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Catholic Prelates Shilling for Big Business

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) wrote a letter on March 8, 2010, to members of the House Agriculture Committee to “express support for H.R. 4645, a bill which removes obstacles to legal sales of U.S. agricultural commodities to Cuba and ends restrictions on all Americans traveling to Cuba.”

Agribusiness

Exactly four months later, on July 8, 2010, the USCCB news service announced the release of 5 pro-democracy activists from Cuban prison. Another 47 of the group of 75 dissidents arrested in 2003 would be released in the future. The conditions were negotiated between President Raúl Castro and Cardinal Jaime Ortega along with the president of the Cuban bishops’ conference. The prisoners and their family members who wished to accompany them would be exiled to Spain even though most preferred to be reunited with family and friends in the United States. “Catholics can take some holy pride that the bishops of Cuba were in this mediation,” said recently appointed Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski who had given an invocation at the 2008 Republican National Convention.

National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast the story on July 11, 2010. Reporter Nick Miroff in Havana said the Cuban government hoped that the Vatican would mediate its interests with Washington and Miami, the financial center of U.S./Latin American commerce. In addition, the parties hoped the release would help gain support for H.R. 4645.

An article in this past Sunday’s Washington Post was similar to the NPR report. “It was Cardinal Ortega’s second visit [to Washington D.C.] in two months, and he has been meeting with officials in the Obama administration and Congress. He suggests that a big part of President Raúl Castro’s agenda is improving relations with the United States so that Cuba’s economy can be revived by U.S. trade and investment.” When the cardinal was asked if this included the democratic reforms demanded by the Obama administration as a condition for improved relations, Ortega replied, “It’s not realistic to begin at the end. This is a process. The most important thing is to take steps in the process.”

Three days earlier, on August 5, 2010, the USCCB had issued a press release regarding a just-completed visit to Haiti by a delegation led by Wenski and Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio who, in 2009, “had threatened state lawmakers by vowing to close churches in their districts – and blame them for the closures – if they dared support a bill making it easier for people who were sexually assaulted as kids to sue.” One of delegations’ recommendations for Haiti was to ensure “sustainable agricultural development.” The question is “Sustained by whom?”

In 2003, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See appointed by George W. Bush at the behest of the American episcopate, James Nicholson, held three conferences in Rome for the Vatican diplomatic corps promoting the cultivation of genetically modified foods (or genetically modified organisms – GMOs). These meetings were followed by a closed-door Vatican conference for 67 international experts under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace for the same purpose. Advocates for the poor are opposed to GMO seed imports because indigenous plants often require less fertilizers and pesticides. Also, once a country becomes dependent on agricultural imports, it becomes difficult to return to an independent and self-sustaining agriculture. In addition, there have been reports that GMOs may be unsafe for consumption.

U.S. Aid for the Economic Development of Mexico

If you ask any reasonably well-informed American to name the components of immigration reform, they would probably respond: secure the border, create a path to citizenship for those already here and form some kind of guest worker program for the future. That was the outline of legislation proposed by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and endorsed by Democratic leaders on April 29, 2010. The next day, Bishop John Wester, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, issued a statement that immigration reform legislation should include “provisions which address ‘push’ factors that compel migrants to come to the United States, such as the lack of economic development in sending countries, so that migrants can remain in their countries and support their families in dignity.”

Also on April 30 there was an article in the Washington Post: “Jeb Bush will headline a ‘nationwide strategy call with key business and Evangelical leaders to share convictions around the need for immigration reform this year,’ according to Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform….Bush will be joined on the call by Carlos Gutierrez, his brother’s Commerce Secretary.”

Politico published an op-ed piece by Wester on May 19, 2010: “….Immigration is not just a domestic issue; it is keyed to foreign affairs. Over the long term, joint efforts could be pursued to promote development in communities now drained by the migrant outflow, so that Mexicans can remain at home to work and support their families.”

Opus Dei hierarch, José Gomez, former head of the Opus Dei prelature in Houston which has the second highest number of Fortune 500 companies after New York City most of which are concentrated in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry, was recently appointed archbishop Los Angeles, the largest U.S. archdiocese and this country’s most important area for U.S./Mexican cultural and commercial connections. He wrote on May 28, 2010, “What is the role of the Church in the political debate over immigration? For bishops and priests, our job as pastors is to help form our peoples’ consciences, especially those who work in the business community and in government.” (Refer to my previous article, “Opus Dei – Step by Step”, to see how Opus Dei forms consciences, “especially those who work in the business community and government.”)

While he was auxiliary bishop in Denver, in 2004 Gomez formed the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) ’which nurtures the religious faith and fellowship of Hispanic businessmen and entrepreneurs.” On the same day his appointment to L.A. was announced, CALL members arrived in Rome. “CALL explained that its ‘Vatican Forum’ involved meetings with seven pontifical councils. Its 24-member delegation met with representatives from the Secretariat of State and from the Pontifical Councils for the Laity, for Justice and Peace, for Immigration and for Communications. They also met with members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, the Bishops’ Synod and the Congregation of Bishop….CALL claimed the meetings were ‘historic’ on several levels, noting that the leadership of important Vatican dicasteries traditionally only meets with bishops.”

CALL board members have included a New Yorker previously with Merrill Lynch, a Miami vice-president of an engineering and construction company, a Houston general manager of a manufacturer of metal building components, a Phoenix president and CEO of the largest Latino Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in the US with total assets in excess of $100 million and a Denver president of a private investment management company who previoulsy served in the Bush administration.

Creating a better economic future for the poor in Mexico is a worthy goal, but somehow I doubt that much of the kind U.S. economic development aid being sponsored by our hierarchs would “trickle down” to those who need it the most.

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2 Responses

  1. Not to mention that most of the GMO’s are sterile so you can’t keep part of a crop for seed.

    Opus Dei is no longer a parallel church with in Catholicism. For all practical purposes it and it’s offshoots are official Catholicism.

    • Thanks for the information on GMO’s and the note about Opus Dei. Yes the two are now one.

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