Advocacy is a process to ensure change where there is injustice, providing a solution to a problem, and building support for acting on both the problem and the solution. Its aims, among others, are social changes in attitudes and relationships. However, advocating for the poor is far from lobbying for an ideology. This clear divergence should never be put on the back burner, above all in this time of conflictual polarizations.
Astorga Cremona, who is often referred to as “the nun of the trans” due to her work, on the past August 10th, cut a ribbon to the new Costa Limay Sustainable complex in Neuquén, Argentina. The complex with 12 studio apartments is part of a housing solution for a dozen transgender individuals between the ages of 40-70. The 2017 census claims that transgender people in Neuquén have a life expectancy of 45, with only 5% reaching the age of 56 or older.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1967, Astorga Cremona, 53, is a member of the cloistered monastery of Santa Cruz and San José in Neuquén. She received her habit at the age of 20, and immediately started to work with young drug addicts and alcoholics. She has also ministered for years to prisoners and during the past 14 years to transgender women, encouraging them to stop addiction and helping them to get out of prostitution by teaching them different trades.
Astorga has ties with Pope Francis since he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. She wrote to him about the inauguration of the new housing complex and received an encouraging reply, “God who did not go to the seminary or study theology will repay you abundantly”. He assured his prayer for her and the transgender women many of those had been in poverty, prostituting themselves for living and, with quarantines due to the COVID-19, losing this their only source of income.
Back to 2009, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio “never opposed” what she was doing, visited her and told her, she says, not to abandon the “border work, which the Lord” gave her. This word “border” implies working with people who have been “discarded” by society, and “with whom few want to get involved.”
However, sister Astorga states that the new building is not “a refuge nor a trans home,” but spaces for living given as a loan, “as if it were a rent, but without paying anything.” Those who comply with the standard regulations of any rental are able to stay long term. Those who presume breaking the rules receive warnings and then are shown the door.
“Sometimes I ask him – the Pope - how to do it when they say ugly things to me,” she remembers. She received directly the first answer: do not stop praying. Conjointly, in an interview Pope Francis stated, “Life is life; things have to be accepted as they come.” However, “Sin is sin.” Never say that it is all the same, “but in each case, welcome, accompany, study, discern and integrate. This is what Jesus would do today.” He went on: “Please don’t say that the pope will sanctify trans.” It is not just a moral problem. “It’s a human problem that has to be resolved as it can, always with God’s mercy”. So, “Walk with trans, but fight gender theory.”
Christian charity is today a strong tool of advocacy. As an advocate instance, charity should lead, among other aims, to changes in institutional policy and practice, in public attitudes and behavior. The concern that advocacy risks diverting resources away from service delivery, direct help and creating a negative feelings and impact is inconsistent.
Nevertheless, it should also be always clear that advocating for the persons is never a lobbying for their good or bad behavior nor for their ideology or political positions.
Raising awareness and understanding, increasing the knowledge about the existence of a social issue, and calling citizens to address it should never be confused as a support to what causes the issue. Rebuke the sin, but welcome the sinner, said once Pope John XXIII. Be perfect as your Father in heaven. He does not declare holy what is bad, but makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
See Pope tells nun helping transgender women, ‘God will repay you’, and Nun ministering to transgender women gets thumbs-up from Pope and also Pope says walk with trans persons, but fight gender theory