Fordham moral theology professor Charlie Camosy (a friend of MC and one of my former TAs) ran a great blog called “No Hidden Magenta” for a year and half before calling it quits last month. (He’s still interwebbing at catholicmoraltheology.com; check it out.)
His goal was to “bridge the polarized gap between ‘Red and Blue State’ groupthink,” arguing that our commonly assumed political divides are silly and deeply flawed, especially from a Catholic perspective.
An approach to politics inspired by the Gospel as opposed to the other way around can and should lead a Catholic to hold views that don’t fit neatly into the traditional Left-Right spectrum (pro-life and pro-comprehensive immigration reform, for instance). We’re not quite red, we’re not quite blue…we’re more like magenta.
In Charlie’s absence, MC will take it upon itself from time to time to report on some interesting magenta news. We think this is a fitting enterprise for us because so many of our Catholic (and non-Catholic) peers are a sort of magenta in their political expressions. We’re more likely to be pro-life than our parents, but also more in favor of comprehensive immigration reform that is better at “welcoming the stranger” among us.
Two bits of magenta caught our attention this week:
1) Indiana congressman Joe Donnelly announced that he will run for Senate in 2012. Donnelly is a Catholic, pro-life Democrat. His immigration position could use some magenta-izing, but it’s an interesting development within a party that has been so traditionally pro-choice. Bob Casey and Ben Nelson are the only current pro-life Democratic Senators; Donnelly and Virginia candidate Tim Kaine could potentially double that number in 2012. Donnelly is more firmly pro-life than Kaine. (There is, of course, magenta on both sides of the aisle; see former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel’s opposition to the Iraq War or current House Rep Chris Smith from NJ’s staunch human rights defense for some good examples.)
2) In response to President Obama’s call for comprehensive immigration reform on Tuesday, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles called on the President and Congress to take action. It’s strong enough to be included here in full:
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, today urged the President and the Congress to work together to enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
Archbishop Gomez made his remarks following an address on immigration reform delivered this afternoon in El Paso, Texas, by President Obama on immigration reform.
“The president and Congress can no longer wait to address this important issue,” Archbishop Gomez said. “In the absence of comprehensive reform, many states and localities are taking the responsibility of enforcing immigration law into their own hands. This has led to abuses and injustices for many U.S. families and immigrant communities.”
The USCCB has consistently advocated for comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration policies that secures U.S. borders and gives undocumented immigrants the chance to earn permanent residency and eventual citizenship.
Archbishop Gomez said that any comprehensive reform must include a path for currently undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship. He repeated the bishops’ call for an end to federal enforcement policies that are harmful to families.
“Our current policies are breaking up families in the name of enforcing our laws. That should not be. We should be reuniting and strengthening families — not separating wives from husbands and children from their parents.”
Archbishop Gomez said that immigration reform is long overdue and requires bipartisan cooperation and leadership.
“Congress and the President have a responsibility to come together to enact reform that corrects this humanitarian problem, respects the dignity and hard work of our immigrant brothers and sisters, and reflects America’s proud history as a hospitable society and a welcoming culture.”
Gomez is a member of Opus Dei, and is clearly traditionalist in his approach, what some would call solidly conservative. But the above statement and Gomez’ consistent defense of the rights of immigrants show how tricky it can be to fit Catholics into the American political spectrum.
When it comes down to it, I don’t get Good Friday. Each year, I’m moved by the stark sorrow of the liturgy; the Passion story can still make my hair stand on end, as if hearing it for the first time. But my own, personal sufferings have not been that extensive through about 25 years of life. I know I’m blessed in this regard, and that there comes a time for everything. It’s just that I think the power of Good Friday — our encounter with Jesus’ pain, his loneliness, his forsakenness — can only make ultimate sense all these centuries later if a Christian can find his or her own life story in the Passion text.
I spent a few hours today in a city that has experienced far more than its share of suffering. Each Good Friday, a handful of parish communities take to the streets of Camden, NJ, and put on their own living stations of the cross. I participated with the group from St. Joe’s Pro-Cathedral in East Camden, a few hundred strong. We started off in the church parking lot, gathering near a pickup truck with wireless speakers as a man portraying Jesus was led to his condemnation by Roman soldiers in period costume.
Each station — alternating between English (odd-numbered stations) and Spanish (even) — included a dramatic re-creation, but what was most stirring was a series of intercessions at each stop that connected the moment in the Passion story to the life of the community. When Jesus met his mother, we prayed for the mothers of Camden, especially those battling drug and alcohol addictions. When Simon helps Jesus carry the cross, we prayed for the people and agencies throughout the city who serve those who are most in need. The Passion story felt more real today than it ever has in my own reading, life experience, or suburban liturgical participation. Almost too real.
As we processed from station to station, filling the street and pausing traffic at each intersection, we prayed a rosary and sang. One refrain that was repeated over and over again, in Spanish, loosely translates to “Pardon your people, Lord.”
As we passed homes that did not look livable, and children clustered with their noses pressed at second-floor windows…Pardon your people, Lord.
As we walked by abandoned houses that quickly attract all sorts of crime and can threaten an entire block…Pardon your people, Lord.
As we crossed sidewalks and grassy places, littered with glass and television sets and everything else…Pardon your people, Lord.
As other neighbors and I watch a watch a proud city suffer so much, and turn our backs, cynically…Pardon your people, Lord.
Throughout the afternoon, I was reminded of the poem “When Jesus Came to Birmingham,” by Sean Wright. I plugged in “Camden” in place of “Birmingham,” as you could sadly do with so many of our American cities.
When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.
When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by.
They would not hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.
Still Jesus cried, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do, ‘
And still it rained the winter rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall, and cried for Calvary.
My prayer for us — especially those of us who have the time and luxury to write and read blogs like this one — is that the “life over death” story of Easter will set us into action for justice with renewed hope and purpose. The love shown on the cross demands nothing less.
My work in young adult ministry in Camden, NJ got me involved in a day of learning about community organizing on MLK Day. This is the reflection I wrote after the experience.
January 17, 2011
Today I helped coordinate a day of community organizing sponsored by Camden Churches Organized for People (CCOP) that celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy by learning about community organizing.
The Franciscan priest who hosted the event at his parish said to me this morning that he was appalled when he read all over the news that MLK day is being known as a day of community service. “We’re brainwashing our children,” he said, “by teaching them to associate MLK with service.” Service is a gospel mandate and a blessing to a community, but it’s not what MLK was about.
I hadn’t ever really thought about MLK as an organizer– even though that’s exactly what he was. Maybe it’s because until I started working in Camden, NJ, last August, “community organizing” was abstract and politically charged. It was something Barack Obama has on his resume and Glenn Beck warns against. I didn’t get its relationship to church.
But today I had the chance to hear people cry out about the injustices they face and their desire to join with others, in faith, to take action together. The connection between church and community organizing was made real for me.
Multiple news stations joined us at 1:30pm to get a statement from the people about the severe police and fire department layoffs in Camden to take effect tomorrow. A Baptist minister, Episcopalian priest, and two Roman Catholic residents of Camden and members of CCOP, spoke about how they feel like second class citizens, that they don’t have an equal right to public safety, and that they’re living in fear. They called on public officials to take action.
And then, together on the church steps, we sang, “we shall overcome.” We didn’t sing it in memory of MLK and the civil rights movement. We invoked his presence as we sang about the current inequalities that face Camden residents. It felt like the anamnesis of the liturgy, where we more than remember the words offered by Christ at the Last Supper. I cried as people from diverse communities and faith perspectives sang with hope, that the Lord will see us through, and we shall overcome.