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Jeff Sessions says the Bible justifies family separation. Does it?

Washington D.C., Jun 15, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration has pointed to the Bible in justifying its “zero-tolerance immigration policy,” which includes the separation of immigrant children from their parents.

According to one Catholic theology professor, though, scripture has much more to say on the topic of immigration.

On June 14, Attorney General Jeff Sessions referred to Romans 13 in a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” said Sessions.

When asked about the attorney general’s statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders provided further Biblical interpretation.

“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law.  That is, actually, repeated a number of times throughout the Bible,” said Sanders in a press conference on June 14.

The statement comes at a time when many Catholic bishops have been critical of the current U.S. practice of separating migrant children from their parents at the border. On June 5, the United Nations condemned the practice as “a serious violation of the rights of the child.”

“The Attorney General cites a famous passage in the theological tradition,” said theology professor Dr. Joseph Capizzi, who teaches moral theology and ethics at The Catholic University of America.

In the New American Bible translation, Romans 13:1 reads, “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God.”

“Essentially Paul is encouraging those who follow Christ to have a disposition of respect to those in political authority because, in essence, they are there by providence,” Capizzi told CNA. “It does not, by any means, license a blanket support for all laws that are made by those in political authority.”

“The obvious connection here for Catholics is the way we think about abortion,” explained Capizzi, who said that Catholics should not simply follow abortion laws because they are the law, but seek to change them because they are not moral laws.

Scripture is “legitimate as a source of wisdom to draw on” in the public square, continued Capizzi, who said that the Bible can “help us inform the way we think about things, maybe to deepen or challenge certain kind of thoughts we have about politics.”

But the Bible has a lot more to say about immigration than the attorney general’s “clumsy invocation of Paul’s letter to the Romans,” he said.

“The whole story of the Hebrew Scriptures is the story of a people that has been exiled and persecuted,” Capizzi told CNA. The Israelites are wandering, stateless and homeless, and yet they understand that they are called by God to “welcome those who are strangers among them.” Scripture calls everyone, even those who are themselves migrants, to welcome the vulnerable, he said.

The U.S. bishops for years have called for comprehensive immigration reform. They have recognized the importance of national security and border protection, but have also stressed the human rights and dignity of immigrants, the need to address root causes of migration, and the importance of family unity.

Earlier this week, on June 11, Sessions released a ruling stating that domestic abuse and gang violence claims alone should not be considered grounds for asylum claims. This decision also drew strong criticism from the bishops.

“At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life. The Attorney General's recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston-Galveston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, in a statement on June 13.

The cardinal also condemned family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma...Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

New York Archdiocese announces appeal over Fulton Sheen court decision  

New York City, N.Y., Jun 15, 2018 / 12:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of New York announced on Friday that the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral are appealing a court decision that would allow Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s body to be moved to Peoria, Ill., as his cause for beatification proceeds.

The Trustees, who oversee archdiocesan seminaries, “believe that the recent court case concerning the earthly remains of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was again incorrectly decided, and will seek an appeal of that decision along with a stay on moving the remains while the appellate court considers the case,” said a June 15 statement.

“At issue in the case, as the appellate court noted in its reversal of the trial court’s original decision, is what were Archbishop’s Sheen’s personal wishes concerning his final resting place,” the statement said.

“As Trustees, it is our responsibility to respect those wishes, and we believe that this most recent decision once again fails to consider those wishes and instead relies on the speculation and conjecture of others.”  

Last week, the Superior Court of New York ruled in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham, who had petitioned to move the body of her uncle, Venerable Fulton Sheen, to the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria. The body of the late archbishop is currently in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

Judge Arlene Bluth, ruled that “the location of Archbishop Sheen's final resting place would not have been his primary concern” and that “it makes no sense, given his lifelong devotion to the Catholic Church, that he would choose a location over the chance to become a saint.”

The Peoria diocese opened the cause for Sheen’s canonization in 2002 after Archdiocese of New York said it would not explore the case. In 2012, Benedict XVI recognized the heroic virtues of the archbishop.

However, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria suspended the beatification cause in September 2014 on the grounds that the Holy See expected Sheen’s remains to be in the Peoria diocese.

The Archdiocese of New York, however, has said that Vatican officials have said the Peoria diocese can pursue Sheen’s canonization regardless of whether his body is at rest there.

Sheen was born in Illinois in 1895, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria at the age of 24. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of New York in 1951, and he remained there until his appointment as Bishop of Rochester in 1966. He retired in 1969 and moved back to New York City until his death in 1979.

Sheen’s will had declared his wish to be buried in the Archdiocese of New York Calvary Cemetery. Soon after Sheen died, Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York asked Cunningham, Sheen’s closest living relative, if his remains could be placed in the New York cathedral’s crypt, and she consented.

Cunningham has said that Sheen would have wanted to have been interred in Peoria if he knew that he would be considered for sainthood. In 2016, she filed a legal complaint seeking to have her uncle’s remains moved to Peoria.

An initial court ruling had sided with Cunningham, but a state appeals court overturned that ruling, saying it had failed to give sufficient attention to a sworn statement from a colleague of Archbishop Sheen, Monsignor Hilary C. Franco, a witness for the New York archdiocese.

Msgr. Franco had said that Sheen told him he wanted to be buried in New York and that Cardinal Cooke had offered him a space in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The appeals court ordered “a full exploration” of the archbishop’s desires.

In the New York Superior Court decision, Bluth ruled that “Mrs. Cunningham has offered a sound reason and a laudable purpose for her petition” and that Sheen “would care much less about the location of his earthly remains than his ability … to continue to serve man and God on a grand scale after his earthly demise.”

Both the Diocese of Peoria and the Archdiocese of New York have voiced prayers that the beatification cause may move forward in a timely manner.

Archbishop Sheen served as host of the “Catholic Hour” radio show and the television show “Life is Worth Living”.

In addition to his pioneering radio and television shows, Sheen authored many books, with proceeds supporting foreign missions. He headed the Society for the Propagation of the Faith at one point in his life, and continued to be a leading figure in U.S. Catholicism until his death.

Archbishop Sheen’s intercession is credited with the miraculous recovery of a pronounced stillborn American baby from the Peoria area.

In June 2014, a panel of theologians that advises the Congregation for the Causes of Saints ruled that the baby’s recovery was miraculous.

The baby, later named James Fulton Engstrom, was born in September 2010 showing no signs of life. As medical professionals tried to revive him, his parents prayed for his recovery through the intercession of Fulton Sheen.

Although the baby showed no pulse for an hour after his birth, his heart started beating again and he escaped serious medical problems.
 

 

'Much-needed' initiative aims to protect churches from zoning discrimination

Washington D.C., Jun 15, 2018 / 06:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Protecting places of worship from zoning discrimination is the focus of a new initiative from the Department of Justice, announced earlier this week.  

The ‘Place to Worship’ initiative aims to increase awareness of religious institutions’ right to build, expand, buy or rent facilities.

These land-use provisions are already provided for in the 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which protects religious institutions from discriminatory or unduly burdensome zoning practices. However, these rights have come under threat recently in several legal cases.

In a statement announcing the initiative, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the provisions protect not only the private act of worship, but the public exercise of religion provided for in the Constitution.

"Under the laws of this country, government cannot discriminate against people based on their religion - not in law enforcement, not in grant-making, not in hiring, and not in local zoning laws,” Sessions said. “President Trump is an unwavering defender of the right of free exercise, and under his leadership, the Department of Justice is standing up for the rights of all Americans. By raising awareness about our legal rights, the Place to Worship Initiative will help us bring more civil rights cases, win more cases, and prevent discrimination from happening in the first place."

Goals of the new initiative include raising awareness of these rights through community outreach events, educating municipal officials and religious organizations about RLUIPA’s requirements, and providing additional training and resources for federal prosecutors regarding these cases.

The DOJ also launched a new website containing additional information about RLUIPA for religious institutions and lawyers, as well as a complaint portal and Q&A section.

Non-profit legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which has represented several religious clients in RLUIPA lawsuits, applauded the initiative for providing a “much-needed” focus on religious freedom.

“No city should use its zoning laws to engage in religious discrimination. Unfortunately, in the 18 years since Congress passed RLUIPA, local governments have done just that, blatantly disregarding the law,” ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries, said in a statement.

“For that reason, we commend the Department of Justice and the Trump administration for placing a much-needed focus on the freedoms churches and other religious groups have under this federal law,” he added.

Alongside the DOJ’s announcement on Tuesday, the Department added that it was filing a  lawsuit against the Borough of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, for the denial of zoning approval for an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in three separate instances.

In their statement, ADF also noted three specific RLUIPA cases in which they have recently been involved, including a lawsuit they filed earlier this month against the city of Monroe, North Carolina, for a zoning code that effectively bans At the Cross Fellowship Baptist Church from holding worship services in its rented facilities.

 

Commentary: Immigration and 'canonical penalties'

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jun 14, 2018 / 05:02 pm (CNA).- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting this week in Fort Lauderdale for its annual spring session. The bishops have had serious discussion about a number of issues, among them immigration. On Wednesday, their discussion took an unexpected turn.

Speaking on the topic of the Trump Administration’s immigration and asylum policies and enforcement, Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tuscon, Ariz., suggested that the Church might consider subjecting Catholics involved in the enforcement of immigration policy to “canonical penalties.”

It was an arresting suggestion, and one which caused a bit of a stir on social media.

As the bishops discussed immigration and human dignity, Bishop Weisenburger posed the following question which, for context, deserves to be quoted at length:

“In light of the canonical penalties that are there for life issues, I’m simply asking the question if perhaps our canonical affairs committee could give recommendations, at least to those of us who are border bishops, on the possibility of canonical penalties for Catholics who are involved in this? I think the time is there for prophetic statement. I also think that even though what I am saying might be a little risky or dangerous, I think it is important to point out that canonical penalties are there in place to heal. First and foremost to heal. And therefore, for the salvation of these people’s souls, maybe it’s time for us to look at canonical penalties.”

Bishop Weisenburger holds a licentiate in canon law. As he began his remarks, he described himself self-deferentially as a “plumber canonist” focused on “keeping things moving through the pipes,” rather than an expert in legal theory. And made clear that he was posing a question for further reflection, not offering a well-developed plan of action. But his question does merit reflection.  

Although I am not a member of the USCCB’s committee on canonical affairs, I would like to offer a few thoughts, from the perspective of a canon lawyer, and one deeply concerned with the crisis of human rights at the border.

First, it is not immediately clear what the bishop meant by referring to those “involved in this.”

The bishops’ discussion covered a number of specific immigration issues; it is not clear whether Weisenberger meant that penalties might incurred through the separation of children from parents, the rejection of morally deserving asylum applications, or the general, and deplorable, tone and language used by some parts of the administration in the discussion of immigration issues - language that offends the human dignity of would-be immigrants and asylum applicants.

We also do not know if Bishop Weisenburger had in mind something as specific as punishing individual Border Patrol officers, ICE agents, or court officials enforcing the policy of separating children from parents, or whether he meant a broader sense of cooperation with federal immigration laws.

“This” is a small word for a very big and complicated issue. Before the canonical affairs committee could offer any sort of advice, the scope of the question needs to be made clearer.

But even from first glance, it can be said that, however well-intentioned the bishop is, immigration policy is not a subject that lends itself easily to canonical legislation and penalties.

For a start, canonical penalties are not easily imposed. Many Catholics, for example, are familiar with the concept of latae sententiae excommunication, by which a penalty is incurred by committing some forbidden act. But latae sententiae excommunications are not a simple concept.  

In order for a latae sententiae penalty to have canonical effects - to, for example, bar a Catholic from Holy Communion - the penalty has to be imposed or declared by a competent authority.

It seems unlikely that Bishop Weisenburger had in mind a system whereby individual bishops name individual Catholics for punishment.

Bishop Weisenburger was right to say that, in the vast majority of case, penalties are imposed medicinally by the Church, for the reform of the offender and for their own good. But for that reason, the Church requires that offenders be warned and called to reform before penalties are imposed. Exactly how Catholics “involved” in problematic immigration enforcement could be effectively warned is hard to see. Would ICE officers, for example, be placed in a position where their bishops told them to quit their jobs or be prepared to refuse to uphold the law?  

Indeed, when we try to apply the concept of canonical sanctions to those involved in immigration enforcement, matters get even more complicated.        

Assume, for example, that Bishop Weisenburger had a narrow and specific application in mind: that individual law enforcement officers physically separating families should be subject to canonical penalties.

To what act would a canonical penalty be attached? Bishop Weisenburger referenced existing canonical penalties for “life issues,” but these penalties are only incurred through very specific acts - the taking of human life through abortion or homicide.

If the act of physically removing a child from their parents on behalf of the government were to become the basis for a canonical penalty, would the penalty apply in all circumstances, or only on a case-by-case basis? If it applied to all cases, this would seem to negate the possibility that in some cases, even if rarely, the child’s welfare might clearly be otherwise at risk. If it is to be applied selectively, who would be the judge of when, and how, and what information would be used to make that judgment?

Those establishing such a norm would need to discern whether there are legitimate circumstances in which children could be separated from their parents, and carefully discern the implications of directing Catholics to disobey their legal obligations.

Bishop Weisenburger called rightfully for a “prophetic statement” against a public iniquity. The problem with his canonical suggestion is that prophetic witness of the Church does not naturally lend itself to the language of canon law, still less penal law.

Speaking just before Bishop Weisenburger, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces spoke about the need for “public visible gestures,” noting specific successes in closing abortion clinics through “constant and peaceful” means, including prayer vigils. He proposed that similar vigils outside federal courts hearing asylum and immigration cases might be suitable. Both bishops referenced Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark’s proposal that bishops visit the detention centers where children are held, to draw public attention, and hopefully censure, to them.

Those suggestions seem more constructive, plausible, and practical. They also have the benefit of targeting the policies and processes against which the bishops want to speak, rather than targeting individual Catholics. Federal policy and the administration’s efforts should be the focus of the Church’s efforts, at least for the time being.

Bishop Weisenburger referred to himself as the sort of bishop who usually shies away from using the “sledgehammer” of canonical penalties. This is a common sentiment among bishops. But in truth, penal law is not a sledgehammer, or some other instrument of blunt force. Penal law is, as the bishop later said, very strong medicine indeed. Strong medicine must be used carefully, with a clear diagnosis of the problem, its causes, and a plan for treatment. We are not yet there on the border.

 

In Florida, bishops' 'Faithful Citizenship' debate heats up

Miami, Fla., Jun 14, 2018 / 04:49 pm (CNA).- What some expected would be a brisk vote turned out to be a lengthy discussion at the USCCB general assembly meeting on Thursday, covering the future of the bishops’ guide to political engagement, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

At the end of the vigorous discussion, when the bishops eventually voted on the action item June 14 in Ft. Lauderdale, 77 percent supported a measure calling for the production of a short letter to inspire prayer and action regarding public life, and a short video and other secondary resources -- to complement rather than to replace the existing Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship document, and to apply the teachings of Pope Francis to our day.

Preceding the debate was a presentation by Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who chairs the bishops’ working group on Faithful Citizenship. The working group is already looking ahead to the 2020 presidential election, and wants to produce “user-friendly” supplements to the document.

Gomez noted that Faithful Citizenship “has lasting value” but is too long, and perhaps not particularly accessible to those in the pews. While it does an excellent job of conveying information, he said the document lacks the ability to inspire voters, “so the task before us is to motivate the people to pray and to act.”

Archbishop Gomez noted three priorities for the working group: reminding Catholics that faith is prior to partisan politics- that faith “shapes Catholics first”, and they are “members of a political party second (or third or fourth)”; that Catholics are called to be faithful citizens at all times, continually; and that public discourse should be always civil.

The first bishop to respond to the Los Angeles archbishop was Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, who said he planned to vote against the working group’s proposal, citing an apparent need to replace Faithful Citizenship with an entirely new document reflecting the “new body of teaching” from Pope Francis on issues including climate change, poverty, and immigration.

“The way he presents those is a body of teaching we need to integrate into what we’re talking to our people about,” the cardinal stated.

He also commended the bishops for their civility in pursuing debates, saying that “Our discussion, even argumentation over various issues we disagree about has the potential to model how public civil discourse should take place.”

Cardinal Cupich, who lost an election to chair the bishops' pro-life committee to Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas in November 2017, was giving voice to a faction of bishops who have recently called for a significant reworking of Faithful Citizenship, though new revisions were adopted by the USCCB only three years ago.

Archbishop Gomez noted that producing an entirely new document to replace Faithful Citizenship would be a lengthy process, and that “the one we have is very good, theologically.”

Bishop John Stowe, O.F.M. Conv., of Lexington, said he supports the production of supplementary materials, but wants a new document, citing Cardinal Cupich's concerns, as well as "the new context we find ourselves in after the last election": environmental policies, immigration issues, nuclear proliferation, and gun control.

Bishop Michael Warfel of Great Falls-Billings echoed concern to include the perspective of Pope Francis in the US bishops’ citizenship guide.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego charged that the current edition of Faithful Citizenship (last revised in 2015), doesn’t engage with current issues and “Catholic teaching as it is now.”

Since the 2016 election, he said, “legal and political institutions are being atrophied” and we are in “a radically different moment”, noting widespread opposition to immigration, profound racial divisions, and school shootings.

According to Bishop McElroy, Faithful Citizenship “doesn’t reflect the full-bodied teachings of Pope Francis,” mentioning in particular Gaudete et exsultate, saying that a wide variety of issues have “not a secondary, but a primary claim on conscience,” and that Faithful Citizenship “undermines that by its tendentious use of ‘intrinsic evil.’”

Bishop McElroy’s comments seemed to invoke the “consistent ethic of life,” or “seamless garment” approach of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Supporters say the “seamless garment” perspective served to raise consciousness among Catholics regarding a number of issues which threaten human dignity; while critics say that it implied moral equivalency between abortion and other issues, diminishing the significance of abortion, and suggesting that there was not room for a diversity of opinion on other economic and social issues.

This “seamless garment” approach seemed to be rebuffed by St. John Paul II, who identified abortion as a uniquely grave offense against human life, but it has been revitalized by some thinkers in recent years.

Archbishop Gomez responded to Bishop McElroy, praising Faithful Citizenship, and saying that it is already a particularly long document, and a new document addressing new concerns would be even longer.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark indicated he would vote against the proposal, echoing the need for new content in a revision or replacement of Faithful Citizenship, and expressed concern over the “chasm between faith and life,” in which faith has been privatized.

Bishop Robert Barron, an auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles and a member of the working group on Faithful Citizenship, noted that the document is long, and the group didn't want to make it longer.

"We have to retain a lot of what's in there now, and we would just be making a much longer document" if it included the "Franciscan shift." He suggested that instead of a replacement document, video might be a much more effective means for conveying new priorities.

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington responded that videos have to be quite short to keep people’s attention, and that “we need to rethink” Faithful Citizenship.

Bishop Jaime Soto chimed in to mention the “new paradigm” introduced by Pope Francis, including his encyclical Laudato si’, and said the proposal of supplementary materials might not take that new paradigm into sufficient account.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore suggested that the audience for Faithful Citizenship isn’t Catholics in the pews, but pastors and state Catholic conference staff members, and that the working group’s proposal to develop shorter, more consumer-friendly resources “would accomplish the goals I think we had set out for ourselves.”

Bishop George Thomas of Las Vegas called Faithful Citizenship lengthy and cumbersome, and said that it reaches state Catholic conferences and clergy but misses the mark in reaching the hearts of “ordinary people.”

He charged that the document has “serious lacunae,” and that there should be created a shorter, more user-friendly document which follows the model of Pope Francis.

In a carefully-composed piece of rhetoric, Bishop Thomas said the present pope has both substance (he “connects worship and compassion, liturgy and justice”), with an eye on the preferential option for the poor, and style (“he prefers dialogue over diatribe, persuasion over polemics, accompaniment over alienation”), and that the US bishops should take his example and “the content of his teaching” to revise or replace Faithful Citizenship.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois voiced his support for the working group’s proposal, noting the importance particularly of video for reaching people today -- on his flight to the meeting, he said, no-one was reading, they were all watching screens.

He urged that another lengthy document not be issued, and suggested a series of videos rather than a single one be produced, which suggestion was agreed upon by Archbishop Gomez.

Another Los Angeles auxiliary, Bishop David O’Connell, agreed with the proposal and suggested, “we need to take time to think about how Pope Francis’ teachings inform our pastoral practice.”

Bishop John Botean of the Romanian Eparchy of Saint George’s in Canton, was highly favorable to the use of video, but emphasized that “we need to know what will be said.”

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio suggested that the document underlying whatever content is put out is not the question, because “there was consensus” to get Faithful Citizenship adopted, and that the greater question is how to disseminate its message.

Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond indicated his support for the proposal, and added that individual bishops are able to issue pastoral letters themselves.

Intervening again, Bishop Botean suggested that the working group on Faithful Citizenship produce a third item: a new document that expresses current concerns, anxieties of our day, without revising or replacing Faithful Citizenship.

Then Bishop Coyne suggested the conference was not ready to vote: “we’re so divided right now, we’re unclear where we want to go.” He suggested tabling the action item, noting that some, himself included, want an entirely new document on citizenship.

He was supported in that move by Bishop Soto, who said the discussion had given the working group a lot to consider, so that they could return with a “more robust proposal” for the November meeting of the conference.

At this point, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco rose to note the dizzying number of alternative proposals, none of which had been clearly formulated.

A vote on Bishop Coyne’s proposal to table the discussion was held, with two-thirds rejecting his proposal. The discussion continued, focused on developing amendments to the original proposal which might satisfy those bishops with objections.

Cardinal Tobin emphasized that “a number of us are calling for a different source document" to replace Faithful Citizenship, which would inform the content of videos and other new media which the working group would produce.

Bishop Mark O’Connell, a Boston auxiliary, suggested that Faithful Citizenship could be revised, but not replaced, and that the wording of the action item be changed to reflect that.

Bishop McElroy suggested that all reference to Faithful Citizenship be removed from the wording of the proposal.

Bishop McElroy’s suggestion was rejected by the working group.

The working group did, however, concede to changing the language for the pending action item, which was amended to say that the short video and other secondary resources should “complement, rather than replace” Faithful Citizenship (the original had read “complement, rather than revise or replace”). The working group also added a clause saying that newly developed resources should also “apply the teachings of Pope Francis to our day.”

With the revised wording, the proposal came to a vote. The measure passed with well more than a two-thirds majority, though it required only a simple majority. 144 bishops voted in support of the action item, with 41 (just under 22 percent) opposing it.

The discussion was pointed, and took a great deal more time than was anticipated, pushing the public session of the meeting into the afternoon rather than ending before lunch. Faithful Citizenship continues to be the guiding document for civic engagement by Catholics in the US.

Amid repeated reference to “new teachings” of Pope Francis, the unexpected argument demonstrated a deep division among the US bishops.

Archbishop Gomez 'deeply disappointed' that USA Act will not be debated

Los Angeles, Calif., Jun 14, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles decried the decision by House leaders to not allow debate on a bipartisan bill that would have opened a legal pathway to permanent residency for “Dreamers.”

“I am deeply disappointed that House leaders have decided not to permit debate on this bill, which represented a common sense, compassionate and bipartisan compromise,” said Archbishop Gomez in a June 13 statement.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an Obama-era policy that protects undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States as children. The program prevents DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” from being deported. It also provides work permits.

President Donald Trump has sought to end DACA, saying that the initial program was only an executive order that went beyond the scope of presidential powers.

Legislative efforts to include elements of DACA in an immigration law have been unsuccessful. One proposed bill, the “Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act of 2018,” had gained the endorsement of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration Committee.

The bipartisan bill would shield “Dreamers” from deportation and would provide for a path to citizenship for certain qualified persons. Additionally, the USA Act of 2018 would increase border security and would seek to address corruption in Central America – a major cause of “irregular migration.”

Even though the bill will not be debated, the archbishop noted that the vote was very close and expressed hope that legislation will be crafted this year. The immigration debate is a major concern in the U.S., he said, challenging lawmakers to find a solution.

A majority of Americans want “to provide the Dreamers with a path to become citizens in our country, while at the same time strengthening the security of our national borders,” Archbishop Gomez said.

“It would be unconscionable to allow another year to pass without finding a compassionate solution for these young people who did nothing wrong and want only to make their own contribution to the American dream.”

The archdiocese has called for a novena beginning June 15 to pray for immigrants, refugees and trafficking victims. Concluding the novena, a Mass in Recognition of All Immigrants will be held June 24 at 3:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, in conjunction with the Dioceses of San Bernardino and Orange.
 

 

Tent city for immigrant minors 'a recipe for disaster'

Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2018 / 02:52 am (CNA).- As the Trump administration considers building a tent city for immigrant children separated from their parents, one Catholic group warned that the plan would cause additional trauma to those who are already vulnerable.

“Detaining children in any kind of setting is never a good idea for the children. It leads to all sorts of medical, emotional and developmental repercussions, even when they are detained with their parents,” said Patricia Zapor, communications director for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC).

“Detaining children away from their parents is an even worse idea, and in tents, in the harsh climate of Texas – that’s a recipe for disaster,” Zapor told CNA.

The tent city plan, reported by McClatchyDC, comes amid a recent spike in the number of unaccompanied children at the border, due to the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy which has enforced the separation of migrant children from their parents who have been detained by officials.

With the enforcement of the new policy, the number of unaccompanied minors at the border has grown by 20 percent, and it is estimated that upwards of 10,000 migrant children are currently being held in over 100 various shelters, which are at 95 percent capacity, according to a McClatchyDC report.

Zapor criticized the separation policy and tent city, saying the government would not have “thousands of children in custody for whom they must find shelter if the administration was not unnecessarily separating them from their parents.”

“Many of these families falling under this policy are seeking asylum in the United States, protection from dangers in their own countries. They should be welcomed, allowed to file their asylum claims and given a chance to normalize their lives while their cases proceed,” Zapor said.

“Separating parents from their children and keeping everyone in detention is not necessary, is harmful to both kids and adults and is not who we are as a country,” she continued.

The president of the U.S. bishops conference has also decried the separation policy, calling it “immoral” and saying that families should be allowed to stay together.

The plans for the tent city are still being fleshed out, but the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be scoping out potential properties in Texas for development over the next month.

HHS has reportedly been considering military bases for the tent city and is eyeing the Fort Bliss Army base near El Paso, Texas as one of the prospective locations. Other bases, including Dyess in Abilene, Goodfellow in San Angelo, and Little Rock in Arkansas are also reportedly in the running for the tent city development, which is expected to hold between 1,000-5,000 children.

“As Christians, we are called to care for those in need, including those who seek protection in a new land,” Zapor said.

“It is abhorrent that our government instead chooses to cause additional emotional trauma to vulnerable people.”
 

 

 

Apostolic nuncio encourages US bishops in 'listening'

Miami, Fla., Jun 13, 2018 / 03:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting on Wednesday, Archbishop Christophe Pierre urged the importance of listening: to youth, to the Hispanic population, and to the Holy Father.

“Spiritual fatherhood and effective evangelization require listening,” the apostolic nuncio to the United States said June 13 at the opening of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s general assembly in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

He said young people “need to be a priority for the Church in the United States” and that “we need to listen attentively to their voices”, which call for a real encounter with Christ, a welcoming community, “authorities who will accompany them and help them discover what truly interests and attracts them”, and an openness to their contributions.

Youths want a “personal, living encounter with Christ,” he said, “rather than a faith reduced to teaching and moralism.”

The archbishop said young people, he believes, desire “not merely Catholic content but holistic formation.”

He emphasized the importance of community in the face of social media and other problems. “Practical efforts to make parishes more welcoming and supportive might create the environment for young people to feel that the Church is where they belong.”

Responding to criticisms of the preparatory document for the youth synod, which was composed with help from young people, as a manifestation of their weak faith or “a wish list of what young people want rather than what they need,” he said it is “an honest expression of the reality of young people, which includes their frustration with institutional bureaucracy and the unwillingness of others to take them seriously.”

Archbishop Pierre suggested that the bishops must “listen and offer our experience and wisdom, attracting them by our fidelity and the witness of our lives … We need to adhere more faithfully to the Tradition, against which they can, through experience and their encounter with us, test the coherence of the Catholic Faith.”

The youth synod will be an opportunity “to examine whether we have done something in our dioceses to facilitate the encounter with Christ,” he said, and evaluating our ability “to attract young people to Christ.” It is also a chance “to be innovative in creating ways for young people to contribute something to the Church.”

The nuncio also said there is a need to listen to the “emerging Hispanic and Latino population” in the US, focusing on the Fifth National Encuentro process.

The Encuentro process has helped to identify leaders within the Hispanic community, as well as pastoral priorities, he said.

It should also be a chance to re-examine strategies for fostering priestly and religious vocations among Hispanic youth, Archbishop Pierre noted.

“How can it be that when the majority of young Catholics in the United States is now Hispanic or Latino, there are so few seminarians, priests and religious of Hispanic descent?”

The nuncio finally emphasized the importance of listening to Pope Francis, in particular his recent apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, saying holiness is the “lifeblood of the New Evangelization.”

He pointed in particular to the importance of the beatitudes and to the pope’s warnings against Pelagianism and gnosticism.

 

American Medical Association urged to keep stance against assisted suicide

Washington D.C., Jun 13, 2018 / 02:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The American Medical Association voted this week to return to committee a report recommending continued opposition to physician assisted suicide - a move that commentators have called a missed opportunity to stand up for the value of human life.

“For more than two decades the nation’s most prominent and largest association of physicians vocally opposed physician-assisted suicide,” Dr. Peter T. Morrow, M.D., president of the Catholic Medical Association, said June 12. He said the national delegates’ refusal to accept the recommendation was “hugely disappointing and frankly disturbing.”

Morrow said that since the AMA’s founding in 1847, its ethics code has seen physician-assisted suicide as always “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.”

“Our mission at the CMA is to continue to focus on educating our patients on palliative care and hospice and improving access to those much-needed end of life services that include emotional and spiritual support,” he added.

AMA’s House of Delegates, meeting in Chicago June 11, narrowly voted not to accept the report recommending that they continue their stance of opposing physician assisted suicide. About 56 percent of delegates voted for the report to undergo further review. The association has about 240,000 members in the U.S., with membership including medical doctors, doctors of osteopathic medicine, and medical students.

The rejected AMA committee report is the product of two years’ work. It cited concerns that assisted suicide’s use might expand from mentally competent, terminally ill adults to children, people with psychiatric disorders, or people with socioeconomic challenges.

The report backed continued use of the phrase “assisted suicide” rather than in “aid in dying” or “death with dignity.” Justifying this decision, it said “ethical deliberation and debate is best served by using plainly descriptive language.” It added: “despite its negative connotations, the term ‘physician assisted suicide’ describes the practice with the greatest precision.”

Marie T. Hilliard, a nurse who is director of bioethics and public policy at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said her organization would have preferred the committee report be accepted.

“But the good news is the AMA did not change their position,” she said. “They’re going to study their council’s recommendation for another year. It means we continue to work.”

During the AMA’s debate on the assisted suicide report, its backers said a change in position would go against thousands of years of medicine, including the Hippocratic Oath.

“It’s the antithesis of why you want to become a doctor or a healer,” said delegate Dr. Thomas Sullivan, Massachusetts Medical Society president, according to the Chicago Tribune. Sullivan advocated better palliative and hospice care and better psychological support rather than assisted suicide.

Some delegates said they thought it was important to support members who aid in assisted suicide where it is legal.

Dr. Theodore Mazer, president of the California Medical Association, objected that the guidance puts these physicians “at risk of being in conflict with the (AMA’s) code of medical ethics.”

Physician-assisted suicide is legal by law in the District of Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont, and Colorado; and in Montana through a state supreme court ruling. It will become legal in Hawaii next year. A bill to legalize assisted suicide is under consideration in Indiana.

Matt Valliere, executive director of the Patients’ Rights Action Fund, said the AMA vote is “a lost opportunity and a failure to stand against a policy that has grave consequences for everyone, but especially persons living with illness, disabilities, or socio-economic disadvantage.”

“Assisted suicide is not medical care,” Valliere said June 12. He said the vote decision “does not take into account that this bad public policy puts vulnerable patients at high risk for coercion, mistakes and even abuse.”

The AMA’s current guidance describes physician-assisted suicide as “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” It would be “difficult or impossible to control” and would pose “serious societal risks.”

While it is “understandable, though tragic” that some patients in extreme duress from their suffering may decide that death is preferable to life, “permitting physicians to engage in assisted suicide would ultimately cause more harm than good.”

The guidance says physicians should not abandon a patient once a cure is determined impossible. They must respect patient autonomy, provide good communication and emotional support, and must provide appropriate comfort care and pain control.

Speaking to CNA, Valliere said there could be many reasons why certain delegates didn’t vote to affirm the report.

Like-minded physicians who oppose assisted suicide should join the AMA and become active in their state delegations and work to become delegates, he added.

“They can and should also be discussing with their colleagues the very real dangers that assisted suicide public policy and practice pose,” he said. Many voting delegates come from other areas of medicine with limited involvement with death and dying.

Organizations like the 140,000-member American College of Physicians, the second-largest national physicians’ organization, recently reaffirmed their opposition to assisted suicide.

The decision comes amid a significant increase in suicide in the U.S. On June 7, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the suicide rate has risen steadily in almost every U.S. state, and 25 percent nationwide, in the period from 1999 to 2016. Nearly 40,000 Americans died by suicide in 2016, twice the number of homicides that year.

Valliere reflected on the tension behind opposing some suicides and advocating suicide for others.

“When some people get suicide prevention, and others get suicide help based on health or disability status, that’s a clear problem of unequal protection under the law,” he said.

He warned that assisted suicide could undo decades of efforts by disability activists. Many in the disability community, for instance, live “full professional lives,” have children, and are active members of their communities.

“And yet, if they didn’t have a ventilator, they’d be dead,” he said.

The legal definition of “terminal illness” is different than the clinical definition. Some laws such as Oregon’s consider diabetes a qualifying terminal illness for assisted suicide.

“So if someone like my father, who has diabetes and has been on insulin for half his life, could be having a bad year, fall into deep acute depression, and go off his insulin, they would declare him terminal according to assisted suicide public policy. He would qualify for the law,” warned Valliere.
 

 

Cardinal DiNardo: New US asylum policy erodes the right to life

Miami, Fla., Jun 13, 2018 / 07:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At the opening of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ general assembly on Wednesday, the conference president issued a statement condemning the Trump administration’s adoption of stricter asylum policies and its policy of family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life,” read the June 13 statement from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. The bishops gathered at the spring plenary meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, 30 miles north of Miami, indicated their widespread assent to the statement.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a 31-page ruling June 11 indicating that domestic violence and gang violence are no longer grounds for seeking asylum in the U.S. He said that domestic abuse and gang violence claims alone should not be considered grounds for an asylum claim, unless there is also evidence of persecution by government actors based on one’s social group.

The BBC reports that around 10,000 people annually receive asylum in the U.S. due to domestic abuse or gang violence in their home countries

Session’s decision “elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection,” Cardinal DiNardo stated.

“These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country. This decision negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women.”

Cardinal DiNardo stated that “unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors.”

The U.S. bishops urged both courts and policy makers “to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life.”

The cardinal’s statement also discussed the Trump administration’s policy of separating minors from their parents who enter the U.S. illegally as part of its zero-tolerance policy.

“Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma.”

Because families are “the foundational element of our society,” they “must be able to stay together,” he reflected.

“While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

“Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”