Bishop Joe Vásquez of the Diocese of Austin has done it again. People are protesting. Among the protesters are former Austin Mayor Gus Garcia and local activists. And people are upset. According to the local paper, “More than a dozen Catholic parishioners” are upset.
Yup, Bishop Joe has done it again. He’s stood up for the life of unborn children and upheld the Catholic Church’s teaching on anti-abortion legislation. And as a result, he’s made some people upset.
This Saturday Cristo Rey Catholic Church was set to host a public meeting about immigration. But upon learning that one of the speakers, U.S. Rep Luis Gutierrez (an Illinois Democrat) has consistently voted in favor of abortion rights legislation, Bishop Joe moved the immigration meeting 2.5 blocks away from the church, to the A.B. Cantu/Pan American Recreation Center. This move comes on the heels of what some considered a controversial move concerning moving the Yom Kippur services of Temple Beth Shalom from St. Louis Catholic Church because Rabbi Alan Freedman serves on the board of Planned Parenthood.
Some individuals feel this move will be harmful to the meeting and the immigrant community. Why do they think that? It’s unclear.
Some individuals feel that being notified of the move the week-of the event was not enough notification time. As someone who works with large groups of people, I can definitely understand and sympathize about the frustrating nature of being notified of last minute changes. However, given the circumstances concerning one of the speakers, I definitely understand the need to move the meeting. Fortunately, the Diocese didn’t just make this decision on the morning of the event. Unfortunately, they might have been able to provide more notice on the need to move this event.
Some individuals believe this decision is un-Christian. A Cristo Rey parishioner is quoted in an Austin-American Statesman article as saying that “…our leader, who is suppose to be our shepherd, is acting against everything Christians teach.” I’m greatly troubled that a parishioner of Cristo Rey and a fellow Catholic cannot see how damaging it can be to allow speakers that act in ways contrary to our faith to have a voice in an activity that is being sponsored or co-sponsored by a Catholic Church, even if good can come from the situation, increased dialogue on immigration.
And some individuals are impressed and encouraged by Bishop Joe’s decision. But these individuals you won’t find quoted in the papers. However, you will find them within social media. I’ve already noticed on Twitter several Catholic Social Media friends from within the Diocese of Austin saying thank you and affirming Bishop Joe in his decision to move the immigration meeting.
In his decision to move this immigration meeting Bishop Joe has shown he is faithful to the teachings of the Church, reminding us all that to compromise one good for another is not an option in living our faith. He is showing us that as Catholics we are not an either-or faith, where we can choose one good over another. Bishop Joe is showing us that we are a both-and faith, where we should choose both goods and not compromise to do so. By moving the immigration meeting, Bishop Joe is showing that neither teachings of the Catholic Church concerning immigration or abortion are compromised, and that both are being addressed.
So, thank you Bishop Joe Vásquez, for doing it again. Thank you for being the shepherd in our Diocese, and showing us how we should act in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church, even knowing it will create controversy.