Friday, July 9, 2010

Women's ordination to be added to the list of "delicta graviora"

Updates to canon law on the gravest sins in the Church can be expected in the coming days, Vatican sources report. The last time the law was modified was in 2001 when Pope John Paul II, together with the then-head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, defined which offenses were the delicta graviora, or the most serious sins. Those cases were then placed under the sole jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The modifications made in 2001 were published in the motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, which defined the most serious sins as those against the Sacrament of Penance, against the Eucharist, and against the sixth commandment when committed by a priest against a minor under 18 years of age.

According to the Catholic News Service:

...Under the new revisions, the "attempted ordination of women" will be listed among those crimes, as a serious violation of the sacrament of holy orders, informed sources said. As such, it will be handled under the procedures set up for investigating "delicta graviora" under the control of the doctrinal congregation.

In 2008, the doctrinal congregation formally decreed that a woman who attempts to be ordained a Catholic priest and the person attempting to ordain her are automatically excommunicated. In 1994, Pope John Paul said the church's ban on women priests is definitive and not open to debate among Catholics.

Photos: 1. Women's ordination Mass in Florida (2/2010); 2. Roman Catholic Womenpriests member and priest Mary Kay Kusner celebrates Mass in Iowa (6/2010).

In praise of the siesta

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)

After journalist and friend Zuenir Ventura dared, in a major newspaper in Rio (29/05), to extol the benefits of the siesta as something that is good for your health, and moreover, a biological necessity that makes people more intelligent, I have been inspired to praise the siesta. It's an old goal I have nurtured for years, during which I even did research on the matter. I intend to justify being an inveterate siesta taker. So inveterate that I even make some lectures conditional on the possibility of taking a short nap after lunch, even if only in an armchair or chair.

In Freiburg (Germany), they took my wish so seriously that they set up a camp bed in a room so I could take the blessed nap. But I didn't take it, because some Germans had the bad taste to organize a meeting over lunch with a group that even wanted to talk about metaphysical questions. The result was that they spoiled the meal -- either one ended up not eating or, worse, there was no time to lie down for the indispensable little nap.

Personally I'm always recalcitrant about going to bed. I don't like sleeping and delay bedtime as long as I can. But few things are better, among the pleasant satisfactions that the Creator gave the 'debased' sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, than a good nap. It doesn't need to be long. Just about 20 minutes. With the exception of Saturdays and Sundays, when, like a good person of Italian descent, I drink two glasses of wine. Not so much for the wine, but because it favors a deeper and more prolonged nap. Thus I sleep "like a log", "a pierna suelta" as they say in Spanish, well translated by our people in Minas Gerais as “durmo de pé espalhado”.

The origin of the nap is mysterious, but by its intrinsic goodness it must be linked to the process of anthropogenesis, that is, it must have existed since human beings appeared. If even animals take naps, why wouldn't humans -- the more complex brothers and sisters of animals -- do so?

Some believe that it was officially introduced in the West by the monks and friars. There is a delicious Spanish saying that: "si quieres matar a un fraile, quítale la siesta y dale de comer tarde" ["If you want to kill a monk, take away his nap and feed him late"]. In Spain, the siesta is so sacred that most business is closed during those hours. In the monasteries, I could see that some friars even put on pajamas to take a nap, especially after having a few glasses of wine followed by an excellent cognac.

It is said that Newton and Churchill had their best ideas after the siesta. Victor Hugo spoke of the siesta when referring to the lion in a poem entitled "La méridienne du lion" ["The lion's nap"]. Baudelaire in "La belle Dorothée" tells wisely why she napped: "une sieste qui est une espèce de mort savoureuse où le dormeur, à demi éveillé, goûte les voluptés de son anéantissement." ["The siesta is a delicious sort of death in which the sleeper, half-awake, tastes the pleasure of his annihilation"] Rene Louis, in his Mémoires d'un Siesteur ("Memoirs of a Siesta Taker") said it well: "The siesta allows me to observe sleeping; it's the moment when time stands still and is silent." F. Audouard, beautifully says in his Pensées: "In Provence, one wakes twice: in the morning and after the siesta."

Here is what is good about the siesta for me: it gives us a second night and two dawnings of the sun. The siesta allows us to have, on the same day, a second day. When waking from a siesta, everything starts again with renewed vigor as if the day has begun anew.

If they take my nap away, the body takes revenge, especially if I'm listening to a talk: I doze, I blink, and not infrequently I nod off. I can not imagine a whole day of mental activity, paying attention to so many things and having to put who knows how many ideas in order, without a refreshing nap.

The siesta is a wise invention of life. It rests the mind, makes one forget the disappointments and gives us the rare virtual experience of dying sweetly (sleep is a beautiful metaphor for death) and rising again.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A bishop speaks his mind

This speech by Mons. Kevin Dowling, the bishop of Rustenburg, South Africa, has been making waves in the conservative Catholic blogsphere. We bring it to you with thanks for our friends at NCR.

The Southern Cross [South Africa's weekly Catholic newspaper] about 3 or 4 weeks ago published a picture of Bishop Slattery with his "cappa magna". For me, such a display of what amounts to triumphalism in a church torn apart by the sexual abuse scandal, is most unfortunate. What happened there bore the marks of a medieval royal court, not the humble, servant leadership modeled by Jesus. But it seems to me that this is also a symbol of what has been happening in the church especially since pope John Paul II became the Bishop of Rome and up till today -- and that is "restorationism," the carefully planned dismantling of the theology, ecclesiology, pastoral vision, indeed the "opening of the windows" of Vatican II -- in order to "restore" a previous, or more controllable model of church through an increasingly centralized power structure; a structure which now controls everything in the life of the church through a network of Vatican congregations led by cardinals who ensure strict compliance with what is deemed by them to be "orthodox." Those who do not comply face censure and punishment, e.g. theologians who are forbidden to teach in Catholic faculties.

Lest we do not highlight sufficiently this important fact. Vatican II was an ecumenical council, i.e., a solemn exercise of the magisterium of the church, i.e. the college of bishops gathered together with the bishop of Rome and exercising a teaching function for the whole church. In other words, its vision, its principles and the direction it gave are to be followed and implemented by all, from the pope to the peasant farmer in the fields of Honduras.

Since Vatican II there has been no such similar exercise of teaching authority by the magisterium. Instead, a series of decrees, pronouncements and decisions which have been given various "labels" stating, for example, that they must be firmly held to with "internal assent" by the Catholic faithful, but in reality are simply the theological or pastoral interpretations or opinions of those who have power at the centre of the church. They have not been solemnly defined as belonging to the "deposit of the faith" to be believed and followed, therefore, by all Catholics, as with other solemnly proclaimed dogmas. For example, the issues of celibacy for the priesthood and the ordination of women, withdrawn even from the realm of discussion. Therefore, such pronouncements are open to scrutiny -- to discern whether they are in accord, for example, with the fundamental theological vision of Vatican II, or whether there is indeed a case to be made for a different interpretation or opinion.

When I worked internationally from my religious congregation's base in Rome from 1985 to 1990 [Dowling is a Redemptorist] before I came back here as bishop of Rustenburg, one of my responsibilities was the building up of young adult ministry with our communities in the countries of Europe where so many of the young people were alienated from the church. I developed relationships with many hundreds of sincere, searching Catholic young adults, very open to issues of injustice, poverty and misery in the world, aware of structural injustice in the political and economic systems which dominated the world, but who increasingly felt that the "official" church was not only out of touch with reality, but a counter-witness to the aspirations of thinking and aware Catholics who sought a different experience of church. In other words, an experience which enabled them to believe that the church they belonged to had something relevant to say and to witness to in the very challenging world in which they lived. Many, many of these young adults have since left the church entirely.

On the other hand, it has to be recognized that for a significant number of young Catholics, adult Catholics, priests and religious around the world, the "restorationist" model of church which has been implemented over the past 30-40 years is sought after and valued; it meets a need in them; it gives them a feeling of belonging to something with very clear parameters and guidelines for living, thus giving them a sense of security and clarity about what is truth and what is morally right or wrong, because there is a clear and strong authority structure which decides definitively on all such questions, and which they trust absolutely as being of divine origin.

The rise of conservative groups and organizations in the church over the past 40 years and more, which attract significant numbers of adherents, has led to a phenomenon which I find difficult to deal with, viz. an inward looking church, fearful of if not antagonistic towards a secularist world with its concomitant danger of relativism especially in terms of truth and morality -- frequently referred to by pope Benedict XVI; a church which gives an impression of "retreating behind the wagons," and relying on a strong central authority to ensure unity through uniformity in belief and praxis in the face of such dangers. The fear is that without such supervision and control, and that if any freedom in decision-making is allowed, even in less important matters, this will open the door to division and a breakdown in the unity of the church.

This is all about a fundamentally different "vision" in the church and "vision" of the church. Where today can we find the great theological leaders and thinkers of the past, like Cardinal [Joseph] Frings of Cologne, Germany] and [Bernard Jan ] Alfrink [Utrecht, Netherlands] in Europe, and the great prophetic bishops whose voice and witness was a clarion call to justice, human rights and a global community of equitable sharing -- the witness of Archbishop [Oscar] Romero of El Salvador, the voices of Cardinals [Paulo Evaristo] Arns and [Aloísio Leo Arlindo ] Lorscheider, and Bishops [Dom] Helder Camara and [Pedro] Casadaliga of Brazil? Again, who in today's world "out there" even listens to, much less appreciates and allows themselves to be challenged by the leadership of the church at the present time? I think the moral authority of the church's leadership today has never been weaker. It is, therefore, important in my view that church leadership, instead of giving an impression of its power, privilege and prestige, should rather be experienced as a humble, searching ministry together with its people in order to discern the most appropriate or viable responses which can be made to complex ethical and moral questions -- a leadership, therefore, which does not presume to have all the answers all the time.

But to change focus a bit. One of the truly significant contributions of the church to the building up of a world in which people and communities can live in peace and dignity, with a quality of life which befits those made in God's image, has been the body of what has been called "Catholic Social Teaching", a compendium of which has been released during the past few years. These social teaching principles are: The Common Good, Solidarity, The Option for the Poor, Subsidiarity, The Common Destiny of Goods, The Integrity of Creation, and People-Centerdness -- all based on and flowing out of the values of the Gospel. Here we have very relevant principles and guidelines to engage with complex social, economic, cultural and political realities, especially as these affect the poorest and most vulnerable members of societies everywhere. These principles should enable us, as church, to critique constructively all socio-political-economic systems and policies - and especially from that viewpoint, viz. their effect on the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

However, if church leadership anywhere presumes to criticize or critique socio-political-economic policies and policy makers, or governments, it must also allow itself to be critiqued in the same way in terms of its policies, its internal life, and especially its modus operandi. A democratic culture and praxis, with its focus on the participation of citizens and holding accountable those who are elected to govern, is increasingly appreciated in spite of inevitable human shortcomings. When thinking people of all persuasions look at church leadership, they raise questions about, for example, real participation of the membership in its governance and how in fact church leadership is to be held accountable, and to whom. If the church, and its leadership, professes to follow the values of the Gospel and the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, then its internal life, its methods of governing and its use of authority will be scrutinized on the basis of what we profess. Let us take one social teaching principle, vitally important for ensuring participative democracy in the socio-political domain, viz. subsidiarity.

I worked with the [South African] bishops' conference Justice and Peace Department for 17 years. After our political liberation in 1994, we discerned that political liberation in itself would have little relevance to the reality of the poor and marginalized unless it resulted in their economic emancipation. We therefore decided that a fundamental issue for post-1994 South Africa was economic justice. After a great deal of discussion at all levels we issued a Pastoral Statement in 1999, which we entitled "Economic Justice in South Africa" [Annexe in PDF]. Its primary focus was necessarily on the economy. Among other things, it dealt with each of the Catholic Social Teaching principles, and I give a quotation now from part of its treatment of subsidiarity:

"The principle of subsidiarity protects the rights of individuals and groups in the face of the powerful, especially the state. It holds that those things which can be done or decided at a lower level of society should not be taken over by a higher level. As such, it reaffirms our right and our capacity to decide for ourselves how to organise our relationships and how to enter into agreements with others. … We can and should take steps to encourage decision-making at lower levels of the economy, and to empower the greatest number of people to participate as fully as possible in economic life." (Economic Justice in South Africa, page 14).

Applied to the church, the principle of subsidiarity requires of its leadership to actively promote and encourage participation, personal responsibility and effective engagement by everyone in terms of their particular calling and ministry in the church and world according to their opportunities and gifts.

However, I think that today we have a leadership in the church which actually undermines the very notion of subsidiarity; where the minutiae of church life and praxis "at the lower level" are subject to examination and authentication being given by the "higher level," in fact the highest level, e.g., the approval of liturgical language and texts; where one of the key Vatican II principles, collegiality in decision-making, is virtually non-existent. The eminent emeritus Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Franz König, wrote the following in 1999 -- almost 35 years after Vatican II: "In fact, however, de facto and not de jure, intentionally or unintentionally, the curial authorities working in conjunction with the pope have appropriated the tasks of the episcopal college. It is they who now carry out almost all of them" ("My Vision of the church of the Future", The Tablet, March 27, 1999, p. 434).

What compounds this, for me, is the mystique which has in increasing measure surrounded the person of the pope in the last 30 years, such that any hint of critique or questioning of his policies, his way of thinking, his exercise of authority etc. is equated with disloyalty. There is more than a perception, because of this mystique, that unquestioning obedience by the faithful to the pope is required and is a sign of the ethos and fidelity of a true Catholic. When the pope's authority is then intentionally extended to the Vatican curia, there exists a real possibility that unquestioning obedience to very human decisions about a whole range of issues by the curial departments and cardinals also becomes a mark of one's fidelity as a Catholic, and anything less is interpreted as being disloyal to the pope who is charged with steering the bark of Peter.

It has become more and more difficult over the past years, therefore, for the College of Bishops as a whole, or in a particular territory, to exercise their theologically-based servant leadership to discern appropriate responses to their particular socio-economic, cultural, liturgical, spiritual and other pastoral realities and needs; much less to disagree with or seek alternatives to policies and decisions taken in Rome. And what appears to be more and more the policy of appointing "safe", unquestionably orthodox and even very conservative bishops to fill vacant dioceses over the past 30 years, only makes it less and less likely that the College of Bishops -- even in powerful conferences like the United States -- will question what comes out of Rome, and certainly not publicly. Instead, there will be every effort to try and find an accommodation with those in power, which means that the Roman position will prevail in the end. And, taking this further, when an individual bishop takes issue with something, especially in public, the impression or judgment will be that he is "breaking ranks" with the other bishops and will only cause confusion to the lay faithful -- so it is said - because it will appear that the bishops are not united in their teaching and leadership role. The pressure, therefore, to conform.

What we should have, in my view, is a church where the leadership recognizes and empowers decision-making at the appropriate levels in the local church; where local leadership listens to and discerns with the people of God of that area what "the Spirit is saying to the church" and then articulates that as a consensus of the believing, praying, serving community. It needs faith in God and trust in the people of God to take what may seem to some or many as a risk. The church could be enriched as a result through a diversity which truly integrates socio-cultural values and insights into a living and developing faith, together with a discernment of how such diversity can promote unity in the church -- and not, therefore, require uniformity to be truly authentic.

Diversity in living and praxis, as an expression of the principle of subsidiarity, has been taken away from the local churches everywhere by the centralization of decision-making at the level of the Vatican. In addition, orthodoxy is more and more identified with conservative opinions and outlook, with the corresponding judgment that what is perceived to be "liberal" is both suspect and not orthodox, and therefore to be rejected as a danger to the faith of the people.

Is there a way forward? I have grappled with this question especially in the light of the apparent division of aspiration and vision in the church. How do you reconcile such very different visions of church, or models of church? I do not have the answer, except that somewhere we must find an attitude of respect and reverence for difference and diversity as we search for a living unity in the church; that people be allowed, indeed enabled, to find or create the type of community which is expressive of their faith and aspirations concerning their Christian and Catholic lives and engagement in church and world, and which strives to hold in legitimate and constructive tension the uncertainties and ambiguities that all this will bring, trusting in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

At the heart of this is the question of conscience. As Catholics, we need to be trusted enough to make informed decisions about our life, our witness, our expressions of faith, spirituality, prayer, and involvement in the world -- on the basis of a developed conscience. And, as an invitation to an appreciation of conscience and conscientious decisions about life and participation in what is a very human church, I close with the formulation or understanding given by none other than the theologian, Fr. Josef Ratzinger, now pope, when he was a peritus, or expert, at Vatican II:

"Over the pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one's own conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even the official church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism". (Joseph Ratzinger in: Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II ,Vol. V., pg. 134 (Ed) H. Vorgrimler, New York, Herder and Herder, 1967).

Bishop Kevin Dowling C.Ss.R.
Cape Town, June 1, 2010

Photo: Bishop Kevin Dowling visits a patient at the Tapologo AIDS Hospice that he founded.

Mexico's rock 'n roll priest

He's a priest who likes rock 'n roll but he's not Padre Jony (Spain). He rides a motorcycle, but he's not Padre Chiqui (Peru). Meet Padre Gofo from Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico -- the newest "cura rockero" to be featured on Iglesia Descalza. A new kind of priest for a new generation of Catholics, who even has his own Facebook page.

by Jesús Castro (English translation by Rebel Girl)

The charisma of Father Adolfo, better known as 'Gofo', has shaken up more than 10 souls who already have warned that unless he changes his way they will leave his parish.

Within the week that a new priest came to the parish of Nuestra Señora de Atocha, located in the Lomas de Lourdes colonia, a couple came looking for the pastor, Erasmo Treviño, but only found the young priest who tried to assist them attentively.

"We want to tell you that if you continue wearing these outfits and telling jokes during Mass, we will leave this parish," they said. The priest they spoke with is Father "Gofo." "Adolfo Huerta Alemán" is what his mother 30 years ago named the one who later became a pious seminarian whom the Diocese of Saltillo sent to specialize in philosophy at the Pontifical University of Mexico.

There, in Mexico City, he combined his studies with the social apostolate in the Tepito neighborhood, along with a group of women religious. Their work was to visit streets that had become brothels; they didn't proselytize to the prostitutes there, they taught them human rights and fought to make them appreciate their dignity as human beings again.

Celebrating Mass while wearing black shirts of heavy metal bands, with long hair and sometimes polished nails, has provoked outrage among the more reactionary and traditionalist Catholics, some of whom left the church, but then returned.

In his room, Gofo keeps a crucifix, as well as the image of Che Guevara and the poster of Silvio Rodriguez. The table beside his bed and the shelf above his desk are always full of books. The Second Vatican Council shares space with the works of theologian Leonardo Boff, Sigmund Freud, futuristic novels, existentialist philosophers, authors of liberation theology, papal documents, comics, magazines, newspapers, the Liturgy of the Hours and the Bible.

In addition, there is a skull on the desk that he says has nothing to do with the cult of Santa Muerte, but is a way to remember that death is part of life and that to live forever, you have to die with Christ in order to rise with Him. Huerta Alemán asserts that he deeply loves the Catholic Church, which is why he is its number one critic. He tells, for example, about a day when his own sister explained to him with a simple example the lack of communion in Catholic Masses.

"She told that there was more communion in the young people's fiestas than at my masses. She said to me, at my fiestas from the moment you arrive, even if you're unknown, everyone will shake hands with you, but in your church, when you come to Mass, nobody greets you, they shake hands with you during the passing of the peace, but merely out of obligation." He chats a little and then continues, "What I am saying may sound sacrilegious, but my sister tells me that there is more communion in the carne asada at the fiestas than in taking Communion, because at the fiestas everyone shares, they talk while they eat, but in the Masses, people take Communion single file, they leave the church and even though they see each other every week, they certainly never talk to the person next to them."

Since then, he goes out on a motorcycle, to visit the sick as well as to bless homes, and if he sees a fiesta of young people, even if they don't know him, he goes and gets into it, he hangs out with them, without talking about the Bible or anything, until for some reason the fact that he is a priest comes out in conversation, and the young people get interested in going to church, and thus his flock has increased.

He believes that it is time for the Church to be near the people, understand their reality, therefore he approaches young people in their fiestas or through his radio program on Infonor, where he talks about movies every day. He addresses young people in their language, who suddenly come to his masses uninvited, attracted by the charisma of Gofo, the motorcycle priest.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Christian Brother and environmental activist Paul McAuley wins temporary right to stay in Peru

A British religious environmental activist in Peru has won the right to remain in the country while he fights an expulsion order.

On July 1st, McAuley (photo), a Christian Brother, who has led the environmental group "Red Ambiental Loretana" ("Loreto Environmental Network") since 2006, received a letter from the Peruvian Ministry of the Interior canceling his residency "for acts against the public domestic order" and ordering him to leave the country within seven days.

McAuley has lived in Peru for over 20 years and for the last decade he has worked with indigenous groups in Peru's vast Amazon region, teaching them their environmental and land rights and advocating for them, often against the powerful logging and petroleum interests. Among his activities, McAuley had filed formal complaints with the Constitutional Court against the logging concessions and oil pollution complaints against companies like Argentina's Pluspetrol. In February, McAuley helped Kichwa Indians file complaints with Peruvian prosecutors charging contamination of the Tigre River and its tributaries, allegedly by 35 years of oil drilling by Pluspetrol. The Peruvian government views these activities as political agitation, prohibited for a foreigner. "Brother Paul," as he is known in the communities where he works, has been awarded an MBE for setting up a school in Lima. Had he not already given it away some years ago he says he would have sent it back to the Queen to protest British companies' involvement in the Amazon.

McAuley's lawyers have filed a writ of habeas corpus alleging that the environmentalist had not been properly notified nor had been entitled to defense and due process.

The Catholic Church and indigenous and human rights groups such as the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos and the Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana are supporting his appeal. Amnesty International said the expulsion order appeared "to be one step further in a campaign of intimidation by the government against indigenous communities and human rights defenders who work with them". Hundreds of indigenous people have also demonstrated in support of Mr McAuley in Iquitos.

The Comisión Episcopal de Acción Social, the social action arm of the Peruvian Bishops Conference, has organized a prayer vigil in support of Mr. McAuley tomorrow, July 8th, at 5:00 p.m. in the chapel of Colegio de La Salle in Lima.

See also The fight for the Peruvian rainforest, a July 2009 documentary short about Paul McAuley's work.

Immigration News Roundup - 7/7/2010

1. Priest Fasts for Immigration Reform: A Chicago pastor is recovering at home after he was hospitalized during a hunger strike for immigration reform and an end to deportations. Rev. Jose Landaverde, head of Our Lady of Guadelupe Anglican Church in the heavily Mexican Little Village neighborhood, was on the 14th day of a hunger strike when he collapsed. He had been only consuming liquids. Emma Lozano, head of the group Centro Sin Fronteras, says Landaverde was treated at Stroger Hospital and released. Landaverde, who has diabetes, had started to fast following another minister, Rev. Martin Santellano of New Hope Apostolic Ministry, a Pentecostal church who, supporters say, went 32 days without solid foods. Other activists will take over in the chain of "hunger strikes" that is meant to draw more urgency to calls for federal legislators to overhaul the nation's immigration system.

Rev. Landaverde understands the importance of immigration reform personally. He came to the U.S. from El Salvador in the early 1990s as a political asylum seeker. Both his parents were killed by government soldiers when he was a boy. An uncle took Landaverde to join the guerrilla movement. In 1990, he was arrested, then beaten and left for dead at a river bank with a group of other suspected guerrillas who had been captured. As for the hunger strike? “I want to raise awareness among the people and contribute to attracting the attention of the authorities,” the priest says. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness...

2. Houston’s Clergy Unites to Urge Support for Immigration Reform: Eschewing the more traditional "God and country" sermons this Independence Day weekend, religious leaders across the Houston metropolitan area preached about the need to fix the nation's broken immigration system and welcome the stranger among us. The coordinated effort was part of a broad-based campaign begun in January by an interfaith group, the Metropolitan Organization, to lobby Congress to pass an immigration overhaul package this year. The group has collected 12,000 signatures to be sent to lawmakers and has organized workshops to persuade churchgoers to support their effort. On June 22, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the head of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, made a strong appeal in a letter to the priests in all 150 parishes to address the question in their sermons this weekend...

3. Justice Department sues Arizona over immigration law: The Obama administration sued Arizona over the state's new immigration law on Tuesday. The Justice Department lawsuit charges that the Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigrants conflicts with federal law, would disrupt immigration enforcement and would lead to police harassment of those who cannot prove their lawful status. Filed in federal court in Arizona, it says the state's measure is unconstitutional and asks a judge to stop it from taking effect.

Some advocates do not believe a lawsuit is enough. In a statement issued yesterday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the administration can — and should — revoke the authority the Department of Justice has delegated to Arizona under 287(g) in which Homeland Security trains members of eight state and local law enforcement agencies in Arizona, including the state police, which allows the officers to enforce immigration laws.

4. Advocates for immigrants turn to state legislatures to block Arizona-style law: The Washington Post reports that:

...In states from Pennsylvania to Utah, a battle of bills has been taking place between those who want to reproduce the Arizona law, which hands police more power to detain anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally, and those who want to extend further rights to immigrants.

Lawmakers have been using employment, health and anti-discrimination bills to counter a wave of anti-immigrant legislation. Others have introduced measures specifically designed to keep an Arizona-style law from ending up on their governor's desk.

Most are members of State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy, a group of 54 legislators from 28 states pushing pro-immigrant measures. Membership has jumped 50 percent since the Arizona law was enacted...

5. President Obama Speaks Out for Immigration Reform: One July 1st at American University, President Obama again called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Other than his enthusiastic support of the DREAM Act, the president's speech was less remarkable than the spirited invocation by Methodist Bishop John Schol that preceded it: "...God, today we also ask you to watch over those who protect our borders and those who seek a new life by crossing our borders. Bless those born within our borders and those who have found a new home by crossing our borders." To which, we can only say "Amen". Pastor Bill Hybels of the Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago delivered an unabashed plea for immigration reform as well while introducing the president. You can hear his remarks and the president's in this video from C-SPAN.

6. The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immmigration on United States Taxpayers: Our "friends" at FAIR have come out with a new study that "estimates the annual costs of illegal immigration at the federal, state and local level to be about $113 billion; nearly $29 billion at the federal level and $84.2 billion at the state and local level." The release of the report has been timed to coincide with the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against the state of Arizona and I'm sure someone will review it and debunk FAIR's methodology and conclusions, as has happened with many of FAIR's previous un-FAIR studies. When that happens, we'll amend this entry. One glaring methodological assumption in this report: "In our cost estimates we also include the minor children of illegal aliens born in the United States. That adds another 3.4 million children to the 1.3 million children who are illegal aliens themselves." Sorry, FAIR, you can't count these kids and inflate your figures because, like it or not, they are U.S. citizens and entitled to all benefits as such.

Photo: Rev. Jose Landaverde

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tenemos Esperanza: Why We Have Hope

As I have mentioned before in this blog, one of the joys of belonging to the Hispanic community at Our Lady Queen of Peace is the choir which, because that parish is not wedded to Flor Y Canto -- good as it is -- or some narrow concept of liturgical correctness, exposes us to a variety of songs that celebrate the preferential option for the poor. Sometimes a song will move me to explore its origins, as was the case with the closing hymn this past Sunday: "Tenemos Esperanza". The lyrics, my translation of them, and a video of the authors performing it themselves are below.

The author of the lyrics of "Tenemos Esperanza" turns out to be none other than Rev. Federico J. Pagura, bishop emeritus of the Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina. Rev. Pagura has also served as president of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) and of the Council of Methodist Bishops in the Latin America and the Caribbean. A former member of the World Council of Churches Commission on World Mission and Evangelism, Pagura was elected a president of the WCC by the Harare assembly in 1998. Pagura is also a member of the board of the Life & Peace Institute of Uppsala, Sweden, and co-president of the Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights in Argentina.

And in his spare time, this former professor of theology also writes Christian hymns, frequently to the tango rhythms of his native land. His musical collaborator is Homero Perera, a professional pianist, organist, and composer from Uruguay. According to C. Michael Hawn, author of Gather Into One: Praying and Singing Globally, their collaboration began at the Facultad Evangélica de Teología where Rev. Pagura served as chaplain and Perera was studying organ and composition in the early 1960s.

The hymn itself is part of a trilogy the pair wrote in the 1970s in response to the human rights situation at that time in Latin America, including the overthrow of Salvador Allende and the establishment of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, and the "dirty war" in Argentina. People were asking why this was happening and wondering if God had abandoned them. The "Porque" trilogy, which also includes "Porque él venció" (also called "Sursum Corda") and "Porque hay un mundo" (also called "Alegría"), was Pagura's attempt to answer that longing for a reason to hope.

In his chapter "Pagura...El Cantor" in the book Por eso es que tenemos esperanza: homenaje al obispo Federico J. Pagura (Oshige, Fernando ed. Quito: CLAI, 1995), the Christian musician Pablo Sosa wrote about these hymns:

[In] a time of military dictatorship, the death, the disappearances, the injustice, the horror...How is it possible to have hope? Someone has to raise up our faith before everything is emptied out. It was Federico's turn. He completed the mission of the poet, as he intuited it, to put wings to the gospel. To lift up hope with a song. And Perera accompanied him with a tango, because he needed the male determination (or, perhaps, the determination which many women have, and not all men) to have hope, even in Christ, and especially in Christ in those terrible time.
And Hawn concludes: "By using the tango to embody Christ's ministry and hope in a difficult time of persecution and oppression, Pagura...planted the gospel of the incarnation deeply in Latin American soil."

Tenemos esperanza

Porque El entró en el mundo y en la historia;
porque El quebró el silencio y la agonía;
porque llenó la tierra de su gloria;
porque fue luz en nuestra noche fría.

Porque nació en un pesebre oscuro;
porque vivió sembrando amor y vida;
porque partió los corazones duros
y levantó las almas abatidas.

Por eso es que hoy tenemos esperanza;
por eso es que hoy luchamos con porfía;
por eso es que hoy miramos con confianza,
el porvenir en esta tierra mía.

Porque atacó a ambiciosos mercaderes
y denunció maldad e hipocresía;
porque exaltó a los niños, las mujeres
y rechazó a los que de orgullo ardían.

Porque El cargó la cruz de nuestras penas
y saboreó la hiel de nuestros males;
porque aceptó sufrir nuestra condena,
y así morir por todos los mortales.


Porque una aurora vio su gran victoria
sobre la muerte, el miedo, las mentiras;
ya nada puede detener su historia,
ni de su Reino eterno la venida


We Have Hope

1. Because He came into the world and into history,
because He broke the silence and the agony,
because He filled the earth with His glory,
because He was light in our cold night.

Because He was born in a dark manger,
because He lived sowing love and life,
because He opened up the hard of heart
and lifted up downtrodden souls

Chorus: Therefore we have hope today,
Therefore we fight on tenaciously today,
Therefore today we look confidently
on the future of this land of mine.

2. Because He attacked the ambitious merchants
and denounced evil and hypocrisy;
Because He exalted the children, the women,
and rejected those who burn with arrogance.

Because He bore the cross of our suffering
and because He tasted the bitterness of our ills;
because He accepted to suffer our condemnation
and thus died for all mortals.


3. Because a dawn saw His great victory
over death, the fear, the lies;
now nothing can hold back His history
or the coming of His eternal kingdom.



Photo: Federico Pagura (standing) and Homero Perera (at keyboard)

In Memoriam: Fr. William Callahan and Elise Boulding

The peace and justice movement has just lost two great leaders -- one Catholic, the other Quaker:

1. Fr. William Callahan

Bill Callahan, founder of the Quixote Center, has passed away at 78. His former Quixote Center colleague, Maureen Fiedler, has written a thorough obituary for National Catholic Reporter. Here are some excerpts:

...In the 1970s, he became a nationally known speaker on social justice and the spirituality of justice. In 1982, he published Noisy Contemplation: Deep Prayer for Busy People, which is a classic in contemporary spirituality. Deep prayer does not require the silence of a monastery, he said. Ordinary people can pray in the midst of noise and activism. “We are blessed with a merry God; indeed, we are the entertainment,” he said in the book – with a flash of the humor for which he was famous.

His activism began after he entered the New England Province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1948. He pushed his community to take a strong stand for civil rights. In 1971, he helped found the Center of Concern in Washington, DC, a progressive Catholic think-tank dealing with global justice issues. In 1975, he launched Priests for Equality, calling for the equality of women and men in all walks of life, including ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood. In 1976, together with Dolly Pomerleau and Jesuit Father Bill Michelman, he founded the Quixote Center, where – as he put it – “people could dream impossible dreams of justice and make them come true.”

...In 1978, he began several years of ministry with Good Shepherd Catholics for Shared Responsibility, a lay group that had been disenfranchised by Bishop Thomas Welsh, in the then newly created Diocese of Arlington, VA. Welsh’s policies had drifted away from the teachings and spirit of the Second Vatican Council, and these laypeople had been accustomed to active participation in their parish.

In 1980, Bill was silenced by the Jesuits on the issue of women’s ordination, but resumed his public stance a year later. In the late 1980s, he founded Catholics Speak Out, a project of the Quixote Center that encouraged lay Catholics to take adult responsibility for the direction of their church.

In the late 1970s, he embraced the struggles of the poor in Central America, especially Nicaragua and El Salvador, becoming an outspoken opponent of the Reagan war policies in the 1980s. Together with Dolly Pomerleau, he directed the Quest for Peace, a multi-million dollar program of humanitarian aid and development funding for the people of Nicaragua who were victims of the “contra war” waged by the Reagan Administration.

...In 1989, the New England Province of the Jesuits, at the direction of the Vatican, threatened Callahan with dismissal unless he severed his ties with the Quixote Center, Priests for Equality, and Catholics Speak Out, and returned to Boston. He refused to abandon his work with Nicaragua, or for reform of the church. Consequently, he was dismissed from the Society of Jesus in the early 1990’s, a move he strenuously resisted. It is not clear to this day what specific issue(s) motivated his final dismissal from the New England Jesuits.

...In the last 20 years, although not a Jesuit, he remained a priest and ministered in several intentional Eucharistic communities in the Washington, DC area.

2. Elise Boulding:

Elise Boulding, a sociologist, pacifist feminist and scholar who wrote extensively about conflict resolution in both personal and global relations and who helped establish the academic field known as peace studies, died June 24 in Needham, Mass. She was 89.

...A Norwegian-born Quaker, she was nominated for the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize by the American Friends Service Committee, the service arm of the Quaker faith, which was a co-recipient of the Nobel in 1947.

...she helped found the scholarly organization the International Peace Research Association. She also pursued a doctorate at the University of Michigan and ran unsuccessfully for Congress as an opponent of the Vietnam War.

While she was working on her dissertation, the family moved to Boulder, Colo., and in 1968 Ms. Boulding became the leader of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom, the antiwar group whose first president was Jane Addams. At the University of Colorado at Boulder, she founded the program in peace studies, and later, after she moved to Dartmouth, she helped build the program there as well.

...“A richer and more diversified peace culture than any of us can now easily imagine, an international global peace culture, is there to be built out of the languages and lifeways and knowledge and experience worlds of the ‘10,000 societies’ now spread across the 185 states of today’s world,” she wrote in Cultures of Peace: The Hidden Side of History (2000), a book considered to be the culmination of her life’s work...