Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fort Hood: A Reflection

UPDATE: An interesting footnote for this reflection. According to the Washington Post (11/10/2009), Dr. Nidal Malik Hasan, the shooter at Ft. Hood, gave a presentation to colleagues in 2007 which examined the attitude of some Islamic soldiers and ended with the following recommendation: "Department of Defense should allow Muslims [sic] Soldiers the option of being released as 'Conscientious objectors' to increase troop morale and decrease adverse events." If only they had listened...

On January 9, 1991, a Mexican-American Catholic captain in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps convened a press conference and made the following statement:

I, Yolanda Huet-Vaughn, M.D., am a board-certified family physician, a wife,a mother of three children ages two, five, and eight. I am also a member since 1980 of Physicians for Social Responsibility, the U.S. affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. In 1982 I cofounded the Greater Kansas City Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. I am from Kansas City, Kansas. I am a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps. In connection with the Gulf crisis I was called to active duty service in December 1990.

I am refusing orders to be an accomplice in what I consider an immoral, inhumane, and unconstitutional act, namely an offensive military mobilization in the Middle East. My oath as a citizen-soldier to defend the Constitution, my oath as a physician to preserve life and prevent disease, and my responsibility as a human being to the preservation of this planet, would be violated if I cooperate with Operation Desert Shield....

As a result, my college friend Yoli ended up court-martialed. After a military trial, Yoli was sentenced for desertion to 30 months in prison, of which she served 8 months in Ft. Leavenworth away from her family and medically-indigent patients before being granted clemency as a result of public pressure. She made the best of her time behind bars, teaching her fellow inmates about AIDS prevention and breast cancer screening, helping them in any way she could. Today she is back at her family medical practice, advocating for health care reform.

This week, we read about another army officer/physician/war objector, Dr. Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-born Muslim of Palestinian descent. However the path he chose led to a radically different and tragic outcome: the deaths of 13 individuals and the wounding of more than 30 others including himself at Fort Hood.

There are parallels. Both Yoli and Dr. Hasan are children of immigrants who joined the military to pay for their medical education. Yoli completed her active duty in the National Guard between the Vietnam War era and the new wars in the Middle East. She joined the reserves with the idea of being available to help in natural disasters, never imagining that she would be called to deploy in a war that she could not support. Dr. Hasan chose psychiatry -- the least "bloody" of the medical specialties -- and specialized in counseling fellow soldiers who had come back from the war zone with post traumatic stress disorder. Both were motivated by the desire to help and to heal.

Both physician-soldiers also attempted to quietly, privately and legally separate themselves from the armed forces when faced with deployments that they found morally unacceptable. Both were unsuccessful in those attempts.

I ask myself how these two cases came to such radically different outcomes, even as I know that many will be upset by such musings. How much easier just to see Dr. Hasan as one lone crazy person who isn't man enough to honor his commitment or, worse, to see in this incident a reason not to trust Muslims or allow them into our military. But I believe that if we do not dig deeper, if we just demonize and discriminate, there will be more "Fort Hood"s in our future, so here are some of the differences that I see:

1. FAMILY: Yoli has said repeatedly that she was always supported in her decision to resist deployment by her family -- her husband who would be raising their children alone for a while, as well as her mother and other relatives. She could talk with them, cry with them. As a mother, she had every reason to choose a path of life and nonviolence.

On the other hand, one senses from press accounts that Dr. Hasan was not very close to his family, unable to really confide in them what he was thinking and feeling. Certainly he was lonely and looking for a wife and perhaps, had he been married, he would have acted differently because he would have had someone to lose. In their formal statement, Hasan's family disassociated themselves from his action saying that they are "shocked and saddened" and adding that they are proud of America. One gets the sense of shame, that this son has dishonored them by his actions, but perhaps this very concept of honor kept Dr. Hasan from getting the support he needed to just make a statement and go to jail for a while. There was no guidance towards a peaceful way out of a situation that his family questioned whether he should be in to begin with.

2. RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY: Yoli's attempt to get discharged as a conscientious objector was actively supported by her Catholic chaplain and at her trial, several clergy including Bishop Gumbleton of Pax Christi were willing to testify although the military court disallowed them. As Yoli was working through her issues of the commitments she had made to the Army, the Hippocratic oath she had taken as a doctor to do no harm, the teachings of her faith tradition as a Catholic, her moral responsibilities to her unit, patients and family, there were open, sympathetic clergy with whom she could explore the various options that lay before her.

I contrast this with the attitude of Osman Danquah, the co-founder of the Islamic Community of Greater Killeen, Texas, as it has been reported in the press (Associated Press and USA Today). Dr. Hasan came to him with an oblique question about the ethical problem of fighting against fellow Muslims and what should a person do if they are in the military and no longer feel it's right. Instead of lending an empathetic ear to Dr. Hasan's request for spiritual direction, Danquah, himself a Gulf War veteran, tells the doctor "there's something wrong with you", suspecting him of being an agent provocateur. Danquah's advice was limited to reminding Hasan that throughout the Middle East, Muslims are killing other Muslims in war every day and that if he objected to military service, he should go through the proper channels. He appeared to be more concerned that Muslims conform to the community around them than dealing with one person's ethical dilemnas. Some serious soul-searching is in order.

Add to this the fact that Dr. Hasan encountered discrimination as a Muslim within the military while there is not a well-developed tradition and support for nonviolent conscientious objection to war within Islam and you have a man who is very alone, frightened perhaps, with no one to steer him towards a better course. He loses it and concludes (I'm guessing here) that by killing soldiers before they can be deployed -- and perhaps hoping to be killed himself in the process -- he can somehow serve a greater good and prevent the shedding of more of his "brothers"' blood.

So, as we mourn those who died in this tragedy, what can we do to help prevent future incidents?


a) Make it easier for serious war objectors to be discharged from the service. What do you gain by deploying someone who will freeze either morally or psychologically in combat?

b) Make a more concerted effort to find and treat the "wounded healers." This field of psychology is well-developed for civilian first responders but I doubt that it is sufficiently in place for military personnel. Do not assume that because a person is not in a combat zone they are not traumatized. Dr. Hasan's uncle attributes his nephew's breakdown to a combination of harassment because of his faith, a cumulative reaction to the horrific stories told by his patients, and a caseload that had become increasingly unbearable.


Really listen to your loved ones and those who come to you for spiritual advice. If they seem troubled, ask what is bothering them and, regardless of your opinion of their response, be there for them. Don't judge them but help them to get professional help if needed. As these two cases show, your attitude can make all the difference.

ADDENDUM: I want to share this video of a prayer service conducted by Chaplain Col. Frank Jackson for the victims at Fort Hood, including Dr. Hasan, the killer. His choice to pray for Hasan is courageous and exemplifies what Jesus taught when He asked us to love our enemies and bless those who persecute us.

Friday, November 6, 2009

November 8th: A Major Feast Day...Literally

It's Friday and I'm tired of all this heavy theology so I want to let you know that this Sunday, November 8, 2009 is a major feast day commemorating Padre Hoyos and Rebel Girl's favorite food: Día Nacional de las Pupusas. Indeed, Article 1 of Decree 655 of 4/1/2005 designates the second Sunday in November as the official day to celebrate this national food treasure of El Salvador. If you are going to be involved at all in Hispanic ministry in the metropolitan Washington area where a substantial part of your congregation is going to be Salvadoran, you HAVE TO become familiar with and enjoy this delicacy. You will be expected to partake of it in all its myriad varieties on almost any occasion.

For English speakers who do not know how to make pupusas, you can find a reasonably good recipe for them and the accompanying curtido salad at Wikibooks. If you are culinarily challenged, you can go to any of the many area pupuserias such as Doña Azucena's to celebrate this day in the best way eating pupusas!

And what would a feast day be without its hymn? Warning: If you click on this video, the jingle will stick to your brain worse than a pupusa to an ungreased comal!

Giving birth to the Light

by Sr. Teresa Forcades (from her blog; English translation by Rebel Girl)

The expression 'give birth to the Light' comes from a 13th century sermon attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas (Lux orta) and recollected in the 17th century by Spanish theologian Maria Jesus d'Agreda, also known as the St. Teresa of the Baroque.

Both authors apply it to the fiat of Mary of Nazareth. How should we understand the Marian expression 'Let it be done unto me according to your Word'? (Lk 1:38). According to these authors, the expression should be understood in relation to the first word that God gave in the Bible, that is: 'Let there be light' (Genesis 1:3). The book of Genesis speaks of a world void and without order. It is on this primeval chaos that God pronounced the 'fiat lux' that gives a beginning and meaning to Creation, but it is not until each of us pronounces with Mary her 'Fiat Mihi' that this meaning is made visible and lights up our corner of the world, our day to day existence. Creation becomes co-creation, joint labor between God and human beings (Rom 8:22), and is unthinkable without the human freedom that makes us interlocutors and partners of God.

God has only one Word and in it is contained all His wisdom. This Word, the Logos that makes intelligible the primeval chaos as well as the daily chaos we find each morning, is a living Word: 'The Light came to their home, but they did not accept Him' (Jn. 1:11).

'Giving birth to Light' presupposes letting oneself be shocked by a proposal of love that does not originate in us, that comes from the outside and challenges us: 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock.'(Rev.3:20). This proposal comes in the most unexpected manner and always takes us by surprise. It always implies a risk and only when we dare to risk it all do we recognize that it is our old friend and find the sweet joy of reunion and the wonder that once again it has managed to surprise us.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Vatican Whac-a-Mole

With all of the Vatican's recent orders to silence this or that progressive priest or nun, it's starting to feel like that old Whac-a-Mole game. The moment one person is reprimanded, another pops up only to be smacked down by the powers-that-be in Rome.

When Sr. Teresa Forcades was ordered to toe the Vatican line in her writing and speaking about abortion, Jesuit priest and bioethicist Juan Masiá Clavel rose to her defense with an article on his blog (English translation by Rebel Girl below). Fr. Masiá, whose own position in favor of condoms and other bioethical stances contrary to the Church hierarchy's cost him his Spanish university career, has received a letter from his superior in Japan ordering him to abandon "all activity related to Spain and to concentrate fully on [his] work in Japan".

In an unrelated development, Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Donna Quinn, who also advocates for artificial contraception, freedom of choice on abortion, and ordination of women, was reprimanded by her order after photos circulated showing her serving as a patient escort at the ACU Health Clinic, where abortions are performed. According to news reports, Sr. Quinn had been serving as an escort for at least 6 years. Sr. Quinn chose to suspend her escort activities pending conversations with her congregation, but she reiterated that "[r]espect for women's moral agency is of critical importance to me." The order put a statement on its Web site disassociating itself from Quinn's position: "As Dominican religious, we fully support the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding the dignity and value of every human life from conception to natural death. We believe that abortion is an act of violence that destroys the life of the unborn. We do not engage in activity that witnesses to support of abortion."

Quinn is also a coordinator of the National Coalition of American Nuns and most recently tangled with the Church hierarchy over the excommunication of Fr. Roy Bourgeois for his support of women's ordination.

And in a surprising burst of candor, Cardinal Franc Rodé, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, admitted in a radio interview that concern about feminism was a significant factor in the decision to conduct the controversial apostolic visitation to U.S. women's religious congregations. The cardinal said a "representative -- whose identity was not revealed -- had 'alerted' him 'to some irregularities or deficiencies' in the way the religious sisters were living. 'Above all, you could speak of a certain secularist mentality that has spread among these religious families, perhaps even a certain 'feminist' spirit'."

WHACK...WHACK...WHACK..OK....Now for Fr. Masiá's article about Teresa Forcades:

Teresa Forcades, theologian and bioethicist: She thinks, she believes, and she has respect
by Fr. Juan Masiá Clavel
October 13, 2009

I read this morning's early news that, from the offices of the Roman curia, the thoughts of the Benedictine theologian Teresa Forcades have been challenged. As the people and media that brought the news are known for their habit of defamation and false testimony with acrimony and violence (they say they belong to the Catholic church but daily violate the eighth commandment: to not bear false witness or lie), although I was concerned, I did not speak on the subject without finding accurate information. I was glad to see that a person never suspected of yielding to radical extremism such as Mrs. Carmen Bellver, wrote with care and accuracy to deactivate the explosive hatred of the above commentators of inquisitorial court.

As I have witnessed a few such cases in which I have seen how religious women have been silenced, taking advantage of their vulnerability as women, as religious and lacking the opportunity to defend themselves canonically, and have seen how skillfully their superiors have been manipulated, without any ecclesiastical body, or any theologian or cleric or lay person coming to their defense; ... I have been concerned about the need to publicly repair the damaged reputation of a theologian whom we have to thank for her fruitful discussions. (Just last year I presented to a Buddhist group Teresa's reflections on the Trinity, which received a very favorable reception. And a few days ago I made known to physicians and bioethicists in Japan her reflections on the hype about influenza and the abuses of the pharmaceutical companies).

That is why, as soon as I finished my academic occupations this afternoon, I turned to slowly reading and rereading Teresa Forcades' text in Foc nou (See: "Entre els principis i la realitat", Foc nou, May 2009).

With the desire to contribute to thanking Teresa for her reflections, to repairing the damage to her reputation inflicted by the irresponsible statements of the "usual groups of inquisitional complainers in the Spanish government" and to inviting readers to deepen their knowledge of the theology of this woman religious who thinks, believes and respects people, I have written the following commentary on her words.

* * *

The theologian explains exactly the condition of fetus: neither just a part of the body of the mother (as it would be for someone who thought of it as a simple tumor), nor a fully independent being. For anthropology, this tension between biological dependence and independence is crucial and symbolically expressed in the mother-embryo interchange during the early stages of pregnancy.

Teresa Forcades says:

"God has put the life of the fetus while it is not viable in the hands of its mother (in the womb of its mother) and has linked its biological life to her spiritual life. We would do well to respect this primary relationship. As long as the fetus can not survive independently of the mother, she has the moral responsibility of deciding on its future, which is also hers, since she not only gestates it biologically, but also spiritually, with her love, her wish that it live, the joy of bringing it into the world. To respect the decision of the mother is to respect the integrity of her moral conscience, even accepting that objectively she can be wrong." (Note in these last two lines the compatibility between respect for the subjective decision of conscience of others and the admission that it is possible to objectively make a mistake. A third person who considers the case from the outside can say "I would not abort in this case" and, at the same time, say: "I would not penalize this woman or throw her crime in her face").

Teresa Forcades makes these reflections from the tradition of moral theology. She says:

"Respect for conscience has been a slow acquisition in the history of mankind. For many centuries forced religious conversions under threat of torture or death penalty have been the order of the day. There are still people today who find it inconsistent, for example, that the Catholic Church celebrates the right to religious freedom that allows thousands of children to be educated in worldviews openly contrary to the Christian faith. In the midst of the Second Vatican Council many bishops of goodwill found the proposal that the Catholic Church promote the right to religious freedom in countries where it was the majority -- Spain, for example -- absolutely senseless."

Having laid out her personal hypothesis about the implications of mother-embryo bonding, our theologian admits the possibility and need for a debate on controversial issues, a debate that should be had calmly and without hitting each other over the head with ideological labels or insults.

Teresa continues:

"To believe that the will of the mother when she decides to abort the child that can not survive without her should be respected and not be penalized, does not mean that there does not need to be a debate on this subject in the Church or in society."

But she does not limit herself to recommending a theoretical debate, but adds a concern for accompanying persons and for the need to raise social justice considerations about the social causes of abortion, as follows:

"How can you prevent abortion? What is the best way to accompany the woman who aborts without misplaced paternalism, but also without minimizing the pain or internal struggle in cases where these occur? This debate is fundamental and must take place in arenas as far away as possible from tension and violence. In society we have to discuss to what extent the socioeconomic factors that may lead to abortion (the case of an African American girl) are structural problems and we need to create the conditions so that it will not happen; the society as a whole must also discuss in depth the psychosocial factors that may lead to an abortion (the potential case of a Latin American girl) and we have to educate new generations so that relations between women and men are mostly respectful and free."

I find particularly worth noting the strength Teresa Forcades puts in the anthropological approach. I am convinced that the failure to take this approach creates many of the most frequent confusions that plague church documents about these issues: the confusion between contraception and abortion, the error of considering the morning after pill to be abortive, the commitment to not separating the unitive and procreative aspects in the use of sexuality (to which I referred in a recent article in this blog, etc.).

In addition, Teresa Forcades relates this anthropological approach to the key ideas of social thought of the Church (cf. the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church): human dignity, common good, social justice and reconciling compassion. She continues:

"Christians must participate in the public debate from the perspective of the concept of common good that is proper to us and from the assumptions of our theological anthropology. Unlike other contemporary anthropology, Christian theological anthropology does not base the dignity of the individual on unlimited freedom that is an end in itself but on a freedom inseparable from love. Christians must proclaim the respect for life as a gift from God and we should especially preach and exemplify the principle of hope associated with faith: the profound conviction that the strength of love is superior to all violence and that there is no circumstance that would justify despair."

At the root of all these reflections is a concept of personal liberty and self-determination that avoids the dual pitfalls of the whim of a shallow ego or submission to a super-ego, whether legal or ecclesiastical. Navigating between the two pitfalls is risky and confronts us with the "complex reality" in which, to find unexpected answers that are not generalizable to cases that seem unresolvable, we must trust, as Teresa says, that "Jesus waits for us there". Our theologian says:

"The Church has found it hard to accept that our mission of evangelization can not be achieved without respect for freedom of conscience. Because of the intimate relationship of mother to child as long as 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 we can not save the child against the wishes of the mother without violating the personal liberty of the mother. Therein lies, from the theoretical point of view, the nerve center of the debate on abortion: what value must we give to the personal liberty of the mother? From a practical point of view we can not simply defend the right of self determination of the mother because under this theoretical right, the worst submission and servitude can proliferate. It comes down to reality, which is complex. That is where Jesus awaits us."

Thanks to Teresa, praying and hoping that she will not be discouraged by the lack of understanding within the Church and will continue to walk in hope and do good with her reflection rooted in contemplation.

Happy and blessed are the humble

By Rev. José Eugenio Hoyos (English translation by Rebel Girl)

Last Sunday, during our Holy Eucharist the theme of the Gospel focused on the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes. Those words full of power and fire still resonate in our lives. We would be indifferent or deaf if we were not aware of the spiritual jolt and call to awareness to work today with more strength in social action and the defense of human rights. The Beatitudes are a hymn and a mandate for global solidarity.

It is sad that we ignore the words of Jesus in this time of moral and economic crisis. Our prayers are meaningless when we are indifferent to the many children and old people starving in the world, the many beggars asking for alms on the streets and corners or in the middle of traffic. So many people in the richest country in the world do not have a home or have to hide or flee because of the lack of immigration reform.

So we can not forget that the place where Jesus is in the Gospel is with the poor. And the most beautiful pages where the goodness, kindness and compassion of God towards men and women through Jesus are manifest are those which are dotted with suffering. Jesus came to save and liberate. And the pain, whether physical, moral, mental or spiritual, is "touched" by Jesus and is healed and cured. This is the mission of Jesus.

This is evident in Luke 4, 18-19: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." By listening to Jesus and working to benefit the needy, we will be helping to build the kingdom of heaven. With His works, with His signs, Jesus proclaims that the Kingdom of God has come. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Amen, Amen and Amen!

New titles from Orbis Books

The 2009-2010 catalog from Orbis has a number of new titles which you might want to add to your Christmas "wish list":

Christ Our Companion: Toward a Theological Aesthetics of Liberation
by Roberto S. Goizueta
ISBN: 978-1-57075-853-9

Roberto Goizueta unites this book around the disjuncture between the Christian claim that Christ's life, death, and resurrection are the key to universal human meaning, on the one hand, and our increased consciousness of the diverse, pluralistic world in which we live, on the other hand. This dissonance, he notes, raises important questions about the ethical and theological defensibility of any religious position, particularly when the rationales for so much of the violence we see around us are grounded in religious principles. In such a world, how can a Christian proclaim that message credibly and responsibly?

Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings
by John Dear
ISBN: 978-1-57075-837-9

Daniel Berrigan is a Jesuit priest, poet, and peacemaker, whose words and actions over the past 50 years have offered a powerful witness to the God of Life. Fr. Berrigan, along with his brother Philip, was one of the Catonsville 9, arrested and imprisoned in 1968 for destroying draft files in a protest against the Vietnam War. But this was only one step along a journey of faith. Through this selection from his many books, journals, poems, and homilies, a chronicle of Fr. Berrigan's life and work unfolds, from the early steps in his vocation, to his decision to cross the line and go to prison, his ongoing witness for peace, and his extraordinary commentaries on scripture and the life of radical discipleship.

Mestizaje: (Re)Mapping Race, Culture, and Faith in Latina/o Catholicism
by Néstor Medina
ISBN: 978-1-57075-834-8

The concept of Mestizaje--a reference to the distinctive biological and cultural intermixture that occurred in the "New World"--has become a foundational category in U.S. Latina/o theology. This book traces the subversive and innovative ways in which Catholic theologians, such as Virgilio Elizondo, Orlando Espín, Ada María Isasi-Díaz, and Pilar Aquino, have turned this concept into a powerful framework for articulating the experiences of faith of Latina/o communities. At the same time the author examines some of the limitations and contradictions inherent in this concept and explores new language for describing the vibrant and complex ethno-cultural and religious identity of Latina/o communities today.

Oscar Romero and the Communion of Saints: A Biography
by Scott Wright
ISBN: 978-1-57075-839-3

Almost thirty years since his assassination in 1980, Oscar Romero continues to serve as one of the great Christian witnesses of our time. This illustrated biography tells his story, beginning with his humble origins and his early life as a relatively conservative priest and bishop. Only in the last three years of his life, with his consecration as archbishop of San Salvador, did he undergo an astonishing transformation--some have called it a conversion. Embracing the church's "option for the poor," he became a courageous voice for the voiceless, entering a path he knew would lead to his death. This biography reveals both his humanity as well his extraordinary faith and courage. It offers a stunning portrait of the gospel challenge for our time.

Trails of Hope and Terror: Testimonies on Immigration
by Miguel A. De La Torre
ISBN: 978-1-57075-798-3

Miguel De La Torre, the son of an undocumented immigrant and now a U.S. citizen and a professor of Christian ethics, seeks to develop a constructive conversation on immigration by examining significant issues and by presenting first-person accounts of the experiences of immigration. De La Torre's goal is to initiate a civil conversation that can replace the politics of fear that now dominates discussions of immigration.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Adriana's wedding and some thoughts on marriage

Brazilian charismatic Catholic singer Adriana tied the knot with an attorney named Fabiano this weekend. Her occasional singing partner Padre Fabio de Melo officiated.

There's an "official" video of the event here, but it leaves out the most interesting part. In the video below we see Adriana and Padre Fabio singing part of their famous and rather romantic duet "Humano Amor de Deus" as the groom looks on.

This blog is not a gossip rag so why are we posting this video? I may be liberal but I believe in the sacrament of marriage and I cannot imagine anything more inappropriate than the priest and bride singing a "best friends/soul mates" kind of duet as the bridegroom watches. Pe. Fabio has a certain amount of integrity and common sense and I can only hope he had a "what was I thinking?" moment as he watched the replay.

As more videos of this ceremony are posted, we later see Adriana singing another song directly to her husband but the whole thing feels like show biz.

Marriage should be about two free and equal individuals making a commitment to each other before God to unite and remain together and faithful for the rest of their lives. If one partner upstages the other from day one, it does not bode well to me. As for the priest, his role is minimal. As we learn in catechism, he is not the author of this sacrament.

Adriana's friends in the Christian music industry should have provided all the music needed and Pe. Fabio should only have been the lead vocalist while chanting the Eucharistic prayers. Adriana only needed to be holding a microphone for her vows to Fabiano, if at all.

But there's more. This kind of "made for DVD" wedding sends the wrong message to our community. How many times have we heard couples tell us that they never married in the Church because they could not afford a wedding? Our society has fed them the illusion that weddings must be lavish affairs to be meaningful so they content themselves with remaining "casados por civil".

Once again: Marriage is not about impressing your friends and family with your ability to entertain. It is about a lifelong loving commitment made before God. And, in my experience, the meaningfulness of the ceremony is almost inversely proportional to the amount of money invested in it. Too many couples spend more time worrying about gowns, cakes, photographers and limousines than in serious pre-Cana reflection on how they will negotiate the inevitable differences in their married life.

The most beautiful ceremonies I have witnessed have involved very little money. Instead, friends and family have come together to support the couple and provide what they need for their big day. Money should not be an impediment. No Catholic priest I know has ever refused to marry a couple because they could not afford to rent the church or pay a stipend.

So don't hesitate. Talk to your priest about finally making your union legitimate in the eyes of the Church. Bring God into the equation and in the end, the only adornment you need is the joy in your eyes as you look into your partner's eyes and say "I do".

Election results may boost immigration reform efforts in Congress

I'm sure a lot of friends in Virginia woke up depressed at the outcome of yesterday's election. I was neither surprised nor particularly upset. The Center for American Progress Think Progress blog explains accurately and succinctly why Creigh Deeds lost in Creigh Deeds Failed To Run As A Progressive.

The article I want to share with you is the following analysis from Marcelo Balive on the New America Media Blog to which I would only add two points: 1. We need to join with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in their attempt to get President Obama to stop the 287(g) program. That is how we will keep those funds and that approach out of Virginia in spite of Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli. 2. Now that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond and Arlington have their man -- a social conservative Catholic -- in the governor's mansion, they have an obligation to make sure that McDonnell understands the FULL scope of Catholic social teaching -- that it goes beyond just protection of the unborn and the sanctity of marriage and also includes caring for the poor and the stranger in our midst and that we expect him to try to uphold these values now that he is in office. This is our challenge.

Viewed through the lens of the immigration issue, the overall results of yesterday’s elections might be called a mixed bag. Republican gubernatorial candidates who promised more hardline immigration stances won races in Virginia and New Jersey.

But two vacant seats in the U.S. House of Representatives (in New York’s 23rd district and California’s 10th district) were picked up by Democrats. As I explain below, these pick-ups should make it just a bit easier for House Democrats to marshal the votes needed to advance on comprehensive immigration reform, which they have promised to do before the end of this year.

The gains couldn’t come at a better time for Democrats eager to move on immigration. Earlier this autumn, 100 House Democrats sent a letter to President Obama reaffirming their commitment to push immigration reform legislation forward. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Ill.-D, has said he will introduce an immigration bill as early as this month.

Rep. Joseph Crowley, N.Y.-D, has warned immigration reform needs to happen early next year (well ahead of Nov. 2010 mid-term elections) if it is to succeed.

Below are brief sketches of election results and how they may impact immigration policy, at the state or federal level.

  • In California’s 10th district, just east of the San Francisco Bay, California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a progressive Democrat, easily beat out Republican John Harmer.

  • In upstate New York’s 23rd district, retired Air Force Capt. Bill Owens, a Democrat, beat the upstart conservative candidate Doug Hoffman, who had attracted the support of right-wing talk radio and cable news hosts and managed to push the Republican Party candidate out of the race.
These two Democratic victories subtly shift the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to Matthew Yglesias:

”... it’s a modest shift to the left of the balance of power in the House. Nancy Pelosi now has an easier time rounding up 218 votes for a health care bill, for example, and each and every Blue Dog [conservative Democrat] has his or her individual leverage over the process reduced.

What Yglesias writes also applies for an immigration bill. Blue Dogs will have less leverage over the shape of any immigration bill, and Pelosi, as House Majority leader, will have a marginally easier time culling the 218 votes needed for any immigration legislation to pass.

Republican Chris Christie’s election as New Jersey governor over incumbent Jon Corzine may slow down or kill efforts underway to grant undocumented immigrant students the right to access in-state tuition at New Jersey colleges. Christie said he is opposed to the plan. Christie may also prove more sympathetic to local elected officials and law enforcement chiefs in New Jersey who want to contract with the Department of Homeland Security to carry out immigration enforcement actions normally undertaken by federal agents. The delegation of immigration enforcement to state and local cops is part of a federal program known as 287g, which is controversial in the Latino community.

Republican Bob McDonnell, elected governor in Virginia, has proposed that the 287g program be extended statewide so that Virginia state troopers can carry out immigration enforcement actions. (His opponent Creigh Deeds opposed that proposal.)

If McDonnell pushes ahead with foisting new immigration responsibilities on Virginia state troopers, the move will come with its portion of political risk. The 287g program is popular with many voters who argue it helps speed the deportation of undocumented immigrants who commit crimes. But critics of the program say it diverts law enforcement resources away from primary crime-fighting tasks and sows distrust between Latino communities and law officers. Immigrant and Latino activists also say 287g leads to racial profiling.

Despite his tough stance on illegal immigration, McDonnell went out of his way to attract Latino votes. McDonnell faced an uphill battle, since two-thirds of Virginia Latino voters helped President Obama to his surprise win in the state last year, according to Jennifer Rubin writing in Commentary. Still, while campaigning, McDonnell strove to appear “anti-illegal immigration” instead of “anti-immigrant.”

Sergio Rodriguera Jr., a Latino Republican activist, was quoted in Rubin’s article, saying:

McDonnell has been a good listener, and his Hispanic-outreach events have not been token events with chips and salsa. He understands that Hispanics, like other minorities, want to live the American dream of building a small business and owning their own home.

It will be interesting to look at Virginia’s election returns and see how many Latinos voted for McDonnell [NOTE: The exit polls I have seen so far haven't broken this down as only 3% of voters surveyed were Latino and the numbers would be statistically meaningless]. If many did, then McDonnell might indeed be regarded as an example to conservative Republicans who want to attract Latino support in 2010 and beyond (as Rubin argues in her article). But, if McDonnell pushes ahead with his plan to extend 287g statewide and appear tough-as-nails on illegal immigration, he will have to walk a fine line or risk alienating any Latino voters he managed to attract to his candidacy.

The Trip to Europe 1: Back to the Past

On my last rainy day in Paris, I decided to walk around the old quartier. Here is the building where my family lived during the 60s and early 70s:

The one where my father worked:

Some of the places where we bought food each day are still there: M. Durand's grocery store (renamed), one of the two bakeries...but the butcher is gone, and so is the charcuterie, the deli that made those wonderful champignons à la Grecque. Also the other boulangerie/pâtisserie where my sister and I would buy snacks after school -- chausson aux pommes for me, pain au chocolat for her. My sister and I earned our allowances by doing the family's daily shopping every morning before going to school.

The café across the street where my father would often retreat after dinner for a café Calva while mom put us kids to bed is still there.

Of all the long gone landmarks, I miss the corner toy store the most. My sister and I used to spend many moments mesmerized before its Christmas display windows, making our lists for Santa in our heads. I can never quite believe it's really gone, replaced by a beauty salon.

The kiosk where we bought our newspapers and magazines is still there and the Place de l'École Militaire has not changed that much.

There are new places, though. Near the old pharmacie and librairie, there is now a Punjabi restaurant, and the Zambians have, unaccountably, set up their embassy on our block.

Here is the statue of Maréchal Joffre at the head of the Champs de Mars. My sister and I used to play there, climbing on its ledge and chasing each other around it. Buses would pull up, disgorging hordes of American tourists to take the obligatory photos of the Eiffel Tower. Some would also want to take pictures of "those cute little French girls" and would slip us a franc to pose. We happily obliged, laughing in English after the buses had pulled away.

Now there is no longer an unbroken view from the École Militaire across the Champs de Mars (the God of War). A new "monument" to peace has been erected, a sort of shelter with the word "peace" written in many different languages. I welcome it as a sign of a new and better era.

Our elementary school has relocated and the old building became a condo. The lycée I attended for one year is still there, but it became co-ed soon after I moved on.

But one place I loved has not changed. It had been about 30 years since I last set foot in the Fontaine de Jade, the old Chinese restaurant where my family used to dine. The menu seems to be unchanged with time and so my last real meal in the City of Light was their wonderful pork with black mushrooms and bamboo shoots. I'm glad some things stay the same.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Planned Parenthood director resigns, chooses life

I was very moved by this story of a woman who was converted to the pro-life movement by the steady, nonviolent prayer and presence of Coalition for Life in Bryant, Texas as part of the 40 Days for Life movement. What is impressive is that, unlike some of the more strident anti-abortion groups, this movement relies on spiritual force and on praying for and dialoguing with abortion providers in hopes of converting them.

These are tactics that work. According to 40 Days for Life :

* In addition to Ms. Johnson, seven other abortion clinic staff people have resigned nationwide as a result of this year's campaign, including nurses, office staffers and security personnel.

* Two thousand women have chosen to keep their pregnancies which they were originally going to abort.

* The Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Kalispell, Montana is closing its doors.

Jesus recommended prayer and fasting as our best weapons against the forces of death in this world. They still work.

College Station, Texas, Nov 2, 2009 / 10:51 pm (CNA).- A director of a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Texas has resigned after eight years with the organization because watching an ultrasound of an abortion triggered a “massive” change of heart. "I just thought I can't do this anymore, and it was just like a flash that hit me and I thought that's it," said Abby Johnson, who resigned from Bryan Planned Parenthood on Oct. 6.

She had been its director for two years, KBTX TV reports.

Johnson said Planned Parenthood was struggling in the tough economy and was changing its business model from one that advocated prevention to one that focused on abortion.

"It seemed like maybe that's not what a lot of people were believing any more because that's not where the money was. The money wasn't in family planning, the money wasn't in prevention, the money was in abortion and so I had a problem with that,” Johnson told KBTX.

She said she was told to bring in more women who wanted abortions.

"I feel so pure in heart [since leaving]. I don't have this guilt, I don't have this burden on me anymore that's how I know this conversion was a spiritual conversion," remarked Johnson, a churchgoing Episcopalian.

She has now given her support to the Coalition For Life, a pro-life group with a building down the street from Planned Parenthood.

According to the Coalition's website, Johnson's decision to resign occurred during its sixth 40 Days for Life campaign. “This is by far the most amazing thing that has happened to the Coalition for Life throughout its entire history...we thank God!” the site says.

The Coalition’s volunteers regularly pray on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood. Johnson has been meeting with Coalition executive director Shawn Carney and has prayed with volunteers outside of Planned Parenthood.

In an e-mail to supporters, Carney said Johnson experienced a “massive change of heart” after witnessing an abortion on an ultrasound machine.

“I have been working with Abby over the last few weeks and she has even prayed outside of the clinic she once directed,” he reported.

“I have known Abby ‘through the fence’ since getting involved and working for the Coalition for Life. We have always been on the sidewalk to pray for everyone involved in abortion, especially those who work in this industry and it has been a blessing to see this happen over the last few weeks.”

Carney reports that Johnson left Planned Parenthood “on good terms.” The organization offered Johnson her job back with more money, but she refused on moral grounds.

“Abby believes in the power of prayer and she thanks all of you for your peaceful presence outside of her former workplace all of these years,” Carney’s message concluded, asking for continued prayers for Johnson...

Sr. Teresa Forcades i Vila: Religion and Nature

UPDATE 11/4/09: Since the El Pais story we just reported here, two excellent articles have been published on Rebelión coming to Sr. Teresa's defense: Abdennur Prado, who knows Sr. Teresa well as a result of having contributed to her book Teología feminista en la historia, weighs in with El País contra Teresa Forcades, trashing the newspaper's criticism of his friend and encouraging readers to look at the 370 comments attached to the article which run 90% in favor of Sr. Teresa. He also notes several health care professionals groups in Europe that have refused the vaccination (several health care workers' unions in the US have also opposed mandatory vaccinations for their members). Carlos Fernández Liria, in his article Un periódico golpista español contra una “monja-bulo” both savages the journalistic integrity of the article and looks at El País' conservative policy positions and funding sources.

Sr. Teresa has been taking somewhat of a beating lately for her opposition to the H1N1 influenza vaccine. Probably the hardest hitting article came from El País. Titled "Desmontando a la monja-bulo" ("Deconstructing the nun hoax", updated 11/1/2009), the article essentially portrays Sr. Teresa as a conspiracy theorist with questionable scientific knowledge about the subject of immunization, a nun who is distant from her religious community. It quotes other scientists who have opposing views to Sr. Teresa's about the safety of the vaccine and questions her claim that the WHO significantly changed its definition of a pandemic.

As she was getting slammed in the Spanish press, Sr. Teresa participated in another forum on "The pharmaceutical companies and H1N1 A influenza" in Caracas, along with Venezuelan Minister of Commerce Eduardo Samán. While Samán defended Sr. Teresa, I'm not sure her credibility was helped by sharing the stage with someone who questions hand-washing as a vehicle for preventing the transmission of the flu virus. According to El Universal, Samán actually insinuated that the recommendation was made in order to enable Kimberly Clark to sell more antibacterial gel.

So I suspect Sr. Teresa is looking for a different role than being the poster child for the anti-vaccination campaign. That vehicle was provided this Sunday in an episode of RTVE's "El Escarabajo Verde" nature documentary program, titled La Nostalgia del Fuego ("Nostalgia for Fire") which examines the relationship of nature and religion. The entire program, which not only features the nuns from Monestir Sant Benet but also segments from different religious traditions including Islam and Tibetan Buddhism, is worth watching in its entirety and can be seen here.

The program shows a Sr. Teresa very much integrated and at home in her monastic community, her respect for and knowledge of the mountains that surround her. The producers also posted an outtake from their interview with Sr. Teresa on their blog (reproduced below). It is even more interesting because Sr. Teresa has the time to explain her understanding of what nature can teach us. For example, she draws a parallel between the way rocks become round and polished by rubbing against each other with how life within the Christian community smooths our rough edges. She admires her mountains, the idea of their height pointing the human spirit towards the Divine, and yet cautions against what I like to call the temptation of the Transfiguration -- the desire to remain on the mountain rather than go back to where we need to be to serve the people of God.

As I watch this interview I understand why I am drawn to share this sister's views with you, even when some might dismiss her as just a kook. To me, she has a lot of wisdom and I want to keep listening to her.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Letter to Ellacuría: Monsignor Romero and You

Theologian Jon Sobrino regularly writes these letters to his late colleague Ignacio Ellcacuria about the state of the world, the Church, etc. Here is the latest, dated 10/26/2009, from Adital. English translation by Rebel Girl.

Dear Ellacu: This year marks the twentieth anniversary of your martyrdom and Monsignor Romero's thirtieth is coming soon. We get to speak about you often, with special responsibility, and also with some scruples. You, the Jesuits, are well-known martyrs, but Julia Elba and Celina not so much. And yet they are the symbol of hundreds of millions of men and women who have died and continue to die, innocent and helpless, here, in the Congo, in Palestine, in Afghanistan, and nobody pays them much attention.

Practically, they do not exist either in life or in death for the societies of abundance. Nor does the institutional Church know what to do with so many people who have been killed. If it is difficult for a martyr of justice such as Monsignor Romero to be canonized, how much more so for them to canonize those men and women who have lived and died in poverty and oppression. Yet many times I heard you say that they are "God's favorites."

Thus I should write to you about Julia Elba and Celina, but I know little about them. I know that Julia Elba spent her entire working life in the harvests, in the kitchen. And all this since she was 10 years old. I do not know much more about her. Yes, I have wondered "who is the greater martyr, Ellacuría or Julia Elba" and it would be awful if the Jesuit martyrs made us forget those two women who were killed 50 meters from the rose garden. These days I have written that "Ellacuría did not live or die so that the splendor of his figure would obscure Julia Elba's face." Ellacu, this is the scruple.

But Julia Elba and many Salvadoran women like her will forgive me, maybe even be glad that in this letter I will tell you about our Archbishop, because they are not jealous of a very dear person. And I've titled it: "Monsignor Romero and You". My intention is to help the new generations, who have not had enough Christian and Salvadoran formation. So that they will know that there once was a country and an extraordinary church: that of Monsignor Romero. And you're a valuable mystagogue to introduce us to him. Therefore, I will recall how you two got along.

People know that both of you were eloquent prophets and martyrs. But I like to recall another important similarity about how you began. Both of you were given a Salvadoran and Christian torch, and without any discernment made the fundamental choice to keep it burning. Monsignor received it from Rutilio Grande the night he was killed. And after Monsignor died, you took it up again. It is true that you had already started before that, but after his murder your voice became more powerful and began to sound more like that of Monsignor. I heard a lady say at UCA, "since they killed Monsignor, in the country no one has spoken like Fr. Ellacuría."

What interests me is to remember and emphasize that in El Salvador there was a grand tradition: the commitment and love for the poor, the confrontation with the oppressors, the firmness in the conflict, the hope and the dream that were passed from hand to hand. And in that tradition blazed the Jesus of the Gospel and the mystery of His God. We can not squander that legacy, and we must make it available to young people.

The beginnings of your relationship with Romero were not positive. In the early seventies, you were already known as a dangerous leftist Jesuit because of your defense of agrarian reform, support for the ANDES teachers' strike and analysis of electoral fraud in 1972. But with your 1973 book Teología Política ("Political Theology") you started to touch on more explicitly Christian themes: salvation and history, the messianism of Jesus, the mission of the Church and political violence ... And although the country was not yet talking about liberation theology -- and how dangerous its advocates were -- the bishops were frightened of the theologian Ellacuría who emerged with force. And it fell to Monsignor Romero to write a seven-page review of your book. He did it in a serious and polite tone, unlike the criticism that came from a theologian of the Roman Curia named Garofallo. The first meeting between you was a clash.

Things went forward. You with knowledge and prophecy, and sometimes with humor and irony. In a small journal of the UCA, you wrote a short article with the title "A bishop disguised as a military man and a nuncio disguised as a diplomat" -- those of my generation will know which members of the hierarchy you were referring to. It was not your style, but your conviction.

So came 1976. Monsignor Luis Chavez y Gonzalez, a worthy and good friend, left the responsibility of the archdiocese after 38 years. At ECA, we gathered to write an editorial on this important issue: "Who will be the new archbishop." We supported Monsignor Rivera and critically distanced ourselves from the one who sounded like a possible candidate: Bishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. The choice, of course, turned bad for the Vatican, and later you would write that "Monsignor Romero was not elected because he would be what he became; he was elected almost for the opposite reason."

Then came Monsignor's conversion and a deep change in your relationship with him. When they killed Rutilio in March 1977, you were in Spain, and from Madrid on April 9th you wrote him a letter that came into my hands by chance many years later. We published it in Carta a las Iglesias ("Letter to the Churches") in March 2006.

"I have to express, in my humble position as a Christian and a priest of your archdiocese, that I am proud of your role as pastor. From this remote exile, I want to show my admiration and respect, because I saw in your action the hand of God. I can not deny that your behavior has exceeded all my expectations and this has given me a deep joy that I want to communicate to you this Holy Saturday. "

Ellacu, this letter is one of your most beautiful texts. You speak to Monsignor in complete truth, and you show unknown facets of yourself to those who have only known you as professor and rector. After the assassination of Rutilio you thanked him for "his evangelical courage and prudence versus clear cowardice and worldly prudence", the wisdom of "listening to everyone, but deciding to do what seemed to cautious eyes to be the most risky." You were referring to the single Mass, the suppression of activities in Catholic schools, Monsignor's promise not to attend any official function... You congratulated him: "You have created the Church and created unity in the Church"; most of the clergy and religious coalesced around Monsignor. And you stated it again at the end: "If you can maintain the unity of your presbyterium in its highest fidelity to the gospel of Jesus, everything is possible."

Gospel and Ignatian dialectics, recurrent in you, appear in the letter: you "have succeeded not through flattery or dissimulation, but by way of the gospel: being faithful to it and being brave with it." "You could not have come in on better footing to create Church." I also wrote that while it seemed that everything was starting badly for Monsignor, all started very well. And you signed: "This member of the Archdiocese, who now finds himself away completely against his will."

When you came back in 1978 you started with dedication and devotion in the service of Monsignor. For YSAX, the radio of the archdiocese, you wrote a long series of commentaries on his third pastoral letter, La Iglesia y las organizaciones políticas populares ("The Church and popular political organizations"). You helped to draft the main part about idolatry in the fourth pastoral letter, La Iglesia en la actual situación del país ("The Church in the present situation of the country"). In his last weeks, you were with him at the press conference after the Sunday homily, and he gave you the floor when asked about the political situation. You were with him the day before his murder, after that unique homily: "In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression!" And you were a pallbearer at the funeral. You can be seen in the photo with Walter Guerra, Jesus Delgado and Juan Spain.

What you did for Monsignor was not just another of your many services to the country. Nor did you think of it as strategic service, given the immense influence of Monsignor. Romero became someone very special for you, different from what Rahner or Zubiri had been. He got inside you, touching your deepest fibers. I had that feeling from the beginning. And it stuck with me forever in your homily at the funeral mass that we had in the UCA. You said: "In Monsignor Romero, God visited El Salvador."

I have often quoted these words, Ellacu. They are very much yours for the accuracy of language and the weight of the concept. Knowing you, you were telling the truth. And a theo-logical truth: throughout this El Salvador, massacred and hopeful, cunning and brave, cruel and generous, one felt the footstep of mystery. The footsteps of God. So Romero became for you a reference point of God, and a starting point and foundation of your theology. I'll recall this briefly.

Let's start with ecclesio-logy. The "people of God" was not just any subject, especially when Vatican II was already in decline and hierarchiology was re-emerging. You wrote a systematics article about it in 1983, but earlier, in 1981, you had written El verdadero pueblo de Dios, según Monseñor Romero ("The true people of God, according to Monsignor Romero"). You did not try to analyze the ideas of some important theologian, but to get to the root of the problem from the source that you had at hand and that seemed to you to be the most fruitful.

You mentioned four characteristics of the true people of God: 1. The preferential option for the poor, 2. The historical incarnation of the people's struggles for justice and liberation, 3. The introduction of the Christian leaven in the struggles for justice, 4. Persecution for the sake of the Kingdom of God in the struggle for justice. Not all the new material came from Monsignor, but the newest, so to speak, the last three characteristics, came from him. At least, Monsignor Romero made you delve more deeply into them.

Monsignor put you on the trail of "the Church of the Poor", which was not even successful in the Council, despite the wishes of John XXIII, Cardinal Lercaro and a few bishops. And he certainly inspired you to speak of martyrdom, a foundational reality for the Church, like the cross of Jesus. Several times you quoted the scandalous words of Monsignor Romero: "I rejoice, brothers and sisters, that the church is persecuted. This is the true Church of Christ. How sad it would be, in a country where such horrible murders are being committed, if there were no murdered priests. They are the sign of a church incarnate." Better and more deeply than with many concepts, Monsignor defined the Church from two main relationships: with the destiny of Christ and the destiny of the people. Someone with good intentions once questioned that Romero ran many risks, even with his life. But you answered him: "That's what he has to do." And that's what you did with your life too. Ecclesiology was not a set of pinned down concepts, but emerged from reality.

In Christo-logy you concurred with Monsignor in many things. I will only recall one, for me the most decisive today, certainly in the third world, but also in the first: to see Christ in the crucified people, to think of these as the continuation of the Servant of Yahweh. There are now hundreds and thousands of millions of poor, hungry, oppressed, given violent deaths, massacred, innocent and defenseless, unknown in life and in death. With them I began this letter by remembering Julia Elba and Celina.

In 1978, in preparation for Puebla, you wrote El pueblo crucificado. Ensayo de soteriología histórica ("The crucified people: an essay in historical soteriology"), which analyzed the reality of the poor and victims as the suffering servant of Yahweh. In 1981, in your second exile in Madrid you wrote El pueblo crucificado como ‘el’ signo de los tiempos ("The crucified people as 'the' sign of the times"). In the first text, you emphasized its salvific character. In the second, its character of revelation.

In 1977, Monsignor Romero told the persecuted and assassinated peasants in Aguilares: "You are the Divine One Pierced". And in a 1978 homily he expressed his pleasure that Old Testament scholars could not say if the servant of which Isaiah speaks is "a people" or is "Christ coming to liberate them."

I can not say "who copied whom" or if it happened as with Leibnitz and Newton who discovered the foundations of calculus independently of each other. What seems certain to me is that you had the same amazing intuition to link suffering humanity with the crucified One and the Servant of Yahweh. And from what I know, only the two of you. It doesn't appear in encyclicals or councils. Nor, usually, in theology. And with both of you dead, there does not seem to be the force or rigor to speak like that of a world today that is obviously crucified.

And one more thing. In your second exile, you wrote another short text to which you gave great importance: Por qué muere Jesús y por qué lo matan ("Why Jesus dies and why they kill Him"). The title is more than a show of ingenuity. It is to clarify the transcendent meaning of that death and its historical causes. In theology you can find similar thoughts, but certainly not so radical, in the official texts of the Church. For the former, one has to to keep in mind above all God's plan. For the latter, one must take into account the radical historicity of Jesus' life: defender of those offended by the powerful. For this reason Jesus denounced the powers, came into conflict with them, lost and was crucified. This, which is so evident, is often officially silenced, even in Aparecida, a good document for other chapters.

Romero did not silence it. At the mass funeral of one of the murdered priests, he said concisely: "Whoever gets in the way is killed". And those they were hindering were not demons or transcendent powers, but oligarchs, the military, security forces, death squads. Thus we understand "why they killed Jesus," as you asked.

I conclude with theo-logy, with God and your faith. In the first letter I wrote to you that your faith in God could not be naive. In Madrid in 1969 you spoke of the doubts of faith that Rahner bore elegantly - and I realized that you were saying something similar about yourself. I think that you fought with God like Jacob, in those tough years for faith. And when you were 47, Monsignor Romero "appeared to you" and I use the term "appear", opthe, consciously, to express what was unexpected, unsettling, questioning and blessed in it. One can only speak of this with fear and trembling, but I think that in your contact with Monsignor you had a new experience of ultimate reality, of God. And I think it was noticeable in how you spoke of God.

I have written that for Jesus God is the "Father" in whom He can rest, and that the Father is still "God" who never allows us to rest. In Monsignor Romero, in his compassion for the suffering, his denunciations to defend them, his uncompromising love, you saw the God who is "Father" of the poor. In his conversion, his venture into the unknown and uncontrollable, in his walk without institutional church support, in his firm stance wherever the road would lead you saw the Father who remains "God." And perhaps in Monsignor you also saw that, in spite of everything, commitment is more real than nihilism, joy more real than sadness, hope more real than absurdity. That's how I read his simple words: "With this people, it is not hard to be a good shepherd." Utopia looms in them.

I conclude. It was not the first time you met someone who would significantly influence your life, as Rodolfo Cardenal has analyzed so well. However, meeting with Romero meant something different. And the difference was that you met the prophetic nature, the self-giving, the kindness of Monsignor, but especially his faith, which shapes the whole person. Therefore, you never considered yourself a "colleague" of Monsignor. I never heard you, being of critical spirit, criticize Monsignor. And on your behalf and on behalf of UCA, you said that "Archbishop Romero was ahead of us." And you insisted: "There is no doubt who was master and who was the assistant, who was the shepherd who sets out guidelines and who was the executor, who was the prophet who unraveled the mystery and who was the follower, who was the motivator and who was the motivated, who was the voice and who, the echo." You said it with complete sincerity.

"Monsignor Romero, sent by God to save his people," you wrote. And Monsignor told you about what is "most here and now" in God. But he also told you about what is ineffable in God, about blessed mystery, about what is "beyond" in God. "Neither man nor history is self-sufficient. So [Monsignor] did not fail to call to transcendence. In almost all his sermons this theme comes out: the word of God, God's actions breaking the limits of the human". Monsignor Romero became like the face of God in our world.

Ellacu, I end this letter with the words with which you ended you last work in theology. They are for those who do not know you, for all of us who know you and especially to help the Church get back on its course:

"The prophetic rejection of a Church as the old heaven of a civilization of wealth and empire and the utopian affirmation of a Church as the new heaven of a civilization of poverty is an irrefutable claim of the signs of the times and the soteriological dynamic of the Christian faith historicized in new men and women, who have proclaimed firmly, but still in darkness, an ever greater future, because beyond the successive historical futures the saving God, the liberating God is glimpsed."

Virginia General Election November 3rd: Time to Vote

1. Attorney General: Just a reminder that it is very important for anyone who cares about immigrants to vote FOR Steve Shannon and AGAINST Ken Cuccinelli. Unless you want to spend the next few years in an uphill battle for your rights...or more likely a downward slide....

2. Governor: Most pro-immigrant people and groups at this point are supporting Creigh Deeds, largely as a reaction against Bob McDonnell's support for 287(g) which makes local law enforcement officers responsible for enforcing immigration law (a federal function) in exchange for a few extra federal dollars. 287(g) is opposed by most pro-immigrant organizations as well as by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Even many police organizations do not like this provision since collaboration between local law enforcement and La Migra is a recipe for zero cooperation in community policing in our communities.

Deeds is endorsed by Washington Hispanic and has been endorsed by the Washington Post which publishes the other major local Spanish language weekly, El Tiempo Latino. Mi Familia Vota and Virginia New Majority (a voter education project that grew out of Tenants and Workers United) have joined forces to produce a bilingual mailer comparing the two candidates and try to get out the immigrant vote for Deeds. The goal was to reach 60,000 potential voters in nearly 40,000 households in Northern Virginia and Virginia Beach.

Now you know what I know. See you at the polls.