Friday, July 10, 2009

New Voices in the Church: Sr. Teresa Forcades i Vila

One of the more interesting emerging voices in the Church is Benedictine sister Teresa Forcades. Sr. Teresa was born in Barcelona, Spain in 1966. She has a doctorate in Public Health from the University of Barcelona with specialization in Internal Medicine (State University of New York). She also has a Masters in Divinity from Harvard University and a doctorate from the Facultad de Teología de Catalunya. She is the author of Crimes and Abuses of the Pharmaceutical Industry (Cristianisme i Justícia, 2006), La Trinitat, avui ("The Trinity, Today", Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, 2005), La teologia feminista en la història ("Feminist Theology in History", Fragmenta Editorial, 2007),  Ser persona, avui: estudi del concepte de ‘persona’ en la teologia trinitària clàssica i de la seva relació amb la noció moderna de llibertat ("Being a person today: a study in the concept of 'person' in classic Trinitarian theology and its relationship to the modern notion of freedom", Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, 2011), and És a les nostres mans ("It's in our hands", DAU, 2014). She is co-author of Una nova imatge de Déu i de l'ésser humà ("A New Image of God and the Human Being" -- Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, 2012) and Converses amb Teresa Forcades ("Conversations with Teresa Forcades" -- Ediciones Dau, 2012), She has been a Benedictine nun and a member of the community of Sant Benet de Montserrat since 1997 (click on "Teresa F." to reach a page with more of her writings).

An interview last month with Sr. Teresa on TV3 (see video below) has conservative Catholics going nuts. This article, while being negative does a pretty good job of summarizing Sr. Teresa's remarks so we will translate most of it into English while leaving out the unsubstantiated allegations that the sister is a chavista (supporting liberation theology DOES NOT equal supporting Hugo Chávez in our book):

"God has placed the life of the fetus while it is not viable in the hands of its mother [...] Because of this intimate link of the mother and the child while it is not viable outside of her, the decision to abort is inseparable from the mother's self-determination, from her personal freedom. This intimate link between two lives means that the life of the child cannot be saved against the wishes of the mother without violating her liberty."

These statements come from Sister Teresa Forcades, who sees herself as "a Benedictine nun and feminist, an activist in habit", just as she was presented last June 16th in an interview on the "Singulars" program on TV3, where for almost an hour, among other questions, she expressed her opinions with respect to abortion and the morning after pill at the same time as she justified them [well, actually, her moral analysis is a little more refined than this author gives her credit for].

Forcades has already expressed similar opinions in other public appearances and has gone twice to Venezuela to participate in activities related to liberation theology and feminism, where she was well-received by the chavistas.

[Here the author has inserted a brief biographical sketch with a number of inaccuracies, so we have omitted translating it]

To give you an idea of the controversy generated by Teresa Forcades, it would be best to review some of her speeches and published articles.

The TV 3 Interview: "The life of the fetus in the hands of the mother"
In her interview with the program 'Singulars', Forcades supports making the morning after pill available to all women.

"The pill has side effects and obviously it cannot be taken casually. But yes, I think it is a possibility that I would wish for. That it would be known to all women and available to all," she states.

Then, the interviewer asks about abortion and the Benedictine sister, after talking about the problem of "pro-life vs. pro-choice" in the United States, says the following: "Here too I have sometimes heard the argument that abortion is like homicide."

"Now...if we allow that a fetus in formation is a person, then to be able to decide about the life of this person, by criteria of conscience for example, having to respect the conscience of the mother at the moment when she decides about the life of this fetus would mean having to respect her decision," she continues.

"And she is the only one because the life of the fetus depends on the life of the mother as long as it is not viable outside of her. This is the basis for stating it this way, anthropologically, biologically, legally and morally, for deciding on considering this case of the life of the fetus completely differently and therefore it cannot be compared to any other 'interhuman' case," she adds.

Forcades thinks that "this particularity of the mother and the fetus allows us to understand that God put the survival of the fetus in the hands of the mother as long as it isn't viable. That is respect from a theological and Catholic perspective."

As an example and to conclude this part of the interview she adds that "I would not respect the conscience of a person who decided to end another's life, but this is a particular case. And this particular case is that God Himself put the life in the hands of the mother and therefore it can be treated in a special way."

The journalist then comments that "you already know that the Spanish Bishops' Conference is not characterized by its openness...", to which she responds: "it's true, [...] but since for the moment I don't have any teaching or pastoral responsibility in the Church, then -- perhaps if I had one there would be greater repercussions to what I say -- but at the moment I am not speaking in the name of the Church, but from my own judgement and I have not had any difficulties."

The interviewer then says: "Teresa Forcades, fortunately, you are not alone. Look at one of the guests on 'Singulars'." And Hans Küng appears on a video, for whom Forcades says she has a lot of sympathy, and who states that "The woman is a problem for almost all religions."

"Sexuality is fundamental"

A few days after this interview, Forcades participated in the ‘Sopar Debat 2009’ (Supper Debate 2009) organized by Valors journal, in collaboration with Acció Catòlica Obrera, Cristianisme Segle XXI, Justícia i Pau del Maresme and Grup Tercer Món Mataró.

On this occasion, the nun said the following: "Sexuality is fundamental not only for reproduction but also for relating to each other."

With her unique way of seeing the world of pleasure, Forcades added that "what is good is from God, therefore what is pleasing is from God."

At another point in her speech, the Benedictine states that "Sexuality is fundamental not only for reproduction but also for relating to each other and also for learning God's will."

In Foc Nou: "God put the life of the fetus in the hands of its mother"
In her interview with TV3, Forcades mentions an article of hers published in the May 2009 religious news magazine Foc Nou.

In that article, the nun develops at length the details of the same theories on abortion referred to previously before the Catalan public television cameras.

Below we will show some of the phrases that stick out from that article:

"Respect for human life as an unmanipulable gift from God has exceptions in the Catholic tradition that don't weaken it as a principle."

"Reflecting on the moral implications of Catholic just war theory can help to avoid the pharasaism in the case of abortion of invoking respect for life in a rigid way as if there were no exceptions in Catholic moral tradition."

"People who want abortion not to be legal tend to express fear, emotion, and very intense visceral reactions, which in part are a justified exasperation with the moral relativism centered in the womb itself of our society which has up until now been both very pampered and very unsatisfied."

"God has placed the life of the fetus as long as it is not viable in the hands of its mother (in the womb of its mother) and He has linked its biological life with her spiritual life. We would do well to respect this primary relationship."

"As long as the fetus cannot live independently from the mother, she has the moral responsibility to decide its future, which is also hers [...] Respecting the decision of the mother is respecting the integrity of her moral conscience, including accepting that objectively she might make a mistake."

"To deem that the will of the mother when she decides to abort the child who cannot survive without her should be respected and cannot be penalized, does not mean that there should not be discussion on this issue in the Church and society."

And, to conclude the article: "Because of the intimate connection of the mother to the child while it is not viable outside of her, the decision to abort is inseparable from the mother's self-determination, from her personal freedom. This unique relationship between two lives means that the child's life cannot be saved against the mother's will without violating the mother's personal freedom."

In Venezuela

On another topic, Teresa Forcades has visited Venezuela twice to speak about her ideas on liberation theology and feminism.

In November 2008, she was interviewed by writer and president of the Fundación Celarg, Roberto Hernández Montoya, on his program on Radio Nacional "Como ustedes pueden ver" ("As you can see").

In that interview the Benedictine talked about the subject of one of her books, "There are two absolutes: God and the poor", a phrase which she stated was from a Brazilian bishop [The phrase is from Msgr. Pedro Casaldáliga and should be "Everything is relative, except God and the poor". While Sr. Teresa has given talks on this topic, I find no evidence of a published book on the subject].
"One should be surprised at this statement, the kingdom of the "absolute" is one thing, not two, and if that absolute is God it would seem that there would be nothing else, but the idea is to not make that God into an idol, and that's what it is about", she said in the interview.

It is the second time Forcades has traveled to Venezuela. One year earlier she was present in a Liberation Theology meeting. As a feminist she stated then that her relationship with men is different because the issue of seduction is no longer there.

"There are codes between heterosexuals that have to do with seduction between men and women, but that is not bad, it usually happens in brief relationships, but each person has a world within themselves and will not look at people because they are men or women or professionals or young or old, that is without labels -- not to be reductionist, you have to look at them as unique people."

To which she added: "Celibacy doesn't mean that one can't fall in love, because celibacy doesn't mean amputating one part, it is experienced in a personal and different manner from sexuality, like the fidelity of a couple, which implies being satisfied with sexuality. There are more people who live without the sexual experience they would wish for than most people believe."

Forcadas continues by making a reference to liberation theology: "It is living according to the idea that God is love -- to add the adjective "liberation" is somewhat redundant -- it is what comes from Christianity, from the nucleus of the Biblical texts when God manifested Himself for the first time."

"Diversity is divine and forever, that means Trinity. Socialism is included in that, but as something that implies an egalitarian relationship among all," the Benedictine nun concludes.

For those who didn't like this post, sorry to offend but I plan to add more translations of articles and interviews with Sr. Teresa as soon as I can write them. This young theologian deserves a hearing.


Statement on Honduras from the Dominican Provincial for Central America

Another statement of solidarity from Fr. Alexis Páez Ovares, O.P., prior for the Dominican Province of Central America (Provincia San Vicente Ferrer) and Fr. Carlos Flores, O.P., their Peace and Justice coordinator. It's a bit long but here is a translation of the operative paragraphs:

16. We call on all religious and members of the Dominican Family in Central America to categorically reject, based on the principles stated here, the coup inflicted on the Honduran democratic institution and call for national and international support for the restoration of the same [the democratic institution] as soon as possible.

17. At the same time, we are called to express our solidarity with the neediest, the poorest and the most excluded people in Honduras, who are also those who have been most affected -- and sometimes even manipulated -- by critical situations like the present one.

They express agreement with the Honduran bishops on a couple of points: the need for dialogue between all sectors of society and the need to globalize solidarity as a way of helping to overcome injustice and inequality. And the Dominicans commit themselves to praying and working for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Two Brazilian bishops call for peace in Honduras

Adital has posted messages from two Brazilian bishops to the people of Honduras, translated here into English.

Message from Msgr. Pedro Casaldáliga

With a fraternal spirit and passion for Our America, free and united, we want to express our total solidarity with the people of Honduras at this time of tension and violence. Let democracy be respected, which is respecting the will of the people. May the God of peace protect this beloved and suffering people.

An embrace of solidarity and hope,

Don Pedro Casaldáliga
Retired Bishop of São Felix de Araguaia, Brasil

Message from Msgr. Demétrio Valentini

Greetings to the dear brothers and sisters of Honduras, who are living at a historic moment for the democratic future of their country and who wish an immediate return to the rule of law, with a guarantee of respect for the human rights of all people, the immediate cessation of all violence, and peace for the whole country.

I want to express my solidarity with all who want a democratic Honduras, free of the consequences of coups against the constitutional order, and hoping that, at the same time, they will be firm and united and avoid at any cost that the situation result in violence, which could lead to the needless sacrifice of human lives.

May God enlighten their steps, and may all the people of Honduras be able to come back as soon as possible to living in justice and peace.

With my prayers,

Don Demétrio Valentini
Bishop of Jales and President of Caritas Brasil

Some Colombian stories on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá

Today we are celebrating Our Lady of Chiquinquirá, patroness of Colombia, and, coincidentally, I have accumulated a few Colombia-related stories to share:

1. The Colombian Bishops and President Uribe: This week brought the surprising news that several prominent Colombian bishops have suggested that Álvaro Uribe not seek a third term. These would include the Archbishop of Bogota, Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Sáenz, Msgr. Nel Beltrán, bishop of Sincelejo (Sucre), who cited the polarization and potential for increased violence in the country, Msgr. Julio César Vidal, bishop of Montería (Córdoba), and Msgr. Leonardo Gómez Serna, bishop of Magangué, who opined that it was time to give an opportunity to new people. The new secretary general of the Colombian Bishops Conference, Mons. Juan Vicente Córdoba Villota, hastened to assure the public that the Conference itself would not make any pronouncements about a potential Uribe third term until the president himself had decided whether he would run again or not. Any bishop who has spoken on the matter, he said, is acting "motu proprio". The former secretary general, Msgr. Fabián Marulanda, has told El Espectador that he does not think Uribe will run again and the fact that this interview is posted on the CEC Website tells us way more than the current secretary general's assertions. Muy interesante....

2. Fernando Rendón: As the 19th International Poetry Festival in Medellín is underway, its director and well-known Colombian poet Fernando Rendón finds himself under investigation for his political activities. 716 poets, artists and intellectuals from 111 countries have signed a statement of support for Rendón. Signatories include Nobel Literature Prize winners Derek Walcott (St. Lucia, 1992) and Elfriede Jelinek (Austria, 2004), famed Colombian novelist Laura Restrepo, the venerable American beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Juan Gelman, the Argentinian poet and winner of the Premio Cervantes, among others. Colombian Senator Gloria Inés Ramírez Ríos also offered a statement of support for the poet.

The suggestion that Rendón is complicit with terrorism is ironic, especially given the fact that his Festival de Poesía de Medellín convened an Encuentro Nacional de Arte y Poesía por la Paz de Colombia in 2007 at the time of the deaths of Fr. Hoyos' brother Jairo and the other lawmakers at the hands of the FARC and other incidents of violence in Colombia. The Encuentro issued the following broad public statement condemning all violence, whether by the FARC, the paramilitary groups, or the state:

Firme rechazo al cruel asesinato de once diputados del Valle del Cauca

El Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín, comprometido firmemente en la colectiva tarea hacia la búsqueda de la paz en Colombia, condena enérgicamente el cruel asesinato de los once diputados del Valle del Cauca en poder de las FARC en hechos injustificables sucedidos el pasado 18 de junio en las selvas colombianas, y apenas conocidos hace seis días, después que el presidente Uribe diera la orden de rescatarlos a sangre y fuego.

A la vez nuestro grupo de trabajo condena vigorosamente el secuestro practicado por las guerrillas colombianas, por los paramilitares y por el Estado colombiano, incluida la modalidad de las desapariciones, es decir secuestros sin posible retorno de las víctimas.

El Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín llama al Estado Colombiano y a las FARC, interpretando el deseo del pueblo colombiano, secuestrado por la guerra, a nombrar sus delegados para que intercambien puntos de vista sobre las posibilidades del intercambio humanitario, que despeje el camino hacia una solución política negociada que ponga punto final al oprobioso conflicto bélico, interminable, y se suma a las voces de los delegados de los gobiernos de Suiza, Francia, España y Alemania, en cuanto repudian nuevos intentos de rescate armado de los rehenes secuestrados y respecto al imperativo de constituir de inmediato una Comisión Internacional de Establecimiento de los Hechos que investigue y haga pública claridad sobre las circunstancias en que murieron los 11 diputados secuestrados por la guerrilla”.

I also find it more than a little strange that the Colombian government would choose to come down on someone like Rendón, whose internationally famous poetry festival showcases the best of Colombian literary talent to the world, at a time when Colombia is seeking to improve its world image. Kind of seems like shooting the goose that laid the golden egg...

3. Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos: "Cousin" Darío's 80th birthday on July 4th might have gone unnoticed but for the fact that he is now officially completely retired from his Vatican duties. He will no longer have voting rights in papal enclaves and he has been replaced as head of the Pontifical "Ecclesia Dei" Commission by Cardinal William Levada, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"Ecclesia Dei" was charged with healing the schism with the ultraconservative Society of St. Pius X. The process became an embarassment when, after the excommunication orders against four of SSPX's bishops were lifted, one of them, Richard Williamson, was discovered to be a Holocaust denier. This caused worldwide outrage and led to Williamson's expulsion from Argentina. Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos said he and other officials knew nothing about Williamson's position. Pope Benedict XVI was forced to acknowledge the problem, saying in a letter to Catholic bishops worldwide that he was unaware of the bishop's positions when he lifted the excommunication. The men are still not able to function as bishops and the Vatican has declared any ordinations by the Society to be invalid.

In an interview with El Tiempo, Castrillón Hoyos says that he achieved his personal goals during his tenure as head of "Ecclesia Dei": First, that all priests in the world might be able to celebrate the old Latin rite Mass (Tridentine Mass) freely, second, promoting the richness of this rite, and third, that the excommunication of the SSPX bishops be lifted. In spite of rumors in the media to the contrary, the Cardinal also denied that there were any hard feelings between himself and the Pope. He plans to spend his retirement years doing a little parish work and writing a book and giving lectures on the old Gregorian Mass.

The cardinal also lamented his country's ongoing fatricidal war and indicated his willingness to be involved in any peace negotiations if asked. Please pray for the people of Colombia, that true peace will come to that weary land. Nuestra Señora de Chiquinquirá, ruega por nosotros.

Maternal mortality in Peru

Those who doubt that poverty and inequality are "life" issues would do well to look at the latest report from Amnesty International on maternal mortality in Peru. Below is my translation of AI Peru's statement on their findings.

Hundreds of poor peasant and indigenous women are dying in Peru because they do not receive the same health services as the rest of the women in that country, Amnesty International concludes in its new report presented on July 9th.

The report, titled "Deficiencias fatales. Las barreras a la salud materna en Perú" (“Fatal Flaws: barriers to maternal health in Peru”), examines the high maternal mortality rates among poor and indigenous women in rural Peru and evaluates the impact of the government’s latest policies to deal with the problem.

Peru has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the entire American continent. According to official data, 185 women in Peru die for every 100,000 live births. The United Nations gives an even greater number, 240. Most of these women are campesinas, poor and indigenous.

“The maternal mortality rates in Peru are scandalous”, says Silvia Loli, director of Amnesty International in Peru. “The death of so many women from preventable causes is a violation of human rights. The Peruvian government is obviously not fulfilling its obligation to provide maternity health care to all women, regardless of who they are or where they live.”

In its report, Amnesty International highlights the fact that pregnant women are dying in Peru due to the difficulties they must overcome: lack of access to emergency obstetrical care, lack of information on maternal health, and lack of health personnel who speak the indigenous languages.

According to the 2007 census of indigenous communities, almost 60% of the communities that participated in the census did not have access to a medical center.

“Health care for pregnant women in Peru is like a lottery: if you are indigenous and poor, you have no chance of winning,” Silvia Loli said.

José Meneses Salazar, a 24-year-old resident of Ccarhuacc (Huancavelica), one of the poorest areas of Peru, lost his mother nine years ago as a result of [complications from] labor. She avoided going to get medical examinations for fear of being mistreated by [medical] personnel. When she went into labor, the midwife at the nearest health center was on leave, so José’s father and other family members assisted with the delivery. After the baby was born, the placenta did not come out and they didn’t know what to do. After two hours, the woman died. The newborn girl survived.

The report also evaluates the impact of various government policies designed to reduced the maternal mortality rates, such as increasing the number of homes for expectant mothers – places where women who live a great distance from a medical center can stay before delivery, greater support for vertical birthing, a common practice among indigenous women in Peru, and teaching health professionals Quechua.

Women and medical professionals consulted by Amnesty International in Peru believe that these new initiatives are positive but they complain that they are not being applied effectively and they doubt that they are having real results.

In its report, Amnesty International concludes that even though there are three times as many homes for expectant mothers as there were eight years ago, only half of these are located in rural areas where the women have the greatest need for emergency obstetrical assistance.

Women and local civic organizations have told Amnesty International that the training of health professional in vertical birthing methods is not sufficiently widespread. According to the Defensoría del Pueblo de Perú, last year over 45% of health care personnel stated that they had not received adequate training.

On the other hand, there have been official initiatives to teach Quechua to health services personnel, but its use is not generalized and many women in the indigenous communities whose mother tongue is not Spanish cannot communicate with them.

“The official initiatives to reduce maternal mortality are good news,” Silvia Loli states, “but the absence of clear responsibility for accomplishing them, as well as the lack of vigilance and effective allocation of resources put the whole initiative at risk.”

Amnesty International has asked Peruvian authorities to allocate resources to maternal mortality and to reproductive health care, giving priority to the areas that have the highest mortality rates, so that all women will be guaranteed equal access to emergency obstetrical assistance in the case of complications during labor. It has also recommended increasing the training of medical personnel and that a linguistic support service be available to indigenous women in all medical centers.


Warning: Large PDF files!

English: Fatal Flaws: barriers to maternal health in Peru
Español: Deficiencias fatales. Las barreras a la salud materna en Perú

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fr. Hogan and the Living Body of Christ

We hear a lot about priests who screw up but not so much about those who faithfully carry out their ministry and inspire others. One such priest is Fr. Jim Hogan, long time pastor at Community of Christ the King, the Catholic campus ministry for the University of Montana in Missoula. Fr. Hogan is semi-retired now and has a new book out, self-published, called Yes We Are! The Living Body of Christ.

As a priest, he has struggled with and reflected upon all the hot button topics in the Church today, including celibacy. In an extensive interview with Montana Kaiman upon his retirement, Fr. Hogan noted that when he entered the priesthood his main concerns included loneliness, not having a family and running the risk of leading what he called an unhealthy lifestyle. As a campus chaplain, he solved the problem by becoming a great cook and sharing that gift with his student parishioners. Campus ministry intern Jennifer McWilliams remarked: "Probably my favorite memory of Jim is him just grabbing people after Mass, inviting them to his house for dinner."

However, Fr. Hogan says candidly that it's time for the Church to have an open conversation about the priest shortage and consider other alternatives. “I think that people don’t accept the criteria that surround the ordained, but I think people still have the gifts,” Hogan says. “Look at the Peace Corps, Americorps. Young people are willing to give their lives to service but not in a celibate way for a lifetime.”

One possible solution might be an expanded role for women in the church, he says. “I think if we changed the title away from ‘priest’ it would be easier to bring women into priesthood,” he said. “Priesthood has Old Testament cultic overtones to it and I think that will always be an obstacle. But the criteria should not be gender or marital status. The criteria ought to be gifts of the spirit and competence.”

Another of Fr. Hogan's great accomplishments is his work for peace. Working with the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center, in 2001 Hogan set up the Search for Peace Award in which Missoula students of any age are invited to express their concept of peace through any creative medium. He donates $500 towards the prize money which is supplemented by other contributors. Says Hogan: "For twenty-two years I was privileged to share life with young adults at the University of Montana. During those years I became deeply aware of the enormous creative energy in our young people. We cannot ignore the increase of violence in our world. I know it is possible for us to help our young people withstand the attraction of violence."

"In 2000, I was surprised to be the recipient of the Jeanette Rankin Peace Award. It is an honor to be recognized by those in our city who are dedicated to making peace. I felt this award also bestowed a responsibility. It affirmed my efforts to work for peace, but also challenged me to do more. One day as I was preparing to go on a hike, I realized that I could honor the award I had received by offering my own peace award."

Here is an article about Fr. Hogan's new book:

Priest's book confronts Catholics' frustration

By Rob Chaney
The Missoulian

Ace Hardware stores aren't known for their religious counsel, but the Rev. Jim Hogan has learned to take his lessons where he finds them.

And it was on a trip to the hardware store that Hogan saw something that crystallized his feelings about the Roman Catholic Church he's served for 48 years. He was looking for a gizmo and wasn't sure if the right one was available. The clerk found one in a factory-sealed box and proceeded to unpack it, removing the cardboard spacers and twist-ties and Styrofoam.

It was the wrong model, so the clerk tried to box it back up. But once undone, the gizmo wasn't easy to rewrap without either breaking its parts or its protections.

“The Second Vatican Council took the Gospel traditions out of their box,” said Hogan, “and they can't go back in without breaking.”

At least a quarter of Montana's regular church-goers attend Roman Catholic parishes. In his new book, “Yes We Are! The Living Body of Christ,” Hogan confronted what he saw as growing frustration and discouragement among many parishioners who believe the church is shifting from flexibility to authoritarianism.

His thoughts got a ringing endorsement from the Rev. Bob Egan, a professor of theology at Gonzaga University in Spokane. Equally concerned about the American Catholic Church's failure to thrive, he pointed to an atmosphere where “a large majority of Catholics disagreed with church leaders about several important issues, and were simply ignored.

“When we gathered for worship, it felt like something we had come to watch or hear, not like something we had come to do or pray,” Egan wrote. That ran counter to the decisions of the Second Vatican Council, which declared the Roman Catholic Church was made up of all its members, not simply its leadership: “It was hard for us to acknowledge that this wasn't happening, that the church was cutting off dialogue and resisting participation, that power and authority were becoming more centralized rather than less, that mutuality and accountability were being postponed and ignored.”

Hogan was ordained at the flow tide of that Second Vatican Council and its revolutionary teachings. In his tenure at Christ the King Parish in Missoula's university neighborhood, he was known for his different-drummer services.

“It became a dynamically alive Catholic community,” Hogan said. “It worked.”

But he also came to the priesthood at a time when the area diocese had 120 priests. Hogan went on senior status three years ago after serving 22 years as Christ the King's pastor, and there are now just 20 or 30 ordained priests covering the same territory. Those declines in clergy and congregation numbers are symptoms of the changing church direction, he said.

Freed of the daily parish management duties, Hogan felt compelled to put his own feelings and frustrations into a manuscript. The process was initially undisciplined. An adviser told him there were four potential books in the pile of paper. So he began the process of un-writing until he refined the basic message of “Yes We Are!”

“This is not a judgmental or accusatory book,” Hogan said. “I stay steadfast in the faith. Hopefully, it will awaken a lot of conversation and discussion.”

The observations range from theological giants like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, to the following chapter on “Harry Potter and Jesus.” Hogan's investigation looks at how institutions can become rigid and convinced of their “classical” righteousness, without realizing that an organization made of living people adapts and evolves in “historical” fashion.

“The problems we deal with today are different than what were there when the Vatican Council met 50 years ago,” Hogan said. “We don't have to let the hierarchy turn us backwards.”

With friends like these...continued

The unofficial Honduran government is also blessed with one of the least diplomatic ministers of foreign affairs ever appointed. Right before being named to his post, Enrique Ortez Colindres gave an interview with a Honduran TV news program. Among his remarks:

On President Barack Obama: "Ese negrito que ni sabe dónde queda Tegucigalpa." Several sources have translated this as "That pickaninny who doesn't even know where Tegucigalpa is." and I'm inclined to concur with this translation, instead of the more diplomatic "that little black man."

On Spain's José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero: "Que vuelva a sus zapatos". This is a play on Zapatero's last name, which means "shoemaker". Ortez is telling him to "go back to his shoes". This is also an idiomatic expression in Spanish that means "mind your own business."

On El Salvador: "No vale la pena hablar de un país tan chiquito, en el que no se puede jugar al fútbol porque la pelota le cae a otro país." ("It's not worth talking about a country that is so tiny, one in which you can't play soccer because the ball falls into a neighboring country.") This "tiny" country is having a very good showing against a number of the soccer powerhouses this season.

On the Organization of American States: Ortez said that Micheletti would be president of Honduras "with or without the OAS", and he wasn't giving any more importance to the organization than "a esos otros grupitos que andan por ahí" ("to the other little groups around here.")

The United States ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, issued a statement: "As the official and personal representative of the president of the United States of America, I convey my deep outrage about the unfortunate, disrespectful and racially insensitive comments by Mr. Enrique Ortez Colindres about President Barack Obama."

Ortez then wrote a letter of apology which he shared with the media:

036-DFMJulio 2, 2009

Excelentísimo Señor Presidente
De los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica
Barack Obama
La Casa Blanca

Señor Presidente:

Por este medio, deseo expresarle mi honda preocupación acerca de una desafortunada expresión que hice durante una conferencia de prensa en la televisión local de Tegucigalpa, unos días antes de que me juramentaran como Canciller de la República.

La expresión que dije en esa oportunidad, no tiene la más mínima intensión de ofensa ni la interpretación que los medios nacionales e internacionales han querido hacernos, tratando de dañar las relaciones internacionales que ahora oficialmente representó.

Deseo, asimismo, reciba nuestras más sinceras excusas y mis expresiones de solidaridad y amigo de ese gran país que son los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica, y son nuestros fervientes deseos, contribuir con ustedes para una mejor relación y comprensión entre su gran nación, Estados Unidos de Norteamérica y nuestro
democrático país, que es Honduras.

Con muestras de más alta y distinguida consideración

Enrique Ortez Colindres

The Foreign Minister manages to be both disingenuous and obsequious, saying that he did not have the least intention to offend and blaming the media for misinterpreting his remarks with the intent of damaging international relations. He goes on to express his desire for friendship between the "great country" that is the United States and "our democratic country", i.e. Honduras.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

With friends like these...

The coup situation is Honduras is getting more worrisome as human rights groups begin to look at the coup supporters...and see old familiar faces:

1. Billy Fernando Joya Améndola: Getting the most attention is Billy Joya, a security advisor to Micheletti. Ironically, Joya was already in the Zelaya government and the human rights group Comite de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH) actually sent a letter to President Zelaya in April 2006 warning him about Joya's past human rights abuses.

Joya was a member of the notorious CIA-trained Battalion 316, the Honduran Army unit responsible for carrying out of political assassinations and torture of suspected political opponents of the government during the 1980s.

One of Battalion 316's most famous targets was American Jesuit Fr. James Carney who was working in Honduras during the country's civil war. Sometime in 1983 Carney was apparently captured and killed by members of Honduran Army Battalion 316. His family traveled to Honduras after receiving word of his death on September 20, 1983, but where unable to recover his body or information on his death. The initial claims of the U.S and Honduran government that Carney had starved to death were soon contradicted by members of the Honduran military. In testimony by Florencio Cabadero, a former Honduran intelligence officer in exile in Canada, said that Carney was tortured and thrown to his death from a helicopter on the orders of Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, commander of the armed forces and creator of Battalion 316.

2. Jackeline Foglia Sandoval: Another supporter of the coup is Ms. Foglia Sandoval, former president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Honduras, who has been quoted as saying of the coup: “I don’t know of any one who isn’t celebrating.” (We know plenty of people who aren't celebrating, but then again, we don't travel in the same circles as this lady). She slams Zelaya, accusing him of inflicting political and economic chaos on Honduras and turning it into a "narco state". And, like any self-respecting spokesperson for the business community, she sure doesn't like Zelaya's coziness with the country's unions and his policy of increasing the Honduran minimum wage.

Just another discontented member of the Honduran wealthy elite? You wish. According to COFADEH, Foglia Sandoval was also associated with Battalion 316. In the '80s, she was head of 316's research division (Sección de Análisis). The task of the research division was to put together profiles of civilians who could be considered possible military targets under the doctrine of national security -- people who would later be disappeared, tortured, and/or killed.

Meanwhile, please keep human rights activist Bertha Oliva and COFADEH in your prayers as they are being targeted for their continuing vigilance and denunciations against human rights abuses at a time when other organizations have been silenced by this government's repressive measures.

A woman's place is in her Church

This weekend the news agency EFE carried the story of Margarita Flores, a Mexican American woman, who last year became one of a growing number of pastoral associates in this country -- lay people who manage parishes in the absence of priests or who handle the administrative functions so that the priest can devote himself full-time to pastoral work. Flores serves in Sagrado Corazón parish in Compton, California. We have translated Iván Mejía's article about her into English.

The lack of Catholic priests to tend to the growing Hispanic community in southern California moved the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to name a Latina lay woman as the Parish Life Director of a church in Compton.

"The Spirit of God is opening paths with the same urgency with which we see the need for more priests in the Church," Margarita Flores said to EFE. Flores, 49, is the new Parish Life Director in El Sagrado Corazón de Jesús parish, a position that used to be held exclusively by ordained priests.

Originally from Michoacán, Mexico, and mother of six children, Flores is the only Hispanic among the seven lay people who began to serve as Parish Life directors in seven churches in the Los Angeles Archdiocese last July 1st.

These changes are part of the "Serving Shoulder to Shoulder" project, through which the Archdiocese will involve more parishioners who are devoted to the Church, to deal with the lack of priests.

"The Hispanic community is growing throughout southern California, but in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles alone we are losing 30 to 40 priests a year whether through retirement, death, or because they leave to serve in another archdiocese. And in the seminaries we only have 3 to 5 candidates a year," Flores explains.

"I have served the Church for 25 years," she said. "In 2003 I entered Fuller Seminary in Pasadena to study for a Masters in Divinity. In addition to theology, I graduated prepared to lead a church pastorally," she revealed.

Flores will be responsible for administering El Sagrado Corazón de Jesús parish in Compton where, in addition to managing the church's resources, she will be able to help with preaching [Trans. note: This is what the article says, but I'm not sure it's correct unless we have a different understanding of "predicación"], but when the time comes to give the sacraments, such as the Eucharist, she will be assisted by an ordained priest.

"The role of parish life director is a very small responsibility; but it's a beginning so that there will be other changes in the Church, which needs to continue to innovate with respect to the needs that move us to review our theology and our pastoral activities," Flores stresses.

Father John Woolway, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, blessed Flores today in a rite at Sagrado Corazón de Jesús during which he said that there is still resistance in the Church to seeing a woman serving in the roles that priests have always performed.

With respect to the lack of men wanting to be priests, the priest told EFE that "in the United States young men want to live the American dream and this means a lot of interest in climbing the ladder of economic prosperity, and this is why the priesthood doesn't interest them much."

"There are other factors (for the lack of motivation) too, such as the celibacy vow, because we priests cannot get married," Woolway said.

Among the 20 or so parishioners who came to support Flores at her presentation was Mercedes Moreno, 60, a member of the community organization Mujeres Unidas de Los Ángeles (United Women of Los Angeles).

"If it's because of the lack of priests that they are putting a woman in this role, it's about time, because it's discrimination that only [male] priests can serve in the priesthood," Moreno said to EFE.

"Women in the Catholic Church have always been undervalued; but now they realize women's wisdom and strength, therefore I hope this example will be imitated in all the churches in Latin America and throughout the world," she concluded.

Photo: Margarita Flores and other pastoral associates on the day of their commissioning by Cardinal Roger Mahony.

Caritas in Veritate

From the Vatican Information Service:

This morning Pope Benedict XVI's new Encyclical "Caritas in veritate" was released. Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who participated in the press conference, spoke of the need for a new social Encyclical twenty years after John Paul II's "Centesimus Annus" of 1991, and dedicated some attention to changes that have taken place over the last two decades.

"The political ideologies that characterised the period prior to 1989 seem to have lost their virulence, but have been replaced by the new ideology of technology", he said. "Various aspects of globalisation have been accentuated, due on the one hand to the fact that there are no longer two opposing power blocs and, on the other, to the worldwide computer network. ... Religions have returned to the centre of the world stage. ... Certain large countries have emerged from a situation of backwardness, notably changing the world geopolitical balance. ... The problem of international governance remains vital".

For his part, Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, spoke of various new topics dealt with in this Encyclical. "For the first time the two fundamental rights: to life and to religious freedom", he said, "are given explicit and extensive space in a social Encyclical. ... They are", he went on, "organically linked to the question of development. ... In 'Caritas in veritate' the so-called 'anthropological question' becomes to all intents and purposes a 'social question'".

Another two themes contained in the Encyclical are: the environment - in which nature is seen not as a "deposit of natural resources" but as "created word" entrusted to the human beings "for the good of everyone" - and technology - "the first time an Encyclical deals with this theme so fully".


VATICAN CITY, 7 JUL 2009 (VIS) - Given below is a summary of Benedict XVI's new Encyclical "Caritas in veritate" (Charity in Truth) on integral human development in charity and truth.

The Encyclical published today - which comprehends an introduction, six chapters and a conclusion - is dated 29 June 2009, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.

A summary of the Encyclical released by the Holy See Press Office explains that in his introduction the Pope recalls how "charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine". Yet, given the risk of its being "misinterpreted and detached from ethical living", he warns how "a Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance".

The Holy Father makes it clear that development has need of truth. In this context he dwells on two "criteria that govern moral action": justice and the common good. All Christians are called to charity, also by the "institutional path" which affects the life of the "polis", that is, of social coexistence.

The first chapter of the Encyclical focuses on the message of Paul VI's "Populorum Progressio" which "underlined the indispensable importance of the Gospel for building a society according to freedom and justice. ... The Christian faith does not rely on privilege or positions of power, ... but only on Christ". Paul VI "pointed out that the causes of underdevelopment are not primarily of the material order". They lie above all in the will, in the mind and, even more so, in "the lack of brotherhood among individuals and peoples".

"Human Development in Our Time" is the theme of the second chapter. If profit, the Pope writes, "becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty". In this context he enumerates certain "malfunctions" of development: financial dealings that are "largely speculative", migratory flows "often provoked by some particular circumstance and then given insufficient attention", and "the unregulated exploitation of the earth's resources". In the face of these interconnected problems, the Pope calls for "a new humanistic synthesis", noting how "development today has many overlapping layers: ... The world's wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the increase", and new forms of poverty are coming into being.

At a cultural level, the Encyclical proceeds, the possibilities for interaction open new prospects for dialogue, but a twofold danger exists: a "cultural eclecticism" in which cultures are viewed as "substantially equivalent", and the opposing danger of "cultural levelling and indiscriminate acceptance of types of conduct and lifestyles". In this context Pope Benedict also mentions the scandal of hunger and express his hope for "equitable agrarian reform in developing countries".

The Pontiff also dwells on the question of respect for life, "which cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples", affirming that "when a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good".

Another question associated with development is that of the right to religious freedom. "Violence", writes the Pope, "puts the brakes on authentic development", and "this applies especially to terrorism motivated by fundamentalism".

Chapter three of the Encyclical - "Fraternity, Economic Development and Civil Society" - opens with a passage praising the "experience of gift", often insufficiently recognised "because of a purely consumerist and utilitarian view of life". Yet development, "if it is to be authentically human, needs to make room for the principle of gratuitousness". As for the logic of the market, it "needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also take responsibility".

Referring to "Centesimus Annus", this Encyclical highlights the "need for a system with three subjects: the market, the State and civil society" and encourages a "civilising of the economy". It highlights the importance of "economic forms based on solidarity" and indicates how "both market and politics need individuals who are open to reciprocal gift".

The chapter closes with a fresh evaluation of the phenomenon of globalisation, which must not be seen just as a "socio-economic process". Globalisation needs "to promote a person-based and community-oriented cultural process of world-wide integration that is open to transcendence" and able to correct its own malfunctions.

The fourth chapter of the Encyclical focuses on the theme: "The Development of People. Rights and Duties. The Environment". Governments and international organisations, says the Pope, cannot "lose sight of the objectivity and 'inviolability' of rights". In this context he also dedicates attention to "the problems associated with population growth".

He reaffirms that sexuality "cannot be reduced merely to pleasure or entertainment". States, he says, "are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family".

"The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly", the Holy Father goes on, and "not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people- centred". This centrality of the human person must also be the guiding principle in "development programmes" and in international co-operation. "International organisations", he suggests, "might question the actual effectiveness of their bureaucratic and administrative machinery, which is often excessively costly".

The Holy Father also turns his attention to the energy problem, noting how "the fact that some States, power groups and companies hoard non-renewable energy resources represents a grave obstacle to development in poor countries. ... Technologically advanced societies can and must lower their domestic energy consumption", he says, at the same time encouraging "research into alternative forms of energy".

"The Co-operation of the Human Family" is the title and focus of chapter five, in which Pope Benedict highlights how "the development of peoples depends, above all, on a recognition that the human race is a single family". Hence Christianity and other religions "can offer their contribution to development only if God has a place in the public realm".

The Pope also makes reference to the principle of subsidiarity, which assists the human person "via the autonomy of intermediate bodies". Subsidiarity, he explains, "is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state" and is "particularly well-suited to managing globalisation and directing it towards authentic human development".

Benedict XVI calls upon rich States "to allocate larger portions of their gross domestic product to development aid", thus respecting their obligations. He also express a hope for wider access to education and, even more so, for "complete formation of the person", affirming that yielding to relativism makes everyone poorer. One example of this, he writes, is that of the perverse phenomenon of sexual tourism. "It is sad to note that this activity often takes place with the support of local governments", he says.

The Pope then goes on to consider the "epoch-making" question of migration. "Every migrant", he says, "is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance".

The Pontiff dedicates the final paragraph of this chapter to the "strongly felt need" for a reform of the United Nations and of "economic institutions and international finance. ... There is", he says, "urgent need of a true world political authority" with "effective power".

The sixth and final chapter is entitled "The Development of Peoples and Technology". In it the Holy Father warns against the "Promethean presumption" of humanity thinking "it can re-create itself through the 'wonders' of technology". Technology, he says, cannot have "absolute freedom".

"A particularly crucial battleground in today's cultural struggle between the supremacy of technology and human moral responsibility is the field of bioethics", says Benedict XVI, and he adds: "Reason without faith is doomed to flounder in an illusion of its own omnipotence". The social question has, he says, become an anthropological question. Research on embryos and cloning is "being promoted in today's highly disillusioned culture which believes it has mastered every mystery". The Pope likewise expresses his concern over a possible "systematic eugenic programming of births".

In the conclusion to his Encyclical Benedict XVI highlights how "development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer", just as it needs "love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace".


English: Charity in Truth

Español: La Caridad en la Verdad

Photo: Pope Benedict XVI signing "Caritas in Veritate"

Monday, July 6, 2009

Honduran Bishops Conference Statement

This statement of the Honduran Bishops Conference, dated July 3, 2009, was read on national television in Honduras, by Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, SDB, in the morning of July 4, 2009. Translated by John Donaghy, an American lay missionary working in Honduras, based on the text provided in La Prensa on line. FYI: Click on Donaghy's name to access his blog where he is filing regular reports of life in Honduras under the present crisis.

“Building from crisis”

1. Scarcely three weeks ago, in the Plenary Assembly of this Bishops’ Conference, we clearly stated that social justice, dialogue and consultation within the framework of the law are needs that our people ought to recognize and respect.

2. In the face of the situation of the last few days, we refer to the information which we have sought in the appropriate public records of the State (the Supreme Court of Justice, the National Congress, the Public Ministry, the Executive Power [Branch], the Supreme Electoral Tribunal) and many organizations of civil society. – Each and every one of the documents which have come into our hands show that the institutions of the Honduran democratic state are valid and that what it has executed in juridical-legal matters has been rooted in law. – The three powers of the State – Executive, Legislative, and Judicial – are legally and democratically valid in accord with the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras.

3. The Constitution of the Republic and the country’s administrative organs of justice lead us to conclude that:

a. In accord with what is considered in Article 239 of the Constitution of the Republic “Whoever proposes the reform” of this article “immediately ceases to hold his post and remains disqualified for ten years for any public function.” Therefore, the person sought, when he was captured, no longer held the position of President of the Republic.

b. Dated June 26, 2009, the Supreme Court of Justice, unanimously named an already sitting judge who issued an arrest warrant for the citizen President of the Republic of Honduras, who was supposedly responsible for the crimes of: AGAINST THE FORM OF GOVERNMENT, TREASON AGAINST THE FATHERLAND, ABUSE OF AUTHORITY AND USURPING OF FUNCTIONS to the detriment of the Civil Administration and the State of Honduras, the former stemming from the Legal Summons presented by the Public Ministry.

To learn from errors in order to correct them in the future

4. “No Honduran can be expatriated no handed over to a foreign State” (Art. 102, Constitution of the Republic). – We believe that we all merit an explanation of what happened on June 28.

5. On June 19 we said that all of us are, to a greater or lesser extent, responsible for a situation of social injustice. – Nevertheless we continue to believe that Honduras has been and wishes to be a people of brothers [and sisters], living united in justice and peace.

a. Therefore it is necessary that we choose decidedly to listen to the opinions of others in such a way that a true dialogue can be initiated among all the sector of society, so that it can arrive a constructive solutions.

b. It is fundamental to respect the calendar of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal what guarantees elections in the coming month of November.

c. It is necessary to globalize solidarity as a way that can help us overcome injustice and inequality. – The international community, with adequate information about our country’s situation can contribute to these proposals.

6. We make a special appeal

a. to those who have or have held [roles of] leadership in their hands: we invite them to not let themselves be led by egoisms, vengeance, persecution, violence, and corruption. – One should always seek ways of understanding and reconciliation, beyond the interests of parties or group.

b. to the social, economic and political groups: we urge them to overcome emotional reactions and to seek the truth. – Now more than ever social communicators ought to express their love of Honduras, seeking the establishment of peace and the serenity of the people, leaving aside personal attacks and seeking the common good.

c. To the population in general: we invite you to continue in an atmosphere of respectful and responsible participation, understanding that we all can construct a Honduras with more justice and solidarity with honest work.

d. to the Organization of American States: we ask that you pay attention to all the was happening outside the law in Honduras and not only what happened starting on June 28. The Honduras people are also asking why the warlike threats against our country have not been condemned. – If the interamerican system is limited to protecting the system of ballot boxes but not to monitoring good governing and the prevention of political, economic, and social crises, a belated reaction in the face of these will be worth nothing.

e. to the international community: we declare the right we have to define our own destiny without unilateral pressure of any sort, seeking solutions which promote the good of all. – We reject threats of force or blockades of any sort which only make the poorest suffer.

f. We deeply thank our brothers and sisters from many countries who with their gestures of solidarity, supporting and being at our side, provide us with horizons of hope in contrast to the threatening attitude of some governments.

7. The present situation can serve to build and to embark on a new path, a new Honduras. – The confrontation which it is living ought not to serve to heighten the violence but [it ought to serve] as a new starting point for dialogue, consensus and reconciliation to strengthen us as the Honduran family, so that we can embark on a path of integral development for all Honduras.

8. We exhort the faithful to intensify their prayer and fasting in solidarity so that justice and peace may reign.

Tegucigalpa, July 3, 2009

Signed by the eleven bishops of the Catholic Church of Honduras.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

El Profeta del Barrio

Today the Gospel reading was Mark 6: “No one is a prophet in their own country.” Our new pastor, Fr. Tim, gamely celebrated the Spanish language liturgy and even preached in Spanish even though he told us it has been a while since his last Spanish speaking post in Puerto Rico. His homily was simple but marvelous and very understandable. It revolved around an experience he had had in Pittsburgh. He used to bring coffee to and talk with a homeless lady named “Crazy Sally”. Sally asked him what he did and he told her about his three different positions at the university. She said he must be very important to have to work so hard and, in reality, he was overworked. Eventually, he said, the stress got to him and he had a stroke. He said he often ponders what would have happened had he listened to Sally’s warning, how we expect God to speak in great and glorious ways but He often speaks to us from the humblest people around us and we don’t recognize His voice.

All the same, I wonder how Fr. Tim felt about the hymn the choir chose – reprinted below – which went even beyond our congregation’s usual radicalism. Fr. Joe, our regular celebrant, is used to us. We are all singing from the same page. But one never knows about new priests. The hymn alludes to the Juan Diego/Our Lady of Guadalupe story and one verse says: “Lo que le pasó a Juan Diego / A muchos les pasa hoy / Juan Diego no era del clero / Y el obispo no creyó.” (What happened to Juan Diego/ Happens to many today / Juan Diego wasn’t part of the clergy / And the bishop didn’t believe him.) And isn’t that in fact the situation lay people are still in today? We can’t get the bishop’s ear because we don’t wear a Roman collar. When there is a conflict, the pastor is believed, not the people, even when there are many more of us and we are saying: “Help! Something is wrong here.” Pues no somos consagrados, no somos nada. Se requiere un milagro como el del Tepeyac para que nuestra jerarquia nos escuche.

El Profeta del Barrio

Un día Jesús andaba
El hijo de Nazaret
La gente muy asustada
Decía no puede ser

El hijo del carpintero
Profeta no puede ser
Es uno de nuestro barrio
Profeta no puede ser

El tiempo sigue su marcha
Y la gente sigue igual
A los pobres los rechazan
Y los quieren humiliar

La Virgen miró a Juan Diego
Un hombre de mucho amor
Y el obispo estaba ciego
Por eso no le creyó

Lo que le pasó a Juan Diego
A muchos les pasa hoy
Juan Diego no era del clero
Y el obispo no creyó

Los pobres y los sencillos
Son los que son del Señor
Para confundir los ricos
Y son almas sin razón.

The song turns out to be by Carlos Rosas, one of the first Mexican American liturgical composers in the United States. Rosas was associated with the Mexican American Cultural Center (now Catholic College) in San Antonio. MACC helped Rosas produce his first songs, including the “Rosas del Tepeyac Mass” in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. His compositions are now widely sung and available in many Spanish language hymnals of all denominations, including Flor y Canto.

“El Profeta del Barrio” was very controversial and was even banned in one Texas parish because the priest thought it would invite the people to revolt. Rosas’ response? “Liturgical songs must reflect the struggles and traditions of el pueblo (the people) even if they may make some clergy uncomfortable. Liturgical songs should be able to communicate and speak to the reality of el pueblo -– de corazón a corazón (from heart to heart).” (Latino Religions and Civic Activism in the United States, G. Espinosa et al. - Eds, Oxford Univ. Press., 2005, p.121)

The whole experience reminded me of another song on the same theme: “Mary Was an Only Child” by Art Garfunkel. At the end of the song, he says:

And if you watch the stars at night,
And find them shining equally bright,
You might have seen Jesus and not have known what you saw.
Who would notice a gem in a five and dime store?