Reception: October 21, 2020
Acceptance: January 27, 2021
In April 2020, shortly after a new anniversary of Jorge Mario Bergoglio's assumption of the Petrine See in March 2013, we interviewed Brazilian theologian Dr. Maria Clara Bingemer by video call with the purpose of discussing the role of the women, the Synod of the Amazon and the current challenges of the Catholic Church. Recognized for her work Theology and Literature: Affinities and shared segregated (Editora Vozes, Petrópolis, 2016), Latin American Theology: Roots and Branches (Orbis Books, New York, 2016), Mysticism and Testemunho in Koinonia: an Inspiration seen by Martírio de Duas Communities do Século xx (Paulus Editora, San Pablo, 2018) and Simone Weil: Against or colonialism (Bazar do Tempo, Rio de Janeiro, 2019), Bingemer, a Brazilian feminist theologian, represents an intellectual effort to continue articulating the social sciences and theology in Latin America. A graduate of Social Communication in Rio de Janeiro and a doctorate in Theology at the Gregorian University of Rome, she inherited the chair of Leonardo Boff at the Franciscan Theological Institute of Petrópolis after the ban on the renowned Brazilian theologian by John Paul II. Bingemer, specialist in Systematic Theology, works as coordinator of the Carlo Martini chair at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and advises the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, but also as editor of the Ecclesiastical Magazine Brasileira, Concilium and Journal of the American Academy of Religion (2003-2008).
Starting from a theology attentive to the social sciences, Bingemer offers a profound and challenging look at the recent history of the Catholic Church, an institution that is undoubtedly going through a severe crisis. In Latin America the relationship between social sciences and theology has been extensive and varied, marked by dialogues, mistrust and tensions. The Cross Suspicions Against Secular Universities in the First Half of the Century xx and against the Catholic Church - and against Catholicism as a broader phenomenon - they gave rise to intellectual exchanges that naturally found in Liberation Theologies an essential continental chapter to understand affinities and differences between secular and religious knowledge. Beyond the strong traditions of secular States found in some countries of the continent, religion constitutes an integral part of Latin American identities, and taking into account their theologies, the ways in which they organize their beliefs and practice their religiosities, seems fundamental. to understand the relationships between religion and politics, but also with culture and society.
Sebastián Pattin and Claudia Touris
How do you interpret the rise of Francis in the light of a process still in the making of "de-westernization" of the Catholic Church, taking into account that its European face has been transforming for some decades now?
Maria Clara Bingemer
Indeed, the election of a pope from the south and not from the center has been a great surprise for the world and for the Church. I don't think it would be such a surprise if it were someone from North America. But from the south, it was indeed a surprise. For society and the Church, certainly not for a significant part of the College of Cardinals that was undoubtedly already preparing their election. Today it is known that it was already being considered since the election of Benedict xvi. I think this choice has been very important because it accompanies an inexorable movement that historical Christianity, and within it Catholicism, urgently needs to do: go south, look south, think from the south, feel from the south.
The peripheral countries are those that raise the great questions to the Church today in the century xxi. In the case of Francis there is an addendum, the fact that he comes from a mainly Christian continent, which can no longer be said of Europe, secularized and object of the concern of the previous pope. In that sense, it has been a decisive step towards “de-Westernization”. A calculated and prudent step, however. Latin America still has something of Europe, it was colonized by Europe. Consequently, their culture still retains important features of European culture. In it, Argentina perhaps - along with Chile - is the country that most preserves these traits, different from others such as Brazil and Venezuela, very marked by American culture. Therefore, it was the right context to choose the new pope, who is not European, but does not have a culture and training radically different from the European one either.
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In that sense, what relationships can then be established between the Vatican Council ii (cvii) and Francisco?
Francis from the beginning of his pontificate had the concern to make it clear that the spirit, the language, the openness and the conquests of the cvii they were back in the center of the Church. Although it is said that his predecessors did too, it was evident to all more or less conscious and practicing Christians that we have lived 30 years where it seemed that the whole conciliar itinerary was slowly evaporating. "Pre-conciliar" practices had space, there seemed to be a fear on the part of the hierarchy and specifically on the part of the Vatican to assume the advances of the cvii. Francis brought everything back: openness to the world, interreligious dialogue, the centrality of the poor, earthly realities. It was a delicious feeling to listen to his first speeches and especially to see his gestures as a pope in this sense. Obviously it is always thought that it could do even more, go further. It is a fact. But to make up for 30 years of delay and setback, I think he has done a lot. And although he is not mentioning the cvii at all times, it is evident that he acts in coherence with his guidelines and achievements. And of course, he quotes his predecessors a lot, but from these he takes care to choose quotes and points that are in tune with him. cvii, not against.
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In Latin American historiography, two moments can be recognized around the reception of the Vatican ii that would result in two theological and pastoral lines. First, a line is identified in line with reformist and developmentalist European readings. The second line, "liberationist" or "third world", emphasized the cultural uniqueness of the Latin American continent. The deep social inequality implied that the second theological line proposed a radical and rebellious response that postulated, in political terms, "the preferential option for the poor" as a new model of the Church. What do you interpret, then, of the "Latin American receptions" of the cvii, and fundamentally on the questions that theologians like Leonardo Boff made to the Church conceived from a European matrix? Why is Liberation Theology (tdl) became such a difficult theology to process during the papacy of John Paul II? What role do you think Cardinal Ratzinger had in this policy of censorship, persecution and silencing of liberation theologians?
Certainly the reception of cvii in Latin America it will go down in history because of the three priorities set for the Church of the continent by Medellín: one, an inescapable connection between faith and justice, which generates a new position of the Church in front of the people; two, a new way of thinking about faith creating a new theology called Liberation Theology; and, three, a new model of the Church, more horizontal, relational and participatory, inspired by the category of People of God of the dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium (1965), which in Latin America had the name of Base Ecclesial Communities (ceb). That ecclesial and theological line gained two cuts in its reception by the continent. One, on the Brazilian-Peruvian axis, more focused on economics, social and political sciences. The protagonists were, and still are, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Leonardo Boff, Jon Sobrino, etc. Another axis is found in the southern cone, notably in Argentina and Chile, more focused on the culture of the poor, popular religion, etc. Although it has always been understood belonging to the umbrella of the tdlAbove all, it brought awareness of the importance of the autochthonous cultures of the native peoples. It was called Theology of the People (tdp) and its protagonists were Juan Carlos Scannone in Argentina and Diego Irazábal in Chile.
Because it is so contextual, with such marked features of oppressed cultures, this ecclesial and theological vision made profound questions about the Church and European theologies. Although the great Latin American theologians were all trained in Europe, in the great centers of the time - Rome, Leuven, Innsbruck, Frankfurt, Paris - back to their national and continental context, they opened their eyes to the colonialism that had been absorbed by their churches and from which it was urgent to get rid. So strong was this theology here in Latin America that in some countries, such as Brazil, for example, it practically produced texts that received more attention and more reading by Catholics, Christians and the people in general than the Social Doctrine of the Church (dsi). The ceb they grew and multiplied a lot in the 80s and reached about 80,000 throughout Brazil. I think the Vatican's difficulty with tdl was based on the method. He could not accept - John Paul II, a Pole, and also to a certain extent Ratzinger - the use of Marxist categories to construct a theological thought, as did the tdl. The antithetical stance came more from the Polish pope, who had lived at the heart of communism in his native Poland and vehemently repudiated anything that had an air of Marxism as anti-Christian. He never understood that tdl he used the categories to construct a method, but he did not embrace the materialist vision of history or the atheism of the Marxist proposal in its real socialist concretion. There came the notifications, the censures ... It was a pontificate in which 144 theologians were censored for their theological positions. This period is recognized as "ecclesial winter", paraphrasing Karl Rahner. Cardinal Ratzinger was the president of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. For this reason, he had to bring the proceedings against the theologians. Although he disagreed with some, as Leonardo Boff states in a recent article about the film The two popes (Meirelles, 2019), accompanied the majority of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was clearly conservative and saw in the tdl a threat and a danger to the Church.
Once Pope, Benedict xvi he was much more restrained in his acting. So much so that there was not a theologian effectively censored in his pontificate, except for the notification of Jon Sobrino, which did not result in an effective censorship. And when making the introductory speech to the Aparecida conference, in 2007, in Brazil, Benedict xvi He surprised many by weaving praise for the well-known "Preferential Option for the Poor", stating that it was not in dispute, since it was Christocentric. It was thus a good accolade to a beaten Church that had seen its beautiful project collapse. And this already foreshadowed what would come with Francisco, concerned with rehabilitating theologians, restoring their chairs, their works or, at least, their memories. It is worth remembering that Bergoglio was formed in the tdp. His work in the "shantytowns" with the poor was clearly in tune with this theology. In that sense, with all that can be affirmed and questioned about his past in Argentina, it is undeniable that he has always been someone close to the poor. Likewise, Bergoglio served as head of the Aparecida Editorial Committee in 2007 and the main person in charge of the opening turn that that conference presented, after the disappointment of Santo Domingo in 1992.
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The cvii It generated expectations, by the way, still pending, around the greater recognition that women were supposed to have in the Church, considered from the prism of the “People of God”. The greatest recognition would not only be given within the power structure of the institution (accessing the exercise of priestly ministry, participating in decision-making bodies, granting another status to women of consecrated life, etc.), but also in a change in the patriarchal and conservative perspective regarding the place of women in secular society and the right to decide about their bodies (specifically the use of the contraceptive pill and the laws decriminalizing abortion, etc.). Why do you think the Church has not been able to aggiornate almost in no way, and even today it strengthens its attack against what it defines as “gender ideology”? How do you interpret Francis's relationship with Catholic women, taking into account the wording of Women, Church and World, but also the resignation of Lucetta Scaraffia from L'Osservatore Romano? In addition, recently a group of women protested in Germany before the preparation of a synod of the German Episcopal Conference where the priesthood of women and celibacy would be addressed ...
I have been working on the issue of women in the Church in my theological career. It is still an unfinished business for the Church, as well as questions of personal ethics in general. Even the most open bishops in social terms had - and still have - difficulties in understanding the issue of women, with respect to which they had - and still have in some cases - very conservative positions. I remember episodes that I have lived with some of them. In my understanding this is an ontological question more than anything. In this sense, there is a profound difficulty with the woman's body and discrimination against her with connotations of danger, threat, religious injunctions and prohibitions, etc. Female corporeality always posed a problem in Semitic and Afro religions, among others. As an example, female cycles were identified with impurity, disease, etc. Thus, a distorted reading of the first chapters of Genesis - although already answered by John Paul II in the letter Mulieris Dignitatem (1988) - connects woman with illness, temptation, responsibility for sin's entry into the world and, consequently, with death.
Anthropologically, this has relevant consequences for Christianity: whoever has a lower body, of sin, cannot be close to the sacred. On the contrary: the woman's body provokes fear and inspires caution and must be kept at a prudent distance, confined at home or in the convent, without migrating to the public space. Until six decades ago, the Church accompanied society in this, or vice versa. Now, with the feminist movement and its demands, the gender discussion and the ever stronger visibility of the world lgbt, a great discrepancy was generated, since the Catholic Church continues more or less the same, affirming the same things as always regarding women. For the sake of justice and truth, it is worth saying that Francisco did some things. He appointed many women to positions of importance in the Vatican, notoriously recently, for the Secretary of State, one of the most important departments among all. But it is true that women are disappointed. They expected much more. I also believe that the enactment of the Amoris Laetitia in 2016 it indirectly helped women and the community lgbt. But it is still a timid advance. I understand that women like journalist Lucetta Scaraffia are very disappointed and give up doing their job. What seems to me is that everything in the Church is conquered with work, strategy, time and patience. Many things that seemed unthinkable are now accepted in the Church. Here the question is deeper. It has an ancient roots in the unconscious of humanity. I think that is why it is more difficult to dismantle prejudice. It is not dismantled with rational arguments, because it is not rational. It is visceral. There are undeniably advances. Shy, but there are. You cannot stop fighting, uniting and valuing women's groups, their conquests and victories.
In my case, lately I have read a lot about three groups of women in Latin America: the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, the Women of Calama in Chile and the Mothers of Traffic in Brazil. It is impressive and shows how far women can go. I think this is the way for women to go from the private to the public, because we do not have to wait for the hierarchy to open spaces for us. We have to open them ourselves. And work. It is comforting to know that, for the people, especially the simplest, women are very well accepted and such discussions do not arise. I have heard from the mouths of leaders of peripheral communities that they preferred the "masses" of the nun to that of the priest. Accompanying young people in the Spiritual Exercises I heard from more than one of them that they did not understand why they could not confess to me, that I was accompanying them, and they had to find an unknown priest for that. That is why I believe that, in the future, many things will happen. But maybe it will take some time. We have to observe when a space opens up and occupy it. If we take good care of it, it will be difficult for them to get us out of there. Even because women are the absolute majority in the Church, in the people of God. There is no way to carry the Church forward without counting on women.
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How do you interpret the current life of the Catholic Church in dealing with the great scandals and denunciations of cases of pedophilia, sexual abuse, disguised homosexuality, etc.? We believe that they show that these are not isolated cases but rather a systematic behavior associated with a type of relations of power, gender and repression of sexuality that has concealed and protected a priestly caste that, however, is reluctant to review its place. hegemonic within the power structure of the institution. What expectations for change and reform can Catholics expect in this crisis so deep that it distresses them and makes them doubt the credibility of their pastors?
I believe that the issue of pedophilia in the Church is one of the major wounds of the ecclesial body. A shame, a scandal. The Church has always been an institution in which you have confidence ... so much confidence that you give your children to form them. That is why knowing that many, so many of these boys and girls were abused in such a vile way is disgusting and outrageous. Some insist on saying that these issues of the pedophilia scandals have nothing to do with priestly celibacy. I modestly allow myself to disagree. I believe that celibacy is a gift from God and has to be received with a charism and a vocation. It cannot be functionalized and indissolubly associated with a ministry in the Church. It is known that pedophilia exists mainly outside the Church than within it. It really begins in the family ... but in the Catholic Church, especially in the seminary, a life situation is created that does not bring the diversity and plurality of a family. They are pure men living together and sharing everything: rituals, habits, meals, rest, etc. Those seminars in my opinion have a strong appeal to homosexuality. They are unisexual universes, where a homosexual finds a safe residence and studies, but also lives with other men and not with women.
I don't want to connect homosexuality with pedophilia here, because I don't think they are connected. It is a fact that 80% of pedophilia in the Catholic Church is homosexual, while in society the proportion is reversed. For the most part, it is the girls who are abused. I just believe that the environment, together with a poor or rushed vocational discernment, can favor some tendency that is present there and that will later manifest itself in the pastoral care of seminarians already ordained priests who have to work with young people, children, etc. I mean, it is an environment where the feminine does not enter or appear, with the exception of a nun in the kitchen or a lonely teacher. There is no interaction between genders so that sexual options can be free and mature. In addition, the obligation of celibacy connected to the priestly vocation can create a state of repression that ends up being discharged on the inappropriate recipient. The affective evolution for an assumed chastity, lived with tranquility and joy, has great difficulty in being that way. For this reason, I believe that it would be urgent to review this question of the priestly vocation, of its formation, of its places of coexistence, so that there is no exacerbation of repressed passions that cannot not bear bad fruit. Sexual desire is a good and positive impulse in the human being. There is no reason to repress it at that level. Another thing is discipline, etc. And for those who feel called to celibate life, there are the religious orders, where poverty, chastity and obedience are lived in community. I do not see why it is necessary to impose the same discipline on diocesan priests, who often have to live a bitter loneliness in difficult places. I think that inextricable connection between ministerial priesthood and celibacy is, yes, at the root of all this problem of pedophilia. I don't know if we will see the ordination of married men so soon ...
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The Synod of the Amazon raised great expectations for new definitions within the Catholic Church. Not only because of the very present and urgent issue of climate change, addressed by Francisco in Laudato si ', but also because of the challenge of the priestly ordination of married men and perhaps even women, breaking patriarchal and therefore clerical structures. How do you interpret the final document of the Synod on the Amazon in light of the current Catholic upheaval?
The final document of the Amazon Synod, entitled Amazonia: new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology (2019), opens many ministerial possibilities taking into account indigenous communities. It is an advance to recognize that in the Amazon we face a totally different reality from modern and secularized societies, with other customs, another culture and that, therefore, it needs another type of pastoral care. I think it would be an opening that, in the future, could be incorporated into the rest of the Church. The final document of the Synod has been very clear calling by an overwhelming majority for the ordination of married men (viri probati) and a more consistent ministry to women. Hence, the post-synodal exhortation -Dear Amazon- initially disappointed those who expected an official word from Pope Francis on the matter. However, the pope has repeated over and over again that the most important thing about the Synod would be the diagnosis made by specialists and ecologists. That we should not focus so much on ecclesiastical matters as viri probati or the ministry of women, among other issues. Some time after the presentation of the exhortation, however, it seems relevant to me not to forget the importance of hermeneutics, that is, of interpretation. There is no knowledge without interpretation. Even the sciences that claim to be more objective within the range of human and social sciences value and privilege interpretation. And at this very moment when, as a Church and as a society, we digest the post-synodal exhortation, the invitation of hermeneutics makes itself felt strongly. First of all, it is necessary to remember what Pope Francis said in his final message about the work of the Synod, where he harshly criticized Catholic elites who only focused on ecclesiastical issues and could not understand the greater importance, and that affects us to all of them from the diagnosis of the current situation in the Amazon, with the ecological, cultural and human problem. According to Pope Francis, these groups focus on small issues, on intra-ecclesiastical discipline, and not on the heart of the final message of the Synod. To support his criticism, he indirectly repeated what was said by the great French poet Charles Péguy (1873-1914):
I do not like the blessed,
those who believe that they are of grace,
because they don't have the strength to be of nature,
Those who believe that they are in the eternal,
because they don't have the courage to be in the temporal.
Those who believe that they are with God,
because they are not with the man.
Those who believe that they love God,
just because they don't love nobody
Therefore, it seems necessary to pay attention to what is written in the exhortation. There it appears very clear that Pope Francis considers that the final document of the Synod and the post-synodal exhortation, addressed to the People of God and to all people of good will, constitute the same textual framework, unified as the culmination of the exercise of open synodality, proposed and followed by the Church throughout the process. This is how he states: “I will not elaborate here on all the questions abundantly set out in the Concluding Document. I do not intend to replace or repeat it ”(Francisco, 2020: 2). Then, and when presenting the final document of the Synod, he stated: "I have preferred not to cite that Document in this Exhortation, because I invite you to read it in its entirety" (p. 3). In continuity and coherence, Pope Francis continues throughout the text of the exhortation with his decentralizing vision, wanting to strengthen local churches. And he passionately advocates inculturation. In addition, it makes it clear that a Church with an Amazonian face is inevitably called to value the plurality and richness of indigenous cultures and their religious expressions. Thus, he writes: “It is possible to collect in some way an indigenous symbol without necessarily qualifying it as idolatry. A myth charged with spiritual meaning can be exploited, and not always considered a pagan error ”(p. 79). The beloved Amazon of Pope Francis and ours is plural and diverse. Therefore, in it “we believers need to find spaces to converse and to act together for the common good and the promotion of the poorest” (p. 106). In the difference of cults and expressions, the priority of justice demanded by the poor, inseparable from the commitment to “the Common Home”,4 it must be the distinctive note of a Church with an Amazonian face. Therefore, the dreams of Pope Francis for our beloved Amazon must be well interpreted and, for this, one cannot dissociate the synodal process, the final document and the post-synodal exhortation. If the final document of the Synod is very clear when requesting a new ministeriality to serve the Amazonian communities, the exhortation prioritizes the diagnosis of the main problems in the region, but opens to the question of ministries.
I believe that the needs of the Amazonian communities will speak louder and the bishops will be able to take bolder initiatives that Pope Francis will likely endorse. Thus the qualitative moment of the Synod and its document are preserved. The care of creation is an absolute priority for the planet and for humanity, because both are not dissociated. God's plan involves both. The Church wants to be at the service of this dream of God, made of justice and care for creation, and, for this, it must think big and act accordingly. God's dream sets the tone for Pope Francis' dreams for the beloved Amazon. Beyond the question of the new ministries, however, it seems to me that very important things happened at the Synod. For this reason, I would highlight the reissue of the "Pact of the Catacombs", signed by several Latin American bishops and some Africans on the occasion of the Vatican. ii, now reissued, reincorporating the commitment to the poor and the care of the Common Home. I believe that this text should be worked hard in the communities as long as a continental and postcolonial reading of the Synod is possible. The Synod signified perhaps the most important, significant and powerful decentralization carried out from the very center of the Church. Pope Francis focused attention on a region in the south of the world and open to nine countries, in situations of injustice and poverty. In addition, as the Synod progressed, it was revealed that the Amazon possesses goods, resources and wealth necessary for the survival of the planet and to face the challenges of the future. That is to say, everything that has been affirmed and repeated with such certainty, that the Truth came from the West and, above all, from Europe for thought, culture and religion, etc., is currently provoked and questioned by a Church that He made a great effort facing all the oppositions and rejections on his Amazonian path. In the area of studies that is growing in importance today, which deals with postcolonial and even decolonial thought, this Synod will surely be a source of material for reflection and fruitful provocations and stimuli.
Boff, Leonardo (2020, January 6). "The two popes, two models of men, two models of the Church." Digital Religion. Retrieved from https://www.religiondigital.org/cultura/papas-modelos-hombres-Iglesia-pelicula-ratzinger-bergoglio-boff_0_2192780705.html, accessed February 18, 2021.
Francisco (2020, February 2). Dear Amazon. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. Vatican. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/es/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20200202_querida-amazonia.html, accessed February 18, 2021.
Galli, Carlos M. (2016). “The missionary reform of the Church according to Pope Francis. The ecclesiology of the evangelizing People of God ”, in Antonio Spadaro and Carlos M. Galli (eds.), Reform and reforms in the Church. Maliaño: Sal Terrae, pp. 51-78.
Meirelles, Fernando (2019). The Two Popes [movie]. Great Britain and Italy: Netflix, Lin, Dan, Jonathan Eirich and Tracey Seaward (prod.).
Politi, Sebastián (1992). Theology of the People: an Argentine proposal to Latin American Theology, 1967-1975. Buenos Aires: Castañeda
Scannone, Juan C. (2017). The theology of the people. Theological roots of Pope Francis. Maliaño: Sal Terrae.
Susin, Luiz C., Jon Sobrino and Silvia Scatena (ed.) (2009). International Journal of Theology Concilium. Monographic topic: Fathers of the Church in Latin America, no. 333. Madras: Divine Word.
Sebastian Pattin He studied Political Science at the University of Buenos Aires and completed a Master's Degree in Social Sciences with a major in Social History at the National University of Luján. Within the framework of his doctorate in History at the University of Münster, he worked as a researcher for the “Cluster of Excellence. Religion and politics in pre-modernity and modernity ”. He works as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences of the National University of Mar del Plata and the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research.
Claudia Touris He studied History at the University of Buenos Aires, where he also received his doctorate with an innovative thesis on the Argentine Third World constellation in the second half of the century xx. He then did a post-doctorate at the Universidade do Rios dos Sinos, with a comparative history research on the networks of liberationist Catholicism in Brazil and Argentina. She is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Buenos Aires and the National University of Luján. In her most recent research, she addresses the feminine religious congregations of life inserted in the 1970s in Latin America. She is also coordinator of the Working Group on Religion and Society in Argentina, based in the Institute of Argentine and American History Dr. Emilio Ravignani, of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the University of Buenos Aires.
Maria Clara Bingemer He studied Social Communication at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, where he also did a master's degree in Theology. Then at the Pontifical Gregorian University he completed his doctorate in Theology. Between 1986 and 1992 he coordinated the Latin American Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians and founded the Loyola Center for Faith and Culture in Rio de Janeiro. She currently works as an associate professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, where she teaches Fundamental Theology and Treatise on the Trinity.