Saturday, February 7, 2009

Felipe's story: When the redadas hit home

ICE struck the heart of our little community of Santa Ana this week. At 6:00 a.m., they knocked at the home of María, a member of our grupo de oración. She opened the door, thinking it was the landlady coming to collect the rent. But ICE agents burst in, looking for Felipe -- a quiet, divorced Peruvian man in his 50s who sublets a room from María.

The agents told María brusquely to sit down and be quiet as they searched the whole house, found Felipe, and led him away in handcuffs. After asking repeatedly in her minimal English, María was finally told that ICE was serving a deportation order on Felipe -- the second time he has been evicted from this country. With this second deportation, it will be virtually impossible for Felipe to return, if ever.

The news came as a shock because less than a week ago, I had seen Felipe on the bus. We chatted about my recent trip to San Antonio, he asked me to help him with his tax return again this year, we gave each other an abrazo and parted -- I to the Safeway, Felipe to Super Pollo to pick up his favorite pollo a la brasa, Peruvian roast chicken.

Let me tell you about Felipe. He is a quiet, private man of fragile build and health. He worked steadily at a low-wage job for a local valet services company. At night he came home to his rented room, ate his take-out chicken dinner, and watched a little Spanish-language TV before going to bed. On weekends, he liked nothing better than to get together with his teenage children (who live with his estranged wife) and go to the mall, and Sundays would usually find him praying quietly in a pew at our 1:30 Mass. He was a shy man, not a leader in our community, but a faithful parishioner.

Felipe worked hard, led an orderly life, and paid his taxes -- I know, because I prepared his tax returns and sometimes fronted him the money to pay the taxes. He paid back every penny -- bringing me twenty or forty dollars each Sunday until his debt was settled. He yearned to be in this country to be near his children. That was all.

ICE wants you to think the redadas and deportaciones are only about ridding our nation of criminals and terrorists, but Felipe is not a criminal or a terrorist -- just a quiet man whose only crime was overstaying his visa to be near his beloved children and working to support himself. He broke the law, but only because the law offered him no other way to be with his kids.

This is why we need comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform. We need to make better provisions for speedier family reunification and offer a path to legalization for the 12 million undocumented immigrants already in this country as long as they are willing to work, pay taxes, and learn English. We need to curtail the raids and deportations because ICE is not just picking up pandilleros, but decent, family-loving, church-going people like my friend Felipe.

María says Felipe has a lawyer and she will let me know when they find out where ICE has taken him. I want to know, because he never had a chance to give me his W-2 form this year. Meanwhile, please keep Felipe and his family and all victims of the redadas in your thoughts and prayers.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Grief and Solidarity

What woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, “Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.” (Luke 15:8-9)

The 12th hostage, Sigifredo López, the only survivor from the group of diputados kidnapped seven years ago by the FARC, has come home. Fr. Hoyos’ brother, Jairo, was among the eleven the FARC killed two years ago. And I am struck by the different reactions of the hostages’ families to this event.

Sigifredo’s wife, Patricia Nieto, acknowledged the pain the other families must be feeling but also invited them to join in the joyous celebration now that her husband — her “coin” — has been found. It was not an egotistical expression of satisfaction that ignored other people’s pain but an invitation like St. Paul extends to the Christian community to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

Some family members, even though their own “coins” are dead and lost forever, responded in kind because a solidarity has developed among them that transcends their individual grieving. I was particularly touched by Fr. Hoyos’ sister-in-law, Carmen de Hoyos’ generous and faith-filled words: “Estoy demasiado feliz, demasiado contenta, porque Dios nos hizo el milagro de traerlo a él a la libertad, al seno de su familia. Quiero estar acompañando a Sigifredo en todos los actos de bienvenida. Siento como si estuviera llegando mi esposo. Nosotros ya sabemos lo que pasó con Jairo, lo tenemos en un sitio donde vamos a visitarlo. Lo de Sigifredo es un resucitar.” At the homecoming Mass for Sigifredo she added: “Estoy ansiosa por abrazar a Sigifredo. A Jairo Javier, Dios ya me lo entregó”.

She said her faith had kept her strong and of her late husband: “Yo sólo lo recuerdo con amor, con el mismo amor que evoco a sus compañeros muertos. Con admiración profunda porque soportaron y lucharon como héroes”. Her son, Jhon Jairo Hoyos, added: “Esperamos que Sigifredo nos pueda contar detalles de cómo fueron esos años de cautiverio, cómo murió mi padre y sus compañeros y qué padecieron. Por ahora felices y a la espera de un reencuentro y una recuperación. Él no regresa solo, él viene con 11 almas y recuerdos que vamos a recordar".

For others, however, Sigifredo’s release only poured salt on their wounds. Why could it not have been MY brother, MY father, who stepped off that helicopter? Seeing Sigifredo being embraced by his teenage sons didn’t make them smile; it only deepened their pain, anger and sense of loss. It was almost as if joining in the López family’s joy would diminish the memory of their loved ones. But if we only look at other people’s blessings through the prism of our own misfortune, we miss so many opportunities for happiness. Life is not a zero sum game where another’s success is inextricably linked to my failure.

Sometimes the anger comes from impotence. There is an unrealistic expectation that there must have been something we could have done, should have done, that would have saved the life of our loved one. Fr. Hoyos: “Ahora en este momento se nos remueven los recuerdos y la conciencia de haber querido hacer más y haberlos traído vivos y darles la bienvenida no sólo a Sigifredo sino a los 12 diputados. Pues el dolor de sus ausencias es el mismo hoy, pareciera que fue ayer cuando nos dieron la noticia del asesinato de los 11 diputados.”

Oigame, Padre H.: There is nothing, NOTHING more you could have done that would have saved Jairo and the other hostages. The FARC did not plan to kill your brother. He was supposed to have been part of a prisoner exchange. The choice to kill the hostages was senseless — made in a moment of panic and fear, not of deliberate calculation. Remember the dental floss found in their mouths.

The best way we can honor Jairo and the others is to follow Carmen’s example and let go of anger and guilt, try to really share the joy of Sigifredo’s family, and keep working for the release of ALL the hostages in Colombia.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

For my friend

Dear Padrecito,

Thank you for calling me back, for not giving up on me and not letting me give up on our work together. Esta canción, "Humano Amor de Deus", de Adriana y Pe. Fábio de Melo es para tí porque, como dicen las letras, me dijiste "¡Ánimo!"

(Composição: Fábio de Melo, scj)

Tens o dom de ver estradas
Onde eu vejo o fim
Me convences quando falas
Não é bem assim
Se me esqueço, me recordas
Se não sei, me ensinas
E se perco a direção
Vens me encontrar

Tens o dom de ouvir segredos
Mesmo se me calo
E se falo me escutas
Queres compreender
Se pela força da distância
Tu te ausentas
Pelo poder que há na saudade

Quando a solidão doeu em mim
Quando meu passado não passou por mim
Quando eu não soube compreender a vida
Tu vieste compreender por mim

Quando os meus olhos não podiam ver
Tua mão segura me ajudou a andar
Quando eu não tinha mais amor no peito
Teu amor me ajudou a amar

Quando o meu sonho vi desmoronar
Me trouxeste outros pra recomeçar
Quando me esqueci que era alguém na vida
Teu amor veio me relembrar

Que Deus me ama, que não estou só
Que Deus cuida de mim
Quando fala pela tua voz
Que me diz: Coragem


You have a gift for seeing a way
When I only see the end
You convince me when you speak
That things are not the way they seem
If I forget, you remind me
If I do not know, you teach me
And if I lose direction, you come to find me.

You have the gift of hearing secrets
Even when I remain silent
And if I speak, you listen
You want to understand.
If you are absent
Due to distance,
By the power there is in longing
You return.

When loneliness started hurting me
When my past did not pass by me
When I did not know how to understand life
You came and understood it for me.

When my eyes could not see
Your firm hand helped me walk
When I did not have any love in my heart
Your love helped me love again.

When my dreams fell apart
You brought me other ones to restart
When I forgot I was somebody
Your love came to remind me...

That God loves me, that I am not alone,
That God takes care of me,
When He speaks through your voice
That says to me: "Take courage."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Oración del campesino en la lucha

La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) was founded by César Chávez in 1989 as the community organizing arm of the farmworkers’ union. The MACC Mini Pastoral participants visited the LUPE office in Pharr, Texas, and I was moved by a large sign on which this simple prayer written by César himself was printed. I hope it will touch you too. Here it is in Spanish and English:

Oración del campesino en la lucha

Enséñame el sufrimiento de los más desafortunados;
Así Conoceré el dolor de mi pueblo.

Líbrame a orar por los demás;
Porque estás presente en cada persona.

Ayúdame a tomar responsabilidad de mi propia vida;
Sólo así sere libre al fin.

Concédeme valentía para servir al prójimo;
Porque en la entrega hay vida verdadera.

Concédeme honradez y paciencia;
Para que yo pueda trabajar junto con otros trabajadores.

Alúmbranos con el canto y la celebración;
Para que levanten el Espíritu entre nosotros.

Que el Espíritu florezca y crezca;
Para que no nos cansemos entre la lucha.

Nos acordamos de los que han caído por la justicia;
Porque a nosotros han entregado la vida.

Ayúdanos a amar aún a los que nos odian;
Así podremos cambiar el mundo.


Prayer of the farm workers' struggle

Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people's plight.

Free me to pray for others;
For you are present in every person.

Help me take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.

Grant me courage to serve others;
For in service there is true life.

Give me honesty and patience;
So that I can work with other workers.

Bring forth song and celebration;
So that the Spirit will be alive among us.

Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we will never tire of the struggle.

Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.

Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.


Bishop Williamson told to recant denial of Holocaust

Faced with a growing outcry from bishops worldwide, from Jewish organizations, and even from German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- the first time a head of state has publicly criticized the Pope -- Pope Benedict XVI has finally issued a statement acknowledging that he was not aware of Bishop Richard Williamson's remarks denying the reality of the Holocaust at the time he reversed his excommunication along with that of 3 other bishops who are members of the schismatic Society of Saint Pius X. The Pope unequivocally called on Williamson to publicly recant his remarks in order to remain a bishop in the Church.

Meanwhile, the Pope's brother, Catholic priest Georg Ratzinger, helpfully characterized Chancellor Merkel's intervention as "irrational" and his brother's critics as “stupid and ill-informed” for suggesting that Pope Benedict XVI was wrong to rehabilitate the ultra-conservative British bishop who denies that millions of Jews were killed under Adolf Hitler. Perhaps the Pope's next move should be to silence his brother....

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Strangers in a strange land

Love ye therefore the stranger, for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deut. 10:19)

One of the questions our mini pastoral group had to answer during our time at MACC was what experiences in our lives have shaped our views on people who are different from us, occasions when we had been oppressed or oppressor.

For me, a significant formative experience occured when my family moved to Paris when I was 6 years old. My younger sister and I were playing in the park under the eye of our French nanny. Being typical American kids and not speaking French, we ran onto the grass oblivious to the sign that said “Défense de marcher sur la pelouse”.

Next thing you know, a big French gendarme was screaming at us. Our nanny rushed to intervene and hurried us off the grass but I can still remember the shame and fear I felt as this man shouted at us in a language I could not understand for a violation I was not aware I had committed.

To experience something like this is to understand viscerally what it means to be “strangers in the land of Egypt.” And it is not something that most Americans have experienced, else they would be more sympathetic to our immigrant brothers and sisters.

I remembered this as we went down with the brothers and sisters from the Toribio Romo group to give out coffee and information to the jornaleros before they began their day of searching for temporary work. Some of the jornaleros told me that they had been ticketed by the police for begging when, they said, they were not asking for money, they were asking for jobs.

In fact, the Romo group organizers said, the day laborers had been ticketed for loitering. But it was impossible for them to wrap their minds around this concept. Fined? Just for congregating on a street corner? They come from Mexico and Central America, from poor neighborhoods where there is no air conditioning. Where else would you go on a scorching day but out into the plaza under a tree to get together with your compas? Strangers in a very strange land, indeed!

Read more about the Toribio Romo group in this Associated Press story: Group started in San Antonio to give sanctuary to illegal immigrants (5/27/08)

A Prayer for Immigrant Justice

During the first week I was in San Antonio at the Mexican American Catholic College, we prayed this prayer in English and in Spanish as we contemplated the display at the foot of the altar in the Guadalupe chapel of objects symbolizing those who cross our borders at great risk and who sometimes die before they reach their destinations. Si podriamos simplemente recordar en nuestras oraciones diarias aquellas personas que van a cruzar la frontera ese día y pedir a Dios su protección por ellos, ya sería una cosa. Son nuestros hermanos y hermanas que solamente andan buscando pan para sus familias.

A Prayer for Immigrant Justice

Blessed are You, Lord God,
King of all creation,
Through Your goodness, we live in this
land that You have so richly blessed
Help us always to recognize our
Blessings come from You
and remind us to share them
with others, especially those who come
to us today from other lands.
Help us to be generous, just, and
welcoming, as You have been and are
generous to us. Amen

Una Oración por la Justicia del Inmigrante

Bendito seas, Señor Dios,
Rey de toda creación.
Que a través de tu bondad, vivimos en
esta tierra y que has bendecido
enormemente. Ayúdanos a siempre
reconocer que las bendiciones las
recibimos de ti y recuérdanos compartirlas
con otros, especialmente con aquellos que
vienen a nosotros desde otras tierras.
Ayúdanos a ser generosos, justos y
acogedores, así como lo has sido y eres con
nosotros. Amén.

Source: These prayers come from the USCCB Justice for Immigrants Campaign. Visit their Web site at to download other parish organizing materials on immigration and to participate in their action campaigns.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Abortion and Excommunication

Much of what I'm going to share with you in this blog are lessons I have learned in pastoral ministry -- and that is what it is, even though I have never set foot in a seminary classroom nor can ever be ordained in the Church as it is today.

This is the commentary I posted on another blog, that made me decide to start my own blog again. People who did not read it carefully accused me of supporting abortion and offering my own very liberal opinion instead of accurate Church teachings. But that is NOT what the commentary was about. Rather, it was an appeal to the Church to be less hard-hearted with women who have had abortions, to temper the pro-life rhetoric with compassion and maybe start to take more steps to create a society where abortion is no longer viewed as a necessary option because all neglected children, even those with severe birth defects, have found loving homes, where all mothers have access to adequate prenatal care and delivery services, and where employees of Catholic institutions in particular are not fired for being unwed and pregnant because they are viewed as a "bad example". We need to become an authentically pro-life -- and not just pro-foetus -- Church.

"Can someone truly reach forgiveness after abortion?" Let me try to answer it both legally and psychologically.


According to Canon Law: "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae [automatic] excommunication." (CIC 1398). However, what the Church often does not tell you is that Canon Law also allows for several extenuating circumstances in cases where the penalty might normally be excommunication. These may include:

*a person who has not yet completed the sixteenth year of age;

* a person who without any fault was unaware of violating a law;

* a person who acted out of grave fear;

* a person who lacked the use of reason. (CIC 1323)

It is important to note that even if the person is not legally excommunicated, she is still in a state of mortal sin and must go to confession before receiving communion. A complete discussion of this issue is available on the Canon Law Professionals Web site:

One additional point: Even though technically only a bishop or higher ranking Church official can remove the penalty of excommunication, in many diocese, including Arlington, this power has been delegated to all priests working in the diocese in most cases of first time abortions. So if you have had an abortion and thought that you could never be reconciled with the Church, please try to find a priest you can talk to. It may not be as hard as you think to come home again.


Sometimes it may be difficult for a woman who has had an abortion to forgive herself or to feel that she is forgiven by the Church. Sometimes it seems like her sin is thrown at her again and again even though she has followed the proper procedure for reconciliation with the Church. These feelings are normal given the climate in the Catholic Church towards women who have had abortions. If the feelings of depression, worthlessness and anger become overwhelming, it may be worthwhile taking advantage of the counseling services offered by a group such as Project Rachel ( which is specifically geared towards Catholic women. Proyecto Raquel brinda ayuda en español también.

One can never be sure how one will act. Probably the hardest aspect of having an abortion for a Catholic woman is that she has spent her life telling herself that she would never, NEVER do such a thing, and then a situation arises where she can't face carrying the pregnancy to term and all her certainties and resolve fly out the window. That is why it is so important in our pastoral work not to be hard or judgemental. We never know what that woman was/is going through.

One of the saddest cases I met was a woman who had an abortion because she was here on a domestic worker visa with a diplomatic family and she was afraid that her employer would send her home if she found out she was pregnant and she, the two existing children she was supporting with her wages, and her newborn would go hungry. Nunca sabemos lo que pasa en la vida de la persona.

Stop the Farmville Detention Center!

Several recent articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post have highlighted the problems in the current Piedmont Regional Jail in Farmville that serves as a holding area for ICE detainees from all over Virginia who are awaiting deportation. Plans are afoot to build a bigger Farmville Detention Center and a local community organization where some Catholic Worker friends of mine work, has put together a campaign against this facility. For more information and to take action visit The People United! Web site.

However, the article that most moved me was one written in Nuevas Raices (1/22/2009) by J.E.R., a Latino inmate at the facility. Among other things, he offers his and his fellow inmates' version of the death of Guido Newborough (pictured above) and appeals for a change in the nation's immigration policies. I have taken the liberty of reproducing this letter in its original Spanish and translating it into English.

Carta desde la cárcel

El motivo de esta carta es para dejarle saber lo que ocurre en este centro de detención de Inmigración. Soy un hispano detenido desde mayo de 2008. Después de cumplir una sentencia fui traído a este lugar. Muchos latinos piensan que luego de cumplir la sentencia en el Condado, se irán a su casa, pero oficiales de ICE ponen una detención y los traen a este Centro de Detención de Inmigración. Vienen de Manassas, Richmond, Roanoke, Fredericksburg, Harrisonburg, Winchester y muchas otras cárceles y prisiones de Virginia.

Ya sean legales o ilegales, esperan ser deportados a sus países de origen o pelear el caso ante un juez de inmigración; en mi caso la primera corte fue después de tres meses de estar aquí detenido. No me dieron fianza para poder preparar mejor el caso. Y sin dinero no se puede contratar a un buen abogado. Aún así los abogados de inmigración se aprovechan y estafan a mucha gente y los jueces son racistas, no quieren dar la oportunidad a las personas a quedarse a vivir en Estados Unidos. Es más fácil que le den la oportunidad a gente de otra parte del mundo pero no a un latino.

También las personas que quieren ser deportadas los detienen aquí por lo menos entre tres y hasta nueve meses con el pretexto de que no los encuentran en el sistema. En Fairfax hay funcionarios que nunca contestan el teléfono y son prepotentes y arrogantes; no les importan si las personas tienen familias sufriendo afuera, esposa, hijos. Ellos simplemente dicen "espera". En Virginia la ley es de 3 a 6 meses pero muchos pasan ese límite.

Otro punto es el servicio médico, el cual en este lugar es de lo peor. Un inmigrante de Alemania murió por falta de atención médica; nunca fue asistido por un fuerte dolor que le aquejaba. Una mañana se levantó y pedía que lo atendieran, tocaba la puerta en busca de ayuda y los guardias de la cárcel lo tiraron al suelo y lo arrastraron hasta un pasillo y luego lo llevaron a una celda llamada "hoyo" donde la persona queda aislada del resto y sin poder hacer uso del teléfono. En realidad ese es un lugar de castigo, y no era el caso de este hombre quien en vez, debería haber sido llevado a un médico. Lo más trágico es que él desde "el hoyo" pedía auxilio y murió un día después del día de Acción de Gracias. Los de la cárcel dicen que murió por causas naturales pero quienes estábamos allí sabemos que murió por negligencia. La noticia salió en un periódico local y hay una investigación de parte del ICE, pero creo que ellos van a encubrir la realidad.

Otro caso es el de un detenido de nacionalidad hondureña quien estuvo confinado por 14 meses en "el hoyo" porque decían que era loco, pero creo que él se volvió loco por estar tanto tiempo en este estado de aislamiento. Allí van los homicidas, y aún así les dan una oportunidad para salir con los demás presos; ese lugar es para prisiones de alta seguridad, y esta injusticia que hicieron con este inmigrante en este centro de detencio es algo que no tiene nombre.

También aquí los latinos somos discriminados por los guardias de este lugar, no nos escuchan y creen que porque esperamos la deportación, no tenemos porqué ser respetados en nuestros derechos; somos vistos como menos que un perro. Sabemos que todo esto es a consecuencia de que Bush, en el 2003 creó el ICE quien se encarga de arrestar a inmigrantes, hombres y mujeres, con o sin ningún record criminal, y un ejemplo de eso es lo que ha pasado en el condado de Prince Williams con la imposición de leyes racistas lo cual se regó como un cancer por todo Virginia. No cabe duda que las políticas de Bush han sido anti inmigrantes. El Departamento de Seguridad Interna (DHS) fue creado para arrestar a terroristas quienes entraron al país legalmente y no cruzaron por la frontera, sufriendo, como lo hacen muchos latinos que vienen buscando una mejor vida para sus familias y se emplean de lavaplatos, cortando pasto, en tareas pesadas de la construcción o limpiando cuartos de hoteles.

En lugar de políticas racistas, necesitamos de una reforma migratoria justa, y no más cárceles o centros de detención, como es el caso del que se planea construír aquí en este pueblo de Farmville, el primero en Virginia con capacidad para más de 1,000 presos solamente inmigrantes, arrestados tan solo por circular sin licencia de conducir o por infracciones de tráfico, o por tener visas expiradas u otras situaciones de estatus pendiente. Hay una fuerte oposición ahora por un grupo defensor de derechos humanos para la construcción de esta carcel, pero el alcalde de este pueblo rehúsa a las reuniones para discutir el tema; claro está que él tendrá su beneficio con ese proyecto porque el gobierno federal le dará fondos al condado y seguramente el alcalde quiera parte de esos fondos, aprovechándose del sufrimiento de personas cuyo único delito es querer un futuro mejor.

El pueblo americano debe saber porque muchos de sus ciudadanos defienden la igualdad de derechos y valores; esto es lo que ha hecho que América crezca, pero con este gobierno se ha retorcedido décadas de lucha. La esperanza es el nuevo gobierno de Barack Obama, y que él no se olvide del voto latino y consiga una reforma migratoria. Que Dios lo ilumine y no se dje llevar por políticas racistas y anti inmigrantes.

Gracias por disponibilidad y espero que la gente pueda enterarse de la situación en que nos encontramos, lo cual en realidad es parte de la historia. Tal vez en otra ocasión pueda seguir contanto. Atentamente, JER.

Letter from Jail

The reason for this letter is to let you know what is going on in this Immigration detention center. I am a Hispanic who has been detained since May 2008. After completing a sentence, I was taken to this place. Many Latinos think that after completing their sentences in the county [jail], they will go home but the ICE officials put a detainer on them and bring them to this Immigration Detention Center. They come from Manassas, Richmond, Roanoke, Fredericksburg, Harrisonburg, Winchester and many other jails and prisons in Virginia.

Whether they are legal or illegal, they wait to be deported to their countries of origin or to argue the case before an immigration judge; in my case the first trial date was after three months of having been detained here. They did not grant me bail so I could prepare my case better. And without money you cannot hire a good lawyer. Even so, the immigration attorneys take advantage of and swindle many people and the judges are racist – they don’t want to give people the opportunity to remain in the United States. It is easier for them to give an opportunity to people from other parts of the world but not to a Latino.

Also there are are people who want to be deported who are held here for at least three and up to nine months on the pretext that they can’t find them in the system. In Fairfax there are officials who never answer the telephone and they are overbearing and arrogant; it doesn’t matter to them that people have families – a wife, children – suffering on the outside. They just say: “Wait”. In Virginia, the law says 3 to 6 months but many exceed that limit.

Another point is the medical service, which in this place is among the worst. An immigrant from Germany died for lack of medical attention; he was never assisted for a sharp pain he was suffering from. One morning he got up and asked them to assist him, he knocked on the door seeking help and the jail guards threw him on the ground and dragged him into a hall and then they took him to a cell called “the hole” where a person is isolated from the rest and cannot use the telephone. Truthfully, it is a place for punishment, and this was not the case of this man who instead should have been taken to a doctor. The most tragic [thing] is that he asked for help from “the hole” and he died the day after Thanksgiving. The jail [staff] say he died of natural causes but those of us who were there know that he died of negligence. The news came out in a local newspaper and there is an investigation by ICE, but I think they will cover up the truth.

Another case is that of a Honduran detainee who was confined for 14 months in “the hole” because they said he was crazy, but I think he went crazy because of being in this state of isolation for so long. Murderers go there, and even then they give them the opportunity to go outside with the other prisoners; this place is for high security prisoners, and the injustice done to this immigrant in this detention center is unspeakable.

Also we Latinos here are discriminated against by the guards in this place – they don’t listen to us and they think that because we are awaiting deportation, our rights do not have to be respected; we are seen as less than dogs. We know that all this is a consequence of [the fact that] in 2003 Bush created ICE which is in charge of arresting immigrants – men and women – with or without a criminal record, and one example of that is what has happened in Prince William County with the imposition of racist laws, which are spreading like a cancer throughout Virginia. There is no doubt that Bush’s policies have been anti-immigrant. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created to arrest terrorists who entered the country legally and did not cross the border, suffering, like many Latinos who come to seek a better life for their families and work as dishwashers, mowing lawns, in heavy labor in construction, or cleaning hotel rooms.

Instead of racist policies, we need a just immigration reform, and no more jails or detention centers like the one they are planning to build here in the town of Farmville – the first in Virginia with the capacity for more than 1,000 prisoners, just immigrants arrested only for driving without a license or for traffic violations , or having expired visas or other pending status matters. There is now strong opposition from a human rights group to the building of this jail, but the mayor of this town refuses to meet to discuss the issue; it’s obvious that he will benefit from this project because the federal government will give funds to the county and certainly the mayor wants some of those funds, while taking advantage of the suffering of people whose only crime is wanting a better future.

The American people should know why many of the citizens defend equal rights and values; that is what has made America grow, but with that government [the Bush administration] decades of struggle have become twisted. The hope is in the new government of Barack Obama and that he does not forget the Latino vote and achieves immigration reform. May God enlighten him and may he not be carried away by racist and anti-immigrant policies.

Thank you for your willingness [to listen] and I hope that people can become aware of the situation in which we find ourselves, which is really part of the story. Perhaps at another time they can continue to tell it. Sincerely, JER.

Other articles:

Washington Post (2/10/09): ICE Facility Detainee's Death Stirs Questions

New York Times (1/27/09): Another Jail Death, and Mounting Questions

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Why people criticize the Church

I was listening to Eugenio this morning ramble on about why people criticize the Church, or, more to the point, saying that people should not criticize the Church and those who do so demonstrate that they do not know their faith well. Oh, really???

Of course he didn't mention the main reason people are criticizing the Pope these days: his reinstating the formerly excommunicated bishops from the extremely conservative Society of Saint Pius X, one of whom stated in an interview in Sweden that he did not believe the Holocaust occured. The "rehabilitation" offended major Jewish groups. It also offended those of us on the left of the Church because so many of our theologians have been told to recant or be silenced or even threatened with excommunication, as Fr. Roy Bourgeois has been for his support of women's ordination. God forbid we should have a schism on the right but we don't really care about what happens on the left.

And why don't we "know our faith well"? Well, during the call-in portion of the show a woman shared with considerable enthusiasm how her priest would not give communion to any woman wearing a miniskirt or pants! And that this was good because the body is supposed to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. Hello? Last time I checked, any Catholic in good standing (i.e. without any unconfessed mortal sin) had the right to receive communion no matter how he or she was dressed. But of course nobody bothered to correct the woman on the air. So much for educating people about their faith!

A Credo You Can Dance To

I have decided to revive my old blog "Barefoot Church" but since I can't use that name again technically, we are now Iglesia Descalza. Me queda igual porque todos debemos de ser a lo menos bilingües.

Since my last blog, I have been happily discovering the music videos of a Brazilian priest, Pe. Fábio de Melo. As one hermana in the Renovación put it: "He's a priest??? Wow, is he hot!" Sorry, ladies, he is also quite serious about his celibacy vows. Which is a good thing given the state our Church is in.

Anyway, I have been particularly taken by a version of the Credo which Pe. Fábio and other well-known charismatic singers performed at Enredados Brasil.

Most of us say the Credo mindlessly. It doesn't particularly move us; it's just something to recite and get through on our way to the Eucharist. The introduction to this song -- lyrics below in their original Spanish by Peruvian singer/songwriter Luis Enrique Ascoy -- remind us of why it is so important in this day and age to sing/recite the Credo with conviction.

Ahora más que nunca, y contra la opinión de tantos,
Entre voces de ultratumba, y sus acordes camuflados,
Poemas y lisuras siempre oscuro nunca claro,
Los expertos de la duda y los que dudan por encargo.
Ahora más que nunca y aunque te parezca extraño,
Entre genios que aseguran que ahora ya nada es pecado,
Los óleos contra natura y el abuso de lo abstracto
Y en el ecran se estimula a que todos seamos villanos.
Ahora más que nunca y para decepción de varios,
Entre niños que pululan y fetos asesinados,
Entre algunos que disfrutan de las leyes del mercado,
Mientras mi pueblo deambula sin comida y sin trabajo.
Ahora más que nunca y con los dientes apretados,
Entre horóscopos y brujas y un racismo solapado,
Entre Anás, Caifás y Judas, entre Herodes y Pilato
Y esa deuda que estrangula a todos mis pueblos hermanos.
Ahora más que nunca, quiero que quede claro,
Respetando posturas,

¡¡¡permítanme gritarlo!!!

Creo en Dios Padre todopoderoso,
Creador del cielo y de la tierra,
Creo en Jesucristo,
Su único hijo, nuestro señor,
Que fue concebido por obra y gracia
Del Espíritu Santo
Y nació de Santa María Virgen,
Padeció bajo el poder de Poncio Pilato

Fue crucificado, muerto y sepultado
Y descendió a los infiernos
Y al tercer día resucitó,
Resucitó de entre los muertos
Y subió a los cielos y está sentado
A la derecha de dios padre
Y desde allí ha de venir a juzgar a los vivos
Y a los muertos...

*Creo en el Espíritu, Espíritu santo,
Y en la Santa Iglesia Católica,
En la comunión de santos,
El perdón de los pecados,
La resurrección de los muertos
Y la vida eterna, amén,
Ahora más que nunca: ¡¡amén¡¡.

What I particularly like in the introduction is the recognition of both social and personal sin that is noticeably absent in my country where the bishops seem almost exclusively focused on sexual sin while largely failing to offer a truly prophetic voice on the subjects Jesus really cared about. Ascoy sets the Credo:

"Entre niños que pululan y fetos asesinados,
Entre algunos que disfrutan de las leyes del mercado,
Mientras mi pueblo deambula sin comida y sin trabajo.
Ahora más que nunca y con los dientes apretados,
Entre horóscopos y brujas y un racismo solapado...
Y esa deuda que estrangula a todos mis pueblos hermanos...

"Between whimpering children and murdered fetuses,
Between some who profit from the laws of the market,
while my people walk around without food or work.
Now more than ever and with teeth sharpened,
between horoscopes and witches and devious racism...
And that debt that is strangling all my fellow nations..."

"Allow us to shout it LOUD!" And then follow the words of the traditional Catholic Credo to a tune we can sing and shake our hips to and truly enter into the spirit of bringing good news to the poor and liberation to captives because why do we always bring the good news in a tone that suggests we think it's less important than whether or not the church will be serving cream donuts during the coffee hour after Mass?

Ahora más que nunca, AMEN AMEN y AMEN!