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Lethal pilgrimage

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Redemptorist Fr. Ricardo Elford, with attorney Isabel Garcia, founded a weekly vigil in Tucson to remember those who die crossing by foot from Mexico into the United States. I was stunned when Ricardo reminded me, in an e-mail, that on March 25 the 512th weekly vigil was held. The liturgy opened with these words:

"Remembering our sisters and brothers who have died on the border in search of work. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, bodies of at least 206 migrants were found just on the Arizona part of the 2000-mile border; since Oct. 1, 85 more bodies; since the year 2000, at least 1,928. Since 1994, at least 5,674 migrants have died -- more border deaths than all the years of the Berlin Wall."

So much death! So much grieving on the part of families whose loved ones died out of desperation: the need to go north to find work. As we approach Easter, let us all resurrect the spirits of the dead by remembering them, honoring their courage, and praying for the end to the kinds of international economic policies that all around the world are pushing people off their lands, making refugees out of huge portions of the world's population.

A reverse invitation from an Episcopal priest

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When I opened up Religion Dispatches this morning, I knew that the Vatican unraveling over the burgeoning sex abuse scandal had reached a new stage. The Rev. Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest, issued a call to his ecclesial leaders to issue an invitation to disheartened Catholics to join the Episcopal church.

It’s an Episcopal answer to the invitation Pope Benedict XVI issued to disheartened Episcopalians last October to join the Catholic Church if they were dismayed by their church’s ordination of openly gay or lesbian priests and bishops.

Balmer says, in part, “I gather that the lesson from the Vatican is that homosexuality, even on the part of those in loving, committed relationships, is sin, must be exposed to the light of day for its shamefulness and must never be countenanced. It’s okay, however, to turn a blind eye to pedophile priests, to reassign them quietly to do harm elsewhere or simply to ignore the problem. I’ll take my Episcopal Church, warts and all, any day.”

Anointing

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Holy Week: Accompanying El Salvador

Holy Week began for Jesus with an anointing. At the house of Lazarus, Martha and Mary in Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem, the disciples threw a banquet to honor Jesus’ triumphal entry into the holy city at Passover time. Mary broke open a precious vial of aromatic oil and poured it over the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair. Her extravagant display of love turned his triumph toward the cross, and her insight that his beloved body must be prepared not for the throne but for the tomb infuriated the other disciples.

4 million tune into 'Amish Grace'

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More than 4 million viewers watched "Amish Grace," the cable-TV movie I reviewed for NCR (see Without forgiveness, there's no room left for love). Starring Kimberly Williams-Paisley, "Amish Grace" is a fictionalized account of the events surrounding the October 2006 shooting at an Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pa. Five of the girls died and the other five were seriously injured. The gunman, a local milkman, killed himself. A shocking tragedy.

But, as I wrote in my review, "we were in for an even greater shock: The Amish community, including the families of the dead and wounded children, forgave Roberts. They visited his wife, Marie, and offered their condolences to her and the couple's three children. As the Amish buried their daughters, the media watched. They questioned this deeply countercultural attitude of the Amish and were, at the same time, astonished."

The film premiered on the Lifetime Movie Network on Palm Sunday. It will continue to air this week.

Thursday, April 1:
8 pm ET / 5 pm PT and Midnight / 9 pm PT

Saturday, April 3:
8 pm ET / 5 pm PT and Midnight / 9 pm PT

Human sexuality -- a great and holy mystery

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Recently in my city an alternative newspaper ran a feature article on an innovative program that had been introduced in the court system to deal with men arrested for soliciting prostitutes. Ongoing group sessions were part of the mandatory sentencing. In initial sessions, the men were extremely belligerent and resentful. Yet, at the completion of the eight sessions, nearly every one of them expressed a special gratitude for this opportunity, for the first time in their lives, to discuss their sexuality in an honest and open way. One man even signed up to repeat the course!

Sexuality, in our culture, is either sensationalized, over-hyped and exploited, or ignored. Mariah Britton, a New York minister, said, “It may require more intimacy to discuss sex than to actually have sex.”

Extra Ecclesia: Maureen Dowd

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Regular readers will know that I am a “big Church” kinda guy. There is room for Lefties like me. There is room for rightwing blowhards like Raymond Arroyo. There is room for everybody in the wide embrace of Holy Mother Church.

Except Maureen Dowd. Her column yesterday, about the Catholic Church and its response to the clergy sex abuse scandal, reached a new low for her, which is really saying something. Her suggestion for dealing with the crisis: Elect a nun as Pope. Of course, her witty prose makes clear that she is not really serious. She is using the idea merely to aid her in her primary purpose which is, as ever, to mock. Mocking is what Dowd does for a living. But, in this case, using the actual sufferings of real life victims of clerical abuse to poke fun seems not just stupid but heartless.

Holy Week 2010: Accompanying El Salvador

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I had to admit to myself, the cold wind felt good against my face yesterday as I joined members from three churches in midtown Kansas City as they assembled on a grassy parkway for our annual ecumenical observance of Palm Sunday. The palm branch I received might have come from El Salvador, where, just 24 hours earlier, I had boarded an early flight home after an 11-day visit to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the death of Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador, murdered while saying Mass on March 24, 1980.

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