Thursday, July 24, 2014

The most important decision

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
July 27, 2014

Matthew 13:44-52

The gospel includes two brief parables of Jesus with the same message. In both stories, the protagonist discovers a tremendously valuable treasure or a pearl of incalculable value. And both react the same way -- they joyfully and resolutely sell what they have and seize the treasure or the pearl. According to Jesus, that's how those who discover the Kingdom of God react.

Apparently, Jesus fears that people are following him for various interests without discovering what is most attractive and important -- the Father's exciting project which is to lead humankind towards a more just, fraternal and joyful world, thus putting it on the road to its ultimate salvation in God.

What can we say today after twenty centuries of Christianity? Why are so many good Christians locked in their religious practices with the feeling of not having discovered any "treasure" in them? What is at the root of this lack of enthusiasm and joy in many spheres of our Church, which is incapable of attracting to the core of the Gospel so many men and women who are moving away from it, albeit without renouncing God or Jesus?

After the Council, Paul VI made this sweeping statement: "Only the Kingdom of God is absolute. Everything else is relative." Years later, John Paul II reaffirmed it, saying, "The Church is not an end unto herself, since she is ordered toward the kingdom of God of which she is the seed, sign and instrument." Pope Francis has been repeating that "Jesus' plan is to establish the Kingdom of God."

If this is the faith of the Church, why are there Christians who haven't even heard about this project that Jesus called "the Kingdom of God"? Why don't they know that the passion that animated Jesus' whole life, his reason for being, and the goal of all his actions, was proclaiming and promoting the Father's humanizing project -- seeking the Kingdom of God and his righteousness?

The Church can't be renewed at its root if it doesn't discover the "treasure" of the kingdom of God. Calling Christians to collaborate with God in His great project to make a more human world isn't the same as being distracted with practices and customs that make us forget the very heart of the Gospel.

Pope Francis is telling us that "the Kingdom of God is calling to us." This cry comes from the very heart of the Gospel. We are to hear it. Surely, the most important decision we have to make today in the Church and in our Christian communities is to recover the project of the Kingdom of God with joy and enthusiasm.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hispanic Catholics and the New Evangelization

By Fr. Alex Diaz (English translation by Rebel Girl)
July 23, 2014

Yesterday, Tuesday, July 22nd, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture on evangelization titled "Hispanic Catholics and the New Evangelization" given by Father Virgilio Elizondo, a priest in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas. It was a very enjoyable talk and very rich in content. I loved being able to hear something new and refreshing, something different than what we're usually used to hearing, the same trite issues as always that don't lead to thinking beyond the circle in which many find themselves. It was a pity that there were few to hear it, perhaps because they feel a hint of fear at checking out something new.

The talk turned around two big topics that were interwoven -- the first was the seed and the second, the fruit that seed has produced.

In the first topic, Elizondo made us look at our roots, our sources, based on our indigenous roots. United with the mixture of European and African blood, we are the fruit of a mixed culture but one that still conserves the richness of its sources. We are a people rich in faith, in tradition. We are people who worship and glorify God with the music, dance, folklore, and joy that characterize us. We are lively people who have maintained their faith despite the attacks we have suffered throughout history.

Hispanic people are Marian people who gather in the maternal arms of the Virgin Mary. In her, we see the model of Mother, teacher and friend, and we can note this in the various Marian celebrations that take place all over the American continent. Mary plays an important role in the evangelization of our people.

Hispanic people are people for whom Our Lord Jesus accompanies us as the God of love, the one who became man to redeem us through his suffering, the God who consoles us from the cross. It's because of him that we see a path to redemption in suffering. We see and accept the cross of Jesus with faith, joy and hope, and we commend ourselves to him in every moment of our lives. It's normal in Hispanic Christian households to see a crucifix presiding over the home and an image of Mary nearby. The suffering Jesus reminds us that our suffering is united to his in the redemption of the world.

We are an evangelized and evangelizing people, fortified in the culture of encuentro and heartfelt giving to others, warm people who, with our popular religiosity, speak and transmit the faith. A simple people who today are still becoming a new world, that keeps itself alive with its rich cultural tradition and gives birth to new children in the faith and grace of God through an ongoing encounter with the gospel.

The second topic of this lecture was the fruit produced by this continent that sowed the seed of faith. That fruit is none other than Pope Francis, a son of that culture who has become a new evangelization phenomenon -- a man of the people, a warm, simple and humble man who with his simplicity and poverty has attracted those who had been alienated and wounded in the Church itself. His ministry turns around acts, words, and homilies and talks that are short and simple but with a rich and deep message. His message is clear. We should go to the neediest and bring the gospel message in our own lives. Live the gospel and carry it with joy in our body and soul. That should motivate us not to lose hope, in spite of everything that overwhelms and frustrates us. Jesus is always there to support us and walk with us.

Another of the major traits marking his pontificate is preaching clearly and bluntly about mercy, which is nothing more than taking on our brothers' and sisters' -- our neighbors' -- misery, experiencing the suffering of those who suffer, suffering with them, having mercy for suffering hearts. All of these traits were drawn one way or another from this culture that developed amid upheavals and hardship. That's why the pope is only putting into action what he experienced and received from Hispanic American culture -- a simple but rich culture, welcoming, evangelized and evangelizing.

Finally, we are people who are children of the Maya, the Aztecs, and the Incas, who received the gospel from the hands of the first missionaries who with love and devotion forged deep in our soul that gospel love and thus we mixed with European and African cultures and from that mixture we emerged. We have learned from all of that. But above all, we are the face of Jesus who goes on manifesting himself in every culture and every sign and symbol. We are the Hispanic people who with their traditions and traditional virtues have maintained the truth of the gospel.

Fr. Alex Diaz is a priest from El Salvador who is presently Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church in Dale City, Virginia.

Photo: Fr. Virgilio Elizondo and Fr. Alex Diaz surrounded by Catholic catechists and other laity from the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.

Court rejects Padre Beto's Request

by Tisa Moraes (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Jornal da Cidade
July 23, 2014

The Bauru court rejected former priest Roberto Francisco Daniel, aka Padre Beto's request that the process led by the Catholic Church that culminated in his excommunication be reopened. Beto had argued that he didn't have the right to defend himself and that the investigating judge appointed by the Diocese of Bauru lacked the competence to judge him.

In the judgment signed on July 16th, the judge of the 6th Civil Court of Bauru, André Luiz Bicalho Buchignani, ruled that the state must respect the sovereignty of the Vatican, as canon law is autonomous. The magistrate further argued that the secularism proclaimed by the Federal Constitution aimed to "prevent interference by the Church in the state as well as state interference in ecclesiastical matters."

Also according to the judge, the judiciary could only interfere in the internal decisions of the Church if they contradict institutional principles.

Buchignani recalled that Padre Beto was warned by the Diocese before being excommunicated, as required by canonical penal law. And this warning, he recalled, contained the "invitation (to the priest) to abandon the insubordination (disobedience) and gave him appropriate time to repent."

After that period, Church law provides that excommunication is automatic, a penalty that can be interrupted at any time with a formal request for retraction from the ex-priest. Also according to the magistrate, the priest who was the judge in the ecclesiastical proceeding, having been appointed by the diocesan bishop, had legal competence to make the judgment.

Roberto Daniel's lawyers were contacted, however they didn't return the call for the story. Padre Beto was excommunicated on April 29th last year after challenging the conservative stance of the Church in remarks that were videotaped and posted on social networks.

Due to the controversy, the Diocese ruled that Beto should withdraw the videos from the air and recant publicly. As the requirement was not met, the leaders of the religious institution decided to excommunicate the priest, thinking that his views betrayed the commitment he had made to the Church.

Padre Beto is dismissed from the clerical state and also banned from the ranks of the faithful in the Diocese of Bauru. Moreover, the ex-priest can no longer minister in the name of religious institution and is unable to receive any sacrament.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Doctrine vs Compassion

UPDATE 7/30/2014: Since word got out about the Archdiocese of Cincinnati withdrawing its planned donation to Lydia's House because of its opposition to the shelter's decision to invite Roman Catholic woman priest Debra Meyers, Lydia's House has received over $7,000 in donations from outraged Catholics around the country. It is now offering to share the excess funds with other nonprofit agencies in the area working with the poor and homeless...

Two more examples this month demonstrate that the institutional Roman Catholic Church has not yet learned the lesson Jesus tried to teach over and over again that love and compassion are more important than strict -- and merciless -- adherence to religious laws and doctrine (see Mk 2:23-28, Mk 3:1-6, etc.).

After it learned that Lydia's House, a home for homeless women and children in the Catholic Worker tradition, would be hosting a prayer service (not a Mass, a prayer service) with Rev. Debra Meyers, an ordained Roman Catholic woman priest and pastor of the Inclusive Catholic Church, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati withdrew the $1,000 it had promised the shelter to help buy a new washer and dryer. Said the Archdiocese: "Donors are promised their contributions will not be used to support organizations that stand in opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church. By hosting a public prayer service presided over by someone who claims to be a Catholic priest but is not, Lydia's House has chosen to put itself in that category."

Fortunately the group that ordained Rev. Meyers, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, was in a position to make up the lost funding and presented a check to Lydia's House at the prayer service. Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan explained ARCWP's attitude. "Women's ordination is not only about women priests. It is also about lifting up abused and exploited women, locally and globally," she said.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, an immigrant workers' group, Voz Workers' Rights Education Project lost a $75,000 grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development because it refused to break its ties with National Council of La Raza, a leading Latino rights group that has expressed support for same-sex marriage. Voz helps immigrants and day laborers to gain control over their working conditions through leadership development, organizing, and community education. The work of the organization itself has nothing to do with marriage equality. Due to the loss of the grant, Voz will face a budget gap of $75,000 in an already slim budget of $310,000.

Nonetheless, Voz has refused to back down. The organization's Executive Director Romeo Sosa said that CCHD's decision to withdraw its support "truly hurts our organization. It's going to impact our employees as well as our clients, which is a sad situation. But CCHD forced the question of Marriage Equality into the grant process. Ultimately we are an organization that does not discriminate; many of us know people who are gay, lesbian and transgender. They are our aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, friends, co-workers and neighbors." And in a letter to CCHD, Voz's board of directors quoted Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." "We stand with NCLR. We stand with their values," concluded Voz.

The group is now trying to find alternative sources to make up for the lost grant money before August. The funding from CCHD would have been used to support Voz's campaign to pass legislation aimed to prevent and address rampant theft of wages in the state as well as provide Voz staff salary and health care.

Click here if you want to help Voz make up for its lost CCHD grant.

Writer and theologian Rubem Alves dies at 80 in Campinas

UOL (em português - English translation by Rebel Girl)
July 19, 2014

On Saturday, July 19th, writer Rubem Alves died at age 80. This information was confirmed to UOL by the spokesperson for Centro Médico de Campinas Hospital, where Rubem had been hospitalized since July 10.

According to the hospital, Rubem died from multiple organ failure. He was in the ICU for respiratory failure due to pneumonia. The writer, psychoanalyst, theologian and educator was considered one of the greatest contemporary education thinkers in Brazil.

Rubem's funeral will take place at the Plenário da Câmara Municipal de Campinas starting at 7 p.m. this Saturday. The writer's body will be cremated at the Primaveras Metropolitan Crematorium in Guarulhos (Greater São Paulo).

Rubem was married to Lidia Nopper Alves and leaves three children.


Rubem Alves' career was mostly forged and influenced by religion. In his youth in Rio de Janeiro, he found shelter in the divine from the malicious pranks of his schoolmates who saw him as a hick from Minas Gerais, where he was born on September 15, 1933 in Boa Esperança, when the city was still called Dores da Boa Esperança. After high school, he studied theology at Seminário Presbiteriano do Sul. After graduating, he returned to his home state to serve as pastor amid the simple and poor people.

At that time, he had already forged the thought that would be one of the pillars of liberation theology, a movement that proposed that religion be practiced and interpreted from the perspective of the poor, questioning, for example, the notion of sin and relying mainly on principles of love and freedom. He believed that religion should be a means to improve the world of the living rather than guaranteeing something to people after they were dead. However, his ideas were not well received by the church. Like theologian and writer Leonardo Boff, his colleague and friend, he suffered retaliation for the thoughts he expounded and the position he adopted.

After a period of study in New York, he returned to Brazil after the military coup in 1964 and was denounced as subversive by the Presbyterian Church. To escape those who were persecuting him, he returned to the United States with his family. There, at the invitation of the United Presbyterian Church - USA and the president of Princeton Theological Seminary, he wrote his doctoral thesis entitled "Towards a Theology of Liberation" [later published as A Theology of Human Hope], which put on paper the ideas that would be embodied in a movement.

He returned to Brazil with a Ph.D, broke with the Presbyterian Church, and became unemployed. He went to work teaching in higher education at the Faculdade de Filosofia Ciências e Letras in Rio Claro, and, starting in 1974, was a professor at Unicamp [Universidade Estadual de Campinas] until his retirement.

In 1959, he married Lídia Nopper and they had three children together -- Sergio, Marcos, and Raquel. Thanks to the girl, he began writing stories for children. He devoted himself to literature and poetry, understanding that both were food for the body and pleasing to the soul. Writing fulfilled his frustrated dream of being a pianist. He channeled into words the gift he lacked for musical notes. Inspired by Albert Camus, Nietzsche, Jorge Luis Borges, Roland Barthes, Fernando Pessoa and Manoel de Barros, among many others, he became one of the most prolific and beloved Brazilian writers.

His opus includes more than a hundred books, divided among children's books, chronicles, education, religion, theology and even biography ("Gandhi: a Magia dos Gestos Poéticos" -- "Gandhi: The magic of poetic actions"), among which worth mentioning are "Ostra feliz não faz pérola" ["Happy oysters don't make pearls"] which placed second in the category "Tales and chronicles" for the 2009 Jabuti Award, "O que é religião" ["What religion is"], an introductory book to religious thought, "A alegria de ensinar" ["The joy of teaching"] which discusses knowledge and ways to transmit it from generation to generation, "A Escola que Sempre Sonhei" ["The school I've always dreamed of"], also about education, and the children's books "A Pipa e a Flor" ["The kite and the flower"], "A Menina e o Pássaro Encantado" ["The little girl and the enchanted bird"] and "A Volta do Pássaro Encantado" ["The return of the enchanted bird"]. He thought that philosophically complex topics should be approached in a simple and understandable manner so that they could be accessible to as many people as possible.

In the 1980's, he became a psychoanalyst, calling himself heterodox since he believed that beauty inhabited the depths of the unconscious. He had his own clinic until 2004 and drew inspiration from his patients for many of his chronicles. In a statement published on Rubem Alves' web site, Leonardo Boff said his friend "became a master with original points of view on many different subjects. He can speak poetically about the prosaic and prosaically about poetry. In my opinion, he is one of those who has the best command of the Portuguese language in our generation, with an elegance and lightness of style that truly fascinates us."

His education in the humanities, appreciation of the arts, questioning of power, and academic career turned Rubem Alves into a great and respected educator -- which perhaps defined him best in the latter part of his life. Thinking about education, he began to question the established model of education. He stated that the teacher's role should be to lead students to find answers to the questions by adopting a position closer to the learners, and no longer being the adult who just dispenses content. The learning environment should also undergo profound changes, becoming more like the children's own homes, where the rooms serve as sorts of private laboratories that would awaken the little ones' attention to the materials being taught. "The school, like it or not, is an artificial environment. Life is not happening there," he said in an interview with Educar para Crescer magazine.

On his web site, he wrote "My star is education. Educating is not teaching mathematics, physics, chemistry, geography, Portuguese. Those things can be learned from books and computers. They don't require the presence of the educator. Educating is something else. Of an educator, one could say what Cecilia Meireles said about her grandmother, who was the one who educated her: 'Her body was a thinking mirror of the universe.' The educator is a body full of worlds...The first task of education is teaching to see. The world is marvelous; it is full of amazing things. Zaratustra laughs when he sees butterflies and soap bubbles. Adelia laughs when she sees tanajuras in flight or a pé de mato producing yellow flowers. I laugh when I see shells, cobwebs and popcorn popping ... Anyone who sees clearly never gets bored with life. The educator points and smiles -- and contemplates the student's eyes. When his eyes are smiling, he feels happy. They are seeing the same thing. When I say that my passion is education, I'm saying I want to have the joy of seeing the eyes of my students, especially children's eyes." For putting this line of thought into practice, he received the title of emeritus professor at Unicamp in 1996, and the "O educador que queremos" ["The educator we love"] award offered by PNBE (Pensamento Nacional das Bases Empresariais) in 2003.

The Land of Freedom and Lack of Respect for Human Rights

By Fr. Alex Diaz (English translation by Rebel Girl)
July 21, 2014

It makes me angry and I feel deceived when I see the president of this country and high level politicians almost continuously coming out in various media saying firmly and proudly that this country is the greatest defender of freedom and democracy, because wars have been waged on its behalf and millions of lives cut down, ostensibly in defense of these two rights. They want to establish order and justice across the borders in other countries where they have no business, and in their own country, they violate and destroy what they claim to defend; in other words they are "a light on the street and darkness in their own home" and why do I say this? Because I find it shameful that in a country like this one, those who are treated like second or third class citizens because of not having legal documents, are still being persecuted and their human rights violated.

Recently, I was talking to a person of North American nationality -- I will not say "American" because we are all Americans, because America is not only the fifty states of this nation, it is the continent and therefore I am also American -- and this person told me he was sick of immigrants coming and populating his country and that it was a shame that they were ending up with the resources that his ancestors had built. I was very upset at this comment and my response was, "Perhaps the real Native Americans had white skin and spoke an Anglo-Saxon language? Well, I don't think so. The real Americans were banished by the ancestors who began and built the borders of this nation, who came with swords and cannons to make room for themselves and take away what rightly belonged to the native indigenous people of this land. Therefore we are all immigrants and no one has the right to want to see others as second class citizens. It's sad to see how so many immigrants are being treated in the prisons. They are seen practically as people without dignity, simply for coming to seek a better life. Many are fleeing systems of terror, death, and fear. Is seeking new horizons an offense or a crime? I think not.

Freezers -- that's what the prisons where the young people, adults and children are brought are called. They are small, extremely cold areas where not only their freedom, hope and dreams are frozen, but also their very bodies. According to those who have already been there, they are so cold that they start to have symptoms of hypothermia. The cold prevents them from sleeping and resting. Going in there is practically losing everything. There's no food, no toiletries. There is virtually nothing. It's physical and psychological torture to which they are subjected and where there is no one who can help them.

How long will this country continue to allow such blows against human dignity? Can it be that the famous international community and those who claim to have the power to seek justice and freedom haven't realized that this is happening? Mr. President, stop talking about justice and freedom when you yourself are allowing these kinds of abuses against the dignity of human beings, simply because they weren't born here and are looking for a better future.

Fr. Alex Diaz is a priest from El Salvador who is presently Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church in Dale City, Virginia.