Monday, June 25, 2007

A Reflection on Corpus Christi - Legalism and the Immigration Debate

June 14, 2007

By: Rev. Robert Brocato
Reprinted with Permission by the Valley Catholic

Note: Father Robert Brocato is the pastor of Christ the King Church and a member of the Human Concerns Commission and Council of Priests for the Diocese of San Jose. He is active in the struggle for immigrant justice and with the Diocesan Campaign for Immigration Reform. This article was included in the Social Justice Column in the August edition of the Valley Catholic. It was written after the Corpus Christi celebration on June 10, 2007 at City Hall and the Cathedral.

She begins labor contractions, and her husband rushes her to the hospital. It’s late at night, so he only slows at red lights before carefully crossing those intersections. Or, a woman whose purse has been stolen boards the light-rail train to get home, hoping she will not be asked for a ticket. Or, he could not afford the car registration renewal, so he put it off. Although he realizes it expired yesterday, he nonetheless today drives to a job that, for the sake of his family, he cannot afford to lose.

What do all these scenarios have in common? They are all examples of law-breaking. Moreover, they are cases that, were any of us in those moral dilemmas, we would do the same. And in each case we would break the law thinking it the right thing to do. It would be very odd were anyone to complain afterward that we undermining the rule of law. Odder still if we were labeled “illegals.”

These common sense examples point to the fact that that any particular law, while assumed to be good in itself, is not the ultimate measure of morality. All laws serve a greater good, namely, our common human dignity. Good laws are sufficiently humane, reasonable, and enforceable that instances of their needing to be broken are rare.

Millions of foreign-born people have decided that the only way to care for, or stay with, their families is to cross an international border into the U.S., without legal authorization. Many risk their lives in the process because they know a job awaits them. The debate over immigration reform has made it clear that many American citizens have no sympathy for those immigrants’ dilemma. Their response to arguments for respecting their courage, sacrifices and contributions with a pathway to citizenship is typically something like, “we are a nation of laws, and lawbreakers must not be rewarded.”

There are coherent arguments for offering a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. There are arguments for doing less. It seems to me that, in itself, “they broke the law” is not an argument for anything. The real issue is whether or not existing immigration laws are in fact humane, reasonable, and enforceable. I have yet to hear anyone say that they themselves, were they in a similar survival situation, would chose to respect an international border over the physical and spiritual welfare of themselves and their families.

Ideas have, for better or worse, a remarkable power to shape our imaginations. It seems that the idea of law is particularly powerful, and not always in a healthy way. Some American citizens who from time to time need to break laws condemn foreign-born law-breakers whose human need is much more dire and obvious. They are legalists, that is, they regard statutory law as the supreme measure of morality—for others. Jesus was regularly confronted by legalists, who rejected and finally killed him because he did not keep Jewish law. Law is good and necessary; legalism is morally toxic. St. Paul pointed to religious legalism as the antithesis of genuine Christian faith. The debate over comprehensive immigration reform has demonstrated the incredible power of legalism to enchant and blind otherwise intelligent and well-meaning people.

Last Sunday some people from my Catholic church took part in a traditional religious procession to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi. (It was mischaracterized by some media as a protest march.) We carried the Blessed Sacrament—for Catholics the real presence of Christ—in public. In doing so we offered a vision of a Christian community united not around an idea, but around the person, vision, and values of Jesus Christ. We proclaimed that our unity in Christ transcends any differences in language, culture, and yes, even immigration status. Further, we proclaimed that this holy bond transforms us into the Body of Christ! To paraphrase St. Paul (Gal 3), in Christ we are neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.

We are indeed a nation of laws. But law must serve the greater, common good. A vision of why and how we should reverence each one another is, from my faith perspective, precisely what the vision of the Body of Christ is all about. It is as beautiful to behold as it is difficult to live. I wish more Christians could see it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Summer is Here!

Welcome to the Summer edition of the online justice newsletter, Faith Doing Justice!!

There is much to celebrate as we look back to the past year, and yet much work yet to be done! As a Catholic community, we have joined other dioceses in the state and nation to advocate and pray for comprehensive immigration reform. We have also been privileged to work in partnership with many interfaith and grassroots organizations to struggle for the rights of immigrants and the poor. We've joined in the fight against assisted suicide in California...focused phone calls made a difference. And we have had a very successful Lobby Day with 42 advocates speaking with legislators on behalf of the poor and voiceless.

Looking ahead, there are several opportunities offered for parish and community leaders, including an 8-session course in Social Justice at the ILM and a multi-diocesan Faith Formation Conference in September. Catholic Charities is starting a new Just Faith II process. Check it out!

Personally, I have had many blessings...last January, I had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania with CRS to see the wonderful work they are doing in this country. I am forever grateful for the experience. I have included an article about a wonderful, inspiring woman I met while there. Last month, I was able to accompany several city leaders including the San Jose mayor to visit and pray over the grave of Cesar Chavez. I prayed for all of us...that we will have the courage and strength to continue to work for justice and the rights of all.

In the newsletter, you will find many opportunities to be involved and resources to learn more.

Many Blessings, Linda

In this Issue...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Corpus Christi Sunday - June 10, 2007

Where people are oppressed,
the Eucharist speaks of freedom.

Where Christians are imprisoned for their faith,
the bread and the wine become Christ, the cornerstone.

Where the Church feels its resources limited, the Body of Christ proclaims that God's love has no limits.

Where discrimination divides us,
the Blood of Christ unites.

Where politics, war, poverty, and status isolate us,
the Eucharist draws us near to one another.

(Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ,
Liturgy by Diana Macalintal)

On June 10, 2007, over 300 Catholics gathered at City Hall and the Cathedral Gardens as part of a prayer and procession to recognize the enduring contribution of the immigrant, new and old, in building up the Body of Christ, the Church. Christ the King parish began their procession following the 10 am Mass and passed by Homeland Security where they left flowers and offered prayers of lamentation for those who have been separated from family members. They were joined at City Hall by similar processions from Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Patrick parishes and the Cathedral. After prayers and testimony, the group processed together to the Cathedral Gardens where they were met by Bishop McGrath for closing prayers and reflection.

The day concluded with a Congressional Briefing by Kevin Appleby, Policy Director at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. who urged the group not to give up and to continue the struggle for comprehensive immigration reform.

The processions and prayers in San Jose were accompanied by similar processions in Dioceses throughout the state in which the California bishops encouraged all pastors to use the occasion of the feast of Corpus Christi to reflect on the struggle of immigrants, pray for a just reform, and urge parishioners to take some action.

Guide for Undocumented Immigrants Available

A new Guide in Spanish and English for undocumented immigrants is available from Catholic Charities. This guide provides practical advice and actions for immigrants to prepare now for the time when and if Congress passes a legalization bill. Also, included is a warning about notarios and unscrupulous immigration consultants.

This Guide can be downloaded and distributed in parishes. Click here for copies: Spanish, English.

For further information, contact Robert Yabes at or by phone at 408-325-5279.

Just Faith II - New Program Offered by Catholic Charities

This year, in addition to Just Faith, Catholic Charities will offer Just Faith II: Skills for Social Ministry, a new program recently developed by Just Faith Ministries which focuses on developing practical skills for social ministry.

JustFaith II provides participants with the opportunity to develop the skills to effectively and deliberately lead their parish’s social ministry beyond impassioned individuals toward an organized, communal, sustainable response.

The sessions will focus on spiritual formation, education on key social issues, and skill development. Topics for skill development include: strategies for building social ministry within the parish, community organizing, legislative advocacy, leadership development, dialogue and facilitation, justice education, and global solidarity.

For more information on Just Faith or Just Faith II, contact Liz Lilly at 408-325-5263 or by email at

Click here for a fact sheet and application.

Care For Creation: Actions You Can Take...

In Renewing the Earth, the Catholic Bishops have called us to "consider the moral issues raised by the environmental matters of powerful urgency and major consequence."

"Care for Creation" is a resource sheet and list of practical actions that can be taken to help us do our part to protect the planet for our children and future generations to come. Also included is a list of additional educational and action resources.

Please feel free to download and copy this information.

Click here for resource sheet.

Physician-Assisted Suicide "Shelved" in California

On June 7, 2007, the authors of the Compassionate Choices Act, which would have legalized suicide in California, realizing they did not have the votes, declined to bring the bill to a vote on the Floor of the Assembly. The office of Assemblyman Levine reported that the authors would make it a two-year bill—which means it would be considered again in January 2008. For the full story, see the recent newsletter from the California Catholic Conference.

This bill was stopped due to the strong advocacy of the Catholic community in collaboration with many other groups such as LULAC-The League of United Latin American Citizens and disability rights organizations. Locally, several pastors made calls to legislators and many grassroots leaders including those who traveled to Sacramento on Catholic Lobby Day were instrumental in making our voice known.

At this point, however, the issue has not been defeated; only delayed. The California Catholic Conference has prepared several useful resources to educate ourselves and the community in the meantime. Please note below:

Materials For Distribution In Parishes:
What’s Wrong with Assisted Suicide (two-page bulletin insert) English Spanish
What is the Catholic Position on Physician-Assisted Suicide (one page information/discussion piece) English Spanish
Religion and the Public Square (one page information/discussion piece) English Spanish
The Truth About Assisted Suicide (Prepared by the coalition, Californians Against Assisted Suicide)
Two Page Discussion of AB 374

"Prophetic People Speak Truth/Los Profetas Hablan la Verdad" - Faith Formation Conference September 21-22, 2007

This year, we will again be joining hundreds of Catholics from Northern California for two days of celebrating, community, and collaboration at the Santa Clara Convention Center on September 21-22 for the Faith Formation Conference; a a joint endeavor of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and the Dioceses of Monterey, Oakland, San Jose, and Stockton. The theme this year is "Prophetic People Speak Truth/Los Profetas Hablan la Verdad."

Online registration can be accessed through the website under the "register" button and link. All interested in enriching their faith are welcome.

There are several wonderful workshops of special interest to justice advocates. View workshops. Please note the following:

Friday: FB-8, FC-3
Saturday: A-39, A-59, B-31, B-34, B-37, B-46, C-23, B-66, C-32, C-55, C-67, A-68 (Spanish)

Timely topics include: Putting Love and Justice into Action, Immigration Law, Engaging Youth in Global Solidarity, Human Trafficking, Integrating Solidarity into Parish Life, Domestic Violence, Ministry to Lesbian and Gay Catholics, The Ecological Vocation, Faithful Citizenship, Forming a People of Peace in a Time of War, Welcoming the Stranger, Welcoming Christ, and Salt and Light in the Parish.

We've made registration easy for you. Come for both days or either one. See you there!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Urge Senators to Support Peace between Israel and Palestine by Co-Sponsoring Senate Resolution 224


Click here to call your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor Senate Resolution 224 in support of peace and security in Israel and Palestine. Please thank Senator Feinstein who is the sponsor of the bill.

BACKGROUND: A bipartisan group of Senators has introduced Senate Resolution 224 that reaffirms the Senate's dedication to a two-state solution with "the State of Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security." Click here for more information about S. Res. 224.
Click here for a recent letter to the Senate by Bishop Wenski, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on International Policy Chairman in support of S. Res. 224.

For further information contact: Tina Rodousakis, Legislative Network Specialist, 1-800-235-2772 x 7462;

Rahel's Story: Living With Hope in Tanzania

As most of you are aware, in January, I had the opportunity to travel with CRS to Tanzania. It was truly a life-changing experience and I will always be grateful.

While there, our delegation had the opportunity to view first-hand the many projects CRS is engaged in to provide support and development assistance particularly in the areas of agriculture and health. With the prevalence rate HIV/AIDS of 8-12%, it is major health crisis in Tanzania and throughout Africa. However, there is cause for hope...with the recent introduction of anti-retroviral therapy (ART), many with HIV/AIDS are finding hope - in fact, they call this "the Lazarus effect"...those who were in fact weeks from death are able to rise from their beds and become again members of the community.

One such person we met was Rahel (see photo on the right). Rahel told us that she was no longer living with AIDS, but living with hope. She is very grateful for the help she is receiving. However, through Rahel and many others we met, we able to discover that for many receiving ART, nutrition is an issue. Funds to support ART comes from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). These funds are meant to be used for drugs and cannot be used for food except in particular circumstances. This is a problem as for the treatment to be effective, a patient must eat five, small, nutritious meals a day. I personally talked to one mother who said she could only provide one meal a day for her young daughter suffering from AIDS and TB.

Our delegation decided that we needed to do something about this. While in Washington in February for the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, we lobbied our legislators on behalf of Rahel and all those who spoke to us. We also discussed this with the CRS staff in Tanzania. As a result, CRS has created a special project which they hope will be funded by private contributions. The name is Rahel's Response or Food for People Living with HIV and AIDS in Tanzania.

To learn more about Rahel's Response and for the opportunity to help in this effort click here.

The Water for Life DVD is Available

2.5% of the world's water is freshwater, of which 3/4 is stored in the polar ice caps. This leaves less than 1% of freshwater for drinking, farming and manufacturing. Water in the world is so scarce that the United Nations has declared 2005, the Water for Life Decade. In fact, the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today is food and water scarcity issues that threaten the peace and security of most developing nations.

For 60 years, CRS and the National Council of Catholic Women have been bringing the gift of clean water to poor families all over the world. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of this partnership, a new DVD highlighting the water program has been produced entitled Water for Life. It explores why more than 1 billion people around the world do not have adequate access to clean water. It is available through CRS' Education Portal at