Saturday, August 7, 2010

Farewell interview with Fr. Nicolas Alessio

La Capital (Argentina)

Nicolas Alessio, the priest from Cordoba, from the Enrique Angelelli group, will preside at his last Mass today as pastor of the parish in Altamira, where he came 26 years ago, having just turned 24 and sporting a cassock. He had decided to leave the priesthood to devote himself to partisan politics following the injunction he received from Cordoba's bishop Carlos Ñáñez for supporting homosexual marriage, among other reasons which he elucidated during an interview with the Zona de Noticias program on the Rosario radio station FM Meridiano.

Why are you leaving the priesthood?

What's happened is the following: During Benedict XVI's administration, because this has to do with Rome and the Vatican, there has been less and less space within the Church hierarchy, within the institutional Church to think differently, be creative, be closer to the people. So we are experiencing a very harsh ecclesial winter. And in Cordoba this reached a maximum point of conflict when the bishop decided to sanction me, start judicial proceedings against me, fence me in by blocking me from the ministry simply for being in favor of egalitarian marriage. And that was the limit for me and I said "enough" -- I no longer want to belong to the Catholic Church hierarchy, I'm leaving the clergy, I'm leaving this priestly caste that is moving further and further away from the life of the people. But I'm not leaving my faith or my beliefs, I'm not even leaving this conflictive Church. I'm leaving the hierarchy. I no longer want to be part of the priestly caste.

How did you make this decision?

On the one hand with chagrin because one continues to dream of a different hierarchy. On Wednesday we remembered the martyred bishop Enrique Angelelli, who was someone who also dreamed of a different Church. So there is a bit of chagrin when we realize that we are tilting at windmills. On the other hand with a lot of hope and confidence because one knows that one is trying to be faithful to the Gospel, to be faithful to a people's Church, one that is more fraternal, a Church of the poor. And on this road, one is not alone, there is a long history of martyrs, of censured priests, of bishops who were also reined in by Rome. In Argentina, we've had the example of Jorge Novak, Miguel Esteban Hesayne, Jaime De Nevares, very valiant bishops, not to mention Angelelli, of course. So one feels very much accompanied and that one is not alone in this quest for a Church that is truly more faithful to the Gospel.

And how have the faithful in your parish taken your decision?

With a lot of sadness. I have been there in Altamira for 26 years, I have grown together with this community, we have many very important popular projects to keep going and sustain. The people feel a bit torn apart by my leaving, but we all understand that sometimes we have to look with hope at new roads to travel. And at the moment we are in mourning, accepting a rupture, a crisis, but also looking at it confidently and with hope.

Are you going to devote yourself to politics?

I was never far from the social and political problems of the people. I remember that ever since the democracy began, I and the other priests in the Angelelli group have participated very actively in the union fights, the picketing, neighborhood struggles, the fight for human rights, and I will continue on that path because I think that every struggle that has to do with life, for people and their dignity, is consistent with the Gospel.

What do you think about celibacy?

That it's an absurd law today, that it's an attack against the basic human right to happiness, to form a family, to be able to form a couple. It's one of the laws of the Church, among many, that should urgently be reformed now.

Are you thinking of getting married and starting a family?

No, at the beginning no. At the moment it's not an issue that grabs my attention. Obviously it's one more possibility, it's a perspective I'll have to take into account, but at the moment it's not one of my main concerns but rather, on the one hand, how to continue with this tear that is being produced in the community and then continue my commitment to serve the people.

Do you have a job?

I have an odd job, to put it that way, working in the Chamber of Deputies with a legislator in the education field. That little job will last four years, if they don't run me off, as a legislative mandate. And then I'll have to look for work.

What would you say to priests who have set their sights on a different Church but who continue to be within the structure?

I don't think I'm the model to follow in the slightest. I reached a limit. Perhaps other colleagues think that they should keep fighting from that space that the church hierarchy gives us. That place no longer helps me to live with dignity. It is not quality of life, and it has even threatened my health. So I decided to go. Now, to the colleagues who have decided to stay, I would encourage them to keep on fighting in this struggle as long as they can, but if at some point they are in a situation like mine, that they have the courage to leave, to forge a new path.

What do you think of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio?

Bergoglio really had a disastrous attitude about this controversial issue of the egalitarian marriage law. His letter to the Carmelite nuns talking about "the war on God" and saying that those of us who thought differently were "instruments of the father of lies", seemed to me to be a real disaster. I think that in this matter, the bishops were too foolish to understand freedom, diversity, and equality.

What do you think about abortion?

It's a very difficult subject to bring up because it generates a lot of fanaticism, but no one can be in favor of abortion. We all know that it is a very traumatic situation for the pregnant woman, an event that nobody wants. Now, what we have to think about is whether the law that currently regulates this matter favors life, because if we take into account that there are poor women (many, not just a few) who die because they get clandestine abortions because the law pushes them into that, or they remain seriously harmed physically, we should see if the law is really good for the health of the population and, if not, it should be modified. And it should be debated calmly. Nobody is in favor of abortion, but neither can we continue with a law that condemns hundreds of poor women to death or physical damage, because those who have money go to private clinics and have their abortions in peace and quiet.

On August 7th, you're offering your last Mass?

Yes, I'm going to be with all the parishioners of Cordoba who will come to pray for peace, bread, and work as they do every August 7th [Feast of Saint Cajetan, widely worshipped in Argentina as the patron saint of labor]. And for me it is a marvellous time to be able to say "I am with you" and next year, hopefully, I will be on the other side walking in the street like just another person, but celebrating this popular feast with great pleasure.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fr. Joseph Patrick Breen: The Parish Website as Bully Pulpit

UPDATE 8/21/2010: See Nashville priest apologizews for remarks

UPDATE 8/15/2010: "Thus goes an old saying: 'The Roman Catholic Church always arrives 50 years late and out of breath.' Thank God that Father Joe Pat Breen is not late and has courage and breath enough to speak many truths about the state of the church and our world..." Thus begins a spirited and wholehearted defense of Fr. Breen in today's Tennessean. What makes the column noteworthy is that its author, Joseph Sweat, once served as the first lay editor of the Tennessee Register, the official newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville. Sweat later was executive secretary of the Catholic Public Policy Commission of Tennessee. He is a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Incarnation. This is a practising Catholic who is knowledgeable about his Church and his faith.

UPDATE 8/12/2010: Nashville's NewsChannel 5 and WSMV Channel 4 report that the anti-Breen campaign instigated by the conservative Catholic blogs has been ample and frequently harsh. Fr. Breen commented that this has upset the bishop, which he finds regrettable. However, he does not intend to apologize for the stance he has taken on these issues. "I got to do that, whether some people agree or like it, or not. Otherwise I'm just blowing in the wind, you might say. That's not my life, that's not how I am going to end my life," the priest explained.

UPDATE 8/10/2010: An article in The Tennessean confirms that Nashville's bishop Mons. David Choby asked Fr. Breen to take the video off his church's Website and Facebook page, which Fr. Breen did. The article suggests that further disciplinary action against the priest is being contemplated which, in Rebel Girl's view, is sort of like killing the messenger, given the fact that nothing that was said in the video is new. Rebel Girl has heard all of it before and from much more prominent Catholics than Fr. Breen. Fr. Breen explained his reason for making the video, that he wanted to show that people who disagree with the church are still welcome at St. Edward. "Our spiritual life committee wanted to reach out to those Catholics and bring them home...For them to know that their views are not radical, that they can believe the way they do and still be part of the church's community." To Fr. Breen: Please don't apologize for your words. Apologize, if you must, for causing problems for your bishop or for not making prudent use of your parish's communications media, but not for your words. Our Church would be a better place if we had more priests like you.

UPDATE 8/7/2010: The video, which was on the parish Web site yesterday, seems to have been removed today.

I'm pretty sure that when Pope Benedict XVI exhorted priests in his 44th World Communications Day message earlier this year to "proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis," this was NOT what His Holiness had in mind.

The video that follows was posted by Fr. Joseph Patrick Breen on the home page of the website for the parish where Fr. Breen has been pastor since 1984, St. Edward Catholic Community in Nashville, Tenn. The video was put on YouTube by some folks who found, and were scandalized by, Fr. Breen's assessment of the "State of the Church". In the video, Fr. Breen is being "interviewed" by a deacon.

Fr. Breen, having been ordained in 1961, is not some young upstart, nor is he a stranger to controversy. In 1993, he wrote a letter to the bishops, strongly urging them to deal with optional celibacy for priests, noting that the shortage of priests was increasingly causing serious problems. That was 17 years ago and history continues to prove him right. Fr. Breen's bishop at that time, Mons. Edward Kmiec, required him to sign a pledge that he would not speak to the media or criticize the bishops' actions. Kmiec later moved on to Buffalo where his downsizing and merging of parishes there caused considerable anguish. Prior to the 1993 letter, Fr. Breen had sent a petition to Rome with 1,100 signatures he had gathered from Catholic faithful supporting a married priesthood.

In 2006, Fr. Breen sent a letter to Cardinal William Levada reiterating his support for a married priesthood as well as calling for diaconal ordination of women and a change in the Church's policies towards divorced and remarried couples and on artificial contraception. He also protested the disciplining of theologians Charles Curran and Hans Kung.

Most of the issues Fr. Breen outlined in his 2006 letter are mentioned and elaborated upon in this video, and he also complains about the lack of democracy and leadership in the Church and essentially expands his call to include women in the priesthood, as well as the diaconate. He calls for a new lay petition drive for a married priesthood.

He makes two points in the video about Hispanic ministry: 1) That the lack of Spanish-speaking priests is leading Hispanics to leave the Catholic Church for other denominations, and 2) That we wouldn't lose as many Hispanics if married Hispanic men could become priests. For those who wonder what a blue-eyed Irishman knows about Hispanic ministry, the answer is: plenty. Fr. Breen and St. Edward's were instrumental in helping to start Our Lady of Guadalupe, the first Hispanic parish in the Nashville diocese, back in 2007.

Bottom line: It's impossible to dismiss this guy as just some ignorant malcontent. This priest has paid his dues and he knows whereof he speaks.

Photo: Fr. Breen gives communion at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Nashville

Church: a theological reading

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)

In previous articles, we have reflected on one particular issue -- that of power in the Church, centered in the clergy and the Pope, absolutist in aspect. It shocked some people, but the truth is just that. Now a general reflection is fitting, one of a theological character, that is, considering the divine realities underlying the Church as a community that is formed on the basis of faith in Jesus as the Son of God and universal Savior.

As is known, Jesus' original intention was not the Church, but the Kingdom of God -- that radical utopia of total liberation. So much so that the evangelists Luke, Mark and John did not even know the word "Church". It is only Matthew who speaks three times of "Church". When the Kingdom did not come about, due to the judicial execution of Jesus, the Church took its place. The New Testament transmits three different ways of organizing the Church: St. Matthew's synagogal one, St. Paul's charismatic one and the hierarchical one of the disciples of Paul, Timothy and Titus. That was the one that prevailed.

First, the Church is defined as a community of the faithful. As a community, it feels rooted in the Christian God, who is also a community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This means that the community is prior to the centers of power whose place is within it, as a service of facilitation and cohesion. Love and communion -- the essence of the Trinity -- are also the theological essence of the Church.

This community is based on two pillars: Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Jesus appears in two figures: the man from Nazareth, a poor, itinerant prophet who preached the Kingdom of God (in opposition to the Kingdom of Caesar) and ended up on the Cross, the other is the figure of the Resurrected One who achieved this cosmic dimension in matter, in evolution and in the community, as anticipation of the new man and the good ending for the universe.

The second pillar is the Holy Spirit. It was present at the act of creation of the cosmos, always accompanying humankind and every person, and it comes ahead of the missionary. It stirs up spirituality -- the experience of love, forgiveness, solidarity, compassion and openness to God. In the Church, it keeps alive the legacy of Jesus and is responsible for its continuous updating with charisms, creative thinking, innovative rituals and language.

St. Irenaeus (d.200) said it well: Christ and the Spirit are the two hands of the Father, through which He reaches us and saves us.

Christ, being the incarnation of the Son, represents the more permanent side of the Church, its institutional character. The Spirit, the more creative side, its dynamic nature. The living Church is simultaneously something structured but also something changing like the innovations that escape the control of the institution.

It is also said that the church itself, as a community and as a movement of Jesus, has two dimensions: the Petrine and the Pauline one. The Petrine one (St. Peter = Pope) is the principle of tradition and continuity. The Pauline dimension (St. Paul) represents the moment of rupture, creativity. Paul left the Jewish soil to create inculturation in the Hellenic world. Peter is organization, Paul, creation.

Peter and Paul are joined in the figure of the Pope, heir and guardian of the two aspects, symbolized by the tombs of the two Apostles in Rome. Both belong together. But in recent centuries the Petrine dimension has dominated, almost drowning out the Pauline one. This imbalance has led to a centralized church organization, with power in few hands, conservative and resistant to the new, whether it comes from the Church itself, or from society. The current Pope is almost exclusively Petrine, opposed to all modernity.

Today it is urgent to regain the lost ecclesiological balance. The Church must keep the heritage of Jesus (Peter) intact and at the same time renew the ways in which it is carried out in the world (Paul). Only thus will it be able to overcome its conservatism and show its creativity in communicating with contemporary people. It must not be a source of stagnant water, but of living water.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Where are they now?: Padre Jony and Nicolas Alessio

1. Padre Jony was at a youth mission retreat with the Redemptorist Missionaries last month in El Espino and gave the following interview on the power of music and how evangelizing and solidarity should go hand in hand:

2. Probably the next chapter in the Fr. Nicolas Alessio saga should be titled "You can't fire me; I quit". Yesterday, the Argentinian priest who was suspended by his bishop for supporting that country's new gay marriage law, announced that, after 26 years, he would celebrate his last Mass this Saturday and resign. Alessio said he no longer wants to belong to a "monarchic, closed and authoritarian Church" or be part of a priestly caste that, in his words, has "betrayed" the gospel. In a separate interview, Fr. Alessio revealed that one of the reasons he was supporting gay marriage is his sister Angela who is a lesbian. Angela and her partner have a 3-year old child.

Fr. Alessio said that he would continue to be a priest "in the teaching and prophetic sense", adding that Jesus was "not a priest, but a teacher and a prophet". He said there was another kind of church, a fraternal one that is close to the people, to which he would continue to belong. He indicated that, after a period of rest, he plans to be involved in politics and continue to serve as advisor to the Frente Cívico party and its leader, Luis Juez.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Five Tips for Welcoming Hispanic and Latino Catholics Into Parish Life

Catholic PRWire

With almost half the Catholic population in the United States now made up of Hispanic or Latino Catholics, religious educators are seeking better ways to minister to this growing demographic. At the July 2010 St. John Bosco Conference for Religious Educators held at Franciscan University of Steubenville, two workshops given by Martha Fernández-Sardina (photo, right) addressed the challenges of helping Hispanic Catholics embrace their faith heritage—while helping non-Hispanics understand and appreciate their Latino brothers and sisters. In an interview following her workshops, Fernández-Sardina, director of the Office for Evangelization of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, offered five tips for making parishes more welcoming to Hispanic or Latino Catholics.

First, she said, parishes must acknowledge and appreciate the fact of the Hispanic presence even if they only see a few Hispanic people in their pews. "Normally if there's one individual, there's at least one family. If there's one family, there may soon be two and ten and twenty and two hundred, because Hispanics tend to congregate with one another, especially if the Latino or Hispanic family has migrated to the U.S. So first of all, acknowledge their presence and find out how many more of these dear brothers and sisters are in the geographical boundaries of the parish."

Second, Fernández-Sardina urged parishes to remember the Church teaching that we are all one in Jesus Christ. "As St. Paul says, there's no longer Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free man, male nor female: we are all one in Christ, and so we are all equal. We are all brothers and sisters in the Lord. We must have this profoundly Catholic belief and conviction if we are going to be able to accept, welcome, embrace, be enriched by, and fully include our Hispanic brothers and sisters into our parish communities. We can't see Latinos or any other ethnic group as 'they and we' but as 'we and we.' It's us, all together."

Her third tip is to address the language challenges inherent in ministering to any immigrant population. "Some may speak English, may read English, may write English, but many may not. So be considerate of that, and know that many times they will need to receive opportunities for worship, especially the Mass, and sacramental and catechetical preparation and instruction in their native language—in their vernacular language."

Fernández-Sardina also noted, "Even for those who may be bilingual, Spanish may be their preferred language for worship, their prayer language, because it's their love language and, therefore, they would prefer it, if at all possible. That does not mean we should discourage people from learning English, which is the official language of this land, but we need to make the parish a welcoming home for all our brethren in Christ."

Fourth, Fernández-Sardina said, parishes should ensure that people feel safe in the Church of their birth. "We need to make our churches as safe and as welcoming as possible, regardless of a person's legal status, immigration status, or background, the same way any of us would feel safe in an American embassy if we were traveling overseas. When we set foot inside the embassy, we feel safe, protected, because we are in our homeland. Immigrants need to feel that even if they're living in a foreign country, they're in their homeland when it comes to church."

She concluded by encouraging Catholics to follow the U.S. bishops in welcoming "any immigrant population, including Latino immigrants, as a gift. Their presence is a gift. There's a lot that the Latino community brings to the Church that's a gift to us—the gift of recognizing the beauty and value of the family, especially the extended family; openness to life; and a strong faith. Many Latinos bring with them pastoral experience, many are professionals, and almost all are hard working. Hispanics from the various countries of America — as Pope John Paul II insisted we call this one multicultural continent (cf. Ecclesia in America, The Church In America, 1999)— bring with them many qualities that can be a blessing to us all, especially the gift of an incarnated and lively faith, which we are to preserve from the onslaughts of militant secularism, aggressive atheism, and intentional proselytism."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Anger and Forgiveness

  • Funeral arrangements for Sr. Denise Mosier, OSB (from Benedictines Web site): "Sister Denise's body will be received early Thursday afternoon, August 5 at the monastery. A wake vigil will take place at 7:00 p.m. that same evening followed by the funeral mass and burial on Friday, August 6, 11:00 a.m. All ceremonies will take place at the monastery at 9535 Linton Hall Rd., Bristow, VA 20136. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the ministries of the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia."

  • Carlos' family are now speaking out. His parents, Alejandro and Maria Martinelly, went personally to the monastery to apologize to the nuns for their son's action and they explained that, knowing that he had been drinking, they had hid the keys to the family car but that Carlos had found them and driven off. The family has also gone on TV to apologize and talk about the incident, as has Carlos' fiancee and mother of his young children.

Dear God,

This morning I have to tell You that I was angry and my capacity to forgive 70 x 7 as Your Son commanded us to do has been sorely challenged.

One of Your children, Carlos Martinelly Montano (photo, right), a Bolivian immigrant who was scheduled to be deported, got drunk, got into his car, and struck another car holding three nuns from the Benedictine convent in Bristow, VA -- women who I almost feel I know personally because I get and read their newsletter regularly. One of the nuns, Sr. Denise Mosier, OSB (photo, below) was killed in the accident and the two other nuns, Sr. Charlotte Lange, OSB and Sr. Connie Ruth Lupton, OSB, were severely injured and are hospitalized on ventilators and in critical condition, according to the order. Please keep them in Your prayers.

I'm angry at Carlos because it was not the first time this young man has driven drunk. He had already been picked up several times before for DUI and other vehicular and alcohol-related offenses. His license had been revoked and he was out on bail pending his deportation hearing. He knows the law, he knows what drinking and driving does, and he willfully chose to keep on doing wrong.

I'm angry at Carlos because he killed and maimed three women religious, members of a community that has helped other immigrants like Carlos through their BEACON program that provides ESL, GED preparation and citizenship classes. We have so few women religious in this country today, God, and so few people in the more conservative parts of our state who are willing to lend a hand to immigrants. Carlos, by his reckless and irresponsible behavior, took out one of our allies and seriously injured two others. He has disgraced and harmed his fellow immigrants by his actions and that, I find difficult to forgive.

The Benedictine sisters have said that they are dismayed by media reports that emphasize Carlos' immigration status. Perhaps it's not the moment to disagree with them and I don't mean any disrespect, but as someone who works on immigration reform, I think it's very relevant. We don't need immigrants acting carelessly and negligently at this critical time. It puts the possibility of getting a pathway to legalization in jeopardy for everyone. It should also be noted that Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has requested an investigation into how this person with so many prior convictions was allowed to make bail in his deportation case.

Carlos, whose deportation was pending, got drunk and killed a nun by his reckless actions, at a time when the state's Attorney General wants to turn Virginia into another Arizona. His actions have made it much more difficult for immigrants rights activists to successfully stand up to Ken Cuccinelli. The Attorney General has the weight of public opinion on his side, now more than ever, and God, I have to admit that I too am getting less tolerant.

Several months ago, I stood with fellow parishioners at a bail hearing in support of J.D., a young undocumented Colombian who had been serving in various capacities in our church and who was up on a first-time DUI. He has since been deported. I'll be honest, God. I no longer believe that undocumented people charged with DUI should be allowed to post bail. I want them out, out, out of this country as quickly as the judicial system can process their sorry asses and, in the meantime, I want them behind bars so that they can't harm anybody else.

I'm frustrated and angry, God and yes, I'm unforgiving. Bishop Loverde and the Benedictine nuns say that they are praying for Carlos. They are better Christians than I am. That must be a grace that comes with the religious life. I'm just angry at Carlos for screwing things up for the rest of us. I know this is wrong, Lord, but I'm human, I'm tired, and I'm mad as hell.

I talked to a friend of mine who urges empathy and perspective. Remember, he says, that the judges who let this guy make bail again and again are at fault too. Remember, he says, that Carlos is an alcoholic and, as an immigrant, he has neither the support system nor the resources to get treated for his disease. Think, my friend urges me, that Carlos is probably the loneliest, sorriest, most remorseful person in the world right now. Remember that anger won't bring Sr. Denise back to life or help Carlos reform. Remember that You, O Lord, are a God of second chances, as Fr. Pfleger often says. Remember, remember...I try, grudgingly, but it doesn't help.

I'll keep praying to You, God, for the ability to forgive Carlos. Meanwhile, I'm going to send a donation to BEACON in memory of Sr. Denise so that some good can come out of this tragedy. If other readers want to do the same, you can send a check to: BEACON, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA 20136.

Thanks for being greater and more forgiving than I am, Lord.

Rebel Girl

And another Padre Miguel sighting!

This time at the ordination of three new Peruvian Province Jesuits, padres Alejandro Muñoz, Miguel Angel Carbajal and Carlos Silva, at San Pedro in Lima on the Feast of the order's founder St. Ignatius of Loyola (7/31). Watching this video makes me miss my hermanitos jesuitas peruanos -- especially Padre Miguel -- so much but I'm happy to see the new vocations. God is so good!

Another Padre Miguel sighting...

Padre Miguel Cruzado, SJ lays Fr. Peter Hansen, SJ to rest during a service at Our Lady of Fatima in Miraflores, Lima. Fr. Hansen was a Danish Jesuit missionary who was working under the Peruvian Province in the mountain communities around Cuzco. He died on July 28th at age 84.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Virginia AG says state's cops can do what Arizona's can't...yet

You remember when I told the hermanos and hermanas to please register to vote and turn out and vote AGAINST Ken Cuccinelli for Attorney General? Maybe you thought I was exaggerating and you sure didn't turn out in the numbers required to make sure the man didn't get into office. Cuccinelli got in and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

On Friday July 30, Cuccinelli issued a legal opinion at the request of Delegate Bob Marshall that: "it is my opinion that Virginia law enforcement officers, including conservation officers, may, like Arizona police officers, inquire into the immigration status of persons stopped or arrested."

For those who think, so what's the big deal?: It means that if you are stopped by a cop for a broken taillight or by a conservation officer because you were fishing in an area where you weren't supposed to be because you didn't know it was a no fishing zone, you can be asked about your immigration status and, if found to be undocumented, detained and deported. It also gives rise to the probability that anyone who has an accent or looks foreign will be singled out for special treatment.

The man is supposedly a Jesuit-educated Catholic, according to the article in Sunday's Washington Post magazine, but I would say that this is one of the cases where the Jesuit moral teachings failed to sink in.

Now the question is: Will Virginia's Catholic bishops, Mons. DiLorenzo of Richmond and Mons. Loverde of Arlington, have the integrity and intestinal fortitude to strongly denounce this opinion which contains the same language rejected by Judge Susan Bolton, the Arizona bishops, and Cardinal Mahony in Arizona SB 1070 or are Virginia's Catholic political and ecclesial power elites too intertwined for the gospel to shine through?

Marco: the immigration issue comes home again

I read about the children's march at the White House last week, our precious hijos and hijas wearing the t-shirts that bore their plea: "Don't deport my mom." I had wanted to be with them, but it was a weekday afternoon and getting time off work was impossible.

Yesterday, the issue of deported parents was brought home forcefully again. At church, a flustered Maria asked me to substitute as lector at the last minute. "Where is Marco?," I wondered. She handed me the list of petitions and his name was on it. "Maybe he's out sick," I thought.

Fr. Joe scrapped his planned homily and spoke about immigration. He reminded us of the gospel call to welcome the stranger and said that we have become "mezquinos" as a nation -- we are stingy, small-minded, not expansive and generous as God would have us be to our brothers and sisters. And then he talked about Marco.

Marco, a commercial truck driver, had been picked up about 10 days before by ICE and is now being held in the Rappahannock Regional Jail in Stafford pending deportation. Marco, our lector coordinator who greeted everyone with a smile as they arrived for Mass and gave them a bulletin on the way out. Marco, who set out the bread and the wine and organized the teenagers to take up the collection. Marco, who had assumed the duties of Don Orlando who, at 86, is wanting to relinquish his role as "liturgical logistics coordinator". Marco, whose abrupt departure has left a gaping hole in the heart of our little Catholic community. We feel desamparados, hopeless and helpless without his fatherly presence.

After Mass, Fr. Joe and a dozen members of the community gathered with Marco's wife and daughters to see what could be done. His wife was still in a state of depression and shock and when I hugged her and assured her of the prayers of the Renovación -- she and Marco had been participants in our retreats and healing Masses -- she burst into tears.

The meeting was disjointed, flitting from the personal to the political and back again. Rumors were flying and nobody knew quite what to do. They said that Fr. Joe had not been able to get in to the jail to see Marco. Marco's wife had been able to talk to him a couple of times (when he called her) and set up a jailhouse fund for him. At Rappahannock, there is no real visitation, only video teleconferencing and that must be requested via an online application. The poor, the digitally illiterate, and those who can't read and write English have no recourse.

Enma wants to organize another seminar to brief the community about the extent of the current immigration crisis and their legal rights. Last time, nobody came but maybe now, with Marco in detention, they'll wake up. Carmen says we need to hold another fundraising dinner. Francia agrees, but others are tired of cooking and cooking. Deportations are happening so frequently these days that the money goes out as quickly as it comes in. As hard as we try, a "fund" is never established.

As for the family, they don't know what to do. Maria thinks there are no viable legal options and suggests that perhaps it would be best for us to just take up a second collection and try to raise enough money so that Marco can pay his way "home", petition ICE to allow him to "self deport" so he doesn't have to hang around in jail waiting for them to get around to shipping him out at taxpayer expense.

After the meeting, I talk to Marco's daughters. The older one, who came here with her father and mother, is working and putting herself through community college, because her immigration status makes her ineligible for scholarships or even in-state tuition. Her younger sister was born in this country and is an American citizen. She is going into her junior year of high school next month. If she has to deport with her father, she will be going to a country, culture and language she barely knows. Her education and future would be left up in the air.

Both girls speak flawless English and, in most ways, are completely American. "We have to stay strong for our mother," the older one tells me. "She is falling apart right now, so we have to stay strong..."