White Christians-Our Silence

clergy protest

[This piece was originally submitted to the Des Moines Register as a letter to the editor]

Across Des Moines, Christians such as myself are gathering in churches, awaiting the coming of a child with song and prayer. Yet, there is also a deafening silence enveloping the institutions where my fellow white Christians gather. While we celebrate the birth of a child, we all too often ignore the death of Black children, like Tamir Rice and Aiyana Jones, killed by police.

Fellow white Christians: when was the last time race was discussed in your church? Has your pastor ever spoken the name of Tamir Rice or Aiyana Jones, of Eric Garner, of Deshawnda Sanchez? Do our church leaders speak publicly against racial disparities in Iowa’s justice system, called “the worst in the nation” by the ACLU? Do we uphold a narrative of a white Savior or the more truthful narrative that Rev. Serene Jones recently called “the story of a black body being killed by the most powerful nation in the world”?

White Christians must do racial justice work now. We must centralize the voices of Black and Womanist theologians like James Cone and M. Shawn Copeland. We must engage books like Jennifer Harvey’s “Dear White Christians” that call for racial reparations. We must work with and support racial justice groups like AMOS Iowa, the NYC Justice League, Hands Up United, Millenial Activists United and the Dream Defenders. We must take to the streets and attend rallies and marches to transform our racist criminal justice system. Until we affirm that Black lives matter, we are complicit in the sin of racist state-sanctioned violence.

Are Queer Relationships compatible with Church Teaching?

Second post for Queering Catholicism

According to the catechism, sexuality in relationship is defined and guided by the following:

Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament…Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such…The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude.” Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure: The Creator himself . . . established that in the [generative] function, spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit…Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment…The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family…The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity. (2360-2363)

There are several scholars who believe that the full expression of same-sex love and pleasure within a personal, mutual relationship is entirely compatible with the Church’s teaching of marriage and sexuality. Many argue that sexuality is a gift from God and when expressed in a personal, mutual relationship it is therefore natural and accepted. Hence, TQBLG individuals believe that their sexuality is “created, sustained, and blessed by God” (Yip, 1997b, p. 172). If God is love, why would God be less present in the love of a queer couple than a heterosexual couple?   Many queer couples firmly believe that achieving a Christian partnership based on Christian values is achievable—their relationships are based on mutual love, mutual sharing, faithfulness, mutual commitment to pleasure…mutuality in its various forms and expressions.

On a personal note, my beloved and I have accepted the teaching of the Church and embodied it in our relationship. Our relationship (and those of countless others) is based on the idea of sexuality that the Catechism expresses. We believe in and live by “intimate and chaste union”; we practice and strive for self-giving to each other by caring for the other when sick and supporting each other’s adventures (such as working 3 jobs to support the other while in divinity school); we experience pleasure and enjoyment through our bodies by affirming each other’s beauty, balding, flat-footedness, and pudginess; and have transmitted life by affirming, celebrating, and challenging each other’s lives and personhood in fullness (even when we may not agree with each other)—our relationship has been life-giving to us and to those we welcome into our casa. By the Church’s standards, Jason and I are being faithful to the church’s teaching in every sense of fidelity and fecundity.   Our coming together may not be able to produce children, but we can transmit life by pro-creating love and laughter through the formation of a family, be it how we treat and include our families of origin in our lives, the family formed through our inner sanctum of friends, extending the Body of Christ by how we treat those we engage with in the world, and through whatever means we decide to have children (which is a whole set of other entries!).

Christian members of the TQBLG community have been able to manage faith and sexual identity signifying their ability to not only survive but thrive, live, and celebrate in a social, religious environment that many times does not accept or support them. Though many are amazed, queer Catholics are finding ways to be who they are and find their place in the Church. Pope Benedict XV said that there was to be no distinction among Catholics—we are all Catholics, period! One cannot be sure whether or not he had queer Catholics in mind, but many TQBLG individuals are proud of their Catholic faith and through their experiences are opening doors so that all people can celebrate and commune as one body. May TQBLG Catholics are faithful people to their Catholic heritage striving “to live [our] lives in accordance to the Gospel, who discuss the sermon over brunch after mass, and who write their checks at the Offertory…. [They] also respond ‘Lord hear our prayer’ when the general intercessions plead for greater respect for life, because [they] know first hand what it means to experience disrespect for life” (Stoltz, 1998, p.11).

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 is co-chair for Dignity’s 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.

Changing of the guard in Chicago

Francis Cardinal George, OMI. Photo by Rich Hein for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI. Photo by Rich Hein for the Chicago Sun-Times.

On Friday, Nov. 14, I attended weekday Mass. The experience was bittersweet.

It was the 12:10 liturgy at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral. The main celebrant was Francis Cardinal George, OMI, the retiring archbishop of Chicago.

I sat along the central aisle. I tried and failed to ignore cameramen from local media outlets who had set up for a good shot. As the organ thundered “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” a phalanx of clergy marched within inches of me.

There were deacons and priests in white stoles, most bearing the red-eagled coat of arms of the archdiocese. There were the auxiliary bishops, some familiar to me and some not, all wearing tall white miters. And finally there was the Cardinal, in his red zucchetto and white-and-burgundy chasuble.

He was unsmiling, purse-lipped, and on crutches. George, who is suffering from his third bout with cancer, has a tumor pressing on nerves and veins. It makes it painful for him to walk, on top of the polio-related limp he has endured for more than sixty years anyway. A seminarian altar server, hands veiled in a vimpa, carried the Cardinal’s crosier for him.  Continue reading

Building Connections

organizing

Recently, while scouring my “people you may know tab” on Facebook, I found a few surprising suggestions. Not a relative or a new Drake student, Facebook was suggesting that I friend request one of the following people:

1. A director of a church justice organization

2. An activist nun

3. The author of my Contemporary Ethical Problems textbook

4. A prominent feminist theologian

Continue reading

“Pray, Listen, Discern”: Reflections after a vigil

Triptych from our Tuesday night vigil outside Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral. Photo via Facebook page of Call To Action.

Triptych from our Tuesday night vigil outside Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral. Photo via Facebook page of Call To Action.

On Tuesday evening, I gathered with a bunch of other folks to pray the rosary. We met on the wet, chilly sidewalk outside Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral.

The sky unloaded on us as we arrived. But the rain eased up, almost stopped, as we began the service. It is the kind of thing that happens when I pray in front of Holy Name.

The Human Rights Campaign and Call To Action co-sponsored our gathering. It was one of seven vigils scheduled during the Vatican’s Extraordinary Synod (Oct. 5-19) on “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” The vigils call on the bishops to “Pray, Listen, Discern” with LGBT families.  Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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