Thursday, September 15, 2011

Judith Kelly: "I will continue telling the truth and accept the consequences"

Translator's Note: Since Pablo Ruiz Espinoza conducted this brief interview with Judith Kelly, charges have been dropped against the SOA Watch protestors for the White House action.

by Pablo Ruiz Espinoza (English translation by Rebel Girl)

This September 12th, 15 U.S. activists, participants in the Watch to close the School of the Americas (SOAW, in English), will be tried by a court of justice for their refusal to pay a fine imposed as punishment for participating in a protest against the School of the Americas.

Remember that April 10th, in front of the White House, the protesters pretended to be people killed by the United States, throwing themselves to the ground. They were charged by the authorities with "disorderly conduct" and "stopping traffic" then.

The School of the Americas, although it now operates under another name, is a military academy that provides training to Latin American soldiers and where torture manuals, among others, have been discovered.

Chile is the country that sends the second largest number of soldiers to this place after Colombia, a country repeatedly accused of violating human rights presently.

Among the activists going to trial is the Teacher of Peace, Judith Kelly, who in 2003 was a prisoner of conscience, spending three months in prison along with other comrades. At that time she was convicted of trespassing at Fort Benning where SOA, also known as the "School of Assassins", operates.

Why did you participate in the protests in April? What was your particular motivation?

On April 10th, in front of the White House, I thought of my trips to Chile with human rights delegations in 2008 and 2009. There, I met many very impressive people, but during the April 2011 protests I was specifically thinking about Carolina Gonzalez Toro, daughter of Ramón González Ortega, who was executed for political reasons.

Sometimes I think I have to go to every victim of US policy, all over the world, asking forgiveness. A little while ago I went to Afghanistan and there I felt very ashamed for what the people have suffered because of US intervention.

Moreover, it was a great honor for me to participate in the protest with the founder of this movement that has been so important in my life. Father Roy Bourgeois is a hero and I wanted to accompany him in this action in front of the White House.

If the judge gives you an opportunity to talk about your motives, what would you say?

When I went to Chile, Carolina's testimony moved me greatly, because I clearly recognized that the US government helped in the coup of September 11, 1973. With tears, I offered my deepest condolences and asked for forgiveness on behalf of my country, for her trauma and for the pain that the death of her father caused her family.

Ramón González Ortega was an employee in the civilian government of President Allende, who lived in Puente Arenas and wasn't politically active.

When our delegation met this time with the Agrupación de Familiares de los Ejecutados Políticos [Association of Family Members of the Politically Executed -- AFEP], all the testimonies were moving, but Carolina's testimony remained in my memory because it was the first time she had spoken to an international group about her father's death. She told us that she was only 10 years old in 1973 when her father was taken by the Chilean soldiers. He was killed on October 30th of that year.

I know that there were thousands of victims during the 17 years that Pinochet lasted, those who survived and were tortured and also the mothers who still don't know where their missing children are today. But the situation of an innocent 10 year-old girl, what Carolina has had to live with to this day, that's something I can't forget, that I carry with me. I want to take this testimony before Judge Sullivan, September 12th.

Although the U.S. Congress and President Obama refuse to hear our cry to close the School of Assassins, I'm convinced we have a responsibility to tell the truth as we have learned and experienced it. If the judge finds us guilty of telling the truth, I take it as a badge of honor and will continue telling the truth and accepting the consequences.

What message do you want to send to the US with your action?

Our U.S. government, under Republican and Democratic administrations, has committed crimes against humanity. These crimes have caused the death of innocents around the world. Standing up and speaking the truth is the only way I can live with honor in this country. We must exercise our right to freedom of expression to tell the truth and we must also use our freedom to bear the consequences.

My message is simple: Each of us, U.S. citizens, has the duty to do what we can to respond with integrity to the criminal policies of our government. We have a responsibility to make sure that our government has a just and fair relationship with all other peoples of the world. I want to live in solidarity with all who are my brothers and sisters, my family.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Six priests assassinated in Colombia in 2011

It is a well known fact that it isn't safe to be a trade unionist or a journalist in Colombia. Now it appears that it isn't safe to be a man of the cloth either. Six priests have been killed so far this year in that country.

On Monday, Fr. Gualberto Oviedo Arrieta's body was found at his residence. According to El Tiempo, Fr. Gualberto (34), pastor of Nuestra Señora del Carmen in Capurganá (Diocese of Antioquia), had been killed by a machete to the head. He was the sixth priest to be killed this year. The others were:

  • Fr. Reynel Restrepo Idárraga, a pastor in Marmato (Caldas), who had been living two years in that area and who was shot on September 1st as he was travelling by motorcycle on the road between the towns of Belén de Umbría and Guática.

  • Fr. Gustavo García, a Eudist priest and chaplain of the Universidad Minuto de Dios, who was murdered on May 12th in Bogota by a man who robbed him of his cellphone.

  • Fr. Luis Carlos Orozco Cardona was killed on the evening of February 12th in the village of Rionegro (Antioquia).

  • On January 27th, the bodies of Fr. Rafael Reátiga Rojas (Diocese of Soacha) and Fr. Richard Armando Piffano Laguado (Diocese of Fontibón) were found in the Kennedy area in Bogota.
The Colombian Bishops' Conference reports that from 1984 to September 2011, two bishops, 79 priests, 8 religious, and 3 seminarians have been killed in that country.

It issued a statement condemning the latest murder. Msgr. Juan Vicente Córdoba, secretary-general of the bishops' conference, called the number of murders very troubling. He said that it "shows the state of violence and moral deterioration of our society." Msgr. Córdoba stressed "the brave commitment of our priests to the prophetic denunciation of injustice and to the cause of the poorest in the country."

Photo: Wake for Fr. Richard Armando Piffano Laguado, one of the first priests to be killed in Colombia in 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Earth defends itself; reduces growth

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)

Today the idea of the living Earth is widely accepted and it's now found in the most recent ecology textbooks (see R. Barbault, Ecologia Geral, Vozes, Petrópolis 2011). It was first proposed by the Russian geochemist W. Vernadsky in the 1920s and taken up again more deeply in the 1970s by J. Lovelock, and among us, by J. Lutzenberger, calling it Gaia. By this we mean that the Earth is a giant self-regulating super-organism that makes all beings be interconnected and cooperate with each other. Nothing is left out, because everything is an expression of the life of Gaia, including human societies, their cultural projects and forms of production and consumption. By generating the human being -- conscious and free -- Gaia put herself at risk. Human beings are called to live in harmony with her, but they may also break the bond of belonging. She is tolerant, but when the rupture becomes harmful to the whole, she gives us bitter lessons. We can already feel them now.

Everyone is lamenting the low global growth, especially in the main countries. The reasons are manifold, but from the viewpoint of radical ecology, this fact results from a reaction of Earth herself to the excessive exploitation by the productivist and consumerist system of industrialized countries. The assault on the Earth system has been taken very far to the point that, as some scientists state, we have begun a new ecological era -- the Anthropocene one, in which human beings, as a destructive geological force, are accelerating the sixth mass extinction, which has been going on for millennia. Gaia is defending herself by weakening the conditions of this myth rooted in all societies, including Brazil: growth, as great as possible, with unlimited consumption.

In 1972, the Club of Rome was aware of the limits to growth, that the Earth can't take it anymore. She needs a year and a half to replace what we extract from her in a year. Therefore, growth is hostile to life and wounds the resilience of Mother Earth. But we neither know nor want to interpret the signals she gives. We want to grow more and more, and consequently consume unchecked. The "World Economic Outlook" report of the IMF, foresees a global growth of 4.3% for 2012. That is, we're going to take more riches from the Earth, destabilizing her, as evidenced by global warming.

The "Millennium Ecosystem Assessment" conducted between 2001 and 2005 by the UN, on observing the degradation of the main factors that sustain life, warned: either we change course or we jeopardize the future of our civilization.

The economic and financial crisis of 2008, which has now come back in 2011, refutes the myth of growth. There is widespread blindness, from which even the 17 Nobel laureates in economics can't escape, as was seen recently at their meeting at Lake Lindau, in southern Germany. Except for J. Stiglitz, all agreed in maintaining that the theoretical framework of the current economy has had no responsibility in the current crisis (Página 12, B. Aires, 08/28/2011). Therefore, they naively postulated following the same path of growth, with corrections, not realizing that they are being bad advisers.

It is important to recognize a dilemma that is difficult to solve: there are regions of the planet that need to grow to meet the demands of the poor, obviously taking care of nature and avoiding the incorporation of the culture of consumerism, and other overdeveloped regions that have to be in solidarity with the poor, control their growth, taking only what is natural and renewable, restoring what has been devastated, and giving back more than what they have taken so that future generations also can live in dignity with the community of life.

The reduction in growth is a wise reaction of Earth herself that sends this message: "Forget the idea of unbridled growth, because that is like a cancer that will erode all sources of life. Seek the human development of intangible goods that can grow without limits, such as love, caring, solidarity, compassion, spiritual and artistic creation."

I don't believe I'm wrong in thinking that there are ears attentive to this message and that we will make the desired crossover.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Message of the XXXI Congreso de Teología

The following is the message from the XXXI Congreso de Teología of the Asociación de Teólogos y Teólogas Juan XXIII which met in Madrid last week. The theme of this year's conference was fundamentalism.

Para leer el mensaje en español, pulsar aquí.

From September 8 to 11, we celebrated the 31st Theology Congress with the participation of 700 people from different continents and many cultures, faiths and ethnicities, to reflect on the phenomenon of fundamentalism, its main manifestations, causes, and consequences in the various geocultural scenes: Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe.

1. Fundamentalism is the most eloquent expression of the inability of human beings to live in harmony amid diversity and it turns discrepancies into communication barriers. It feeds intolerance, is the enemy of diversity, and can manifest in any ideology.

2. The increasingly widespread fundamentalist phenomenon appropriates all the areas of human existence: personal and social, religious and cultural, political and economic. This can be seen in the development of xenophobic and Islamophobic parties, in the fanaticism of religious leaders who burn holy books, and in the terrorist attacks committed in the name of God. Coinciding with the 10th anniversary of 9-11, we wish to remember in a special way the attacks that day on the United States, without forgetting those on March 11 in Madrid, on July 7 in London, on July 21 in Oslo and others, as well as the violent invasions of countries and attacks on their civilian populations by the imperial powers.

3. We paid special attention to religious fundamentalism, whose most important features are: the absolutism of tradition, the search for an unshakable foundation in a changing world, the supposed literalist understanding of sacred texts outside the cultural and historical context in which they were written, forgetting the inevitable criticism, the claim of absolute truth in a world characterized by complexity and uncertainty, depending on undisputed authority against growing insecurity, defense of an immutable morality in a society in constant transformation, faith in a known God who legitimizes their own convictions and options, sacralization of the profane, dogmatization of matters of opinion, and refusal to dialogue.

4. In the Catholic Church, fundamentalism is usually channeled through the neoconservative movements, bent on carrying Church restorationism to the extreme, and in many intolerant acts by the hierarchy that minimize, and even deny, fundamental aspects of Vatican II and condemn the work of theologians and renewal movements.

5. We saw some of these attitudes in the recent World Youth Day, which offered an authoritarian and patriarchal image of the Church, alienated from the real problems of youth, and promoted the exaltation of the Pope, even falling into popolatry, one of the clearest expressions of fundamentalism. And all of it with the support and legitimation from the various municipal, regional, military, and business institutions.

6. Patriarchal fundamentalism has been the object of close critical analysis by feminist theologians from different religious traditions. It promotes inequality, maintains gender roles and results in absolute control of the social order by men, who impose women's submission, resorting to violence and reaching the extreme of femicide.

7. Fundamentalism spans different social sectors and is installed in the leadership of most religions, politics, economics, and even countries, who make decisions in an authoritarian manner without consulting the citizens or promoting participatory democracy. We ourselves, however far we think we are from fundamentalist attitudes, are not free from falling into them. Therefore it is necessary to be vigilant and always have a self-critical attitude.

8. We believe the best antidote to fundamentalism is the renunciation of absolute ownership of truth and the collective search for it, respect for pluralism, living together as opposed to co-existing, the right to be different, intercultural and interreligious dialogue oriented towards working for peace and justice, solidarity with the excluded, the defense of nature, and equality between men and women. Religion has, in its own sources, shining examples and means to overcome fundamentalism, which are: the dignity of people, the social fabric, acceptance of others, forgiveness, mercy, the option for the poor and marginalized, and hospitality.

Madrid, September 11, 2011


Saludo al Congreso de Teólogos Juan XXIII
- Pedro Casaldáliga

La 'papolatría' es expresión de fundamentalismo, según los teólogos de la Juan XXIII, El País, 9/11/2011

Teólogos progresistas alertan del avance del fanatismo, El País, 9/11/2011

"Concilio traicionado, concilio perdido", El País, 9/9/2011. NOTE: The full text of Giovanni Franzoni's remarks to the Congreso is available in Spanish. We will be translating it into English on this blog later this week.

Los teólogos reformistas lamentan que esté "cortado" el dialogo con los obispos, El País, 9/8/2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Women's Ordination Ceremony - 9/10/2011

Here are some of the photos from the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests' ordination of Adele Decker Jones and Dorothy Marie Shugrue to the priesthood and Donna Rougeux to the diaconate. Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan presided at the ceremony which took place at First Christian Church in Falls Church, VA. The Vatican does not recognize or accept women priests and, in fact, anyone involved in these ceremonies is technically excommunicated latae sententiae (which is Latin for "the bishop doesn't even have to go to the trouble of writing a letter to the individuals informing them that they have been excommunicated").

Bishop Meehan mentioned in her homily that there are now over 120 Roman Catholic women priests in 27 states and 3 continents. There are many priests in the US, Canada and Europe, and recently, two women were ordained in a "South American country" (which shall remain unnamed at the request of ARCWP). Meehan also mentioned the growing support worldwide by male priests for the women's ordination movement, even though these priests face harsh disciplinary action from their superiors for their solidarity with the women.

Prior to the ordination ceremony, Biblical archeology scholar Dorothy Irvin, gave a presentation with slides on the archeological and textual evidence for women deacons, priests and even bishops in the early Christian church. Her point? Women's ordination is not something revolutionary that has no roots in the past.

It was a joyful service with music provided by the choir of a local Catholic intentional Eucharistic community. Their choir director composed a special "Mass of Christ-Sophia" for the occasion. Here is the "Agnus Dei" from that Mass:

Loving God, you call us to speak truth to power. Have mercy on us.
Loving God, you call us to live the gospel of justice and peace. Have mercy on us.
Loving God, you call us to be your presence in the world. Grant us your peace.

We wish the newly ordained women all the best as they go forth to answer this call.

There are more photos available in this Picasa Web album...


Kentucky voices: Catholic hierarchy wrong, women should be ordained, by Donna Rougeux,, 9/10/2011

Why I am becoming a woman priest, by Adele Jones, San Antonio Express News, 9/10/2011

Cheshire woman to realize dream of becoming a Roman Catholic priest, by Ed Stannard, New Haven Register, 9/7/2011