Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The greatest treason?

December 29 is the feast of St. Thomas Becket, martyred in 1170 in Canterbury Cathedral, by the king's henchmen. This "troublesome priest" got in the way of a tyrant's desire to control even the church.

There is a couplet in T. S. Eliot's play on Becket, Murder in the Cathedral, which has stuck with me since I first read it in the 1960s:
“The last temptation is the greatest treason,
to do the right thing for the wrong reason.”
In 2004, I took a five day retreat after Christmas with a Jesuit director at the Creighton Spirituality Center in south west Iowa.

This was shortly after a two week visit to the Holy Land – to Palestine and Israel – where I visited a friend who was volunteering with the Lutheran Church in Bethlehem. It was a life-changing experience, especially since I had the chance to meet people and not just do the touristy, semi-pilgrim stuff.

I did visit Bethlehem, the Mount of the Beatitudes, Nazareth, and Jerusalem. One highlight was a day spent alone, in silence, in Jerusalem.

I saw a little of the Jewish experience close up since a professor at Tel Aviv University had contacted me and had me speak on Catholicism to his class.

But I spent a lot of time in the West Bank, staying in Bethlehem, visiting Hebron, Jericho, and Lydd, and spending time visiting with my friend’s relatives in Ramallah. I got a taste of the life of Palestinians.

I came back, enthused – anxious to do something.

I shared this during my retreat and my director asked, astutely, “Are you seeking the consolation of God – or the God of consolation?”


And so I waited – and three years later I began my ministry in Honduras.

It is good – and I have a deep sense of peace that this is where God wants me to be. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Car problems and cold weather this week are the least of my difficulties.

But this new year offers possibilities for new beginnings. Most of all, I’ll be spending more time in rural areas of the parish of Dulce Nombre.

Today is the feast of St. Thomas Becket, the martyred bishop of Canterbury, who died refusing to give in to a tyrannical king in 1170. Several centuries later, in 1535, another Thomas, St. Thomas More, died, refusing to give in to a different king.

The witness of these two English saints and martyrs has inspired me. Jean Anouilh’s play Becket and Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons touched me in my high school years.

But the phrase from T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, mentioned above, has stayed with me since I first read it decades ago.
“The last temptation is the greatest treason,
to do the right thing for the wrong reason.”
It is not enough to do good – we must strive to do it for the right reason.

And so I look forward to a new year – with lots of opportunities and challenges. May God guide me and all of us to respond with love.


The photo is from a stained glass window in Canterbury Cathedral.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A blessed Christmas

Midnight Christmas. The fireworks are going off. (Oh, how they love fireworks here!)

I am in Gracias, Lempira, for Christmas. I spent the afternoon with Sisters Nancy Meyerhofer and Brenda Whetstone, two Franciscan sisters from Dubuque, talking, playing dominoes, and having a great dinner. Nancy's s great cook. And I lost really bad in dominoes!

After dinner the lights went off three times, but finally came on in time for the 9:00 PM Mass, which was moving - with a good homily by Padre Loncho.

Before Mass I noticed the Saint Joseph figure they use in the Nativity here. What struck me is that Joseph seems Honduran - not one of the indigenous Hondurans, but definitely Honduran in my eyes. (I'm sure the straw hat helps.) It reminds me that Christ was borne among real people - and that we are called, as Padre Loncho noted - to let Christ be borne where we live.

At the end of Mass some of the altar servers sang some villancios, folksy Christmas songs. They then did a beautiful Nativity scene - with a real baby. One of the young girls sang a beautiful song.

At the end of Mass, the figures of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were taken from in front of the altar and placed in the Nacimiento, the Nativity creche, at the back of the church. Nancy told me that several base communities in the parish took three days to prepare it. The nacimiento was marvelous with many scenes from daily life here in Gracias, as well as little signs designating the various ministries and base communities of the parish. Even Lempira, the indigenous hero who was killed by the Spaniards, is there.

Christ is made flesh - here and now - among the poor.

That's the parish church - San Marcos.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A genuine Christmas

No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.

The self sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have everything,
look down on others, those who have no need of God
— for them there will be no Christmas.

Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.

That someone is God,
Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Without poverty of spirit,
there can be no abundance of God.

Archbishop Oscar Romero, December 24, 1978

The original can be found in Spanish on my Spanish blog. Click here.

The Nativity is a miniature carving from Ecuador,
painted by Carmen, a friend of mine, from Colombia.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An Advent Gift

One of the joys I’ve experienced this year is accompanying groups in several deaneries of the diocese as they study Catholic Social Teaching. The leaders of the workshops who have gone to three diocesan workshops are sharing the material with other lay leaders throughout the diocese.

I have gone mostly to bring the money to pay for food and travel expenses for the participants (provided by a grant from the US bishops’ Latin America collection), but I have occasionally been asked to help with one of the presentations.

On Thursday, December 16, I took part in a workshop in the deanery of the north of Lempira, Honduras, the final workshop in that deanery.

The themes of the last workshops were the destruction of nature and generalized corruption - two major problems identified by the diocese of Santa Rosa. I had given the presentation on a theology of creation at the diocesan workshop but the lay leaders are responsible for sharing the information, which they normally do very well.

The person who was supposed to lead the presentation on a theology of creation couldn’t come and so the two other leaders asked me to lead the discussion, which was not hard to do since I had already shared this presentation at the diocesan workshop that preceded this. But this experience was remarkably different.

The workshop was in a small training center at the farm of Moisés Rodríguez, just outside of Gracias, Lempira.

I arrived early and walked around with Moisés. I have visited his farm many times , often with visitors who have an agricultural background who marvel at what he has done. And I remind them that Moisés has not studied in school past the second grade.

Each time I am amazed at what he has done with a hillside that is mostly rock. There are fruit trees, fish ponds, vegetable beds, chickens, and more. With a combination of organic farming practices – including drip irrigation, use of frijol de abono (the nitrogen-fixing velvet bean) – and integrated pest management, he has made a garden of a “desert.”

This time he explained how he deals with zompopos, leaf cutter ants that can strip a tree or bush in no time at all. Most farmers use chemicals to kill them. But Moisés noted that the ants are not eating the vegetation on his fruit trees or vegetable plants because they are eating the leaves of the hibiscus plants and some of the frijol de abono. Give them what they like to eat, he said, and they won’t eat the other plants.

Moises with a branch of an orange tree, October 2008 photo

The folks finally arrived and we sat down to a substantial breakfast prepared by his wife Carmela. Many of the ingredients for the meal came from the farm.

Carmela preparing a meal, May 2010

After breakfast I led the presentation of a theology of creation. I started by asking the participants to look at the two creation stories in Genesis.

In Genesis 1, we find the liturgical poem of creation in seven days, which also relates seven times that God sees what he has made as good.

But the story of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2 took on a special meaning that morning.

The Garden of Eden is a place where Adam and Eve live in harmony with all creation. A river waters the garden and there are trees that are agreeable to look at and good to eat. It is truly a home, where there is life and peace, a place where God walked among them in the cool of the day.

As I spoke I could not help relating this account with Moises’ farm. He has enriched the soil with use of nitrogen-enriching legumes like the velvet bean; he has planted citrus trees using terraces to prevent erosion; he has installed a drip irrigation system to bring water to some vegetable crops. He has made it a real garden.

Later in the presentation we spoke of the destruction that sin brings, the breakdown of the original harmony. But I added that the vision of the prophets, particularly Isaiah, is a renewed garden of Eden.

Together we read Isaiah 65, the vision of a new heaven and a new earth which is really a return to Eden. (The parallel passage of Isaiah 11 is read on the first Tuesday of Advent and was read on the second Sunday of Advent this year.) The peaceable kingdom where lion and lamb and ox and child live together is a renewal of the harmony found in the garden of paradise.

One campesino, Pedrito, brought up the story of Saint Martin de Porres, who fed cats, rats, and dogs from the same dish. I can’t help but recall other stories of the saints who lived in harmony with creation, not least of all Saint Francis of Assisi and the story of the Wolf of Gubbio.

I recalled how Moisés deals with pests, like the zompopos, not killing them but providing them with the food they need. He has made his farm a type of “Garden of Eden,” and willingly shares this meesage in workshops he give there.

I didn’t mention it at this workshop but the parable of the peaceable kingdom reminds me of the myriad paintings of the scene by the nineteenth century Pennsylvania Quaker artist Edward Hicks. In the right foreground we see the Isaian scene but in the left background, in most of the paintings, William Penn is making his treaty with the indigenous people, an effort to live peaceably.

One of his paintings has these words inscribed around the outside of the painting:
The wolf did with the lambkin dwell in peace,
His grim carnivorous nature there did cease,
The leopard with the harmless kid laid down
And not one savage beast was seen to frown.
The lion with the fatling on did move
A little child was leading them in love
When the great PENN his famous treaty made
With Indian chiefs beneath the Elm-tree’s shade.
We are offered glimpses of the new creation, in scripture, in the lives of saints, in historical events, and in the farms of campesinos.

We are called to offer glimpses of the Garden of Eden, the Reign of God, in our lives, waiting for the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom in heaven, but showing in small ways how we can live in harmony with nature.

That morning in Mejocote was an Advent gift to me. The scriptures came to life for me as the Honduran campesinos and I shared the story of the Garden of Eden and the prophecy of the Peaceable Kingdom in the midst of a twenty-first century attempt to live those scriptures in a hillside farm.

The paintings of Edward Hicks took on a new meaning for me as Pedrito shared a story of the saints bringing harmony among the creatures.

All this renewed my hope for and my commitment to the struggle for a new Honduras, where, in the words of Isaiah 65,
No more shall there be an infant that lives but a few days…
They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit…
They shall not plant and another eat….
My chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity….
They will not destroy nor do any harm over all my holy mountain.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Nacimientos - nativity scenes are very much part of the popular piety here in Honduras. Often they are elaborate with loads of people, animals, buildings, and more. Some people make them in the front room of their houses or in a corner of their stores for all to see. And of course, there are nacimientos in churches, as this one in the church of Dulce Nombre de Maria.

The center of the nacimiento is what they call "El Misterio" - the images of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the ox. But imagination often runs wild, as in this nacimiento set up last year in the Church of San Marcos, Gracias, Lempira, which even has a miniature of the church among the figures.

There are others that are more traditional - like these two from the Santa Rosa campus of the Catholic University of Honduras.

These examples of the popular piety of the people here remind us of the mystery of this season - a God who became human as a poor child in the midst of the hub-bub of life. We have a God who is not looking on from afar but one who participated in the nitty-gritty of our lives, especially the lives of the poor.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Waiting- but in the streets

Why do the poor always have to wait?

Since March 2008, the people of Dulce Nombre and the surrounding towns and villages have been waiting for the government to pave a seven kilometer road from the main highway to Dulce Nombre (and hopefully beyond).

About June 2009 they blocked the highway for a bit and the government sent out a minister and an agreement was signed. But the coup came along and the coup government didn’t follow through.

Then this year, about June, the people were organizing for another blocking of the highway but the government sent its representatives and an agreement was made.

Still the road is not paved and had gotten much worse due to the rains.

The first contract was with a company of Jaime Rosenthal (one of the richest men in Honduras) but it was later handed over to a company connected with a certain Kildor. But it has not been worked on for quite some time – and, even though there is some equipment there, no one is working since the employees were not paid.

So, Monday, December 13, several thousand people gathered to take the main highway at the turn off to Dulce Nombre. The main highway is the major route between San Pedro Sula, the industrial center of the country, and Puerto Cortes, a major port on the north coast, to El Salvador and one of the major routes to Guatemala.

But this is not an effort of what some people here would call the “riff-raff” – the poor, whom I call “the salt of the earth.” The effort is headed up by the mayors of the five municipalities affected – Dulce Nombre de Copán, Concepción, San Agustín, Dolores, and – to a lesser degree- Vera Cruz. They had actually planned a blockage on Friday but only about 30 people arrived. They later consulted with and got the support of the church and others in the area.

They planned to “take the highway,“ as they say here, a little after 5. But when they arrived, after 6, the police were already there, blocking the highway – both the regular police and special police forces.

The police began to throw tear gas into the crowd about 7:30 pm. Two minors were arrested (and released in Santa Rosa in the afternoon) and several car windows were broken (by the police). Several people were injured and three were taken for medical treatment in La Entrada.

The mayors called Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos, the bishop of Santa Rosa, to come and help. Being committed to the poor he arrived there soon after they called – about 9 pm. I decided to accompany him.

As we walked in, he was immediately recognized by the people who came up to greet him and were grateful for his accompaniment. We were told that the police had given the people only two hours’ permission to be in the highway – but only about a half hour remained.

The bishop spent time talking with the people and consulted with the mayors. He then called some government leaders, including Miguel Pastor, the minister of SOPTRAVI which in charge of roads. (Monseñor Santos knew him from his time as a teacher and rector of the Salesians’ men’s high school in Tegucigalpa.) He asked, really demanded, that the minister called the Minister of Security and not allow the police to use force against the people.

He also asked Pastor to arrange the situation and get money released to finish the project. The mayors also ended up speaking with Pastor. The minister said that there was no money. The bishop said that if there was a problem with the roads in the rich neighborhoods of San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa they would not have to wait, as the poor do here always have to wait.

Pastor tried to say that the agreements for the road and the delays were in previous administrations, but Monseñor Santos said that this was a governmental commitment, not the commitment of a particular administration.

Pastor said he’d call back in an hour. Pastor did call the Minister of Security and the military took a less belligerent tome. In fact the bishop and the police commander spoke for a time.

Pastor called back several times and spoke with the mayors and the bishop. He offered to meet with the mayors in Tegucigalpa next week. Later he changed it to Wednesday, after a meeting of the Council of government ministers tomorrow.

That sounded good – but the bishop was not convinced. The pressure was here in Dulce Nombre and he had been insisting that the government send someone to talk with the people and finalize an agreement. If the taking of the highway was suspended, the mayors might go to Tegucigalpa and get nothing. The people would probably not come out again in support and so all this effort would be lost.

I returned to Santa Rosa with the bishop at about 2 o’clock. As of 4:30 pm, the situation is still up in the air.

I don’t know if I will have any more first hand information since I have to go to Guarita in the south of Lempira tomorrow for a Catholic Social Teaching workshop. I have to leave here about 5 am.


Follow up, Tuesday, December 14

The highway was opened up later Monday. I don't know what the government finally offered.

What is very frightening is what the Minister of Security, Oscar Álvarez, said in an interview yesterday. (Note that there has also been a longer blocking of the highway in the Bajo Aguan.)

"Will it be shown that they are in collusion with organized crime? Will there be drug-trafficking funds behind these actions?" he said.

He is referring in part to the major police and military operations in the past week in the north of Copán where there is a concentration of drug trafficking.

This type of language troubles me, first of all because it uses this charge to make them look like common criminals.

The people who planned the blockade in Dulce Nombre were not drug traffickers, as far as I know. There are mayors involved in drug-trafficking but I've never heard this charge against any of these mayors. Others involved in the blockade are land-owners and business-owners. The poor supported the cause because an improved road would make transportation easier and because church leaders support the cause.

Secondly, these types of charges are used to hide the reality.

Thirdly, this type of talk tries to criminalizes the efforts of people to demand their rights and the improvement of their communities. What will be next?

Latest news:

Minister of SOPTRAVI, Miguel Pastor, agreed to come to Dulce Nombre on Thursday, October 17, to discuss the road.

For some more information on the issue and also on Alvarez's remarks see Oscar Alvarez's Lame Visions on the Honduras Culture and Politics blog (a blog which I highly recommend.)

Final revision, Tuesday, December 14, 1:45 pm

Click here for an article in Spanish appeared Wednesday in the online news source Revistazo.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

El Salvador, friends, and more

I just returned from a short visit to El Salvador.

The reason for going was to meet with the overseeing organization as well as Cordaid's (the funding organization) representative for Caritas Santa Rosa's disaster management project. It was a good meeting and there will be funding for the project for the coming year. Original plans for a five year project are in the works as the Dutch government is considering making major cuts in its international aid programming.

It was good to be in El Salvador. There are lots of reports of violence there - and both Honduras and El Salvador are plagued with violence. I thus found this poster one many streets.
Where is your brother?
He is your blood.
He is your people.
In God's name, change right now!
The Catholic Church of El Salvador

But despite the situation. I didn't stay in the hotel. I took advantage of the trip to see people in El Salvador whom I haven't seen in a while, as well as to visit a few bookstores. I also took the Honduran Caritas worker whom I accompanied to visit the UCA, the Jesuit university, to see the memorials to the martyred Jesuits and the two women, killed in November 1979.

I was very moved by my visit on Thursday with Padre Pedro Cortez, a Salvadoran priest I worked with in 1987 when he was in San Roque parish in a very poor area of San Salvador. He is now pastor of a parish in Cuscatancingo, just north of San Salvador and has been there for about ten years. We talked about our experiences and about his efforts, forming base communities, getting a credit and loan coop set up, and several training programs for youth - to help them resist the allure of the gangs.

Padre Pedro is one priest who has been committed to the poor all his priestly life. He was among the priests who stood with the poor in the late 1970s and the 1980s when that was dangerous. And he has continued that.

I haven't seen him for more than four years but I plan to try to stay in touch a little better.

I also visited Sister Peggy O'Neill in Suchitoto. She has been connected with Suchitoto since 1987 and has started a Centro Arte por la Paz, a Peace center using the arts. It's always a joy and a personal and intellectual challenge to meet with Peggy. She is an inquiring and thoughtful person and loves to share ideas, but ideas grounded in reality, in particular the reality of the poor.

The center has an incredible museum, set up by young people, of the Suchitoto region. I was quite impressed but didn't have time to view any of the 45 videos they have. I will have to take time to go back (and maybe spend a few weeks there to try to finish the book I am writing on the role of the church in the struggle for justice in the parish of Suchitoto.

I also had a chance to visit some friends who live in a rural community, Haciendita 2. In 1992, when I spent 7 months in El Salvador, much of it helping in the Suchitoto parish, I spent time with Esteban and Rosa Elbia Clavel and their family. Going back they are still there with many of their children and grandchildren. Esteban and Rosa Elbia fled El Salvador in the late 1970s because Esteban was threatened because of his work with the church. They returned as the war was drawing to a close and finally settled here. Esteban has been ill (as a result of chagas) but is doing better, though he has to slow down and for about a year was very weak. It was so good to see them. Sadly I only had about two hours with them since I wanted to get back to Honduras before nightfall.

Esteban and Rosa Elbia

Though I left Haciendita 2 about noon, there were loads of delays and I didn't make it back until 9:15 pm. The worst delay was from Ocotepeque to Santa Rosa. The bus left at 5:30, instead of 4:30. Then about 3/4 of the way up the hill outside Ocotepeque we stop - engine problems - which were solved in less than 45 minutes.

But then, having arrived in Santa Rosa, but not by the main terminal, the bus was stopped by the police and the military. What happened was bizarre. Two men with no visible police or military identification with ski masks and large automatic weapons entered the bus and walked down the aisle. They hardly asked anyone for id. But they stopped by a Honduran-American - a US citizen - who was int eh bus on the way to San Pedro Sula with a friend. They looked over his passport and then had him get off the bus. The guy was large and tall, with a beard and a pony-tail. I had talked with him a bit and knew he was a truck driver in the US. They took him off and looked at his papers and had him identify his luggage.

As I looked outside the bus I saw several police, including - I belief - Bonilla, the local head of the police in the region. Hmm!

As I look back, I wish I had gotten off the bus and asked a question or two. It seemed bizarre that this guy alone was singled out. (I guess they thought he looked suspicious - since he "looked different," though he was born in Honduras.

But what was really disturbing was the way the armed men entered the bus. It was scary - and I wondered if they were a gang or something. Is this the way public security will be being enforced - with what come across as intimidating and terrorizing tactics? That does not inspire me with confidence on the training and professionalism of the Honduran military and police - especially since bribes are still being offered and taken.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A week of feasts

This first week of Advent has been full of feasts and anniversaries which help me refocus my life – and put things into perspective. I include a few remarks about people – and a few quotes.

For many years I read the Prison Meditations of Father Alfred Delp as an aid to living and praying during Lent.
Advent is a time for rousing.
Persons are shaken to the very depths, so that thy may wake up to the truths of themselves. The primary condition for a fruitful Advent is renunciation, surrender. Persons must let go of all their mistaken dreams, their conceited poses and arrogant gestures, all the pretenses with which they hope to deceive themselves and others. If they fail to do this, stark reality may take hold of them and rouse them forcibly in a way that will entail both anxiety and suffering.
Fr. Alfred Delp, S.J., Prison Meditations
The original edition has long been out of print but recently Orbis Books reprinted them as part of the book Alfred Delp: Prison Writings.

November 29, the first Monday of Advent, was thirty years after the death of Dorothy Day. The founder of the Catholic Worker, after a very interesting young adult life – hanging around with bohemians and radicals, getting jailed with suffragettes, having an abortion, living with a man and becoming a mother – became a Catholic and sought ways to bring her passion for justice for the poor together with her deep piety and faith. I met her once at a Friday Night Clarification of Thought at the New York City Catholic Worker. What I most remember is that meeting her felt like meeting a good and compassionate grandmother.
It is no use saying that we are born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ. Nor will those who live at the end of the world have been born too late. Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts.
Dorothy Day
Two nice blog posts are on the blogs of Fr. Stephen Wang and Rebel Girl.

November 30 is the feast of Saint Andrew – the first to be called, as the Orthodox call him. It is also the anniversary of the death of Fritz Eichenberg, a Quaker artist whose etchings have appeared often in the Catholic Worker.
“There is enough excitement in our daily tasks if we approach them reverently and creatively, no matter in what medium we work. Whether we work in the field of human relations, in stone or wood, with pen and paper, there is the thrill of fighting injustice, inequality, disease, of suffering for our convictions, of having the courage to stand up and be counted for all the despised and unpopular causes for which we feel called upon to fight.”
Fritz Eichenberg
December 1, Worlds Aids day, was the fifty-fifth anniversary of the refusal of Rosa Parks to give up her seat on a Birmingham city bus – the simple act (of a trained activist) which spurred on the Civil Rights movement.

December 1 is also the anniversary of the killing of Brother Charles de Foucauld, I 1916 in the Sahara. His life and writings are the inspiration for the Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus. He sought to live the live of Jesus in Nazareth, living and working in the world. The Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus and the Little Brothers and sisters of the Gospel live this in their daily lives among the poorest.
We can wrap our Lord in swaddling clothes no less truly than did the Blessed Virgin: we do it when we clothe a poor person for love of him.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld

December 2 is thirty years since the brutal martyrdom of four US women in El Salvador. Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, and lay missionary Jean Donovan were brutally killed by Salvadoran government forces. Those who side with the poor have often risked their lives.
“Am I willing to suffer with the people here, the suffering of the powerless, the feeling impotent. Can I say to my neighbors — I have no solutions to the situation, I don’t know the answers, but I will walk with you, be with you. Can I let myself be evangelized by this opportunity? Can I look at and accept my own poorness and learn from other poor ones?”
Sr. Ita Ford, M.M.
Check out the Commonweal blog post on the martyrs. Click here.

December 3
is the feast of St Francis Xavier, Jesuit missionary to the Far East.
“Often I am overcome with the desire to cry out against the universities, especially against the University of Paris . . . and to rage with all my powers like a fool who has lost his senses.
“I would cry out against those who are more preoccupied with becoming scientists than with letting people in need profit from their science . . . I am afraid that many who learn their disciplines at the university are more interested in using them to acquire honors, bishoprics, privileges, and high position than in using them for what is just and necessary. . . The common word is: ‘I will study “letters” in order to get some good privileged position in the Church, and after that I will live for God.’ These people are brutes, following the guidance of their sensuality and disordered impulses. . . They do not trust in God, nor do they give themselves completely to him . . . they are afraid that God does not want what they desire and that when they obtain him they are forced to abandon their unjustly acquired privileges. . .
“How many would be enlightened by the faith of the Gospel if there were some who would put all their effort into finding good people who are willing to make sacrifices to search for and find not what belongs to them, but what belongs to Jesus Christ. In these lands so many people come to faith in Jesus Christ that many times my arms fail me because of the painful work of baptizing them.”
letter of St. Francis Xavier, cited in Henri Nouwen, Road to Daybreak
May these people of faith continue to inspire us to live the Gospel, in our homes and churches, in the streets – and most of all – among the poor.

Revised December 2

Wikileaks and Honduras

Among the documents recently leaked by Wikileaks was a cable from the US Ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens. You can find it by clicking here.

What is interesting and surprising about the cable is its clarity in regard to the June 28, 2009 coup. He is not uncritical of Zelaya but he systematically undermines some of the most outrageous "arguments" and "charges" against Zelaya and for the coup.

Many Hondurans against the coup think that Llorens was involved in the perpetration of the coup. On the other hand, those in support of the coup and many US expatriates in Honduras demonize Llorens as selling out Honduras.

But Llorens, though critical of Zelaya, states categorically
“No matter what the merits of the case against Zelaya, his forced removal by the military was clearly illegal, and Micheletti's ascendance as "interim president" was totally illegitimate.”
But what disturbs me is the failure of the US government to condemn the coup clearly. Later, the US State Department statements were very ambiguous and gave the impression – at least to me – that the US was prepared to accept the effects of the coup, as it did with its support and promotion of the November elections here.

The failure of the US to speak up clearly and critically is I believe, at the very least, a failure of nerve, if not a case of the worst type of diplomacy, one that deals with human rights in terms of the interests of the US and not in terms of the dignity of the human person and the common good.

So much for my two cents.

If you want good analysis on this and other events in Honduras I refer you to the blog of two University of California Berkeley anthropologists, Honduras Culture and Politics.