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America needs ‘new sense of our common humanity,’ says Red Mass homilist

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez on Oct. 1 asked the Supreme Court justices, government officials, lawyers and other members of the judiciary gathered at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington to renew a commitment to a government that “serves the human person.”

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who is vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivers the homily during the 65th annual Red Mass Oct. 1 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. The Mass traditionally marks the start of the court year, including the opening of the Supreme Court term. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

He was the homilist at the 65th annual Red Mass in the nation’s capital. Celebrated the Sunday before the opening of the Supreme Court’s term, the annual Mass invokes the Holy Spirit upon those who are responsible for the administration of justice.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl was the main celebrant. Concelebrants included Washington Auxiliary Bishops Barry C. Knestout, Mario E. Dorsonville and Roy E. Campbell Jr.; Archbishop Gomez; Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Va.; Auxiliary Bishop Richard B. Higgins of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services; and Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria.

The distinguished guests at the Mass included five members of the Supreme Court: John G. Roberts Jr., chief justice of the United States; and Associate Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr.; and U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco.

In his homily, Archbishop Gomez spoke about St. Junipero Serra, the newest American saint who was one of the founding missionaries of Los Angeles as part of a string of missions in California and was canonized by Pope Francis during the pontiff’s 2015 visit to Washington.

By canonizing him, Archbishop Gomez said Pope Francis was making a point that “we should honor St. Junipero Serra as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States,” since the missionaries came here before the pilgrims and began their outreach before the nation’s first president was inaugurated.

“It reminds us that America’s first beginnings were not political,” he said. “America’s first beginnings were spiritual.”

Those missionaries, along with the colonists and statesmen later on, laid the groundwork for “a nation conceived under God and committed to promoting human dignity, freedom and the flourishing of a diversity of peoples, races, ideas and beliefs,” said Archbishop Gomez, who is vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The reason the Red Mass is so important each year, Archbishop Gomez said, is because “there is a time for politics and a time for prayer. This is a day for prayer.”

The readings for the Mass included the story of Pentecost, which Archbishop Gomez said “reveals the Creator’s beautiful dream for the human race,” where people from different nations were brought together through the Holy Spirit, who spoke to each of them in their native tongues.

“The mission that Jesus gave (the church) is the beautiful mission of gathering all the peoples of the earth into one family of God,” said Archbishop Gomez. “In God’s eyes, there are no foreigners, there are no strangers. … When God looks at us, he sees beyond the color of our skin, or the countries where we come from, or the language that we speak. God sees only his children, sons and daughters made in his image.”

Archbishop Gomez noted that before God created the earth, he knew each person he would create and had a plan for each of their lives.

“Every life is sacred, and every life has a purpose in God’s creation,” he said.

The Founding Fathers understood this teaching so well that they called the truths “self-evident,” said Archbishop Gomez.

“America’s founders believed that the only justification for government is to serve the human person, who is created in God’s image; who is endowed with God-given dignity, rights and responsibilities; and who is called by God to a transcendent destiny,” said Archbishop Gomez.

Addressing the guests at the Mass, Archbishop Gomez said, “My brothers and sisters, you all share in the responsibility for this great government.”

He called public service a “noble vocation” that requires honesty, courage, prudence, humility, prayer and sacrifice.

“So today, let us ask the Holy Spirit for his gifts and renew our commitment to this vision of a government that serves the human person,” said Archbishop Gomez. “Let us commit ourselves to an America that cares for the young and the elderly, for the poor and the sick; an America where the hungry find bread and the homeless a place to live; an America that welcomes the immigrant and refugee and offers the prisoner a second chance.”

While at times our nation has failed to live up to its founding vision, Archbishop Gomez said, “that should not make us give in to cynicism or despair.”

“For all our weakness and failure: America is still a beacon of hope for peoples of every nation, who look to this country for refuge, for freedom and equality under God,” he added.

Jesus gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins, but he also is “giving every one of us the power to forgive those who trespass against us,” said Archbishop Gomez, who noted that this gift of forgiveness is “part of the unfinished revolution in American society.”

“True forgiveness sets us free from the cycles of resistance and retaliation; it sets us free to seek reconciliation and healing,” said Archbishop Gomez. “”And this is what we need in America today — a new spirit of compassion and cooperation, a new sense of our common humanity. We need to treat others as our brothers and our sisters — even those who oppose or disagree with us. The mercy and love that we desire — this is the mercy and love that we must show to our neighbors.”

The Mass is sponsored by the John Carroll Society, a network that aims to enhance fellowship among Catholic leaders in the Washington area and serve the archbishop of Washington.

By Kelly Sankowski, a staff member of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Let Jesus be your personal trainer, L.A. archbishop urges teens

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LOS ANGELES — Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles told 1,600 Catholic teens gathered for the “City of Saints” conference that their faith and love for Jesus was an inspiration.

“Your desire to live your faith and share your faith; it is so beautiful to witness. And it is so inspiring,” he said in an Aug. 5 homily at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez hears confession Aug. 4 during the third annual City of Saints youth conference on the campus of University of California, Los Angeles. The three-day event offered teens an encounter with Christ through fellowship, praise and worship as they participate in workshops presented by renowned speakers, including youth leaders. (CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Angelus News)

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez hears confession Aug. 4 during the third annual City of Saints youth conference on the campus of University of California, Los Angeles. The three-day event offered teens an encounter with Christ through fellowship, praise and worship as they participate in workshops presented by renowned speakers, including youth leaders. (CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Angelus News)

The archbishop and the Office of Religious Education of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles hosted the third annual “City of Saints” conference for teens, offering them an encounter with Christ through fellowship, praise and worship.

Teenagers attended from 80 parishes and schools throughout Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, the three counties that make up the archdiocese.

The Aug. 4-6 event featured speakers as well as music with contemporary Catholic-Christian band WAL.

Attendees had an opportunity to participate in facilitated group time and the sacrament of reconciliation. Archbishop Gomez celebrated an afternoon Mass Aug. 4 to welcome the teens, then led them in an outdoor eucharistic procession to open a area designated as “Sacred Space,” where spiritual directors described different paths of prayer for the weekend..

“I want to say, as we heard St. Peter say in the Gospel passage tonight, ‘It is good that we are here, Lord!’ Thanks be to God!” the archbishop said in his homily at the Aug. 5 Mass closing the full day of the conference.

“Our Gospel tonight, leads us up the high mountain, the mountain of God,” he continued. “It is almost like we are chosen witnesses to go up with Jesus. Just as he chose the three apostles to go with him in the Gospel — St. Peter, St. James and St. John.”

“We have the privilege tonight in this Gospel to see what they saw, to hear what they heard, the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Gomez said.

That scene was amazing, he said, with the face of Jesus “shining like the sun,” his clothes turning into “white light,” and the prophets Moses and Elijah appearing “out of nowhere.”

Imagining what they saw “reminds us that our lives are part of a great mystery, a cosmic reality, the loving plan of the living God. My young friends, you and me, we are part of the plan,” the archbishop told the teens.

“The purpose of our lives is to be transformed and transfigured. To become more like Jesus every day of our lives. Until one day we will shine like the sun, just like we saw his face shine like the sun in the Gospel today,” Archbishop Gomez explained. “This is God’s plan for your lives — to be his sons and daughters. Just as Jesus was his beloved Son.”

“Jesus is the answer” as to how to do this, he said. “Listen to him. This is the best advice you will ever receive, because it comes from God himself. Let Jesus be your teacher — your ‘life coach,’ your ‘personal trainer.’ Enter into his plan for your life. It is a plan of love, a plan that will lead you to happiness.”

Archbishop Gomez told the teens about two practical things in his life that he said have helped him listen to Jesus — prayer and reading the Gospels. He urged them to make those two things a habit in their own lives.

He suggested they download a Bible app onto their smartphones, so “you will have the Gospels with you everywhere you go.”

“When you get a minute, you can read a passage from the Gospel,” Archbishop Gomez said. “It is way better than checking your Instagram feed.”

“The more we pray, the easier it becomes to open our hearts to God,” Archbishop Gomez said. “The more we reflect on the Gospels, the more we begin to see Jesus alive and working in our lives and in the world.”

“The more we try to listen to Jesus, the easier it becomes to hear him,” he said. “The more we want to be with him in the Eucharist, in the sacrament of reconciliation.”

By following these practices, Archbishop Gomez said, “slowly, we have a ‘transfiguration’ in our lives. That is how it works.”

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Amid climate worries are ‘human ecology’ issues, such as 58,000 homeless in L.A., archbishop says

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LOS ANGELES — As reaction swirled around President Donald Trump’s June 1 decision to withdraw the country from the Paris climate accord, Los Angeles received a report on “the dramatic increase in the numbers of our brothers and sisters who are homeless,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez. Read more »

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U.S. bishops’ group to monitor needs of immigrants, refugees

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is establishing a working group charged with developing spiritual, pastoral and policy advocacy support for immigrants and refugees.

People in Tijuana, Mexico, stand next to a wall separating Mexico and the United States Dec. 10. (CNS photo/Jorge Duenes, Reuters)

People in Tijuana, Mexico, stand next to a wall separating Mexico and the United States Dec. 10. (CNS photo/Jorge Duenes, Reuters)

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, has named members of the working group, with the mandate of closely following developments related to immigrants and refugees in the United States. The USCCB Public Affairs Office announced formation of the group Dec. 16.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president, will chair the group. Members include the chairman of USCCB committees and subcommittees involved in immigration concerns: Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, Committee on Migration; Auxiliary Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Rockville Centre, New York, Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Committee on Domestic Social Development; Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants; and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Committee on International Justice and Peace.

The groundwork for the working group was set during the bishops’ annual fall general assembly in Baltimore when several bishops suggested the conference closely monitor actions by the federal government that affect immigrants and refugees.

In announcing the working group, the Public Affairs Office said the bishops and USCCB staff will be ready to respond to any executive orders and legislation that the new Congress and President-elect Donald J. Trump may introduce.

The working group will inform the efforts of individual bishops in their pastoral responses to immigrants and refugees and recommend appropriate additional efforts as needed, such as the recent day of prayer on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago outlined some of the responsibilities of the working group in a column in the Dec. 11 issue of Catholic New World, archdiocesan newspaper.

He said the group will look at what is being done pastorally in U.S. dioceses and will share best practices with bishops.

“Particular attention will be given to addressing the economic struggles, alienation, fear and exclusion many feel, along with the resistance to the church’s message regarding migrants and refugees,” Cardinal Cupich wrote. “Emphasis will be given to ways we can build bridges between various segments of society.”

The working group will also spearhead advocacy, building on existing USCCB efforts and to engage constructively with the incoming administration and Congress, the cardinal said.

The formation of the new entity, which Archbishop Gomez planned to convene weekly, “will send a message to those who live in fear that the Catholic bishops of the United States stand with them, pray with them, offer pastoral support and speak prophetically in defense of their human dignity,” Cardinal Cupich wrote.

He added that the Chicago archdiocese will continue to “walk with all who, given our broken immigration system, live in the shadows. We will advocate for them as well as for refugees seeking a better life for the families.”

On Nov. 30, at the end of Mass at St. Agatha of Bohemia Parish in Chicago, Cardinal Cupich told the congregation he had been invite to meet with President Barack Obama Nov. 29 “and the only issue I discussed with him was the executive order granting temporary protection for a large number of undocumented persons.”

He told Obama the U.S. Catholic bishops “favor this action but see if only as a first step” to comprehensive immigration reform. The cardinal said he and Obama discussed the need to have some confidentiality provision the church” for if they register for protection, that information would not be used against them.

“I wanted to tell you today about my discussion with the president,” Cardinal Cupich told the congregation, “so that you will know that you can count on me as a good friend of the immigrant community.”

National Migration Week is Jan. 8-14.

 

More information about the U.S. bishops’ observance of National Migration Week in January and links to various resources can be found at http://bit.ly/1cWdELM.

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L.A. archbishop, faith leaders call for immigration reform, end to deportations

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Catholic News Service

LOS ANGELES — Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles called for mercy and an end to deportations as he led religious leaders in an interfaith prayer service Nov. 10 for peace, solidarity and unity at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Read more »

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Nation, world need gifts Latinos have to offer, says Archbishop Gomez

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Catholic News Service

CHICAGO — Latino Catholics have many gifts and values to benefit the church and society and the time is now to embrace them and share them.

“America needs our gifts. Our world needs our gifts,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, at the opening of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders annual conference held Aug. 18-21 in downtown Chicago. Read more »

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Thousands at L.A. Mass celebrate immigrant spirit in America

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LOS ANGELES — Pilgrims from all nationalities and backgrounds walked several miles from a couple of different points in Southern California to join thousands of others at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles for a special Mass to recognize all immigrants July 17.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles blesses a girl during a special Mass celebrated July 17 in recognition of all immigrants at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. (CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Vida Nueva)

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles blesses a girl during a special Mass celebrated July 17 in recognition of all immigrants at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. (CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Vida Nueva)

Participants raised awareness of the need for immigration reform in the United States, calling for solidarity on the issue for all to be merciful and compassionate toward immigrants in this Year of Mercy.

“We celebrate the immigrant spirit of the people of our country. This is the story of Los Angeles, the story of the state of California and the story of our country, which is a nation of immigrants,” said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, the main celebrant of the afternoon Mass.

“We gather to pray for all of the immigrants and their families — past, present and future. We pray for immigration reform in our country, for our elected officials and for people all over the world that they open their hearts to the immigrants who come to their countries,” he said.

The congregation included people from the Los Angeles Archdiocese, the Diocese of Orange and the Diocese of San Bernardino.

On July 15 a group from Lake Forest, in the Orange Diocese, began a three-day, 50-mile walking pilgrimage to the Mass

The pilgrimage, called “Siempre Adelante” (“Always Forward”), was dedicated to St. Junipero Serra as it followed part of the same route he traveled with fellow missionaries to found the first nine missions in California.

St. Junipero’s first feast day was July 1; he was canonized last September by Pope Francis during his U.S. visit. The title of the pilgrimage was taken from his motto: “Always forward, never back.”

Before Mass, immigrants of diverse backgrounds shared testimonies including Emiliano Leonides, one of the leaders of the “Siempre Adelante” pilgrimage for a second consecutive year and catechist at Santiago de Compostela Church in Lake Forest.

“I’m here to ask God and all the people attending the Mass in recognition of all immigrants to not forget how much we suffer when pursuing our dreams and crossing the border,” said Leonides. “We are sending the message to those in power that there’s a need to change the laws for a comprehensive immigration reform and stop the separation of families.”

“I am walking with them to raise awareness about the need of a comprehensive immigration reform and to let people know what the Constitution states: that we are one under God. God loves all his children,” said Lily Nguyen-Ellis, also a parishioner of Santiago de Compostela Church. She joined the pilgrimage for the first time this year.

“In this Year of Mercy, I want to show people that immigration isn’t just about talking, it’s about doing, and we’re all immigrants one way or another,” said Nguyen-Ellis. In 1984, when she was 17, she entered the U.S. without legal permission, arriving from Vietnam with her parents and five siblings.

A month before she decided to participate in the pilgrimage and immediately challenged herself to walk at least a couple of hours a day on her own. She ended up seven hours in one day “just to make sure I would be able to walk the 53-mile pilgrimage,” said the 49-year-old hairdresser. It was hard, but worth it, she said.

“We have been helping each other and getting to know each other better,” added Nguyen-Ellis.

At 4 o’clock the morning of the Mass, a group of 20 pilgrims from Holy Family Catholic Church in Wilmington, in the Los Angeles archdiocese, journeyed 20 miles on foot to the cathedral to offer prayers of solidarity for all immigrants.

The group was led by longtime parishioner Maria Mejia, who is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion. “Our country has been built my immigrants and as we traveled on foot to the cathedral we prayed for all immigrants and for immigration reform that is just and honors all human life,” said Mejia.

A pre-gathering procession began inside the cathedral just before Mass and included representatives from parishes throughout Southern California and people impacted by what advocates feel is a broken immigration system in the U.S.

The crowd included including DACA students who have benefited from the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and parents eligible for the Obama administration’s DAPA program, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.

Among others in attendance were families facing separation; refugees and expatriates from different nationalities; and members of the interfaith community.

DAPA and an expansion of DACA have been put on hold by the courts; the plans would temporarily protect more than 4 million unauthorized immigrants from deportation. President Barack Obama created DAPA and expanded DACA via executive actions in 2014.

During the Mass, prayers were offered in French, Spanish, Polish, Vietnamese, Swedish and English for immigrant families “suffering in the shadows from poverty and brokenness,” according to a news release.

The relics of Sts. Junipero Serra, Frances Xavier Cabrini and Toribio Romo were on display during the Mass and available for public veneration following the Mass.

The first U.S. citizen to be canonized, Mother Cabrini arrived in the United States in the late 19th century to start a ministry to immigrants at the request of Pope Leo XIII. St. Toribio Romo is considered by many to be the patron saint of immigrants.

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L.A. archbishop calls California’s assisted suicide law ‘a license to kill’

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LOS ANGELES — With California now allowing doctors to prescribe lethal medications for terminally ill patients who ask for them, “we are crossing a line,” said the archbishop of Los Angeles.

With the state’s new “End of Life Options” law legalizing assisted suicide, the nation has crossed “from being a society that cares for those who are aging and sick to a society that kills those whose suffering we can no longer tolerate,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles says that with California's new “End of Life Options” law legalizing assisted suicide, the nation has crossed “from being a society that cares for those who are aging and sick to a society that kills those whose suffering we can no longer tolerate."  (CNS file/Victor Aleman, Vida Nueva)

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles says that with California’s new “End of Life Options” law legalizing assisted suicide, the nation has crossed “from being a society that cares for those who are aging and sick to a society that kills those whose suffering we can no longer tolerate.”
(CNS file/Victor Aleman, Vida Nueva)

“Our government leaders tell us that granting the right to choose a doctor-prescribed death is compassionate and will comfort the elderly and persons facing terminal and chronic illness,” he said in a statement June 8, the day before the law took effect.

“Killing is not caring,” Archbishop Gomez said. “True compassion means walking with those who are suffering, sharing their pain, helping them bear their burdens. Loving your neighbor as yourself is not a duty we fulfill by giving our neighbor a lethal dose of pills.”

California becomes the fifth state in the nation to legalize physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. Oregon was the first state, in 1994, followed by Washington and Vermont. The Montana Supreme Court has ruled that physicians in that state may prescribe lethal drugs to the competent terminally ill.

Archbishop Gomez called the California law unjust and said the “proper response to an unjust law is conscientious objection.”

Helping patients kill themselves denies them “their dignity and diminishes the humanity of those entrusted to care for them,” he said. “Medical professionals are called to be servants of life, not dispensers of death.”

“Giving doctors a license to kill is not leadership on health care,” he added.

He urged Californians “to pray and work to rebuild a culture of human dignity in the face of this unjust law.”

“We need to proclaim and demonstrate by our actions — that all human life is precious and sacred and is worthy of our care and protection, from conception to natural death.”

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the “End of Life Options” measure into law last October despite staunch opposition from doctors, religious leaders and advocates of disability rights.

At the time, Brown, who is Catholic, said he considered the theological and religious perspectives about the “deliberate shortening of one’s life” and discussed the issue with a Catholic bishop, his own doctors, former classmates and friends before signing the legislation.

“The crux of the matter is whether the state of California should continue to make it a crime for a dying person to end his life, no matter how great his pain or suffering,” he said in a statement when he signed the bill.

Opponents of the law immediately set out on a referendum drive, but fell short of gaining the 365,880 signatures needed to place their proposal on the November 2016 ballot.

Joining the Catholic Church in opposing it were groups such as Not Dead Yet and Californians Against Assisted Suicide.

Supporters said they expected that the new law would have a ripple effect across the nation, with more states legalizing assisted suicide.

“Assisted suicide represents a failure of solidarity and will only increase the sense of isolation and loneliness that many people already feel in our society,” Archbishop Gomez said in his statement. “With this new law, we are abandoning our most vulnerable and frail neighbors — dismissing them as ‘not worthy’ of our care and as a ‘drain’ on our limited social resources.”

The new law “will worsen the inequalities in our health care system,” he added. “The poor and elderly already have far fewer treatment options and far less access to palliative care and nursing home services.”

He said it was not hard to imagine “in a state where millions are forced to rely on government-subsidized care” that the government would decide to no longer pay for years of costly treatments when doctors could prescribe “a cheap bottle of suicide pills.”

With the growing number of elderly suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, he wondered how long it will be “before we start hearing appeals to offer ‘compassionate choices’ for those who can no longer choose or speak for themselves?”

“The logic of assisted suicide leads inevitably to the government and corporate administrators essentially deciding which lives are worth saving and caring for and who would be better off dead,” Archbishop Gomez said. “The criteria for such decisions will always be arbitrary and the process will always mean the strong and powerful deciding the fate of those who are weak and less influential in society. This is the beginning of tyranny.”

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Future of pro-life movement is cultural, not political, says L.A. archbishop

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SANTA ANA, Calif. — Saying the future of the pro-life movement is “cultural not political,” Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles called upon Catholic Latinos to work toward a “new Christian humanism, a new vision of society and human destiny that is rooted in the Gospel.”

“We want a new culture, not a new political coalition,” he told participants at the Hispanic Pro-life Congress Jan. 30 at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, pointing to the necessity of changing society’s views on the “fundamental injustice” of abortion and euthanasia.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles is seen in this Aug. 24, 2013, file photo. In an address to a Hispanic pro-life congress, Archbishop Gomez called on Latinos to build a pro-life culture and not a political coalition. (CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Vida Nueva)

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles is seen in this Aug. 24, 2013, file photo. In an address to a Hispanic pro-life congress, Archbishop Gomez called on Latinos to build a pro-life culture and not a political coalition. (CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Vida Nueva)

Archbishop Gomez said that the practice of abortion and euthanasia raises concerns about “what kind of society we are and what kind of people we want to be.”

He expressed unease that society is losing a sense of its common humanity and responsibility for others, especially when it comes to abortion and euthanasia, which he called the most important issues facing the country.

While running through a list of social sins and the importance of addressing racial discrimination, deportations and unjust immigration policies, unemployment, homelessness, pollution of the environment, neighborhood violence, drug abuse, decrepit prisons and the death penalty, the archbishop said the church must place abortion and euthanasia foremost in its efforts.

He said the “‘seamless garment’ or ‘consistent ethic of life’” positions espoused widely are “not the vision we need.”

“Because in practice the ‘seamless garment’ and ‘consistent ethic’ result in a mistaken idea that all issues are morally equivalent,” he said. “Of course, they are not. So in everything we need to be clear that the root of violence in our society is the violence against those who are not yet born and those who are the end of their lives.”

It is the church’s role to declare that the right to life is the foundation of all other rights, justice and peace in the world, the archbishop explained in calling for a “new vision for our efforts.”

“This vision is spiritual not political. And because it is spiritual, it makes no sense for there to be any division between our ‘pro-life’ efforts and our work for ‘social justice.’ In the face of the suffering and human need in the world, we cannot compartmentalize our compassion or draw lines between those we will care about and those we will not,” Archbishop Gomez explained.

He urged a deeper appreciation for the Gospel, which he said “is the core of God’s beautiful plan of love for creation and for every human life that he revealed in Jesus Christ.”

The Gospel of life, the archbishop added, is what the early church called the “kerygma,” the core teaching of the faith.

He quoted Pope Francis, who summarized kerygma: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.”

Urging his audience to “stay close to Jesus,” Archbishop Gomez said Catholics have a duty to welcome and protect life and to care for life, every life because God loves every person, especially those who are poor, marginalized and alone. “With God’s love, there are no boundaries, no borders, no barriers,” he said.

He also called for building friendships and to “be in dialogue with those who disagree with us.”

“We can’t negotiate about good and evil. … But we need to work with and talk to people who may not share our full vision of a culture of life, or at least people who don’t share our vision yet,” he said. “We have to be optimistic that truth, lived with joy, will lead to conversions and new ways of thinking.”

Describing the church’s mission as one of bringing mercy to society, especially for those who are “inconvenient and unexpected” and those who “impose a burden on our way of life,” Archbishop Gomez reminded the audience to love as God loves.

“We need to build a community of conscience; to defend life and protect life,” he said.

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Los Angeles archbishop calls for veto of California assisted suicide bill

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LOS ANGELES — California’s newly passed measure to legalize assisted suicide for the terminally ill “is no way for our government to make policy on a life and death issue that will affect millions of individuals and families,” said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez.

“I am deeply disturbed by the California Legislature’s decision to allow doctors to help their patients kill themselves,” he said.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles is calling on the governor of California to veto an assisted suicide bill passed by the state's Assembly. (CNS file)

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles is calling on the governor of California to veto an assisted suicide bill passed by the state’s Assembly. (CNS file)

He made the remarks in a statement issued the night of Sept. 11, not long after the state Senate approved the bill with a 23-14 vote.

The state Assembly passed the bill two days earlier 44-35. It has been sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature, but as of Sept. 14, he had not indicated whether he will sign it.

According to an AP story, the bill requires that a patient with a terminal disease must be physically capable of taking medication that would end his or her life. It says that a patient must submit written requests for the medication, that two doctors must approve the request and that there must be two witnesses.

Archbishop Gomez noted in his statement that in early July, a previous bill to allow doctor-assisted suicide was pulled by its primary sponsors hours before a state Assembly hearing on it. The bill had already passed the state Senate, with votes largely along party lines. But the bill’s authors had said it was dead for this year.

However, the Legislature called a special session to deal with a number of issues, including the assisted suicide bill and “chose to rush this legislation through in less than three weeks, holding only two hearings,” Archbishop Gomez said.

“As a result, lawmakers did not have any chance to consider the deeper issues raised by end-of-life care in the state,” he continued. Those issues, he said, include “the cost of treatments, especially the cost of cancer medications; insurance practices that limit access to hospice care and physicians’ options in providing adequate pain relief; the impact of this legislation on the poor and other underserved populations.”

“The people of California, especially the poor, the elderly, minorities and the disabled, deserve much better from their leaders. And make no mistake, it will be these most vulnerable populations who are going to suffer from this legislation.”

Archbishop Gomez is a member of the Legislation and Public Policy Committee of the California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops.

He urged the measure be vetoed and said the legislation, as well as the process by which it was passed, “is not worthy of our great state, which continues to do so much to promote human dignity and equality of access to health care.”

“We need to be clear about our language so we can understand what the Legislature is really doing here,” the archbishop explained. “It is not legalizing ‘aid in dying.’ What the Legislature is legalizing is the ability of a doctor to write prescriptions for the express purpose of killing another human being.”

Disability rights advocates have campaigned against the bill. Those backing it include the parents and husband of Brittany Maynard, a California woman who, upon learning she had a terminal illness, moved to Oregon last year so she could take advantage of that state’s physician-assisted suicide law.

One California woman facing a terminal illness was using her remaining days to fight legalizing assisted suicide.

Stephanie Packer, 32, a wife and mother of four, was told in 2012 she had three years to live. She is affected with scleroderma, which is a hardening of the skin and connective tissues. All the scarring caused by the disease has paralyzed her gastrointestinal tract, requiring her now to take all of her nutrients through a tube.

“If everyone had a doctor who cared, no one would even consider ending their own life,” she said in a posting on her website, stephaniesjourney.org. “Patients don’t know how to find that doctor or how to navigate the complicated health care system and they don’t have the tools or information they need. They’re so tired and don’t have the strength to deal with the fight. Instead, they’ll take the assisted suicide option because it’s easier.”

Archbishop Gomez in his statement said those who will be most affected by doctor-assisted suicide will be poor families, African-Americans, Latinos and immigrants, because they do not have access to quality health care and have limited treatment options when they face a serious or terminal illness.

“In a health care system that is cost-conscious and profit-driven, do we really imagine that these vulnerable populations will have a ‘choice’ to receive end-of-life care once we make lethal prescriptions an acceptable ‘treatment option’?” he asked.

He said the bill gives those relying on subsidized health care “no explicit rights or guarantees that they will be able to choose to be treated and cared for rather than to kill themselves.”

He added that the measure “only deepens the divides in our society along the lines of race, ethnicity and income. The reality is that millions of Californians do not have the luxury to advocate for ‘death’ with dignity are too busy struggling against poverty, discrimination, disability, illness and crime.”

Besides Oregon, three other states have laws permitting physician-assisted suicide: Washington, Montana and Vermont.

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