Tag Archives: Catholicism

Mary brought out the best in Jesus, we need to bring out the best in each other- what I learned at Pre-Cana

Last weekend, Bryan and I took part in marriage preparation, often called pre-Cana after this Gospel story, at Boston College. For those who are unfamiliar, all couples getting married in the Catholic Church have to complete some sort of marriage preparation program prior to their wedding date.

The experience was much more low-key and enjoyable than we expected. We were not forced to prove our Catholic orthodoxy, or share our most intimate thoughts with a priest or a random couple. Rather, we listened to talks by three married couples on various topics, and then went on walks together to discuss how to handle certain issues. This may seem silly- after all, couldn’t we have just done this on our own at the Chestnut Hill Reservoir? Well, not exactly. As participants in a program, we were removed from our work and other concerns. Instead of our focus being Kate’s dissertation and a little Bryan, or Bryan’s experiment and a little Kate (which so often happens), the focus was entirely on the two of us. Furthermore, in a calm environment with prompts in front of us, we were able to talk about potentially contentious issues in a way that caused no hard feelings, speaking to each other with respect and a genuine interest in each other’s expectations. During such a stressful period in our lives (two of us trying to finish doctoral degrees, teach, and plan our wedding), getting to walk around a beautiful campus holding hands and just looking forward to our future together was a positive and necessary experience.

 

I think the most inspirational part of the day for me, however, came at the end. Fr. Tony Penna, the priest in charge of the program, said a mass for us. Keep in mind this was at the end of an all day program, so I was not expected to feel super pumped or excited about doing any more listening and reflecting. Yet, when the Gospel was spoken and it was the Wedding Feast at Cana, my eyes lit up and I turned to Bryan and was like “this is one of my favorites” and this, of course, peeked his curiosity.

When the wine runs out at the wedding feast, Jesus’ mother Mary notices and informs her son. Yet, she is rebuffed with the words, “My hour has not yet come.” Mary does not take no for answer and sure enough, Jesus performs a miracle. As Fr. Penna explained, Mary brings out the best in Jesus. She believes in him and prods him- perhaps she knows what he is capable of more than he does! This, he told us, is what marriage is about- two people coming together to bring the best out of each other.

Indeed, this is something Bryan and I have already had to do for each other. When I was nervous about teaching my first class on my own this semester, Bryan told me it was time to accept my newfound position and qualifications, and all that hard work I did to get there.

 

Think about it. When you are standing in a room full of people and you go up to talk to someone, you cannot see yourself as you engage in conversation. You may notice that you are moving your lips and your hands, or standing in a certain position, but you cannot really see what you look like at each moment. Your conversation partner can see things you cannot see. Likewise, you too, can see your conversation partner in a way that they cannot see themselves. In other words, our perspectives are limited. It is not physically possible to see everything going on simultaneously. How our senses perceive the world at any given moment is never exactly the same as how another person’s sense perceive the world at that given moment.

 

When you love someone, you see things they cannot see. They see things you cannot see. Therefore, sometimes you need to be each other’s eyes. You might be the one to first spot a talent in your partner, or draw them to something beautiful about themselves that they may never have recognized and vice versa. You might also help each other correct problems. If your partner is tired, you might be the one who observes that they have not been sleeping or do not eat a lot for breakfast in the morning. If you are anxious, your partner might be the one to notice that you have not spent a lot of time together lately, and need more downtime.

 

This also need not apply only to married couples or romantic relationships; this sort of dynamic is seen in friendships, parent-child relationships, and mentor-mentee relationships. It is also not a sign of weakness, but a sign of our humanity. Even Jesus did not figure out who he was and what he was capable of without the help of other people.

As I prepare to get married to Bryan this August, I know that there will be a lot of ups and downs in our lives. We will make mistakes, we will get annoyed with each other at times. Yet, through it all, my promise is to help make Bryan “better at being himself” and his promise is to help make me “better at being myself.”

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A Prayer for Squeakers

Hi everyone! It is Squeaker Monday! I’m sub -4:28 here and incredibly nervous, and so many of my running friends are feeling the same.

For those of you who do not know, Squeaker Monday is the day that all persons who are less than 5 minutes faster than their Boston Marathon qualifying time can register for the Boston Marathon. Due to not enough space, in recent years, not all persons who qualify for Boston are able to gain entry. In 2016, entrants had to be 2:28 faster than their qualifying time. In 2017, it was -2:09.

When I am nervous, I like to pray. The communion of saints is one thing I truly love about Catholicism. People who have gone before us are praying for us, encouraging us, and inspiring us. This is true of both, officially recognized saints, like St. Sebastian mentioned below, and all those who have died. Since I am known as “Running Theologian,” I figured I would compose a prayer to the patron saint of athletes, St. Sebastian.

St. Sebastian, often known as the saint who was martyred twice, lived in the third century during the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Diocletian. Sebastian joined the Roman army, disguising himself as a noble pagan, so that he could minister to persecuted Christians. It is said that Sebastian converted many prisoners of the Roman army, and was also a gifted healer. When he was eventually caught, Diocletian ordered that Sebastian be shot with arrows, but miraculously, the arrows did not kill him. The Emperor then ordered that he be beaten to death. His feast day is January 20. Sebastian is known as the patron saint of athletes because of his physical endurance and bravery.

A Prayer for Squeakers

St. Sebastian,

Through strength and perseverance, you endeavored to spread the Gospel message, undeterred even by the threat of death. As the patron saint of athletes, I ask that you pray for us squeakers, as we register for the Boston Marathon so that we get the opportunity to run this April. Pray that we may always run with a purpose, and use our sport to benefit not only our own minds and bodies, but those of others.  Help us never neglect to remember God’s blessings and to use our running as opportunity to see God in new places, people, and things. Amen.

 

Holy Envy: A Reflection on the Sacred Texts and Human Contexts Conference at Nazareth College

In high school, I remember being delighted when a close friend invited me to her graduation from Hebrew School, which she called confirmation. Each teenager had to get up in front of the congregation and give a small talk about why Judaism meant something to them, and why they wanted to continue practicing their Jewish faith. It was so inspiring to hear about the ways Judaism influenced their lives, encouraging them to go on service trips, to help those struggling in their communities, to pray regularly, and to have hope in the midst of difficult times. As a Catholic who had made her Confirmation two years earlier, I felt a pang of sadness in my heart, not for the fact that I was Catholic – I still love my faith- but namely because I was so in awe at the way these Jewish teenagers had an opportunity to reflect on what this rite of passage meant to them, something I never had a chance to do when I received Confirmation. For many Catholics, Confirmation has come to have little meaning, since it is often forced upon thirteen and fourteen year olds who have almost no knowledge of the teachings of the Catholic Church by their parents or grandparents.  It was not until I went to a Catholic university as an eighteen year old, that I finally found a group of people my age with whom I could share my faith journey.

At a conference entitled “Sacred Texts and Human Contexts: Women and Gender in Religions,” held at Nazareth College at the beginning of the month, I finally found a name for that experience I had over a decade ago. Rabbi Rachel Sabath- Halachmi, in her keynote speech, spoke of “holy envy.” Coined by Krister Stendahl, “holy envy,” is the recognition of elements in another religious tradition that you admire so much that you wish they were reflected, or emphasized more, in your own.

I think most of us approach the word “envy” with some fear and trepidation. Many of us probably have memories of envy breaking up, or getting in the way of, a relationship. Yet, envy need not be a destructive force. Feeling holy envy does not mean the other tradition is better than your own, or that you want to adopt every aspect of the other tradition. It is simply a reminder that we live in a religiously pluralist world, and naturally, those who worship and believe differently than we do have something important to share with us.

In a religiously pluralist world in which certain religious doctrines are in conflict with one another (i.e- is Jesus God incarnate or a prophet? is there a personal God who reveals Herself to us or is there not?), people often fear that we may not be able to find any common ground or relate to one another easily. When you are in a group of scholars and add academic interests to the mix, the topics we study are so diverse that we may wonder if we have anything worthwhile to say to one another.

On the second day of the conference, I had the honor and privilege of presenting in a session with Amy Milligan, a professor of Judaic Studies and Women’s Studies Old Dominion University. My presentation dealt a comparison of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests and female prayer leaders in Islam breaking the “rules” of their traditions.  We both admitted to each other before we gave our presentations that we thought our topics would have little in common. Yet, we could have not been more wrong. During Amy’s presentation, I once again found myself with the feeling of “holy envy,” especially viewing the pictures of Jewish women and their communities involved in Women’s Marches across the United States shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump. These women found amazing ways to bring their faith to the struggle for gender equality. When it came time for questions, the audience directed most of their inquiries to both of us, and we had a very fruitful discussion.

Certainly, I think it is dangerous to reduce all religions to being the same. They are not nor should they be. Our differences enable us to approach one another with a sense of curiosity that provokes awe and develops friendships. Differences are only a cause of strife if we force others to adopt our own doctrinal beliefs. I am Catholic and believe in a triune God of which Jesus is God incarnate, the Second Person of the Trinity, but I know that many of my friends and colleagues from other religions do not share this belief. Nevertheless, all those who were present at the conference share a fundamental conviction that has the ability to transform this world. Namely, we all believe that God loves women, that God desires their flourishing and the flourishing of all human beings, and that God motivates us to change the status quo. We all can look at the injustices and violence committed against women in this world and say, “no, that’s not the way things should be!”

In today’s political climate, faith can be a taboo word in the political realm, especially when it comes to non-Christian religions. In the United States, some politicians hold the position that Islam is incompatible with a genuine concern for women’s rights, or the well-being of one’s country.  Yet, Muslims too believe in a God that desires the flourishing of women and all human beings, and use the Quran and the example of the Prophet Muhammad to say no to violence and discrimination. I am always filled with holy envy when I encounter the Quran’s depiction of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Quran not only explicitly names Mary as an example of faith for both men and women, it also depicts her as having experienced the pangs of childbirth that all women go through. As a Catholic, these verses brought me to tears, since the Catholic tradition (except for recent works by contemporary theologians like Elizabeth Johnson) has not affirmed that a birth can be miraculous and holy, as well as bloody and painful.

Another one of the most poignant experiences at this conference was visiting the Susan B. Anthony House with other attendees. It was beautiful to watch men and women of all different faiths, veiled and unveiled, admiring the amazing accomplishments of women suffragists, all deeply convinced that God does not see men and women as unequal.

I am a Catholic. I believe that Jesus is the cause of my salvation and I could never imagine letting go of that belief. It comes from my experience of Jesus as the source of light and guidance in my life. I also cannot imagine leaving the Catholic Church, which, imperfect earthly institution that it is, is my home. But I also cannot imagine being a Catholic without my Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Protestant, and non-affiliated friends. Jesus lived in a particular time and culture. He did not leave us a blueprint for how to handle every possible problem or situation. Catholics do not have all the answers.  It is God’s will that we learn from one another.

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I will end this post with a Quranic verse mentioned by Professor Asma Afsaruddin in her keynote talk.

If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute.

 

A major thanks to Dr. Muhammad Shafiq and the Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue at Nazareth College for organizing this incredible conference, to the presenters and speakers who taught me so much and gave me so many new ideas, and to all the attendees of whom I had the pleasure of meeting. May our paths cross again in the near future.

 

Ash Wednesday: A Reminder that We Have Faith Even if it’s the Size of a Mustard Seed

It must seem odd to those who are not Christian. On one Wednesday every year, we can observe people walking around with ashes on their foreheads. They are supposed to be in the shape of a cross, but many times they end up looking more like a big black blob. And people have this mark on their forehead throughout all of their normal daily activities- at school, at work, at the gym. If you go to the supermarket or the doctor’s office, there’s sure to be plenty of people with blobs on their heads! When you think about, it’s pretty strange.

Of course, on Ash Wednesday, just like Palm Sunday (hence the name A&P Catholics- those who only go to church to get their ashes and palms), a lot of people feel the need to go to church, even if they do not go on a regular basis. Hence, many ask why some people care so much about getting ashes when they do not bother to pray, or go to church on Sundays, and even, in the case of some, when they are not sure they even believe in God or want to be Catholic. Yet, to me, there is something beautiful about this “need” to get ashes. Something compels us to do it, Something beyond us that we cannot quite explain. We may not always “act” like believers, but some small part of us “believes.”

Ash Wednesday also reminds us that through our mutual observance of the beginning of Lent, we are united with Christians all over the world. I love thinking about all the different places I’ve received ashes in my life based on where I was or what I was doing. In elementary school, I can still remember the mass exodus of Catholic kids heading to the local church across the street after the bell rang. During college at Fordham, I have fond memories of being a cantor at the evening Ash Wednesday mass. During my masters degree at Harvard, which was my first time in a non-Catholic environment, I remember being so excited that I was receiving ashes from the Lutherans one year, and the Presbyterians another. Every year, I also seem to exchange stories with my family, “Where did you get your ashes this year? Who said the mass or lead the service? Did you see anyone we know? …. ”

This year at Boston College, I went to the 12:15pm liturgy at the School of Theology and Ministry. It was refreshing to go to my office across campus afterwards, and to see the ashes on the foreheads of many of my colleagues. In spite of all the suffering and anxiety in the world, in spite of the fact that our faith in God is constantly challenged, faith still exists. Even if it is the size of a “mustard seed,” it is there. And even faith the size of a “mustard seed” is big enough to keep growing and to accomplish great things.

“Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

 

Responding to Orlando as a Catholic: The Need to Feel Challenged and Uncomfortable

In the wake of the shooting in Orlando last week, I have been wondering what a heterosexual Catholic woman in academia is supposed to say. It is obvious from the timing of this post, I put off publishing a blog, and the one I am sharing now has been through numerous drafts.

Just a short while ago, I came across an article written by Paul Reid-Bowen, a male scholar of religion who asks the question of whether one can be a man, and still write about feminism from a position of advocacy and commitment. He acknowledges that as a man in a patriarchal culture, his sexual difference is problematic for feminism. If this were not the case, feminism would not need to exist in the first place. Reid-Bowen insists, therefore, that, “if any man is comfortable with feminism, something is amiss.”

As a Catholic woman, it hurts to think about how my church’s position of “Hate the sin, love the sinner” bears responsibility for feelings of homophobia and widespread discrimination against LGBTQ persons. While the church condemns violence against LGBTQ persons, a theology that defines the sacrament of marriage as solely “the union between a man and a woman” and considers homosexual inclinations to be “intrinsically disordered” does nothing to challenge the undeserved dominant position that heterosexual persons enjoy in our church or in society. With this theology, a same-sex couple can never have their union affirmed as sacramental, and being in a same-sex relationship is rendered “sinful,” for no other reason than that it defies the traditional male-female gender binary. It is no wonder that a Catholic child who does not fit neatly into traditional gender stereotypes might grow up feeling frightened and ashamed, and at risk for depression and even suicide. A lot of Catholics are afraid to publicly commit to a theology that embraces LGBTQ persons as the “image of God,” rather than persons with a disorder that needs correction, or to publicly support the availability of the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples who love each other. We fear not only condemnation from fellow Catholics and from clergy in positions of power, but we also fear having to come face to face with our own responsibility for events like Orlando. We fear being “radical.”

I do not feel I have the right to say exactly what the Catholic Church needs to do to support the LGBTQ community right now. But I must say that I think that a shift in theology and Church teaching would be a step in the direction, precisely because the full affirmation of LGBTQ persons and relationships would be “radical.” In other words, when entering a position of advocacy for and commitment to the LGBTQ community, heterosexual Catholics and those in positions of power in the church are supposed to feel challenged and uncomfortable, or else “something is amiss.”

Finally, I speak of the need for a new theology not to be “politically correct,” but because this is what I believe is required for Catholic Christians to be disciples of Jesus in today’s world. I can no longer believe in God who is displeased with God’s own creatures solely for being who they are. In the words of Edward Schillebeeckx, “it is better not to believe in God than to believe in a God who enslaves human beings.”

 

 

 

 

A Message to Pope Francis: Birth Control is an Economic Issue

On Monday, Pope Francis made quite a remarkable statement in beseeching Catholics to speak of “responsible parenthood.” He continued, “Some think that- excuse the word- in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No.”

What great news for Catholic families, right? Not so fast.

While Francis seems to be condoning the practice of couples making a deliberate choice to limit the number of children they have, he still firmly upholds the Church’s prohibition on the use of artificial contraception outlined in the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. According to Francis, “this is clear and that is why in the church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors.” In his view, God gives [parents] methods to be responsible” and couples should rely on natural family planning.

Considering that Pope Francis has wanted to make the poor a central focus of his papacy, I cannot help but be extremely disappointed in his remarks. Family planning has often been considered a feminist issue and rightly so, in that it helps move beyond the idea that a woman’s role in life is simply to be the bearer of children, regardless of what this does to her physical or emotional health. However, family planning is also very much an economic issue. Of course, it cannot be denied that feminist issues and economic issues are constantly intertwined, as sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination are directly related to poverty.

First of all, as a woman, I find it troubling that celibate males continue to be the only authorities in the Church who dictate Catholic teaching. These men have never experienced life in a woman’s body, yet they seem to consider themselves experts on this topic. While natural family planning may be a successful solution for some couples, it is not applicable to all women. Not all women have regular menstrual cycles, due to a variety of factors including genetics or certain medical conditions. Yet, even for women with cycles which are not irregular, ovulation does not occur at the same time each month and no woman’s menstrual cycle is identical from month to month. The rhythm method has an average failure rate of 13-20%.

Now, wait a minute. If the failure rate is 13-20%, that means the success rate is 80-87%. Not bad, some may say. And for some couples, those statistics may be comforting enough. For the healthy man and woman who both have secure jobs with benefits, a large home, and the money to hire a nanny for the three children they already have, adding a fourth might not be such a frightening prospect. Sure, it might be tough having another newborn, but they at least have the money to feed and clothe this child, and eventually help him or her through college. This couple also has a low chance of a pregnancy complications. This is not to say that such a couple must or should always be open to more children, but simply that taking their chances with the rhythm method may be easier for them to do than for some other couples.

Not every family is as fortunate to be financially secure. It is estimated that in the United States alone, anywhere from 47-50 million families are living in poverty. This number grows exponentially when taking into account families across the world. This number also increases when considering families who do not meet the standards to be considered impoverished, but are struggling due to a lay-off or disability, or parents who work two or three jobs to stay above poverty level. Taking time off from work to have a child may can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for many parents. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women make only 78% for every dollar earned by a man. This gap is even larger for African American and Hispanic women.  Yet, women make up half of the work force and are the primary breadwinner in 4 out of 10 American families. Furthermore, the Family and Medical Leave Act only requires companies to provide 12 weeks of unpaid lave for the birth or adoption of a child if those companies have 50 more more employees and an employee has worked at the company for at least a year.

Besides financial problems, some couples also struggle with mental or physical health issues. Pregnancy affects all women differently. Even though I have never been pregnant myself, I have known many people who have and hearing their experiences proves the preceding statement is true. Some women will experience very little pain throughout their pregnancy, while other women have complications that result in being put on bed rest, or they struggle with depression. Some women are even told after giving birth not to have any more children, as this could put them in danger of serious health issues and may even cause death. Suddenly, when the entire family’s well-being is at stake, 80-87% success rate is just not enough.

Artificial methods of contraception, in particular the pill and IUD, have success rates close to 99%, and are a safer option for women with menstrual irregularities. Furthermore, some women chose to use birth control pills for reasons other than contraception. They are often necessary for women with painful menstrual cycles, an experience for which the Magisterium cannot claim to know firsthand. They also protect against some forms of cancer. Sadly, birth control is still unaffordable and inaccessible for many women, even after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Wait a minute. If some couples are truly unable to have another child, shouldn’t they avoid intercourse? Some may say so. However, love happens across economic boundaries. Why should a couple who is less financially well-off not be able to express their mutual love and affection for one another? Is sexual intercourse only for the economically and socially privileged?

Finally, Catholic couples are finding through their own personal experience that use of contraception does not inhibit their ability to be loving disciples of Jesus Christ. In 1963, Pope John XXIII established the Papal Commission on Birth Control. In 1966, this commission released its majority report, which saw the use of artificial contraception as a valid extension of natural family planning, “for it is natural to man to use his skill in order to put under human control what is given by physical nature.”

Pope Paul VI’s ultimately rejected the commission’s position, by maintaing the Church’s ban on artificial forms of contraception in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. It is now 2015, and so may devoted Catholics are still made to feel ashamed for making the reproductive health decisions that are best suited to their particular situations. Pope Francis, if you truly care about the poverty and oppression, will you please step up and listen to Catholic families, and in particular, Catholic women?

Resisting from the Inside: Cardinal Burke and Why I Won’t Leave the Catholic Church

“No! Not again!” That was all I could say as I looked at my computer on Friday morning, reading Cardinal Raymond Burke’s words about same-sex marriage in a recent interview. Here is an excerpt:

“We wouldn’t, if it were another kind of relationship — something that was profoundly disordered and harmful — we wouldn’t expose our children to that relationship, to the direct experience of it. And neither should we do it in the context of a family member who not only suffers from same-sex attraction, but who has chosen to live out that attraction, to act upon it, committing acts which are always and everywhere wrong, evil.”

What do I say this time? I’m tired of making arguments that “this does not represent everyone in the Catholic Church.” I’m tired of telling people to just find parishes or communities that are more “progressive” and “do not share these views (while living in Boston, I have been fortunate to find such communities, but not everyone has).” I’m tired of quoting theologians. I’m tired of quoting the Gospel. Why? Because I think everyone is tired of hearing these same old defenses! Nothing I can say about Catholicism can take away the fact that sexism and homophobia are very prevalent realities in the church. Nothing I can say can take away the hurt that people feel over comments like those made by Cardinal Burke on Wednesday.

How do I defend my decision to not just leave the Catholic Church? I am not yet a mother, but I hope to be someday. While I am heterosexual, some very important people in my life identify as gay or lesbian- and these are people that I would want in my children’s lives from the very start- and this would not be for the sake of being “inclusive,” but rather simply because these are people that are smart, hard-working, funny, kind, and loving- qualities I want my children to have! What I want to shield my children from are comments like Cardinal Burke’s- I do not want them to see that even “holy men” can be cruel, I do not want them to see that sometimes when people are their truest selves, not everyone accepts them. As a Catholic who plans to remain such, I already have been struggling over what to I will tell my future daughter (if I have one) when she asks why there are no “girl priests.” How will I explain that its not allowed, that along with the modern media, the Catholic Church also will tell her that her body isn’t good enough, that it is not able to act “in persona Christi?” Furthermore, how will I show the people I care about that I really do reject the church’s teachings and statements regarding women, LGBTQ persons, and others who feel marginalized by the church? Am I not a hypocrite for remaining Catholic? Am I really resisting?

Then I happened to be reading God is New Each Moment, a series of interviews with Edward Schillebeeckx. Schillebeeckx, who died in 2009, was a Dominican priest who loved the church but was not afraid to criticize it, especially later in his life. When asked why he remains Catholic, he said “if all those who criticize the church leave it, the anti-biblical tendencies in the Church will simply be strengthened.” Using the example of Hans Kung,a Swiss theologian known for his rejection of papal infallibility, Schillebeeckx said, “What Rome would have liked most of all, I suspect, is that Hans Kung had become a Protestant…. But he continues as a Catholic and is a thorn in the flesh of the Catholic Church.”

While I certainly maintain that leaving the church is the right decision for many people, Schillebeeckx’s words reminded me that it is not the only way to resist. Resistance can come from within and in fact, resistance from within may at times prove even stronger. Cardinal Burke may not want to listen to the voices of LGBTQ Catholics and their allies. The pope may not want to hear women’s continuous calls for ordination. This does not mean we need to stop speaking! And as long as we keep speaking, the church is forced to acknowledge us, we are a “thorn in its side.” We are a constant reminder that there is an alternative, and although not everyone may want to help us bring it about, IT LIVES- it lives in the minds, and hopes, and dreams of the marginalized voices of the Catholic Church. Some ask, what good do small, progressive Catholic communities do? My answer, they do a lot. Simply by being present in the world, however small their presence may be, they say no to a vision of the Catholic Church that is exclusive of women, same-sex couples, divorced and remarried persons, and others. We may not have power to make formal rules like the magisterium does, but we do have the power to make words such as Cardinal Burke’s less powerful by saying “no” to their validity.