Friday, March 5, 2010

God and Mammon: Preferential Option for the Poor Redux

Rebel Girl doesn't know what to think when the Catholic hierarchy starts to sound like Leonardo Boff.

First there's the Holy Father's general intention for March 2010: "That the world economy may be managed according to the principles of justice and equity, taking account of the real needs of peoples, especially the poorest." Isn't that what preferential option for the poor is on a practical level? (Incidentally, clicking on that link will give you the Holy Father's intentions through December 2011, proving that our hierarchy is also into advanced planning...)

Ane then the Pope openly praises the Brazilian Church's 2010 Ecumenical Fraternity Campaign whose theme is "You cannot serve God and Mammon: Economy and Life", saying that they "have decided to unite their forces to reconcile people with God and to help them free themselves from slavery to money." "Slavery to money"? Betcha you never thought you'd hear that expression come from the Vatican. The campaign has produced a basic text which offers an analysis of the major issues of economic inequality from a faith perspective, as well as a prayer which we have reprinted below. The campaign also has its own catchy hymn (see video below).

Finally, as I was exploring the Brazilian Bishops Conference Web site -- and also having in mind the question a viewer asked on the Church's position on the controversial proposed Belo Monte hydroelectric plant -- I found the bishops' position...and it is remarkably similar to Leonardo Boff's. The bishops say: "We can not support processes that threaten the lives of traditional communities and other inhabitants of the region and attack, disrespect and destroy the environment." And they call for the project to be suspended until these communities can be heard from and the environmental impact studied more thoroughly.

Well, the most cynical might see all this as just rank hypocrisy, but we want to give credit where credit is due and it sure beats the traditional quiet acquiescent complicity with economic injustice and environmental depredation in order not to potentially upset wealthy donors. We'll take it as a sign of hope...

Ó Deus criador, do qual tudo nos vem,
nós te louvamos pela beleza e perfeição de tudo
que existe como dádiva gratuita para a vida.
Nesta Campanha da Fraternidade Ecumênica,
acolhemos a graça da unidade e da convivência fraterna,
aprendendo a ser fi éis ao Evangelho.
Ilumina, ó Deus, nossas mentes para compreender que
a boa nova que vem de ti é amor, compromisso
e partilha entre todos nós, teus fi lhos e fi lhas.
Reconhecemos nossos pecados de omissão
diante das injustiças que causam exclusão social e miséria.
Pedimos por todas as pessoas que trabalham
na promoção do bem comum e na condução
de uma economia a serviço da vida.
Guiados pelo teu Espírito, queremos viver o serviço
e a comunhão, promovendo uma economia
fraterna e solidária, para que a nossa sociedade
acolha a vinda do teu Reino.
Por Cristo, nosso Senhor. Amém.

O Creator God, from whom everything comes to us,
we praise You for the beauty and perfection of all
that exists as a free gift for life.
In this Ecumenical Fraternity Campaign,
we welcome the grace of unity and fellowship,
learning to be faithful to the Gospel.
Enlighten, O God, our minds to understand that
the good news that comes from You is love, commitment
and sharing among all of us, Your sons and daughters.
We recognize our sins of omission,
the injustices that cause social exclusion and poverty.
We pray for all those working
to promote the common good and lead us towards
an economy at the service of life.
Guided by Your Spirit, we want to serve
and be in communion, promoting an economy of
brotherhood and solidarity, so that our society
will welcome the coming of Your Kingdom.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Time for Compassion: The Campaign Continues

As readers of this blog know, we have been working to get a non-immigrant visa granted to Orlando Martin Cossio Praelli out of the US Embassy in Lima, Peru, so he can visit his father Angel Cossio, a faithful member of St. Ann's Catholic parish in Arlington, who is now in hospice (earlier this week in Arlington, VA and now in the Joseph Richey Hospice in Baltimore, MD due to issues with his health insurance company) with advanced metastatic cancer of the pancreas. Orlando was denied a visa on his first appearance at the embassy on 3/25/2010. Although he is married and has a job in Lima and has never been to the United States and has no family here except his dying father, Orlando was told that he did not have sufficient ties to Peru to guarantee his return!

The latest anonymous response from the Consular Section/NIV Unit to a viewer of this blog who wrote about the Cossio case was: "Thank you for your message. However, Mr. Cossio knows his visa was refused because he could not prove to the interviewing consular office that he has strong ties in Peru and that he would return after a legally authorized stay. We hope this information is useful."

What the message doesn't tell you is that Orlando, in addition to producing the letters from his father's doctor and hospice documenting his father's condition and inability to travel, and an affidavit from the family who will provide hospitality to Orlando when and if he ever gets to travel to this country, also brought his marriage certificate and bank statements as proof that he is married and has resources and work in Lima to his first interview at the embassy. This combination should have been more than enough to ensure that he got the temporary visa he needs to be able to fulfill his filial duties.

This case demonstrates exactly how broken our nation's immigration laws are but with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, Angel and Orlando Cossio don't have time to wait for comprehensive immigration reform. So we are going to keep the pressure on the U.S. embassy in Lima to do the right thing, the Christian thing, and -- what the heck? -- the AMERICAN thing, and grant this son a visa so he can fulfill his dying father's last wish to see him.


If you would like to express your outrage at this heartless ruling and ask the U.S. Embassy in Lima to reconsider this case, you can do so through a comment form on the embassy Web site:

Here are some pointers for how to fill the form out:

Your Phone Number in Peru: Write: not applicable (unless you live in Peru). NOTE: You have to put this in because there must be something in that field.
Full Name of Applicant: Orlando Martin Cossio Praelli
Select: "non-immigrant visa"
Immigrant Visa Case Number: leave this field empty since we don't know what the number is.

The subject line defaults to "Denial of Visa", which is what this is about.

Then write in 600 characters or less -- this is the hard part! -- why you think this decision is unfair and should be reversed. You can write your comments in English or in Spanish, whichever language is easier for you.

Split This Rock Poetry Festival: March 10-13

Poetry lovers should check out the great roster of poets of diverse cultural backgrounds who will be appearing at this year's Split This Rock Poetry Festival. Times and locations of events are available on the festival Web site. Among the Hispanic writers who will be reading their works are:

Francisco Aragón is the author of Puerta del Sol (Bilingual Press) and editor of the award-winning The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry (University of Arizona Press). Among his limited edition chapbooks are, Tertulia, (BOOKlyn). He is also the editor of Canto Cosas, a book series out of Bilingual Press that publishes Latino poetry. His poems and translations have appeared in various anthologies and in print and web journals. He directs Letras Latinas, the literary program of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He is a member of the Macondo Writing Workshop in San Antonio and serves on the boards of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) and the Guild Complex—a community-based literary organization in Chicago. He resides in Arlington, VA and works out of the ILS' offices in Washington, DC.

Martín Espada, called “the Latino poet of his generation” and “the Pablo Neruda of North American authors,” has published sixteen books in all as a poet, editor, essayist and translator, including two collections of poems last year: Crucifixion in the Plaza de Armas (Smokestack, 2008), released in England, and La Tumba de Buenaventura Roig (Terranova, 2008), a bilingual edition published in Puerto Rico. The Republic of Poetry, a collection of poems published by Norton in 2006, received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Another collection, Imagine the Angels of Bread (Norton, 1996), won an American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. A former tenant lawyer, Espada is now a professor in the Department of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he teaches creative writing and the work of Pablo Neruda.

Nancy Morejón, one of the foremost Cuban writers and intellectuals, has published more than twelve collections of poetry, three monographs, a dramatic work, and four critical studies of Cuban history and literature. Her lyrical verse, shaped by an Afro-Cuban sensibility and a feminist consciousness, evokes the intimacy of family, the ephemerality of love, and the significance of Cuban history. Her poems have appeared in several bilingual editions in the United States, including Where the Island Sleeps Like a Wing (The Black Scholar Press) and Looking Within-Mirar adentro (Wayne State University Press). She has translated numerous acclaimed French authors including Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Éluard, and Aimé Césaire, and her books of criticism of the work of Nicolas Guillén are considered classics.

The World Society of Blindness

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)

The poet Affonso Romano de Sant'Anna and the Portuguese Nobel Prize winner for literature José Saramago made blindness the subject for severe criticism of contemporary society, which sits on a reductionist view of reality. They showed that there are many allegedly sighted people who are blind and few blind people who can see.

Today it is pompously spread about that we live in a knowledge society, a kind of new era of light. Indeed it is. We know more and more about less and less. Expertise has colonized all areas of knowledge. The knowledge of one year is greater than all knowledge accumulated over the past 40 thousand years. On the one hand, it brings undeniable benefits, on the other, it makes us ignorant about so many dimensions, putting scales over our eyes and thus preventing us from seeing the whole.

What is at stake today is the totality of human destiny and future of the biosphere. Objectively, we are paving a road which could lead to the abyss. Why is this brutal fact not being seen by most specialists and heads of state or the mainstream media that claim to project the possible scenarios of the future? Simply because, for the most part, they are enclosed in their specific knowledge, in which they are very competent and, therefore, make themselves blind to the glaring global problems.

Which of the major centers of global analysis in the 60s predicted the climate change of the 90s? Which Nobel prize-winning economic analysts foresaw the economic and financial crisis that devastated key countries in 2008? All were eminent experts in their limited field, but idiots on basic issues. It is usually like this: we see only what we understand. As the experts only understand a small part of what they study, they end up only seeing this tiny part, being blind to the whole. Changing this kind of Cartesian knowledge would dismantle sacred scientific habits and a whole world view.

The independence of the territories of physics, chemistry, biology, quantum mechanics and others is illusory. All territories and their knowledge are interdependent, a function of the whole. The science of the Earth system was born of this perception. The Gaia theory is derived from it, which is not a New Age subject but the result of careful scientific observation. It provides the basis for comprehensive policies to control global warming of the Earth that, in order to survive, tends to reduce the biosphere and even the number of living organisms, not excluding humans.

The COP-15 on climate change in Copenhagen was emblematic. Like most of our culture, it was hostage to the habit of atomization of knowledge — what predominated in the speeches of the heads of state were partial interests: carbon taxes, levels of warming, investment quotas and other partial data. The central question was different: what fate do we want for the entity that is our common home? What can we do collectively to ensure the necessary conditions for Gaia to continue to be habitable for us and for other living things?

These are global problems that transcend our paradigm of expertise. Life does not fit into a formula, or care into an equation for calculation. To understand this whole, one needs a systematic reading along with kind and compassionate reasoning, since it is this reasoning that moves us to action.

We must urgently develop the ability to sum up, interact, reconnect, rethink, redo what was undone and innovate. This challenge is addressed to all the experts so that they become convinced that the part without the whole is not a part. From the joining together of all these pieces of knowledge, we will redesign the global panel of reality to be understood, loved and cared for. This totality is the main content of planetary consciousness, it IS the era of greater light that frees us from the blindness that afflicts us.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The beloved interfaith community

As a Vanderbilt alumna, I want to share with you this article by Vanderbilt divinity student, activist and blogger Anthony Fatta that was published on the Washington Post The Faith Divide blog today. It is a wonderful example of interfaith solidarity against intolerance. I hope that the Lord will raise up many more young faith leaders with this sense of solidarity, this sense that we are all God's children regardless of our denominational affiliation.

A few weeks ago, a mosque in Nashville, Tenn., was vandalized with spray paint spelling out "Muslims Go Home" and the drawing of a crusade-style cross. It is thought that the vandalism was in response to a local television news special called Islamville that was exploring a Muslim community living in a rural area outside of Nashville. This news special was conducted in response to a video entitled Homegrown Jihad produced by the Christian Action Network, which portrays this Tennessean Muslim community as a terrorist training facility.

After seeing that the Al-Farooq mosque had been vandalized, I immediately got in contact with my interfaith student group at Vanderbilt, Mosaic, to discuss what we could do. We agreed that we would to offer our help in cleaning and raise money to help the mosque invest in a security system - efforts we have started already and will continue to do.

As a Christian and a future religious leader, I deem it necessary to respond to this incident. An attack on the Muslim community is an attack to my own religious community and to anyone who believes in religious freedom. The destruction of anything sacred is unacceptable. An incident like this is adverse to not only my Christian faith and convictions but also as a student at Vanderbilt and a resident of Nashville. I cannot be idle when the security and well-being of another religious community is at stake. For that matter, neither should any of you, regardless of your beliefs.

A few months after settling into my new Church in Nashville, my pastor asked me to explain how I was acting as the "Hands of Christ" in my life to the congregation. Was my Christian faith encouraging me to pursue Gospel Justice in my own community? I explained to him the interfaith service work I have done and that the "Hands of Christ" were present in each and every project. Helping this mosque was no exception.

The duty of an interfaith leader, who can be anyone who believes in peace and cooperation between religious and non-religious communities, is not to just respond to these events as they happen but work towards preventing them. We all have a responsibility in this type of interfaith work and our many traditions, religious or non-religious, call for action.

I am committed to build Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision of a beloved community through Mosaic, the interfaith student group at Vanderbilt Divinity School, but I hope that many of you today will articulate to your own communities why such acts of vandalism are affronts to us all. It may seem daunting to reach out to those in need but by ensuring the safety and freedom of others, we protect our own freedoms and rediscover our call to life in harmony: in love and in service.

Photo: Vandalism at Al-Farooq Mosque in Nashville, TN

Immigration reform is key

Fr. José E. Hoyos
Arlington Catholic Herald
March 4, 2010

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is supporting immigration reform. The position of the Catholic Church is rather clear and has been so for many years. After all, the position of the Catholic Church is rooted in the Gospel, which I am sure you have heard many times over your Catholic life. Catholics believe that immigration is about social justice and welcoming the stranger. The ways in which this may be accomplished is a function of government. Elected government officials are also called to be good Catholics or at the very least, be good Christians. However, we must all be alert when the press and politicians seek to take advantage of those who comprise perhaps the less privileged sector of society. It is not uncommon to find the use of misinformation and half-truths in issues such as this one.

With this in mind and to offer some food for thought regarding the issue of immigration in United States for the last 20 years, it is appropriate to glance back into recent history. In the late 1980s, the U.S. Department of Labor published a white paper titled “Work Force 2000.’’ In it, the United States predicted shortages in the labor force as we entered the 21st century. It appears that our economy was not about to stall because of a shrinking labor force. Instead, three phenomena took place: (1) people immigrated into the United States through its open borders and coasts; (2) labor outsourcing became popular; and (3) Congress increased the number of visas in targeted categories to import certain professionals. The first group of people sought opportunity as many fled civil strife, poor economic conditions, natural disasters and government oppression. The last group, albeit somewhat reduced in the last few years, continues to provide a steady stream of immigrants.

Fast forwarding to 2010, “open borders” and legalization of “illegal” immigrants are common themes. However, we should carefully study the issue of immigration before uttering incorrect statements.

Our country has many miles of coast and borders with Mexico and Canada. Sadly, the normal comment about “closing the border” refers to Mexico. Little is known about the treaties entered by past presidents with the governments of Mexico and Canada for the protection of the North American land mass. Many of these agreements explain the reason for the “open borders.” Some, who advocate against immigrants, have argued security concerns. Yet, foiled terrorist attempts appear to have occurred to the North due to bilateral law enforcement initiatives and intelligence. We should expect the same bilateral cooperation to the South but governments fail. Finally, we must first understand that “closed borders” will not stop unlawful immigration, which by the way does not only happen from the South.

The other hot topic of our times is the fate of those who entered our country without inspection by an immigration officer. If our governments have opted not to stop the flow of immigrants, is it fair to dispose of them when they no longer suit our needs? Can we really do without them? Before we can answer that question, we must look around us with wide opened eyes to see who is supporting our country. So, is it fair to get rid of all those human beings? What would be the effect on our economy? I am sure there are those in government with much more information and better able to choose the best direction for our country, without the need to use misinformation and false propaganda.

In closing, numbers and quotas belong to, and are used by, governments and politicians. Languages often indicate broadened cultural experience and global awareness. Immigration should always be about social justice and welcoming the one that seeks shelter for a better life.

It is important that we as Catholics support our Catholic brothers and sisters by participating in the bishops’ immigration campaign by filling an immigration postcard at our parishes that will be sent to our state representatives. Do not forget that no human being is illegal in this world nor does the Kingdom of Heaven have boundaries.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Time for Compassion - continued

UPDATE 3-4-2010: Here is the response I received via e-mail to my appeal for a reconsideration of Orlando's case. I'm assuming that the responder has chosen to remain anonymous because they are too ashamed to publicly attach their name to what they have written (I certainly would be). I share it with you so you can understand just how impossible our current immigration law is. Please continue to pray and work for a change of heart from our diplomats in Lima and for a comprehensive immigration reform that will address these kinds of situations.
As you may know, the presumption in U.S. immigration law is that every applicant for a visitor visa is intending to immigrate. The law places the burden of overcoming this assumption on the applicant. When evaluating whether an applicant has established eligibility, a consular officer looks at the purpose of the proposed visit and reasons the person would return to her own country. The officer takes into consideration the totality of the applicant’s situation, including family, community, professional, property, and economic ties to the applicant’s home country, as well as any ties to the United States.

We understand Mr. Cossio's desire to travel during this difficult moment of his father's life. But you have to understand that these are often tough decisions for consular officers, who base their judgments on knowledge of local conditions and evidence presented by applicants. Our work is to evaluate the qualifications of the applicant and consider the requirements of U.S. law; our decisions are in no way a reflection on the individuals inviting them. If the law allowed for a system to place the responsibility for an applicant on their American family or friends, that would make our jobs much easier. As it is, however, we rely on the understanding of the American public that we seek to follow U.S. immigration law, as it exists.

Unfortunately, consular officers' decisions cannot be appealed.


Consular Section, NIV Unit
American Embassy, Lima-Peru
Several days ago, I wrote in this blog about a friend, Angel Cossio, who has advanced metastatic cancer of the pancreas. Angelito's last wish is to be able to see his son, Orlando, who lives in Peru -- a country to which Angelito can no longer travel. Angelito is completely bedridden, on oxygen and many kinds of medication, and no longer able to eat solid foods, just very soft foods (soup, icecream, etc..) and liquids.

As I wrote, in spite of showing letters testifying to his father's condition, Orlando was denied a visa under INA 214(b) based on not having "sufficiently strong" ties to his native Peru. Never mind that Orlando is married, has a job in Lima, and has never been to the United States before. Other than his dying father, ALL of Orlando's family ties are in Peru. A group of us from Angelito's parish stand ready to help Orlando with air fare and provide hospitality to him for as long as necessary. All we are asking from the United States government is to do the right thing and grant him a visa.

If you would like to express your outrage at this heartless ruling and ask the U.S. Embassy in Lima to reconsider this case, you can do so through a comment form on the embassy Web site:

Here are some pointers for how to fill the form out:

Your Phone Number in Peru: "not applicable" (unless you live in Peru). You have to put this in because there must be something in that field.
Full Name of Applicant: Orlando Martin Cossio Praelli
Select: "non-immigrant visa"
Immigrant Visa Case Number: leave this field empty since we don't know what the number is.

The subject line defaults to "Denial of Visa", which is what this is about.

Then write in 600 characters or less -- this is the hard part! -- why you think this decision is unfair and should be reversed. You can write your comments in English or in Spanish.

I, and all of Angelito's friends, thank you for your solidarity with us on this case, which should have been a slam dunk but instead has ended up being another perfect example of how broken our immigration system is.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Leading theologians to commemorate the anniversary of Monseñor Romero

by Susana Barrera
March 2, 2010

Theologians Gustavo Gutierrez and Jon Sobrino, the leading exponents of Liberation Theology in Latin America, will join in El Salvador shortly to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero.

"The church of the poor" is one of the conferences that the Peruvian Gustavo Gutierrez and Xavier Alegre, the Spaniard, will present. Gutierrez was the one who, for the first time, used the term that refers to this theological current, back in the '70s. Praised and condemned for his contributions to this new theology, he has been one of the central figures in the movement since its beginnings in the '70s.

Meanwhile, the Jesuit Jon Sobrino and Luis Carlos Suncín, will take up "Spirituality and martyrdom." Other theologians of the stature of María Clara Lucetti and José Comblin will also talk about the spirituality of the martyr.

"Through Romero the Gospel of Jesus becomes history and takes history beyond itself, that's what cost him his life," Gutiérrez said about the contribution this man made to the Church. Meanwhile Christologist Jon Sobrino affirms that "Monsignor Romero was given the ability to 'see' the people, and their God, in their deepest reality."

Oscar Arnulfo Romero was assassinated by a death squad on March 24, 1980 in the context of the bloody civil war that Central American country experienced. His remains lie in a distinguished place in the crypt of the Cathedral of San Salvador.

Every year hundreds of religious tourists come together in the crypt of the famous "little hospital" for the terminally ill where he was killed, and visit the museum in his honor that shows his personal belongings, books and the clothing that he wore the evening of crime, among other things.

The commemoration activities began in August last year, around the 92th birthday of the pastor. For the month of March, the Fundación Monseñor Romero has announced a series of activities -- liturgical, theological and pastoral, dissemination of his thought, cultural and artistic and other activities targeted at youth.

"El Salvador is now a destination where many people come together, inspired by the spirit of Archbishop Romero," said Edin Martinez of the Foundation, while inviting the general public to join the tribute.

"Monsignor Romero, hope of victims" is the theme of these events, which also include the issuance of stamps with the image of the Christian martyr, the broadcasting of a radio novel, the film exhibition and the traditional Vigil of Light, among others. Those interested in learning more can visit

Charity Begins at Home

UPDATE 3-4-2010: According to today's Washington Post, Tim Sawina, a former priest and the former COO of Catholic Charities whose name is listed among the officers at the bottom of this post, left the agency sometime last year after 12 years. He has sent a letter to his former colleagues calling the decision on denying spousal health benefits "unnecessary" and "wrong." Says Sawina: "It is difficult to comprehend this assault on the family when the Church has usually been its strongest defender."

While I simply rolled my eyes when confronted with last month's story that Catholic Charities was ending its 80-year-old foster-care program in the District of Columbia rather than license same-sex couples and that it would be transfering its remaining clients to the National Center for Children and Families (hyperlink provided for those who would like to start contributing to an agency that cares more about helping children than continuing to discriminate against gay people), I am in shock at today's news that Catholic Charities has chosen to stop providing spousal health insurance coverage to its employees rather than be forced to provide it equitably. The agency says it will continue to cover those employees who are already enrolled in spousal coverage but no new employees will receive this coverage. In an even more stunning aside, the main article in the Washington Post reveals that the Archdiocese of Washington also no longer provides spousal health insurance to its employees.

Thus Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Washington have joined the ranks of some of the least family-friendly employers who refuse to provide coverage for their workers' dependents. And, thus, they are contributing to the health insurance crisis in America which the Catholic hierarchy has so deplored. From the FAQs on the USCCB's special Web site on health care reform:

Question: Why are the bishops so vocal about health care reform?

Answer: One out of three Americans under the age of 65 went without health insurance for some period of time during 2007 and 2008. Of these, four out of five were from working families. Sixty four percent of the uninsured are employed full time, year round. This state of affairs is unacceptable. In the Catholic tradition, health care is a basic human right not a privilege. It is a fundamental issue of human life and dignity.
"Unacceptable"? Our bishops are absolutely right that it is unacceptable for full-time workers and their families to be uninsured. So why are Catholic institutions contributing to the problem? Perhaps Archbishop Donald Wuerl and Catholic Charities President and CEO Edward J. Orzechowski didn't get the memo...

In the comments attached to the article in the Post, many people said: "Let the workers buy their own spousal coverage, if they want it" but, speaking as someone who has tried buying individual health insurance, I can tell you that it isn't cheap (and pretty much unaffordable on the salaries the Catholic Church pays most of its lay workers) and not always available, especially for older spouses or those with pre-existing health problems. It is safe to assume that those spouses the Archdiocese and Catholic Charities are no longer insuring and who do not have coverage through an employer of their own, will join the growing ranks of the uninsured.

Charity begins at home, and if the Catholic Church is going to have a credible voice in the health care reform debate, it needs to stop contributing to the problem.


On the other hand, maybe Catholic Charities should consider also terminating spousal health insurance for its highly compensated executives who are much better positioned than any new hire to buy insurance for their spouses on the open market. According to the latest Guidestar report on the charity (for FY 2008), their highest paid officers and employees are making:

Edward J Orzechowski, President: $275,000
Timothy Sawina, COO: $158,500
Camille R Bash, CFO/Treasurer: $157,500
Wayne Swann, VP HR: $140,500
Richard Kalb, VP Admin/Facilities: $122,500
Joan Fowler Brown, Secretary: $74,000

Five Highest Paid Employees:
Denise Capaci, Director: $111,228
J Chapman Todd, Director: $102,989
Jarlath Finn, Director: $100,819
Meha Desai, Director: $99,768
Abby Crowley, Director: $88,716

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Time for Compassion

This is the second time I have been involved in attempts of Peruvian citizens to get non-immigrant visas from our U.S. Embassy in Lima and I have to say that I am not impressed. The official policy seems to be: get the visa application fee ($131, non-refundable) from the Peruvian citizen, ask a set of ridiculously limited questions that ostensibly determine if the individual is at risk of overstaying their visa, and then say "no", regardless of the merits of the case (keep the money, of course!)...

In the first case, we were trying to get permission for the niece of a member of our parish to be able to come up for several weeks to help her aunt while the aunt was recovering from back surgery. The niece, Jacki, at that time was unemployed although she was enrolled in English language classes and a visit to the U.S. could have helped her improve her skills. She was young, unmarried, and therefore childless. Visa denied, in spite of the fact that her aunt has full American citizenship, the family runs a thriving home improvement business and was more than able to provide for the niece during her stay here.

The current case also involves a member of our parish. Angelito has been a long time member, a lector and an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. He is the kind of guy who would show up on time, neatly dressed and willing to serve in any capacity in which he was needed. He was also lector coordinator before me in the parish and gave me an opportunity to read, when others thought it was inappropriate for a gringa to be reading in a Spanish Mass.

Now, Angelito is dying of metastatic cancer of the pancreas. He is under hospice care. He cannot travel home to Peru. He has no family in this country except a very distant niece with whom he has had no contact until recently. He has a son in Lima, Orlando, whom he would like to see before he leaves this life.

Last Thursday, Orlando, who is married and employed, went to the U.S. embassy in Lima to apply for a visa. Although he is not a wealthy man, several of us in the parish have been helping Orlando long distance make his case and so he arrived at the embassy with a letter from his father's doctor and another from the hospice care provider testifying to his father's terminal condition, and a letter from a couple in the parish who are American citizens affirming that they will be providing hospitality for Orlando during his stay in this country.

I'm sure you will not be surprise to learn that the visa was denied based on our government's belief that this man did not demonstrate sufficient ties to Peru! It should also be noted for the record that Orlando has never been to the United States and would not be coming here but for his father's condition. Orlando has only been married for a year and the couple do not yet have any children -- a point against him in our embassy's little visa Q and A game. When the prospective host couple told me what happened at the embassy, I sarcastically suggested that perhaps Orlando and his wife should concentrate on making a baby and then bring the sonogram to the embassy. Perhaps THAT would tip the odds in his favor...

I also suggested to the host couple that they contact the Peruvian consulate here. They said that they had, and had been told that there is nothing the consulate can do. The consulate had previously tried to intervene in visa cases involving Peruvian citizens and been told rather undiplomatically to mind its own business.

I can't help but contrast this with the helpful and friendly way I was treated by Peruvian immigration authorities at the airport the two times I went to Peru. I had no problem getting a visitor's permit for as long as I needed. The contrast makes me ashamed of my country. How did we go from those beautiful words on the Statue of Liberty to being so callous that we would deny the right of a son to come and see his dying father?

Padre Jony Video 5: Nana para un niño cansado

On his Web site, Padre Jony has comments about each of his official videos but they are a little hard to find. We will gradually translate these into English and run them bilingually with their respective videos.

Padre Jony's fifth video clip was shot on August 22nd and 23rd, 2009 in the "old town" of Corbera d'Ebre (Tarragona). It was produced by OnOff of Reus.

This lullaby is being sung by a mother to her son who was born in the middle of a bombing. It reflects the effects of war on the most innocent: the children. Although it could be amplified to include all children who come into the world tired of living...because of things we could avoid: hunger, poverty, exploitation, violence...

The first part of the video is a reflection on the causes of war and other unjust situations. It's a warning bell for everyone, since everything begins inside the individual person: those feelings of selfishness, envy, intolerance, violence, rage, hunger for power and material wealth...they are like very dangerous seeds that are tossed into the wind, and we don't know where they will fall, except that it will certainly be in the form of suffering and pain for innocent people.

The old town of Corbera d'Ebre was devastated during the Spanish Civil War, in the sadly famous Battle of the Ebro. That battle was a very unusual military operation. It began at 0:15 a.m. on July 25, 1938. The destroyed town is testimony to the barbaric effects of every war. Many of the children who appear in the video are descendants of the town's survivors who were never able to live there again and had to build a town further down.

We are thankful for the collaboration of the Corbera D'Ebre town council, the Patronat of Poble Vell, the parish and all the children who appear in the video.

El quinto video clip del Padre Jony se rodó los días 22 y 23 de agosto de 2009 en el “poble vell” de Corbera d’Ebre (Tarragona). Lo realizó la productora Onoff de Reus.

Esta canción de cuna la canta una madre a su hijo que nace en medio de un bombardeo. Refleja los efectos de la guerra sobre los más inocentes: los niños y las niñas. Aunque se podría ampliar a todos los niños y niñas que llegan al mundo cansados de vivir…por cosas que podríamos evitar: el hambre, la miseria, la explotación, la violencia…

La primera parte del video es una reflexión de las causas que generan la guerra y otras situaciones injustas. Es un toque de atención para todos, ya que todo empieza en el interior de la persona: esos sentimientos de egoísmo, envidia, intolerancia, violencia, rabia, ansia de poder y de bienes materiales…son como semillas peligrosísimas, lanzadas al viento, que no sabemos dónde caerán, pero seguro que será en forma de sufrimiento y dolor para personas inocentes.

El pueblo viejo de Corbera d’Ebre fue devastado durante la guerra civil española, en la tristemente famosa Batalla del Ebro. Esta batalla fue una operación militar insólita. Se inició a las 0’15 horas de la madrugada del 25 de julio de 1938. El pueblo destruido es un testimonio de los efectos de la barbarie de tota guerra. Muchos de los niños que aparecen en el video son los descendientes de los supervivientes del pueblo, que nunca más pudieron vivir allí, y tuvieron que hacer un pueblo más abajo.

Agradecemos la colaboración del Ayuntamiento de Corbera d’Ebre, del Patronat del Poble Vell, de la Parroquia y de todos los niños y niñas que aparecen en el video.