Monday, July 28, 2003

Papal Nuncio Letter 07/24/03

Letter to the Papal Nuncio

July 24, 2003

Most Reverend Gabriel Montalvo
Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See
3339 Massachusetts Ave.
N.W.Washington, D.C. 20008-3687

The faithful parishioners at Holy Spirit Catholic Parish in McAllen, Texas have suffered a severe emotional loss as a result of actions taken recently by the Bishop of Brownsville, Raymundo Pena, and his surrogate, Reverend Ruben Delgado, against our four sisters in Christ.

The four women: Ann Williams Cass, Edna Cantu, Rosario "Chayo" Vaello, and Martha Sanchez, were fired by our new "Pastor", Reverend Delgado, who did not do the wrongful deed himself; rather, he used the diocesan workers supplied willingly by Bishop Raymundo Pena.

The Bishop Pena/Reverend Delgado conspiracy against our sisters has caused deep pain felt by all members of our parish family. We ask and pray that you will help Bishop Pena publicly admit his error and make good by reinstating the four women with full pay and benefits, and in addition, recognize the full legitimacy of all working parishioners in the Brownsville Diocese with any labor agreements under contract. To do anything less than returning these workers to their positions is a violation of what is ethical, legal and moral. We, the faithful parishioners at Holy Spirit, will accept nothing less. Their full reinstatement is, after all, the Christian thing to do.

We will provide you with the evidence of the Bishop’s malfeasance in the following manuscript:

First, we will begin with the background of the conspiracy by providing a brief history of the events leading to the firing of the four women.

Second, we will show to you the suffering and pain endured initially by the parish workers and parishioners and later exacerbated by the calculated and callous actions perpetrated by Bishop Pena.

Third, we have provided you in the accompanying attachments with letters, newspaper articles, and petitions to Bishop Pena to support our claims.

Finally, we will provide you with our map for healing the wounds that we as workers and parishioners have wrongfully endured.

Background of the Conspiracy.
On Wednesday, June 18, 2003 our parish, Holy Spirit Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas, was to receive a new pastor, Reverend Ruben Delgado. However, on that day several administrators from the Diocese of Brownsville arrived at the parish office in place of Reverend Delgado for the purpose of handing out termination letters to the entire parish staff.

Four Holy Spirit Parishioners (and United Farm Worker employees) were present: Ann Williams Cass, Edna Cantu, Rosario "Chayo" Vaello, and Martha Sanchez. All four received their termination letters that morning, while the other letters were not distributed.

Reverend Delgado did not meet with these women personally to tell them the bad news, nor did he offer them any counsel. Furthermore, the diocesan employees, at the behest of the bishop, brought armed-security guards and locksmiths with them, who immediately began changing the locks on the parish doors.

The four workers were informed by diocesan employees that they were to vacate their offices by the end of the day and they were denied the opportunity to meet and discuss the situation with Reverend Delgado. In fact, Reverend Delgado did not even come to the parish office during this time to offer any condolences to the women.

The actions of Reverend Delgado and the Diocesan administrators have deeply disturbed not only the parish staff, but also the majority of the parish faithful. The firings perpetrated by Reverend Delgado and the Diocesan employees have disrupted a parish that was once very actively involved not only with a growing Church community, but also in matters of helping the disadvantaged in our own Rio Grande Valley community.

The Bishop’s Role in the Conspiracy to Fire the Women.
Bishop Pena has feigned ignorance concerning any direct role in the firing of the parish workers. Rather, he has seemingly left Reverend Delgado completely culpable. However, the bishop is implicated because of the overwhelming evidence that points to the fact that his involvement was central to the conspiracy.

First, the diocesan workers, armed guards, and locksmiths, all paid for by the bishop, obviously had foreknowledge of the events that were to transpire on June 18, 2003. Ironically, the actions were "orchestrated" by the bishop’s office[1] on the fateful day to maximize the pain inflicted upon the workers and parishioners of Holy Spirit. The workers were treated in an un-Christian manner by the brutality of the cruel methods used by the diocesan employees in the firings. The women had no chance to plead their case to the new pastor. The treatment they were afforded has caused severe mental anguish for the family of Holy Spirit Parish. We may only surmise that the actions were designed to hurt the people.

Second, Bishop Pena assured the "marvelous people of Holy Spirit Parish" that a "good pastor" would be provided to replace Father Jerry Frank (Bishop Pena’s letter dated February 10, 2003). This supposed "good pastor" left a disaster in the wake of his short stay. One of the "directives" perpetrated on the parish was the firing of the women. Subsequent to the firings and the departure of Reverend Delgado, the Bishop has claimed that Church Law will not allow him to undo the wrong left as a result of the firings.

At his web site, Holy Spirit Parishioner Dr. Gerald Brazier notes from Canon Law (Canon 1286) regarding Administrators of temporal goods, that church administrators: …[In] making contracts of employment, are accurately to observe also, according to the principles taught by the Church, the civil laws relating to labour and social life… ( accessed July 22, 2003).

Furthermore, Holy Spirit Parishioner Mr. Rolando Gonzales notes in a letter to the editor in El Americano News (Segunda Edicion de Junio del 2003) that according to Canon Law, both "bishops and priests have ‘ordinary and extraordinary’ jurisdiction over their flock."

The bishop is obviously attempting to hide behind his narrow interpretation of Church law in order to not do what is right and just by reinstating the fired parish workers. Thus, one may only conclude that his decision to not take corrective action must reflect accurately his true intentions: to harm the workers and parishioners of Holy Spirit Parish.

In addition to the pain being suffered at Holy Spirit, the bishop has taken similar action against other parishes in the Rio Grande Valley. A pattern has developed that while the bishop says he is an advocate for social justice, his deeds belie his words.

The bishop claims to have "restructured" retirement benefits to help diocesan workers, but many, especially older retirees, have lost thousands in retirement income. This action, among others, has caused parish workers in the Brownsville Diocese to unionize.

The bishop makes public statements that he is supportive of unions and a friend of the late Cesar Chavez, yet he has behaved in a vindictive fashion by appointing priests to do his bidding by firing "at will", church employees in other parishes such as Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

In addition to Holy Spirit, Sacred Heart in Hidalgo, Saint Joseph the Worker in San Carlos, and Saint Joseph the Worker in McAllen have joined the United Farm Workers. In a letter to The Monitor (dated June 22, 2003), Holy Spirit Parishioner Dr. Terence Garrett has cited the bishop at his web site:

Catholic respect for human life and human dignity require also the safeguarding of the family, the protection of religious freedom, and a commitment to fostering peace and economic justice. Our faith does not permit a partial service which focuses narrowly on some of these goods at the expense of others ( accessed June 21, 2003).

Furthermore, the bishop has tried to make a virtue out of the fact that the average diocesan worker makes seven dollars an hour. This "virtuous action" makes the bishop look foolish and an object of ridicule. The Rio Grande Valley is one of the poorest regions in the country and the Church must do more to rectify this unjust situation. In addition to the lack of respect for unions in the diocese[2] the measly average diocesan wage hardly rises to real social justice.

The Bishop Refuses to Face the Parishioners at Holy Spirit.
Bishop Pena has consistently dodged meeting with parishioners at Holy Spirit Parish since the firings. The last time the bishop met with parishioners was February 15-16, 2003, where he openly declared at mass his admiration of the church for its Vatican II organization, programs, and emphasis on social justice for the Rio Grande Valley. However, at the time of the crisis in June 2003, the bishop has been suspiciously absent, though in a letter to Holy Spirit Parishioners dated June 21, 2003, the bishop "had planned to be with you at all the Masses to install and help you welcome your new pastor."

The obvious question is: Why didn’t Bishop Pena use the opportunity (already scheduled) to meet with parishioners and explain the situation? Instead, the bishop behaves as if he is in hiding, unwilling to face the parish. Despite all his admonitions for "healing," Bishop Pena has not made any real efforts to reach out, face-to-face, to his flock. This conscious attempt by the bishop to avoid direct communication with Holy Spirit parishioners has not served the diocese or the parish well.

The Road to Resolution of the Conflict between the Bishop and Holy Spirit Parishioners:
We, the parishioners of Holy Spirit, prayerfully offer our advice to obtain a peaceful and just resolution to the present conflict.

First, our sisters in Christ must be reinstated in their rightful positions in the church. These women have suffered needlessly and need help from everyone in the diocese in order to deal with the damage they have incurred.

Second, the bishop should meet with the faithful of the parish and thoughtfully explain his actions and apologize for the angst suffered by all in these awful circumstances. Healing will occur only with understanding.

And finally, the bishop needs to appoint a "good pastor" in order to properly lead the parish. The Holy Spirit Parish community needs to return to doing its good work regarding the Rio Grande Valley.

Please help us, your grace.

Respectfully yours,

Terence M. Garrett, Ph.D.
Cecilia M. Garrett
Gerald D. Brazier, Ph.D.

Committee for National Letter Writing,
Leaders for the Healing of Holy Spirit Parish

cc: Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re
Bishop Wilton Gregory
Bishop Raymundo Pena

[1] The irony is present here as Bishop Pena claimed subsequently that the parish workers had “orchestrated” actions against himself and Reverend Delgado.

[2] It is ironic and sad that the Vatican has extended unionization rights to their workers while the Diocese of Brownsville has acted against the rights of union workers at churches in the Rio Grande Valley.

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