Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fifth Day of Christmas: Latin American reflection and appeal

It's Casaldáliga, continued this evening, back by popular demand and also because I was already planning this last night.

More from Dom Pedro Casaldáliga's interview by the late, talented, radiant, died-too-young Mev Puleo. (Yes, I knew her. For a lovely, challenging book on Mev, her faith, her politics, and her relationship with her husband, see The Book of Mev by Mark Chmiel, who was married to Mev until her death at the age of 32.) The interview took place in the early 1990s. Casaldáliga retired from his position as Catholic bishop of São Felix de Arraguaia in 2005.

(A few years before his retirement, Dom Pedro was silenced by then Cardinal Ratzinger under Pope John Paul II. He is now nearly 80 years old, living with Parkinson's and a couple of other serious health conditions.)

The contemplative life isn't just important -- it's my whole life! I always say, the more radically we are revolutionaries, the more radically we should be contemplatives.

... First and foremost in this world, we should destroy the arms factories once and for all. If the bishops and pastors and presidents and politician of the world were sufficiently honest and courageous, we would kneel in front of every single arms factory to prevent their continued production!

Now it's easy for the empire, for capitalism, for the dictators to condemn only the struggle of the poor and to forget about the root of all violence - the institutionalized violence of the very empire.

* * * * *

(During his time as bishop, Dom Pedro lived in a simple home of brick and clay with cement floors.)

In my twenty years here, I've sought to work in teams with religious [i.e. members of religious orders] and laity, married or single. We make this option to mutually complement one another. We pray and eat together, but also have personal space to cultivate our particular identities.

We try to live close to the people, so you won't find us in palaces or curias.

If I lived alone as a bishop in a palace, with a secretary and a cook, I wouldn't have the opportunity to live the daily problems of the people! I wouldn't have the chance to hear the women neighbors who come here to talk with Sister Irene about health problems, or with Maria, the lawyer, about land problems.

... As a bishop, I recognize that we, the hierarchy, are the main ones responsible for the evil that occurs, and for the good that doesn't occur, in the church. I heard a joke that there can only be bishops in hell -- others don't stand a chance of getting in!

At a national meeting of the CEBs [Comunidades Ecclesiales de Base, Christian Base Communities], I invited the bishops to kneel in front of the people in repentance. So often we did not have the prophetic courage to denounce or announce. Many times the Christian people, especially women and the poor, haven't had the opportunity to participate. It's no doubt because the hierarchy closed itself to dialogue.

Hence, the mea culpa should begin with the cupola [the dome or top of a structure, referring to the church hierarchy].


I always say, God will take care of us after we're dead -- we have to take care of now until death! Chapter 25 of Matthew puts it clearly: hunger, thirst, imprisonment will judge us. A faith that isn't expressed in works is dead.

And our works can't be just individual, they must address structures as well. Still, I always say that the biggest problem God will ever have is to condemn someone.

God is love, as St. John says, and love doesn't like to condemn. God sent us his Son not to judge, but to save us.


Look, I myself, by the very fact of being a bishop, am not poor. Anyone who goes through a university or seminary or novitiate isn't poor, because we have more possibilities, a culture, a backing that simple poor people lack.

But I, or any relatively bourgeois intellectual or family, can and should "betray" our class and opt for the causes of the poor --the organization, demands and movements of the poor who are trying to liberate themselves.

I'm not going to ask First World families go hungry, but they can renounce certain privileges. We should simplify. For example, we get a lot of help [here] from European groups who create a "self-tax," tithing part of their salary to help the Third World. They renounce trips, luxuries, foods. Solidarity isn't throwing a party to raise alms twice a year! The rich person shouldn't merely be giving alms, but should truly have mercy and compassion on others, as Jesus himself did.

When I begin to understand that every other person is an equal to myself, I can no longer retain my privileges, because to do so would be robbery. I cannot merely give donations, I must pay back what I owe. There's a difference.


The U.S. is not "more than Haiti or Guatemala or El Salvador! We are all human beings -- one people should be equal to another people in possibilities, in dignity, in liberty!

Did Dom Pedro say we shouldn't be raising money? He did not. He just said it isn't enough to do so.

Thus I am reminding you: this series is part Latin American reflection, part funding appeal for the parish --especially the children-- of Cristo Rei in the community of Cidade de Deus, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The money goes to kitchens, classrooms, music, and other infrastructure needs. Two Anglican clergymembers (one in the U.K., one in the U.S., the much beloved Jonathan and Elizabeth) are receiving the funds and holding them until Epiphany when they will send them to our friends in Brazil. They are, I assure you, trustworthy in these matters. (And if they were not, their parish treasurer would bop them over the head -- nonviolently of course. We have accountability in our congregrations.)

Things have been a little slow at the OCICBW... Christmas Appeal and we only have seven days left. So click the link (make sure you read Luiz's post in the Comments section when you get to your bloggy destination) and send some of your local currency. PayPal takes plastic. Also, there is a way to send checks, or cheques if that is your preferred spelling. Waiting till a January 1 payday? Never fear, I will post a big fat reminder on January 1. And smaller ones before and after.

But think of this fund-raiser as an entryway, not an end.

Will we know the people of Cristo Rei as people, as God's people? How can we not only give to them but receive from them too --their riches: their faith, their insight, their wisdom, their strength? How can we see them truly as our sisters and brothers? Where will this heart-warming and challenging Christmas Appeal take us?

Ponder that one in your hearts, sisters and brothers.


Grandmère Mimi said...

The U.S. is not "more than Haiti or Guatemala or El Salvador! We are all human beings -- one people should be equal to another people in possibilities, in dignity, in liberty!

Jane, will Americans ever "get" this? We are no more special or privileged than any other group of people. We are only more indebted, except for the destitute amongst us. Only the destitute are innocent.

What a man of God!

Jane R said...