Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Santo Domingo Archbishop calls Jesuit human rights activist a "scoundrel"

Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Santo Domingo Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez is known for his conservative views and he is not known for mincing words...or being particularly diplomatic or sensitive. Last year, many in the Dominican Republic government winced when the cardinal called the appointed ambassador from the United States, an openly gay man, a "maricon" during a press conference on the subject. The term is an anti-gay slur, the equivalent of "faggot". Auxilliary Bishop Pablo Cedano added the threat that James “Wally” Brewster would not be welcome in his country and that if he came, he would suffer and have to leave. The Washington Blade reported at the time that López Rodríguez had a history of anti-gay remarks, including calling gay tourists "social trash" and "degenerates" in a 2006 interview with the Associated Press, for example.

This time, López Rodríguez has launched his vitriol against Fr. Mario Serrano, a young Jesuit priest who has been active in defending the rights of Dominican born children of undocumented Haitian immigrants.

During a Mass he celebrated January 26 at the close of a meeting of the Dominican Conference of Men and Women Religious, the cardinal lambasted the Jesuits in general and Serrano in particular, calling the priest a "sinvergüenza" -- a "scoundrel" -- and accusing him of devoting himself to leftist groups, talking nonsense, and doing whatever he pleased (see video below).

As his fellow clergy looked away, embarrassed by the outburst, the cardinal turned his guns on the Jesuit superiors. After explaining that he had been educated by the order, López Rodríguez screamed, "You have to respect me in this country, although this gentleman [Serrano] thinks he's the supreme pontiff. I'm very bothered. Morally, I don't agree with a priest going around publicly talking nonsense. Here's the Jesuit superior. Tell him, 'Shut up. That's all. Who are you to go around talking nonsense? Defending the Haitians...(inaudible).'"

The cardinal asserted that no country had done as much for Haitians as the Dominican Republic. He said that he was "deeply upset" because the Jesuits had not "put this gentleman Mario Serrano in his place." He ordered Serrano to be put in his place, adding that he was not the priest's colleague, and said that the priest should submit himself to obedience or find another line of work.

Fr. Serrano has been the director of Centro Bonó, whose work the cardinal has frequently questioned. He has also been at the forefront of the campaign to get documents and legal recognition for children born in the Dominican Republic of undocumented Haitian immigrant parents. The introduction to the campaign website expresses the issue in a nutshell: "Imagine that the country where you were born one day tells you that you no longer belong to it. It takes away your identity papers because of the color of your skin, your last name, or your parents' nationality. This is happening to Dominicans of Haitian descent." The center supports Haitian immigrants through a variety of programs including community organizing and training workshops.

Fr. Serrano responded that he would not be deterred from his human rights work by the 77 year-old cardinal's remarks, telling the media, "The Cardinal sent me his message and I'm sending him a message that we should join forces for a Dominican Republic where there's justice, and especially where the rights of the weak are defended, and our marginal neighborhoods and areas need us to keep fighting for that."

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