Friday, July 8, 2011

Loss of confidence in the current order

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

From the perspective of the vast majority of humanity, the current order is an order in disorder, produced and maintained by the forces and countries that benefit from it, increasing their power and profits. This disorder stems from the fact that economic globalization has not given rise to political globalization. There is no entity or force to control the voracity of economic globalization. Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, two Nobel laureates in economics, have criticized President Obama for failing to put the brakes on the thieves of Wall Street and the City rather than surrender to them. After having caused the crisis, they still benefited from billion dollar investments of public money. And they came back, successfully, to the system of financial speculation.

These exceptional economists are the best when making analyses but mute when it comes to presenting ways out of the current crisis. Perhaps, as they have hinted, because they're convinced that the solution to the economy is not in economics but in rebuilding social relations destroyed by the market economy, especially the speculative one. The latter has no compassion and is devoid of any goals for the world, society and politics. Its purpose is to accumulate the most and to that end it must subordinate states, break laws, make labor laws flexible, and establish national economies, forcing countries in crisis to privatize everything that is marketable, throwing the people into poverty and despair.

For speculators, in Brazil, the money is used to make more money and not to produce more goods for those who need them. Here, the government has to pay more than one hundred billion U.S. dollars annually for acquired loans, while only about sixty billion is devoted to social projects. This disparity is ethically perverse, a consequence of the type of society it is obliged to keep up, which puts the economy as a central structuring axis and makes everything else merchandize, even the common necessities of life such as water, seeds, air and soil.

There are many who support the thesis that we are in a dramatic moment of breakdown of social ties. Alain Touraine even speaks of a post-social rather than a post-industrial phase.

This social decay is revealed by polarization and through radically opposing logic: the logic of productive capital, about 60 billion dollars/year, and that of speculative capital, about 600 billion dollars under the aegis of "greed is good." The logic of those advocating the greatest profit potential and that of those who fight for the rights of life, humanity and the Earth. The logic of individualism that destroys the "common home", the growing number of those who no longer want to live together, and the logic of social solidarity based on the most vulnerable. The logic of the elites who make intra-system changes and appropriate the benefits, and the logic of workers threatened with unemployment, and unable to intervene. The logic of the acceleration of material growth (Brazil) and that of the limits of every ecosystem and the earth itself.

There is widespread mistrust that anything good for humanity can come from the prevailing system. We go from bad to worse in all that relates to life and nature. The future depends on the flow of trust people have in their abilities and the authentic possibilities of reality. This confidence is dwindling day by day.

We are facing this dilemma: either let things continue as they are and then we will sink into a terminal crisis, or we engage in the development of a new social life that will sustain another type of civilization. New social ties will not be derived from current policy and technology, detached from nature and a synergetic relationship with the Earth. They will be born of a minimum consensus among humans, to be built around the recognition and respect for the rights of life, of every social subject, humanity and the Earth, considered as Gaia and our common Mother. The technology, policy, institutions and values of the past should serve this new social life. I've been thinking and writing about these things for at least twenty years. But who listens? It's a voice lost in the wilderness. "I cried out and saved my soul" (clamavi meam et salvavi animam meam, Marx would say desolately).

Monday, July 4, 2011

Worlds of Worlds: Dom Helder Camara's Three Dreams

Translator's Note: If I had found this exchange of letters anywhere except on the Web site devoted to the life and work of the late Argentine bishop Jerónimo Podestá, created by his widow Clelia, I would have doubted its authenticity. I still find it extraordinary, given that Clelia has clearly ignored her late husband's written promise to Dom Helder that he would keep their exchange a secret. But Clelia was Bishop Podestá's personal secretary for many years before they were married by Dom Helder, and she has been slowly publishing and digitizing his writings and correspondence, so she knows what is true and right. This exchange was also printed in Clelia Luro de Podestá's book about Dom Helder Camara, El mártir que no mataron. Clelia calls the exchange "prophetic". If so, it is a prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled. I would call it "visionary" instead. -- Rebel Girl

Letter from Dom Helder Camara to Mons. Jerónimo Podestá

Recife 30/31 October 1981

Jerónimo, my dear brother:

Of course, it hurt me deeply to have missed our meeting. It was something unexpected and necessary. If I have delayed in responding until today, it was to better meditate about it before God.

I wanted so much for the Spirit of God to whisper the most appropriate response, to have better collaboration for the progress of God's plan ...!

Let me tell you how grateful I am to the Father that you have been freed from such hard and terrible financial worries, and are freer for big and beautiful dreams...

You will only be able to understand my answer with respect to the encounter, considering some items of personal data:

On February 7, 1984, if God still allows me to be on earth, I will be 75 years old and must "dwell" in the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife.

If God allows me physical strength and a mind that isn't sclerotic, until February 1984 and after getting away from the diocese, I will try to take maximum advantage of it, while taking into account the charisms received and the Lord's calling.

Since I arrived in Recife, in April l964, I have felt that the essential work for me is at the local, regional, and national level -- humble, patient, anonymous work, mainly the base communities and the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops.

But then I also felt the need to help raise the awareness of the rich industrial countries, because without them, structural change would be impractical.

Today I receive 80 international invitations every year on average.

I arranged with my people and Paul VI (and now John Paul II) five trips each year, lasting one month all together, always with prior and cordial approval from the diocesan bishop and always to fight for justice and love as the way to a true and lasting peace.

My deep conviction is that with full realism, looking straight and fearlessly at the very serious problems that are drowning more than 2/3 of humanity and the obvious dangers of universal suicide, there are great signs of hope, both in our countries and in the industrialized and wealthy countries.

By the way, I tell you that while World Challenge, a work of the Paris Club, is useful as a compilation of data, it seems to have been made more as Japanese propaganda. I don't dispute the value of electronics. What I think is naive is to imagine that the Japanese will have so much success they will able to overwhelm and will be able to live and make others live a fraternal world attitude, in polar opposition to the egoism and selfishness of today's super power.

I have three major dreams that are complementary and that will require different tasks according to the charisms received.

A) A dream of authentic Latin American integration without outside imperialism or imperialism from within.

Latin America has, in relation to its brothers Asia and Africa, three main responsibilities (notice that I'm not saying superior things, but responsibilities)

Latin America has virtually the same language.
Latin America has the same Christian background
Latin America has one and a half centuries of experience of political independence without economic independence and without cultural independence.

Authentic integration without external or internal imperialisms (plural).

For the Church (not going in any way towards new Christianities or theocratic governments, or Christian parties) to stimulate the march towards a fraternal continent, the starting point for a fraternal world, it will be necessary to retake CELAM, which will be done without personal ambition, no cheap shots and seeing only that the Church of Christ in Latin America is always more and more at the service of our suffering people.

Any precipitousness in this regard would be disastrous. We must be alert to the Hour of God (in my opinion as I see it). After retaking CELAM and before the year 2000.

B) A dream of making possible the Second Council of Jerusalem in 2000

There are prior operations that are being and will always be more and more led by the Holy Spirit itself.

Transformation of the Roman Curia, so that it might become in effect service to Episcopal Collegiality and the Co-responsibility of the People of God as a whole

Effective aid to the Pope so that he can fulfill his mission as Peter and live out the primacy in exclusive evangelical terms of service and love.

Actual experience of the People of God as overcoming shocks, as vertical Church and horizontal Church, hierarchical Church and Church of the People ...

A Jerusalem Council II assumes the spirit of what happened between Peter and Paul. The venue could be Rome itself, as a Pauline way to manifest love and fidelity to the Church of Christ, trying to help it.

I) To free oneself from the teeth of money and the temptations of prestige.
II) To live out the words of Christ as He spoke to the Samaritan woman.
III) To live out the announcement of the Good News as an effective safeguard for the cultures, among which the Spirit of Christ has sowed Christian truths that are being ignored.

Only in this way will the Church of Christ achieve the ecumenism to which it is fully called.
The 2000 deadline would be impractical if this dream alone didn't have the Spirit of God itself as the main promoter.

C) A dream of an authentic dialogue with the world of worlds.

We all know that the galaxy to which we belong is far from being among the biggest. Our sun that seems immense to us is of the sixth or seventh rank. Our earth is a dot in the cavalcade of the stars.

As Christians, we will never forget that the Son of God became incarnate on our tiny and humble earth.

But how can we insist on thinking that the Creator, infinitely wise and powerful, would create billions of stars millions of times larger than the earth, just so that they would stay enormous distances away, blinking to delight the human eye ...?

It would be absurd pride to claim that there is life, and above all intelligent and free life, on Earth alone ...

There must be worlds of worlds, life on the level of ours and life above the level of ours.

The problem for the human creature would be reaching such distant worlds. With the essences of Earth we would have to leave for frozen surfaces, to be broken several generations after ours.

But who doubts that man will learn to travel using the forces of nature and reach the speed of light?

Einstein warned us that if such a thing occured, the human body would volatilize ... But why doubt that man with his intelligence would find the means to protect himself against the volatilization of the body?

Because it is more than likely that all this will happen around the year 2000, we must be alert to help our brothers and sisters who will remain dumbfounded ... Even today there are those who doubt the arrival of man on the moon. Some say today that if it were true that man had gotten to the moon, it would be the end of the world, when we are still in the early days of Creation.

I am deeply interested in the three dreams.

At the opportune moment, I can point out one or two qualified Brazilians to join a Latin American team to put themselves fully at the service of the first dream.

I aim to interface with more and more specialists in astronomy, astronautics, astrophysics, astrochemistry, and astro-politics to help bring the Church of Christ today closer to the take-off of dream No. 3.

But the dream to which I feel practically called is dream No. 2. It doesn't worry me to know that it is more than likely that I will attend Jerusalem II from the Father's house. I will be helping from up there.

Believe, Jerónimo, that I'm speaking to you openheartedly, as usual. And know that this letter is not yours alone, it is also for Clelia, who has been a providential instrument with you.

Clelia, I appreciate the very pretty vicuña scarf that always goes along with me in my travels in cold countries.

Maybe my dreams seem very crazy to you. Maybe you would like to see me with feet more firmly in the humble day to day.

When you dream alone
It is only a dream
When we dream together
It's the beginning of a reality.
Let us always stay united in Christ.

+ Helder Cámara

Response of Mons. Jerónimo Podestá

Buenos Aires, December 4, l981

Dear Dom Helder:

These lines are not intended as an answer but an acknowledgment of receipt of you very extensive and beautiful letter ... The disappointment that you did not come to our meeting in Rio was more than compensated by your letter and its intimate secrets ... so I said to Clelia that we will come out ahead from the "terrible non-meeting" because Helder will express his innermost and deepest ideas and thoughts, but we didn't suspect they would be such complete confidences. We feel privileged that you have opened your heart and mind to us and we will jealously guard these pages of yours which will be a secret between us and you ...

I want to make two comments: Don't be afraid to have gone outside of the concrete and even less that we think you're living dreams of fantasy, but rather very specific dreams of Faith, Hope that speak a close reality with the real utopia of the Gospel and the Blessed Hope of the Parousia which, Teilhard de Chardin says, we must hasten through an "accumulation of desire."

I humbly agree totally with your three dreams -- they are also ours. The second - that is, the profound transformation of the Church has been the constant concern of Clelia -- and mine too --especially since you joined me to her, but we did not envision a future Second Council of Jerusalem in which a Paul would emerge who could confront Peter and censure his excesses and extrapolations -- Now I see clearly that a future Council appears far more feasible and effective than the miracle of a Pope who is able and willing to conceive the Church and its structures in a different way.

As for the first dream of a united Latin America, you know how much we have dreamed of it too.

It is undoubtedly a great theme being open to the "world of worlds", your third dream, until now that prospect did not seem so immediate to me but rather "future", but you are absolutely right: "We must be open and ready when the time comes ... " I always thought it worrisome that the Church was so disoriented, focused almost exclusively "on the beyond", so far removed from the clerical scientific expectations; it doesn't realize that it's closed in on itself and that in an aberrant and even heretical way it sees itself as self-sufficient, it believes itself to be and feels "Divine." (whereas it isn't in any way in its temporal structures) it experiences itself as a surrogate for Christ and the Spirit, since it is simply "infallible"

What can we do so that these dreams will be shared by many and so begin to become a reality ?.....


Women's participation in the Church demands a new model of Church

Translating this rather controversial article by Pablo Richard, I was reminded of discussions I used to have with a Jesuit friend who thought that my focus on opening the priesthood to women and married men wasn't sufficiently visionary. Like Richard, my friend believed that the Church needs to focus less on priests and transfer more power and responsibility to lay people. Or, as singer/songwriter and now Unitarian minister Fred Small would say: "...We're talking 'bout changes / Not just changing the faces at the top..."

I have many reservations about Richard's argument because I think it's an easy one to make for those who are already "in", like Richard and my friend. I would be interested in hearing what readers of this blog think, if you want to add your comments. I also think it's important to point out that, except for the most orthodox Jews, women have more equality and access to ministerial positions -- rabbis, cantors, etc... -- in Judaism than in the Catholic Church. This too makes me question this article, even as I publish it for discussion.

by Pablo Richard (English translation by Rebel Girl)
July 1, 2011

I think that the problem of women's participation in the Church can only be understood within a global ecclesiological definition.

When Jesus entered the temple, He characterized it as a "den of thieves".

The Jewish people are largely from a temple religion and, in this type of religion, the participation of women is unthinkable.

"Priestly" ministry is something from the Jewish religion.

The Christian faith is not in this temple tradition, neither men, nor women.

We need to make the Church "less priestly", that is, not think of the Church in terms of temple and priests.

In Jesus' Christian tradtion there are "presbyters", which is not a priestly ministry, but men and women in charge of the faith of the community.

If we are talking about "priests" in the Church, neither women nor men should be ordained as priests.

Instead, Jesus followed the tradition of the Jewish synagogue, which is not a place of worship, but of teaching.

Christianity advanced in the inclusion of women as teachers, equal to men. Therefore to state "a Church without women, nevermore" also means "a Church of priests, nevermore".

Christianity wasn't born on an "altar", but at a "table", where all participated.

The problem isn't women, but the Church.

Integrating women into the current model of a priestly and hierarchical Church would be bad for women.

The fundamental ministry in the Church today is the "ministry of the Word", not "priestly ministry."

When the Church reduces ministry to bishops and priests, the inclusion of women is bad for women.

When we have a Church of teachers and prophets, women's participation will be indispensable.

Pablo Richard is a Chilean priest, theologian and Biblical scholar.

Photo: "Last Supper" by Polish artist Bohdan Piasecki. Piasecki created this painting in 1998 for B.A.S.I.C. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, an Irish group working in support of women's ordination in the Catholic Church.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Where are they now? Fr. Fausto Milla

UPDATE 7/4/2011: According to blogger Hermano Juancito, an American missionary working in Honduras, "because of threats to his life...Padre Fausto Milla announced at Mass [yesterday] in the church of San Martín de Porres in Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras, that he is fleeing the country."

Back in 2009, we ran an article about Fr. Fausto Milla, affectionately nicknamed the "Cardinal of the Honduran poor". Last week, Fr. Fausto gave a press conference in which he denounced that he, as a member of the Commission of Truth, and his assistant Denia Mejia, had received death threats. This translation comes courtesy of the Honduras Human Rights blog and is available in its original Spanish at Defensores en línea.

Fr. Milla explained that he has received death threats by phone which ceased when he placed a caller identification feature on his phone. In a press conference on Tuesday, June 28th, the Commission of Truth denounced the threats against one of its Commissioners, Fr. Fausto Milla and his assistant, Denia Mejía.

Commissioners Craig Scott, from Canada, and Luís Carlos Nieto, from Spain, arrived in the country to accompany Fr. Milla and were present for the press conference along with Carlos H. Reyes, President of the Union of Beverage Workers, STIBYS, and the Coordinator of COFADEH, Bertha Oliva.

Nieto stated that they were participating as an act of solidarity with Fr. Fausto Milla and that there have been various cases in which staff of the Commission of Truth has been affected by acts of intimidation.

He called for full and emphatic respect for human rights. It is our understanding that guaranteeing the freedom and security of those who are threatened is an obligation of the State of Honduras.

This demonstrates what should not be occurring in Honduras. Pressures continue for those who defend human rights in Honduras and we are very concerned for their security.

The attacks against members of the Commission are considered to be directly related to obstructing the presentation of the report which the Commission of Truth will present in October.

Milla explained that he has received threats by telephone which stopped after he placed a caller identification device his phone. These calls were death threats, referring to him as the boss of Denia Mejía.

He denounced assaults on the home of his assistant which was searched and left in disarray and only a computer was taken.

During the last several days, a white vehicle followed Mejía. She decided to take a taxi but continued to be followed. When she arrived at her home, the same vehicle was also there.

Several individuals also entered the health clinic that Fr. Milla runs, called Casa de Salud, opening the door and entering into the patients waiting room, asking many questions about the movements of Fr. Milla.

Bertha Oliva informed journalists and representatives of the media that COFADEH presented the denunciation to the Public Ministry.

Milla holds certain actors responsible

The Commissioner described his security situation as very serious requiring that he travel in hiding and change vehicles and drivers, but even with these measures the surveillance is extreme. A few days ago, a truck followed him as well as another staff person who works with him.

Bertha Oliva, Coordinator of COFADEH explained that the decision was made to make this case public because there have been repeated threats against Denia Mejía.

The case of Fr. Fausto concerns us because there is a difference in in how it is carried out; it is very clear that the intention is for him to know that he is being followed, “they go to his clinic, enter, are visible, and they let themselves be seen”.

She also denounced the serious issue that police carry out surveillance against Milla and his staff.

“We have seen how the members of the Commission of Truth have been attacked, such as the case of Eddy Guifarro, who was beaten with the intention to assassinate him. I have been informed that there is a campaign being conceived against several people, beginning with me, with the intention of undermining institutions; these are methods of eliminating those of us who defend life and are against the presence of military bases in Honduras” she added.

Oliva told journalists that COFADEH presented the denunciation to the Public Ministry and it will be presented to international organizations including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Carlos H. Reyes stated that the persecution comes from the coup regime: “this persecution and surveillance is the first step after which many Hondurans appear dead. This is why we condemn what is being done to Fr. Milla. The intention is not just to intimidate him but to make him feel persecuted so that he becomes paralyzed, but he will not stop. This happens in this country where the oligarchy responsible for the coup is whitewashed.”

Other attacks against members of the Commission of Truth

On March 30, 2011 – six men in civilian dress attempted to kidnap Eddy Guifarro who works for the Commission, from a taxi. However he was able to escape the attempted kidnapping.

The attempt occurred at 10:00 a.m, on March 30th, on the day that a nationwide civic strike had been called by the National Popular Resistance Front. When the taxi in which Eddy traveled stopped in the Colonia San José de la Vega, in Comayagüela, the individuals surrounded the vehicle, emerging from an area close to where a vehicle belonging to a mobile justice unit (Juzgados Móviles) was parked.

They attempted to take him from the taxi, beating his body and head with their guns however Eddy was able to escape, running through traffic with the armed men in hot pursuit, firing on him six times with no concern for the possibility of injuring people in the area.

COFADEH has registered attacks against other members of the Commission of Truth which have been denounced before the G-16 and other international bodies.