Saturday, February 13, 2010

Immigration News Roundup - 2/13/2010

1. Deaths on the Frontera Up From Last Year: The Arizona immigrant rights group, Coalición de Derechos Humanos reports that: "The number of human remains recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border since October 1, 2009 has reached 61. The data is comprised of medical examiner reports from Pima, Yuma, and Cochise counties, and is an attempt to reflect more accurately the human cost of failed U.S. border and immigration policies. This count includes forty (40) males, four (4) females, and seventeen (17) individuals of unknown gender. Approximately forty-seven (47) of the recovered individuals remain unknown, which is approximately 77% of the total recovered thus far this fiscal year. This number is a dramatic increase from last year, when the total of recovered remains as of January 31, 2009 was forty-five (45). In addition, approximately twenty-three (23)- approximately 38% - of the remains were skeletal; last year, there were 13 skeletal remains (approximately 29%) at the same time last year. The continued increase in the recovery of skeletal remains indicates that more and more individuals are being funneled into more isolated and desolate terrain of the Arizona-Sonora border."

2. Immigration and Wages: The Economic Policy Institute reports that there is broad agreement among economists that immigration has a small but positive impact on the average wages of workers born in the United States: while new immigrant workers add to the labor supply, they also consume goods and services, which creates more jobs. However, economists remain divided over the impact of immigration on specific groups of U.S. workers, particularly those with low levels of education. In the new paper Immigration and Wages, Economist Heidi Shierholz finds that recent immigration has boosted relative weekly wages for native-born workers at all levels of education, including those with less than a high-school education.

3.Immigration Reform, the Latino Vote and the 2010 Elections: Any Democrats who believe that Latino voters are on standby for them better think twice. And Republicans who believe that they can afford to alienate a growing voter base should guess again. How Democrats and Republicans handle, or don’t handle, immigration reform matters. Forty competitive races across the country could hinge on Latino voter turnout, as shown in a new report released this week by America's Voice, "The Power of the Latino Vote in America." If immigration reform becomes a broken promise by the Obama administration, Latino voters could sit out of the upcoming midterm elections or vote Republican.

4. Decline in Number of Undocumented Immigrants: A report that America’s undocumented immigrant population declined by almost 1 million in one year is fomenting hot debate about why it is happening, whether the statistics are correct, and how the numbers should affect US immigration reform. The number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States dropped to 10.6 million in 2009 from 11.6 million in 2008, the sharpest decrease in 30 years and a second straight year of decline, according to a Department of Homeland Security report, Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2009, released this week. Pro-immigrant groups tend to attribute the decline to the recession and lack of employment opportunities; anti-immigrant groups believe the decrease proves the effectiveness of beefed-up border control and enforcement.

5. New Guest-Worker Rules Seek to Increase Wages: Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced new rules on Thursday for the temporary immigrant farm workers program (H-2A visa category), saying they would raise wages and strengthen labor protections for foreign and American workers. Under the new rules, growers will no longer be able to attest that they tried to find American workers to fill jobs given to migrants, but will have to prove they conducted job searches...Labor officials said Thursday that the method of calculating wages for temporary foreign workers introduced by the Bush administration had reduced farm workers’ wages by an average of a dollar an hour in the year they were in effect. The new rules, which take effect on March 15, revert to the prior method for setting wages...The rules restore the role of state workforce agencies in carrying out inspections of farms seeking temporary foreign workers, including mandatory inspection of the housing that employers are required to provide.

One of the highest ranking Hispanics in the labor movement, SEIU Vice-President Eliseo Medina, praised the new ruling: "SEIU applauds Secretary Solis and DOL for acting swiftly to restore fairness and order to our nation's agricultural workforce, who suffered reduced wages and degraded working conditions under changes made during the Bush Administration. As a result of Secretary Solis' leadership, these new rules will help reverse the race to the bottom by employers who game a broken system to profit on the backs of some of our nation's lowest-paid workers." Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers union, also welcomed the ruling: “The United Farm Workers applauds Secretary Solis for restoring protections for imported farm workers that had been in effect since the Reagan administration. This is a great victory for all farm workers.”

Friday, February 12, 2010

Unless you repent, you will all perish

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

Jesus says in the Gospel: "Unless you repent, you will all perish." Put another way: "Unless you change the way of seeing and acting, you will all perish." Never did these words seem so true as when I witnessed Chronicle of Copenhagen, a French TV documentary, broadcast by a pay channel in Brazil and, I suppose, worldwide. At COP-15 held in Copenhagen last December, representatives of 192 nations met to decide to reduce rates of greenhouse gases, the producers of global warming.

All came there with the desire to do something. But the negotiations, after a week of very intense debate, came to a standstill and nothing was decided. What were the causes of this impasse that caused disappointment and anger in the world?

First, I believe that there was insufficient collective consciousness of the threats to the earth system and the fate of life. It was as if the negotiators had been informed that a Titanic was sinking without realizing that this was the ship in which they were, the Earth.

Secondly, it was not clear what the main objective was: to keep the thermometer of the Earth from rising more than two degrees Celsius, because then we will know the tribulation of climatic desolation. To avoid such a tragedy it is necessary to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, through adaptation strategies, mitigation, granting technology to the most vulnerable countries and abundant funding to encourage such measures. The concern now is not ensuring the continuity of the status quo but giving priority to the Earth system, life in general and human life in particular.

Third, a collective vision is lacking. Many negotiators clearly said: we are here to represent the interests of our country. Wrong. What is at stake are the planetary and collective interests and not those of each country. Defending the interests of the country is the role of the negotiators of the World Trade Organization, who are governed by competition and not cooperation. When the business mentality prevails, the operating logic, denounced by many well-intentioned people in Copenhagen, is as follows: there is no trust because everyone is suspicious of everyone else, everyone is on the defensive, they do not put their cards on the table for fear of criticism and rejection, they all reserve the right to decide at the last moment just like in a poker game. Of the big players, China observed, the U.S. was silent, the European Union was isolated, and the Africans, the main victims, were not even taken into consideration. Brazil showed courage at the end with the words of denunciation of President Lula.

Finally, the failure of Copenhagen -- as Lord Stern, who was present there, said so well -- was due to the lack of will to live together and think collectively. Such things are heresies to the capitalist spirit encased in its individualism. It is not at all interested in our living together, as society for him is nothing but a collection of individuals fiercely fighting over a piece of the pie called Earth.

Jesus was right: unless we convert, that is, unless we change this thinking and practice towards a line of universal cooperation, we will never reach a saving consensus. And we'll go to meet the two degrees Celsius of warming, with its dramatic consequences.

The brave French negotiator Laurence Tubiana, taking stock at the end, said resignedly: "The big fish always eat the small ones and cynics always win the game, such is the logic of history." We can not accept such defeatism. Human beings are resilient, or rather, they can learn from their mistakes and in an emergency, may change. I'll stay with the patient chief negotiator, Michael Cutajar, who at the end of a failure said: "Tomorrow we will do better."

This time, the only saving alternative is to think together, act together, dream together and cultivate hope together, trusting that solidarity is what it was in the past: the secret force of our better human nature.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Father Marco Arana Suspended A Divinis

A surprising development...NOT!

By Denisse Charpentier (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Radio Bio Bio

Father Marco Arana, aspiring to be a candidate in the 2011 presidential election, was suspended from his priestly duties by the Peruvian Catholic hierarchy for involvement in political activities, the priest said Wednesday.

"Since January I have been suspended from priestly functions," the priest said during a press conference. He is the leader of the Tierra y Libertad movement, an organization which, according to its founder, works to defend environmental rights and social justice.

Arana, who calls himself a follower of liberation theology, stated that his actions in defense of the indigenous communities who are opposing multinational oil and mineral companies have not been favorably viewed by the conservative wing of the Church and the Peruvian Right.

From the beginning of his social activism he has been the target of criticism from "a conservative segment in the Peruvian Church that is not the majority but is very powerful," he explained.

After announcing the foundation of his movement last year, Arana was criticized by Peruvian Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, a member of Opus Dei and a visible figure among the ultra conservative sector of the local clergy, who condemned his leftist attitude. Arana answered his critics and reaffirmed his position.

"They asked me to apologize to the Cardinal, but I refused because I did not disrespect him, rather I just disagreed with him," he said.

The priest said that the suspension of his priestly activity "does not mean a step back in his convictions and his Christian faith," noting that his choice of social justice and environmental protection is a response to "the winds of change in order to rediscover the message of the church in its commitment to the poorest."

Tierra y Libertad will hold its first congress in June during which Arana has the first option to be elected as candidate for the presidency in 2011.


This is what the future Church looks like

The headline in the newspaper El Diario del Centro del País (2/11/2010) was irresistible, Un cura de la Diócesis local concelebró misa con una mujer ("A Diocesan Priest Concelebrated Mass with a Woman"). As the Vatican gets ready to open an international theological congress on the theme “Faithfulness in Christ, Faithfulness of Priests” which will address celibacy among other issues of priestly identity, a Paraguayan Jesuit shows us what the future of the Church will look like. Here is my translation of the article, which will also show you why I have so much respect and love for Jesuitical reasoning...

The Jesuit retreat house in Limpia, 10 kilometers from the Paraguayan city of San Lorenzo, was the scene of the celebration of the golden jubilee of the priesthood of Arnaldo Gutiérrez.

Gutiérrez is not your everyday priest. He was one of those who received authorization from the Holy See to get married and even though he is prohibited from the normal priestly role (with parish and faithful), in certain situations, when there is no priest, he can serve in that function.

That is how Gutiérrez reached 50 years in the priesthood and he wanted to celebrate a Mass, to which he invited his friend José Amado Aguirre from the Diocese of Villa María.

"I have participated in a unique historic moment. We concelebrated Mass with a woman," said the man who believes that the Church must inevitably move towards the admission of women into the priesthood and towards optional celibacy for priests.

He said that when the time came to consecrate the Eucharist, the Jesuit invited Gutiérrez's wife to participate at that moment. "It was really heartwarming to see the hands of the wife intertwined with her husband's around the chalice [sic], consecrating the body of Christ," he said.

He explained that that role is only for ordained people within the Church like priests and the woman, obviously, wasn't one.

"Also, the Jesuit priest offered a liberal interpretation deeming that, if marriage makes a man and a woman into one being, the fact that the man is a priest gives the woman the right to share this condition."

It is a subject that will surely be polemical. But it happened, and in a country where a bishop is president.

Photo: The hands of the priest and his wife at the moment of Consecration.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Nicaraguan Court Exonerates Ernesto Cardenal

The slander conviction of the Rev. Ernesto Cardenal, an acclaimed poet and leading opponent of the Nicaraguan government, was overturned Monday by an appeals court.

Besides lifting the freeze imposed on the priest’s bank accounts to ensure he would pay the judgment, the court ordered that the ruling be published in the press in the interest of clearing the name of the octogenarian former culture minister, Judge Rafael Avellan told reporters.


Jon Sobrino Receives Honorary Doctorate from Valencia

Jesuit priest and theologian Jon Sobrino received yet another honorary doctorate yesterday, this time from the University of Valencia. Here is a translation of the press release:

Jesuit priest Jon Sobrino has received a communication on Monday of his nomination to "doctor honoris causa" by the University of Valencia from the hands of the rector, Francisco Tomás. The theologian was awarded the honorary doctorate by the Governing Council on September 29th but because of his poor health, was unable to attend the solemn ceremony in which the University highlights people who stand out by their relevant academic merit.

Sobrino studied theology at the University of St. Louis in the United States and engineering at the University of Frankfurt, and is considered one of the most qualified representatives of liberation theology. In the nomination, the president highlighted how the Jesuit theologian "has helped to develop an area of social thought from the ethical principle of partiality to the poor, hope and peace, which is food for thought, trains one to think and teaches how to think."

In his study of the Universidad Centro Americana (UCA), Sobrino kept up a deep and lively conversation with the rector, which might have served as a lecture for his investiture as Doctor Honoris Causa. "You have to communicate that goodness is possible because even though we know that the world cannot be built with this alone, without kindness and with selfishness, what will the world come to?", he asked. In El Salvador, "speaking of Jesus of Nazareth has a social impact and for that they killed thousands of people," he said, recalling the 75,000 victims of the massacres by the army and paramilitary groups against the peasant population and the Jesuits themselves.

The priest stressed that although military violence has disappeared, El Salvador remains the country of Latin America with more murders per capita, that a third of the population has been forced to emigrate and that it is one of the nations that is least talked about . "However," he asserted, "there are roots of humanization in its people which come from the Jesuit martyrs." Sobrino joked with the rector about the so-called electric forward of Valencia FC during the forties (Epi, Amadeo, Mundo, Asensi and Gorostiza) which led him to reflect about soccer and the world's poor. "A man who plays soccer gets paid 94 million euros," he said remembering one of the most high-profile signings in the Spanish league. "What is sin?", he asked. "Sin is what kills and when I read in Marca that in a game between Madrid and Lazio there were 700 million euros on the field, I could not avoid consulting an economics yearbook and verifying that this amount is twice the national budget of countries like Chad."

Red Roses

Sobrino showed the rector the garden where Father Ignacio Ellacuría (rector of the UCA) was murdered along with five other Jesuits and two employees of the university. A garden of black earth, where eight red roses now bloom and that has become a center of pilgrimage. The priest gave the rector his book "No Salvation Outside the Poor", a work the writing of which gave him "great distress". "I am still uneasy," he confessed, "but I know that if I had not written it, it would have been worse." "Sometimes we Jesuits aren't lying," he said sarcastically.

The figure of the former rector of the UCA deserved special reflection. Although there is increasing recognition of the assassinated Ellacuría, there is also a forgotten Ellacuría for whom the most difficult task of our time is "reversing history, subverting it and throwing it in another direction," in order to heal "a seriously ill civilization" and "thus avoid a fateful and fatal outcome." According to Sobrino, there are three themes from Ellacuría that have been neglected. The first is the crucified people - the ultimate sign of the times - who must be lowered from the cross, knowing that one may end up on the cross oneself. The second is to work for a civilization of poverty, in opposition to and overcoming the one of wealth that is responsible for the prevailing disease of civilization. The third are his words "In Romero, God visited El Salvador," which, according to Sobrino, "refer to something intimate and beneficial" that made itself present "in the advocates for the victims." "With Romero, we saw pure love," he said, evoking the figure of the bishop killed by the extreme right to recall that "there are not enough people who say we want to do good because it is what makes us more human."

Sobrino also reflected on the role of the official church and the church hierarchy. "Hierarchy," he recalled, means sacred power, but that power doesn't produce good; here in Latin America, the Church is a very good social force, but in Spain, it's a disaster." The priest called for" an authentic conversion that turns everything inside out" because "there is hope." He said of the work of his murdered fellow Jesuits that it remained a testimony that "goodness was possible" because "it's bad when it is decided that there's no room for kindness."

The rector, who was accompanied by the general secretary of the University, Marisa Contri, and the vice-rector for Institutional Relations and Cooperation, Rosa Moliner, is supposed to inaugurate a regional health center in San Salvador today, driven by the University of Valencia in collaboration with other institutions.

The Influenza A Platform That Wasn't

by Dr. Teresa Forcades (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Un Manament Nou

On October 14th, I published and entry in this blog titled "Update on Influenza A" that ended with the proposal to create a public platform; at the end of the entry of November 5th ("Giving birth to the Light"), I announced that the colleagues from Justice and Peace had agreed to coordinate it.

Today I write this entry to let you know that unfortunately, the platform has not gone forward. Thank you to everyone who wrote showing interest in the initiative and also willingness to support it.

As you probably know, because the major media have been covering it extensively these days, what has moved forward is the motion of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe promoted by German politician and epidemiologist Wolfgang Wodarg. I have attached the original document so you can see how he phrased the question. You can also access his website which is in German, but includes sections in English, French and Spanish.

For those interested in learning about the response that the debate on influenza A and the vaccines has evoked in professional medical circles, I recommend the discussion forum section of the journal Annals de Medicina ("Annals of Medicine" -- the issue to be published in February 2010) where different doctors (including myself) deal with the issue. The section is titled: "Vacunes: com destriar la ciència de la política i dels interessos" ("Vaccines: how to distinguish science from politics and special interests").

I have also attached the short text I wrote on the subject of influenza for the digital journal Diàleg ("Dialogue") edited by Joseph Terricabras (the text was published on the website on January 1st) [Translator's Note: Back issues of this journal are only available to registered users but it's also worth checking out the current issue of the journal which is about the role of laity in the Church]:


To appeal for trust on issues that are empirically demonstrable is inappropriate, and if the one who appeals for trust is in a position of power, the appeal is suspicious in addition to inapppropriate: why are the arguments of authority and trust being invoked instead of giving facts that are convincing in and of themselves?

That is the question that many people have asked in our country and all countries which have attempted to carry out mass vaccination campaigns to tackle the 2009 influenza A .

The government answer to criticisms and questions about the vaccination policy has been unsatisfactory. Trust the experts, they tell us. And they don't explain to us that these experts have ties with commmercial enterprises for the products they are recommending. The case of Dr. Osterhaus has been so blatant that it even appeared in a note in the journal Science.

It's normal - they say - that the agency responsible for sanctioning the sale of a drug or vaccine at the European level (EMEA) is more than 50% funded by the commercial enterprises themselves, and it is normal that they are also the groups of experts who advise the WHO and are even in the WHO itself. One must trust that these companies will not misuse their influence.

Trust is appealed to, instead of appealing as John F. Kennedy did in his famous speech to the critical judgement of the citizenry and the need for eternal vigilance over its legitimate interests.

Fiona Godlee, editor of the British Medical Journal, in the December 10, 2009 issue, criticizes the lack of transparency in how the studies have been carried out on the efficacy of the antiviral Tamiflu and states that "it is a legitimate scientific concern that data used to support important health policy strategies are held only by a commercial organisation and have not been subject to full external scrutiny and review."

Trust, they tell us. And that, thanks be to God, is what most people have done: trust themselves and their own critical thinking.

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Report on the Status of National and Regional Hispanic Ministry Initiatives

Fr. Allan Figueroa Deck, executive director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, announced February 4 the completion of a report titled National and Regional Hispanic Catholic Ministry Organizational Initiatives: An Assessment. Para nuestros hermanos hispanohablantes, la noticia del estudio se encuentra aquí en español pero el estudio existe solamente en inglés.

The assessment produced by Dr. William D. Dinges of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies of The Catholic University of America was based on a survey of 20 regional and national Hispanic Catholic ministry organizations and an analysis of their structures, services, activities and challenges.

“These organizations are necessary players in promoting Hispanic Catholic leadership development,” said Father Deck.

In October 2008, a group of Catholic leaders met at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame to advise the bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity and its Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs regarding the status of these organizations. Serious concerns surfaced among the advisory group members regarding the financial struggles and limited internal capacity of these organizations, which traditionally have played an essential role in providing professional development, visioning and planning for the growing field of Hispanic ministry.

The main problems noted include the underfunding of these organizations and the limitations on their internal capacity in terms of planning, personnel and fund development. Other concerns includes the high turnover rates in the leadership, and dependency on volunteers which often mean lack of continuity and a “re-invent everything syndrome,” says the study.

Limited outreach to youth and to a large segment of Hispanics who are not parish affiliates in a formal way are also seen as areas of concern.

“The NRHM assessment underscores what many Hispanic ministry leaders have been saying: the major challenge in nearly all national and regional Hispanic ministry organizations is the curtailment of their mission due to a severe lack of fiscal and consequently personnel resources,” said professor Tim Matovina of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame, and a member of the advisory group. “Bolstering the structures that sustain Hispanic ministry is one of the most urgent strategic goals for the vitality of Latino Catholic faith.”

Michael Brough, director of Planning & Programs, National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management stressed the importance of leadership development and capacity building and the valuable information provided by the assessment in order to tackle those issues.

“The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ assessment of Hispanic ministry organizations and their initiatives, provides important data necessary for promoting best practices across a range of temporal issues facing the Church. These include: effective management, sufficient budgets, strategic planning, sustainable fundraising, adequate staffing, and high quality leadership development. Without this, we will fail as a community to meet the current and future needs of the Hispanic community and all those served by the Church.

“Given the importance of such intermediate organizations for the Church’s mission and for the U.S. bishops’ priority on recognition of cultural diversity with emphasis on Hispanic ministry, the advisory group will meet again to consider ways in which these organizations can be strengthened,” Father Deck said.

The bishop’s Committee on Cultural Diversity, and its Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs, will review the findings of the report and hear the recommendations of the advisory group in an effort to respond creatively to the challenge of bolstering resources and encouraging best practices.

The study, which was made possible thanks to grants from Catholic Relief Services and The Catholic University of America, included a variety of organizations such as the National Association of Hispanic Priests (ANSH), Instituto Nacional Hispano de Liturgia, the National Catholic Association of Diocesan Directors for Hispanic Ministry (NCADDHM), the National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry (NCCHM), several pastoral institutes, Federación de Institutos Pastorales (FIP), the Mexican American Catholic College, a national association of Hispanic Catholic youth ministers (La Red) and diverse regional associations and structures that serve primarily diocesan as well as parish leadership within their region. If you are involved in Hispanic ministry and want to know who the major players are in this country, the organizations surveyed are listed in the appendix of the report along with their addresses. Unfortunately the report does not include phone numbers or Web sites.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Zapatero: Liberation Theologian?

The headline in Religión Digital that crossed my screen -- Zapatero, teólogo de la liberación -- seemed too good to pass up. The author, José Manuel Vidal, raves about Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast last week, praising in particular Zapatero's choice of a reading from Deuteronomy 24:14-15: "You shall not defraud a poor and needy hired servant, whether he be one of your own countrymen or one of the aliens who live in your communities. You shall pay him each day's wages before sundown on the day itself, since he is poor and looks forward to them..." Zapatero, who is basically an atheist, stops before he gets to the end of the verse: "Otherwise he will cry to the LORD against you, and you will be held guilty."

I wish I could be as thrilled as this journalist. Certainly this is a passage that we use a lot in support of worker and immigrant rights, the New American Bible's unfortunate translation choice in the word "aliens" notwithstanding. I would like to think that perhaps Zapatero was trying to help those of us in the religious community who are trying to get President Obama to focus on immigration reform. But I looked at the speech carefully, and critically:

Zapatero's speech rubs me the wrong way from the start, when he says: "permítanme que les hable en castellano, en la lengua en la que por primera vez se rezó al Dios del Evangelio en esta tierra." This is just wretched theology and not especially helpful for those who are trying to do inculturated pastoral work in indigenous communities in the Americas. God is God and people prayed to God in Nahuatl, Quechua, Mapuche, Mayan, Guarani, Navaho, Seminole, and any number of other tongues, long before the conquistadores and their Castillan Spanish came along. He reminds me of the Spanish priest who spoke to a group of catechists here and bragged about how Spain had given them their faith and their language, as if they were nothing before the Europeans came along. One catechist, a Peruvian historian of Incan descent, nearly walked out. It is impossible to really be a liberation theologian and be that eurocentric. Widespread Catholic evangelization came to Mexico when Our Blessed Mother appeared at Tepeyac, speaking to the people in their tongue, not in an alien language.

Zapatero goes on to praise his country: "Una Nación también diversa, forjada en la diversidad y renovada en su diversidad. Una Nación también americana, “la más multicultural de las tierras de Europa, (la) España celta e ibera, fenicia, griega, romana, judía, árabe y cristiana” -sobre todo cristiana-, como la ha caracterizado desde Latinoamérica Carlos Fuentes...No dejemos de velar por la buena integración de quienes han venido a trabajar y a convivir a nuestros países...España ya fue en el pasado ejemplo de convivencia entre las tres religiones del Libro: Judaísmo, Cristianismo e Islam. Y hoy defiende en el mundo la tolerancia religiosa y el respeto a la diferencia; el diálogo, la convivencia de las culturas, la Alianza de las civilizaciones." But those who know Spanish history and the current situation in that country are well aware that this fantasy of one nation with many ethnic, religious and racial groups all blissfully coexisting is just that: fantasy. And Zapatero's stress on "sobre todo cristiana" reveals his unspoken definition of "buena integración": "they" will become like "us". This is not liberation theology, where differences are celebrated and everyone is sister and brother whether they come wearing a cross, a yarmulke, or a burqa.

As we said, Zapatero is essentially an atheist and the "god" in his speech is "freedom" which he extols at length. It is a freedom that knows no higher authority than the self: "Mi plegaria quiere reivindicar igualmente el derecho de cada persona, en cualquier lugar del mundo, a su autonomía moral, a su propia búsqueda del bien. Hoy mi plegaria quiere reivindicar la libertad de todos para vivir su propia vida, para vivir con la persona amada y para crear y cuidar a su entorno familiar, mereciendo respeto por ello." The right to "moral autonomy", to "one's own search for what is right", "to live one's own life", "to live with the person one loves" and have that be respected...One can't help but wonder how the conservative Catholics and evangelical Christians who normally attend the prayer breakfast reacted to these words. This may be "liberation", but it is not "THEOlogy".

The speech was criticized in Spain both from the left and from the right. Historian and radio personality César Vidal, moderator of "Es la noche de César", opined flatly that "Deuteronomy could not be more contrary to Zapatero's way of thinking." He cites the Book's words against homosexuality as against Zapatero's support for gay marriage.

Writing in his "In saecula saeculorum" column in La Vanguardia, journalist Oriol Domingo questions Zapatero's sincerity. He asks again and again why Zapatero would pray and quote from the Bible in Washington when he doesn't do so in his own country. Is Zapatero even aware, asks Domingo, that many Spaniards are no longer biblically literate, something which Domingo feels highlights the faults in his nation's education system?

Theologian Juan José Tamayo generally praised Zapatero's choice of Biblical text but adds:

Pero eso no significa dar un cheque en blanco a Zapatero. Su discurso no puede quedarse en meras palabras. Le compromete personal y políticamente, ¡y mucho!, si no quiere ser acusado de inconsecuente. Le obliga a la hospitalidad con los inmigrantes y a la no discriminación de los "sin papeles", a eliminar de la Ley de Extranjería ciertos tonos xenófobos, a incumplir la normativa europea en materia de inmigración, claramente lesiva de los derechos de los migrantes, a mejorar las condiciones de vida de la clase trabajadora, de las personas desempleadas, a no revisar a la baja las pensiones de la clase trabajadora. Le obliga a asegurar la satisfacción de las necesidades básicas de la población migrante: residencia estable, vivienda digna, trabajo, alimentación, salud, acceso a la educación y a la cultura en las mismas condiciones que los nativos. Sin olvidar el reconocimiento de los derechos políticos.

Zapatero, says Tamayo, "doesn't get a blank check." Having spoken, he now needs to look at elements in Spanish law and society that discriminate against immigrants; he needs to make good on his commitment to improve the living conditions of those at the bottom of the social ladder. "No es lo mismo predicar que trigo dar". "Preaching," says Tamayo, quoting a famous Spanish saying, "is not the same as producing wheat." And it is also not liberation theology where preaching and praxis go hand in hand.