Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hand of God Screening

Director to offer free screening of ‘Hand of God’ in McAllen on Feb. 18



HARLINGEN — In a special appearance, “Hand of God” will finally reach the Rio Grande Valley in February.

Director Joe Cultrera will bring his award-winning film, “Hand of God,” to McAllen for a free screening Feb. 18 at the Cine El Rey.

The documentary on the child molestation scandal in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston caused local controversy when KMBH, the local Public Broadcasting System affiliate, refused to air it at in the usual “Frontline” prime-time slot on Jan. 16.

The film is based on the abuse Cultrera’s brother, Paul Cultrera, suffered at the hands of a Catholic priest in the 1960s and how it still affects the family to this day. “Hand of God” also chronicles how the Archdiocese of Boston tried to sweep this and similar cases under the rug.

“I think it’s important to see that these things can be survived,” Cultrera said.

Cultrera will be available for questions following the 4:30 p.m. showing.

The event is being sponsored by Call to Action-Rio Grande Valley, the local chapter of a national organization seeking accountability, financial and otherwise, in the Roman Catholic Church.

Gerald Brazier, a member of CTAnRGV, said it’s important to present “Hand of God” in such a predominantly Catholic area.

“Stories of clergy sex abuse are very important to be told,” Brazier said. “That story needs to get out so that the church can face up to their responsibilities in trying to help the victims.”

Brazier said documentaries such as “Hand of God” help others understand what happened to victims of such abuse and also may help those victims find some sort of closure.

“Since the Valley didn’t get a chance to see this film when it first aired, we thought we would provide this opportunity,” Brazier said.

Only 450 seats will be available at the free screening, Brazier said.

Speaking from his office in New York City, Cultrera said he would show the version of “Hand of God” that was screened at more than a dozen film festivals in 2006. It won awards at four of those festivals.

The festival cut of “Hand of God” is 12 minutes longer than the version shown Jan. 16 by “Frontline” on almost all the other PBS affiliates nationwide. Cultrera said the movie had to be cut to fit within the TV series’ time constraints.

KMBH chose on Jan. 16 to air an old “Frontline” episode about the Taliban during the series’ usual prime time slot.

KMBH, owned and operated by the non-profit RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., was founded under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville and receives a major portion of its funding from the diocese. Bishop Raymundo Peña appointed the station’s president and CEO, Monsignor Pedro Briseño, as well as its board of directors.

Hand Of God Movie Showing

There will be a special showing of the movie Hand of God on Sunday, February 18, 2007, at 4:30 PM at Cine el Rey in McAllen, TX.

Admission is free, but donations will be accepted. Following the movie, the director of this film, Joe Cultrera, will be available to answer any questions and to discuss the film.

This is a special opportunity to see the movie that was removed from broadcast on our Public Television Station.

(Presented as a courtesy to the community by Call To Action-RGV)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Peace March 2007 - McAllen, TX

Peace March, January 27, 2007

What a wonderful day for a march.

Thanks to all of you that participated!

Also, Thank You to the City of McAllen.

(Click on picture to enlarge - click on back button to return.)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Even More Hand of God...

OK, More "Hand Of God"
Msgr. Pedro Briseño Responds

Note: Additional "Letters to the Editor" have been posted under the "Comments" section of this post on Sunday, 01/28/07.

More added on Monday, 01/29/07

Date: Fri, 26 Jan 2007 12:40:14 EST

Subject: In response to your message for KMBH

I appreciate the opportunity to offer my explanations to you, since the newspapers wrongly reported on Friday what was a simple scheduling incident. My responses to the reporter's inquiries were not published but one day later. The damage had already been done as you can see through your own feelings!

Putting aside all the intriguing and at times inflammatory language that has run lately on the newspapers about KMBH, public radio and public television in the Rio Grande Valley, I assure you we do not exercise censorship on the programming we broadcast.

The Catholic Diocese of Brownsville has only been the main supporter and the founder of this educational institution that is RGV Educational Broadcasting.

I understand the apprehension of some people when they learn about the relationship of the Church with our stations, in the context of the bad press the Church has received at least for the last five years all over the country after the scandal of sex abuse by clergy was exhibited by The Globe in Boston. By the way, our radio station Public Radio 88 FM transmitted on Thursday and Friday, January 11 and 12, three extensive reports on this whole issue during All Things Considered.

It calls my attention that none of those who are so dismayed for the absence of this topic on Frontline of January 16 (that was shown on KMBH later in the night) gives us any credit for having covered the topic on Radio.

Finally and as a matter of clarification... If still and again due to the bad press shed on clergy for the last years in the US I am a target of suspicion let me tell you that I am here as a GM not because I am a clergy but because I have been a professional of the media for the last thirty years. By the way I began my career as a journalist and then I made it to the position of editor and publisher for many years in four different countries. Not boasting, just for the records.

Msgr. Pedro Briseño - KMBH General Manager

And this from the Brownsville Herald:

Diocese Censors Public Broadcast
To the Editor:

On Jan. 16 the “Frontline” program on our local PBS station was to be an investigation of the archdiocese of Boston. The story, however, was replaced by one about the Taliban.

When contacted by phone, a station representative said that the station manager did not want the Boston archdiocese story broadcast until he had a chance to view it, so a worker was to tape it for him.

The station manager is none other than Father Pedro Briseño, pastor of a Harlingen parish. This obviously creates a conflict of interest between PBS and the church.

Just because the Diocese of Brownsville owns and operates the local PBS station, does it have the right to censor programs and delete any program it feels might be harmful to the reputation to the church? This must be contrary to PBS policy and should warrant an investigation.

Interesting that the program was replaced by a story about the Taliban — was not Briseño using Taliban tactics of censorship himself?

Perhaps he knows that one day the investigation could very well be about the Diocese of Brownsville rather than Boston.

Eleanor Marks
San Juan

It is sad to see that our children are not even safe in church. That is certainly not to say that the church is evil, but it just makes you feel so helpless. I just can't stand the thought that these heartless people disguise themselves as diciples of our Lord and hurt innocent people.

Yes, of course Father Briseno removed the program. Has he put it back on? Will he ever? No, because it would make the church look bad. so he is doing what is in his and the diocese's "best" interest, which of course just makes his actions all the more suspicious. If there is nothing to hide, then show it. It can't be because of the appropriateness of it's content. They played the taliban video didn't they? So, our local government is corrupt. Now our Diocese? We don't have a chance in ________ !

Again, plese do not misunderstand my comment. I know that there are people out there that devote their life to God and they are very good people.

Posted by: priscilla on Jan 25, 07 11:06 am

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More "Hands of God"

Couple Drops KMBH-FM Radio Show Because Of Censorship Incident at Public Broadcast Station


HARLINGEN - "North of the Border" has gone south in the wake of the "Hand of God" controversy at KMBH.

Joe and Rosa Perez pulled the plug on their weekly KMBH-FM radio show Friday to protest KMBH-TV's refusal last week to air the Frontline episode "Hand of God."

"I felt so damned embarrassed to be associated with the station," Joe Perez said. "I consider myself a cultural activist and making a statement about this is as important as anything else."

"North of the Border," a program about music that has traveled to this side of the Rio Grande from Mexico and Latin America, had aired on KMBH-FM for five years. "Hand of God" concerns the child abuse scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston in recent years. KMBH, the local Public Broadcasting System affiliate, is owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville.

On Friday, Monsignor Pedro Briseño, KMBH's general manager, denied any connection between the station's ownership, the show's subject matter and the decision not to air "Hand of God."

Briseño did not return several calls seeking comment Monday about the Perezes' resignation.

Perez said he and his wife had provided "North of the Border" at no cost to KMBH. They are retired teachers living in Olmito who also perform folk music as Runbo al Anacua.

The resignation e-mail was addressed to Chris Maley, program director of KMBH-FM, Perez said. But Maley was away from the office on Friday. It was Briseño who replied to Perez. The two exchanged several e-mails, Perez said.

"His whole tone was like a priest talking to a 13-year-old ... in the confessional," said the retired teacher. "I didn't like that."

"To be honest, we were starting to lose our enthusiasm after five years of doing this," he said.

Perez said the controversy over "Hand of God" was the final straw. Perez said to himself, "We don't need to be there anymore."

Perez said he and his wife will attempt to air "North of the Border" on other stations.

"We're not trying to make a living at this," Perez said about the show. "We're not going to charge for it. It's just a cultural statement we want to make."

Jan 22, 2007 - 22:39:41 CST

Monday, January 22, 2007

Newsletter of 01/21/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—January 21, 2007

The Diocese of Brownsville is launching, during this Lent, an effort at promoting evangelization. It is based on a program developed by the Paulist Fathers (http://www.disciplesinmission.org/) and is called Disciples in Mission. Everyone is encouraged to familiarize themselves with this program. Here is a quote:
“While some Catholics believe that faith is a private matter, and is best kept to themselves, the Church teaches that ‘the lay faithful…have the vocation and mission of proclaiming the Gospel.’ Since lay people ‘are fully part of this work of the Church [they] should feel called and encouraged to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.’ Catholics are prepared to share their faith through the sacraments and by the work of the Holy Spirit in them. As Catholics meet Christ through the sacraments, prayer, and Scripture, they develop a ‘burning desire to invite others to encounter the One whom [they] have encountered’ and this ‘is the start of the evangelizing mission to which the whole Church is called’ (John Paul II, The Church in America, no. 66, 68).”

~from Disciples in Mission—An Evangelization Experience
The most powerful tool of evangelization is the witness given by people living out the Gospel in a vibrant parish community. Others are then drawn by the example of that witness. In the materials the diocese is providing, one of the first questions asked is whether people consider their parish a “welcoming community.” It is difficult to answer that question affirmatively at Holy Spirit these days and given the Monsignor’s suppression of those who have sought to “proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom” as an integral part of their own parish life, it is difficult to see how the lofty goals of this program have much chance of success unless there is a real metanoia, a change of heart, by the Monsignor.

Andrew Greeley
Father Andrew Greeley, sociologist and author, was recently awarded, by the editorial board of America (the Jesuit weekly) the Campion Award for his contributions to Christian letters. Here is part of his remarks on that occasion:
“There are perhaps five major themes to emerge from [my work in sociology]:

● Catholic schools are an enormous asset to the church, especially in a time of traumatic change.

● For the most part, priests who are happy in their work and would marry if they could are likely to stay in the priesthood.

● The birth control encyclical, Humanae Vitae, did not work. As a result Catholics tend to be Catholics on their own terms. I am told they cannot do that. My point is that they do, because the leadership has lost its credibility. (Sorry about that.)

● Despite all that has happened (most recently the sexual abuse scandals) in the last four decades, it is proving difficult to drive Catholics out of the church.

● The sacramental imagination, as badly enacted as it is, still holds most Catholics in the church.

It is fair to say that these themes have been greeted with ridicule and then silence. So it goes.”

Respect Life Sunday
Each Respect Life Sunday seems to inspire more sadness in me – ironic since it is supposed to be a celebration. I come home with a heavy heart because of how much we have missed the point. Yes, we want abortion to end and can draw inspiration from the psalms for our church’s stance regarding abortion—esp. the moving passages assuring us that our God will not abandon us, even if a mother forsake her child, and the beautiful image that our God knows us from knitting us together in our mother’s womb. But this is just a small piece. To really get at the heart of respect for life, we need to go back to the beginning—to creation. Not only do we believe that everything comes from God, we also teach and that God looked at everything he had made and found it was very good. This is what we are supposed to be celebrating—that with God we treasure all of creation, all of life.

Our church was filled with red roses this Sunday, but those roses shouldn’t be there just for the unborn. The roses should be there for the migrant, the poor, the forgotten, the elderly, the lonely, those we disagree with, those without healthcare, those without education, the victims of violence, the prisoner on death row, the victims of war, the victims of physical and sexual abuse, the earth itself—the roses should be there for all of God’s creation. It will be the year of favor announced in our readings when our church fully accepts its role as God’s anointed voice for all of life, and speaks and acts in celebration of all God’s creation. from fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña

Liturgical Notes
The appearance of the chalice veil at Mass this Sunday was certainly strange. Most people under the age of forty have probably never seen its use before. In the old days, the priest brought the veiled chalice with him in the entrance procession and put it on the altar, to be uncovered at the offertory. This practice seems to have its origins in contamination concerns since the pall (the small square of stiffened linen) was always placed on top of the chalice during Mass. This Sunday’s use of the pall and veil didn’t follow any of the old rituals and so seemed to be included to make some sort of nostalgic point. What’s next? A triumphant return of the biretta (not the pistol, but a square cap with three or four ridges or peaks, sometimes surmounted by a tuft)?

TV Notes
The decision made by the General Manager of the Valley PBS TV station, Monsignor Pedro Briseño, not to air the documentary film, The Hand of God, has been written about in the newspapers and discussed on the internet. We know KMBH provided three different explanations for why the show did not run: one of those was not true (the feed was available), another was not an explanation at all and was accompanied by a nearly hysterical attack on the local press, and the third was that the Monsignor wanted to review the program before showing it. Only that third reason survives scrutiny but leaves us scratching our heads? What would possess those in charge of the station to engage in suppressing this film and so contribute to the public’s perception that the Church wants to cover up the abuse scandal? Why do those entrusted with a public television license think they can engage in this sort of censorship?

$$$$$ Update
Since 10/15/06:
Total below budget: $17,364.68 (last year same date: $18,244.20)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $44,556.32
Projected yearly shortfall: $165,494.90

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at mailto:gbrazier@rgv.rr.com

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hand OF God - Comments

The Valley Morning Star
Friday, January 19, 2007

Can We Trust The Church To Operate Our Public TV Station In The Valley?

To The Editor:

Monsignor Pedro Briseño, pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Harlingen and general manager of KMBH-TV, the public television station in the Valley, ordered that a program scheduled for broadcast on Tuesday not be shown until he "could review it for content."

Was this program one that was sexually salacious? Was it excessively violent? Was it laced with profanity? No, the program was "The Hand of God," a film by Joe Cultrera that "tells the very personal story of how the (clergy sex abuse) crisis affected his own family in Salem, Mass. It is the intimate story of how his brother, Paul, was molested in the 1960s by the Rev. Joseph Birmingham, who also reportedly abused nearly 100 other children" (from the "Frontline" Web site).

This action of Monsignor Briseño is censorship at the hands of a person entrusted with the public airwaves. How is it that the monsignor's judgment of the appropriateness of this program for viewers in the Rio Grande Valley is something we should be subjected to?

PBS' "Frontline" is not "Cinemax After Dark" or HBO's "Real Sex," it is serious journalism that adults around this country have access to, and we in the Valley should be able to view and judge for ourselves.

The monsignor's censorship just reinforces the public perception that the Catholic Church is still interested in covering up the clergy sex abuse scandal. The Diocese of Brownsville continues to refuse to release the names of the priests who have been credibly accused of the sexual abuse of children in the Valley, and this latest action to suppress a television program about the issue seems, on the surface, to fall into this same pattern of "sacred silence."

KMBH is a public trust and this action by an official of the diocese, which owns the station, raises the question whether such a public trust should be in the hands of the church at all, if there is going to be this sort of conflict of interest. Those who are substantial contributors, the Prime Circle, might want to reconsider whether their support is appropriate.

Gerald Brazier
Call to Action-Rio Grande Valley

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Newsletter of 01/07/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—January 7, 2007

Just and Equitable
In the McAllen Monitor of January 5th, Bishop Peña wrote very thoughtfully on the immigration issue. Arguing from the Gospels, he presents the case that “we must indispensably work toward the creation of just and equitable immigration laws.” It follows that the Bishop would support the case that, as Christians who follow the Gospel, we must work toward the creation of a just and equitable society, in general, not just in relation to immigration reform.

His words bring to mind the 1990 “Call for Reform in the Catholic Church,” which serves as the platform of Call to Action:

The church should be providing wisdom and encouragement to believers to enter the dialogue on these [social justice] issues. Unfortunately, today's church is crippled by its failure to address fundamental justice issues within its own institutional structures. It thus becomes a stumbling block both to its own members and to society.

We therefore appeal to the institutional church to reform and renew its structures. We also appeal to all the people of God to witness to the Spirit who lives within us, and to seek ways to serve the vision of God in human society.

If Bishop Peña is to call for us to engage in the task of producing a just and equitable society, then he must take every step to ensure that the Church itself is a just and equitable institution. It cannot be all high sounding phrases and exhortations directed at others, or it is simply a case of “do what I say, not what I do.”

Our Church leaders lose credibility when they preach Gospel values and morality, but are unwilling to apply the same values and morality to the way they conduct the activities of the Church. The clergy sex abuse scandal is the current example of this. Remember that the greatest erosion of confidence in the Church’s leadership as a result of this scandal has been due, not to the immorality of abusive priests, but to the failure of the bishops to “do the right thing” and put the safety of children above the protection of Church image and assets.

Our own Bishop Peña loses credibility when he speaks of justice and equity, but allows an inherently unjust situation to continue to exist at Holy Spirit Parish. Parishioners have been, in effect, banished from the Parish for no reason other than their Pastor’s dislike for them. These people are being prevented from living out their Catholic faith in their own parish and have been denied any formal opportunity to seek redress. This is neither just nor equitable.

The further irony is that the first casualty under the Monsignor’s regime was the Peace and Justice Commission, the very group within the Parish most directly concerned with working toward the creation of a just and equitable society. Recall that old saying, “I can’t hear what you are saying because your actions speak too loud.”

This Sunday the Parish had (once again) visiting priests celebrating Eucharist with us. The 12:30 celebration was presided over in very odd fashion (elevation of the Host and the Cup each for almost a full minute, idiosyncratic changes in the language of the Eucharistic Prayer, etc.) In some sense, a certain amount of “personalization” isn’t such a bad thing, but what was striking to someone of a certain age is how reminiscent the whole Mass was of former times: fussy primness and ostentatious actions of the priest that, instead of being an integral part of the celebration, were distractions drawing attention to him.

Many of us old enough to have been even young adults at the time of Vatican II actually have real experience with the pre-Council Church and its liturgy and not just mythologized versions passed on to us from older friends or the wing-nut world of the ultraconservative blogosphere and do not have fond nostalgia for those “Tridentine Rite” celebrations. The Eucharistic theology exemplified in those celebrations and reemphasized by the celebrant at the 12:30 Mass are not the teachings of the early Church and are not the teachings of the scholars of the liturgical movement that formed the foundation of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. It is a shame to see the increase of this “hearkening back” to some supposed “Golden Age.”

$$$$$ Update
Since 10/15/06:
Total below budget: $17,060.33
(last year same date: $16,907.13)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $40,367.45
Projected yearly shortfall: $174,925.62

In Absentia
As indicated above, the Monsignor was once again not in the Parish for the Sunday liturgies. In fact, he has been absent from the Parish almost totally since Christmas. There is much blather from the pulpit about the Parish being a family, etc. If that is really how this Parish is perceived by the Monsignor, then shouldn’t he be in the midst of his family at this, the most family-oriented part of the liturgical year?

This sort of disengagement from not only the administration of the Parish (well-documented and frequently discussed) but from even its Eucharistic and spiritual life, is cause to question whether the Monsignor really is part of the community. Is he, instead, just going through the motions of being a pastor and taking every opportunity to be away, pursuing his real interests, whatever they may be?

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at gbrazier@rgv.rr.com.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ben Salinas Uganda Trip

Word from Ben Salinas
I know that many people from this community provided valuable financial support for my trip to Uganda. I'll be leaving in a little less than 24 hours and would like to ask the community to keep me in their prayers. I'd also like to share a link where we will be posting pictures and stories from our trip. This link is http://bgoe07.blogspot.com/.

If you could share this with the community, that would be great. I am very grateful for all the support I have received from this family.
Ben Salinas