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Millions could benefit from Obama’s new immigration policies

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Catholic News Service

HYATTSVILLE, Md. — The meeting room in the middle of Maryland’s most immigrant-dense ZIP code Nov. 20 was full of people who epitomize the problems President Barack Obama is trying to address with executive action.

A woman at CASA de Maryland's Multicultural Center in Hyattsville, Md., applauds Nov. 20 after hearing President Barack Obama's national address on immigration. The president extended deferral of deportations to parents of millions of U.S. citizens and legal residents. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

A woman at CASA de Maryland’s Multicultural Center in Hyattsville, Md., applauds Nov. 20 after hearing President Barack Obama’s national address on immigration. The president extended deferral of deportations to parents of millions of U.S. citizens and legal residents. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Families with roots in Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala — some with U.S. citizen children, some with one adult child who has legal permanent residency (a green card), and other adults who are in the country illegally — all watched the big screen as Obama announced his plans for allowing perhaps 40 percent of the 11 million people without legal immigration status to be temporarily protected from deportation.

The package of administrative actions, explained in more detail starting with an Obama appearance Nov. 21 in Nevada, includes reprioritizing who the government will target for deportation, cracking down primarily on dangerous criminals and new arrivals at the border.

“We’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security,” Obama said in his televised address from the White House. “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.”

Another component will change the approach in granting visas to foreign students in science and technology who want to remain in the U.S. after graduation, according to the White House.

The Justice Department also will change the Secure Communities program, under which local law enforcement agencies did immigration screening on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, leading to circumstances like what a senior administration official described as a “broken taillight arrest.”

In a background telephone briefing before the president’s announcement, the official said, “An arrest for a broken taillight alone is not going to trigger ICE pickup.”

That’s the sort of thing that Carlos Velasquez said is so helpful about the president’s actions.

Velasquez, attending the Hyattsville viewing party with other members of St. Camillus Church in nearby Silver Spring, where he is active in a variety of ministries, said he knows many, many families who will potentially benefit from the extension of deferred action to new segments of the population.

So happy the words tumbled out in a giddy mixture of English and Spanish, he said, “They’re going to be safe. Some people get to be no longer afraid they will be arrested and deported for just walking down the street or driving or going to work.”

The simple step of having a Social Security number will make it possible for some of his friends to finally buy homes, Velasquez said. They have the financial resources and pay taxes using an identification number from the Internal Revenue Service, he explained, but lacking a Social Security number is an obstacle to obtaining a mortgage.

Obama’s orders basically would expand upon the 2-year-old program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Immigrants, or DACA. Through it, more than half a million young adults and teens who came to the U.S. as minors have been promised they won’t be deported if they stay out of trouble.

In exchange for registering with the government, going through background checks and other requirements and paying fees, they received work permits and Social Security numbers. More than 600,000 people have applied for the program launched in summer 2012. Of that, 27,000 applications were rejected (and could perhaps be resubmitted) and about 16,000 have been denied. Others are in various stages of the approval process.

The new program would offer the same deal to parents of U.S. citizens or green card holders who have lived in here for at least five years, a potential pool of more than 4 million people, according to the White House. Both the parents-of-citizens program and DACA will now be good for three years, and renewable.

The program is expected to be up and running in the spring.

The administration officials said they estimate about 270,000 additional people will be eligible for DACA under new rules that drop the previous age limit of under-30 and roll forward the date by which applicants need to have arrived in the U.S. to 2010 from the original date of 2007.

Though the audience at the offices of CASA de Maryland, a community organizing service, was quiet throughout the 15-minute address, broadcast with simultaneous Spanish translation on Telemundo, the moments leading up to the president’s appearance were filled with cheerful chanting and applause as residents of the neighborhood stood to tell their stories.

“Si, se pudo!” they chanted, or “yes, we could,” or maybe “yes, he could.” That’s the past tense of the “si, se puede” or “yes, we can,” that has long been popular in rallying migrants to various causes.

Among those who were quick to applaud the president’s plans were, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration.

“We welcome any efforts … that protect individuals and protect and reunite families and vulnerable children,” said Bishop Elizondo in a statement from the USCCB.

Archbishop Kurtz quoted Pope Francis in saying every human being bears the image of Christ. “We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.”

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as CLINIC, also welcomed the package of executive actions, including plans to make it easier for immigrants who lack legal status to travel to their home countries without penalty.

Jeanne M. Atkinson, executive director CLINIC, said, “however, administrative relief is no substitute for legislative reform. We need a permanent fix to the immigration system that can only be achieved through bipartisan Congressional action.”

She added that the network has been gearing up to meet the need for legal advice the deferred action program will trigger. “We will be ready.”

 

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U.S. bishops welcome Obama’s action on undocumented immigrants

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WASHINGTON—The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, has welcomed the news that the Obama administration will defer deportations for many undocumented immigrants and their families.

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, wrote in a Nov. 20 statement that, “We have a long history of welcoming and aiding the poor, the outcast, the immigrant, and the disadvantaged. Each day, the Catholic Church in the United States, in her social service agencies, hospitals, schools, and parishes, witnesses the human consequences of the separation of families, when parents are deported from their children or spouses from each other.”

Bishop Elizondo said that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has “been on record asking the Administration to do everything within its legitimate authority to bring relief and justice to our immigrant brothers and sisters. As pastors, we welcome any efforts within these limits that protect individuals and protect and reunite families and vulnerable children.”

 

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, and president of the USCCB said, “There is an urgent pastoral need for a more humane view of immigrants and a legal process that respects each person’s dignity, protects human rights, and upholds the rule of law. As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, said so eloquently: ‘Every human being is a child of God. He or she bears the image of Christ. We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected, and loved.’”

 

Bishop Elizondo added, “I strongly urge Congress and the president to work together to enact permanent reforms to the nation’s immigration system for the best interests of the nation and the migrants who seek refuge here. We will continue to work with both parties to enact legislation that welcomes and protects immigrants and promotes a just and fair immigration policy.”

 

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Jesus invites all to risk ‘being more,’ says new Chicago archbishop

November 19th, 2014 Posted in Featured, National News

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CHICAGO — At his installation as the ninth archbishop of Chicago Nov. 18, Archbishop Blase J. Cupich urged the congregation at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral to fearlessly share their faith recognizing that God calls them “to more” and “to greater things.”

Before an overflow crowd, the archbishop said he had “a bit of a panic attack” when he saw the day’s Gospel reading was about Jesus walking on water and calling his disciples to follow him.

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich walks down center aisle of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago at the start of his installation Mass Nov. 18. Pope Francis named Archbishop Cupich in September by Pope Francis to succeed Cardinal Francis E. George as Chicago's archbishop. (CNS photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, Reuters)

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich walks down center aisle of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago at the start of his installation Mass Nov. 18. Pope Francis named Archbishop Cupich in September by Pope Francis to succeed Cardinal Francis E. George as Chicago’s archbishop. (CNS photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, Reuters)

“I realize this new responsibility is going to be demanding,” he said, “but seriously folks, I don’t do ‘walking on water.’ I can barely swim. So I hope this image in today’s Gospel is not reflective of anyone’s expectations.”

The archbishop, who succeeds Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, said the passage asks believers to “join Christ in seeking out, inviting and accompanying, by abiding with those to whom he sends us.”

In particular, he said Catholics today face the “formidable task of passing on the faith to the next generation, of evangelizing a modern and sometimes skeptical culture, not to mention inspiring young people to serve the church as priests and religious.” That challenge, he said, “all seems so daunting, as daunting as walking on water.”

Archbishop Cupich noted that catechists and educators are “on the front line of this struggle,” along with parents, grandparents, bishops and priests who can “find that the good news is increasingly difficult to proclaim in the midst of great polarization in church and society.”

In moving forward, he said Catholics need to go back to where their journey of faith began, at their baptism, and be “willing to share it with the next generation.”

“Young people have always been attracted to authenticity of life, where words match deeds. Let’s not be afraid to let our young people know about our life with God and how it began,” he said.

He stressed that such authenticity would similarly be demanded of him as archbishop “particularly as I reach out to those who have been sexually abused by church leaders.”

“That starting point will always be needed for me and my brother bishops to keep fresh the serious duty to honor and keep the promises we made in 2002,” he said, referring to the year the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops developed the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to address allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.

“Working together to protect children, to bring healing to victim survivors and to rebuild the trust that has been shattered in our communities by our mishandling is our sacred duty, as is holding each other accountable, for that is what we pledge to do,” the archbishop added.

He told the congregation that Jesus invites them to “take the risk of leaving our comfort zone, but also to deal with the tension involved in change, not dismissively but in a creative way, and to challenge each other to do so.”

Some examples he stated included: going to Mass more than once a week and changing habitual bad behaviors, unhealthy dependencies or inordinate attachments.

He said Pope Francis has similarly urged Catholics to “walk with Christ, as he is always doing something new.”

“It is an invitation to leave behind the comfort of going the familiar way. He is challenging us to recognize that Christ is always inviting us to more, to greater things. It is the kind of invitation our bishops’ conference is making to our nation to be what it has always promised to be, to protect the vulnerable, poor and weak, to treat immigrants with justice and dignity, to respect life and to be good stewards of creation.”

The archbishop said it is “the invitation of Jesus: ‘Come, take the risk of being more.’”

 

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Maryland Catholic doctor who treated patients in Sierra Leone dies from Ebola

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OMAHA, Neb. — A Maryland Catholic doctor who contracted the Ebola virus while working at a Methodist hospital in the West African nation of Sierra Leone died early Nov. 17 at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha from the virus.

Dr. Martin Salia, 44, was the third Ebola patient to be treated in Omaha, and the first patient to die there. There have been 10 Ebola patients in the United States; two have died.

Dr. Martin Salia, a U.S. surgeon originally from Sierra Leone, is shown in April at the United Methodist Church's Kissy Hospital outside Freetown, Sierra Leone. He died of Ebola Nov. 17 at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha where he was being treated after arriving from West Africa. (CNS photo courtesy Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service)

Dr. Martin Salia, a U.S. surgeon originally from Sierra Leone, is shown in April at the United Methodist Church’s Kissy Hospital outside Freetown, Sierra Leone. He died of Ebola Nov. 17 at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha where he was being treated after arriving from West Africa. (CNS photo courtesy Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service)

Salia was working as a general surgeon at Kissy United Methodist Hospital in the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown, which is not an Ebola treatment unit.

It was not immediately clear how Salia contracted the virus. But sources at the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation say Salia worked in at least three other medical facilities in addition to Kissy Hospital.

Kissy serves some of Freetown’s poorest neighborhoods. Several units of the hospital, including its surgical wards, were shut down in October when a patient who was admitted to the hospital for other health conditions manifested signs of Ebola. That patient was taken to another hospital in Freetown where he died.

Salia’s infection came several weeks after the 21-day quarantine imposed on all staff who had direct dealings with the patient who died. Kissy Hospital was closed Nov. 11 and a new 21-day quarantine imposed on the hospital staff in the wake of Salia’s Ebola diagnosis.

Salia, a citizen of Sierra Leone who had been living in Maryland, had tested negative Nov. 6 for the Ebola virus, but a second test Nov. 10 was positive. He arrived Nov. 15 in Omaha.

“Salia was extremely critical when he arrived here, and unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we weren’t able to save him,” said a statement form Dr. Phil Smith, medical director of the biocontainment unit at Nebraska Medical Center.

In an interview with United Methodist Communications earlier this year, Salia talked about how important it was for him to work at a Christian hospital.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be rosy, but why did I decide to choose this job? I firmly believe God wanted me to do it. And I knew deep within myself. There was just something inside of me that the people of this part of Freetown needed help,” Salia said.

“I see it as God’s own desired framework for me. I took this job not because I want to, but I firmly believe that it was a calling and that God wanted me to. … And I’m pretty sure, I’m confident that I just need to lean on him, trust him, for whatever comes in, because he sent me here. And that’s my passion,” Salia said.

“Whenever we want to start surgery, we pray. I am just being used as an instrument or as a surgeon to carry out God’s own plan for that person’s life,” he added.

“We’re very grateful for the efforts of the team led by Dr. Smith,” said a statement from Salia’s wife, Isatu. “In the short time we spent here, it was apparent how caring and compassionate everyone was. We are so appreciative of the opportunity for my husband to be treated here and believe he was in the best place possible.”

News reports said the couple made their home in New Carrollton, Maryland, a suburb of Washington. They have two sons, a 12-year-old and a 20-year-old. Maada Salia told NBC News in a recent interview that despite the risks posed by Ebola, his father “decided to still go and help his people because he wanted to show that he loves his people. He’s really, really a hero to me.”

Salia is the sixth doctor in Sierra Leone to be infected with the virus. The other five doctors also died.

Tributes poured in about Salia upon his death.

“It’s another sad day with challenges uncounted,” said a Nov. 17 statement from Ishmeal Charles, who is program manager for the Healey International Relief Foundation in Sierra Leone and works directly with Caritas, the Vatican’s international aid agency, in the Archdiocese of Freetown.

“Sierra Leone, a country with limited medical professionals, keeps losing our valuable human capacity. Dr. Martin Salia is not just an ordinary doctor but an unstoppable personality,” added Charles, a former child soldier who testified in September about the Ebola crisis at a U.S. Senate hearing. “He is now gone in the midst of this fight. I and many others see him as an hero. We love and greatly miss Dr. Martin Salia.”

“Dr. Salia was a dedicated Christian physician who was living out a calling to serve others. We are inspired by his faith and by other health care workers like him around the world who provide medical care to those who might not otherwise have care, even at risk to themselves,” said a Nov. 17 statement from Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr., president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.

 

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N.J. assisted suicide bill rejects God’s design for life, says bishop

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TRENTON, N.J. — The state of New Jersey is “now on the road” to legalizing physician-assisted suicide, but “it is an option and a choice that we should never make,” said Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell.

He made the comment in a statement released Nov. 13, the day the New Jersey Assembly passed the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act with a 41-31 vote. The measure now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

Gov. Chris Christie has previously stated he opposes efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

Bishop O’Connell described a “slow but steady erosion” in U.S. society “of the conviction that all human life is sacred and worth preserving at every moment from conception through natural death.”

“I call upon all Catholics within the Diocese of Trenton, indeed, upon all people of good will,” he continued, “to recommit themselves to the belief that God is the only Creator and source of all human life and that, therefore, God alone has the right to determine its natural end.”

The bill “permits a qualified terminally ill patient to self-administer medication to end life in humane and dignified manner.” A person who wants to obtain lethal medication must have two doctors confirm he or she has no more than six months to live. Both doctors also have to verify the person is mentally able to make independent and rational decisions.

Terminal disease is defined in the bill as “an incurable and irreversible disease that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment, result in a patient’s death.”

The terminally ill patient must first request the lethal dose from his or her doctor verbally and then 15 days later put a second request in writing and have it signed by two witnesses. A doctor can then write the prescription for the patient, who decides when to take it.

The New Jersey Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops, asked Catholics before the Assembly vote to contact their representatives and urge them to vote against the measure. The conference has asked Catholics to now urge their senators to oppose the bill.

“Our duty is to assist those who are dying — not kill them,” it said.

“Human life is about joys and sorrows, good times and bad, health and sickness, love and loneliness, abundance and sacrifice, time and eternity and every human experience in between: yesterday, today and forever,” Bishop O’Connell said in his statement. “Everyone who lives will eventually die. That’s the way God made us and there are no exceptions and no escape.”

He said that “no one wants, seeks or enjoys sickness, suffering or the pain that touches every one of us in this journey through natural human life. But natural human life is, truly, a journey from its first moments in the womb through its last heartbeat and breath on earth.”

Bishop O’Connell said that God is “the thread that ties every moment, every instance of that journey together from beginning to end. Laws do not alter that reality, try as they might. Laws should not interrupt that continuum, try as they do.”

Supporters of assisted suicide argue that allowing a person to end his or her life when faced with a terminal disease is “death with dignity,” the bishop noted, but said “the only real ‘death with dignity’” is the one that follows a full ‘life with dignity’ as God our Creator has designed and intends it to be, with all its natural, God-given human moments.

“Anything else is a rejection of God our Creator as Creator and an affront to the human nature God has implanted within us, one and all,” he added.

Physician-assisted suicide is legal in Washington state, Oregon and Vermont.

The New Jersey Assembly’s passage of the bill “represents another instance of society turning its back on the medically vulnerable who are at risk because they are either depressed or worried about what their future holds,” said Burke Balch, director of National Right to Life’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics.

“Contrary to what we’re told by assisted suicide advocates, these laws do not offer a patient ‘dignity,’ but only abandonment from health care workers and family who are supposed to be caring for patients and loved ones,” he said.

“The ‘right to die’ rapidly becomes a ‘duty to die,’” Balch added.

 

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Director of Priests for Life calls ruling in its HHS suit ‘wrong’; says group won’t obey mandate

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WASHINGTON — Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said a federal appeals court that ruled against his organization in its challenge to the federal contraceptive mandate “is wrong, and we will not obey the mandate.”

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued the unanimous decision Nov. 14.

“The court stated, ‘We conclude that the challenged regulations do not impose a substantial burden on plaintiffs’ religious exercise,’” Father Pavone said. “After studying the decision further, we will release more commentary.”

Priests for Life argued that the Obama administration’s procedure that nonexempt religious employers must follow to opt out of the contraceptive mandate violates the organization’s religious rights.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requires nearly all employers to cover contraceptives, sterilizations and some abortion-inducing drugs for all employees in company health plans. It includes a narrow exemption for religious employers that fit certain criteria.

To opt out, nonexempt religious employers must follow a procedure to inform the government of its religious objections to the mandated coverage. The government in turn informs a third party, such as the employer’s insurer or the administrator of its plan, that it must provide the coverage at no cost to the employee.

Previously these employers had been required to fill out a self-certification form, known as EBSA Form 700, to state their objection to providing the coverage and to direct a third party, usually the manager of an employer’s health plan, to provide the contested coverage.

Many religious employers that have sued over the mandate argue that even filling out Form 700 makes them complicit in providing coverage they find objectionable.

So last August, the Obama administration issued a new procedure whereby these employers must advise HHS in writing of their religious objections.

HHS itself will then notify the insurer for a health plan, or the Department of Labor will notify the third-party administrator for a self-insured plan, that the organization objects to providing contraception coverage. The insurer or third-party administrator must provide the coverage at no cost to the employee.

The District of Columbia circuit court ruled on an appeal filed by Priests for Life, after the same court dismissed the group’s lawsuit last December.

Judge Cornelia Pillard wrote the Nov. 14 decision, calling the “bit of paperwork” required to opt out of the mandate “straightforward and minimal.”

“Religious nonprofits that opt out are excused from playing any role in the provision of contraceptive services, and they remain free to condemn contraception in the clearest terms,” she added.

Employers that do not comply with the mandate face fines of $1,000 a day per enrollee in their health plan.

 

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Cardinal says Bishop Finn’s case needs urgent attention, calls investigation of U.S. nuns’ group ‘a disaster’

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Catholic News Service

In an interview with the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” scheduled to air Nov. 16, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston said the Vatican needs to “urgently” address the situation of Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, who was convicted in 2012 on one misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child abuse.

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley

Bishop Finn is the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic official to face criminal charges related to the priest sex abuse scandal that erupted within the U.S. church in 2002. In the Bishop Finn case, diocesan authorities who had been told in December 2010 of child pornography found on a priest’s computer did not tell civil authorities until six months afterward.

“It’s a question that the Holy See needs to address urgently,” Cardinal O’Malley said of the case, according to a transcript provided by CBS. He added, “There’s a recognition of that … from Pope Francis.”

Cardinal O’Malley leads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, established last December by Pope Francis. The cardinal’s appointment to the Archdiocese of Boston, as well as to the Dioceses of West Palm Beach, Florida, and Fall River, Massachusetts, followed the outbreak of clerical sex abuse scandals in each of those dioceses. He is one of eight members of the members of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis on the reform of the Roman Curia and governance of the church.

“We’re looking at how the church could have protocols, how to respond when a bishop has not been responsible for the protection of children in his diocese,” Cardinal O’Malley told Norah O’Donnell of “60 Minutes.”

He agreed with O’Donnell’s assertion that under the Archdiocese of Boston’s protocols for child and youth protection, “Bishop Finn wouldn’t be able to teach Sunday school in Boston.”

In late September, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Ontario, conducted an apostolic visitation to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., to interview Bishop Finn and others in the diocese about the bishop’s leadership.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Cardinal O’Malley also called the Vatican’s investigation into the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and efforts to reform the organization “a disaster.”

An assessment by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith called for the reform to ensure LCWR’s fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.

Asked if he thought women should be in more positions of responsibility in the Curia, Cardinal O’Malley replied, “Yes. I think there should be. And — hopefully, there will be.”

He offered no timetable as to when that could happen. “I can’t tell you what time,” he laughed, “but hopefully soon, you know.”

 

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U.S. bishops OK liturgy items, endorse sainthood cause, hold elections

November 13th, 2014 Posted in Featured, National News Tags: , ,

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BALTIMORE — Though there were no actions on the U.S. bishops’ agenda in Baltimore dealing with immigration, poverty and other public policy issues, the president of their conference said Nov. 11 that he hopes to meet with President Barack Obama and House and Senate leaders soon on several topics.

In a brief comment during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, said he had heard from many of his brother bishops about those issues and hopes conferring with the politicians will supplement the work that committees and USCCB staff are doing.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the USCCB, share a light moment Nov. 10 during the bishops' annual fall general assembly Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the USCCB, share a light moment Nov. 10 during the bishops’ annual fall general assembly Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

He told Catholic News Service that he intends to pursue a meeting with the president and congressional leaders as soon as December.

In other action on the second public day of the Nov. 10-13 meeting, the bishops:

• Approved several liturgical items, including a revised translation of the ritual book used whenever a new church is built or when a new altar is made; the first official English translation of the ritual book “Exorcisms and Related Supplications”; and a supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours that is an English translation of the prayers used for the feast days of saints who have been added to the general calendar since 1984.

• Voted to proceed with a revision of a section of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services dealing with partnerships.

• Endorsed the sainthood cause of Father Paul Wattson, co-founder of the Society of the Atonement in 1899, and in his day a leading advocate of Christian unity.

• Approved a 2015 budget of just under $189.5 million. They also voted on a 3 percent increase in the diocesan assessment for 2016, but the vote fell short of the required two-thirds majority of the 197 bishops required to approve it. Eligible members absent from the Baltimore meeting will be canvassed to determine the final vote.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chairman of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, gave a presentation on the newly revised “Guidelines for Receiving Pastoral Ministers in the United States.”

As the number of priests and pastoral ministers from other countries increases in the United States, he said the resource, now in its third edition, provides information for dioceses, eparchies and religious communities to prepare international ministers for their service and help the communities that receive them.

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, USCCB secretary and chairman of the Committee on Priorities and Plans, told the bishops that a myriad of activities revolving around four key goals of the USCCB is an indication that “the conference planning process is working quite well.”

The current four goals, or priorities, are faith formation and sacramental practice; strengthening marriage and family life; the life and dignity of the human person; and religious liberty.

The bishops also heard a report on the work of various committees — pro-life, domestic justice, international justice, evangelization and religious liberty — which together are trying to pinpoint what Catholics in the pew are thinking and why they accept or disregard church teaching.

The compilation of vast data is being assembled for bishops to read and also will be relayed in series of workshops. One of the major findings from the study — that Catholics want to find out more about their faith — has prompted plans for a 2017 convocation in Orlando, Florida, the week of July 4.

In considering the bishops’ ethical directives for Catholic health care, the discussion focused on whether to revise Part 6, “Forming New Partnerships with Health Care Organizations.” It will take into account principles suggested by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Once completed, the revision will be presented to the bishops for final approval.

Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, invited the bishops to a 2015 Lay Ecclesial Ministry Summit. The June 7, 2015, event will mark the 10th anniversary of the bishops’ statement “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord.” It will be held just prior to the USCCB spring general assembly in St. Louis.

In elections, Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans won the secretary-elect spot. The committee chairmen-elect are: Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, pro-life activities; Auxiliary Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Indianapolis, communications; Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, cultural diversity; Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, doctrine; Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Alabama, national collections. Each will assume their offices next November for a three-year term.

The meeting included reports on the recently concluded extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family; Catholic education and an outreach to Hispanic students in underserved communities; the progress of planning for the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia; the status of the 2013-16 USCCB strategic plan, “The New Evangelization: Faith, Worship, Witness”; the 2015 Fortnight of Freedom; and the defense of marriage.

Several bishops who participated in the synod talked about their experience there, and also discussed it in one of three news conferences during the meeting’s public sessions. Cardinal Dolan said at the news conference that he thought reports of the synod as “confrontational and divisive” conflicted with his impressions. “The one we were at was hardly as spicy (and) juicy,” he said.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington and chairman of the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on the Church in Africa, reported on continuing strong growth for the church in Africa and said U.S. Catholics deserve thanks and credit for their financial support for the effort. “Some dioceses (in Africa) have more catechumens than Catholics,” he said, adding that in some dioceses as many as 5,000 people have joined the church in a year. Such growth rates “are somewhat like the early centuries of the church,” he said.

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, reported on a 12-day prayer pilgrimage for peace in the Holy Land in September. Eighteen bishops visited sacred sites of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and met with people who helped them understand the struggles of the people of each faith.

“We know peace is possible,” Bishop Cantu said, “because God is our hope.” But “after another Gaza war, hope is now in short supply. What is needed now is the transformation of human hearts, so that one side’s hearts is less deaf to the concerns of the other.”

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said the committee, extended for another three years, planned to focus more on teaching and expanding networks with Catholic lay groups and interfaith and ecumenical partners. He said threats to religious liberty remain a great concern.

“The challenges to religious liberty with regard to the redefinition of marriage grow daily,” said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, in his report.

He said that for several years, the subcommittee has “sought to defend marriage’s unique meaning, while also calling attention to the real negative consequences and anticipated threats that marriage redefinition poses to religious liberty and freedom of conscience.”

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia formally opened its arms to the world as Archbishop Charles J. Chaput announced that registration has officially begun for the World Meeting of Families next year there.

On Nov. 10, the bishops concelebrated Mass at Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary to mark the 225th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Baltimore, the first diocese created for the United States. It was made an archdiocese in 1808.

Archbishop Lori said in his homily that all Catholics are heirs “to this precious legacy” set forth by the first nation’s first Catholic bishop, Bishop John Carroll.

“Let us humbly ask for the grace to build on the foundations that John Carroll set down,” Archbishop Lori said.

 

 

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U.S. bishops urged not to ‘shy away’ from supporting traditional marriage

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — The U.S. bishops gathered in Baltimore for their annual fall general assembly were urged not to “shy away” from the Catholic Church’s support of traditional marriage even as laws across the country are legalizing same-sex marriage.

“The challenges to religious liberty with regard to the redefinition of marriage grow daily,” said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, in a Nov. 10 report to the bishops.

He said that for several years, the bishops’ subcommittee has “sought to defend marriage’s unique meaning, while also calling attention to the real negative consequences and anticipated threats that marriage redefinition poses to religious liberty and freedom of conscience.”

The archbishop urged his fellow bishops to continue their work on the issue, taking to heart the words and example of Pope Francis to advance a “culture of encounter, accompaniment and witness.”

He said the recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upholding traditional marriage laws in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee was a “significant win for marriage” and will likely bring the issue to the Supreme Court.

He also noted that two federal court rulings, now on appeal, in Louisiana and Puerto Rico, upheld traditional marriage laws.

But Archbishop Cordileone said the Supreme Court’s failure in October to review appeals of rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans and other recent circuit court decisions allowing for same-sex marriages brings “the number of states where marriage has effectively been redefined in the law” to 32.

He warned that society’s redefinition of marriage “brings complex challenges — pastoral, sacramental and legal” — and he also emphasized that the church’s “accompaniment of those who experience same-sex attraction is particularly important.”

The Catholic Church upholds marriage as between one man and one woman and teaches that any sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful. The church also teaches that homosexual attraction itself is not sinful and that homosexual people “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

The archbishop encouraged his fellow bishops to continue their support of traditional married couples and families and emphasized the importance of upcoming gatherings such as the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next September and the world Synod of Bishops on the family next October.

“The church is being called to embrace a renewed catechesis on marriage and family” in preparation for these meetings, he said.

 

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Religious liberty ‘continues to be great concern,’ Archbishop Lori says

By

Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — The ongoing work of the U.S. bishops to defend religious freedom will take a slightly different tone in upcoming years, said its committee chairman.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, told the bishops the committee, extended for another three years, planned to focus more on teaching and expanding networks with Catholic lay groups and interfaith and ecumenical partners.

He said the committee would provide a “clearinghouse function” providing resources as religious liberty issues arise.

The archbishop noted that new committee members would include “fewer lawyers” and more experts in the communications field to help get the bishops’ message across. It also would include bishops from relevant committees.

One of the committee’ hallmarks has been the annual Fortnight for Freedom, a 14-day campaign of prayer and special events focusing on religious liberty issues. The 2015 fortnight will emphasize the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council document on religious liberty, “Dignitatis Humanae.” Archbishop Lori said it will provide a “great opportunity to teach about religious liberty and evangelize about it.”

“Stay tuned for details,” he told the bishops, adding that the campaign also will be linked to works of charity and service to people in need.

Regarding challenges to religious liberty, the archbishop said there are “some old and some new.”

He said the committee will continue to monitor the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate that is part of the Affordable Care Act.

“There are more than 100 cases to watch. It keeps us busy,” he said.

The committee also is looking at laws that redefine marriage and tracking new proposed legislation requiring health insurance coverage of abortion.

“Religious liberty continues to be of great concern to us all,” he said, adding that it might seem that the struggle is a daunting task.

“We approach this as people of faith, as spiritual leaders who love our church, who love our people, who love our country,” he said.

 

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