Saturday, October 10, 2009

November 3: Forum on Catholic Approach to Immigration Reform

Heads up to all Washington area Catholics interested in immigration reform: The Woodstock Theological Center is sponsoring a forum on "Honoring Human Dignity and the Common Good: A Catholic Approach to Immigration Reform".

DAY AND TIME: November 3rd, 2009 at 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Gaston Hall (3rd floor of Healy Hall), Georgetown University, Washington, DC


* Jill Marie Gerschutz (Migration Policy Director and Outreach Coordinator for the U.S. Jesuit Conference) - Moderator
* Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (Consultant to the Committee on Migration of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)
* Octavio González (of the Immigrants' Rights Clinic at Stanford Law School)
* Donald Kerwin (Vice President for Programs at the Migration Policy Institute)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Catholics Call for Immigration Reform

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, testified this week in Congress before the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security on Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The hearing sought faith-based perspectives on immigration reform.

“Our nation requires an immigration system that marries legal immigration with our long-term economic needs, the principle of family unity, and basic human rights. This will help restore the rule of law to our immigration system. Now, our immigration system accomplishes none of these goals,” said Cardinal McCarrick.

The cardinal also addressed concerns regarding the rule of law and how it applies to immigration. “In truth, the church position in favor of reform seeks to restore the rule of law and provide order and legality to an otherwise chaotic system,” said Cardinal McCarrick, a consultant to the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Migration.

Cardinal McCarrick outlined the key elements the U.S. bishops believe should be addressed in any immigration reform legislation.

  • Bring the undocumented population in this country out of the shadows and give them a chance, over time, to achieve permanent residency and citizenship.
  • Preserve family unity by strengthening family-based immigration.
  • Create legal avenues for migration, so that migrant workers, who labor in many important industries in our nation, are able to enter the country legally and in a safe and orderly fashion.
  • Give immigrants their day in court by restoring due process protections removed in 1996 legislation.
  • Work with neighboring countries and the international community to address the root causes of migration, so that immigrants and their families ultimately can remain in their home countries and support their families in dignity.
While recognizing that immigration has economic, social, and legal aspects which must be addressed in any reform legislation, Cardinal McCarrick expressed that, from the perspective of Catholic teaching, immigration is ultimately a humanitarian issue.

“In our view, our immigration laws ultimately must be judged by how they impact the basic dignity and God-given human rights of the human person,” Cardinal McCarrick said.

The cardinal also urged Senators keep the discourse “civil” and to refrain from “labeling and de-humanizing our brothers and sisters” nor “scapegoat them for unrelated economic or social challenges we face.”

Cardinal McCarrick also said the Catholic Church stands ready to assist the legislators as they “lead the nation toward a humane and just immigration system which both restores the rule of law and respects the inherent human dignity of the person.”

Photo: Cardinal McCarrick celebrates closing Mass at conference on Hispanic ministry, Notre Dame

Evangelicals call for immigration reform

The Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), representing 40 denominations, scores of evangelical organizations and millions of American evangelicals, approved a resolution this week calling for action on immigration reform.

“Our current immigration system is broken,” said Leith Anderson, NAE President. “Efforts to maintain secure and efficient borders have been ineffective and, too often, inhumane. Our visa system for legal immigration is antiquated, bureaucratic and insufficient to meet both labor force and family reunification needs. Those who want to play by the rules, both employers and employees, often have no realistic options.”

Leith Anderson will also testify at a hearing in the afternoon held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Citizenship on faith-based perspectives on comprehensive immigration reform.

“Our churches and communities have been blessed by immigrants, many of whom bring strong faith, entrepreneurial energy and traditional family values that strengthen our future,” said Galen Carey, NAE Director of Government Affairs. “At the same time, some of our communities have struggled to cope with the impact of unregulated immigration.”

The NAE resolution recommends that immigration reform respect several fundamental principles, including:

  • Immigrants should be treated with respect and mercy.
  • National borders must be safeguarded with efficiency and respect for human dignity.
  • Immigration laws should recognize the central importance of the family and provide for reduction in backlogs for family reunification.
  • There should be a clear and workable system for legally admitting an adequate number of immigrants to meet both workforce and family reunification needs.
  • There must be a sound, equitable process for currently undocumented immigrants who wish to assume the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship to earn legal status.
  • There should be fair labor and civil laws for all who reside in the United States, reflecting the best of our nation’s heritage.
  • Immigration enforcement must recognize due process of law, the sanctity of the human person and the incomparable value of family.

“This resolution will be an important step forward in evangelical advocacy on behalf of immigrants, many of whom are members of evangelical churches across the United States,” Carey said.

The NAE further calls on its members, elected officials and all Americans to participate in the immigration reform debate in a spirit of civility and respect, both for immigrants and for those with whom we may disagree on policy prescriptions.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"They can take everything from us but hope": An interview with Bishop Pedro Casaldaliga

We are happy to share with you our English translation of this important interview with Brazilian Bishop Pedro Casaldaliga.

Pedro Ramiro, María González Reyes y Luis González Reyes
September 2009

At 81, the retired bishop of the diocese of São Felix do Araguaia is one of the most prominent representatives of liberation theology and has become a reference point for the Latin American left. Since he came to Brazil to stay four decades ago, his work in defending the rights of indigenous peoples and oppressed social groups and his support of the movements of landless peasants in Brazil and the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua in the eighties make Pedro Casaldaliga an essential part of the living memory of the struggle for dignity and liberation of the people of Latin America.

In the middle of last August, Pedro Casaldaliga welcomed a group of social activists from Spain to his humble house in São Felix in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, to reflect that "globalization has given us the opportunity to recognize that we are one human race. We are all equal — we must be — in dignity and opportunity." This was the beginning of a conversation which ranged from the political situation in Brazil to the current prospects for liberation theology, through the consumption pattern and the challenges of the Latin American left.

From the perspective that being committed to the poorest people on the planet for many years gives one, what does solidarity mean for you today?

The question the First World asks is: What can we do? Well, in the end, renounce the privilege of being First World, which is already a lot to ask. Give up this exceptional condition of a tiny fraction of the human race, when compared with the vast majority of the entire Third World. We try to always stress that solidarity is no longer that paternalistic solidarity — sending clothing, medicines, certain resources ... It must be a solidarity that goes both ways, much more specific and more demanding: we give and receive, so that solidarity itself also, in addition to feeding people and curing diseases, facilitates and stimulates the experience of their own culture. Because we help people who have a culture, who are not just a stomach and some veins, but who are people. Therefore, we must ensure that solidarity is constant, aware, self-critical, local and global: going out and returning.

When you met Fidel Castro twenty years ago, he said that "liberation theology helps the transformation of Latin America much more than a million books on Marxism". What is liberation theology currently based on?
Today, there are different liberation theologies. What has been done is to add more explicit themes, sectors of society, of life, that before were not thought about as much. There have been emerging issues associated with indigenous people, women, ecology, street children... Now it is a theology that is enriched by the demands of these emerging groups and, therefore, liberation theology is now very pluralistic in its objectives, albeit within the demand for liberation. When we call for the liberation of black people, we are asking that they be able to feel proud to be black, that they not be excluded from professorships, public office, government, that there not be the segregation that still exists. And it's that when I came to Latin America 41 years ago, blacks, the vast majority, did not see themselves as such. They even straightened their hair so that it would not look like black people's hair. Now they are regaining their pride, their identity. Something similar has happened with the indigenous population. When I arrived in Brazil, it was said that there were 150,000 Indians, while today there are a million. In this region, for example, the Tapirape have regained their territory, the Karaja have also reconquered some of their lands, the Xavante too ... and all this has the liberation theology spirit.

One criticism that is made of liberation theology by conservatives is that it is a very materialistic theology, one that is very concerned with material interests, physical needs and forgets the spirit, prayer. Given that, I would claim that three or four traits would be indispensable in the Church of Christ: first, the option for the poor, second to combine faith and life, third, the Bible in the hands of the people, and fourth, genuinely fraternal solidarity.

What has allowed it to coalesce in Latin America?
In Latin America, liberation theology developed at a very timely moment: the Second Vatican Council had just happened in 1968 when I came here, the winds of change were blowing, there were military dictatorships, so the context was conducive to plant one's feet in the ground and throw oneself into liberation. Moreover, in Latin America there is a certain unity of the continent. It is the only continent that can be called the great nation: Our America, as the liberators said. This made it easier for a distinctively Latin American theology to emerge.

I always remember how persecution, exile, torture, martyrs, brought together better the whole Latin American reality. Here in Brazil sometimes it felt like we were a little distant from Spanish-speaking Latin America — a country that was too big, with another language ... But after all those military dictatorships, where the songs and blood were mixed and mingled, Latin America is more itself, it and the Caribbean. So that yes, I prefer the expression "Our America", because the liberators used this term more often — Bolívar, Martí, Sandino, Fidel ...

On the Latin American agenda that you set out each year, which underlies the work of many activists on the continent, in 2009 you put the title "Towards a new socialism." What does this new socialism mean?
Who knows? (laughs) We could also say left or socialism, but in any case there are some essential requirements: first, you can not aim for profit, and second, there must be a certain equality, sufficiently egalitarian wage levels, for example, between a minister and a peasant; one has to demand an equal to equal exchange between countries and, finally, one can not accept that capital becomes the master of labor, the economy and of democracy itself.

As we are seeing in the case of Honduras, could the days of coups d'état come back in Latin America?

Who knows? At least in Nicaragua and El Salvador, what was can never be again -- there will be injustice, there will be complicated situations, but a very popular revolution will not be completely lost.

That yes, the fact that a country can be constantly massacred and there is no one who can intervene, proves that mankind is in bad shape. Socialism can not accept the idea of colonialism, of imperialism. In this regard, we owe gratitude to Cuba, because, with all their sins and excesses, the fact of stubbornly answering the empire is a great service for Latin America and the world. In that sense, a global policy could be a global opportunity.

You've been putting a lot of emphasis on the problem of consumerism.

So far consumerism has been seen as an excess of vanity, that if you have forty pairs of shoes, two televisions, etc... But this is much more serious: rights are being consumed, needs are being consumed. If 20 percent of people and families are well-off, living in the civilization of comfort, there are 80 percent who do not have the basics. Consumerism is capitalist, and all the evil that is in capitalism is in consumerism. If you compare what happens when there is an earthquake in Japan and when it happens in Honduras, you see that three people are killed in one place and in the other, two thousand. The First World countries are allowed to continue, and after us, they say, the deluge. Because the first thing they look out for is not the world, it's their own house.

For next year's agenda, you have proposed the theme "Let's save ourselves with the planet" ("Salvémonos con el planeta").

Within this global vision, I finally discovered that the planet is our only home. And there is no way to save ourselves unless we save the planet. Better still, we should remember that the whole human race can end and the planet will continue. Even selfishly, we would say, now we can only save ourselves if it's with the planet.

Awareness has been created where none existed before: the Amazon has been virtually discovered, so to speak, in recent times. For the Church, there was no Amazon. There were attitudes of some "advanced" people -- with bucolic rather than political ideas -- who were defined as nice "Quijotes" but nothing more. Recently, with globalization, various technicians and scientists have pointed out that it's getting serious. And a more political stance has come.

What can be done in the face of all this?

There should be a major process of conversion, a change of mentality. As long as we believe we can have everything we want, there is no solution. Precisely because the situation is global, the proposal to have a critical awareness of the real situation must reach all bases. Every family has the right and duty to curtail it to a degree: if on the one hand the father is in a solidarity NGO and on the other hand the child is consuming in cold blood, with that behavior we are causing what we are building to crumble.

It is good that so much news comes out in alternative bulletins so that we are aware of what is happening. As many experts say, there will not be problems [in the future] -- they are here, and we're late, things should have been solved yesterday. Others, who are more hopeful, say there is still time, that the problems can still be solved. Except that for that, we need policies. It's a gesture that a family has one car instead of having three, but that does not solve the oil problem.

So what should the policy be then?

You can only solve the problem if there are, simultaneously, government policies and domestic policies, groups, parties, associations, NGOs. As is being said a lot now, you have to work locally and globally. We must give more value to politics. We must get involved in politics, we must take on the political vocation. If not, we will just go on singing protest songs. Politics has been demoralized, it has continued to remain in the hands of people without social conscience or responsibility. Both the parties and the labor unions have led to many disappointments, but they are still valid, although not as hegemonic because there are also many social movements and NGOs that are very valuable.

The best NGOs are highly political: they take care of helping to stimulate, helping by promoting action and training. The NGOs should be asked to make a political examination of conscience. Because they are helping, yes, but structurally? The Catholic Church has always done charity, but if we're not involved with structures, we will continue with some that are harmful.

A year after the general elections in Brazil, what is your opinion of the Lula government?

Lula, even if he wanted to, could not make Brazil socialist. Now he could encourage a lot of acts that would lead to socialism: lower the wages of the wealthiest and raise those of the most disadvantaged, provide opportunities to groups who did not have them, put labor over capital, not surrender body and soul to agribusiness, but to the family farm. Can you export? Sure, but not giving priority to what is not a priority. The theme of his mandate has been that all Brazilians eat once a day. That is a step towards protosocialism, right? But, even so, there are millions who do not eat every day. And which head of state has had the 80 percent popularity rating that Lula has now?

How do you assess the role of the anti-globalization movements, the World Social Forum meetings and the organizations who argue that "another world is possible"?
This global awareness helps us understand that we must transform the world. It's not enough to just look after one's own house and one's own country. Utopia is thus more possible, because now it is a utopia with political vision, solidarity, with specific positions. Years ago, who could ask for a world government? Today, talking about it is not as utopian. Utopia is the daughter of hope. And hope is the DNA of the human race. You can take everything away from us except faithful hope, as I say in a poem. But it must be a credible, active and justifiable hope and one that acts. That is why liberation theology has emphasized praxis so much: if we say that God is love, we have to put it into practice; if He is life, life should be enhanced. Religion is not praxis, we were told, it is faith. But faith without practice is a chimera, and sarcasm. Theoretically, this is clear: now, in practice, we'll see ...

Pedro Ramiro is a researcher for the Observatorio de Multinacionales en América Latina (OMAL) - Paz con Dignidad; María González Reyes y Luis González Reyes are members of Ecologistas en Acción. This interview was published in Revista Pueblos, No. 39, September 2009.

A nun speaks out on the H1N1 Pandemic

Sr. Teresa Forcades i Vila has taken off her theologian's hat and gone back to her doctor in public health role to address the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic in a new video (see below) that calls for a calm approach to the disease and emphasizes the right of citizens to refuse to be vaccinated against it.

Sr. Theresa also has a new blog space on catalunyareligió.cat in which she is sharing her writings on the flu and other issues. (NOTE: To the anonymous person who requested more Sr. Teresa translations, I will try to get to them as time permits).

by Gaspar Hernández (translation by Rebel Girl)
El Periódico de Catalunya
October 7, 2009

What's a nun doing talking on the Internet about the dangers of the Influenza A vaccine?

Our rule prescribes five hours of prayer and six of work. Ora et labora.


I devote part of the working hours to medical research. I'm a doctor of medicine and in 2006 I published the study Crimes and Abuses of the Pharmaceutical Industry.

When did you decide you had to speak out on influenza A?

In May this year I was asked to give a speech on the papillomavirus vaccine and I was very struck by the lack of scientific basis for the official recommendations. After a few days I spoke on TV-3 about this vaccine and since then I have been receiving requests to comment on the influenza A vaccine.

Doesn't the World Health Organization deserve to be trusted?

I don't understand the motives that have led WHO to act in the absurd way it is acting.


Yes. Last May, WHO changed the official definition of a pandemic -- it changed from a logical definition (a pandemic is an infection of global proportions and with a high mortality) to an illogical definition (a pandemic is an infection of global proportions).

What are the consequences of this change?

Under the new definition of "pandemic", the annual [seasonal] flu more than meets the requirements to be one. Are we going to declare a world health alert every fall? Besides absurdity from the scientific standpoint, this has serious financial and policy consequences.

You don't trust the vaccine. Why?

Unlike the annual seasonal flu vaccine, the influenza vaccine contains such powerful adjuvant substances that they can get the normal immune response to multiply by a factor of 10. In addition, two doses are recommended, to be received after the injection for seasonal influenza, which also contains adjuvants, although less potent. Never before have these substances been injected three times in a row in the general population, starting with children, the chronically ill and pregnant women.

What effects can result?

The artificial stimulation of the immune system can cause autoimmune diseases.


The same prospect of two of the influenza vaccines that have already been approved in Europe (Pandemrix and Focetra) indicates that it is expected that for every million people vaccinated, 99 will experience an autoimmune disease known as Guillain-Barré progressive paralysis.

If that happens, the drug companies would receive demands...

But in the U.S. a decree has already been approved exempting politicians and drug companies from liability.

Are you suggesting that the drug companies have acted irresponsibly?

What they have done is work for their interests.

Can someone be obliged to get vaccinated?

In 2007, WHO adopted a regulation establishing an exception. In all cases except one, the WHO makes recommendations, and only in one case may it give orders that override the sovereignty of member countries.

In the case of a pandemic.

Exactly. In 2007, WHO adopted a regulation that in case of a pandemic, WHO can legally bind member countries to vaccinate all or part of their population. The governments of these countries would be obliged then to impose fines or other penalties for individuals who refuse to be vaccinated.

Do you believe in world conspiracies?

I think there are interests at stake are not the good of the population. How can we justify the money invested in the purchase of vaccines if influenza A is milder than the annual seasonal flu? Spending so much money on vaccines and other preventive measures without sufficient scientific basis is an outrage and we should ask for accountability.

What do your fellow nuns say about the video and your statements?

An almost 90 year old sister raised the objection that the subject of influenza A is very serious and that I couldn't speak out against the vaccine without having well-founded arguments.


After reading my report, she approached me after vespers and simply said to me: "Understood."

Aren't you afraid?


Do you pray a lot?

As much as I can.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

La Americana

Last night I went to see a wonderful documentary about immigration called La Americana as part of the Center for American Progress's Reel Progress series. The film examines the issue of immigration reform through the eyes of Carmen, an undocumented immigrant from Cochabamba, Bolivia, who has come to New York to work a series of menial jobs to make enough money to pay for her paraplegic daughter's medical care. While her mother is in New York, Carla is back in Cochabamba being cared for by her grandmother.
The film has already won Best Documentary in the 8th New York International Latino Film Festival and both Audience and Jury Awards for Best Documentary Feature from the 11th Cine Las Americas Film Festival. It is not yet available in DVD for home use but nonprofit groups can obtain copies in order to host public screenings by filling out the form on Peoples Television's Web site.

Nicholas Bruckman, the film's director and producer, spoke after the screening. He updated us on Carmen and Carla's situation and told us that some of the proceeds from the film have already gone to help with the family's medical expenses. Carla has received a new wheelchair as a result.

Bruckman said he got to know Carmen at an immigration reform rally in New York in 2006. He was moved when she told him that she had never been to the Statue of Liberty and what started out as a short film documenting Carmen's trip to see Lady Liberty turned into a full documentary shot in three countries -- Bolivia, Mexico and the United States.

This very emotional film shows the invisibility of this immigrant workforce and shines a light on one of its members, a women who becomes a symbol of the ongoing debate about the nation's immigration policies. Bruckman said that as he has screened his film, he has noticed that immigrant audiences identify with Carmen while middle-class Americans sympathize with her plight. The film is an excellent tool for generating support for immigration reform.

Pax Christi not welcome in Richmond

Some stunning news from the "other" Catholic diocese in my state. The Virginian-Pilot reports today that the Richmond Diocese rejected Pax Christi's request to hold the launch of its Hampton Roads chapter at Holy Family Catholic Church in Virginia Beach.

The chapter was launched last week with speeches from none other than Bishop Walter Sullivan, the retired leader of the Richmond Diocese and a past president of Pax Christi, and Marie Dennis, the global-concerns director for Maryknoll, the Catholic missionary order, and co-president of Pax Christi International. Not having access to a Catholic venue, the kickoff event was held at Virginia Wesleyan College, a Methodist school in Virginia Beach.

Asked Tuesday why the event was rejected, Vincent Sansone, the diocesan theologian who vets proposed speakers, said that Pax Christi is not a diocesan organization. The vetting requirement was decreed by current Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo weeks after he succeeded Sullivan as the diocese's leader in 2004. The diocese's guidelines state that speakers must be "in good standing in the Church" and provide proof they've taken a course in protecting against child abuse. They also must provide a resume and a letter from their bishop or pastor "attesting to their orthodoxy."

Richmond's own former bishop is not sufficiently orthodox for them???

Ironically, as Whispers in the Loggia points out, while DiLorenzo is trying to exclude Richmond's local Pax Christi, the Pope has nominated Pax Christi International's other co-president Monsignor Laurent Monswengo Pasiya to head one of Africa's largest territories, the Archdiocese of Kinchasa. The blog also says that Monswengo is expected to be elevated to cardinal.

As a coda, I'm happy to report that in Arlington we have no such problems. Local Pax Christi folks have complete access to Our Lady Queen of Peace, thanks to the shepherd of its Hispanic community, Fr. Joe Nangle, OFM, a long time local Pax Christi leader.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Feminist theology in Andalusia

I was delighted to read this article about EFETA, the Escuela Feminista de Teología de Andalucía (Feminist Theology School of Andalusia) by one of their students. For those who read Spanish and are interested in feminist theology, this is a fabulous resource.

Don't say it's just a dream: Studying feminist theology today

by María José Ferrer Echávarri (translation by Rebel Girl)
October 5, 2009

A few months ago at a wedding, a friend who had not seen me in years asked about my life. I gave him adequate notice of my work and personal situation and added: "And I'm studying feminist theology." "Feminist theology? What is that? Aren't those two words incompatible? How do you study it?", he said with a puzzled look. His questions, which gave way to a long and interesting talk, made me realize some things, because until that moment I had never considered how feminist theologians had come to be such.

Feminist theology, or rather, feminist theologies, for there is not just one, have been and are created by women theologians, with no other adjectives, being self-taught, reading and studying each other, using tools from other disciplines, drawing on other methods of feminist studies and also being an inspiration for other scholars, always starting from the experience of women, asking questions and tracking down the answers in a new way, sifting through the earth of history with their hands to bring to light the thought, words and lives of women, invisible and silenced for centuries and millennia, recovering women's voices from past and present, feminists often unknowingly risking travel along uncharted paths, dangerous and liberating at the same time, risking themselves over and over...

Although officially born in the second half of the twentieth century, feminist theological studies are not, however, a discipline "in diapers." At a minimum, it must be acknowledged that the "girl" has learned to speak fluently and, therefore, to think. Furthermore, I believe that feminist theology is a young adult and able to create valuable and deeply transformational thought.

Nobody can deny, therefore, the existence and entity of feminist theology. There are theologians who even dare to say that feminist theology is the only one that is bringing new life to the "science of God." However, feminist theology, in the best and not necessarily the most common case scenario, is an isolated subject in theology schools, especially those dependent on the Church or church institutions or orders. Feminist theology is not taken into account in many official theological circles, it is considered to be the responsibility of women alone. On many occasions, moreover, feminism is seen as a threat, if not something distinctly unorthodox.

This patent or latent boycott of feminist theology has consequences. On the one hand, it makes it invisible, and this invisibility hinders access to feminist theological studies for people interested in them. Furthermore, it ignores the research, works and achievements of feminist theologians. Under these conditions, those who want access to feminist theology must be practically self-taught. And this has been my experience over almost a decade.

I have been a seeker of meaning for as long as I can remember, although I have not always been aware of it. Sometimes, it is the questions that start a search in motion. Other times, it is precisely the lack of questions that generates anxiety and an inexplicable desire to seek something, something that one often does not know what it is, until one finds it. That was what happened with feminist theology. I had long been looking for it, but I only knew it when I found it and was able to name many insights and experiences which until then I had not known how to formulate and sometimes did not even recognize.

My encounter with feminist theology, like many great discoveries, was coincidental and I confess that I could not resist it. From the first moment, it aroused my interest and also some vertigo, because I knew I would not be immune to its effects. I decided to keep looking, but it was not easy for me, although I was not alone, as I was and am part of a group of women, also seekers of meaning and interested in feminist theology. We wanted to know more and started working on a few books, groping, and inventing methods to approach them and ways to share our progress. As "good" feminist theology students, we had to be self-taught ...

For almost ten years I spent many hours looking for texts of feminist theology, diving on the Internet, reading books that led me to other books, whatever the particular topic addressed in the texts, sensing there was more, but not knowing how to get to it neatly. I learned feminist theological terminology by reading and rereading texts, realizing days later, what something I'd read fifty pages before meant. I found some authors particularly difficult, but went ahead with the hope of understanding what they said in the end. In reality, I did not know how to organize my findings, or the knowledge I was acquiring, or the ideas that I myself was generating. And indeed, I was not immune to contact with feminist theology, because it changed my perspective on everything.

Two years ago, also by chance, I discovered EFETA, the Escuela Feminista de Teología de Andalucía (Feminist Theology School of Andalusia), which gave me the opportunity to study feminist theology systematically and with tools that, as a self-taught person, would have taken me years to learn to use. At the same time as I started as a student of the School, I became part of the team of Umbrales, EFETA's space for feminist spirituality, which is for me a unique experience of a shared quest for new ways to find myself, and the reality, nature and the Divine, ways which Umbrales offers to anyone who wants to draw near to our space.

Finding EFETA was qualitatively as important as discovering feminist theology, because EFETA is much more than a school in which structured knowledge is acquired. It is, above all, a project that exceeds the limits of the lessons taught on line and which includes all people who work in it, whether students or teachers (mostly, but not only, women) or members of other teams and committees. It is a framework of theological thought and feminist spirituality, where ideas are generated, expressed and shared. And the ideas are powerful, very powerful, because they transform the world and history. They transform me.

In the last two years my life has changed a lot. And I have to. I do the same things as before but with a different perspective, feminist and liberating. Organizing my ideas, getting to know different points of view, having the tools of analysis, meeting people with whom to share, nurturing self-criticism ... have made me more open and more accountable, I have discovered a power that I did not know I had, it has given me words with which to express myself and to fight for what I believe is right. I also do new things, some of them dreams that I had thought lost and have taken up again, others the result of a new way of seeing that keeps me awake and a new force that keeps me alive.

This summer I went to the European Society of Woman in Theological Research (ESWTR) meeting held in Winchester. I was impressed by the way the European theologians valued EFETA. They stated that such a school was the dream of every feminist theologian. A few days ago, a friend witnessed how a well-known American theologian explained to an Australian colleague what EFETA was, while showing the greatest admiration for the Spanish theologians who were capable of launching such a project. She had also considered it a pipe dream. It's not a dream but a reality.

We have at our fingertips the possibility of becoming feminist theologians, more than self-taught, working in a new, egalitarian and liberating way, creating knowledge and sharing it, finding a new language ... The EFETA theology professors do not have the title of Feminist Theologian, but want something better for their students than what they themselves had. They want to pave some roads, so we do not spend all our energy traveling blindly along trails where some women have already left their lamps lit. They want easy access to feminist theological studies for all interested persons who seek and do not always find them. They want our thought to be recognized and us to be able to give a reason for our faith in a Divine One of whom we women are a perfect image and hope for a world where we women are acknowledged as full human beings, adults, free and responsible, capable of thought, word and transformative action.

Are we going to give up this dream?

To find out more, visit

Monday, October 5, 2009

Virginia General Election - November 3, 2009

The Virginia General Election is now less than a month away so here is our take on it.

The Attorney-General's Race: This race is worth turning out for and Iglesia Descalza (which is not an official Church body and therefore can do anything we want to do politically) urges you to vote for Democrat Steve Shannon. Please. Why? In two words: Ken Cuccinelli. He is the Republican opponent and he has made a career out of being anti-immigrant. In fact, Cuccinelli's anti-immigrant crusade is part of his platform. Hermanos y hermanas, si no voten por ningun otro candidato, les ruego de todo corazon, vayan a votar por Steve Shannon para Attorney General para que no perdemos todo lo que hemos ganado.

Election Day is November 3, 2009. Polls are open from
6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Use this form to find out where to vote.

The Governor's Race: Do you prefer the candidate who has stated that he supports 287(g) -- the collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE that most pro-immigrant groups oppose and that has led to any number of abuses? That would be Republican Bob McDonnell. Or the candidate who, as delegate, voted to designate English as the official language of the Commonwealth, to make undocumented immigrants ineligible for state and local benefits, and against allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates? That would be Democrat Creigh Deeds. You can see why we're underwhelmed by this choice.

McDonnell makes no effort to speak to Hispanic voters on his Web site. Deeds has a three paragraph "Latinos con Deeds" corner en español. It's almost worse than nothing because what it says is that the candidate does not care enough to bring us a substantive, equally informative message, but I suppose since Deeds thinks we all should be speaking English, his failure to communicate is a policy choice.

The major difference for us between the two candidates is in social policy. If you want a guy who is pro-life and supports a traditional Roman Catholic view of marriage and the family, vote for McDonnell. If you want a guy who is pro-choice and supports gay rights, vote for Deeds. Or sit this one out. Me da igual.

I haven't been so disgusted with Virginia politics since the Democrats let John Warner run unopposed in 2002.

Immigration News Roundup - October 5, 2009

1. UN Human Development Report challenges common migration misconceptions: Allowing for migration—both within and between countries—has the potential to increase people’s freedom and improve the lives of millions around the world, according to the 2009 Human Development Report launched here today. Titled "Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development", the report casts new light on some common misconceptions. For example, most migrants do not cross national borders, but instead move within their own country: 740 million people are internal migrants, almost four times the number of international migrants. Among international migrants, less than 30 percent move from developing to developed countries.

Contrary to commonly held beliefs, migrants typically boost economic output and give more than they take. Detailed investigations show that immigration generally increases employment in host communities, does not crowd out locals from the job market and improves rates of investment in new businesses and initiatives. Overall, the impact of migrants on public finances—both national and local—is relatively small, while there is ample evidence of gains in other areas such as social diversity and the capacity for innovation.

At the report site you will also find multimedia resources, a quiz, and an interactive map. Even I, who thought I knew a lot about this topic, only got an average score on the quiz. And the map is useful for those who think the United States is being overrun by Spanish speakers. Yes, Mexico does account for a huge majority of our immigrants, which is not surprising given the history and proximity of our two countries (Mexico is also the primary destination of emigrants from the United States). But after that -- in order of number of immigrants -- come the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Germany, and India. Not El Salvador and Guatemala. Not Cuba...

2. More statistics from La Frontera:

  • Children crossing borders-1: Aurelio Alemán Bueno, the regional delegate for the Mexican Instituto Nacional de Migración, told EFE that the number of Mexican unaccompanied minors being repatriated across the border in the Tamaulipas region has increased 11.1%. Some 5,000 children have been deported by the United States back to Mexico as opposed to 4,500 in 2008. The children are placed in the hands of the municipal family services systems (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia). Alemán said the increase in the number being sent back reflects the increase in the number of children crossing the border to look for work in the first place.

  • Children crossing borders - 2: Thirty-three percent of minors who leave the United States without the authorization of one or both parents end up in Mexico, according to the United States consul in Monterey, Bruce Williamson. Most of these are custody dispute cases. Monica Rios, the legal director for Desarrollo Integral de la Familia, said that there are currently about 500 such cases (from the United States) in the Mexican judicial system. There are about 30 cases involving children from Spain and a handful from Central American countries.

  • The Grass is Greener en los EEUU: A new survey by Pew Global Attitudes finds that Mexicans overwhelmingly are dissatisfied with the direction of their country, and most believe life is better in the U.S. One-in-three would move to the U.S. if they had the opportunity, and more than half of those would do so without authorization.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

In Memoriam: Mercedes Sosa

The great Argentinian folk singer and activist Mercedes Sosa passed away this morning at age 74. Her body will lie in state in the Salón de los Pasos Perdidos, in the Argentinian Congress, starting at mid-day today for viewing.

Her family posted the following letter on her Web site:

We are the grandchildren, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, the son of she who was to us something more and other than a great popular artist. With her we shared life's private joys and anguish. Because this great artist was also our grandmother, our sister, our aunt, our mother. That's why we come to you from that intimate place, away from the severity and harshness of the official statements: because we know that you loved and continue to love her as much more than the singer and the artist who accompanied you so many times, whom you made part of your family even without blood ties.

It is from this place that we want to tell you that Mercedes — mother, aunt, grandmother, sister — left this world today. But we also want to tell you that she was always accompanied — even when she could no longer realize it — by an endless parade of friends and folk artists, and in each one of them, by you. And despite the sadness of any dying, she spent those last moments in peace, fighting valiantly against death that won the tug of war in the end.

Of course we are moved and want to share with you this sadness. Though at the same time, we have the reassurance that all did their best — including our Negra — to stay a little longer with us.

What made Mercedes happiest was singing. And surely she would have liked to sing for you at the end too. So that's how we want to remember her and we invite you to do so with us.

Thank you so much for this accompaniment that never ceased to be present.

A lot of people are probably going to post videos of Mercedes singing "Gracias a La Vida" as a tribute. She made this song by Chilean singer/songwriter Violeta Parra her own, as Chile's President Michelle Bachelet reminded us the other day. I like this version where Mercedes Sosa shares the stage with her American counterpart Joan Baez with whom she often sang. They have different ways of interpreting the song and at first it seems jarring but gradually a companionable spirit emerges between the two women that symbolizes the way Mercedes always worked with others — she always ruled the stage naturally, effortlessly, while being generous with her collaborators.