Home » Articles posted by Carol Zimmermann

Catholic leaders praise stays of executions for Arkansas death-row inmates

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Catholic leaders praised the federal and state rulings that granted stays of executions for a group of Arkansas death-row inmates during the week of April 17.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is pictured in a 2013 photo. Arkansas, which has not executed anyone in more than 12 years, plans to execute eight death-row inmates in a period of 10 days this April before one of the state's lethal injection drugs expires. Hutchinson in late February set the four execution dates for the eight men between April 17-27. (CNS photo/Shawn Thew, EPA)

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is pictured in a 2013 photo. Arkansas, which has not executed anyone in more than 12 years, plans to execute eight death-row inmates in a period of 10 days this April before one of the state’s lethal injection drugs expires. Hutchinson in late February set the four execution dates for the eight men between April 17-27. (CNS photo/Shawn Thew, EPA)

“After the darkness of Good Friday has come a great light,” Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network against the Death Penalty, said in an April 16 statement. She said the plan to execute these men in such a short period of time brought about “an extraordinary response from so many people calling for a culture of life and an end to this practice of retribution.”

A federal judge’s April 15 ruling stopped the state from executing six of the inmates with a preliminary injunction handed down in response to a lawsuit filed by the inmates, who claimed the executions were unconstitutional because of their rapid pace and the ineffectiveness of the lethal injection drug midazolam. They claimed the sedative drug doesn’t always work and causes those who are being executed to feel pain from the use of other two lethal injection drugs.

The previous day, an Arkansas judge, responding to a lawsuit from two pharmaceutical companies, issued a temporary restraining order on the state’s executions based on evidence the state may not have obtained midazolam properly.

The state and federal judges’ rulings are both under appeal by the state. A significant delay in these arguments could indefinitely halt these executions since the state’s supply of midazolam will run out at the end of the month and state officials have said they have no source to obtain a further supply of the sedative.

But even with the court-issued stays, the executions are still possible before the end of April if the cases are sent to the Supreme Court and it sides with the state of Arkansas in its appeal.

Arkansas officials originally scheduled eight executions from April 17-27. Two of the inmates were granted stays of execution outside of the federal judge’s April 15 decision.

These executions were announced months ago by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who said they had to be done in quick succession to use the state’s final batch of the midazolam before it expired at the end of April.

Many people have demonstrated against the state’s plan to execute these man in such quick succession, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In an April 13 statement, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urged the state’s governor to reconsider the scheduled executions and reduce the sentences to life imprisonment.

“May those in Arkansas who hold the lives of these individuals on death row in their hands be moved by God’s love, which is stronger than death, and abandon the current plans for execution,” he wrote.

The bishop said the timing for these executions “was not set by the demands of justice, but by the arbitrary politics of punishment,” referring to the state’s supply of the sedative used in executions. “And so, in a dark irony, a safeguard that was intended to protect people is now being used as a reason to hasten their deaths.”

After the rulings temporarily halting the executions were issued, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, thanked all of those who had “prayed and worked so hard to prevent these scheduled executions from taking place.”

“Let us continue to pray and work for the abolition of the death penalty in Arkansas and throughout the country,” he said in a statement. He also urged for prayers for “healing for the victims of the horrific crimes” and for the perpetrators of these crimes, saying: “The Lord never gives up on anyone and neither should we.”

 

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

Comments Off on Catholic leaders praise stays of executions for Arkansas death-row inmates

New U.S. health care bill withdrawn after if falls short of votes in the House of Representatives

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, doesn’t mince words when it comes to the American Health Care Act, which was short of votes and withdrawn by House Republicans late March 24.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan recommended March 24 that President Trump withdraw the American Health Care Act when it didn't have enough votes in the House. (CNS/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan recommended March 24 that President Trump withdraw the American Health Care Act when it didn’t have enough votes in the House. (CNS/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

Two days before the GOP legislation was set for an initial vote in Congress and then delayed due to last-minute wrangling and efforts to gain support, she described the bill as a disgrace, a pro-life disaster, a huge step back, catastrophic for Catholic social teaching and something that would do incredible damage.

The woman religious, who heads an organization of more than 600 hospitals and 1,400 long-term care and other health facilities in the United States, has a vested interest in the nation’s health care and she also knows the ins and outs of health care legislation from working behind the scenes “forever,” as she describes it, on the Affordable Care Act.

At the time that the ACA was being drafted, some Catholic organizations opposed key elements of the measure. Once it became law, more than 40 lawsuits were filed to challenge the subsequent Department of Health and Human Service’s mandate requiring that insurance plans include coverage for artificial birth control, sterilization and drugs that lead to abortions.

Sister Keehan is quick to point out that the health care legislation signed into law seven years ago is far from perfect, but she says it was an “incredible step forward.”

“I do recognize the political conflict and the imperfections in the bill, but when you can make insurance that much better for people who have it and give 20 million Americans insurance, that is a huge step forward,” she said March 21 in her Washington office.

At a 2015 Catholic Health Association gathering in Washington, President Barack Obama thanked Sister Keehan for her steadiness, strength and “steadfast voice.”

“We would not have gotten the Affordable Care Act done had it not been for her,” he said.

The immediate repeal and replacement of the ACA was a key promise of President Donald Trump’s campaign, but the GOP health care measure has faced opposition from both conservative and moderate Republicans. Trump told House Republicans that he will leave ACA in place and move on to tax reform if they do not support the new health care legislation.

Watching the GOP efforts to repeal and replace the ACA has been hard for Sister Keehan mainly because she and other health care leaders were not consulted in the process.

“We should never, ever throw together a bill that’s going to be such a profound impact on the people of this country in this short of time and without any input from those who care for them,” she said.

The work on these two health care bills couldn’t have been more different, she pointed out, noting that prior to the ACA launch she felt like she “lived in committee rooms” because she was constantly meeting with committees, groups and subgroups at the White House and Congress.

With the GOP health care plan, she said there wasn’t any opportunity for hospital groups or the American Medical Association to give any advice.

“We’ve just been dismissed,” she said, noting that she attended a few small group meetings on Capitol Hill but “they were not meetings to get our input on what ought to be done with the bill but meetings to tell us what was going to be done.”

“This has just been railroaded through Congress,” she added.

While the U.S. bishops have applauded pro-life elements of the American Health Care Act, they also have criticized other elements and expressed concern for its impact on the disadvantaged.

In a March 17 letter to House members about the GOP measure, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said the inclusion of “critical life protections” in the House health care bill is laudable, but other provisions, including those related to Medicaid and tax credits are “troubling” and “must be addressed.”

He said the bill’s restriction of funds to providers that promote abortion and prohibiting federal funding for abortion or the purchase of plans that provide abortion “honors a key moral requirement for our nation’s health care policy.” But he also criticized the absence of “any changes” from the current law regarding conscience protections against mandates to provide certain coverage or services considered morally objectionable by employers and health care providers.

“The ACA is, by no means, a perfect law,” Bishop Dewane said. “The Catholic bishops of the United States registered serious objections at the time of its passage. However, in attempting to improve the deficiencies of the ACA, health care policy ought not create other unacceptable problems, particularly for those who struggle on the margins of our society.”

Main provisions of the new House bill include: eliminating the mandate that most individuals have health insurance and putting in its place a new system of tax credits; expanding Health Savings Accounts; repealing Medicaid expansion and transitioning to a “per capita allotment”; and prohibiting health insurers from denying coverage or charging more money to patients based on pre-existing conditions.

Sister Keehan said she thanked Bishop Dewane for his letter to Congress and said the bishops had carefully gone through the legislation measure by measure on a number of issues. She also noted that she knows people in the pro-life community either think the new bill is strong enough or not doing enough.

As she sees it, the bill is “a pro-life disaster in the fact that when you take health care away from people, you take life.”

“If you want to really, really strengthen the pro-life culture in this country, you make sure people know that their lives and the lives of their children are so valued by our country,” she said, which means providing quality maternity and pediatric care and offering programs like Head Start and food stamps.

Although she said under the ACA no federal funds could be spent on abortion, a nonpartisan government agency in an assessment of the law in 2014 said abortion coverage was available in some plans. Sister Keehan also said the law included help for pregnant mothers to get drug rehabilitation, housing and maternity care, which are not included in the new bill.

“I don’t find this a pro-life bill at all from every perspective,” she added about the new measure.

When asked if there was a silver lining with people at least talking about the need to provide insurance for all Americans, Sister Keehan said the health care crisis for so many people doesn’t give “the luxury of time.”

“To be the only industrialized nation in the world that does not guarantee all its citizens health care is a disgrace,” she said, adding: “We are at a real crossroads in our country’s sense of its responsibility to its people.”

 

Comments Off on New U.S. health care bill withdrawn after if falls short of votes in the House of Representatives

Democratic filibuster looms as senators quiz Gorsuch about abortion, religious liberty

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON— As the confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, moved into the March 23 testimony phase with those for and against his nomination taking the floor, the Democrats announced plans to filibuster his nomination.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-New York, announced on the Senate floor he would oppose Gorsuch’s nomination by joining other Democrats in a filibuster. This means Gorsuch will need 60 votes to be confirmed by the Senate, and with only 52 Republicans, this would be unlikely.

Schumer said that during the hearings Gorsuch was “unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check” on the presidency.

One way around the filibuster is if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, makes a rule change, allowing Gorsuch to be confirmed with 51 votes. A vote to confirm the judge for the high court is scheduled for April 3.

The third day of confirmation hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee for Judge Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee failed to spark high drama. Read more »

Comments Off on Democratic filibuster looms as senators quiz Gorsuch about abortion, religious liberty

Will you ‘ashtag’ on March 1? On posting Ash Wednesday selfies

By

Catholic News Service

Ash Wednesday seems to offer contradictory messages. The Gospel reading for the day is about not doing public acts of piety but the very act of getting ashes and walking around with them is pretty public.

This becomes even less of a private moment when people post pictures of themselves online with their ashes following the #ashtag trend of recent years. Read more »

Comments Off on Will you ‘ashtag’ on March 1? On posting Ash Wednesday selfies

Executive order missing? No religious freedom action from Trump yet

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Talk of President Donald Trump possibly signing an executive order on religious freedom, which drew both criticism and praise, has been replaced with discussion about what happened to it and what a final version, if there is one, will look like. Read more »

Comments Off on Executive order missing? No religious freedom action from Trump yet

Catholics in 115th Congress: One-third of House, one-quarter of Senate

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The religious makeup of the 115th Congress is significantly Christian, 91 percent, with Catholics comprising one-third of the House of Representatives and about a quarter of the Senate.

Overall, there are six fewer Christians in the new Congress, at 485 members. But there are four more Catholics, who now total 168.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., raises the gavel during the opening session of the new Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington Jan. 3. Ryan, who is Catholic, was re-elected speaker of the House of Representatives earlier in the day. (CNS /Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., raises the gavel during the opening session of the new Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington Jan. 3. Ryan, who is Catholic, was re-elected speaker of the House of Representatives earlier in the day. (CNS /Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The high percentage of Christians in Congress is similar to the 87th Congress in 1961, when such information was first collected. At the time, 95 percent of Congress members were Christian.

The data on the religious makeup of the current senators and representatives was collected by Pew Research Center and announced Jan. 3.

The Pew report notes that the large number of Christians in Congress has shifted in recent years with a decline in the number of Protestants. In 1961, Protestants made up 87 percent of Congress, compared with 56 percent today. Catholics, conversely, made up 19 percent of the 87th Congress, and now are 31 percent of the legislative body.

Looking at each party, two-thirds, or 67 percent, of Republicans in the new Congress are Protestant and 27 percent of Republicans are Catholic. The breakdown between Protestants and Catholics is more evenly divided among the Democrats: 42 percent are Protestant and 37 percent are Catholic.

Of the 293 Republicans in the new Congress, all but two, who are Jewish, are Christian. Democrats in Congress also are predominantly Christian, 80 percent, but they have more religious diversity among non-Christians.

The 242 Democrat Congress members include 28 Jews, three Buddhists, three Hindus, two Muslims and one Unitarian Universalist in addition to one religiously unaffiliated member and 10 who declined to state their religious affiliation.

Overall, the new Congress has seven fewer Protestants than the last Congress. Baptists had the biggest losses, down seven seats, followed by Anglicans and Episcopalians, down six seats.

Among non-Christian religious groups, Jews and Hindus had the biggest gains — an increase of two seats each. Jews now hold 30 seats in Congress. The number of Hindus rose from one to three and the number of Buddhists increased from two to three.

The number of Muslims in Congress, two, remained unchanged.

The new legislative group also has the smallest freshman class of any Congress in the past 10 years with 62 new members joining the 473 returnees. Of the new members, half are Protestant and roughly a third are Catholic.

The Pew report points out that some religious groups, including Protestants, Catholics and Jews, have greater representation in Congress than in the general population. Jews, for example, make up 2 percent of the U.S. adult population but account for 6 percent of Congress. Other groups, including Buddhists, Mormons, Muslims and Orthodox Christians, are represented in Congress in roughly equal proportion to their numbers in the U.S. public.

Another significant finding is that the most notably underrepresented group in Congress is the religiously unaffiliated. This group, also known as religious “nones,” accounts for 23 percent of the general public but makes up just 0.2 percent of the 115th Congress.

 

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

Comments Off on Catholics in 115th Congress: One-third of House, one-quarter of Senate

Catholic college presidents pledge help for ‘childhood arrivals’ — undocumented students with DACA status

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — More than 70 presidents at Catholic colleges and universities have signed a statement pledging their support for students attending their schools who are legally protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

The statement, posted Nov. 30 on the website of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, says it hopes “the students in our communities who have qualified for DACA are able to continue their studies without interruption and that many more students in their situation will be welcome to contribute their talents to our campuses.”

Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran is  president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. (CNS photo/courtesy Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities)

Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran is president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. (CNS photo/courtesy Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities)

President Barack Obama’s DACA program protects young immigrants brought into the United States by their parents as young children without legal permission. More than 720,000 of these young immigrants have been approved for the program, which protects them from deportation for two-year periods.

The college leaders’ statement also points out that “undocumented students need assistance in confronting legal and financial uncertainty and in managing the accompanying anxieties. We pledge to support these students, through our campus counseling and ministry support, through legal resources from those campuses with law schools and legal clinics and through whatever other services we may have at our disposal.”

The statement was released three weeks after the presidential election. During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump promised to deport those who are in the country without legal permission; build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border; and enact a ban on Muslims entering the country until a system for what he called “extreme vetting” of refugees is in place.

Trump also made promises during his campaign to undo what he called Obama’s “overreaching” executive orders, including the president’s November 2014 expansion of his 2012 DACA program to allow more young immigrants people to benefit from its provisions that defer deportations and allow them to have work permits.

“Many of us count among our students young men and women who are undocumented, their families having fled violence and instability,” the presidents’ letter said, adding that these students have met the DACA criteria.

Signers of the letter represent large schools, like Villanova, which is outside Philadelphia, DePaul University in Chicago and The Catholic University of America in Washington, and small schools, like Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts, and Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and dozens of colleges in between. They include leaders who have been vocal in their support of students with DACA status, such as Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, and Jesuit Father Kevin Wildes, president of Loyola University New Orleans. 

Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, also signed the statement.

Many of the signers are presidents of Jesuit colleges and universities who signed a similar Nov. 30 statement issued by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities that reiterated support for students who are in the United States without legal documents.

That statement, signed by 28 leaders, said: “We feel spiritually and morally compelled to raise a collective voice confirming our values and commitments as Americans and educators.”

The leaders pledged to continue working “to protect to the fullest extent of the law undocumented students on our campuses” and to promote retention of students with DACA status.

Several of the signers of both statements also signed a Nov. 21 letter with more than 400 college and university presidents from public and private institutions across the U.S. offering to meet with U.S. leaders on the issue of immigrant students and urging business, civic, religious and nonprofit sectors to join them in supporting DACA and undocumented immigrant students.

The letter from Catholic college and university presidents stressed that their schools “share a long history of educating students from a diverse array of socioeconomic, geographical and ethnic backgrounds, often welcoming those on society’s margins, especially immigrants and underprivileged populations.”

It also cited what Pope Francis said last year at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia when he welcomed many recent immigrants to the United States, pointing out that many of them came to the United States “at great personal cost, in the hope of building a new life.”

“Do not be discouraged by whatever hardships you face,” the pope told them. “I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to this nation.”

John DeGioia, president of Georgetown University, who joined the statement with Jesuit college leaders, also sent a similar-themed message to members of the school community Nov. 29.

In the letter, he noted that he has been meeting with students, faculty and staff members from the university and “many of them have shared with me that they feel vulnerable and unsure about their futures or the futures of close friends and family.”

DeGioia stressed that Georgetown’s school community would continue to support the DACA program and “protect our undocumented students to the fullest extent of the law.”

“I wish to encourage each of us to recommit ourselves to supporting one another — to working together to do all that we can to ensure that our community is a place of deep care for each person, especially those who feel most vulnerable,” he wrote.

 

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter @carolmaczim.

Comments Off on Catholic college presidents pledge help for ‘childhood arrivals’ — undocumented students with DACA status

Cardinal DiNardo, new USCCB president, says bishops ‘intend to be attentive’

By

Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — The newly elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said he is not planning on “creating a new vision” but hopes to continue the bishops’ priorities particularly focusing on dialogue and listening to Catholics.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston addresses a news conference Nov. 15 at the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. The cardinal was elected USCCB president that morning. Seated to his left is Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who was elected USCCB vice president. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston addresses a news conference Nov. 15 at the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. The cardinal was elected USCCB president that morning. Seated to his left is Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who was elected USCCB vice president. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

The bishops “intend to be attentive,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston hours after his Nov. 15 election to a three-year term that begins at the close of the bishops’ fall assembly in Baltimore.

For the past three years, he has served as USCCB vice president, a role that typically leads to election as president. He succeeds Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky.

The cardinal said he plans to focus on the needs and concerns of Catholics, particularly members of the immigrant community who fear deportation with the recent election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. But he also said he remained hopeful about working with the new administration, saying its newness “offers options and possibilities.”

“We hope for a whole lot. This is brand new,” he told Catholic News Service.

The cardinal said he would listen to the voices of the immigrants and would work to ensure government leaders treat them with dignity, adding that the church in the U.S. has always stood with immigrants.

“We make our voices heard,” he said, “not by screaming in the streets but rather our voices are heard in the streets by our care and concern and our clarity, what we think is essential.”

Cardinal DiNardo, 67, said the key part of his role remains as a church leader, which is “where we show our shepherd’s heart.”

His Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston includes 1.3 million Catholics, 440 priests in 146 parishes and 60 schools spread over 8,880 square miles.

The cardinal, who was born in Steubenville, Ohio, was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1977 and named a bishop 20 years later. He is a former bishop of Sioux City, Iowa. He has been archbishop of Galveston-Houston since 2006. He was named a cardinal in 2007 and participated in the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis.

This summer, after the shooting of police officers in Dallas in response to shootings by police officers, Cardinal DiNardo said: “These tragedies call for our prayer for healing and for change. It seems as though at times our hearts are stony and paralyzed. We need God’s spirit of mercy to melt them and reopen our hearts to the beauty of human life and to rebuilding human communities.”

 

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter @carolmaczim.

Comments Off on Cardinal DiNardo, new USCCB president, says bishops ‘intend to be attentive’

Papal nuncio tells U.S. bishops to welcome, learn from and teach young people

By

Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the new apostolic nuncio to the United States, urged U.S. bishops Nov. 14 to pay close attention to young Catholics to both learn from them and help them to deepen their faith.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, speaks Nov. 14 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, speaks Nov. 14 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

“Many young people are not allergic to the truths of the faith or to the church, but they simply don’t know anything or know very little about the faith,” he said, urging bishops to take steps needed to help them.

The archbishop, who addressed the bishops at the start of their fall general assembly in Baltimore, also noted that it is difficult for today’s young people to live out their faith in today’s world and they need to know they are welcome in the church.

His remarks were geared to encouraging bishops to prepare for the October 2018 Synod of Bishops, which has the theme of accompanying young people on the path of faith and in discerning their vocation, announced by the Vatican this October.

“We know that youth are critical to the life of the church,” he stressed, adding that they often “find themselves at the peripheries of both the church and society. We must go out to them.”

This was the archbishop’s first address to an assembly of the U.S. bishops since his appointment earlier this year. He said Catholics in the U.S. were still benefiting from the pope’s visit last year and from experiences from the Year of Mercy.

The archbishop, who has spent 40 years in the Vatican diplomatic corps, spent most of his 30-minute address pleading with the bishops to come to understand the young people in their dioceses, noting that they “tend to place everything in the present moment” and are often in a state of constant flux and unable to make a permanent choice.

He also noted the impact of modern technology on today’s youths, saying it has made them change their ways of showing their feelings and communicating, trading “virtual closeness” for real encounters.

To truly understand the young is not only a way to reach out to them but a way to help them discern their next steps, particularly regarding vocations, he added.

Archbishop Pierre stressed that in general they are “open, available and generous” and want authentic relationships and seek the truth. They want to be heard, he added, saying church leaders need to listen to them, following the example of Pope Francis.

The archbishop also stressed the bishops alone do not have the responsibility to help young people connect with their faith, because it is up to the whole church “to go to and walk with our young people.”

 

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter @carolmaczim.

Comments Off on Papal nuncio tells U.S. bishops to welcome, learn from and teach young people

Washington letter: Postelection to-do list — work for unity, healing

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — All the distrust, vitriol and rancor stirred up during the 2016 presidential election campaign did not go away when votes were tallied.

The Nov. 8 election’s outcome, for many, only added more layers of frustration, anger and fear, prompting dozens of protests across the country.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said: “I believe God will give us the strength to heal and unite.” (CNS/Paul Haring)

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said: “I believe God will give us the strength to heal and unite.” (CNS/Paul Haring)

Political leaders, including Hillary Clinton, President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama, acknowledged the disunity and urged people after the election to try to work together.

Catholic leaders have been making similar pleas, not only for the nation, but also recognizing the division that exists among the church’s own members who split their vote — 45 percent for Clinton and 52 percent for Trump.

Four days before the election, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, told a Catholic group in Arlington, Va., that regardless of the election’s outcome, “our country will remain deeply divided and those divisions are, to a very real extent, also reflected within our own Catholic faith community.”

The question before Catholics, he said, is whether we will be “a source of unity and reconciliation, or whether we will be a cause of further division.”

That view also was expressed in a Nov. 9 editorial in the National Catholic Reporter newspaper describing the political climate as a “profound moment in our nation’s history and in our church’s history. … The question now is whether we have the courage and leadership to confront these hurts, work for justice and begin the healing process.”

Putting it even more succinctly was an Election Day tweet by Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis: “Whatever happens at the polls, God will reign. Our work begins tomorrow, building bridges and healing wounds.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said: “Every election brings a new beginning. Some may wonder whether the country can reconcile, work together and fulfill the promise of a more perfect union. Through the hope Christ offers, I believe God will give us the strength to heal and unite.”

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice lobbying organization Network, said her faith dictates that “now, more than ever, we need to mend the gaps and bridge the divides among us.”

“If anger fueled the election, we need to listen deeply to this reality, not dismiss it,” said the Sister of Social Service. “The temptation is to immediately think about how we will fight back, but fighting back will only reinforce this mess we’re in. Instead, we have to fight for a vision that eases people’s fears, brings us together and solves problems.”

Days before the election, Jesuit Father Jim Martin, author and editor at large at America, a weekly magazine published by the Jesuits, said after the election Catholics might want to say the “Prayer for Christian Unity,” which is meant for interfaith unity but has an apt message at a time when many “will feel excluded and unwelcome.”

It turns out the Catholic “Prayer for After an Election” also highlights unity, asking God to “heal us from our differences and unite us, O Lord, with a common purpose, dedication and commitment to achieve liberty and justice in the years ahead.”

The very notion of unity after a more contentious presidential campaign than most can remember might seem far-fetched but some Catholics stress it should at least start at the parish level.

Father Thomas Berg, vice rector and professor of moral theology at St Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York, said the differences of opinion revealed in this election “should never be allowed to become occasions of separation and rupture. Disagreement is an invitation to encounter, dialogue and to witness to the faith we presumably share.”

“Postelection, at the parish level, how wonderful it would be if we could engage each other dispassionately in calm rational dialogue about our differences with regard to the candidates,” said the priest, who is currently writing a book, “Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics.”

Zach Flanagin, a professor of theology and religious studies at St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga, similarly suggested old-fashioned dialogue saying Catholics should take their cue from Pope Francis who has spent a good part of his pontificate accompanying people and listening to them.

“It’s incumbent at a time like this when there is so much division that we sit down and listen to people,” he told CNS on Election Day.

One way for this to happen in parishes, which he said “can be as divided as communities,” would be in for parishes to host dinners where parishioners have the chance to talk to each other about what matters to them. They might not agree with each other, he said, but they will likely come away respecting the other person.

Flanagin said he has seen programs like this work in high schools and junior high schools that have recognized the need to bring diverse communities together to help heal toxic environments.

Sherry Weddell, co-founder of the Catherine of Siena Institute, a group based in Colorado Springs, Colorado dedicated to strengthening parishes and lay Catholics, said the big post election question is: “How can we help rebuild our relationships with one another now that the shouting is over?”

For Catholics, she said the answer is found in embracing the church’s mission in outreach to others. “Being apostles together slowly builds remarkably strong bridges of trust and hope over the divides that separate us,” she said, adding that doing this “can actually heal and transform us as well.”

And for many, part of the mission is simply to keep up the work at hand and encourage others not to lose hope.

Peggy Lewis, interim dean of business and graduate studies at Trinity Washington University in Washington, said she advises students who are disheartened by the election, especially immigrants covered by the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, that the “fight is still on.”

Lewis, highlighted with Trinity students in a Nov. 9 Chronicle of Higher Education news video, said she has been urging these students not to give up.

“Getting students from anger, where I still am, to thinking about the future, is something we’re striving to do,” she said.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, during a Nov. 10 interfaith prayer service for peace, solidarity and unity at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, offered similar encouragement to the immigrant community after the election.

“Tonight in America, children are afraid. Men and women are worried and anxious, thinking about where they can run and hide,” he said.

“The answer is not angry words or violence in the streets. It never solves anything. It only inflames it more. We need to be people of peace, people of compassion. Love not hate. Mercy not revenge,” he said. “These are the tools to rebuild our nation and renew the American dream. Tonight we promise our brothers and sisters who are undocumented: We will never you leave you alone.”

 

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter @carolmaczim.

Comments Off on Washington letter: Postelection to-do list — work for unity, healing
Marquee Powered By Know How Media.