By Javier Flores (English translation and additional material by Rebel Girl)
July 24, 2011
Raúl Vera López, the bishop of Saltillo, has reported receiving a "letter" from the Vatican in which he has been asked to clarify the work he has done on behalf of human dignity among vulnerable groups of society, specifically the lesbian and gay community of Saltillo.
Vera Lopez stressed that he is in the process of answering the questions the Holy See has asked him, in order to provide details about the work done by the Diocese of Saltillo with the gay community, focused on valuing the dignity of those who belong to this sector of the population.
"This arises (the call from the Vatican), because a Catholic agency that has its headquarters in Peru, ACI Prensa, has made unfounded accusations against me, that I am promoting homosexual relationships."
"And I, in my life, I have never worked for that. In the Diocese of Saltillo we have very clear objectives, we work with them (the gay community) to help them regain their human dignity that is violated starting in their home, in society, and they are treated like the plague," he said.
Although he did not elaborate on the specific content of the document, he lamented that it was a Catholic news agency that condemned the work done by the Diocese of Saltillo in favor of vulnerable groups.
"An agency that calls itself Catholic is distorting our work and charging me with being against the teachings of the Church and unfortunately they are moved by prejudice and phobia of the homosexual community.
"Of course there is a call from the Vatican and I am to clarify things ... I have to respond to the Vatican on a series of questions they are asking me about my work with homosexuals, but it's because of this Catholic news agency that started saying outrageous things," he added.
"Some would like to debilitate my work on behalf of vulnerable groups, that is what they want, but I'm going to continue in the struggle for human dignity which is the principle of the Gospel."
Without putting the cart before the horse, the bishop says that the aim of pastoral work is to value the intelligence, skills and attitudes of those who have decided (sic) to have a different sexual preference and whose dignity is violated by prejudice.
"I'm not going to stop my work because of slander, nor am I against the Magisterium of the Church, nor am I promoting dishonesty. Promoting depravity or degeneracy of people would go against my principles," he said emphatically.
"WE WANT A CATHOLIC BISHOP"
Bishop Vera has been under increasing fire for his message that the Church needs to start being more accepting towards gay people and for his support of a local Catholic GLBT organization, the Comunidad San Elredo. Catholic family groups have been urging the bishop to withdraw his support from the group that they argue "publicly promotes an openly homosexual lifestyle, gay 'marriage' and gay adoptions." "A pastoral commitment to homosexual persons is necessary and welcomed, but not at the expense of the family and a solid pastoral plan for marriage and family, which is unfortunately being neglected in the diocese," says Natalia Niño, president of Familias Mundi, one of the groups that wants the Diocese to stop supporting San Elredo.
Opposition came to a head earlier this month when anonymous individuals left four blankets tacked to the Cathedral of Saltillo bearing the message: “Queremos un obispo católico” ("We want a Catholic bishop"). Bishop Vera declined to file a police complaint about the incident but through the local media he sent a clear message to his opponents: “Yo desde que vivía en Chiapas me acostumbré a caminar en medio de situaciones en las que puede pasar cualquier cosa, pero no voy esconderme para salvar mi vida cuando sé que la vida de las ovejas está en peligro, esto no es imitar al buen pastor." ("Ever since I lived in Chiapas, I have become accustomed to walking amid situations where anything can happen, but I'm not going to hide in order to save my life when the lives of the sheep are in danger. That isn't imitating the Good Shepherd.")
And the diocese went further. Fr. Gerardo Escareño Arciniega, vicar general of the diocese, posted a letter to the faithful on the Diocesan Web site explaining that the bishop's actions have not been outside of the gospel:
In the context of the harassment against the bishop of Saltillo, Fray Raúl Vera López, because of his pastoral actions, expressed on the blankets placed on the exterior of the Cathedral Church on the 14th day of the present month, we want to state the following:
The pastoral work of the Diocesan Bishop, which covers many different areas of the life of the Church and society, is clearly within the scope of the teaching and pastoral norms of the Church.
Addressing not only Church issues, but also those of public life, a continuing source of contradictions, is not a deviation into fields outside the pastoral mission since the Second Vatican Council made it clear that "the Church,...by virtue of the Gospel committed to her, proclaims the rights of man" and "it is only right...that at all times and in all places, the Church should have true freedom to preach the faith, to teach her social doctrine, to exercise her role freely among men, and also to pass moral judgment in those matters which regard public order when the fundamental rights of a person or the salvation of souls require it." (GS 41, 76). The foundation of these responsibilities of the Church and its ministers is, of course, the supreme dignity of human beings, the only image of God, who has shown Himself to be particularly close to those living in precarious and vulnerable conditions, victims of the harm and prejudice caused by an unbalanced world.
In addition, the final message of the Synod of Bishops called "Justice in the world," in 1971, established for the pastors themselves the need to address the emerging realities with a true sense of justice: "Therefore we must be prepared to take on new functions and new duties in every sector of human activity and especially in the sector of world society, if justice is really to be put into practice. Our action is to be directed above all at those people and nations which because of various forms of oppression and because of the present character of our society are silent, indeed voiceless, victims of injustice." (I. Justice and world society). So then, the new functions that the Church and its pastors have to assume, according to the "present character of our society" characterized by many economic, cultural and political imbalances, must reach the ever more complex spaces of society in which the dignity of persons and the building of more humane, and therefore more just, societies are at stake.
The latest teaching of Latin American Bishops, contained in the Document of Aparecida, makes clear that "the mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ has a universal destination. Its mandate of charity encompasses all dimensions of existence, all people, all environments of community life, and all peoples. Nothing human can be alien to it."(380). For the Church and its pastors there is, therefore, no way to avoid the commitments that have to do with human beings in their entirety; nothing that has to do with the lives of people and their right to a peaceful, free and secure life, in which they are subjects of their vocation as children of God to salvation, is foreign to pastoral work.
The constant activity of the Bishop, who heads the Diocese with its bodies, its work plans and its pastoral workers, is not marginal to the gospel, or the norms and guidelines of the Church, or the challenges of society in which we live. In fidelity to the pastoral ministry he carries out, he will not cease his activism and his voice, which seek to contribute to building communities of faith that are more alive and engaged and a more humane society, even if they expose him to aggression, so easy to perpetrate in these challenging days in which we are living in this very hectic society in which the Church finds itself.
Finally, Bishop Vera reaffirmed his support for the Comunidad San Elredo this week. He told El Heraldo de Saltillo that the organization would not disappear but that it would be restructured. The group, which had been under the leadership of a single coordinator, Fernando Hernández, would have a board to make collective decisions, which would make it less vulnerable to outside attacks that could jeopardize its pastoral work.