Friday, July 30, 2010

Remembering Segundo Galilea two months after his death

by Carmen Elena Villa (English translation by Rebel Girl)

As a clear, simple priest of deep thoughts, that is how Maria Barbagallo in Tuesday's edition of the newspaper L'Osservatore Romano remembered Segundo Galilea, the Chilean priest and writer who died on May 27.

"If we want a more missionary, consistent and witnessing Church, one that participates more in communion," Father Galilea used to say, "it means that we want a Church that is more spiritual, more prayerful and more contemplative, that is to say, more beautiful."

His life

Segundo Galilea was born in the capital of Chile on April 3, 1928. He was ordained a priest in 1956. At the beginning of the 60s he worked in Cuernavaca, Mexico, preparing missionaries.

The Latin American Episcopal Conference summoned him to publicize the Second Vatican Council in an itinerant pastoral institute, of which he became the director in the cities of Medellin and Bogota, Colombia.

Until 1975, he toured Latin America, committed to offering reflections, retreats and spiritual exercises. Then he began a relationship with the Pontifical Mission Societies and along with other priests, he organized a foreign missionary institute.

He traveled several times to the Philippines and South Korea. He worked in the United States with immigrant communities. He also collaborated on important theological journals on this continent.

He gave the money he gathered from royalties and lectures to the archdiocese of Santiago de Chile to fund spiritual retreats in the poor areas of his country.

In 1997, the archbishop of Santiago de Chile asked him to be part of a group of experts to draft the conclusions of the ninth diocesan synod.

In 2000, he left for Cuba where he served as the spiritual director of the San Carlos seminary in that country.

"In Cuba, one works with few resources, few priests and religious, but you learn to make the best of life, to take everything or little, to value what is essential," the priest said in an interview in 2001. He then returned to Santiago de Chile for health reasons.

Action with prayer

Some define Father Galilea as a "liberation theologian" because he belongs to the period in which this current spread in Latin America. However, "he was never an extremist nor did he ever let himself be manipulated by fervent trends or sterile and superficial polemics," María Barbagallo recalls.

The author recalled how this priest "lived his commitment in faithful obedience to Jesus Christ and the Church and his tireless preaching was centered on Jesus of Nazareth, the Church, mission and evangelization."

Bargaballo also highlighted the content of his writings, "dense with missionary mystique, with a commitment to Jesus, poor and obedient, with attempts to get the people of the Church to reflect that there is no missionary dynamism without a radical commitment to Jesus Christ."

Father Galilea was much in harmony with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, founded by St. Frances Cabrini (1874 - 1914), and began traveling to Brazil, Argentina, Italy, and the United States, giving lectures on spirituality and mission and urging them to involve more lay people in their mission.

At his funeral, Father Fernando Tapia Miranda said that his life could be summed up in one phrase: "a living testimony to the radicalism of the Gospel."

"He had nothing of his own," the priest remembered. "In the final years, he lived in a little room in our pontifical seminary. He never had a car, as far as we could tell. He traveled with his little suitcase in hand and his eternal pipe."

See also Segundo Galilea (1928-2010), In Memoriam: Una Espiritualidad de la Liberación by Xabier Pikaza Ibarrondo, 7/29/2010

A different way of being Church

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)

Anyone who read my last article, "Where the real crisis in the Church lies", may have been left feeling hopeless. In it, I analyzed the centralized, pyramidal, absolutist and monarchic power structure of the Church. This kind of power does not favor the evangelical ideal of equality, fraternity and the participation of the faithful. Instead, it closes the door on participation and love. It's that this kind of power, by its nature, needs to be strong and cold. This model of Church-as-power is presented as "the" Church, the only Church, and, worse still, as willed by Christ when, as I have shown, it emerged historically and it is only its facilitation and management side, being less than 0.1% of all the faithful. Therefore, it is not the whole Church but only a small part of it.

But the Church-as-community as a religious phenomenon and movement of Jesus is much more than the institution. That one finds other forms of organization, much closer to the dream of its founder and its first followers. Wisely, the Brazilian bishops at their annual meeting held in Brasilia January 4 to 13 this year, admitted that "only a Church with different ways to live the same faith will be capable of meaningful dialogue with contemporary society." This destroyed the pretense of a single way of being: the one of the power tradition. Without denying it, there are many other ways: the one of the Church of liberation, the charismatics' one, the one of the men and women religious, the one of Catholic Action, even the one of Opus Dei, the one of Communion and Liberation and Canção Nova ["New Song" -- a Brazilian Catholic movement founded in 1978], to name only the best known ones.

But there is a completely special and promising way, born in the 50s in the last century in Brazil and that has acquired global significance, as it has been assimilated in many countries: Base Christian Communities (CEBs). The bishops devoted an encouraging message to them ["As Comunidades Eclesiais de Base”]. Interestingly, they appeared at the time that a new historical consciousness was blooming in Brazil. In society, the people were craving more political participation, and in the Church, the members were also yearning for greater involvement and co-responsibility. The CEBs are another way of being Church, whose main theme, though not exclusively, is the poor. Their style is communal, participatory and integrated into the local culture. Services are rotating and leaders are democratically elected. Faith and life are continuously joined; they are active in the religious field, creating new liturgies and rites, and active socially and politically, through trade unions, social movements like the MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra - Brazilian Landless Workers' Movement) or populist parties.

We do not know exactly how many there are, but it is estimated that there are about 100,000 base communities in Brazil, involving several million Christians. The bishops note their high innovative and anti-systemic value. The market eliminated relationships of cooperation and solidarity while in the CEBs, there are relationships based on gratuitousness, on the logic of offering-receiving-reciprocating. They have taken on the ecological cause, therefore they are also viewed as "comunidades ecológicas de base" or "base ecological communities". They have developed a strong spirituality of caring for life and Mother Earth. The result of all this has been more respect and reverence for -- and cooperation with -- all that lives and exists. The CEBs show how the sacred memory of Jesus can receive another social setting, focused on communion, brotherly love and the joy of bearing witness to the victory of life over oppression. That is the existential meaning of the resurrection of Jesus as a revolt against the current kind of world.

Humbly, the bishops state that they help the Church be more committed to life and the suffering poor. Moreover, they challenge the whole Church, calling it to conversion, to commitment to transform the world into a world of brothers and sisters.

This way of being Church can serve as a model for belonging in a contemporary, urban and globalized culture. If it were to be taken as inspiration for Pope Benedict XVI's project of "reconquering" Europe, it would likely have some success. One would be able to see communities of Christians, intellectuals, workers, women, and youth, living their faith together with the challenges of their life situations. They would not claim to have a monopoly on truth or the right path, but would associate themselves with all who seriously seek a new religious language and a new horizon of hope for humanity.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Religión Digital Interview with Fr. Jesús Espeja OP

I'm not particularly sure why Vidal is calling Fr. Espeja a liberation theologian but it's still an interesting interview...

by José Manuel Vidal (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
July 17, 2010

We are pleased to present the last, or maybe the penultimate, liberation theologian. One of the great prophets of the Church in Latin America and Spain. He is Jesus Espeja, a Dominican, author of many books, a brilliant theologian, professor at many universities, and who has been in Spain for some time, retired, dedicated to his production. Here is one work, Jesucristo. Una propuesta de vida, published by Editorial San Pablo. A book about the historical Jesus and the divine one, which we will now sort out along with some other contemporary issues.

Jesús Espeja believes that the agnosticism prevailing in the intellectual sector of our societies is due to the fact that the Church remains "the sign of obscurantism, of the past that has nothing to contribute." And he thinks that its duty is "to offer a way of life so that politicians and economists might seek more human paths."

He thinks that the dominant idea of God is of one to whom "we have to offer sacrifices and who is pleased when we destroy ourselves." And he states that we need to exchange that "interventionist, miracle-working God who is waiting for our prayers" for one who, "far from crushing or diminishing our autonomy, expands our horizon."

In his book on Jesus of Nazareth, Espeja wonders whether "we are willing to acknowledge that God has revealed Himself through the historical conduct of Jesus, which is what shocks us." He concludes that "the big news of Jesus Christ is to say that the most transcendent is, at the moment of truth, in the most immanent of the human being."

Don Jesús, it's a pleasure. Welcome.

Thank you.

There are a lot of books about Jesus Christ. Why another one?

Well, this book was motivated by two subjects. First, I realized we're in a society that is not only pluralistic and secular, but also post-Christian. Which means that not only religious indifference is growing, but more people are entering the picture who are becoming more critical, and they have perceived Christianity through a Church that for them is, in some way, the sign of obscurantism, of the past that has nothing to contribute. Even as a sign of death and repression.

Is that image real?

That image is real to many people. I am convinced that many of those who now say they are agnostic, at the bottom are struggling against a Christianity that they have forged through an evaluation of the Church.

And that does not correspond to the whole reality of the Church?

Obviously. So here comes the question. When I read, for example, the book by Victoria Camps and Adela, two professors who say they are agnostic, I see they are fighting against a God and against a religion in which I do not believe. Therefore we must turn again to Christ. Not so much to prove anything, but because His offering can open a way to this world that, on the one hand, has regained freedom in the economy, and, on the other hand, is repressed by transcendence. I believe that Jesus of Nazareth offers a transcendence that, far from crushing or minimizing that autonomy, expands the horizon.

The second subject deals with the Church. I happened to be working with Mr. Tarancón during the Transition [Translator's Note: "La Transición" -- the Transition -- is the period of Spanish history after the death of Franco, when the country switched to a constitutional, democratic government], at those phenomenal times.

Were you a close associate of Monsignor Iniesta, too?

Yes, I worked at the Episcopal Commission, on those documents that we the "Builders of Peace" put out, etc.. There we saw a model of Church that did not identify at all with power, either politically or economically, that was really offering a way of being, a lifestyle. Nothing more. But, of course, moving from that public presence of power to an evangelically significant presence was very difficult. And I've seen that in the years of the Transition there were a series of useless tensions.

But at a certain time, it almost happened? That is, at the time of Tarancón there was a mutual independence, healthy partnership, but each in its place. One never went into the streets like nowadays, for example?

Theoretically. But in practice, lust for power gets mixed in, and that's not easily fixed. It is very easy to talk about the conversion of the Church. But instead of wasting time taking stands and being against things, they should have tried to get people to believe with mature faith.

The intent of the book, then, is to present a Jesus who can give meaning to modern man?

That's right. In the Church itself, we have wasted much time on simple internal conflicts and tensions. And we have lost sight of the real tension, which is how to serve and help this world that is animated by the Spirit. I believe that at the moment of truth the figure of Jesus is what will get us all out of this struggle for power, this defensive attitude, and make us recognize the theological dimension of the world so it doesn't stop halfway.

I think in the book there is much about the liberating Jesus. You are one of the representatives of this theology so beloved by some and so maligned and abused by others.

Sure. It's that we have made Jesus of Nazareth into an image that appears to be offering Himself as a sacrifice to appease God. That is false. It is an image created by us. Actually, the liberating, encouraging word -- perfecting what is human -- is really the tradition of the Gospel. And we have stayed with the sacrificial tradition, thinking that God is up there (an idea that we have fabricated, that is a lie), that we have to offer sacrifices to Him and that He is pleased when we destroy ourselves. And we've forgotten what matters: God is not up there; He is within every human being, giving them strength and encouragement to be themselves.

But it doesn't seem that the institution is going that way, at least in recent years. Or those who run it.

I believe that when one reads, for example, Chenu [Dominican theologian Marie-Dominique Chenu], one notes that Pope Benedict XVI is deeply concerned that we are leaving this hypothetical God separated from us and discovering the God within us. I'm even more radical in the book, saying that we can't make concepts or categories about God. That is not God. God can only be known through the experience of the heart. And, consequently, every human being has, in some way, the echo of that God. We need that change. To move from an interventionist, miracle-worker God, who is waiting for our prayers, to believing that in Him we exist, we move and act. The only essential thing is that He emerge through our lives.

So Pope Ratzinger is not as conservative as they say?

No. When one reads his theology books, what he is currently saying within the logical concern that the Church retain its identity, is actually right on target. When he said, for example, at Aparecida, that the Christian God is not imaginary and hypothetical, but someone with us, someone who created us ... it coincides, for example, with the view of the philosopher Zubiri [Xavier Zubiri].

Are theologians afraid of the church today, of the institution?

I'm not afraid of it at all. Never have been.

You've never received warnings, monitions ...?

Well, I've seen some things, conflicts ... but when I read the dogma of Jesus Christ, I feel that, basically, what it's saying is: "Neither God at the expense of man, nor man at the expense of God." And the biggest conflict that Jesus of Nazareth had was with religion. The inhuman devout religious people killed Him because He had the experience that God loves life, and that a religion that is on the margins of life and that does not serve life is not tolerable. We have forgotten that, and thus have made the Christian religion one more religion, with a fabricated God. I think the great news of Jesus Christ is saying that the most transcendent is, at the moment of truth, in the most immanent of the human being.

Then what does the punishment of your friends such as Boff, Sobrino, Gutierrez ... mean?

I truly feel that one can't speak about liberation theology out of hand.

Are there many?

Yes. And the theologians you cited, Gustavo Gutierrez, Leonardo Boff, Jon Sobrino ... do not have anything against them dogmatically. Those of us who have read their writings have to give thanks because they have uncovered for us, and have stressed a lot that one cannot speak of God apart from the story of Jesus.

And there are many of its fundamental concepts, of liberation theology, which have already been adopted?

Sure! Starting because no one has seen God. And the only way for Christians to discern what God is is through Jesus' historical behavior. Outside of it, we have no fundamental reference point. This is absolutely essential. Then there is the question of Pagola's book [Jesus: An Historical Approximation by José Antonio Pagola], on which I reflect in my own book, as well as Benedict XVI's. What Pagola does in his book is nothing more than collect -- very well written and pastoral in a sense -- what had already been historically researched. The hard part, what I fear is in the background, is that we ask which God we are talking about when we say that Jesus Christ is God. Are we talking about the God that we have forged in the mind, or are we willing to recognize that God has revealed Himself in the historical behavior of Jesus, which is what is scandalous to us?

So Pagola is not a heretic?

A heretic? Not at all. He also states from the beginning that he wants to get closer to faith. And according to what Benedict XVI says in his book (although he downplays the historical methods, of course), at the moment of truth, you can not speak about faith without history. For me today, in Spain and in every society, it is absolutely imperative that we realize that the great danger for the Church is in creating a spirituality that avoids this world, around a God that does not exist. What is important is believing that this world is already animated by the Spirit. God reveals Himself to every human being.

But that disembodied spiritualism that you are talking about, doesn't it appear that it's the one that's winning at the moment? In the large movements (Communion and Liberation, the kikos [the Neocatechumenal Way]... that appear to be the ones steering the ship of the Church at the moment).

Yes, unfortunately. We must realize that in '69 the Spanish bishops had already released a document on the first communities, in which they said: "Beware of spiritualist evasions and sectarianism." Because the Church is going to change into a bunch of movements coming from the stratosphere. And that's not the Church. The Church is part of humanity, one that has become aware that Jesus Christ is the reference point.

Have the great religious orders, like yours or the Jesuits, lost influence? Do they no longer set the pace of the institution?

I think they've lost power. They have realized that they can't shoot off. That they are within the Church, neither more nor less than other movements, like the one who is married or the one who is single. I believe that these orders have reacted very well, because they have realized the incarnation and have come out of their ghettos to say: "Gentlemen, this is not about defending our groups, but to see how we can serve the Church."

But the imprint of the great religious orders seems to have been somewhat left aside?

Depends. If by imprint of the Church we mean that it was considered something with a lot of social prestige and that had a lot of power, of course. We have lost it and we have to lose more of it. But if by imprint, we mean that ways have been opening up gradually, not separate from the world, but receiving the new that the Spirit is suggesting in the world, I think those are more relevant.

So you don't like that image of Rouco [Archbishop Antonio María Rouco Varela] and the bishops in the streets protesting and aligning themselves against something?

I don't like all that is tension or direct intervention in politics by the Church. The Church has to offer a way of life so that politicians and economists, within the political and economic mindset, will seek more humane ways.

You lived through that Tarancón stage...Has the Spanish Church -- the hierarchy -- lost its image and social credibility?

I think so. Because there are two evils, dangers, or tremendous temptations. First, believing that the world is still synonymous with sin. The world for me is a place of salvation, as was stated at Vatican II. We have not accepted this. And second, believing that the Church is reduced to the clergy. And in the tradition of Spain, since Recaredo, the clergy is a sign of power. That's the biggest drawback we have, that people identify the Church (the bishops' interventions, for example) with power. And everything that is not dialogue, that denies that you not only have to teach but also learn, is not the way of the Church.

What about "the Church that proposes, that never imposes", as Benedict XVI talked about? The one with the kindly face rather than the "no" one.

Exactly. My experience with socialist Marxist professors -- and, therefore, non-believers -- is that they've broken with God and religion because they've perceived that, in history, religion, namely Christianity, since the 19th century already with Niezstche, with Marx and Freud, has been contrary, in opposition. It has not let human beings be themselves. I think what is happening here is partly that. The Church speaks, politicians feel cornered, and all react with tension.

You have been in Cuba a while, you ran the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Institute there... Have you ever met Castro?

Well, I have known him as the Cubans do. I haven't met him personally.

And with any other Latin American celebrity you have dealt with? Monsignor Romero, Casaldáliga ...

Yes, in Cuba I met the great poet, who died recently, Cintio Vitier. That man called himself a Christian and a revolutionary to the end. In Cuba there are lucid thinkers who are Marxist socialists, tremendous humanists who dialogue, who sometimes don't agree with other very closed people in the same regime.

Real socialism has failed, not only in Cuba, but everywhere, and capitalism seems to have as well. What's next?

Not only seems to. Clearly the ideology of this system, which is unable to eliminate world hunger, is a total failure. What is happening now is that the economic crisis is a crisis of greed. A few have wanted to own the world, have broken with the transcendent, and have failed.

But is it coming back stronger? Is capitalism being reinvented?

Obviously. This is the problem, that it is being reinvented in a very particular way. And it's terrible because there's no alternative. The only alternative that seems to exist is the grassroots movements, the international social forums, which converge on the criticism that the system's being imposed on us in such a way that it's weakening people. This post-modern movement is very important in my opinion.

How do you feel about the phenomenon of pedophilia in the Church? Is it hurtful, embarrassing ...?

I'm sorry. Sorry for the victims, who are the ones who really concern me. We must do everything possible to correct it. I would state, however, that for me the feelings of mercy are essential. When they tell me sometimes about a bishop who hid who knows what I think: "Put yourself in the place of that man who discovered a miserable wretch, who didn't know what to do." It seems to me very good that all these cases pass into civil law. It seems logical. I regret it, but I think that the mystery of the Church is much more than that.

So the institution can come out of this whole crisis purified?

Yes, I'm convinced it can. The Church is a sign of universal communion.

Do you think the access of women to the priesthood is possible in the short term?

I don't see any dogmatic difficulty. Absolutely none. But I think there is a discipline within the Church, and I don't think it can be changed.

Much less married priests?

I don't know. Dogmatically, I would say the same: I see nothing wrong. I even believe that optional celibacy would be very beneficial to the ministry. Unless we continue to think it's better to be celibate than to be married. If we continue with this negative view of sexuality, it will not be possible in the short term.

It was thought that Pope Ratzinger would be a transitional pope. He hasn't really been, has he?

I think the Pope has encountered a serious problem. He is a deeply Christian man with a unique and extraordinary experience. He is a pastor who explains his faith to the people.

Is he a wise man?

Yes, but every wise person is contextualized. He is inspired by Augustine, St. Bonaventure. He is a very logical man who has shown great sensitivity, especially in his earlier books and in his encyclicals, in which he goes to the root of the problem. Now, when he made the Report on the Faith in '75, he found a church that was opening itself to the world, but wasn't prepared. They told me: "Jesús, Gaudium et Spes isn't going to be able to enter the Church." However, we have to go in that direction. Benedict saw that the Church was being mismanaged, and he wanted to put hindrances. From there he programmed all its documents, even the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It was a journey in search of identity. I think it is necessary to draw attention to this. The danger is that, when nothing at all permeated, the revolution the Council was supposed to bring (seeing the world differently, wanting to make the Church be God's people ...) did not reach the people, and it returned to the old model. So what we have to do, and what I'm going to do until I die, the time that's left for me, is to remind that there is no salvation apart from this world. To remind that if the victims do not fall within the historical process of politics and religion, politics has no future, nor can religion be blessed. This is what I mean in this book: that Jesus Christ is the place from which to correct the Church.

Do you see a Latin American pope as successor to Ratzinger? A Pope from the Third World? An Obama in the Church?

I see nothing. I don't see anything because at the moment of truth, one realizes that the crisis we have in the Church is not one of norms (there are more than enough!), or precepts (there are more than enough!). It is of maturing in the faith.

Of structures either?

There are forty thousand structures too many!

Is it of experience?

Yes, of a mature faith. And by "faith", I don't mean beliefs. Most of the intellectuals in Spain, left- and right-wing, call themselves agnostics, and it is normal that they be so. Because they learned a faith made of truths that were put into their heads. And faith is a personal encounter with Jesus. I am persuaded by the attitude, behavior, the historical process of this man, whom I consider a manifestation of God. This is who I love, and therefore, this is my faith. Maturing like this is the future of the Church.

Don Jesús, thank you so very much. "Training, experience, and living", that is your recipe for the future of a better Church. Thank you very much, Don Jesús.

Delighted, thanks.


Pope's book on Jesus 'edited out' women

Today, the Feast of St. Martha, brings two stories that underscore the problems with the Vatican's relationship to half of the human species and any other modern Catholic as well. In the first, we learn that the dress code that prohibits bare shoulders and knees will be extended beyond the walls of St. Peter's Basilica and other churches to all of Vatican City (Michelle Obama, take note...). The second is below.

The Australian
July 29, 2010

The Pope is at the centre of a new controversy after church campaigners accused him of demeaning the role of women in Jesus's life in a children's book, The Friends of Jesus. Pope Benedict XVI is described by the Vatican Information Service as the author of the 48-page book about Jesus's 14 friends who are listed as Peter, his brother Andrew, James the older, John, Thomas, Matthew, Philip, Bartholomew, James the younger, Simon, Judas Thaddeus, Judas Iscariot, Matthias and Paul.

The book, thought to be the first written for children by a pope, came under attack because no mention was made of Mary Magdalene or any other female friends of Jesus. The hardback edition, which was published in Italian by Piccola Casa Editrice and is available in bookshops near the Vatican, brings together passages from the Pope's teachings.

The role of women in the life of Jesus is regarded by scholars as being of increasing significance. Jesus has three important conversations with women in the Bible, including with a Samarian woman who is often held up as proof of Jesus's support for minorities. After speaking to him, the Bible says, the woman became a disciple. It is Mary Magdalene who discovers Jesus's empty tomb and tells the disciples of his resurrection.

Valerie Stroud of the Catholic organisation We Are Church, a support group for Catholics, said: "In giving children the idea that Jesus only favoured men, Pope Benedict sends a very strong message that women are second-class citizens in the Christian religion. This was never Jesus's intention. The Supreme Pontiff completely abandons the modern idea of equality within relationships."

The book was criticised in comments on the website of the influential US National Catholic Reporter. Jacob R wrote: "Oh dear . . . how profoundly disappointing. Can this really be true that he edited out Mary Magdalene, the first 'friend' to see the risen Lord?"

Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope's spokesman, said the book was put together by an editor but admitted that the Pope had sanctioned the use of his name, Benedetto XVI, on the cover. "The Pope has done explicitly a catechism about the many women in the service of the Gospel who were disciples of Jesus and helped him in his life," he said.

The book went on sale on July 22, the Feast of Mary Magdalene.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A partial...and temporary...victory in Arizona

UPDATE 7/29/2010: The USCCB Committee on Migration has also weighed in on Judge Bolton's decision today. "It is the right decision,” committee chairman Bishop Wester said. “Any law that provides legal cover to profiling affects all members of our communities, including legal residents and citizens. It is a very slippery slope. What is needed now is for Congress and the Administration to live up to their responsibilities and address this issue by passing immigration reform."

US District Judge Susan Bolton issued a temporary injunction today that halted key parts of SB 1070, the Arizona immigration law scheduled to go into effect tomorrow, that would have required police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspected of being an illegal resident.

Judge Bolton agreed to block the section of the law that required local and state law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of those they suspected were illegal immigrants. She said that "federal resources will be taxed and diverted from federal enforcement priorities as a result of the increase in requests for immigration status determination(s). " She argued that the provision would create an impermissible burden on immigrants who are lawfully present in Arizona as well.

The judge also blocked a portion of the law that required state officials to check the immigration status of anyone in custody in Arizona before they were released from jail, saying that the state measure was preempted by federal law because such checks would swamp federal immigration officials who are pursuing different priorities. “The number of requests that will emanate from Arizona as a result of determining the status of every arrestee is likely to impermissibly burden federal resources and redirect federal agencies away from the priorities they have established,” Bolton wrote.

Also blocked by Judge Bolton was a section of the law that made it a state crime for any foreign resident of Arizona to fail to carry federally-issued immigration documents at all times and one that made it a state crime for an illegal foreign resident in Arizona to solicit, apply for, or perform work. In enjoining this part of the law, Judge Bolton said that establishing state penalties for violating a federal requirement altered the penalties established by Congress and thus stood as “an obstacle to the uniform, federal registration scheme.”

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who has been one of the harshest critics of SB 1070, issued a statement on his blog praising the ruling. "I am grateful that U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton ruled today that the most egregious sections of the Arizona Senate Bill 1070 were not allowable under federal law and ordered those halted," the cardinal said. But he warned: "Without needed Congressional action, local communities and states will continue to propose stop-gap measures which do not address all aspects of needed immigration reform."

The Arizona Catholic Conference commended Judge Bolton for "enjoining some of the more problematic provisions of SB 1070". In their statement, the bishops re-expressed their apprehensions about the measure, particularly its impact on family unity, and pledged to continue their advocacy against the provisions of the legislation as well as monitor the implementation of the provisions that have still been allowed to go into effect tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Peru: Church Defends Environmental Activism in Amazonia

And now some hierarchs who are standing with the people and for justice...

By Nieves San Martín (English translation by Rebel Girl)

The president of the Peruvian bishops issued a message on the presence of the Church in the Amazon and its environmental activities, and requested "due process" for a British missionary in that region, expelled for his defense of the environment.

The Peruvian Catholic Church on Friday called for "due process" for Paul McAuley, the British religious brother who this month received a deportation order in Peru, and, as such, defended the work of bishops and missionaries who protect the environment as part of its social doctrine.

The judiciary of the city of Iquitos, the largest in the Peruvian Amazon, has put a government decree of virtual expulsion for the British religious brother on hold.

The president of the Peruvian Bishops Conference (CEP), Monsignor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte OFM, remarked at a press conference that "the defense of a dignified life and the protection of the environment are values in the social doctrine of the Church and also are covered by existing international standards." "Defending the environment is not only the protection of nature but the space where human beings develop," added the archbishop of Trujillo.

McAuley, a Christian Brother of La Salle and director of the Asociación Red Ambiental Loretana (Loretana Environmental Network) in the Amazonian city of Iquitos since 2006, filed formal complaints with the Constitutional Tribunal against the logging concessions and oil pollution complaints against companies like Argentina's Pluspetrol.

The CEP president stressed that the arguments put in evidence must be reviewed "in an objective and impartial manner by an independent judicial authority."

Last Friday, the president of the Peruvian bishops issued a message on the presence of the Church in Amazonia, with the wish "to emphasize significant points that summarize various events that have happened in recent days in our country and that have to do with our pastoral action."

He recalled in his message that "Vatican Council II, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, states that "The political community exists, (...) for the sake of the common good, in which it finds its full justification and significance ( ... but) where citizens are oppressed by a public authority overstepping its competence, they should not protest against those things which are objectively required for the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and the rights of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority, while keeping within those limits drawn by the natural law and the Gospels." (No. 74)

He adds that "Pope Paul VI states that 'between evangelization and human advancement there are profound links (and therefore) it is impossible to accept "that in evangelization one could or should ignore the importance of the problems so much discussed today, concerning justice, liberation, development and peace in the world.' (EN Nº 31)"

He recalls that "the Latin American bishops state that 'the essential task of evangelization includes the preferential option for the poor, integral human promotion, and authentic Christian liberation.'"(DA No. 146)

He also notes that "the Church is in the world to build peace, protecting Creation, as Benedict XVI has said: 'Pope John Paul II drew attention to the relationship that we, as creatures of God, have with the universe around us. 'In our time,' he wrote, 'there is a constantly growing conviction that world peace is threatened, [...] also by the lack of due respect for nature,' adding that environmental awareness 'should not be obstructed, but rather favored, so as to develop and mature, finding suitable expression in specific programs and initiatives.'"

Likewise, he states that "the call of John Paul II in 1990 is even more pressing today amid growing signs of a crisis, which it would be irresponsible not to take into serious consideration. 'How can we remain indifferent towards... the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity? (...) How can we not react to today's conflicts, and to other potential ones related to access to natural resources? All these are issues that have deep repercussions on the exercise of human rights, for example, the right to life, food, health and development.'"

Monsignor Cabrejos stresses that the Church has been faithful to the mission of Jesus: "This awareness of the universal (global) mission of the Church has mobilized throughout history many missionaries (priests, religious and laity) who, leaving their own countries and families, have come to us to serve the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our country. There are many reasons to give thanks for the support they have given and still do in the various fields of the evangelizing action of the Church, especially in the field of protection of life and the environment."

"The presence of the Church in the Amazon is not new," the bishop recalls. It has been accompanying the lives of people for five centuries, a presence that has been made possible by the missionaries who mostly came from neighboring countries. The Apostolic Vicariates of the jungle were created to continue the evangelization of peoples, to promote their culture, improve their health and education, to care for nature, the work of the Creator. As Aparecida says: 'Hence, as prophets of life we want to insist that the interests of economic groups that irrationally demolish sources of life are not to prevail in dealing with natural resources, at the cost of whole nations and of humankind itself. The generations that succeed us are entitled to receive an inhabitable world, not a planet with polluted air.' (DA 471)"

We must also state, he adds, that the Peruvian Bishops Conference has played and plays an important role in the dialogue process between the state and indigenous communities, as was the case with the invitation of the State to participate as observers in the Grupo Nacional de Coordinación para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Amazónicos (National Coordination Group for the Development of Amazonian Peoples) (RS 117-2009 PCM). In this context it is important to reopen the dialogue roundtables as the bishops of the Amazon asked the President of the Republic, Dr. Alan Garcia Perez, on March 5th of this year, to do."

Likewise, he says, "it is necessary to highlight the active participation of the apostolic vicariate bishops of our Amazonian region with the support of professionals in the same ecclesiastical jurisdictions, of the Comisión Episcopal de Acción Social (Bishops Commission for Social Action - CEAS) and the Centro Amazónico de Antropología y Acción Práctica (Amazon Center of Anthropology and Practical Actions - CAAP), in the search for peaceful resolution of socio-environmental conflicts."

And he concludes by reiterating that "the Church, from its evangelizing mission, promotes peace and full human development. We want to be credible witnesses of Jesus the Good Shepherd, who says of Himself "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Chile rejects pardons proposed by Catholic Church

Showing more common sense and sensitivity than the Catholic hierarchy, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has rejected a proposal by the Roman Catholic Church for sweeping pardons of elderly and sick prisoners that would have freed military officers convicted of human rights violations during the Pinochet dictatorship, announcing last Sunday that he will only consider case-by-case pardons on humanitarian grounds and that serious offenses related to crimes against humanity, terrorism or drug trafficking will not be considered. "I have come to the conclusion that it would be neither prudent nor wise, under current circumstances, to approve a new general pardon," Piñera said in a televised message.

In a document entitled Chile, una mesa para todos en el Bicentenario ["Chile, a table for all in the Bicentennial"], Catholic Church leaders in that country proposed pardoning prisoners who are sick, are older than 70 or have served half their sentence. But relatives of victims who were killed or disappeared during Augusto Pinochet's 1973-1990 rule said such a sweeping amnesty would be a setback for basic justice and fairness.

Amanda Jara, the daughter of Chile's famous singer/songwriter Victor Jara who was tortured by having his fingers cut off before finally being killed, was furious at the Church's proposal. "Human rights crimes cannot be pardoned, and it is dangerous for the Church to be so involved in the affairs of state," she said, and she also recalled that "Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez fought for human rights, and that the Church has forgotten him is disgraceful."

Lorena Pizarro, president of the human rights group Agrupación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos, was also outraged by the proposal. Speaking at a protest last week in front of La Moneda, the presidential palace, she said the the Church presented its request for a blanket pardon without listening to the families of the victims. "The Church is ignoring all the priests who were killed during the dictatorship," Pizarro added.

Amnesty International also rejected the idea of a general pardon and issued a public statement reminding the Chilean government of its human rights obligations. "Amnesty International believes that Chile should celebrate its bicentennial demonstrating its commitment to provide truth, justice and reparation for all victims and recalling the debt owed to all victims of crimes against humanity that occurred during the military government. For this milestone to be achieved it is essential to ensure that all those responsible for these crimes be brought to justice, that the truth be established about what happened to their victims, and that the victims receive full reparation."

According to official statistics, 3,065 opponents of Pinochet's right-wing regime were killed and 1,200 more disappeared. Some 600 military personnel have been accused of crimes against humanity but no more than 150 are serving prison sentences.

Photos: Catholic bishops meet with President Sebastian Piñera; protestors oppose the pardon proposal