Mr. Donald Trump, “de quien la humanidad debe sentirse avergonzada.”

— Armando Fuentes Aguirre, Reforma, Mexico City

US Mexico border wall

Dear reader, hope you have enjoyed your vacation! (From me.) You certainly deserved it.

But when anyone publicly refers to the border wall in Israel as a good idea, I start to get riled. I can’t just loll on the beach anymore. Anger overwhelms my capacity to relax. I have seen the wall in Bethlehem with my own eyes. I have seen its effects on the city where our Lord was born. And I have wept.

Donald Trump broke the sabbath this past Sunday to give us an immigration-policy proposal. If actually put into effect, his plan would produce a humanitarian catastrophe rivaling the Syrian refugee crisis.

In addition to writing that “humanity should be ashamed” of such a proposal, Mr. Fuentes writes in Reforma words that I hope we will all take to heart:

Creo en la esencial vocación de bien de la criatura humana… Confío en que los norteamericanos se quitarán de encima ese feo forúnculo que brotó repentinamente en su vida nacional.

“I believe in the fundamental goodness of man. I believe that the Americans will lance this ugly boil that has erupted suddenly in their national life.”

Dearly beloved, let’s greet this moment like we should. Our nation needs our pro-life/pro-immigrant message.

–The courageous undercover Planned-Parenthood videos have exposed the incontrovertible truth of what abortion involves.

–Meanwhile, the smallness of American-nativist suspicion of immigrants has also been thrown into focus. It is a cancer from which the USA has suffered for centuries.

We Catholics have a unique point-of-view: our Church family includes the documented and the un-documented, and we love all our brothers and sisters (without pausing for one moment to consider INS status). And of course we love all the babies, and all the mothers. We have the audacity to believe that our sexual power to conceive the next generation does not amount to a medical problem, but rather a beautiful blessing.

We have the message that our country most needs at this very point in her history: our pro-life/pro-immigrant message. Let’s be consistent about it, and let’s share it, with love!

Que Viaja Seguro, Enrique

Enrique

Long-time readers will remember that we have prayed for our friend and brother for over a year now, during his incarceration at the Immigration-and-Customs-Enforcement detention center in Farmville, Va. We have prayed that he would not be deported.

He will be deported. On Tuesday, or the Tuesday after that, or the Tuesday after that.

His Mexican-American family will remain, separated from husband and father for the foreseeable future. Enrique will go to his brother’s house in Jalisco, in a town that is by no means safe.

May the good and holy Lord watch over us all and keep us from evil. May the insane Reign of Terror, that is our immigration-enforcement apparatus, come crashing down. I love my country, but I am not proud to be an American today. This sucks.

Enrique Update

ICA Farmville
ICA Farmville

Thank you, dear reader, for praying for our friend Enrique Manriquez during his asylum hearing yesterday.

The best news would, of course, have been:

Judge: “Why are we holding you in custody? Why have we held you in custody for the past nine months? This is absurd. Have mercy on us, Lord! Sir, please accept our apologies and a check for all your lost earnings, and go home where you belong.”

But such moments might have to wait until the parousia. (That is, the same moment when the Roe v. Wade court will see clearly what they wrought, and will declare, rending their garments in agonized contrition, “Oh God, Oh God, have mercy on us. We were blind to the most obvious facts!”)

Anyway, all musing aside…

Enrique has another hearing scheduled for June 15. Good news, as it goes. No surprise that there are a lot of hoops to get through. Yesterday he got through one.

Let’s keep praying.

Enrique Hearing

Enrique

Hopefully, dear reader, you remember that ICE agents arrested our dear friend and brother Enrique Manriquez outside St. Joseph Church in Martinsville last May.

Thanks to the generosity of kind benefactors, Enrique has had legal counsel. He decided to pursue an asylum claim.

For nine months, Enrique has sat in a detention center awaiting a hearing date, while his son had his sophomore year of college, his daughter her junior year of high school and his other son (whose high-school graduation Enrique missed) worked with his mom to keep the family financially afloat. Meanwhile, Enrique has lost a few pounds and started a Bible-study group in the jail.

Now Enrique will have a hearing! On April 2.

Holy Thursday. The tenth anniversary of the death of Pope St. John Paul II.

A good day for lots and lots of prayers.

Pray for the Release of Enrique

A New Day

I make no secret of the fact that I ardently dislike President Obama. I find him obtuse in practically every imaginable way.

Nonetheless, this is a party I wish I could attend:

We are for this. As a Church, we wrote a letter asking for it.

So, this evening, let’s rejoice in a victory for the Gospel of Life!

Then: let’s wake up tomorrow morning, ready to fight on–for everyone else whose God-given rights are not protected by law, especially the innocent and defenseless unborn.

Maybe Democratically Incorrect, But…

obama-prayingBlessed Pope Paul VI, pray for us!

When Pope Paul still bore the name Giovanni Battista Montini, his father played a prominent role in Italian politics. Giorgio Montini tried everything to keep Mussolini out of power, but history ran a different direction. The Fascists won the battle, and innocent people died.

The premier English-language biographer of Pope Paul VI, Peter Hebblethwaite, holds the “official” Catholic theology of the early 20th century to blame. The Church would not officially endorse democracy. Therefore, Hebblethwaite contends, the Fascists won.

To this day, the Church does not ‘endorse’ any particular political arrangement. Now, the teaching of St. John Paul II certainly highlighted reasons why we might say that democracy seems to be the system most reflective of the dignity of the human person. (Which was revealed by Christ.)

Pope Paul VI's father
Pope Paul VI’s father
But: I think the position we American Catholics find ourselves in at this moment, in the late fall of AD 2014–this position, in which we find ourselves, goes a long way to showing why the Church cannot ‘endorse’ any particular political arrangement.

Democracy is a complicated, messy business. Meanwhile, we strive to keep our eyes focused on the crystalline facts of fundamental human rights.

Is it ‘correct’ for us to pray and hope as follows?

A sitting President, duly elected–though hardly a champion of our Catholic principles–arguably intends to subvert the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution, in the interest of accomplishing a goal which we would not hesitate to call the vindication of human rights–namely, that families should not be subject to arbitrary separation, that people of all races enjoy the prerogative of migrating as they think best, and governments cannot interfere with that, failing a good reason– Can we Catholics, who love democracy and America–can we hope and pray that the President will stick to his guns and unilaterally grant legal ‘amnesty’ to as many of our brothers and sisters as possible?

We can hope and pray for this. And we should hope and pray for it.

May the democratically elected President, who says and does a lot of things that we hate–may he stand firm, and subvert the Constitution, and do the right thing!

Minding the Immigrants and Refugees

Blessed are you who suffer, who hunger, who mourn. Luke 6

Sermon_on_the_Mount_Fra_AngelicoTackling the profound mystery of these statements requires much more wisdom than I possess. But one thing leaps right off the page, even for an obtuse person like myself.

The Lord Jesus thought about the suffering people, the hungry people, the people in mourning. And He spent time with them and talked with them.

Inhuman cruelty can and does sneak up while we have our noses buried in our smartphones.

Like our neighbors who have to live without the basic benefits of citizenship—benefits we take for granted. Like looking to police officers for help. Like having our children apply for scholarships to go to college. Like having some recourse if we are exploited in the workplace, or abused, or fired unjustly, or cheated in a business transaction. Like having the possibility of defending our rights and claims in a court of law.

Right here in the beautiful counties of our parish cluster, we have plenty of neighbors who do not enjoy these basic prerogatives. We know from interacting with them that they themselves are no lawbreakers. What kind of country has this become, when the arrival of thousands of innocent children at our border becomes a reason not to treat Latin Americans more fairly? The children came armed with their perfect innocence and desperation, and our reaction is: Well, now we know we need to build higher walls and deport more people?

obama-prayingOr, while we fiddle with getting our Netflix subscriptions, another inhuman cruelty sneaks up: a jihad that enforces its will with a reign of terror that would have made the Nazi high command blush. Somehow a million+ refugees from Islamic State, with no roof over their heads, no schools, no businesses, no churches—snuck up on us somehow.

Those who suffer and mourn, who hunger and thirst. The Lord Jesus paid attention to them. If the books of the four holy gospels smell of one thing, they smell of the poor and the desperate. Christ had them on His mind. He has them on His mind. If they are not on our minds, then we are not sharing in the mind of Christ.

A decade ago we launched a war against Saddam Hussein. We fought the war in an earnest manner, I guess, basically. But we fought it for a false reason.

Now the groaning of all the Syrian and Iraqi refugees gives us a compelling and just reason to launch a war. But, to my mind, we seem a million miles away from being prepared to fight it in an earnest manner, a just manner. The legitimate reason for taking up arms is totally out-of-focus—namely, addressing the wrongs done to the countless innocents. And we appear to be incapable of learning this simple lesson of history: We cannot engineer our will from the air. That does not work; it just makes things worse and more complicated, and innocent people die. “Boots on the ground” is a stupid euphemism for actually fighting a war.

Are we justified in attacking the Islamic State? Is the Pope Catholic? Are we justified in imagining totally unrealistic scenarios in which we don’t have to fight the war, but just have to drop bombs from a convenient distance? No way.

May God help the leaders of the world to do what is right and just, in an honest way. Our job is to keep the suffering in mind, and pray like mad.

Immigration Policy and Human Decency, Part 10 million

Whoever will not receive you…it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. (Matthew 10:14-15)

Mark Greenbery border crisis Senate hearing
Nor exactly Mr. Charisma. But more reasonable than anyone else sitting there.

Sometimes the priest simply has to state the obvious. Like at a wedding I did when I was fresh out of seminary. The bride had starred on her college volleyball team. Her maid of honor had, too. The young volleyball star had found a groom of appropriate height, whose best friend, the best man, stood eye-to-eye with him.

So, as the wedding began, five people stood in front of the altar, all of them over 6’ 1”. So I had to say, ‘Yes, this is a wedding. It is not a practice for some kind of co-ed Olympic basketball team.’

US Mexico border wallComcast finally carried out its threat. They took away all the channels that we don’t actually pay for at the rectory, so all I have left to watch is CSPAN. Which is fine. I watched with great interest the night-time re-broadcast of yesterday’s Senate border-crisis hearing.

Here’s the obvious thing that the priest needs to say. When a child comes into our custody, into the custody of the federal government of the United States of America, we are bound by the most fundamental laws of human decency. We must seek out the child’s parents or closest relatives, and, by any practicable means, get the child into the care of his or her parents, as soon as possible.

This moral obligation cannot be qualified in any way by our immigration policies and laws. There is no human authority with the competence to alter the fundamental demands of human decency. If a child comes into my care, and I can find the parents, I must get the child home to his or her parents, wherever the parents are, whether they are ‘legal’ or ‘illegal.’ To do anything other than this would involve offending the most basic standards of human decency, which are an international law that guides everyone.

How could anyone fail to see this? How could a room full of technocrats sit around at a hearing about unaccompanied minors and not begin by accepting as a clear and evident fact that this is the moral duty of the US government? Then we can have a discussion about immigration policy, but only after we recognize that getting the children into the custody of their parents is our primary duty before God. Right?

Of course, all other questions are secondary. Aren’t they? After all, we are a decent, civilized people. We recognize immediately the obligations that adults have towards children.

Oh, wait. I forgot. We are actually a barbarian nation, in which thousands of innocent and defenseless unborn children get killed right under our noses every day.

No wonder we have Senate committee hearings in which technocrats dispute secondary and tertiary political matters ad nauseam while innocent children remain separated from their parents and in our custody.

Fortnight For Freedom: Which of the Two will Land Me in Jail?

Yay Corpus Christi procession! (Sunday in the humble cluster) photo credit:  Daniel Shanahan
Yay Corpus Christi procession! (Sunday in the humble cluster) photo credit: Daniel Shanahan

Today, in honor of St. John the Baptist’s birth, we present: Father Versace’s Fortnight-for-Freedom jeremiad.

My spiritual life, so far as it goes, consists in: trying to do my duty as a parish priest (which includes a fair amount of praying), visiting the Blessed Sacrament as often as possible, spending a day in total solitude whenever I can, and spiritual reading and mental prayer early each morning.

I hope and pray that this lame little spiritual life will suffice to prepare me adequately to go to prison, when the time comes. Because it seems to me that the question is not whether I will have to spend time in jail. The question is: For which of the two possible reasons will I actually wind up getting arrested, in the end?

Lately, in the early hours, I have been reading St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles, one chapter per day. Chapter 83 of Book IV goes a long way towards helping us understand our position in the Fortnight for Freedom. Book IV covers salvation. In the latter part of the book, St. Thomas explains life after the general resurrection.

st-thomas-aqPlease God we find ourselves among the saved, rather than the damned, we will live in a state of universal brotherhood, perfectly united with God. There will be no more of a lot of things. One of the the things there will be no more of: sex.

Let’s consider universal brotherhood first.

On the news the other day, I heard a “border-security” pundit say, “The officials of this administration, in their heart of hearts, don’t believe that we have a right to keep people out of this country. People who are not murderers or drug-dealers, who just want a job.”

Then an administration official they had on the show immediately denied it. But I wanted to say to the first guy: You got it, brother! Whether or not the administration officials believe it is a secondary issue. The primary thing is: It’s true. No human authority possesses the right to keep peaceful, law-abiding migrants from moving from one place on God’s earth to another, if such be their will.

The fact that the U.S. tries to impede perfectly legitimate migration indicates a major lapse in our Christian perspective on things. It calls into question whether we, as a nation, can really claim to have a Christian perspective on things.

When people migrate into his land, a Christian does not wonder whether or not the migrants have a good reason for migrating. The Christian assumes, as a decent human being, that they must have a good reason. Why would a law-abiding person leave his or her homeland? Must have been forced by extreme hardship and/or grave danger.

ICA FarmvilleSo the Christian thinks, What can I do to help?

The idea that a migrant doesn’t belong here? Again, this is something that just does not occur to a Christian mind. This land belongs to God, not the Dept. of Homeland Security.

Of course, God gives us the duty of maintaining law and order. But migrants in search of a stable and peaceful life do not disturb law and order. To the contrary, they have talent and can make contributions that we need in order to have the vigorous society that we want to have.

So: What kind of trouble will we find ourselves in, brothers and sisters in the Lord, because we cannot and do not accept one of the pretensions to authority that the federal government fondles for itself? What kind of trouble will we find ourselves in because we say that the border-control juggernaut operates like an un-Christian, inhumane racket?

Forgive me. I sat in the waiting room at the detention center in Farmville last Tuesday evening, while they were bringing Enrique from the dining hall to the visitors’ area. I saw a shift-change take place. Well-meaning young officers going home, more well-meaning young officers coming on duty. I do not criticize them; they need a good job, just like everyone else.

But: Why? Why does this barbed-wire-fenced compound, holding several hundred good, hard-working people–keeping them away from their families and their jobs–why does it exist? I don’t mean to be cynical. But the border-control business is a racket.

Maybe, though, I will wind up in jail for reason #2.

In chapter 83 of Book II of Summa Contra Gentiles, St. Thomas carefully considers whether we will have sex with each other after the general resurrection at the end of time. We will no longer need to keep the human race going by procreation, because we will no longer die. Ergo, no good reason for sex.

What about having sex just for the pleasure of it? St. Thomas replies:

To indulge in the pleasure of sex without a good reason for having sex reduces a human being to the level of animals. God made sex pleasurable, just like He made eating pleasurable, in order to encourage us to do it, when a good reason presents itself. But when there is no good reason to have sex, it is beneath the dignity of man to indulge just for the sake of fleshly pleasure.

Of course, St. Thomas has the authority of the Lord Jesus Himself behind him here. In the kingdom of heaven, saith the Lord, they will not marry; they will be like angels.

mlk birmingham jail cellSo:

“You’re interested in having children together? Great,” say I, the priest. “Come in to my office and we’ll work on preparing you to get married!” Or: “Ok, not intending to have children? No problem. Live a beautiful single life, like so many great saints have done!”

I have no problem with “gay” people, per se; I have no problem with teenagers who claim to be in love; I have no problem with successful professionals who honestly believe the Lord has something other than baby-making in mind for them, at least for the moment. Great.

But no one in any of these situations has a legitimate reason for taking their pants off with anyone else in the same room. All of us have more important, more constructive, and more dignified things to do than engaging in fruitless sex.

From one perspective, ‘gay marriage’ and the HHS contraceptive mandate appear to present separate political problems for the Church in the United States. But it seems to me that these problems stem from the same fundamental Christian point-of-view, which St. Thomas outlined.

If someone says, “I want to be married, or do married things, but bearing children isn’t one of them,” then I, the priest, representing the Church as an institution, and as an employer, am like: “Um, no entiendo. How can you possibly imagine that I could do anything for you? Other than encourage you to repent of your sins and try to lead a more reasonable, healthy, and holy life?”

Let’s pray. I don’t particularly want to go to jail. I can’t imagine that any of you do, either.

Let’s pray that everyone will calm down and thereby see things more clearly. Let’s pray that none of us have to go to jail simply because we see life from a Christian point-of-view, which governs all our interactions with other people.

Let’s pray that all of us here on earth will receive the grace to repent of our sins and get to heaven together, where we will live in universal brotherhood, with angel-like chastity, gazing upon the unbounded glory of God.

Local Paper

Enriquepublished a story about our dear Enrique, with extensive quotes from the goofiest priest in the ‘ville.

Click HERE.

We thank Ben Williams for his excellent work. We look forward to reading his further reportage. He told me he finds himself deeply disturbed by the “Kafkaesque” limbo into which Enrique has fallen.

Please keep praying. And please contact your US Senator, your US Congressman, your state senators and congressmen, and anyone else you can think of, and insist/beg that they intervene personally to get Enrique Manriquez, of Martinsville, Va., out of jail and back home where he belongs.