Be Ready to Take a Beating: OKC Bishop Emeritus Marched with Martin Luther King, Jr

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Our current leader, Archbishop Paul Coakley, and Archbishop Emeritus Eusebius Beltran.

Oklahoma City’s Archbishop Emeritus Eusebius Beltran was a gift to our state when he led us.

He was always willing to take the hard step up to the plate to defend the human person from the ravages of discrimination and hate.

About 10 years ago, Oklahoma passed an outrageous law aimed at Hispanics. This law made it a crime to help people, even when they were in dire situations, who had entered this country illegally. It was so draconian that it cut right across the mission of every Christian to serve and love the “least of these.” It was, in truth and in fact, a Jim Crow law for Hispanics.

I actually debated this point when I spoke against this law. I dug out the vote on the original Jim Crow law that Oklahoma had passed not long after statehood.

Do you want your name on a list like this, I asked my fellow legislators, pointing to the votes. It did no good. The state Republicans had whipped the public into a mindless and vicious anti-Hispanic hatred in order to win elections, and even legislators who saw that this law was a crime against God voted for it for fear of losing their next election.

My own district, which was a mix of all sorts of people — a true “rainbow” district of skin colors — was in a welter over it. Later, when the pro abortion people tried to defeat me in an election, they made an attempt to use that stand against this law to defeat me.

I had to take another stand, this time in my district, and tell the people there that I would not vote for something like this, and that if they wanted a racist who attacked people for political gain, then they should not vote for me. I won that election by a huge margin, with the full support of every racial group in the district.

What that meant — and continues to mean — to me is that the people of District 89 are far better people than you will find in much of the rest of our good state. They are some of the best people you will find anywhere.

Archbishop Beltran did not have the luxury of speaking to and for the Catholics of a small part of Oklahoma, like my House district. He wasn’t dealing with people who had known him all his life. He had to deal with the irascible and diverse Catholic population of his archdiocese. Many of the Catholics were just as thoroughly whipped up into anti-Hispanic hatred as the rest of the state.

So, when their Archbishop came out against this law with the full force of his prophetic and moral voice as their religious leader, they were irate with him for doing so. He did not let that stop him at all. The Catholic Church in Oklahoma stood tall against this dastardly legislation, just as it had stood for life and human dignity in an absolutely reliable way for years.

The Church was not able to stop passage of the law, but the Church, by taking this stand, raised the issue of the moral responsibility of lawmakers in an arena which was operating by a faux morality that justified harming other people. The Catholic Church was alone in taking a stand against this law. Others joined later, but in the beginning, the only voice against it was the Catholic Church.

The priests who were on the priest council here in Oklahoma all signed a declaration saying that they would not obey this unjust law. The statement declared that they would minister to everyone, regardless of ethnicity or legal status, even if doing so meant that they would go to jail.

These men made me proud to be Catholic. More than that, they made me feel that the Church was a refuge for those who were without other refuge, that Christ really did animate what they were doing as His priests. They sent the message with that statement that the Church was for real.

That taught me a simple lesson that I’ve seen enacted again and again around the world. When people are totally abandoned by everyone; when they become the object of such universal hatred that anyone who stands up for them is taking a big risk, the Church is their refuge.

That is what happened to black people during the long dark night of segregation. The black churches not only created community, they ennobled a people. Their message of Christ saved black Americans from falling absolutely into the pit of rageful despair which would have destroyed them in an absolute way that Jim Crow could not.

Archbishop Beltran was a young priest in Atlanta at the time of the Civil Rights Movement. He knew Martin Luther King, Jr. Father Beltran did in that time what Archbishop Betran did later. He stood with the weak and the hated against the powerful haters who wanted to destroy them. Archbishop Beltran marched with Martin Luther King when it was a dangerous thing to do. He marched with his bishop’s permission, but with the understanding that if he was arrested, his bishop would not try to get him out of jail.

This was a time when jail was a witness to truth. Father Beltran marched with the understanding that he might have to be just such a witness.

Among the many wonderful things that Archbishop Beltran did, he wrote a pastoral letter about violence against women. I treasure this deeply. The Church needs to use its moral and prophetic voice to speak out more decisively against violence against women. It could make such a difference if it did.

The Sooner Catholic recently published an article, discussing Archbishop Emeritus Beltran’s experiences in the Civil Rights movement. Here is a brief excerpt.

From the Sooner Catholic:

On a steamy Georgia morning in March 1965, Father Eusebius Beltran and three of his brother priests piled into the four-door sedan they borrowed from the Archdiocese of Atlanta and headed south toward Selma, Ala.

 It had been two days since they’d heard news of a police shooting and beatings during a protest march in Selma that would later become known as “Bloody Sunday.”

 The men were not strangers to marches during the Civil Rights Movement, having marched many times through the streets of Atlanta to protest discrimination by schools, restaurants, bus stations and other public venues. But, they hadn’t marched in a protest like this. The Selma marches became a national spark to protest the ongoing exclusion of African-American voters from the electoral process and from the discrimination they faced.

 At the urging of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who they’d spoken with often at his father’s Baptist church, the Catholic priests sought approval from Archbishop Hallinan for the road trip to Selma and use of the archdiocese’s car.

 “He told me that he wanted to see the boys, the priests, who were going with me before we left,” said Archbishop Beltran, who is now Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

 “The four of us went to see Archbishop Hallinan in the hospital and that’s when he asked us ‘Do you guys know what you’re doing? Do you realize you’re breaking the law? Do you know that you could go to jail? And, that if you go to jail, I want to let you know I will not bail you out because part of standing for the truth is you take the punishment, and that’s part of the punishment.’ We said we all knew that, and he said ‘OK, God bless you.’”

 After a nervous 4-hour drive to Selma, the priests each claimed a mattress on the floor of a hallway at the Catholic church and headed to join the crowds at a pre-march pep rally.

 “The whole thing was well-organized and there was always a spokesman up there who was giving directions, reminding people no violence and to be ready to take a beating. It was scary in a way, but when you’re young, you don’t think about it. And, it had to be done too. It was part of the movement at that time. Selma brought together everything we were working toward.”

 The next day, the march began in the same way it had two days earlier. Dr. King led the way across the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the group of more than 2,500 marchers were met by state troopers. Since a judge had issued a court order prohibiting the marchers from continuing to Montgomery, Ala., they turned around and marched back to the church without incident. (Later that evening, three white pastors were attacked by members of the Klu Klux Klan, killing one Universalist pastor after the public hospital refused treatment.)

 Following the second march, which became known as “Turnaround Tuesday,” Father Beltran and his crew returned to Atlanta where they continued their meetings and marches for several years – including a march to protest a segregated chicken restaurant owned by Lester Maddox, who later became Georgia’s governor.

The Catholic Bishops Aren’t ‘In Bed’ with President Obama. They’re In Court with Him.

 

 

I hate it when I have to spend my good time sweeping up the refuse from idiotic, politically-motivated attacks on our Catholic religious leaders.

Today, I’m going to address attacks from the right side of unreason, and to be honest, I’d rather not. Have to, that is. I’d much rather I didn’t have to keep doing this.

I’m not so pleased when I have to do the same thing for with the left side of unreason, either.

But … duty calls.

There have been a smattering of articles and combox vitriol floating around the internet accusing the Catholic bishops of all sorts of nasty things because they don’t/won’t/aren’t-going-to hate on Mexicans. After all, we’re deep into our bi-election brown-skin hate-off right now and every red blooded American is called to abandon all reason and blindly join in.

The cable news networks are discussing (they never report, they only discuss) the issue of large numbers of children coming over the Rio Grande. I watched a brief thingy on one of them Saturday night. They were proclaiming that one in four of these kids are “criminals” and that “gangs” are meeting them at the border to recruit them.

I know lots of people who’ve come over that border. Some of them are bad dudes. True. But most of them fall into the salt of the earth category of family-loving, deeply-religious goodness. You can hate me for saying it, but it’s just a fact.

To get back to the talking heads and their endless talk-talk on this border situation, I have one main point, and that point is …

They do this every single bi-election year.

I’m not saying that the problem with people flooding our Southern borders isn’t real. I am also not saying that this country should not control its borders. Far from it. A country that can’t control its borders is in big trouble.

What I am saying is that the this wall to wall reporting that has you so whipped up and miserable right now is politically-motivated. The cable news does this every bi-election The constant drumbeat of hysterical talk-talk-talking about “illegals” will stop like turning off a tap as soon as the votes are counted in November.

In the meantime, the good people of this country will have been ripped around and worked up into an emotional pitch for nothing. Again.

Because, you see, nothing is going to happen that will stop the flood of illegal immigrants coming over the border. Think about it. This big outrage has been whipped up every bi-election since the turn of the century. What good has come of it? Republican President/Democratic President/Republican Congress/Democratic Congress it doesn’t matter. Nothing changes.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops are doing their Jesus thing and insisting that these children are people and must be treated as people. If you will read the Bishops’ statements on this issue, they plainly support efforts to control the country’s borders. But they can’t very well drop kick the Gospels just to make the right wing side of unreason like them.

So … they get hit with the usual claptrap from the vicious pharisees to the right. I won’t go through the whole tired litany of hate talk. I’m going to focus on one bizarro statement that I’ve seen repeated enough to know it has traction in certain internet nut bins. That statement is the ludicrous claim that the Catholic bishops are “in bed” with President Obama.

That is so stupid that it deserves a trophy of some sort or other.

Have any of the little hive minds that are passing that around totally forgotten the dozens upon dozens of lawsuits filed against the HHS Mandate? How about the bishops’ requests for religious exemptions to ENDA and the fight brewing there? Who do you think was working against the Hobby Lobby vote last week?

The bishops are in bed with President Obama? Puleez.

What the bishops are doing with their support of the human rights of immigrants and their refusal to join in with the great bi-election immigration hate-off, is following Jesus.

You know, the Jesus Simeon said would be a “sign of contradiction.”

What Simeon didn’t prophesy, but which Christ the Lord promised when he said If they persecute me, they will persecute you, is that people who follow the Gospels, especially in a a post-Christian society such as ours, are also going to be signs of contradiction. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that our vocation as Christians in this post-Christian culture is to be signs of contradictions.

The bishops are succeeding in that vocation in a grand fashion. They are, for instance, being sued directly for their teaching that abortion is wrong. That’s from the left side of unreason.

Now, they’re being accused of pandering to our anti-Catholic president by insisting that people are people, no matter their legal status. That’s from the right side of of unreason.

What we are dealing with here is two sides of the same God-is-Made-in-My-Image coin. When people cut the Gospels down to fit their politics, they stop being a sign of contradiction to the sins of the world and become the sin’s enablers. They are salt that has lost its savor.

The followers of the politically-trimmed Gospel that does not allow for the sanctity of human life or marriage on the one side, and that tries to enforce economics as a morality-free zone on the other, are both examples of fallen and useless Christians. When I say “useless” I mean they are useless to God in His great work of Kingdom building.

Is there anything worse I can say about a Christian than that they are useless to God?

Jesus told us cannot follow two masters, and I think He meant it. When we trim our faith to suit our politics, we are running away from the cross, just like Peter, Andrew, James, James, Matthew, Philip, Thomas, Nathaniel, Simon the Zealot and Thaddaeus.

The Apostles repented of their shameful running away. They gave their lives for the same Jesus they had abandoned.

We can too.

I am not saying that we should not be concerned about the flood of illegal immigrants that have been coming over our borders for the past decades. This country needs to secure its borders. Period.

I am saying that we should stop letting ourselves be jerked around by the bi-election carrying on that happens so predictably that you could set your calendar by it.

This isn’t about shutting down our borders. In fact, the same corporatists who own the news outlets that are pushing this hysteria are themselves ardently opposed to shutting down the borders. They like and employ the cheap, off-the-books labor. I’ll write more on that in a day or so.

What this reporting and whipping Americans into a xenophobic hysteria are about is the universal goal of power politics: Getting power and keeping power.

Nobody is going to fix this problem, come November. The day after the elections, the talking heads will start talking about something else. Just like they do every bi-election.

In the meantime, the right-wing-of-unreason crowd will have scarred and defamed the name of Christ with their claims to be Christian while they say things that come straight from the pit.

The bishops are right about this, just as they are right about marriage and abortion and human trafficking and a whole host of other things.

They are being attacked because they are the sign of contradiction in American public discourse.

They get attacked from the left and right because they are not acolytes to either the right or left. Their job isn’t to give moral support to the immorality of power politics. Their job is to proclaim the Gospels and teach us what living for Christ means in this world.

When they tell us to treat immigrants as people, they are teaching us how the Gospels apply directly to us, in our current world. They are setting the cross before us and asking us to take up the unpopular position and lift the cross onto our shoulders and follow Him.

The Catholic bishops are in bed with President Obama? The plain facts of recent history make that charge ridiculous.

The fact that otherwise intelligent folks are bandying it about simply points to how nutty following the gods of this world can make people.

I am writing this with one goal, and it’s not to call in the lightning on my own head, although I will probably get a bit of that. I am writing it to urge you to regain your reason.

Think straight. Look at the simple fact that this happens every bi-election. Consider what that means in real life.

Look also at the fact that the bishops are hated on by both the right and left of the political spectrum. Consider for a moment that perhaps this is because they are actually being the “sign of contradiction” that we all should be.

If you follow Jesus, you’ll be treated the same way He was. That’s what’s happening to the bishops. It’s also what should be happening to you and me.

Use your minds and think people. Do not be whipped around by talking heads with a political agenda. Think. Connect the dots.

And support our bishops.

Playing Politics with America’s Welfare. This Time It’s Immigration.

My husband and I had supper at a local hamburger joint about a week ago.

It is one of those places where they have tvs mounted on the walls, blaring away while you eat. This particular tv was right behind my head, so I had to listen to it.

It was tuned to one of the cable news networks and the story they were not reporting but talking about (cable news does not report news, it talks about it) was the number of child migrants coming over America’s border. The entire conversation boiled down to two points: (1) President Obama caused this. (2) We should all hate President Obama.

The discussion was just hate, hate, hate, directed at President Obama.

That, my friends, will not solve this problem or any other. It is evil. It does enormous damage to our country.

Both sides of the political divide go into endless hate mode as soon as the votes are counted in November. They shamelessly encourage their followers to hate the person who was elected and to attack him or her, no matter what they do or say. I quit watching cable news except for once in a while during a disaster because it (1) doesn’t report any news (2) is blatant propaganda and (3) is so full of hate that it gives me indigestion.

I don’t know enough about the current border problem to either diagnose its causes or to affix blame. I could listen to these so-called news channels 24/7 and I still would not know.

I do have a couple of observations, both of which are going to anger quite a few of Public Catholic’s readers.

First, the Republican Party and their talking heads on “their” cable news shows ramp up the immigration debate in every off-year election. This has been happening consistently since the turn of the century.

The campaign ads here in Oklahoma that came from the Republican Party’s candidates four years ago were flat-out racist. They showed hispanic people in dark night-time scenarios, being arrested, and in other degrading ways with voice overs about how the candidate the ad was backing would stop “illegal immigration.”

Two years after that, when hispanic people all over the country held their noses and voted for the presidential candidate who was against their personal religious and moral beliefs, they were accused of abandoning their faith. My reaction then was simple: What did you expect? They had to vote this way. To do anything else would be to deny their own humanity.

So, when I saw that the cable news was following their regular pattern of reporting the immigration thing in an off-election year and hating on President Obama, my first question, was How political is this story?

I have looked at statistics, and there has been a surge — a big surge — in numbers of minors coming across the border in the past few months. Based on that, (and I haven’t looked deeply at these statistics, so it’s a kind of preliminary opinion) I am guessing that the “crisis” they are reporting actually exists.

Notice how carefully I word that. The reason I tiptoe around it so carefully is that (1) It’s an off-election year, (2) They do this every off-election year (3) The “reporting” I’ve heard seems to be focused on hatred of the President and little else.

There is a debate going on right now as to how much money Congress should appropriate to this “crisis.” The problem is that our elected officials want to use the question as a political football to gain power for themselves in November. So they are, once again, holding America hostage.

I’m withholding judgement about what is causing this situation and how we should handle it in the long term. I will say that I am reasonably confident that the reporting on the crisis will end once the votes are counted in November. Then, we’ll go on to the next hate-reporting thingy.

I will also say without equivocation that I do not believe that the Republicans in the House of Representatives want to fix the “crisis.” They are talking about how the President has asked for “too much” money to deal with it.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

But I am absolutely certain that their true objections are not fiduciary. If one of their corporatist handlers wanted this amount of money for themselves, it would pass without a single question. I am not saying that $$ for judges and intensified border patrol is the long-term answer. I don’t think it is. What I am saying, is that the objections to this request and the refusal to act are politically motivated.

The Rs want this “crisis” to continue because of the November elections. The good of this country does not matter.

Many of Public Catholic’s readers are going to romp all over me for saying that. But it’s the plain truth. If we want to deal effectively with the onslaught of illegal immigration, we need to end the practice of using it for a vote-getter every two years and deal with it intelligently.

On the other hand, this sudden surge of children coming over the border must be organized, and not by President Obama. These children are being used, but I don’t know by whom. No one seems to be asking questions about who is organizing this migration of children south of the border. In fact, what we are getting by way of explanation is sound bites that don’t make sense because they aren’t connected to anything.

If I can get Public Catholic’s readers to look at these two parties dispassionately, I will have accomplished a lot. We’re going to have to stop letting them jerk us around like this, both for our personal mental health and for the health of this nation.

We serve Christ. We need to eschew hate-filled invective and use the fine minds that God gave us to think.

I’m going to put a few videos below to help us all — including me — think this through. Don’t knee jerk. Defy the talking heads. Think for yourself.

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