman who looks like a slightly older version of Tori Amos. Fr. Roy’s involvement in her ordination was, I’m sure, not something done on a whim. Janice’s commitment to social justice has led to her involvement in the movement to close SOA/WHINSEC, even as one of the movement’s prisoners of conscience, who yearly risk arrest. Janice’s ordination was not merely symbolic – she is his colleague, his friend. I believe that Fr. Roy reached a place where he could no longer speak about injustice in the world without confronting obvious injustice in his Church, which he has lovingly served for 26 years.

For taking this stance on behalf of women’s ordination, Fr. Roy now faces excommunication by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, unless he recants his stance on women’s ordination. Fr. Roy, prayerfully, prophetically, has refused. In his letter replying to the CDF, he writes, “Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard or how long we may try to justify discrimination, in the end, it is always immoral.”

Upon hearing the news of Fr. Roy’s impending excommunication, I was deeply saddened by it. And while I view the excommunication as a great injustice, it points back to an even greater injustice: the hierarchy’s obstinate refusal to even discuss the possibility of women’s ordination, even though a majority of US Catholics support an inclusive priesthood, even though the Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded there is no scriptural basis for excluding women from ordained ministry, even though countless women whose names we may never know are called to the priesthood, but continue to serve the Church they love in silence.

Why women’s ordination? Why didn’t Janice just join another church? Why did Fr. Roy risk his priesthood on something so small? What difference does it make in the world? I’m asked questions like this often by my secular feminist colleagues. Upon reading and rereading Fr. Roy’s homily from Janice’s ordination and his letter to the CDF, I feel like I finally have a clear reason why. As part of the global movement for social justice, women’s ordination matters. The Catholic Church has over 1 billion members worldwide and is the only religion with a seat at the United Nations. The way a force this large and this powerful treats its female members sends reverberations around the world – from the Beijing Women’s Conference where the Vatican tried to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care to my 16-year-old sister in Illinois who is wrestling, really struggling, with trying to understand the Church’s teaching and not getting a straight answer from anyone.

Instead of remaining complicit, Janice stood up and answered the call. Fr. Roy stood by her side, named her ministry and the injustice she faced. For their fidelity to their consciences, the “aboriginal Vicar of Christ” according to the Catechism, they face expulsion from the Church they have given their lives to. So then, how are we called to respond? I invite each person who reads this to prayerfully consider that question, and if you feel so moved, sign the petition in support of Fr. Roy, and pass it on.

Johanna Hatch is a feminist activist, writer, and amateur hagiographer living in Wisconsin and working in non-profit administration. She is a graduate of the College of Saint Benedict and the recipient of the Katharine Drexel Scholarship at the Washington Theological Union. She currently resides in Wisconsin with her spouse Evan. She periodically blogs at Young Women and Catholicism.

The real winner? The voters!

I had an incredible Tuesday. And in reality, it had little to do with the outcome of the night.

I (along with some of my Spanish-speaking classmates) had the great opportunity to have dinner with Chema Tojeira, the rector of the Jesuit university in San Salvador. In 1989, when six members of the UCA community (along with their housekeeper and her daughter) were slaughtered in cold blood by the Salvadoran military, Chema was the Central American provincial. He’s amazing. He talked about the history of his adopted country, about the current political and economic problems and hopes of El Salvador, and how much the notes of condolence from all over the world the poured in that day in November still mean to him. I had the chance to sit and talk with him for a few minutes and I was able to have him sign my copy of his book, an incredible book on the history and reality of martyrdom that is absolutely brilliant (but only available in Spanish…if you read Spanish…READ THIS BOOK!).

My experience with Chema was heartening. I was reminded of the great men and women I know who are working all over the world for social change, for the rights of people, to give voice to the voiceless. And to sit in a room full of others who are committed to the same thing…it was just beautiful. And, on a quasi-unrelated note, it was a great joy to be in a Spanish-speaking environment, surrounded by classmates from all over Latin America (with a few Europeans and Americans thrown in). My heart, which so misses El Salvador and Bolivia, felt at home.

And then I went from that gathering, where I had been reminded about the inteconnectedness of all the world (the economic crisis here has MAJOR implications for countries like El Salvador which require remittances from folks living abroad in order to keep on going and for people’s very survival), to a gathering with other classmates to watch the election returns. To walk into a room of a couple dozen people who are all under the age of 40…and to know that everyone had voted and felt like they had a true stake in the outcome of the election…it was amazing.

Regardless of how you feel about our President Elect, the American people won a major victory on Tuesday. More people voted than ever. One of my greatest hopes for the evening (apart from which candidates I wanted to win, which I’m not going to get into here) was that my generation, the Millennial Generation, would finally disprove the stereotype of youth being apathetic. And as that party showed, and as the returns showed, we did just that. People voted. They participated. And they cared. And to me, that’s the ultimate victory. It turns out that hope feels pretty good when it’s realized. There’s a lot of work to do, but at least we voted! And that makes us the real winners.