Monday, January 14, 2008

Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) Inauguration Speech

Your Excellencies, colleagues and dear friends,

It is a joy and a privilege to stand in front of you today and speak on behalf of all of the members of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders. The organization we refer to as C.A.L.L.

Historic moment: Today we are experiencing a historic moment. For the first time in our life in the United States - and in the life of the Catholic Church in this country - we have a group of Hispanic Latino business and professional leaders that have come together to reflect and work on the issues that concern our community from the perspective of the Catholic faith and tradition. There are many Hispanic and Latino groups throughout the Nation, but none created to convene Latino leadership that openly profess their Catholic faith and beliefs.

The importance of Latinos: We are all aware of the magnitude of the Hispanic presence in the United States. According to an American Community Survey conducted by the US Census, in 2006 there were approximately 45 million Hispanics in the US, representing 15% of the total population. The Selig Center estimates Hispanic purchasing power will surpass all U.S. minority groups by 2007 with a buying power of $863.1 billion, and is expected to be almost $1.2 trillion by 2011. That's more than 450 percent growth from 1990 to 2011. In contrast, non-Hispanic buying power’s rate of growth is estimated to be 176% over the same period.

Support of Archbishops: This historic gathering is taking place thanks to the leadership and vision of Archbishop Jose Gomez from this important Archdiocese of San Antonio. Archbishop Gomez has engaged in continuous dialogue with Latino leaders in various professional fields in the hope that they will actively participate in conversations with the dominant culture in our society, speaking with well-informed opinions and from the perspective of our Catholic tradition.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver was the first prelate in the Church to encourage and support Archbishop Gomez in this noble initiative. This process began three years ago with an annual meeting in Denver, Colorado. We have now arrived at this moment: we have a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Texas with a tax exempt status.

Mission of CALL: Heeding God’s call as members of His Church and active participants in her mission of evangelization, and recognizing our responsibility as leaders within our Hispanic communities, our mission is to work within the context of our culture and in communion with our bishops to promote the common good of Latinos in the United States. This Catholic Association of Latino Leaders will provide a forum for members to strengthen their faith in community through prayer, education and service. We commit to being a national voice for Hispanics on social justice issues and to impact the national dialogue and its outcome in favor of improving our nation’s policies affecting Latinos.

We are people that believe in ethical values, and know they are neither a limitation nor a restraint on business but rather an opportunity that furthers efficiency and business objectives. Moral values are not enemies of the economy nor of its business enterprises, on the contrary they are their best allies. Immorality does not help business rather it weakens it.

Placing it within the Catholic Church’s Framework: The social doctrine of our Church places a very high importance on entrepreneurship, which is a reflection of God’s creativity; this social doctrine does not in any way contain the idea of an intrinsically evil economy that is to be restrained with the reins of ethics like a ferocious beast that must be tamed. On the contrary, it reasserts that the economy, a resolve of human activity, has meaning and longevity only when it corresponds to an anthropological reality. Our late Holy Father, John Paul II, explained the failure of Communism as a result of a major anthropological error which could only lead to economic failure. He also criticized Capitalism, not for its economic system, but for the weakening of the entire social system as it limits itself to producing goods and services, and falls into an equally condemnable materialism.

We cannot deny that the Church and the business world have suffered an ambiguous relationship. Today, we have the opportunity to recognize the positive role of the market rather than condemn its ideology as anti-religious, inhuman, and socially unsustainable. The Catholic life cannot be lived in a dichotomy. Faith matters. All of our being calls us to have an integral personal development. We cannot pretend to be religious in the Church and ruthless in the workplace or community. This is a false interpretation of the human person.

Fr. Bartolome Las Casas of the 16th century, a Dominican Spanish priest, criticized the oppression of the Conquistadores. Las Casas condemned slavery because it presumed that non-Christians had no rights and no souls worth saving. Fr. Las Casas was a critic of power and a genuine champion of liberation who never lost site of the primary focus on the individual person.

Joseph Ratzinger was a champion of the Second Vatican Council that declared the unequivocal right to religious freedom and thus the wisdom of separating Church from the State. The Pope’s support for the politics of freedom grows out of his ideal of a depoliticized faith. In his visit to Brazil his message was to demonstrate that one can care about justice for the poor without constructing a practice that calls for even more power to the State. “What is real?” Benedict asked in a speech in Brazil. “Only material goods, social and economical problems? No, the conscience and soul are also real.”

CALL: CALL will be the full realization of our vocation as Christian Catholic leaders. CALL is the organization where there will be no place for double standards, for immorality or unethical actions. The call that we have received by joining this organization is to work for a better society to improve our communities and for the integration of our Christian principles which are rooted in our Catholic tradition, and experience of the Church. This is the challenge we have received.

Specifics: We actively embrace the issues of preserving and promoting Catholic values such as the sanctity and dignity of life, of marriage and family life, Catholic faith formation and education, vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, promoting the dignity of every person, and furthering the evangelization of culture and the common good, all in collaboration with our bishops. The current debate on immigration is one of the most tragic experiences in recent time. To single out an entire community of people as the detestable is to regress in time and history and to have a mean spirit.
According to a recent study from the Pew Hispanic Center, two-thirds of Hispanics (64%) say the debate over immigration policy and the failure of Congress to enact an immigration reform bill have made life more difficult for Latinos living in this country. The same study states that roughly half of all Hispanics report the increased public attention to immigration issues has negatively impacted their lives in one or more ways. This unresolved debate has been for the Nation, the opinion makers and the politicians a lost opportunity to build a solution to the immigration question inspired by authentic humanism. The human person is sacred and in the United States all people are recognized by the Constitution as having inalienable rights.

Call to action:
We would like to invite anyone, moved by the teaching of the Gospels, of our Lord Jesus Christ, to join us in this remarkable journey to further the Christian mission that will enrich individual and cultural transformation full of love, generosity and hope.

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