Friday, March 12, 2010

Fundación Provocando la Paz 1: Introduction

This is translated from Padre Jony's Fundación Provocando la Paz Web site. The foundation's major projects are in Guatemala and Sierra Leone and we will be adding specific information about these later.


The Fundación Provocando la Paz aims to promote peace and solidarity. It was established by Padre Jony, with a board that helps to coordinate it and volunteers who collaborate.


The Fundación Provocando la Paz works in a variety of areas:

  • Financing solidarity projects: The Fundación Provocando la Paz works with Manos Unidas through a "joint operation": Manos Unidas presents a development project, this Foundation makes it known and establishes a bridge for those who want to collaborate with that project. Padre Jony gives the proceeds from his musical project to the Fundación Provocando la Paz. And donations are accepted, of course. Open to all.

  • Raising awareness: Especially of younger people, about the urgent problems of humanity. To do this, we offer presentations, talks, youth institutes and collectives.

  • Promoting social commitment to greater justice for the least fortunate: The Foundation has conducted campaigns to raise awareness and collect signatures calling for the IMF to help remit the foreign debt of the poorest nations and for the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to address the problem of child exploitation.


Fundación Provocando la Paz
Avenida de la Rápita, No.49
43870 Amposta (Tarragona)

Tel: 695.892.235

Padre Jony has set up an account at La Caixa to receive donations. There is not a site for online donations at this time.

Photos: Padre Jony visits project in Guatemala; Padre Jony signs CDs at a fundraising event for the Foundation

Economics: the three uses of money

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)

This year's Fraternity Campaign, which is now ecumenical, proposes that the thousands of Christian communities, both parish and base communities, discuss the topic: The Economy and Life, an important subject due to the global economic crisis that has left more than 60 million people unemployed.

It's about recovering the original sense of economics as an activity designed to ensure the material foundation of personal, social and spiritual life. It can not take up all the space as has occurred in recent decades. Global society became a market society and everything from sex to the Holy Trinity became merchandise with which to make money. The economy is part of a larger whole.

To facilitate understanding, I distinguish three areas of human activity, one of which is occupied by the economy. First, we are creatures of necessity: we need to eat, drink, have health care, housing, and other services. In these cases, we all depend on each other to address this infrastructure. It is the field of economics. Secondly, we are relational beings: we work with others, introduce rights and duties, obey laws and together build the common good. It is the place of politics. Finally, we are creative beings: everyone has skills, they not only reproduce what's there but create, exercise their freedom and make society progress. It is the field of culture. They all interlock, although there are conflicts that do not invalidate this basic structure.

Let's focus on a fundamental aspect of the economy which is the use of money. At first there was not money but barter: I give you a kilo of rice and you give me three bottles of milk. There was direct relationship and confidence that the swaps were fair. But when society grew sophisticated, money emerged as a medium of exchange. And there arose a danger, because money means power that reflects this logic: "the one who doesn't have, wants to have; the one who has, says: I want to have more; and the one who has more, says: it is never enough." Then the possibility of earning money without working, money making money, arose. But money has three legitimate uses that are: buying, saving and donating. The money to buy is necessary for consumption of what we need. Yet we must always ask: am I buying it because I need it or am I following advertising or fashion? Does the manufacturer exploit workers? During production, do they respect human rights and nature or do they use too many pesticides? This money is for today.

The second use is to save money. It's for tomorrow. We do not know the twists of life: illness, unemployment, inadequate pension. Many do not even manage to save, they consume everything in their survival. But if there is any to spare, where should that money be put?

Money left under the mattress is dead money that produces nothing. So banks arose, which keep the money. They make it yield, by loaning it to whoever wants to produce and has no equity. This person gets the money as a loan but makes it yield in production, pays interest to the bank and a part is passed on to the owner of the money. A conscientious person wants to know to whom he is lending his money: is it to build weapons, to support companies that destroy nature? The decision of Bangladesh and Brazil to create microcredit to support the poor who want to produce, was extraordinary.

The third use of money is donation. Money is not for hoarding but for circulation. If I have attended sufficiently and decently to my needs, if I have some savings that give me some reassurance for the future, if I have guaranteed the well-being and a secure future for the family, donation is a gesture of great generosity. It expresses gratitude for the gift of life, health, love received from others. It is highly ethical to donate to the downtrodden in Haiti, to support projects to combat child prostitution, or day care for outlying villages. And here we feel that in giving we receive the priceless joy of having done good and having loved each other.

Syrian Nun Receives International Women of Courage Award

Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the 2010 International Women of Courage Award Ceremony at the US Department of State. Among those honored was a Good Shepherd sister from Syria, Sr. Marie Claude Naddaf. This biography from the State Department Web site explains how this woman religious opened her heart -- and her convent -- to victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.

When Marie Claude Naddaf assumed the role of Mother Superior at the Good Shepherd Convent in Damascus in 1994, Syria did not offer social services for women suffering domestic violence, homelessness, or trafficking. Women trafficked into prostitution were imprisoned for months on end, held in jail with criminals until they could be deported. Sister Marie Claude set out to create a range of services for women through her Damascus Convent, and, in so doing, gradually created a partnership with the Syrian government on tackling violence against women.

In 1996, Sister Marie Claude and the convent opened Syria's first facility, the “Oasis Shelter,” for victims of trafficking and domestic violence. In the years since it opened, the success of the shelter inspired the launch of another facility – with full government cooperation – specifically for survivors of domestic violence, and a third specifically for those affected by trafficking.

Sister Marie Claude launched Syria’s first women’s telephone hotline, which is attached to a new emergency shelter where women can get counseling, legal advice, and temporary shelter 24 hours a day. She won the right to have women in police custody released to a shelter if it was determined that the women were victims of trafficking. In 2009, this agreement resulted in more than 20 South Asian women trafficked into Syria for domestic work being released into the custody of a shelter – a visible symbol of the government’s transformation from thinking of trafficking survivors as criminals in need of punishment to victims in need of services.

Sister Marie Claude has also pressed for better treatment of female prisoners. She established a special nursery at the prison in Damascus, and began a vocational education program to eliminate illiteracy and provide training for skills that will prepare the women for successful reintegration and better futures upon their release. Along the way, Sister Marie Claude also trained a dozens of committed nuns and activists in shelter administration, outreach, education programming, and more.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

To My Fellow Priests: A Response from Jose Antonio Pagola

Fr. Pagola has written a lovely open letter thanking his fellow priests for this support (translation below). Meanwhile, he has also picked up a brief public statement of support from Javier Oñate, director of the Bilbao Institute of Theology. The future of the Spanish edition of Fr. Pagola's book, Jesús, aproximación histórica, is still up in the air. The Web site of the former publisher PPC is presently down. The Basque version is a best seller and the work has also been published in Catalan, English, and Portuguese.

by José Antonio Pagola English translation by Rebel Girl)
published by Diario Vasco

Dear friends: First of all, I want to tell you that I am moved. If I am breaking the silence that I have been keeping about my book about Jesus, it is to thank you for your embrace of solidarity, so unanimous and sincere. I will never forget it. At the same time I want to express my gratitude to those -- believers and nonbelievers -- who have come to me to show their unconditional agreement and support. My thanks to all. While reading your names one by one, I have been remembering all the efforts and work, so many pastoral programs and projects shared with you over many years to answer, with passion and even enthusiasm, the call of the Council [Vatican II] that invited us to a deep renewal of our ministry and evangelizing action.

It wasn't easy for us. We had to bring our theology up to date, learn to celebrate the faith with the people, revive the joint responsibility of the laity, and share from within the problems, conflicts and suffering of our people. All this work has not been in vain. The great theologian Karl Rahner has said that the Council was only "the start of the beginning".

Thanks to the journey along which we have come, we are now able to understand that at this time when unprecedented sociocultural change is taking place, the Church needs an unprecedented conversion. This conversion has a name: a return to Jesus, the Christ and Lord, to focus the Church more truly and faithfully on His person and His plan of God's kingdom.

From this perspective, writing a book about Jesus is important, but it is still a passing episode. The crucial thing is to join forces to go back to basics, to what Jesus lived out and spread. To not let His Spirit be extinguished within us by our cowardice, laziness of heart or lack of awareness. We can all contribute to making the Church more one of Jesus and its face more like His.

We do not know the future that awaits the Christian faith among us. Christianity is only twenty centuries old, and surely Jesus has not yet given the best. You ended your letter by encouraging me to "keep hoping against hope in Him who has sustained my life." It's the best thing that you could have wished me. I will continue walking and working with my eyes fixed on Him. I could no longer live otherwise. A big hug for your friendship. And know one thing: you have now given me back my smile.

"The Other America"

Those who are concerned about how things are going (or rather, NOT going) in Central America should check out this article by TIME magazine Latin America bureau chief Tim Padgett in the March 8th edition of the Jesuit magazine America.

Among the points Padgett makes:

  • Central America "is arguably a more dangerous place today than it was when right-wing death squads and left-wing guerrillas ravaged the isthmus a generation ago. Thanks largely to corrupt justice systems, the region has one of the world’s highest homicide rates: 80,000 murders in the past six years, more than the 75,000 people killed in El Salvador’s horrific 1980-1992 civil war. Guatemala has even had to cancel daylight saving time because the dark mornings are a boon to armed thugs. Other indicators are equally dismal. Only sub-Saharan Africa has a worse regional literacy rate than does Central America—just one reason why Central America also has an average 47 percent poverty rate, 10 points higher than the average of Latin America as a whole."

  • "Central America is still wrestling with the institutional backwardness and epic inequality that led to the conflicts of the 1980s. This time a different bogeyman spooks the right and incites the left. Back then it was Cuba’s communist leader, Fidel Castro. Today it is Venezuela’s socialist president, Hugo Chávez."

  • The Obama administration at first condemned the Honduran putsch and imposed economic and political sanctions. But in the end it backed down and became one of the few nations to recognize the results of a new presidential election held by the coup government in November...Given how long and how deeply the United States was engaged in Central America, that is hardly a legacy of which Americans can be proud. It may not have been the responsibility of the United States to make a new Switzerland of Central America, but ever since its Mayan glory faded a millennium ago, this region has been most famous for natural and political catastrophe. In light of the role the Reagan administration played in stoking the internecine carnage there, the United States had an obligation to do more than walk away after the combatants received their beans and rice...Such neglect tends to diminish America’s moral standing as the lantern of New World ideals like democracy and opportunity, if the nations we rub shoulders with are left in the shadows..."
Anyway, the article continues in a similar unsparingly critical analysis of how various Central American countries, particularly Honduras, continue to fall into the mistakes of the past and how the United States has really not been especially helpful in its foreign policy towards the region. I found it a useful look at how we have gotten into the mess we are in.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Theological Censorship: Pagola's "Jesus"

Being a librarian and the daughter of a journalist, Rebel Girl detests censorship in all its forms, particularly the censorship of theologians. Now a major Spanish theologian, Jose Antonio Pagola, joins the ranks of the censored. PPC, the publishers of the Spanish edition of Fr. Pagola's popular book, Jesús. Aproximación histórica, now in its 9th edition and translated into multiple languages, have been ordered to stop printing it and the book has been recalled from bookstores after having already sold 60,000 copies. The book is available in English as Jesus, an Historical Approximation (Convivium, 2009). Incidentally, Convivium's Web site offers some videos of Fr. Pagola talking about his book in Spanish, with an English overdub. Fr. Pagola explains quite sensibly that he was setting out to better know the reality of Jesus. How, he asks, can you follow someone you do not know?

Fr. Pagola, who has degrees in theology and Sacred Scripture, has written numerous Christological works over the last four decades. He has taught at the San Sebastian Seminary and the Facultad de Teología del Norte de España. He has also held many clerical positions, the highest being Vicar General to now retired Bishop José María Setién in the Diocese of San Sebastian.

Nobody seems certain about the reasons for the order to withdraw the popular book from circulation. Speculations in the press have ranged from an order from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, to a desire to limit the spread of the Spanish language edition before it reaches extensively into Latin America, to retaliation against the popularity of the former bishop, Msgr. Juan María Uriarte, who supports Fr. Pagola and gave the work his "nihil obstat".

The Spanish bishops' conference had issued a rather stern note of clarification about Jesús back in 2008 but otherwise took no further action at that point. Succinctly summarizing their objections, they said:

From the methodological perspective, there are three main deficiencies in the book Jesús. Aproximación histórica: a) the rupture that, in fact, is established between faith and history; b) the mistrust with respect to the historicity of the gospels; and c) a reading of the story of Jesus from some presuppositions that end up twisting it around. The doctrinal deficiencies can be summed up into six: a) a reductionist presentation of Jesus as a mere prophet; b) denial of his divine filial awareness; c) denial of the redemptive meaning Jesus gives to His death; d) obscuring of the reality of sin and the meaning of forgiveness; e) denial of Jesus' intent to found the Church as a hierarchical community; and f) confusion about the historical, real, and transcendental character of Jesus' resurrection.
Another particularly harsh critic, Monseñor Demetrio Fernández of the Diocese of Tarazona, issued a pastoral letter titled El libro de Pagola hará daño ("Pagola's book will do damage"), arguing that the work would confuse the faithful.

Fr. Pagola answered these and other criticisms in a paper titled La Verdad Os Hará Libres ("The Truth Shall Make You Free"). Fr. Pagola explains that his work fits well within the guidelines for Biblical interpretation issued by the Pontifical Biblical Commission and that it is in line with other historical-critical writings such as John Meier's A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus that have been well-received by the Vatican. Then he launches into a point-by-point rebuttal, demonstrating how his critics have either failed to read his book completely or err in not understanding the difference between Christological and Jesuological analysis - expecting his book to conform to the first, when in fact it falls within the second. He also indicates that he read and took to heart the notification issued to fellow theologian Jon Sobrino with respect to the divine/human nature of Jesus and attempted to apply it to his writing. The response is remarkable in its erudition, patience and humility, given the difference in stature between this scholar and most of his critics.

The case has caused considerable uproar among clergy in the Basque region. Last week, 250 priests in the San Sebastian diocese signed an open letter supporting Fr. Pagola. The priests, who mention their gratitude to Fr. Pagola for having trained many of them, express their solidarity and question who or what is behind the order to withdraw his book from the bookstores. They also express their support for their former bishop, Msgr. Uriarte. In a more extreme protest, Fr. Juan María Bautista, pastor of San Francisco Javier in Bilbao, refused to perform the Consecration during the Sunday Mass and used the homily to excoriate the hierarchy for its "inquisitorial obscurantism".

The Spanish online theological forum Atrio has been discussing the matter at length in various posts from Fr. Pagola's fellow theoogians such as Javier Vitoria, professor at the Deusto Theological School.

Those who detest censorship and want to read Jesús. Aproximación histórica in Spanish can find a free PDF version of the 3rd edition here but if you read English, I would strongly encourage you to buy a copy of the book as a better form of protest. I also hope that another Spanish publishing house will rise to the challenge and sign a contract with Fr. Pagola to pick up where PPC left off. Even if Catholic bookstores in that country are too intimidated to carry the title, it could still be sold through the big retailers such as FNAC and Casa del Libro. I'm waiting impatiently for my English copy to arrive...

On the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Romero

by Dom Pedro Casaldáliga* (English translation by Rebel Girl)
March 9, 2010

To celebrate an anniversary of our Saint Romero of America is to celebrate a contagious prophetic witness. It is to uncompromisingly take on the causes, the reasons why our Saint Romero was martyred. He was a great witness following the greatest Witness, the faithful Witness, Jesus. The blood of martyrs is the cup from which we all can and must drink. Always and under every circumstance, the memory of martyrdom is a subversive memory.

Thirty years have come and gone since that full Eucharist in the clinic chapel. That day our saint wrote to us: "We believe in the victory of the resurrection." And he often said, prophesying a new era, "if they kill me, I will resurrect in the Salvadoran people." And, with all the ambiguities of history in process, our Saint Romero is rising in El Salvador, in Our America, in the World.

This Anniversary should renew in all of us hope -- lucid, critical, but invincible. "Everything is grace", everything is Easter, if we risk entering into the mystery of the shared supper, the cross and resurrection.

Saint Romero teaches and "charges" us to live a whole spirituality, a holiness as mystical as it is political. In everyday life and in the larger processes of justice and peace, "with the poor of the earth", in the family, in the street, at work, in the popular movement and the pastoral incarnate. He awaits us in the daily struggle against this kind of monstrous mob that is neoliberal capitalism, against the unbridled market, against rampant consumerism. The Fraternity Campaign of Brazil, which is ecumenical this year, reminds us of Jesus' strong words: "You can not serve two masters, both God and money."

Responding to those in Society and the Church who attempt to demoralize liberation theology, walking in communion with the poor, this new way of being church, our pastor and martyr replied: "There is an “atheism” that is closer at hand and more dangerous to our church. It is the atheism of capitalism, in which material possessions are set up as idols and take God’s place."

Faithful to the signs of the times, like Romero, updating the faces of the poor and the social and pastoral needs, we must stress during this anniversary the greatest causes, some of them true paradigms. Ecumenism and macro-ecumenism in religious dialogue and universal koinonia. The rights of migrants against segregation laws. Solidarity and intersolidarity. The great ecological cause.

(Our Latin American Agenda this year is dedicated precisely to the ecological issue, with a challenging title: "Let us save ourselves along with the Planet"). The integration of Our America. The effective campaigns for peace, denouncing the growing militarism and weapons proliferation. Always pressing for changes in the Church, with the role of the laity, that Santo Domingo called for, and equality of women in church ministries. The challenge of daily violence, especially among youth, who are manipulated by the alienating media and the world's drug epidemic.

Always and increasingly, however great the challenges may be, we will live out the option for the poor, hope "against hope". In following Jesus, the Kingdom within. Our consistency will be the best canonization of "Saint Romero of America, pastor and martyr."

* Bishop Emeritus of São Félix do Araguaia, Brazil

Monday, March 8, 2010

Please, God, make it stop!

I look at my blog and think: Rebel Girl, people must be wondering how come you didn't write about the Chilean earthquake. Don't you care? Why didn't you go to Fr. Hoyos' special Mass with all the diplomatic bigwigs? Answer: Because after a long and tiring trip up to Baltimore to see Angelito in his new digs the previous day and after escuela bright and early on Sunday morning which went on and on and on, I sat at the bus stop in a catatonic daze trying to decide where to go next and talked to God. God said: "Girl, you're exhausted. Go home and go to bed before you crash completely." So, instead of church, I counseled a depressed young man who wrote in on the Renovacion Web site via e-mail and got my mother's financial papers in order for her tax preparer. And then I listened to God and took a nice, long nap.

People send me stuff constantly. Each person wants everyone else to get excited about their particular crisis and humanly, we just can't. Chile is bad, true. The March 6th death toll estimate from that disaster according to the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is 528, with hundreds of additional internally diplaced persons. Relief is coming in quickly, as the international community is getting adept at surfing the steady waves of disaster being inflicted on the planet. The more recent earthquake in Turkey -- a mere 6.0 on the Richter scale with 57 deaths so far -- barely registers on our consciousness. As for Haiti, the mind simply shuts down when confronted with the question of how that country will dispose of the rubble from its earthquake -- 30 million to 78 million cubic yards or "enough to fill the Louisiana Superdome, from playing field to roof, up to 17 times."

And what is capturing my mind and heart today is not Angelito's struggle against pancreatic cancer and the even deadlier diplomatic and health care bureaucracies, not Haiti, Chile or Turkey, but Nigeria. From the Associated Press:

The killers showed no mercy: They didn't spare women and children, or even a 4-day-old baby, from their machetes. On Monday, Nigerian women wailed in the streets as a dump truck carried dozens of bodies past burned-out homes toward a mass grave.

Rubber-gloved workers pulled ever-smaller bodies from the dump truck and tossed them into the mass grave. A crowd began singing a hymn with the refrain, "Jesus said I am the way to heaven." As the grave filled, the grieving crowd sang: "Jesus, show me the way."

At least 200 people, most of them Christians, were slaughtered on Sunday, according to residents, aid groups and journalists. The local government gave a figure more than twice that amount, but offered no casualty list or other information to substantiate it.

An Associated Press reporter counted 61 corpses, 32 of them children, being buried in the mass grave in the village of Dogo Nahawa on Monday. Other victims would be buried elsewhere. At a local morgue the bodies of children, including a diaper-clad toddler, were tangled together. One appeared to have been scalped. Others had severed hands and feet.

The horrific violence comes after sectarian killings in this region in January left more than 300 dead, most of them Muslim. Some victims were shoved into sewer pits and communal wells...

Even though the leadership of both the Catholic and the Anglican Church are urging the faithful to see this as an ethnic rather than a religious conflict, we can't help but note that the death toll from this violence is similar to the Chilean earthquake and the huge number of children victims brings to mind the reading from the Feast of the Holy Innocents: "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." (Mt 2:18)

All I want to do is cover my ears and eyes and scream: "Please, God, make it stop...NOW!"

Photos: Chile, Haiti, Nigeria x2