Death of an Appalachian Justice Warrior
Rest in peace Michael J. Lafrate, good and faithful servant.
Of all the people I’ve met in Appalachia doing the Moundsville project, nobody came at you with a spirit like that of Michael J. Iafrate, a brilliant musician and Catholic social justice activist whose body was killed this week by cancer.
Michael — Mikey to his friends — was a Catholic in the tradition of Dorothy Day, Gustavo Gutiérrez, and Dan Berrigan, articulated in the tradition of liberation theology. The Gospel of Love means all kinds of things to all kinds of people, but to this community of believers, it means that we all called to fight, passionately, for justice. “If your interpretation of the Gospel isn’t having you smash some structure,” Michael once told a friend, “it’s idolatrous bullshit.”
I’ve never met anybody who loved the church and its message of love, justice, and resurrection, and at the same time hated its flaws — clericalism, corruption, sexism — more…
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