Talkin’ Bout A Revolution

“Now in the people that were meant to be green there is no more life of any kind. There is only shriveled barrenness. The winds are burdened by the utterly awful stink of evil, selfish goings-on. Thunderstorms menace. The air belches out the filthy uncleanliness of the peoples. The earth should not be injured! The earth must not be destroyed!” -Hildegard of Bingen
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Over 400,000 activists, both religious and secular, descended upon New York City last Sunday for the People’s Climate March. On Monday, over 1,000 activists attended the “Flood Wall Street” protests, which called for radical economic and structural change to end the climate crisis. These protestors gathered under the banner of “Structural Change, not Climate Change”. Refusing to accept small reforms as a solution, the protestors demanded complete economic and political revolution. In my opinion, the Catholic and Christian Left could take a page from Flood Wall Street’s book. Read more of this post

A day in the life on the “rocket docket”

Last month, the Daily Business Review published a story about the “rocket dockets” which have been adopted here in Miami and around the United States to push unaccompanied minors through the legal system. Four full-time judges and one part-time judge see up to 150 kids a day – as many as 60 cases per judge. So what does the “rocket docket” look like in action?

On Tuesday an Americans for Immigrant Justice colleague Tatiana and I went to Judge Dowell’s courtroom where there were 29 unaccompanied minor cases scheduled to be heard between 1:00 and 3:00 pm. Generally, the kids carried folders of official paperwork – notices of appearance, release paperwork from an Office of Refugee Resettlement Shelter, copies of a birth certificate or school registration – often carried in plastic grocery bags since it had been raining all day. Over and over, I watched the bewildered kids hand their plastic grocery bags of paperwork (much of it written in English legal-ese) to Tatiana and look to her for help when their cases were called.

Some children came to court to face the judge and government attorney alone, and some came accompanied by a family member, friend, or pastor. In the space of a few minutes, each child (through a Spanish-language court interpreter) confirmed their contact information, answered the judge’s questions, and was given a continuance in the space of a few minutes. Adding to the confusion was the fact that several Guatemalan kids spoke indigenous languages, were not fully proficient in Spanish, and had no access to interpretation.

After the hearings I took each child into an empty courtroom for a screening. My goal was to explain what had just happened in court, prepare a summary of their case, as well as to orient them to what their next steps should be.

Often, there were complicating issues. One of the kids has a sibling who is also in proceedings so I explained to the family member accompanying him that their cases could be consolidated so they wouldn’t have to drive from West Palm Beach to Miami separately. Several of the children had changed addresses so they needed to fill out and sign two copies of an English-language form – one for the government attorney and one for the court. While this is time-consuming, it’s important since communications from the court generally come through the mail. A missed letter could mean a missed court date and a deportation order given in absentia.

In general the kids were confused about what had just gone on in court and were looking for explanations. I explained I was there to help guide them through the initial phase of their court cases. I ensured they knew their next court date, gave them a list of legal service providers in South Florida, and warned them to be careful of notarios publicos who seek to take advantage of immigrants unfamiliar with the legal system and defraud them of money.

Then I moved onto the intake, a list of questions to determine if a child has experienced abuse, neglect or abandonment in the home country or if there is a credible fear of return. There wasn’t time to develop a rapport with the kids, so I conducted the interview in a straight-forward way, acknowledging that these are tough questions about potentially sensitive issues, but that their honest answers would help us determine their potential eligibility for legal status. My shorthand hastily-scribbled-in-Spanglish notes from the interviews included things like “quit school b/c multiple gang death threats;” “abandoned by dad, mom sick, minor supporting family;” “fears return, dad murdered by mara, held for ransom by narcos, attempted rape of mother, two US citizen sibs.” As soon as I finished one intake, there were more kids who had just had hearings waiting to be seen.

With so many kids in such a short period of time, it’s all kind of a blur but some stand out. The Honduran girl who wants to be a lawyer when she grows up. The Salvadoran boy who responded “because I have human dignity” when I asked why he left his home country. The fourteen-year-old Guatemalan orphan who asserted she wasn’t afraid when she rode La Bestia (the freight train through Mexico) because of her faith in God.

As Tatiana and I drove back from court, sorting through the docket and the stack of hand-written intake forms, I commented, “This is the legal equivalent of triage in an emergency room!”

With the sheer volume of cases and the overwhelming number of kids to be seen, all I could do is offer them a legal analog of first aid – offering resource handouts, taking the basics facts of their cases, informing them of how court proceedings work, getting their contact information to follow up if we can take or refer their cases.

We can’t agree to represent all of them at this time because we don’t have the resources, which is a disappointment to us and them. Deportation for these kids can be tantamount to a death sentence and those without legal representation are much more likely to be issued deportation orders. What we can do, however, is make the whole “rocket docket” process a little less scary and bewildering for the kids, most of whom are survivors of multiple traumas.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review claims that the expedited hearings will result in “fast and fair adjudication of cases before the agency.” If my experience at court this week is any indication, in spite of our triage efforts, the rocket dockets are certainly “fast” but far from “fair.”

About the author: Rhonda Miska is a partner in mission with the Sisters of the Humility of Mary

currently serving as a Legal Assistant with Americans for Immigrant Justice. She is a former Jesuit

Volunteer (Nicaragua, 2002-2004) and holds a master’s degree from the Boston College School of

Theology and Ministry. She can be reached at rhonda.youngadultcatholics@gmail.com

What Makes Someone Catholic Enough?

Old Men in Skirts and Womens Health

Last week, I did an interview with a reporter about why I believe the Catholic Church should allow “artificial” contraception, or perhaps even better, just stay out of the contraception discussion altogether. I dream of a world where the Church presents all the facts that might be relevant to Catholics making a moral decision, and then leaves that decision up to them.

In my interview, I cited marriage research that says more sex equals happier marriages, and that relying on NFP alone can lead to unnecessary and unhealthy sexual tension and resentment. I talked about framing the primary benefit of sex being its ability to cement a relationship and improve bonding rather than procreation, and how “unnatural” (not to mention somewhat cruel) it is to expect women to forgo sex when they want it most (during their fertile window) month after month after month, year after year after year, if a couple does not want to have children. And then I cited research about how “unwanted” (what a horrible word) and “mistimed” children suffer throughout their lives in contrast to their “wanted” counterparts.

I thought I’d made a pretty good showing. He asked some demographic questions, like my age, and how long I’d been married, and whether my husband was also Catholic.

Then he asked if I currently belonged to a Catholic parish.

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there’s something about mary

I was drawn to ENZA’s cover of Beyonce’s rendition of the Ave Maria. Just a girl and her voice, nothing more—much like the person whose life inspired the song. Who was this Mary of Galilee?   She has been at the center of controversy and many theological headaches as people try to figure out her place within doctrine.   Beyonce’s Ave Maria moves away from the intellectual conundrums and simply tells the story of a girl–a girl who was confused, lost, challenged, and yet filled with determination and faith to face whatever life brought her way.

According to tradition, Mary was from a poor farming community and was not formally educated. It is this woman, marginalized because of gender, class, and neighborhood, who was chosen to be a messenger of hope. Though art and scholarship tend to depict her as a delicate, submissive girl, her story is one of a woman who fights…who is strong…who takes charge…who does what is needed to fulfill a calling…who trusts without knowing all of the answers.

Like many of us, she did not know what challenges awaited her. She did not know she would be risking her life, she would ride a donkey while 9 months pregnant, that she would be exiled and become an undocumented immigrant, she did not know that her son would be rejected, humiliated and executed. Despite the not knowing, she took a chance…took a risk…got messy…and said bring it on embracing her life with gusto, boldness, determination, and chutzpah.

Whether you engage her story as just a mythological narrative or as actual events at the core of religious traditions, Mary’s story is one that many of us who are facing life’s uncertainties about jobs, vocational calling, relationships, and how to live with purpose can relate to. This poor, marginalized, Jewish mother is an inspiration for me in learning how to embrace life, on how not to give up, and on how to trust the journey bumps and all.   What does her story teach you?

delfin bautista is a member of the CTA 20/30 Leadership Team and the CTA Board of Directors; delfin is also a member of Dignity’s Young Adult Caucus and Trans Caucus.  delfin currently serves as the Director of the LGBT Center at Ohio University.  delfin “preaches” on their own blog Mi Lucha, Mi Pulpito and  is a contributor to the Young Adult Catholic Blog and to Believe Out Loud.

Ways of the cross

Phos zoe cross. Via Gallery Byzantium.

Phos zoe cross. Via Gallery Byzantium.

Last Sunday, September 14, was the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Since then, I have considered the many kinds of crosses there are. I mean literal crosses, those you wear around your neck or affix to your wall.

Crosses can be streamlined and blank. For Protestants, this is generally the default. Originally, all Christian crosses were this way. Writes Thomas Cahill in Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus:

The early Christians, the original friends of Jesus, so sympathized with Jesus’ pain and had been so traumatized by it that they could not bring themselves to depict the stark reality of his suffering, except in words–that is, in the accounts of the four gospels, which are as clipped and precise as the four authors knew how to make them. Only in the fifth century, nearly a century after the Roman state had discontinued the practice of crucifixion and no one living had witnessed such a procedure, did Christians forget the shame and horror of the event sufficiently to begin to make pictures of it.

Of course, crosses also include those body-bearing crucifixes that are so familiar to us Catholics. But they need not be dead bodies. On some crosses, Jesus is not hanging in execution, but risen in glory.  Read more of this post

what is the church so scared about?

delfin_lucha1

Growing up Catholic, I was raised with the notion that the Roman Church was the holder of ultimate truth and that there was a certain infallible nature to the Church. All other traditions were wrong, confused, or flawed in some way. Perhaps it was a grave misunderstanding of Church teaching and doctrine, but I believed that the only to way to obtain truth was through the Church.   Ecumenism and religious pluralism threatens this idea of the Church holding the truth. To think that truth can be held by other traditions (even a piece of it) is unfathomable to many conservative Catholics. This mentality can lead to a superiority complex among Catholics who feel that the Church is better than other traditions.

Catholic teaching is very black and white—what you see is what you get for the most part. Regardless of where one falls on the spectrum of obedience and agreement to Church doctrine, there is a clear set of teachings to grapple with. Teachings on sexuality and responsibility may seem outdated but at least one knows the official stance to support or rebel against. Religious pluralism threatens the control that the Church has over her members. By acknowledging pluralism, one acknowledges that there are truths and alternative means to obtain them outside of the Church. There is no control over how people think, what they do, or how they express themselves. It goes from being black and white to colorful which poses a threat to accountability to a set doctrine. I do not mean to describe the Church to be a power-hungry, tyrannical dictatorship needing to control every nanosecond of every life; however, obedience and loyalty to teaching is often emphasized and lack of conformity shunned upon. Individuals who seek to broaden their experience of the Divine by adopting practices from other traditions (even Christian ones) are often criticized by fellow Catholics who feel that if one sits when one is supposed to kneel or uses a mantra or acknowledges that Jesus was Jewish or discerns the possibility of entering another tradition because the Church is no longer home—one is deviant, ostracized, and shunned.

The Church needs to learn how to balance Catholic and catholic. There is a balance between being a universal church that is located in various parts of the world with being open to widening the circle of acceptance of individuals and beliefs that can broaden our understanding of God. Through the black and white (which brings order) God has been placed within the limitations of a box. I believe this unjustly binds the Almighty Creator of the Universe who is so much more than our imperfect minds can grasp. I find it problematic when people define God as this and not that or develop rubrics for what constitutes authentic religious expression—whatever does not conform to our labels/categories is some how less than and questioned.

The church is struggling to become comfortable with learning from other traditions.   The Church is recognizing where she needs growth (at times admitting and owning errors and mistakes) and how religious pluralism can enrich liturgy, theology, and doctrine. It is a journey of discovering how to be catholic Catholics—why is that so scary?

delfin bautista is a member of the CTA 20/30 Leadership Team and the CTA Board of Directors; delfin is also a member of Dignity’s Young Adult Caucus and Trans Caucus.  delfin currently serves as the Director of the LGBT Center at Ohio University.  delfin “preaches” on their own blog Mi Lucha, Mi Pulpito and  is a contributor to the Young Adult Catholic Blog and to Believe Out Loud.

Dear Pope Francis: Sorry ’bout the cats

The new cat — who is just a cat, not a child “substitute.”

After months of deliberation, last week I adopted another cat. This led to me Googling pet-related search terms on my work breaks, and I found this article about Pope Francis, in which he warns married couples not to “replace” children with pets.

This hit close to home because one of the reasons we debated whether we should get another cat is that we are thinking about having children — and that is such an unknown factor that we wondered if it was really wise to introduce another unknown factor into our lives before then.

Still, the Pope’s “advice” rubbed me the wrong way because, like many of the hierarchy’s proclamations, it is too simplistic, dismissive of the complicated choices people must make about their lives. The decision whether or not to have children is an intensely personal one, and probably has the farthest-reaching consequences of any choice a couple will ever make. This requires deep soul searching, not a rote edict from a man who will never have to lose hours of sleep over a baby’s cries or a teenager’s rebellion; who will never have to make the decision to take the hit to his career for the flexibility parenthood requires; or who will never have to stay in a soul-crushing job because he needs the money to feed his children.

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