Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Congressional Hearing on Border Wall



The Catholic Diocese of Brownsville has confirmed that Bishop Raymundo J. Peña will attend a U.S. Congressional field hearing about the border wall on Monday. The hearing takes place at the University of Texas at Brownsville. Peña attended a No Border Wall rally last year.

Field Hearing and Bus Tour to Highlight Impacts of Border Wall

What: A U.S. Congressional field hearing on the Border Wall and a press bus tour organized by Lower Rio Grande Valley residents

When: Monday, April 28th, at 10am

Where: Brownsville, Texas on the campus of the University of Texas at Brownsville

A U.S. Congressional field hearing will be held in Brownsville, Texas on Monday, April 28th, starting at 10am. The hearing, entitled Walls and Waivers: Expedited Construction of the Southern Border Wall and the Collateral Impacts on Communities and the Environment, will be held in the Lecture Hall of the Science, Engineering and Technology Building (SET-B) at the University of Texas-Brownsville (UTB).

The hearing is a joint effort of Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands and Representative Madeleine Z. Bordallo (Guam-at large), chair of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans. Both subcommittees are part of the House Natural Resources Committee.
Among those invited to testify are two U.S. Congressmen, Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Dr. Juliet Garcia, president of UTB, Ralph Basham, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and Ned Norris, Jr., chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation.

Following the hearing, Texas State Representative Eddie Lucio III, whose district includes parts of Brownsville, is hosting a bus tour of areas due to be directly affected by the border wall. The bus tour is intended to provide a better understanding of the border wall issue. It is being organized by Representative Lucio’s office and concerned citizens of the Rio Grande Valley. Various members of the community will be on the bus tour and available for interviews.

The bus tour will begin on the UTB campus. The proposed wall cuts through part of the campus. The tour will continue on to the Sabal Palm Audubon Center. This 557-acre sanctuary is one of several wildlife refuges on the Rio Grande that may no longer be accessible to the public if the proposed wall is built. Another stop on the tour will be at the small community of El Calaboz, where the wall will slice through private land. The tour will end at Hope Park in historic downtown Brownsville. Hope Park is a short walk from old buildings that are in the wall’s path. Barbecue at the park will be provided for all attending.

Directions to the hearing: Heading southeast on US-77/US-83, exit on International Blvd. Turn right on International. Turn left onto the campus at Ridgely Road.

For more information and to book a seat on the bus tour, please contact Betty Pérez at 956-580-8915 or email her at

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Voice of the Faithful.


On the occasion of the Pope’s April 2008 visit to the United States, please join Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) in calling all Catholics to transform our Church.

Join your voice with thousands of others who must raise our voices through petition because the Pope has scheduled no discussions or listening sessions with ordinary laity. Will he hear the concerns of the faithful without such conversations?

We Catholics are still addressing the clergy sex abuse scandal, one of the worst crises in the history of our Church. One-third of those raised Catholic in the U.S. no longer call themselves Catholics, according to a recent survey. Numbers of priests are declining; many parishes and schools are closing; we face massive financial crises.

Voice of the Faithful, with more than 35,000 members, proposes concrete solutions to address this crisis:

(1). Treat survivors of sexual abuse with the justice and compassion our faith demands.

(2). Hold bishops accountable to the people they serve.

(3). Embrace full participation of Catholic men and women in Church decision-making.

(4). Require full financial transparency and accountability in all governance matters.

We believe these steps will produce:

A. An open, transparent and accountable Church.

B. A participative Church embracing the gifts and talents of the baptized.

C. A Church governed by compassion, informed by justice, empowered by equality, and animated to act collegially.

We urge all clergy to listen to the voices of the faithful as we join together to inspire our Church to become a community of believers worthy of our founder, Jesus Christ. We pledge our energy toward realizing these changes.

Link to sign the patition (click):

Thanks for your help.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Parishioners' Newsletter of 03/30/08

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Catholics of the Rio Grande Valley
March 30, 2008

“The parish used to have a ‘social activist’ priest, but now has one who is ‘spiritual and focused on the Eucharist.’” from Father (now Monsignor) Bert Diaz, Chancellor of the Diocese, in his discussion with representatives from Holy Spirit Parish, 6/29/05.

“In 1971 the essential link between faith and justice was written into magisterial teaching when the World Synod of Bishops wrote that ‘action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the gospel’ (Justice in the World, Nov. 30, 1971)” from Roger Haight, S.J., in America, 3/17/08.

The contrast between Father Diaz’s statement, which implies that “action on behalf of justice” is some sort of personal preference of a pastor that can be abandoned for some other personal preference (like being “spiritual”), and that of the bishops of the Church gathered in Synod which calls such action “a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the gospel” could not be more striking. This diocesan administration seems to take the stance that “participation in the transformation of the world” is a hobby that might be tolerated (if it doesn’t ruffle too many feathers) but certainly is not something required of its priests (in their preaching or their actions) or required of the faithful of the Rio Grande Valley. It gives one pause to ask what this Bishop believes is required of the priests and of the faithful—do pious practices and a spirituality limited to “me and God” do the trick, while the “essential link between faith and justice” is conveniently ignored (or even ruthlessly condemned and vilified)?

The most recent Holy Spirit Peace and Justice Affirmation Night (held last Friday, March 28) brought to the front of people’s consciousness, once again, the sharp differences of practice and attitude between the current diocesan administration and that of Bishop Fitzpatrick. The stories that were told of the sanctuary movement, the struggle of the farm workers, the rise of Valley Interfaith, the efforts to work with immigrants on education and health issues, etc. all bore the marks of heavy involvement of individual Catholics and the official involvement and strong support of the Diocese of Brownsville. Under the two succeeding bishops virtually all of that has been dismantled. Bishop Peña periodically “talks a good line” but there are no “action[s] on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world” coming from the chancery these days and those in the Church who become too vocal in their own actions soon find themselves marginalized and even persecuted.

It was inspiring to hear the history of that era, to affirm those who were part of that work, and to affirm those who continue it today, but it was disappointing to be reminded, again, of the failure of the official Church in the Valley to live up to the Gospel mandate. The judgment described in Matthew 25 does not speak of novenas and holy pictures and special chapels—it speaks of our obligation to justice, for where justice is absent we have the hungry and the naked and the homeless and the…

During the past few weeks, the word cancer has come up in different settings. News of friends with a diagnosis, prayers for a friend whose cancer has reappeared, and even a few references to situations being like cancer – growing, changing and seeming to overtake anything in its path. I think we can all identify moments in our lives when emotions, events or conditions seem to be overwhelming – like a cancer taking over our world, sometimes maybe even our church. One Easter when my father was battling his kidney cancer, we found the following poem that helped me regain my perspective. It is another way of saying at Easter we remember to celebrate more than ever that God is bigger than anything we experience. In the shadow of God’s love, cancer and our challenges in whatever form they take regain their proper perspective.

Cancer is so limited…
It cannot cripple love, It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith, It cannot eat away peace,
It cannot destroy confidence, It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot shut out memories, It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul, It cannot reduce eternal life,
It cannot quench the Spirit, It cannot lessen the power of the Resurrection.
from Michelle Peña

Either/Or vs. Both/And
One of the interesting things to think about these days is what the Church will be like down the road when Western Europe/North America will no longer be the dominant culture within the Church (the day has long past when the majority of Catholics come from that culture). It seems that our current Pope cannot envisage such a time as he calls for reinforcement of “Catholic identity”—which appears to be an attempt to stave off a cultural remaking of the Church into a Latin American, African and Asian church. Such a staving off is really impossible and a more useful effort would have Western Europeans begin to reflect on what the Gospels sound like within other cultures and what a theology developed in another cultures tells us.

The liberation theology developed in Latin America arrived at a lot of conclusions that have unsettled folks trained in Thomism with its reliance on Greek philosophy and a narrow approach to understanding the Scriptures. The work of Father Peter Phan, an Asian working in the United States, has roused the ire of Rome recently. The list goes on—ultimately, non-European cultures will develop their own expressions of Catholicism which will become, by default, the standard.

One difference between the West and the East has been described as the fact that West is dominated by the powerful engine of logic, which relies on the ability to dissect a situation into “either/or” alternatives and proceed by eliminating one of them. The East, on the other hand, is very comfortable with “both/and” being possible and living with the ambiguity that results. Keep in mind that the Scriptures are Semitic literature (though parts are in Greek) and so are more of the East than the West.

Baptized Into ...
So many of my family and friends no longer seem members of the institutional church into which they were Baptized.

But wait a minute?

Were they baptized into an institution or into a Faith?

I can certainly understand why Institutional Church no longer appeals to them; Abusive, Tyrannical, Fraudulent, Sexist, Exclusionist, Unaccountable, Retro, Non-transparent, Stifling, Fear-based, Suppressive, and still treating adults like an uneducated immigrant laity.

So many have Just Moved On or Never Intended Joining Some Exclusive Club.

By leaving the institution behind, have they nullified their Baptism?

I suspect our Baptism, just like that of John the Baptizer and Jesus to follow is not a Baptism into a human organization, but into a Faith far deeper and more advanced than the hierarchs wish us to go.
from John Churchman

Prepared for all Valley Catholics and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues in the Church or have any other comments, please contact

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Abuse of Power


I wish this were an April Fools Day joke, but it’s not.

Today, the Bush/Cheney Administration announced that it will waive environmental and land management laws along 470 miles of the U.S./Mexico border in order to build the Texas/Mexico Wall.

Laws ensuring clean water for us and our children? Dismissed.

Laws protecting wildlife, land, rivers, streams and places of cultural significance? Disregarded.

And laws giving American citizens a voice in the process? Gone.

Clearly, this Border Wall project has gotten out of control.

Please call your U.S. Representative and Senators at the phone numbers provided below:

Ruben E. Hinojosa - (202) 225-2531 or (956) 682-5545 (local)

John Cornyn III - (202) 224-2934 or (512) 469-6034 (local)

Kay Bailey Hutchison - (202) 224-5922 or (512) 916-5834 (local)

Once you are connected, please deliver the following simple message:

“My name is __________ . I am calling from ________, TX, to voice my shock and outrage about the announcement that all of the important environmental and land use laws along 470 miles of the U.S./Mexico border will be totally disregarded in order to complete construction of a 'Berlin Type Wall' along our Texas/Mexico border.

This flagrant abuse of power threatens our border communities and wildlife. and I urge you to do EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER to challenge this awful decision.”

My Dear Friends,
We simply can not allow our Government to unilaterally disregard laws that were designed to protect the health and safety of our families and communities and to preserve America's Wildlife and environment for our future generations.

Please join me in attempting to stop this process.
Thank you for your participation,

Press Release from the No Border Wall Coalition

April 1, 2008
Contact: Scott Nicol, (956) 532-5983

No Border Wall Coalition: Chertoff’s Border Wall Waiver is an Assault on the Rule of Law

The No Border Wall Coalition is deeply disturbed by the announcement that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has decided to “waive in their entirety” 36 federal laws to build walls along the United States’ southern border. This represents an unprecedented abuse of authority on Secretary Chertoff’s part, and clearly demonstrates the need for an immediate repeal of section 102 of the Real ID Act. Obeying the law is not voluntary, it is mandatory, and Secretary Chertoff cannot claim that he is sweeping aside a host of laws on the border in defense of immigration laws. In a nation of laws all laws must be respected, not just those that are convenient.

Equal protection under the law is meant to be a fundamental right shared by every American, but the Real ID Act makes the legal rights of citizens who live near the border conditional on Secretary Chertoff’s whims. Section 102 of the Real ID Act of 2005 states, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive all legal requirements such Secretary, in such Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.” No one else is granted this extreme power under any circumstance. The president cannot waive our nation’s laws even in times of national crisis, and Secretary Chertoff cannot waive the laws that protect citizens who live away from the border. Only border residents may have their legal protections waived.

The only reason for Secretary Chertoff to waive these laws is because he knows that the border wall will violate them. In setting these 36 federal laws aside Secretary Chertoff sets himself above the law. If congress allows unchecked power to remain in the hands of an unelected administration appointee they are complicit in fundamentally undermining the rule of law. Leaving the Real ID Act on the books and allowing Chertoff’s waivers to stand sets a precedent that should outrage the American people. If our nation’s laws can be set aside to build a border wall today, they may be similarly set aside for whatever crisis politicians discover in the next
election cycle.

The No Border Wall coalition calls on Congress to repeal section 102 of the Real ID Act and restore the rule of law. We also urge the Supreme Court to take up the constitutional challenge brought by the Defenders of Wildlife and Sierra Club to Secretary Chertoff’s earlier waiver of 19 federal laws to force the border wall through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area in Arizona. Allowing one man to overrule laws passed by Congress and signed by the President for the express intent of circumventing judicial oversight is fundamentally un-American.
# # #

No Border Wall is a grassroots coalition of groups and individuals united in the belief that a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border will do irreparable harm to our borderlands and the nation as a whole. No Border Wall is opposed to the construction of a border wall because of the devastating consequences such a wall would have on border economies, on the environment, on human rights, and on the U.S. relationship with Mexico and the rest of the world.