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The San Juan Star

Converting The Church Into A Civil War Battleground

By Arturo J. Guzmán

September 1, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The San Juan Star. All rights reserved.

It is with a heavy heart that as a Catholic I feel compelled to comply with moral duty and raise my voice once again in protest and indignation before the actions of Archbishop Roberto González Nieves.

His most recent pastoral letter titled "Homeland, Nation and Identity", issued and circulated not as a personal opinion but as an official Church document is simply abhorrent and contradictory of Christian doctrine and principles that teach us that we are all equal before the eyes of God, and stress similarities not differences between human beings regardless of race, color or place of birth.

González’ own prior admission that this would be a document that would prove controversial should have been more than sufficient reason for him to discipline his personal agenda and act in accordance to the interest of all members of the Church who seek in it the solace and peace that is denied us just about everywhere else in our society.

Instead he has unilaterally decided to issue an instrument that based up his expressed prior recognition is sure to cause even more divisiveness and dissidence within and beyond the members of our faith, and further implicate prelates and lay people in a battle that should be waged anyplace but inside the Church.

Although I could minutely refute each and every one of the superficial, demagogic, and insensitive justifications he has utilized in trying to create a people in the image of his own self-perception, I refuse to fall for González’ entrapment and enter into a sterile debate within the bounds of a doctrine he is intent on portraying as universal Church dogma.

Suffice it to state my shock before a leader of our Church determined to risk awakening in Puerto Ricans the hatred and destruction brought upon peoples who espouse nationalism. It is even more cruel and barbaric for a Catholic after the horrors of WWII when the Church also chose to condone, celebrate and promote those who thought they were a unique and master race, and defended their deeds under the guise of nationalism and in their wake left over 45 million human beings dead in Europe alone.

As a lay person it becomes very difficult for me to understand, or much less justify, why a fellow American born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and one who has dedicated the majority of the time practicing his vocation elsewhere should now choose to define in his own terms a society where he has spent and invested such little time and of which he evidently knows too little.

The issues and opinions raised by the pastoral letter would become moot and superfluous if it were citizen Roberto González taking advantage of the freedom and liberty of expression guaranteed by his United States nationality and his American citizenship, but they become preoccupying when it is Archbishop Roberto González trying to pass as official Church doctrine his personal prejudices and misguided political, ideological, and social conceptions.

I would expect a Church leader of González stature to dedicate himself to helping overcome the terrible crisis in our Church, the moral decay of prelates committing sexual offenses, the dramatic reduction of vocations to serve in the Church, and the dismal reduction in Church attendance.

Locally I would expect our Church leaders to combat teenage pregnancy, moral and social decay, poverty and drugs. I would hope their efforts be directed at building fewer temples and monuments and more schools where poor children could be given scholarships that would allow them to escape the poverty imposed upon generations by dismal public education. I would expect them to speak and act against the death penalty imposed by criminals daily against innocent citizenry.

Unfortunately for many of us Church members, ever since his arrival González has fallen for the temptation of placing his efforts not where needs obviously dictate but where they allow him most public exposure and controversy even if it comes at the expense of the overwhelming majority of his flock who differ and become disillusioned and despaired by his path and his intentions and are driven further and further away from the Church.

Finally, I sincerely pray that these humble expressions and others surely to follow, serve as constructive criticism and help enlighten. I also pray that they resound with such loudness and force that they are heard in Rome so that the future role of our local Church becomes clearly defined allowing us the choice to either worship free of political and ideological considerations, or to convert our places of worship into the civil-war battlegrounds González’ actions and expressions are -provoking.

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