Twenty-five Mexican-Americans who occupied a Diocese of Sacramento-owned building for three weeks left the building Tuesday on the advice of their attorney after the diocese obtained a court order to get them out.
Spokesmen for the group has asserted that they would not leave until the diocese promised to turn the former seminary into a Spanish-speaking religious and cultural center.
The group called for the support "of the people," and declared in a statement that "the aspirations of the Spanish-speaking community have not been listened to because we have a structure that does not represent our culture."
According to diocesan officials, the St. Pius X building in Galt had been offered to the Spanish-speaking community a year ago, "but was turned down."
Msgr. Gerard Schons, vicar for the Spanish-speaking in the Sacramento diocese who has been mediating between Bishop Alden Bell and the group occupying the former seminary, explained why last year's offer was rejected. "For the moment," he said, "we do not have either seminarians or faculty to get a program going there."
Schons was sharply critical of the sit-in group's tactics, which he claimed are more likely to increase tension than reduce it in the diocesean community. He also rejected the suggestion that the group has a widespread following in the Mexican-American community.
"All they represent is themselves," he said. "In fact, many Mexicans in the diocese are deeply embarrassed by the publicity being given to what they are doing. It is an exercise in futility. If the bishop did give the building over to them, they would not last a week. The heating bill alone amounts to $1,000 per month."
The diocesan chancery and the group occupying the building are deadlocked - the diocese demanding the group leave for the former seminary before discussions begin; the group demanding that talks begin before they vacate the St. Pius X building.
"After they move out we'll sit down with the vicar for Mexican-American affairs and discuss it," said Msgr. Cornelius Higgins, chancellor of the diocese. "The point is that their whole premise is completely illegal and we are just trying to be patient and kind with them."