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Posted on 06/19/2018 03:00 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Trenton, N.J., Jun 18, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Trenton condemned gun violence and called for prayer in a statement following a shooting early Sunday that left one dead and 22 injured.
“The epidemic of gun violence has struck once again, this time close to home,” Bishop David M. O’Connell of the Diocese of Trenton said in a statement Sunday.
“The people of Trenton awoke this morning to the tragic news that twenty of our brothers and sisters - our families, neighbors and friends - were injured during a mass shooting in the early hours of Sunday morning…” he said.
According to reports from authorities, the shooting happened around 2:45 a.m. on Sunday, June 17 at the Art All Night-Trenton festival, a 24-hour art exhibit that has been displayed annually for 12 years.
A 33 year-old man, Tahaij Wells, was reportedly identified as a suspect and shot and killed by police. Wells had just been released from prison on homicide-related charges, according to CNN. Another man, Amir Armstrong, 23, has also reportedly been charged in connection to the incident.
“We pray for the injured and their families, for comfort and healing. We pray in thanksgiving for the first responders and emergency workers. And we pray for our community here in Trenton that God’s peace and our love for one another might prevail,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell’s sentiments echo those of bishops throughout the country who have found themselves looking for words to comfort their grieving communities in the wake of mass shootings.
He joins numerous other bishops who have had to respond to similar tragedies in the months since the October 2017 Las Vegas shooting, which killed 58 people and left hundreds more injured, and has been called the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
“Our hearts go out to everyone,” Bishop Joseph A. Pepe of Las Vegas said in his response to that shooting. He offered prayers for the victims and their families, as well as the first responders and all involved in the incident.
He added that he was “very heartened’ by the stories of the Good Samaritans amidst the tragedy, and prayed for an end to violence throughout the world.
The following month, at least two bishops responded to shootings in their dioceses, including Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, Texas, who offered his prayers and condolences following the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, which killed 26 people.
“We need prayers! The families affected in the shooting this morning at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs need prayers. The evil perpetrated on these who were gathered to worship God on the Lord’s Day – especially children and the elderly – makes no sense and will never be fully understood,” Garcia-Siller said at the time.
The following week, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento led the U.S. bishops' general assembly in prayer following a shooting in his diocese in which at least four people and several more were injured at several sites in and around Ranch Tehema Reserve, a small community located about 130 miles northwest of Sacramento.
“I would ask if we could take a moment to ask God's mercy not only on those affected by this [incident], but on all affected by gun violence in these times. Let us ask for Mary's intercession for these people,” he said Nov. 14, before leading the bishops in the Hail Mary.
In January 2018, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and two other bishops responded to two school shootings that occurred within the same week, one in Texas and one in Kentucky.
On Jan. 22 at Italy High School in Italy, Texas, about 50 miles south of Dallas, a teenage girl was injured in a shooting.
On Jan. 23, a student opened fire at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky., about 120 miles southwest of Owensboro, killing two students and injuring 20 others.
The shootings were “painful reminders of how gun violence can tragically alter the lives of those so precious to us – our school children,” DiNardo said in a statement at the time.
Bishop William Medley of Owensboro offered his prayers for the victims as well as for the shooter in the Marshall County shooting. “May the Lord bring comfort to the family who lost their loved one today, and to all of the students and their families who have to endure the aftermath of this school shooting. Let us all pray for peace across our nation,” he said in a Jan. 23 statement.
In response to the Benton shooting, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville offered his “deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and their friends, teachers and staff as well as the first responders and the whole community of Benton.”
“We know that God’s love overcomes all evil. May the souls of the departed rest in peace and may God’s merciful love sustain the victims and those who love and support them as they heal from the physical and emotional wounds of this senseless act of violence,” Kurtz added.
In February of this year, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami urged unity and strength in his diocese following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland which killed 17 students and injured dozens more.
“We pray for the deceased and wounded, for their families and loved ones, for our first responders and our entire South Florida community,” Wenski said at the time. He urged all Floridians to come together as a community, remain strong, and “resist evil in all its manifestations.”
Following the Parkland shooting, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., and Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio, also issued a joint statement calling for “common-sense gun measures” and dialogue about specific proposals that could reduce gun violence, improve school safety and improve access to mental health resources.
In May, DiNardo once again responded to a mass shooting, this time in his own diocese, when a shooter at Santa Fe High School outside of Houston killed 10 and injured 13 others.
“Sadly, I must yet again point out the obvious brokenness in our culture and society, such that children who went to school this morning to learn and teachers who went to inspire them will not come home,” he said. “We as a nation must, here and now, say definitively: no more death! Our Lord is the Lord of life. May He be with us in our sorrow and show us how to honor the precious gift of life and live in peace.”
Prayer as a response to shootings or other deadly incidents has in recent years been criticized by some commentators, called pointless or secondary in comparison to advocacy for gun control policies or mental health resources.
The day after a shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. killed 14 on Dec. 2, 2015, the cover of the New York Daily News said “God isn’t fixing this” - a response to politicians and public figures who offered “thoughts and prayers” after the tragedy, but allegedly took insufficient action to prevent such shootings from occurring in the future.
However, Monsignor Robert Weiss, who was pastor in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012 when a shooter killed 11 children at an elementary school, has said that turning to God is a necessary part of the response to tragedy.
“To whom do you go? Do you rely on yourself? Because there’s no way you can individually handle these kinds of experiences,” he told CNA in a 2017 interview following the Las Vegas shooting. He recalled professionals telling him in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting that “we can only do so much for these people” to help them heal from the tragedy.
“There is only one place to turn, and it’s to turn to the Lord and find some sort of understanding of this,” he said.
Police in Trenton have said that Sunday’s shooting seems to be gang-related, and not an act of terrorism.
“There is no motive, however, that can justify these ongoing, seemingly relentless acts of gun violence plaguing our cities. How many times can our hearts break?” O’Connell said. “Once again, we fall to our knees to beg the Almighty to help us end these senseless assaults on innocent life in our communities.”
Posted on 06/18/2018 23:59 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Denver, Colo., Jun 18, 2018 / 03:59 pm (CNA).- A Honduran woman says that federal immigration authorities took her daughter from her arms as she breastfed the child. When she reached out for her daughter, she says she was handcuffed; she stood powerless as her daughter was taken away.
The woman was in a detention center - a jail - in Texas. She was waiting to be prosecuted for illegal entry into the United States.
Her story, if true, is heart-wrenching. It cries out for justice.
Catholics see in every nursing mother an icon of our own mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who nursed the infant Jesus at her breast.
We see in the bond between mothers and their children a reminder of the life-giving and nurturing love of God, and the first means through which God’s love brings us into being, guides us, and protects us.
“You drew me forth from the womb,” the Psalmist wrote to the Lord, “made me safe at my mother’s breasts.”
We don’t know what happened after that Honduran girl was taken from her mother’s arms.
We don’t know if she was taken to a warehouse, to be housed with hundreds of other children who had been separated from their immigrant parents. We don’t know if she sat strapped in a car seat, squalling for her mother, near the the big kids who let themselves cry only as they fall asleep on gym mats spread across the floor, behind a chain link fence.
We do know that policies that indiscriminately separate children from their migrant parents at our national border violate the sacred sovereignty of families. They need to be stopped.
But it’s not enough to condemn the treatment of a mother separated from her child without asking what should happen instead. There have been, unfortunately, too few solutions proposed to address a real problem: how should the identity of family members be verified at the border, to ensure that children are not being trafficked? That issue needs more than moralizing or grandstanding. It needs a real solution.
It’s also not enough to call for an end to family separation at the border without asking what led to this humanitarian crisis, and what kind of reforms will really make a difference.
For that reason, no matter how discouraged they are, Catholics need to lead efforts to develop comprehensive immigration reforms rooted in the principles of justice. Only serious reforms, which create a system that protects security and the right to migrate, will end humanitarian crises at the border, mass detentions and deportations, and the deaths of migrants crossing through the desert.
Among the principles of Catholic social teaching are five that seem particularly relevant to just immigration policy: That nations have a right to security; that families have the right to migrate for safety, freedom, or economic opportunity; that justice obliges countries who can receive immigrants without detriment to the welfare of their citizens to do so; that wealthy and stable nations ought to assist unstable and poor countries; and that the family is sacred, sovereign, and prior to the state.
The United States has the right to security: porous, unsafe, and uncontrolled borders do an injustice to those who cross them, and to our country’s citizens.
The United States also has the right to call on central and south American countries to reform their economies and to quell the violence and disorder that spurs emigration. The United States has the means, and the obligation, to help those countries work for stability, and to hold them accountable when they do not.
But the United States also has the capacity to receive legally many more immigrants than we do now. We’re facing a labor shortage that won’t be resolved by the restrictive caps and quotas we now place on immigration, or by the byzantine processes that make waiting times for legal migration longer than people’s lifetimes. And importing labor also expands our tax base and our domestic consumer base. Those benefits outweigh the costs - measured in the provision of social services - associated with increased immigration.
Beyond the economic reasons for making it easier to come to this country are the moral reasons. We are a wealthy and safe nation. Poor people, from poor countries, have the right to migrate for work and security. Our wealth and safety will not be fatally compromised by their arrival. This is not a matter of charity. It is a matter of justice. “The money you have hoarded,” St. Basil the Great wrote in the fourth century, “belongs to the poor.”
In 1948, Pope Pius XII wrote to the bishops of the United States. He said that he was “preoccupied” and following with “anxiety...those who have been forced by revolutions in their own countries, or by unemployment or hunger to leave their homes and live in foreign lands.”
“The natural law itself, no less than devotion to humanity, urges that ways of migration be opened to these people,” the pope wrote. “For the Creator of the universe made all good things primarily for the good of all. Since land everywhere offers the possibility of supporting a large number of people, the sovereignty of the State, although it must be respected, cannot be exaggerated to the point that access to this land is, for inadequate or unjustified reasons, denied to needy and decent people from other nations, provided of course, that the public wealth, considered very carefully, does not forbid this.”
Seventy years later, the pope’s words remain true, and important. The United States needs a program of immigration reform that recognizes our moral obligation to allow broader participation in our economy. Catholics must lead the way toward this reform.
We cannot hoard our prosperity. We cannot exaggerate our national sovereignty. Our land, our jobs, our prosperity itself exists primarily for the good of all. God did not make the land on which we live, or bless the country we call home, so that we could live in comfortable security while those outside our gates suffer violence, chaos, and hunger.
The rule of law matters - it’s not reasonable or safe to expect that law-breaking at the border should continue unabated, or go unnoticed. But the justice of our laws matter too: no one can call for would-be immigrants to follow our nation’s laws without being sure that those laws are just. Our laws, measured against the Church’s criteria, are not just.
Comprehensive immigration reform, though, will be a long-time coming. It will require statesmanship, sober reflection, and serious analysis - these are not things we have come to expect from our national leaders. That both parties have reprehensible records on this matter demonstrates just how difficult our task will be. But we have to work for justice.
In the meantime, we need to insist that the sovereignty of the family is respected. There are times when parents and children should be separated - when parents have been abusive or neglectful, or when they pose a danger to their children or others. Adults who enter this country with children should be scrutinized - for the sake of the children, we should ensure that those adults really are their parents, that the children are not being trafficked or abused. But we need to do this without taking children from the arms of their mothers, or sending toddlers to live in detention facilities.
Using family separation as a deterrent for migration is an intolerable and contemptible injustice.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” Pius XII wrote, “living in exile in Egypt to escape the fury of an evil king, are, for all times and all places, the models and protectors of every migrant, alien and refugee of whatever kind who, whether compelled by fear of persecution or by want, is forced to leave his native land, his beloved parents and relatives, his close friends, and to seek a foreign soil.”
Catholics are called to work for justice for the Honduran woman and her daughter, separated during the intimacy of nursing. We’re also called to work for a just system of migration to this country, to be its architects and champions. We are called, like Mary and Joseph, to be protectors of migrants, aliens, and refugees, especially those seeking peace as our neighbors.
This commentary reflects the opinions of the author, and does not necessarily reflect an editorial position of Catholic News Agency.
Posted on 06/18/2018 23:57 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2018 / 03:57 pm (CNA).- In recent weeks, changes to the U.S. enforcement of immigration policy have made headlines, as an effort to pursue criminal prosecution has led to family separations.
What exactly are the new policies? How did the changes come about? And how have Church leaders responded?
In May 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy that seeks to criminally prosecute 100 percent of immigrants who are caught crossing the border illegally.
Until that policy was announced, people caught crossing the border illegally were sent to an immigration judge, who would determine whether they would be deported. While waiting for a hearing, they would be held in immigration detention centers, or – due to lack of resources or legal limits on how long certain types of immigrants could be detained – be given a court date and released.
The Trump administration’s decision to pursue criminal prosecution means that immigrants are held in a federal jail until they go before a federal judge, who must determine whether immigrants will receive prison sentences for crossing the border illegally.
This shift to the criminal justice system is what leads to family separation, because children cannot be held legally in a federal jail with their parents.
The family separation policy has been described by Sessions as a deterrent to illegal immigration. “If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border,” he said May 7.
Once the children are separated from their parents, they are classified as unaccompanied minors and placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. The children are kept in government facilities while arrangements are made to release them to a relative in the country, if one can be identified, or to place them in foster care, while their parents’ immigration case moves forward.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, some 2,000 immigrant children have been separated from their parents in recent months. They are held along with detained minors who crossed the border unaccompanied by an adult.
In total, it is estimated that upwards of 10,000 migrant children are currently being held in over 100 shelters, which are at 95 percent capacity, according to a McClatchyDC report. The Department of Health and Human Services is reportedly considering the construction of “tent cities” to hold the children.
The Bush administration had enacted a similar “zero tolerance” policy to criminally prosecute illegal border crossings. However, it made an exception for unaccompanied minors or families with children. The Obama administration enacted zero tolerance for a short period, but did not separate families as a matter of policy.
Critics of previous administrations warned that legal exceptions for families, children, and asylum seekers created loopholes that could be abused by immigrants to cross the border without facing criminal prosecution, for example, that would-be migrants might travel with children unrelated to them and falsely claim to be a family. Critics also said that family loopholes could enable, or even encourage, child trafficking. President Donald Trump has said that he wants to close these loopholes.
However, immigration and human rights advocates say they are concerned that, like other families illegally crossing the border, asylum-seeking families are also being separated.
The right to claim asylum is recognized by international law. To claim asylum in the U.S., one must show a well-founded fear of persecution in his home country, on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or particular social group.
An individual can make an asylum claim at a U.S. port of entry. A judge will then determine whether to accept the asylum claim.
However, reports indicate that some people attempting to claim asylum legally at the border are turned away repeatedly, told that the system is unable to accept new applications to be processed. While prohibiting someone from making an asylum appeal is illegal under international law, delaying a claim, which essentially denies that it be made, is a legal grey area.
People can also claim asylum by crossing the border illegally and then turning themselves in to officials. While the act of crossing the border in this case is illegal, the right to claim asylum is still valid, under international law.
Immigration advocates and human rights groups say that legitimate asylum applicants are forced to cross the border illegally in order to make their claims, and are then separated from their children for breaking the law.
The United Nations has condemned the practice of family separation as “a serious violation of the rights of the child,” which “amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life.”
The U.S. bishops have been vocally opposed to the new policy, as well as a recent move to remove gang violence and domestic abuse from the list of asylum claims that will be accepted as valid.
Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration, has stressed that “Rupturing the bond between parent and child causes scientifically-proven trauma that often leads to irreparable emotional scarring.”
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston stressed that the U.S. 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 said. “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.”
Posted on 06/18/2018 22:16 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Springfield, Ill., Jun 18, 2018 / 02:16 pm (CNA).- For Catholic high school students on their way to college, faith runs the risk of being lost in the shuffle of new roommates, classes, studying, and activities.
Campus ministries are often available to students in college – if they can get connected. One group is doing just that: helping high school students make a smooth faith transition into college by connecting them to their college’s Catholic center, even before they arrive.
“We reach out into the Catholic high schools and parishes to identify graduating seniors and where they are going off to college,” said Matthew Zerrusen, director and co-founder of The Newman Connection.
“We then get that information and send it to their respective campus minister. The idea is that the campus minister can then reach out to the student even before they arrive on campus,” Zerrusen told CNA.
The Newman Connection is a non-profit organization that provides national brand and support structure for campus ministries, assisting them in outreach, programming and organization development, said Zerrusen. Their main program is high school outreach, in which they contact Catholic high school students and connect them with the campus ministers at the colleges they plan on attending.
“We are essentially providing a list of warm leads for them [campus ministers] to boost outreach efforts,” said Zerrusen.
“We are changing the culture from a throw-darts-at-the-wall outreach plan to a strategic outreach plan that can target students based on the information given to us during high school,” he continued.
According to Zerrusen, around 80 percent of students stop practicing their faith in college. With such a substantial number of young people drifting away from the Church during formative years of their lives, Zerrusen believed something needed to be done.
“We have to change this,” he said, calling Newman Connection’s high school outreach program “a good start” in helping campus ministers connect with students and help them keep their faith on campus.
With the Newman Connection model, Zerrusen said students will already have a real, personal Catholic connection on their campus and will not have to rely on pamphlets or handouts to hear about Catholic events nearby.
JoAnn Shull, the campus ministry director for the St. Thomas More Newman Center at the University of Missouri, said the Newman Connection has allowed its campus outreach to focus more on actually ministering to students instead of spending time searching for them.
“When high schools and parishes communicate to the campus ministries through the Newman Connection, they provide a seamless transition for students to find their faith home in college,” Shull told CNA.
“From the campus ministry side, I see Newman Connection as another team member, albeit outsourced, that helps us find out Catholic students on campus,” she continued.
Over the past few years, Shull said she has seen significant strides in student outreach and remains “incredibly impressed” with the Newman Connection’s ability to make outreach more efficient. The St. Thomas More Newman at Mizzou has credited the Newman Connection for tripling its outreach numbers – taking their ministry from 400 students 5 years ago to over 1,200 students today.
Looking forward, Shull hopes more youth ministries, parishes and dioceses will come to understand the “critical nature of the mission of Newman Connection,” and its impact on the future of the Church, saying college students “need the Church’s support to help them grow in their adult faith.”
“Newman Connection can be a conduit for that process if parishes and dioceses can understand the critical importance of connecting these young adults to campus ministry,” she said.
The Newman Connection has been endorsed by almost 80 different dioceses and has connected upwards of 150,000 students to campus ministries in the past two years, according to Zerrusen. Moving forward, Zerrusen hopes their program can expand to even more parishes across the nation.
“We have to get out into the parishes. There are over 15,000 Catholic parishes in the U.S. and we want to reach them all,” Zerrusen said.
“It is aggressive but we think its achievable. Every year our numbers grow considerably, but getting more support from the public would certainly increase the speed at which we are able to operate.”
Posted on 06/18/2018 11:26 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Toronto, Ohio, Jun 18, 2018 / 03:26 am (CNA).- Every single vocation story is different, but Sr. Rita Clare (Anne) Yoches is probably one of the more unusual.
Sr. Rita Clare, who this month will profess final vows with the Franciscan Sisters T.O.R. of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother, was a four-time national champion professional football player prior to entering the convent.
Yes, that’s American football. (She was a fullback.) Nowadays, the only football Yoches is playing is the annual two-hand touch game she organizes with the 38 T.O.R. sisters she lives with in Toronto, Ohio.
Although she was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools, Yoches said she never once considered becoming a nun. Her family attended Mass each Sunday, but that was about it in terms of her faith life. A talented athlete, Yoches earned a full basketball scholarship to the University of Detroit-Mercy, where she played for four years.
After college, she began her football career in 2003 after a successful tryout with the Detroit Demolition, a now-defunct women’s professional team. She left the team in 2006, and in March of 2007, the former self-described party girl experienced a calling to enter religious life. She ended her relationship with her boyfriend, and entered the Franciscans shortly after.
“(I) loved to stay out as late as could on Friday and Saturday nights, but always went to Mass on Sundays. But I never really listened to what God was saying,” said Yoches in a video about her conversion.
One Sunday, after a particularly moving homily, Yoches realized that she needed to drastically change her lifestyle.
“And I was like, that’s me. I’m sick and dying on the inside. So that convinced me to go to Confession for the first time in a long time.” Her priest provided her with guidance about reading scripture every day, and she began attending Eucharistic Adoration.
It was during Eucharistic Adoration that she felt truly embraced by God, and really began to get a sense of His plan for her life.
"And then I felt God the Father just wrap his arms around me and give me a hug, and just pulled me onto his chest like only a father can hug a daughter,” she said.
“And my life was forever changed. I just wanted more and more of Jesus."
She says while her family was supportive of her decision to enter the convent, her friends were surprised, as she had largely kept her faith life private.
“People were very surprised that this was really who and what I wanted to do and be,” she told the Detroit Free Press.
Sr. Rita Clare will profess final vows on June 30.
Posted on 06/16/2018 01:01 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
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.”
Posted on 06/15/2018 20:21 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
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.
Posted on 06/15/2018 14:31 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
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.
Posted on 06/15/2018 01:02 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
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.
Posted on 06/15/2018 00:49 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
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.