Sr. Fran Ferder was a speaker at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress this past weekend. I've heard her name on occasion - but knew nothing about her until I read this taken from the Congress schedule of speakers:
Sister Fran Ferder, a Franciscan nun, has said the Church needs a “theology of body touch, body exploration,” especially for children. “Ordinary genital self-touch can be very important and can help children come to reverence their bodies, to know them,” she said.
Sr. Ferder has stated Catholic bishops shame sexual sins in order to control their flock. Such “negative messages” about “sexual mistakes,” she said,“have to do with control and maintaining power. The patriarchal dominance in the hierarchy is incredibly strong, and sexual mandates are a good way to scare and control people.” - Source
It strikes me that this woman may be in the company of many other progressive religious facilitators, even outside the context of the LAREC, who represent a type of New Age spirituality and instruction, frequently comprised of dubious theraputic practices, as well as encompassing esoteric mysticism and meditative techniques, which are fundamentally non-Christian; all of which infest the Church with the intention of undermining Catholic doctrine and authority. Similar in kind to the St. John's gay touch retreat crap, and Richard Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation, along with countless other gnostic retreat center spin offs opperated by so-called religious men and women, whose aim it is to undo what they deem to be the patriarchal dominance in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.
Ferder actually lives with the priest she works together with, John Heagle. Their teaching promotes the spiritual promise of sexuality. This from their website:
A New Vision QuestAs we begin the 21st century, our faith traditions are struggling with the challenges that surround human sexuality. We can be grateful, of course that we have our sacred writings and traditions, for they continue to be a perennial source of wisdom. But for many people, the urgency of these issues seems greater than what our current religious institutions are capable—or at least willing—to address. Many of the cultural and theological assumptions of the past are no longer adequate to address the emerging questions that surround human relationships. Willing or not, the human community has been plunged headlong into a shared “vision quest” related to the meaning and purpose of sexuality and human intimacy.Isn't that special. The common denominator in New Age Catholic mysticism appears to be hallmarked by a distinct epmphasis upon sexual spirituality - sanctifying erotic energy far beyond anything to do with John Paul's theology of the body. Likewise, a paradigm shift is sought to destabilize the hierarchal structure of the Church - which in essence, mirrors a heavenly hierarchy - something New Agers reject, or at best invert. Interestingly enough, a friend sent me a couple of links to interviews with Barbara Marx Hubbard of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution. Barbara Marx Hubbard was asked if she has seen evidence that social changes are taking place. She answered:
The Central QuestionThe real question, therefore, is not about our gender, our ethnic background, our age, our vocation, our orientation, or even our religious and moral convictions. These are important of course, because they help define and constitute our uniqueness as well as our communal connection to our sisters and brothers. But in our heart of hearts—and, we believe, in God’s eyes—the question is not whether we’re married or single, divorced or celibate, gay or straight, wounded or well, old or young, male or female. The central question is: how can I—in the unique circumstances of my life—become a more responsible life-giver and a lover? How can I receive the gift of life more creatively and joyfully? How can I receive and give love with more freedom and mutuality? - Tender Fires
I'll never forget when I was staying with a group of nuns in South Bend, Indiana, during a Fourth of July weekend. I was there at the same time that WorldCom and Enron were falling. And there was a Catholic priest there named Diarmuid O'Murchu who wrote a book called Quantum Theology. Anyway, he got up and he said, "Evolution was working for billions of years before organized religion, and it will be working for billions of years after organized religion." And then, as a Catholic priest speaking to a group of nuns, he said, "The Catholic Church will not hold, because not only is the story wrong but the hierarchy is wrong. The structure is wrong. The whole thing is wrong." And the nuns all stood up and cheered! Now, they loved Jesus. It had nothing to do with not loving Jesus. And I suddenly thought, "Maybe this is the way it has to happen. Hierarchical, mechanistic structures are not adequate for an interactive, conscious, evolutionary world." And those structures are going. What we hope is that they don't collapse too fast and lead to complete chaos.Strange bedfellows? Ha! Not at all - they are all pretty much on the same page... working towards a ‘synergistic convergence’.
Incidentally, I think that all the major world religions were founded in an earlier phase of human evolution by people whose consciousness clearly was way beyond the ordinary. They left behind teachings that hold within them a profound seed of the truth about the evolution of our species. But the structures that built up around those religions have narrowed them to the point where, now, while we're engaged in this period of massive transition, they are becoming regressive....
More information on Ferder and Heagle:
Dissenting Publications An index.
Iowa Conference: "Coming of Age in the Milky Way: Spiritual Transformation and Creative Hope!” - Badger Catholic
Fr. Heagle Lenten Mission
These people make a very good living from these speaking engagements, seminars and so-called retreats. Keep your eyes open because they may show up at a parish or Catholic school near you.
H/T PMLfor the Hubbard interviews.
Photo: Fern Ferder and John Heagle.