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It can't last, I keep telling myself. Every time Rome makes another dispiriting move, turns out another light in the name of orthodoxy, I say it can't get worse. Then it does.

In the course of my work as NCR editor, I hear these words - or their equivalent - frequently. The conversation often continues: "Then why do you stay?"

To which the response comes: "How can I leave?

"My faith, culture, thoughts, the liturgies I know and love, are all Roman Catholic. I can't stop being Catholic. I can't stop being the person I am."

Or this variation: "Because this church is simply too important to leave to those bastards." Although, exactly who those "bastards" are is seldom mentioned.

OK, Fox, what's bugging you?

Well, I am one of those Catholics who really likes this church and prefers to see it live out an Old Testament commitment to justice and a New Testament commitment to the beatitudes - basic mercy, forgiveness and love. However, it seems the current holders of the keys have a different vision or at least different priorities. Their highest offering is an ever-tighter, self-proclaimed orthodoxy. The circle gets so small even a lot of good bishops find themselves told they are no longer inside.

The latest victim is Chiapas, Mexico, Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia (page 13). Now here's the irony. If you had to single out three Mexican bishops as top candidates for entrance through the pearly gates, this man, internationally recognized for his Christian commitment to human rights and the poor of Mexico, would be on many lists.

Last month in Washington, for example, he was honored as recipient of the Letelier-Moffit International Human Rights Award. "I am not the winner," he said. "It is the poor people, the people who suffer, who earned this award."

You would think for none other than public relations reasons, someone in Rome would hold back the wolves. It was not to be. So our church officials end up, in yet another dispiriting act, sending out the message that this is no longer a church of the poor.

But they are wrong. And we will stay.

This is better news. When the U.S. bishops meet in Washington later this month they will vote on a 60-page follow-up to the 1983 peace pastoral, "The Challenge of Peace." Called "The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace," this statement pushes our church a few steps closer to traditional pacifism, saying, "Although nonviolence has often been regarded as simply a personal option or vocation, recent history suggest that in some circumstances it can be an effective public undertaking as well." The document cites the Philippines and Eastern Europe as examples. Stay tuned.
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Title Annotation:Vatican repression of Mexican Bishop Samuel Ruiz
Author:Fox, Tom
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Nov 5, 1993
Previous Article:The Word Made Flesh: An Overview of the Catholic Faith.
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