Lights Out in Puerto Rico, Water Scarce – Developing

An island wide power outage struck most households in Puerto Rico yesterday at around 2:30 PM. Many are also without water as it cannot be pumped without electricity. Thus, people in Puerto Rico are facing a grave danger. Media coverage in the US is scarce.

The outage was caused by a fire that struck a power plant yesterday. According to El Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico’s government and its electric power authority (FAA) reported at around 2:30 pm today  that power had been restored to 200 thousand out of 1475 electric power company customers. Governor Garcia Padilla declared the island in a state of emergency.

 

3:44 PM

According to Puerto Rico’s Water Authorities (AAA) there are 341 thousand accounts with no access to water. If one estimates three people per account, that comes to over 1 million people with no access to water. The Bayamon and Guaynabo municipalities are reportedly the most affected areas.

4:02 PM

The island’ power authority (FAA) declared a goal of restoring 50% of its accounts by this afternoon, and to return to normality by tomorrow.

4:08 PM

A warning of thunderstorms and flash floodings was announced for the island’s central region until 5:45PM today by the island’s “national” meteorological service (SNM). Puerto Ricans are US citizens and thus not an independent nation, but a “free associated state.” El Nuevo Dia reports that the island’s independence advocates plan to celebrate “El Grito de Lares,” the launching of Puerto Rico’s first rebellion against Spain, tomorrow.

 

4:54 PM

Given that they are US citizens, when is President Obama going to publicly address this crisis? Isn’t he aware? Is what he’s doing to help a top secret?

And, I can’t help but wonder, are the Independentistas really going to celebrate tomorrow? I understand that the historic date should be acknowledged, as it is part of a Puerto Rican’s identity, in this life and world. (I write “in this life and world” because I am a Catholic, and consider eternity and salvation the highest priority.) But the duty to insure that no one is without water, food, and safe lodging (hopefully with electric power) is the immediate highest, earthly, priority. And special priority should be given  to elderly people and to children (specially those that may fall through the cracks, such as those of broken families).

5:04 PM

As it turns out, great festivities, beginning with a mass, are reportedly scheduled for the Grito de Lares “celebration” tomorrow in Lares, Puerto Rico. And it has been rapidly politicized to include a talk advocating the excarceration of Oscar López Rivera and Miriam Montes. The latter is said to be the cousin of a Castro tyranny spy. The Socialist party will be part of that talk. Well, if they were holding a political meeting with a mass in Cuba, they’d surely be beaten up by the Castro tyranny which they unabashedly defend. Everyone knows that, no?

5:16 PM

Yes anyone who reads news on Cuba knows. But many, as one can see, pretend it does not matter that Cubans are beaten up in Cuba for doing the same thing Puerto Rican Socialists and Independentistas (Puerto Rico Independence Party members) plan to do in Puerto Rico, or perhaps they want to pretend they don’t know. And these want power for themselves and their ilk in Puerto Rico.

5:32 PM

And this “celebration” with its “human rights” talk  is still being planned while somewhere between 341 thousand and over 1 million fellow residents in  Puerto Rico don’t have access to water in their homes.

They see the world upside down. Power for us first; water for you, perhaps next, if you are still alive.

5:36PM

I will confess there was a time when independentistas and socialists had me partially fooled, given what happened in Cuban history between 1898 and 1952, and given that I am a Catholic, and therefore am committed to stand on the side of what is just in the City of Man. But these people do not act in  matter that is more just than those they wish to replace.

5:52 PM

 

The cavalry is being sent. Well, finally. At 4:33 PM, today, El Nuevo Dia reported that the US Federal Government Agency for Emergencies (FEMA) offered 72 high capacity power generators to help “palliate.”

Correction: It’s 77 generators, not 72.

5:59 PM

It shouldn’t have taken FEMA until the next day to address an emergency like this. That’s outrageous. But it’s on the table now. Thanks be to God.

The director of Puerto Rico’s electric power authority (AEE), Mr. Javier Quintana, declared that the fire had not been an act of sabotage, but that it had been “provoked by an overload of energy to the system, which induced that it become paralyzed as a defense mechanism.” But what caused the overload of energy is not explained in the newspaper’s report.

This is supposed to be the worst power outage in 36 years in Puerto Rico. But it’s not clear if its the worst because of the percent of the population affected, or because of the number of power plants that went down, or both.

What is the general FEMA policy in responding to something like this? Would it take until the next day in a US mainland state? Does it vary by state? This is very serious. The US must be prepared to respond to something like this, immediately.

 

8:41 PM

Progress, yes,but what about WATER?

Progress is being made as power has been restored in several municipalities. But nothing has been reported about densely populated ones in the greater metropolitan area such as Bayamon and Guaynabo, which have also been reported as some of the main areas with no access to water in homes.  These people will now have been without power or water in their homes for 30 hours. According to El Periodico La Perla, they may not have access until tomorrow. I don’t know how one can survive without water for 2 days, specially in a hot climate. The Federal and Puerto Rico governments should coordinate to send numerous trucks with water immediately to all areas that have no access. They could also send public buses with drinking water. If, as reported, there is no water in those areas, they should not delay.

 

11:30 PM

At this link one can see NASA images comparing Puerto Rico on September 21 at 2:50 a.m. and September 22 at 2:31 a.m.

The link:http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=88796&eocn=home&eoci=iotd_image

 

September 23, 2016

3:35 AM

Before midnight, Puerto Rico’s governor Garcia Padilla gave a 45 minute press conference. The director of the electric power authority (Autoridad de Energia Electrica or AAA), and the island’s fire chief also spoke. It was followed by questions from reporters.

The governor informed that 375 thousand accounts, or 25% of all accounts had had their power restored, adding that 15 thousand more had been restored by the end of the press conference. He said that by morning more than half should have power.

When asked, the governor hesitated to firmly promise when it would be that 90% of the island’s electric power consumers would have their power restored. His caution, he explained, was due to the complexity of the system, the possibility of unforeseen events, and the fact that workers have been working non-stop for 30 hours. Work is continuing through a second night.  With said warning he packaged his expectation that power would be restored to 90% by Saturday, September 24.

He thanked FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) for its support, and commended the power authority workers and fire department for their courage, professionalism, and solidarity. He expressed satisfaction that management and union members worked side by side without distinction, for, he explained, they understood the seriousness of the situation the island faces..

Workers had to work with two tanks that were less than one foot away from the tank that exploded, and the governor commended their courage.

Public employees and educators were called back to work on Friday, but schools remain closed because of safety concerns. Wireless is now operating normally, as is the airport, ports, and ferries. The urban train remains closed because security requirements need to be met but public buses are operational. The government is coordinating with private hospitals to get them back on the grid once it is possible.

No mention was made of those without access to water except to say that the electric authority is working in coordination with the water authority to turn on water in those sectors where electricity has been restored. But what are they drinking until power and water are restored? Why didn’t someone ask? When will someone ask?

Press conference video:

http://www.elnuevodia.com/videos/noticias/locales/garciapadillainformaalpaissobreelcolapsoenlaaee-video-218744/

Newscast showing the fire:

http://www.elnuevodia.com/videos/noticias/locales/analisisdelcolapsoenlaaee-video-218745/

 

2:52 PM

“Over 1 million” accounts are reported to have had their  electric power restored while 205 thousand still don’t have drinking water in their homes.

This is according to an article in El Nuevo Dia updated at 12:22 PM, reporting on the governor’s latest press conference today. Garcia Padilla said that 1.1 million or 75% of accounts had power restored, and that there would be a return to normality today, absent unforeseeable events.

One can infer, hence, that out of the 375 thousand that don’t have power restored, 170 thousand have water in their homes. But how is it that they do? Do they have it pumped from a power plant that has been restored? If so, why couldn’t the same have been done for the others?

3:20 PM

Two restored units fail again, as thus power service for the clients they serve, whose number has not yet been reported.

 

3:26 PM

Here is a link to a photo of Puerto Rico’s socialists taken on September 22, 1:53 PM, almost 24 hours after the lights went out in Puerto Rico.

Link:
http://www.elnuevodia.com/imagen/noticiaterminal/3585676/

The Castro tyranny (not “Cuba”) has been hosting a nine day conference in Havana, under the illegitimate regime’s “Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos (ICAP)” (“Cuban” Institute of Friendship with the Peoples). Presenting itself as the defender of people’s liberty, no laughing matter, the Cuban tyranny today celebrates Puerto Rico’s “Grito de Lares” with Puerto Rican socialists in Cuba. President Obama must be delighted.

Link: http://www.elnuevodia.com/noticias/internacionales/nota/jornadadesolidaridadconpuertoricoencuba-2241561/

Correction: The photo link is most likely an earlier one from El Nuevo Dia’s archives. It’s somewhat ambiguous whether the date listed is the date of the photo, but it probably is not. It’s probably only the date of the posting. A caption on Google reads: “El evento será dedicado al fenecido socialista y líder sindical, Jorge Farinacci. (Archivo / GFR Media).” Translation: The event will be dedicated to the deceased socialist and syndicalist leader, Jorge Farinacci. (Archive/GFR Media).

 

9:15 PM

The latest news update by El Nuevo Dia says that “normality” may be restored by tomorrow, Saturday, indicating that for 75% of account holders power has been restored. No mention is made of those without water, which is necessary to stay alive.

I will rewrite it for them:

Only 270 thousand people without electricity in Puerto Rico. Only a portion of these without access to water in their homes for only more than 2 days. See you later.

Reader, I hope you get it.

US based Puerto Ricans are 2%* of the US population (5.1 million); over 40% reside in New York and Florida. Now just go take a look at the coverage of this humanitarian crisis at the New York Times, of New York, ** home to over 1 million US citizens of Puerto Rican descent.  Or navigate next dohttp://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/3651000or to the Wall Street Journal. Nothing. You will find nothing.

And the ones on the island of which the US took possession in 1898 are also US citizens. They total 3.47 million.

Thus, there are approximately 8.5 million US citizens of Puerto Rican descent, constituting around 2.6% of the US population. We know that 270 thousand of them have been without electricity for 2 1/2 days. And of these, it’s no longer reported (even in Puerto Rico) how many have no access to water in their homes.

*I had incorrectly stated that US based Puerto Ricans were 5% of The US population.

** An article was found in the New York Times. See update of September 30 below.

September 24, 2016

Never mind that approximately 1 out of every 8.5 residents of New York City (Pop. 8.5 Million) is of Puerto Rican descent.  That a couple of hundred thousand in Puerto Rico, perhaps even family members of city residents, have no access to electric power, or even water at home, is evidently not newsworthy, as far as the aforementioned New York newspapers are concerned. Well, they might even argue, no reason to get alarmed after only two and one half days. We’ll just publish something once some are confirmed dead. No one, not even those of Puerto Rican descent, need to know what is happening yet.

 

2:59 PM

Over 98% of electric power account holders have had their power restored as of 11:45 AM, according to Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority (AEE). This was reported by El Nuevo Dia at noon today.

But still, 17, 893 account holders remain without power. Assuming 3 persons per account would mean that there are still over 51 thousand people without power for 3 days now. Since no mention is made of water having been restored for these, one should not assume it has.

San Juan and Caguas are the two main areas affected with 88% and 8% respectively. The cities of Mayaguez, Arecibo, Ponce, Bayamon and Carolina, in combination, account for the other 4%.

 

9:00 PM

The Puerto Rico National Guard began distributing the 77 high capacity generators provided by FEMA. This means that these had nothing to with the recovery. Are they supposed to serve as a backup, rather than as a “palliative,” as FEMA had previously announced?

Puerto Rico’s water authority (AAA) reported today that 50 thousand accounts are still without service. Assuming 3 people per account would mean that 150 thousand still don’t have water in their homes for 3 full days. 

Today thousands of Dominican Republic immigrants in Puerto Rico venerated the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, on the Feast of Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes.

After expressing preoccupation for the criminality, delinquency and impunity reigning in the country, and in a nod of communion with Jorge Bergoglio (aka “Pope” Francis), the bishop of Vega, Monsignor  Héctor Rafael Rodríguez, condemned the “destruction of natural resources,” although also the “disorder in the streets where few respect traffic laws.”

Note: The reason for my quotation marks on the word pope is that I no longer believe that Jorge Bergoglio is the Vicar of Christ, of God the Son, but, unlike Jorge Bergoglio, I remain Catholic. This is a personal judgment based on what the Church taught up to 1958, and what I had thought it was teaching between then and when Jorge Bergoglio claimed the papacy. Perhaps I will write more about that later, but briefly, it’s evident that Jorge Bergoglio contradicts the gospel as well as other revelations of the New Testament, and the consistent teachings of several popes who preceded him, specially with regard to his “interreligious” initiatives. Given that I have written other posts about Jorge Bergoglio, I wish to set the record straight as to where I stand at this time.

September 25, 2016

3:54 PM

It’s now over 4 days that there was an island wide power failure in Puerto Rico. Most people have had power and water restored. *Today the island’s main newspaper, El Nuevo Dia, didn’t report on anyone who is affected any longer. One must be thankful that another newspaper, Periodico La Perla, or La Perla del Sur, did report on the water authority’s (AAA) Sunday report. Indeed, there are still 22,811 accounts without access to water; at 3 people per account that’s perhaps some 68, 433 people in Puerto Rico with no water in their homes. One wonders how they are making out and , what, if anything, the local or federal governments are doing to help them until water is restored.

* Correction: Today the island’s main newspaper, El Nuevo Dia, didn’t report on anyone who is affected any longer in its front online page.

On September 26, I discovered an article apparently published on September 25 during a search.

 

September 26, 2016

5:45 PM

A petition has been made to investigate why backup emergency plants failed to function adequately during the power failure. It was filed by the local Independent Consumer Protection Office’s (OIPC).

I found nothing new on the thousands left without water. Both articles yesterday did mention that the problems are caused by mechanical reasons, “among others.” Rain and overflowing rivers are also causes mentioned here. One percent of all water accounts remain without service. It’s now five days since the blackout.

Surprise, surprise. Is it magic? Google searches are now showing links to Associated Press articles also published by the New York Times supposedly on September 21 and September 24.  This is so even though the  September 24 Associated Press article included somewhere in the New York Times acknowledged that 50 thousand were without water.

Officials said about 50,000 clients, mostly in the island’s northeast area, remained without water…

Screenshots I took demonstrate that there was absolutely nothing on the New York Times’ front online page on December 22, 2016 at the time I took them. Why, New York Times? Not Important? I do however grant that for international security reasons the Times might have hesitated. But I can think of no other.

11:58 PM

Let’s go now to the Wall Street Journal. The first presidential debate was over about an hour and a half ago, and they classified numerous matters as either having been addressed by one candidate, by the other, by both, or by neither. They further classified these matters into 4 themes: Economy, Domestic Policy, Foreign Policy, and The Campaign. Puerto Rico and Cuba were not addressed by either. But what is surprising is that Puerto Rico was included under foreign policy. Thus, according to the Wall Street Journal, the 3 1/2 million US citizens in Puerto Rico should be regarded as foreigners. If this is not a discriminatory statement about a class of US citizens, what is it? The article is entitled “What’s left unsaid” and is dated Sept. 26, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. ET.

Their description:

WHAT’S LEFT UNSAID

Of the hundreds of issues and controversies that have emerged during this election, the ones Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump raised during the first presidential debate revealed their priorities. We tracked more than 150 phrases and names to see what the candidates mentioned—and which topics they ignored entirely.

A screenshot of the Wall Street Journals’s Foreign Policy categories:

wsj-foreign-policy-screenshot-from-2016-09-27-001025

 

September 27, 2016

9:39 PM

The two known Puerto Rico news sources that had reported on the tens of thousand of water accounts without service haven’t reported news directly related to this in the past 24 hours. Nor have any deaths or disease outbreak possibly caused by lack of access to water been reported.

How then might one characterize the new situation at this point? Tens of thousands learn to live without water in their homes in Puerto Rico?

Tomorrow, Puerto Rico’s senate begins public hearings on the …

“…massive power outage that left 1.4 million service subscribers of the Electric Power Authority (Autoridad de Energia Elecgrica or AEE) without light, and hundreds of thousands without water.”

Hopefully the ones remaining without water will be addressed then.

September 30, 2016

I discovered an online article  in the New York Times entitled Fire at Power Plant Leaves Puerto Rico in the Dark with a publishing date of September 21. However, it treats the island wide outage as if it were a normal occurrence, even as it mentions that 1.5 million accounts were affected (almost everyone!). No mention is made of the hundreds of thousands left without water in their homes. In a search of the Replica edition of the New York Times print edition I found another article, this one entitled Puerto Rico Plant Fire Cuts Power, by the same author , published on September 22,  on page 22.

 

 

 

Why Did Cuban Patriot Huber Matos Believe Death Was Imminent?

The Associated Press and the Miami Herald both reported that, according to his family, Huber Matos had died of a heart attack. But apparently Mr. Matos knew death was imminent, for the 95 year old reportedly requested that he be disconnected from the oxygen system so that he could say farewell to “children and grandchildren.” And apparently that is what they did at Kendall Regional Hospital in Miami.

El Nuevo Herald reported (my translation):

“The previous day he had asked that the apparatus to help him breathe be removed because he wanted to say farewell to his wife María Luisa Araluce, his children and his grandchildren…”

Then, the Herald reports that according to family members, he took calls from supporters in Cuba. My translation follows:

“Members of Matos family said that shortly before dying he received calls from the principal leaders of his organization in Cuba, who told him the group would not cease their labor ‘until the island was free’.”

Why did Mr. Matos believe that he would imminently die? And if he believed that, why did he reportedly ask that the apparatus that provided him with oxygen be disconnected? And how is it that the hospital did not know he was a t risk of imminent death? For if it did know, why would it have disconnected the oxygen? But if he told them that he wanted it disconnected in order to say good-bye to family and supporters, then someone should have known that he believed death was imminent. Again, if so, why did they disconnect the apparatus  that helped him breathe? Did medical staff stick around to see if he had any problems breathing? I realize that he was a nonagenarian, but did anyone ask if he was not feeling well or if something was wrong? Didn’t anyone suspect something was wrong when he asked that the oxygen providing him with apparatus be removed so that he could say fare well?

RELATED:

Cuban Patriot Huber Matos Dies

Cuban Patriot Huber Matos Dies

Huber Matos passed on to his eternal dwelling after suffering a massive heart attack in Miami on February 28 at the age of 95. In his autobiographical work How Night Fell (Como Llegó la Noche) Matos described the outrage he felt as a schoolteacher in eastern Cuba when on March 10, 1952 he heard that former president Batista had overthrown Cuba’s (last) democratically elected government. Subsequently, the schoolteacher became a warrior, and offered his services to Mr. Fidel Castro, who had launched a rebellion, but who unbeknownst to Matos and to most others, would become Cuba’s next dictator. And so schoolteacher Matos became a Comandante, appointed by Mr. Castro, who had been an attorney.

But after the rebellion’s triumph over Batista, realizing that Mr. Castro did not intend to restore democratic rule, Matos patriotically resigned. That ultimately led to his arrest on charges of treason, and to being sentenced to twenty years in prison, and thereafter to exile.

According to the Miami Herald, there will be a funeral on Sunday, March 1, after which his corpse will be transported to Costa Rica, where he requested that it remain interred, until he can be buried in Cuba.

This links to a photograph of Huber Matos with Camilo Cienfuegos and Castro upon their arrival in Cuba after overthrowing the Batista dictatorship.

In a Miami Herald video video from 2009 Matos considers the nature and extent of the damage done to Cuba (by the Castro dictatorship).

The damage is apparently irreversible. That is to say, there are millions of Cubans that have become people of double morality, of a double face. In a certain manner this is irreversible. But there are many good people in Cuba, many people of virtue, many who have not become evil. And there are many in exile who constitute a formidable moral reserve for the Cuban nation.

Mr. Matos never gave up his love for his homeland of Cuba, and for the Creator’s gift of liberty. He did not hesitate to risk his life to defend liberty in the nation he loved so dearly, but in pursuit of such a purpose, he braved war, suffered betrayal, prison, and then exile, where he died. In that sense, his existence on earth was dedicated to redemption of what he understood was most important to redeem, and he went through a painfully extended passion as a result, never seeing and enjoying on earth the fruit of his sacrifice and pain.

I am not aware of his religious beliefs, and only God knows the innermost of every human being. I pray that he may have mercy on his eternal soul, and may make him worthy of the happiness of his friendship, and of eternal peace.

—-

The post was edited to correct the assertion that Huber Matos spent “more than half his life in exile.” That neglected to take into account the 20 years in prison in Cuba.

RELATED:

Why did Cuban Patriot Huber Matos Believe Death Was Imminent?

Obama and Raul Castro: An Exceptional Handshake at Mandela’s Funeral – Updated

President Barack Obama shook hands with Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela’s funeral today. But what could that mean? Harry Truman recognized Fulgencio Batista as Cuba’s legitimate president only fifteen days after he had overthrown Cuba’s last democratically elected government. And that meant that multiparty democracy would become a historical artifact for Cubans for the next sixty-one years, to this day. For after Batista’s dictatorship came Fidel Castro’s, and over three million exiles. And now there is another dictator, his brother Raul.

One must recognize that at least this time the United States government is being more polite about supporting a tyrant just ninety miles south. After all, it has had the patience to wait for the death of most of the Cubans who were adults at the time there was a democracy in Cuba. Truman didn’t have the same deceitful finesse. He just made peace with a murderous tyrant right in the face of the people whose rights he was violating.

Evidently the United States government is convinced it can act this way; perhaps because it sees itself as exceptional.

But one would think that United States exceptionalists mean being exceptional at something good. And there is much that United States citizens are very good at, and even the best.  Am I missing something? Is there something that Castro and Obama or United States exceptionalists know that Cubans such as me just can’t understand? For it seems to me that supporting tyrants while pretending to value democracy means being exceptional at being hypocritical.

Therefore, what could Obama and the United States government possibly mean this time around?

UPDATE TODAY

If I could read Obama’s mind, I would think that by his handshake he meant only to express a desire for a reasonable and peaceful solution to this poisonous problem between the United States and Cuba. Perhaps even Raul Castro and his brother back in Cuba want this too.

But the problem is firstly one between Cubans, including exiles. And the Castros have to recognize that they have become habituated to accomplishing everything by force, and are delusionally certain that they have a right to drive Cubans out of Cuba, beat them up in Cuba, or execute them. They have always acted as if the victory over Batista somehow entitled them to this.

Until they change those habits and beliefs their handshakes will mean nothing more than one more attempt to deceive themselves and others. That is of course very sad. I hope and pray that they will change.

Obama probably understands all of this. But he also believes that the United States does not need enemies ninety miles away right now (or ever). Yet neither does Cuba, and the Castros are not Cuba, even though they appear to be.

Castro is an ally of Syria, and at the moment the world faces a formidable challenge there. So that was and is probably on Obama’s mind too.

But it should not make him think that anything justifies betraying the Cuban people. That would be a repetition of grave offenses. That is not in the United States’ or anyone’s short or long-term interests. Cubans have the same rights as every other people. While humans don’t all agree on what the basic human rights are, most would agree that a people should not be expected to live under a series of tyrants supported by a neighboring empire who has sometimes acted as if only its interests mattered. If that is the nature of empires, then the world should not allow them.

UPDATE TODAY

Given the Snowden revelations these past few months on how the United States unabashedly spies on its citizens, who can deny that Obama, the United States government, and the Castro regime have much in common. Maybe that’s why Obama shook Raul Castro’s hand. How could I ever have forgotten to mention that? The Castros must be envious. How easily the United States government  obtained the consent of its people! And its citizen espionage apparatus is so much more comprehensive and sophisticated!

This won’t be Nelson Mandela’s struggle. May he rest in peace.

 

 

PHOTOGRAPHS

You may be able to see the pictures of the handshake in U.S. newspapers here.

Link: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/obama-cuban-president-raul-castro-shake-hands-nelson/story?id=21158776

Pope Francis Criticized for Exhortation, Praises Mandela

Pope Francis covers a lot of ground in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, which I loved, and for which he is being criticized for not being even-handed, for treating abortion and marriage superficially, and even for poor writing skills. Others attempt to reduce the two hundred page manifesto of sorts to the one or two points they regard as critical, or they make a case for how he has deviated from what they, by some misunderstanding, have come to expect of popes about the distribution of God’s goods. There are many wanna-be popes in the Catholic Church, and some patronize Pope Francis. One even suggested that he should consult one of his favorite theologians. Others see a real threat, for, after all, he is the pope, and he is attacking supposedly Christian discourses that also happen to serve special interests of the ideological right or left. Each wants him, and Christianity, to bend to their opinions, biases, and style. And some don’t like his style either.

Yet to be honest, Pope Francis is troubling at times. For example, in the past couple of days he has gone out of his way to honor the recently deceased Nelson Mandela for “…steadfast commitment shown … in promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth.” Yes, Mandela was indisputably the leading figure bringing the plague of apartheid to an end in South Africa, without a mayor civil war (unlike the United States), even as it continues to thrive in Cuba after almost fifty four years, and over three million exiles later, because of his Castro buddies. Mandela also signed legislation for one of the most liberal abortion laws in the world. But evidently none of this was sufficient to stop Pope Francis from praising him.

Today he designated Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace,”as his special envoy to Mandela’s funeral. This makes perfect sense for the pope is also the head of the Vatican State. But will his emissary take time to visit the graves of the aborted, or wherever it is that they have been placed after being discarded from humanity? Will he publicly address  whether the souls of the aborted are praising a Mandela who died unrepentant of being instrumental in the legalization of their abortion? Wasn’t each aborted South African also one of the nation’s citizens? Addressing this would of course not be diplomatic, and now is perhaps not the right moment. But if the souls of the aborted could be visible at Mandela’s funeral, would that change anything?

I still hope to write about Pope Francis’ exhortation, which I loved. But let me digest all of this first.

UPDATED DEC 14 – Christian Nuns Forcibly Taken by Muslim “Rebels” in Syria

As Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, IslamicJihadists rebels   forcibly remove twelve nuns from the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Tecla in Ma’lula. This is a Christian city just outside Damascus, the place where Saul, a Pharisaic Jew and assasin of Christians, was heading to when he was knocked off his horse by a “light from the sky”. According to Scripture, upon falling to the ground, Saul (now Saint Paul) reported hearing a voice questioning him:

“’Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
He said, ‘Who are you, sir?’
The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.'”

Indeed, who was Saul persecuting if not Jesus? For Christians believe themselves to be part of his mystical and resurrected body. Pope Francis has asked Christians to pray for the safe release of the Catholic nuns (video).

The Islamic Jihadist group holding the Christian nuns is apparently perhaps a branch of Al Qaeda. In September the United States wanted to bomb the Syrian government, as punishment for its alleged use of chemical weapons, but then Pope Francis called for Christians worldwide to fast for peace. The Syrian government followed by offering to rid itself of all chemical weapons. Immediately thereafter, the U.S. invasion was called off. But had the United States proceeded with the bombing, it would have been supporting this Jihadist group. It has now been reported that the rebels have also used chemical weapons.

Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s dictatorial president, and most of his government are Alawati Muslims, while the Jihadists are Sunni Muslims (seventy five percent of all Muslims). Thus, in one sense Syria’s Christians are caught up in the violence between two Muslim denominations, but in another they are clearly being deliberately targeted. One news source claims that the nuns will be used as protective shields. Ma’lula was occupied by the Jihadists in September, and at that time they apparently also sequestered Christian nuns. It isn’t clear who controls the town at the moment.

Over one hundred thousand have thus far been killed in the Syrian war, one-third civilians, and over two million refugees are reportedly scattered throughout the Middle East. The Christian population is severely affected, and the Syrian Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic church blames the United States for supporting those who persecute Christians. RT, an English language Russian news source reports:

“According to the Syrian Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic church, Gregory Laham, some 450,000 Syrian Christians have been forced from their homes by the civil war that began in March 2011. He added that “at least 57 Christian sites” have been damaged or destroyed since the beginning of hostilities, and blamed the United States and its Western allies for aggravating the situation by providing assistance to the rebels.”

He is not the only one. Take a look at this video: Maaloula Syria gave the West St Paul. The West Gave Syria Al Nusra.

In the United States there are over two thousand Mosques and Muslims practice freely. Indeed, according to a Pew report most Muslims rate their community in the United States as excellent or good. There are no Mosques in Cuba and the Koran is apparently not available.

In his recent apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis pleaded with Muslims to reciprocate Christian hospitality in the west by respecting the rights of Christians in areas they control.

“We Christians should embrace with affection and respect Muslim immigrants to our countries in the same way that we hope and ask to be received and respected in countries of Islamic tradition. I ask and I humbly entreat those countries to grant Christians freedom to worship and to practice their faith, in light of the freedom which followers of Islam enjoy in Western countries! Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”

Pope Francis, however, has also said that Christians should not relinquish the Middle East.


“We must not resign ourselves to thinking of a Middle East without Christians, who for two thousand years have proclaimed Christ’s name…”

REVISION

In the original post I wrote: “It is not only ironic that the US President was on the brink of supporting what appears to be an Al Queda led group that attacks Christians, but that Cuban and Cuban-American Catholics have been thrust into a temporary tactical alliance with the Castro regime, which is one of Assad’s staunchest supporters.” But that statement was not as carefully thought through as it should have been. When I wrote it I was thinking as an ordinary man, and as someone of Cuban and Cuban- American heritage, but not as a Catholic. And I am a Catholic first.

Catholics belong to Jesus Christ, who we believe is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, who is God.The Catholic Church is a divine institution founded by God. Its alliances transcend all human categories, and encompasses all humanity.

Catholics believe all human beings owe their existence to God and eternal salvation is possible to all through Jesus Christ, even for those who are not aware of it, “through no fault of their own.” That  includes all of a Catholic’s earthly enemies, regardless of their ideology or religion. Thus, in union with Jesus’ salvific mission, Catholics are allies to all human beings. For no one is excluded from Christ’s invitation to eternal salvation. The Castro regime and all of its followers are included; and so are Muslims, and everyone else. There is no special “temporary tactical alliance” to which Cuban Catholics have been thrust into with the Castro regime, resulting from its support of Assad. We are allied to Christ’s work for the purpose of the salvation of their souls, and of everyone else’s. That is it. May God save us all.

UPDATE (DECEMBER 5, 2013)

According to Aciprensa, the Vatican nuncio in Syria has reported that the nuns were “possibly” moved to Yabrud, and that they were “well.” The pope asked for prayers.

UPDATE (DECEMBER 6, 2013)

The  nuns have appeared on a video released by Al Jazeera which you can watch here  or an abridged version from al-akhbar Al-Akhbar here. While there are conflicting reports of what is transpiring, and the nuns remain detained, they are alive. The Los Angeles Times reports that “Syrian rebels” are holding them hostage and  want to swap them for one thousand women detained by the government. The Daily Star, a Lebanese news source, reports of two groups being involved and that their spokesman has communicated the swap offer to the Syrian government through the Vatican. They report that the Vatican requested that the nuns be transferred to a Christian’s house in Yabroud, but the spokesman for the rebels said this would not happen “until demands are met.” There now appear to be more than twelve nuns abducted. The orphans they were caretaking remain unaccounted for. The Syrian Lebanese prime minister rejected this as an authentic expression of Islam.

UPDATE (DECEMBER 9, 2013)

The nuns have still not been released, the authenticity of the videos is suspect, and it is unclear which Islamic “rebel” group is holding them. There are several expressions of Islam in this conflict; and they are not equally hostile to Christians. In Lebanon, for example, Christians and Muslims have lived in peace, and freedom of worship is respected. But it’s no secret that in Saudi Arabia, a long time ally of the United States, Christians (and other religions) are not permitted to worship in public. And the “Free Syrian Army”, Sunni rebels supported by the Saudi Arabian Monarchy, are one of the groups wresting for control. It opposes al Nusra, also Sunni rebels, but connected to Al Queda.

Both want to establish an Islamic state in Syria. But the Saudi backed group is apparently supported by the United States. If either group gets their wish it means that Christians would be prohibited to worship in Syria. Therefore, the United States should oppose both groups unequivocally.

The Lebanese Daily Star’s most recent news stories are not visible in a Google news search though they have three new ones today. While other stories by them appear, these particular ones are  not (yet?) accessible in the United States, except to those who know the source exists, and who go there directly. One of the stories reports that the nuns are not wearing crosses in the previously released video. If the video is authentic and not technically altered, it means that they are being held against their will. Another Daily Star story alleges that an  Orthodox bishop, Bishop Luca al-Khoury, is calling on Christians to take up arms in self-defense. But what appears to be a pro rebel Arabic news source, Al Jadid, characterizes this bishop an apologist for the Assad regime who pits Christians against Christians.

The Daily Star also reports thirteen nuns, not twelve, in its story on the bishop.

UPDATE (DECEMBER 11, 2013)

Yabroud has been under intense attack by the Syrian government for the past two days but there is no news regarding the nuns, though is believed they have been taken there.

It is astonishing that the United States has been financing the rebels, and yet that none of them has done anything to help obtain the release of the nuns. According to a US Department of State fact sheet from September 7, one billion dollars had thus far been provided by the United States.

In a December 10 BBC video interview a rebel reveals the general intention to establish Sharia law throughout Syria, and that Al Queda is now one of the dominant groups. He discloses that recruits from all over the world are being trained there. And the United States has been assisting them? That’s exactly right, although today it was announced that they were suspending “non-lethal” assistance, but only in North Syria, and would be continuing with “humanitarian” aid.

The interviewee exults in hatred does not show much love for towards Shia Muslims, who he does not regard part of the Islamic religion, and explains that he does not have an issue about killing them. I suppose he has been dehumanized like other soldiers, I suppose that he has not read, or has forgotten, or does not agree with Christ’s words: “Pray for your enemies.” Or does he really think that God created humans, in his own image, so that one would kill the other, and then the victim be eternally damned?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Christian gospel of Matthew 5: 43-48

Only another tyrant like Castro might gladly support someone like Assad. But it is surely better isn’t that he preferable to have him than to have forcing Christians and other minorities to live under a Sunni Islamic state controlled by Sharia law.

Where are the nuns? Why doesn’t the United States, the United Kingdom and all of those who finance the rebels demand an answer? Why don’t Americans begin demanding an answer from their government?

Why don’t their captors clearly explain why they are holding them and have not released them to Christians?

UPDATE (DECEMBER 14, 2013)

According to the Lebanese Daily Star, two Syrian activists report that there are ongoing negotiations between the Assad regime and a specific rebel group that wants to trade the nuns for “hundreds of imprisoned female activists.” The rebel group is known as Al Habib Al Mustafa and it is a branch of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The FSA is supported by Saudi Arabia and has received $1 billion in financial assistance from the United States alone, and more from the west. And yet they have abducted Christian nuns.

But according to the US Department of States the aid was intended to enhance stability to “liberated” areas of Syria. Isn’t that something?

“This assistance is helping the Syrian Coalition, local opposition councils and civil society groups provide essential services to their communities, extend the rule of law, and enhance stability inside liberated areas of Syria. These funds also provide nonlethal assistance to support the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of the Free Syrian Army.”

United States Department of State, September 7, 2013

RELATED EXTERNAL NEWS STORIES AND VIDEOS:

Vatican Insider – “Syrian Islamist militia group Jahbat al-Nusra – which is tied to al-Qaeda – attacked the Christian village of Maalula”

Free Syrian Army” (FSA) and al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra Front)abduct Christian nuns (video)

Ma-lula photographs

Al Qaeda calls for attacks inside United States

Ma-Lula: “Christians and Muslims are brothers in this town” (Video)

Nuns taken also in September? – (video)

UPDATED DEC 22, 2013 – New Pope, A Christian from the Trenches

The moment I learned the Catholic Church had a new pope I felt sheer joy. And when I first saw him on the television screen I was disarmed by his meek and humble countenance. But I did not realize that he was Jorge Bergoglio, S.J., now His Holiness, Pope Francis I.  I should have recognized him, for he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires while I lived there. Indeed, I was alone one afternoon in a part  of the Buenos Aires Cathedral sectioned for Adoration when he walked in, glanced momentarily at me with unmistakable seriousness, and continued into the main section of the temple.  I feel great joy, gratitude, as well as relief, as I believe that the Church’s affairs are again in good hands.

The new pope is a Christian from the trenches,  from some of the most learned and educated ones.  In my experience even the least educated in Argentina venture into discussions of serious and complex issues, and its people are generally of a reflective and self-critical nature. It is one of those places where spending free time at a bookstore is still the favorite pastime of many, and where the Catholic Church is ubiquitous, with a parish at every corner, typically next to a plaza blessed with trees and benches, and with real people sitting and conversing. In that sense it is not like most of the rest of the world, although most Latin American cities have the parks and the parishes. I doubt Pope Francis will  assume that most of the rest of  world enjoys those blessings.

Busts of Evita Perón are also ubiquitous and  many of its people still struggle to survive.  Argentinians have revered left and right and lived a “dirty war” between them. How the new pope, the Catholic Church (and the United States and Cuba) lived their roles during that time may be scrutinized again.

In 2004, after the economic collapse, I saw entire families living in the streets of Buenos Aires, very close to the Cathedral. And this Pope has taken on the name of Francis.

March 15, 2013

Many Catholics are stunned by this election and appear puzzled as to what it might mean for the Church. One of the main concerns appears to be Pope Francis’ advocacy for the poor. Isn’t that something? Some do not hide their fear of liberation theology in its Marxist presentation.

But it’s not possible to speak of authentic Judaism and its culmination in Christianity without referring to human liberation as God’s will. God wills man to be free of sin. And the sin committed against God’s poor is terribly cruel and offensive. Indeed, the Church and Scripture teach that God has a preference for the poor.

Hopefully Pope Francis will one day visit the mayor cities in the United States – New York, Los Angeles, Miami – and spend time with the children of God condemned to homelessness. Hopefully he will explain to this country’s bishops, priests, and Catholic intellectuals that referring  homeless people to the government is not the same as the Good Samaritan’s love. Hopefully he will help them understand that the fact that the poor live shorter lives means that society is killing them. And that this must stop.

July 28, 2013

Anyone who has been following Pope Francis during the first four months of his pontificate would have a terrible time ignoring that this Pope is aiming to change the Catholic Church’s, and the world’s, attitude towards the poor, towards all of those deprived of the basic goods of this world, towards those abandoned to the margins and beyond. Indeed, during World Youth Day (week) in Brazil he stepped into a favela to proclaim the presence of Christ.

Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor.

Yes , Pope Francis has unequivocally proclaimed that he wants a poor Church for the poor, that is, for the world’s majority. No, he has not called for a rich Church that is primarily intended for the rich or for the middle class.  And his call is completely consistent with the gospel, and with the teachings of the Church from its very beginnings.

But reading coverage in blogs it is startling (or is it?) at how many still look the other way. Oh, the pope is surely thinking of Latin America; not of us in the United States.

And the Brazilian people, particularly the humblest among you, can offer the world a valuable lesson in solidarity, a word that is too often forgotten or silenced, because it is uncomfortable. (Vatican News)

So what does this mean for the rich and the middle class? God wishes their eternal salvation, but not their wealth in this world while others suffer. Therefore, it is not enough to say that one is not attached to one’s wealth or to whatever exceeds one’s needs for survival. One must share that excess with those who do not have the basics. For that is charity. That is love. And God is love.

August 17, 2013

Christ came to redeem us for eternity. The eternal salvation of our souls was his purpose. Why then did he show great compassion for the poor and for those in need? What did that have to do with his purpose?  On one hand he fed five thousand multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish. He did not want to send them off on their long walk home on empty stomachs, despite the apostles’ insistence. And then he did it again with four thousand. Yet,  later, when the crowds soon again sought him, he admonished them for only wanting to fill their stomachs, and not being interested in the true nourishment he was willing, and uniquely able, to provide.

There certainly is no concern that can ever compare by any stretch of the imagination with that of the eternal salvation of our souls.

Unfortunately, many in the wealthy classes understand this wrongly. They take it to mean that Catholics should not be social workers, and the church not the government’s supplementary welfare  bureaucracy. They are typically unaware of the suffering of the poor right in front of their noses or are not uncomfortable with it. Eternity is what matters, they will rationalize. Eternity? But what do they mean by the term? Are they perhaps mistakenly understanding eternity in terms of time ? Eternity is beyond time, cannot be understood through time (see Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity”) .

Eternity is now. The person in need is eternally in front of us. And whatever we do for said person, we do for Christ, eternally.

Eternity is of the ultimate and most consequential dimension of being.  It exists in this life, and in the next.

August 25, 2013

But eternity, as a dimension of being, is different in the next life. While in this life one may still opt for good or evil, choosing is not possible in the next. (The eternal wheel of reincarnation that Buddhists and Hindus profess, and from which they seek liberation, is perhaps what Catholics believe to be purgatory or hell.) Christ taught this life is it, and that there is justice in the next. One must decide now whether to embrace good and reject evil in all of its forms. But people don’t even agree on what is good and evil.

Many define good as that which serves them, suits them, seems convenient to them. But that is not necessarily good, of course. That is only what serves, suits,, or seems convenient to one.  Can a person be deemed guilty for choosing evil, thinking perhaps that it is good? The Catholic Church distinguishes between mortal and venial offenses to God. One commits a mortal offense or sin only if one knows the act one is about to commit is seriously wrong, and one nevertheless commits it intentionally. If any of said three conditions is missing, one’s evil act is regarded as venial, that is, it does not to cause a complete rupture in one’s relationship to God. Therefore, choosing evil, thinking it is good, is a venial sin, even though objectively it may be a terrible offense.

However, the  Church also teaches that the inability to  distinguish good from evil can not be intentional. Willful ignorance is a sin. A human being has the obligation to earnestly seek the truth, and to correctly inform one’s conscience. Intentional ignorance is a sin, and if the matter is serious, and one nevertheless proceeds to do what is evil, it is a mortal sin. It separates one from God, and if one dies unrepentant in said state, one is destined to eternal punishment and suffering. This could not be more serious.

But what does all of this have to do with poverty?

Is material poverty the greatest evil? No. The greatest evil is spiritual poverty, that is, rejecting what is good in favor of what is evil. The poor are vulnerable to that as are the rich.

Yet choosing the good often involves self-sacrifice, and that is anathema in today’s world. Self sacrifice? Many consider that old-fashioned at best, and for an absolute materialist, even irrational.  Many express themselves, and act, as if the goal of life is to do whatever one wants, or at least to position one’s self so that one is able to do so. That is what freedom has been reduced to; not to do what is right, and therefore obligatory, but to serve one’s wishes, whatever they may be. Much of what passes for education today is an altar built to the idol of self-indulgence.

And self-indulgence not infrequently means sacrificing others. Social Darwinism, in capitalist or Marxist versions, supports sacrificing anyone, and any value, for the sake of what it regards as progress, evolution, a more fit being, and self perpetuation, human or not. For if existence is only measurable matter, what else matters, but to get materially ahead in accordance to what one deems to be reasonable by one’s authority, regardless what one might become in the process, and accomplishing that in whatever way is  legally obtainable in a society? But what if existence is not just matter? What if consciousness and meaning are ontologically prior to matter?

And what if consciousness and meaning can not exist without an identity? For consciousness implies interiority,  a subject. What if, as monotheists profess, consciousness and meaning are personal, indeed, what if “it” is a person? Moreover, what if, as revealed by Jesus Christ, it is the unity, in love, of three absolutely good and supernatural or divine persons? And what if it is true that One of the Three has visited us?

But, could this ever be proven or known by post-modern humans? And, if true, what could be more important or urgent than knowing this?

This is how Pope Francis recently expressed the importance of this in a message to the Bishop of Rimini, in connection to an annual gathering by the lay Catholic organization, Communion and Liberation:

‘The Human Person: a State of Emergency’ thus signifies the urgency to go back to Christ, to learn from Him the truth about ourselves and the world and with Him and in Him to go and meet every man, especially the poorest, for which Jesus has always manifested His predilection. And poverty is not only material. There is a spiritual poverty that grips every contemporary men. We are poor in love, thirsty for truth and justice, beggars of God…The greatest poverty is in fact the lack of Christ…

But can ultimate truth be mathematically proven to exist?  No, because it transcends mathematics.  But it can be sought sincerely, and, found, Jesus Christ has assured us.

And it can be reasonably demonstrated philosophically that God exists, and is ultimate truth.

Consider, for example, the design evident in nature and in cosmic evolution. Consider that humans exist, that they can communicate, and even understand each other. Is all this the result of an intelligent self creating being-universe, as Stephen Hawkins seems to suggest? If so, it must always have existed.

And if it has always existed it does not make much sense to say that it continues to create itself. What or who is doing the creating? What was its initial, fundamental state and constitution?

Arguing that the cosmos evolved organically, by trial and error, natural selection, etc., presupposes a potential to develop  according to certain parameters. But how were those parameters established?

Doesn’t intelligent architecture presuppose an intelligent architect, or creative intelligence, or creator-intelligence? If not, then where did intelligence come from? How can what is not intelligent become intelligent and intelligible? It can only be so if intelligent being has always been. But what is intelligent being? Is it a random, indefinite, disorganized “group” of thoughts and processes without a subject?

Or is there an eternal subject, one who is the same as the One who revealed himself to Abraham, to Israel, and in Jesus Christ?

September 20, 2013 (last updated 5:14 pm)

Through an interview published yesterday by Jesuit publications throughout the world, Pope Francis attempts to help a wounded church zero in on mercy as Jesus Christ’s central message. The interview has approximately twelve thousand words depending on what language one reads it in. But there is a discrepancy between the English and Spanish translation where the pope refers to a woman who has had an abortion.

In the Spanish version it is unambiguously clear that the abortion occurred during her first marriage. In the English version no such connection is made. Therefore, it is possible that there are other inaccuracies. One must keep this in mind given that the assertions the Pope has made regarding marriage appear to contradict the gospels and what the Church has taught since its beginnings.

For the pope speaks of the woman’s first marriage as a failure, and to her living happily in a second marriage. But wait, the Catholic Church has always taught that marriage is indissoluble, and Jesus referred to remarriage as adultery (Luke 16:18, Matthew 5:32, .Matthew 19: 3-9, Mark 10: 2-9,  1 Corinthians 7: 10-11). 

Surely the Pope did not mean to assert that adultery is not a grave sin or that a marriage can be dissolved, but isn’t that what is implied by what he is reported to have said? It’s been reported that he approved the publication of the interview. But did he approve its translations to English and Spanish? Are the translations correct? If they are, and that is what he meant, then he is contradicting our Lord Jesus Christ on the matter of marriage. But Pope Francis is a man of faith, and I seriously doubt that this is what he meant.

Here is the English translation taken from the Jesuit Magazine America :

I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?

This is the  Spanish translation from Razon y Fe:

Estoy pensando en la situación de una mujer que tiene a sus espaldas el fracaso de un matrimonio en el que se dio también un aborto. Después de aquello esta mujer se ha vuelto a casar y ahora vive en paz con cinco hijos. El aborto le pesa enormemente y está sinceramente arrepentida. Le encantaría retomar la vida cristiana. ¿Qué hace el confesor?

What follows is my English translation from Razon Y Fe’s translation to Spanish (presumably from Italian).

I’m thinking of the situation of a woman who has a marriage failure behind her and one in which an abortion also occurred. After that she has again married and lives in peace with five children. The abortion weighs enormously on her and she is sincerely repentant. She would like to return to a Christian life. What is the confessor to do?

Again married? How could she have legitimately married again while the husband she first married is still alive, if her marriage to him was valid? He adds that the woman is living in peace. She is living in peace in an adulterous relationship? What does he mean by that? Hopefully Pope Francis will clarify.

September 21, 2013

We don’t know if the case of the woman with five children from her “second marriage” to which the pope alluded is hypothetical or real. But would it change anything if her five children were from her first marriage? What if she had two children with each man? Is the presence of children what makes a marriage legitimate or adulterous? Isn’t sacramental marriage fundamentally formed by the free consent of two Catholics who agree to a permanent union and to be separated only by death?

The Pope ponders: “What should her confessor do?” Well, when Jesus was confronted with Jews wanting to stone an adulterous woman he defended her, did not condemn her, but he also told her to not sin ever again.

Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.  (John 8:11)

On another occasion, when Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman with five husbands he asked her to bring him water, adding:

If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)

One might therefore conclude that if the woman with five children from an adulterous relation truly wanted to live a Christian life she should be helped to do so. Firstly, if she repents, she should be forgiven, not condemned. She should be shown compassion and defended from those who might wish to harm her.

And she should be told to sin no more. That of course means that she can not remain in an adulterous relation and must repent for that too. For her true husband is no less a person.

From this, her five children will learn that God expects husband and wife to be faithful to each other, just as God is to his people. They will learn that even if one fails, as their mother did, that they can be forgiven, as their mother was. They will learn that repentance must be true, and therefore, that one can not intentionally continue living in sin. And that that is why their mother no longer lives with their father, but instead honors her true husband, even if he is not their father, and even if she can no longer live with him either because of the effects of sins.

Then, if the mother of five asks to receive our Lord in the Eucharist, she should be allowed, which is as it is today.

In another part of the La Civiltà Cattolica interview Pope Francis protested that the Church can not focus only on “abortion, gay marriage and contraceptives.”

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

However, perhaps to prevent misunderstandings, the day after the interview’s publication the Pope spoke about abortion, although not exclusively.

…every child that is not born, but unjustly condemned to be aborted and very elderly person who is sick or at the end of his life bears the face of Christ.

So Pope Francis is trying to tell Catholics that all human life is sacred,the unborn and any other person’s, and that we must be specially concerned about the most vulnerable (i.e. very elderly person).(It’s unclear, however, why he said unjustly condemned. Is any unborn child somehow justly condemned?)

But in the United States the bishops have focused largely on abortion, the HHS mandate (contraception and abortifacients), and immigration reform.

When poverty is addressed it is typically with regard to foreign countries and missions. But 15% of Americans are living in poverty. One out of every four blacks and one out of every four Hispanics are living below the poverty line (less than $15,000 in income for a family of four). And around half of US Catholics are Hispanic.

Why aren’t the U.S. bishops talking about that? How many in your parish are poor? How many do not live in houses or apartments? How many in your Archdiocese? 

Sure, one sometimes hears of a parish distributing meals once weekly to those who do not live in houses. Hmm. Once weekly. That’s charitable.That is true. But I don’t know of anyone who can live on one meal per week.

On the other hand, over one million unborn children are aborted every year in the United States. How in the world can bishops be guilty of denouncing that too much? The problem, therefore, is not their insistence, but that it is is lopsided.

Concern for the poor is almost non-existent. It is typically depicted as the government’s job, and even as the poor’s fault. They just don’t want to to work, some might argue, perhaps followed up with the passage from Saint Paul denouncing that those who do not work should not eat.

we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:10

But how about the passage where Saint Paul speaks about his own homelessness, despite working.

…we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and human beings alike… to this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands….We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment.(1 Corinthians 4:5-13)

The Washington Post recently reported that the percentage of the working population that is active is 63.2%, the lowest in 35 years. And of those who are active 7.3% are unemployed. Therefore, around forty percent of those who can work are without jobs.

October 11, 2013

Take a look at photographs from Vatican Radio’s new Gallery of the Poor.

Aren’t there human beings sitting and sleeping on the floor, in benches or in cars, in or near your parish too? 

In Miami, Florida, the City Commissioners want to pass a law to criminalize those who do not live in houses, and who are routinely and disparagingly classified as “homeless” (not house-less) even though they live in the world, in the United States, in Florida, and in Miami, and there is no reason they should not be able to call these locations their home.

But by labeling them “homeless” even though they are just house-less, bigots subtly convey the message that – no, no, no – the world (i.e. Miami) is not your home – can not be your home. If you do not have or live in a house like the rest of us, you can not live here or call it your home. And if you try to, we would like to be able to throw your personal property to the garbage dump, and to throw you into jail or harass and run you out of Miami, and of the world, were that possible.

According to the Miami Herald, Miami Dade County’s Roman Catholic Mayor, Carlos Jimenez explained that this was a “moral issue.”

It’s actually a moral issue,” said the mayor. “Nobody should be sleeping in the streets of Miami”

Why not? The Herald doesn’t tell us more. But it’s important to understand what the moral issue is for the county mayor, and how he would solve it.

There are various reasons a person may not have a house. Perhaps they can not afford one. Perhaps they have lived in poverty since birth. Perhaps they have hit a hard bump on the road (loss of family, job, career). Perhaps they are mentally ill or alcoholics (in both cases, just like many who live inside houses). Perhaps they prefer the outdoors (i.e. boy scouts, veterans, pre-european settlers, etc.).

And today there is an unprecedented number of people without income from work and or who have lost their homes, and who may not have a choice. Instead of investing in people who already have homes shouldn’t the county mayor invest generously in those who do not? And no, I don’t mean sticking them in a shelter at risk to their lives (as the mayor must surely know or he should go live in one) or in jail. What I mean is that the mayor should strive to love them as himself, and treat them with the utmost love and respect, specially respect for their freedom and their right to life.

Miami’s other mayor, the city mayor, Tomas Regalado, recently joined Roman Catholic Archbishop Wenski in consecrating the city to our Lord Jesus. And what do the City Mayor and the Archbishop believe Jesus would do in their shoes? Perhaps Pope Francis should call them to discuss. Did Jesus not regularly sleep outdoors in the Mount of Olives with the apostles? What would either mayor have done to him about that?

Did both mayors not leave Cuba because it was not a free country? If so, why would they want to turn Miami into a jail for the poorest or for those who simply do not want to live in a house, or in a house like the ones others live in? Do either of them believe it was somehow morally wrong for pre-European inhabitants to live in tee pees?

Instead of investing in luxuries like the soon to be inaugurated Ronald Reagan Equestrian Center at Tropical Park  shouldn’t both have prioritized those who do not own or rent houses or want to live in one.  I did not realize it was mandatory to own or rent land or a house to live freely as a law abiding citizen of the United States. I did not realize it because it is not mandatory. And it would be scandalous and utterly immoral if it were mandatory.

Shouldn’t the city and the county of Miami (and the United States) recognize people’s intrinsic right to live, whether it is indoors or outdoors? .

Is there anything morally wrong with that? Did not humans live outdoors and in caves at the beginning of human life? That is the way God made it, right? Is this not the land of the free? And aren’t both mayors Christians?

Is living in a tee pee or outside of a house somehow "morally wrong"?

Is living in a tee pee or outside of a house somehow “morally wrong”?


October 29, 2013


Even as some still insist on business as usual for the Church, Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, and one of Pope Francis’ “Gang of Eight”, delivered landmark speeches in Texas and Miami this past weekend, clarifying that the goal of the Church (and therefore all Christians) must pass through the “penultimath e” on its way to the “ultimate.”

Her foremost goal is to care for the penultimate (hunger, housing, clothing, shoes, health, education…) to be then able to care for the ultimate, those problems that rob us of sleep after work (our finiteness, our solitude before death, the meaning of life, pain, and evil…). The answer the Church gives to the “penultimate” will entitle her to speak about the “ultimate.” For that reason, the Church must show herself as a Samaritan on earth –so she can some day partake of the eternal goods.

It should not have been an astonishing speech, but, astonishingly, it was.

November 30, 2013

I just finished reading Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (released November 24). As Catholics we needed it immensely. Thank you, Pope Francis. It is required reading for everyone who wants to get a sense of what it means to be a committed Catholic, and what our mission is. I loved it.

During Advent I hope to comment on it.

December 22, 2013

“The poor can’t wait!”  So says Pope Francis in an appeal for homeless families (“house-less”, not homeless, dear Pope) just three days before Christmas.

Six days earlier he had celebrated mass, and his birthday (!), with four house-less (and also family-less?) individuals. I think the message is: The divinely founded Catholic Church, where God Himself dwells, is your family. Are you listening?

The pope went on to praise Saint Joseph’s and the Blessed Virgin Mary’s spiritual characters. And there are magnificent reasons for that. For Joseph had just been through what must have been the most challenging, perhaps terrifying, and precious nine months of his life; God had impregnated his wife through the Holy Spirit, with her consent, and told him so in a dream. And the most Blessed Virgin had accepted God’s co-eternal Son, God Himself,  in her womb, trusting completely, even as she could hardly be expected to understand. Who could she confide this to? Who would ever believe her? Who would believe Joseph?

Then, as God’s son was about to incarnate, they could not find housing for themselves or for Him.

This is the stuff of marvelous myths. Forget it.

Can an infinite God become a human being? This is almost impossible for humans to believe now, just as it was for some Jews two thousand years ago. Perhaps for some it is far easier to conceive of a finite human being becoming God. But that is not logical. For unlike finite beings God is uncreated and thus has no beginning.

But still some will argue that, at best, God can create and send us one, two or many avatars, but surely He cannot become one!

That’s just not possible for an infinitely knowledgeable and powerful being, or believable by some humans. And even though most of those who believe in God believe He has the power to create all that exists, and to continually will its existence, they also believe he falls short on this one.  If he exists, he simply does not have the power to become a human being.

But isn’t saying that God can’t do something that could be done, hmmm, contradictory, and blasphemy?

Eternity is to the left, right, above, below, behind and ahead, and Jesus asks us to consider who he is (Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20).

Further consider that he was born utterly vulnerable, and house-less, too.

***

Even if you do not believe, if for a brief time you can become humble, take time to visit Him in the most Holy Eucharist at a Catholic Church this Christmas. He is there, and renews me whenever I go.