The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix has informed author-poet Edwina Gateley that they intend to tape her talks during a nuns retreat in June at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Paradise Valley to monitor whether her remarks conform to Catholic teachings.
“We don’t necessarily believe we are obligated to provide forums for people who may use that forum as a license to attack what we stand for,” diocese spokesman Jim Dwyer said. “We aren’t saying she would. We don’t know.”
Gateley, a British-born lay missionary, writes and speaks often of a “God Mother,” and her writings have been critical of church male hierarchy. She points out that St. Augustine pronounced women “not made in the image of God” and that St. Thomas Aquinas said the “woman is an incomplete being, a misbegotten male.”
Gately founded the Volunteer Missionary Movement in 1969 with some 1,500 missionaries across the world. In 1983, she founded Genesis House in Chicago for women involved in prostitution. She tells how she met resistance when she sought permission from the Catholic hierarchy to recruit missionaries from all religions for a God who is “black and white, male and female, gay and straight.” Among Gateley’s 10 books are “A Warm Moist Salty God” and “Growing in God.”
Bishop Thomas Olmsted issued a letter in December 2004 to parishes that politicians and other public figures who disagree with basic church teachings on such issues as abortion, gay marriages and others should not be granted permission to speak in Catholic facilities. Gov. Janet Napolitano, for example, was barred in 2004 from speaking at a Scottsdale church where she was going to speak against Proposition 2000, the ballot measure to restrict rights for undocumented immigrants.
Last year, Olmsted issued a 45-page booklet “Catholics in the Public Squares,” to instruct parishioners on their roles in public life and remaining true to their Catholicism.
Olmsted has said such invitations of speakers who are not in sync with church teachings “would provide them with a platform which would suggest support for their actions.”
Bonnie Wasniewski, spokesman for the Franciscan Renewal Center, said Wednesdays she was unaware that the chancery had approached Gateley on the issue. The author is scheduled to speak to Intercommunity Sisters Retreat June 1-8, drawing Catholic nuns from several religious orders.
Her topic will be “Women Called to Connect, Bond and Heal in a Broken World.” As of Wednesday, 29 nuns had registered.
Wasniewski said the center has featured many progressive speakers, and the center is in good standing with the diocese, which recently held its annual priests retreat there.
Dwyer said the diocese is waiting for a response from Gateley. He said such steps regarding a speaker are not taken often.