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Cardinal Dolan backs national school choice bill in Wall Street Journal piece

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NEW YORK — Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York urged President Donald Trump to follow through on a recent call for legislation that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth nationwide.

Writing in a column for The Wall Street Journal March 9, Cardinal Dolan said he hoped that the president would “push Congress to make scholarship tax credits available to working-class families.”

The cardinal called for rapid action in Congress so that families can benefit as soon as possible from having a choice on where to send their children to school.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Pope Francis pray with students in 2015 at Our Lady Queen of Angels School in the Harlem section of New York City. Cardinal Dolan March 9 urged President Donald Trump to follow through on a recent call for legislation that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth nationwide. (CNS/Reuters)

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Pope Francis pray with students in 2015 at Our Lady Queen of Angels School in the Harlem section of New York City. Cardinal Dolan March 9 urged President Donald Trump to follow through on a recent call for legislation that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth nationwide. (CNS/Reuters)

Seventeen states already have scholarship tax credit programs and Cardinal Dolan said children in the remaining states “deserve the same opportunities.”

Under a nationwide tax credit program parents can opt to send their children to private schools, the cardinal wrote, noting that 97 percent of Catholic high school students in the Archdiocese of New York graduate in four years and 95 percent attend college.

The column cited the benefits of one such program, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, for 300 students who attend St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Florida, which Trump visited March 3 to announce his support for school choice. Statewide, nearly 98,000 children from low-income families attend parochial or private schools under the program.

Cardinal Dolan wrote that scholarship tax credits “help advance educational and economic justice. They strengthen society by creating opportunity for those who might not otherwise have it.”

He also cited a report in the Peabody Journal of Education in 2016, which reviewed 21 studies on the effect of school choice on test scores of students not participating in such a program. The authors found that in 20 of the studies, the competition from private schools led to improved test results for students in public schools.

The column concluded that taxpayers save money under school choice programs because school overcrowding and costs are reduced.

“Public school classrooms would not be able to handle the considerable influx of children if Catholic and other religious schools closed. We save the public money, and we educate children just as well, if not better, for half the cost when you compare Catholic school tuition with public school spending per pupil,” Cardinal Dolan wrote.

An effort to pass a school choice bill in New York failed in 2012 despite bipartisan and labor union support and again in 2015 because of teacher union opposition, the column said, and therefore, a national solution “is needed to bring relief to families who need it.”

Any effort to adopt school choice must protect religious liberty, Cardinal Dolan stressed.

“The Catholic Church has always stood in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable and our most effective charitable ministry is our schools,” he wrote. “A high-quality, values-based education is simply the surest path out of poverty.”

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Bishops seek revised health care law that’s ‘affordable and comprehensive’ — updated

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WASHINGTON — Calling health care “a vital concern for nearly every person in the country,” the U.S. Catholic bishops said March 8 they will be reviewing closely a measure introduced in the House March 6 to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price gestures at a stack of papers that he said was the Affordable Care Act during a March 7 press briefing as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer looks on at the White House in Washington. The law, as passed in 2010, was 906 pages long. Republicans in the U.S. House have introduced a measure to repeal and replace the federal health care law. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price gestures at a stack of papers that he said was the Affordable Care Act during a March 7 press briefing as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer looks on at the White House in Washington. The law, as passed in 2010, was 906 pages long. Republicans in the U.S. House have introduced a measure to repeal and replace the federal health care law. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

“Discussions on health care reform have reached a level of intensity which is making open and fruitful dialogue difficult, even while most people recognize that improvements to the health care system are needed to ensure a life-giving and sustainable model for both the present and future,” said a letter to House members signed by the chairmen of four U.S. bishops’ committees.

“Given the magnitude and importance of the task before us, we call for a new spirit of cooperation for the sake of the common good,” they wrote.

The letter was signed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman, Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman, Committee on Migration.

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”; prohibiting health insurers from denying coverage or charging more money to patients based on pre-existing conditions; and cutting off funds to Planned Parenthood clinics.

The Catholic Health Association in a March 7 statement said it “strongly opposed” the House repeal and replace measure, saying it “asks the low-income and most vulnerable in our country to bear the brunt of the cuts to our health system.” It pointed to the proposal to cap federal financing of Medicaid, which is a state-federal program; to eliminate cost-sharing subsidies for low-income people and create “barriers to initial and continuing Medicaid enrollment.”

CHA said the provision on pre-existing conditions would come with a 30 percent monthly premium surcharge for a year “should they have a lapse in coverage.” Its vision for health care in the U.S. “calls for health care to be available and accessible to everyone, paying special attention to poor and vulnerable individuals,” the CHA statement said.

In their letter, the Catholic bishops called on lawmakers to consider moral criteria as they debate the measure, including: respect for life and dignity; honoring conscience rights; access for all; a plan that is “truly affordable … comprehensive and high quality.”

“Any modification of the Medicaid system as part of health care reform should prioritize improvement and access to quality care over cost savings,” they said.

The U.S. Catholic Church, the bishops said, “remains committed to the ideals of universal and affordable health care, and to the pursuit of those ideals in a manner that honors” the moral criteria they outlined.

Health care is not just another issue, but a “fundamental issue of human life and dignity” and “a critical component of the Catholic Church’s ministry,” they added.

The U.S. bishops have advocated for universal and affordable health care for decades and they supported the general goal of the Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010, but the bishops ultimately opposed the law because it expanded the federal role in abortion and failed to expand health care protections to immigrants.

Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service, who is executive director of the Catholic social lobby Network, said the new health care bill “must be rejected.”

“Our test for any ACA replacement bill is simple,” she said in a March 8 statement. “Does the bill protect access to quality, affordable, equitable health care for vulnerable communities? After reviewing the House GOP replacement bill, the answer is a resounding no.

“Instead of providing greater health security, the bill increases costs for older and sicker patients and drastically cuts the Medicaid program, all while providing huge tax cuts to wealthy corporations and individuals,” she continued. “This is not the faithful way forward and must be rejected.”

Catholic Charities USA sent a letter March 8 to Congress voicing its opposition to the new health care measure, signed by Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of the organization. She noted “commendable efforts” in the bill including protection for the unborn and greater flexibility for the states.

But Sister Markham said the measure makes major reductions in health care for more than 70 million poor and vulnerable on Medicaid and said it “undermines access to life-saving health care coverage.”

Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs for March for Life Action, praised lawmakers for the bill’s pro-life provisions.

“House leadership and those who drafted the American Health Care Act deserve high accolades for their efforts to make certain that any changes to the health care system do not encourage, subsidize or directly pay for abortions,” he said. “They also deserve praise for sticking to their commitment to eliminate Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider, from Medicaid reimbursements for one year.”

“This will redirect women to federally qualified health centers, which provide all of the health services American women need and outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics by a ratio of 20:1,” McClusky added.

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Greed corrupts beauty of God’s creation, pope says at audience

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Humanity’s greed and selfishness can turn creation into a sad and desolate world instead of the sign of God’s love that it was meant to be, Pope Francis said.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, the Democratic nominee for U.S. vice president in the 2016 election, talks with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York during Pope Francis' general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Feb. 22. (CNS/Paul Haring)

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, the Democratic nominee for U.S. vice president in the 2016 election, talks with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York during Pope Francis’ general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Feb. 22. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Human beings are often tempted to view creation as “a possession we can exploit as we please and for which we do not have to answer to anyone,” the pope said Feb. 22 at his weekly general audience.

“When carried away by selfishness, human beings end up ruining even the most beautiful things that have been entrusted to them,” the pope said.

As an early sign of spring, the audience was held in St. Peter’s Square for the first time since November. Despite the chilly morning temperatures, the pope made the rounds in his popemobile, greeting pilgrims and kissing bundled-up infants.

Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, which expresses the hope “that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption.”

St. Paul, the pope said, reminds Christians that creation is a “marvelous gift that God has placed in our hands.”

Through this gift, he said, “we can enter into a relationship with him and recognize the imprint of his loving plan, which we are all called to achieve together.”

Sin, however, breaks communion not only with God but with his creation, “thus making it a slave, submissive to our frailty,” the pope said.  

“Think about water. Water is a beautiful thing; it is so important. Water gives us life and it helps us in everything. But when minerals are exploited, water is contaminated and creation is destroyed and dirtied. This is just one example; there are many,” he said, departing from his prepared remarks.

When people break their relationship with creation, they not only lose their original beauty, he said, but they also “disfigure everything surrounding them,” causing a reminder of God’s love to become a bleak sign of pride and greed.

St. Paul tells believers that hope comes from knowing that God in his mercy wants to heal the “wounded and humbled hearts” of all men and women and, through them, “regenerate a new world and a new humanity, reconciled in his love,” Pope Francis said.

“The Holy Spirit sees beyond the negative appearances for us and reveals to us the new heavens and the new earth that the Lord is preparing for humanity,” the pope said.

“This is the content of our hope. A Christian does not live outside of the world; he knows how to recognize the signs of evil, selfishness and sin in his own life and in what surrounds him,” he said. “But at the same time, a Christian has learned to read all of this with the eyes of Easter, with the eyes of the risen Christ.”

 

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Cardinal Dolan: If sanctuary of the womb is violated, no one is safe

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York warned that if the sanctuary of the womb is violated, then other sanctuaries are at risk.

“Can any of us be safe, can any of us claim a sanctuary anywhere when the first and most significant sanctuary of them all, the mother’s womb protecting a tiny life, can be raided and ravaged?” he asked in his homily during the Jan. 26 opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The vigil always precedes the annual March for Life, which takes place on the National Mall.

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, waves as he arrives to concelebrate the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 26. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS/Bob Roller)

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, waves as he arrives to concelebrate the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 26. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called the womb “a sanctuary which beckons us, where we are safe and secure in our mother’s tender yet strong embrace, where the Creator himself assures us of protection and life itself, a sanctuary God has designed for us to protect our lives now and in eternity.”

He summoned up a montage of sanctuaries throughout human history, including those used by the Israelites, the sanctuary of the temple in Jerusalem where Mary and Joseph took Jesus each year, the use of cathedrals and churches as sanctuaries from violence, and the United States, first as a sanctuary for the Pilgrims fleeing religious violence in England, later for Catholics with little to their name but “clinging within to that pearl of great price, their faith,” and today’s immigrants and refugees.

When life in the womb is threatened, “should it shock us” that “such a society would begin to treat the sanctuary of the earth’s environment as a toxic waste dump; would begin to consider homes and neighborhoods as dangerous instead of as sanctuaries where families are protected and fostered; would commence to approach the poor as bothersome instead of brothers?” Cardinal Dolan asked.

Shrine officials estimated that 12,000 attended the Jan. 26 Mass, which was shown on three cable channels and broadcast on two radio networks. Among the faithful were 545 seminarians, 90 deacons, 320 priests, 40 bishops and five cardinals in a 20-minute entrance procession.

The faithful were squeezed more tightly than usual as pews in the left transept were blocked off so work crews could continue work on the shrine’s Trinity Dome, which should be completed by next year’s March for Life. The blockage resulted in the loss of “several hundred” seats, according to shrine spokeswoman Jacqueline Hayes.

Auxiliary Bishop Barry R. Knestout of Washington received applause when he announced near the end of the Mass that the starting times for three pre-March for Life Masses elsewhere in Washington the next morning would be moved up an hour to allow for longer lines in security checkpoints at the pre-march rally, as among those speaking at it now included “senior White House officials and a special guest.” No name was mentioned, but earlier in the day it was announced Vice President Mike Pence would address the March for Life rally in person. After a lineup of speakers, rally participants then march from the National Mall to Constitution Avenue, then up the avenue to the Supreme Court.

The weather changed overnight from the low 50s at the start of the Jan. 26 Mass to a more typical near-freezing temperature with stiff winds before a Jan. 27 morning Mass at the shrine celebrated by Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans, USCCB secretary.

Archbishop Aymond’s homily sounded a similar theme to Cardinal Dolan’s in terms how acceptance of abortion is “used to justify” other disrespect for life at various stages, citing assisted suicide, euthanasia, the death penalty and the rejection of immigrants. Quoting from that day’s Gospel, Archbishop Aymond said, “Jesus says, ‘Let them come to me, let them come to me.’”

He received applause from a Mass attendance estimated at 3,500 when he cited the results of a recent study that showed “the abortion rate in the United States has hit a historic low since Roe v. Wade.” Archbishop Aymond said the study speculated on various reasons for the decline, but one was not mentioned.

That reason was “the witness of so many people for life,” he said. “Youth and young adults are strongly pro-life in our world and in our church,” he added to applause. “You are making a difference in the United States. You are changing our culture from a culture of death into a culture of life,” the archbishop said to more applause.

During the March for Life, and afterward in the marchers’ parishes and neighborhoods, Archbishop Aymond said, “we will continue to witness, and with God’s help, we will continue to be strong voices for the respect and the dignity of human life.”

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Cardinal Dolan to read from Book of Wisdom at inauguration

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said the Scripture passage he chose to read at the Jan. 20 inauguration of Donald J. Trump as president, Wisdom chapter 9 in which King Solomon prays for wisdom to lead Israel according to God’s will, was an easy one to make.

“I pray it all the time,” he said and joked that “the Lord still hasn’t answered the prayer.”

Jokes aside, Cardinal Dolan said that Solomon’s prayer has been one offered to God for centuries.

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan speaks Nov. 14 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS/Bob Roller)

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan speaks Nov. 14 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS/Bob Roller)

In the prayer, Solomon acknowledges that God made humankind “to govern the world in holiness and righteousness and to render judgment in integrity of heart.” The king continues by asking God for wisdom, “the consort at your throne, and do not reject me from among your children.”

Solomon also pleads with God to send wisdom “that she may be with me and work with me, that I may know what is pleasing to you.” He asks that his “deeds will be acceptable and I will judge your people justly and be worthy of my father’s throne.”

As for his appearance on the podium at the start of the inaugural ceremony with three other faith leaders, Cardinal Dolan explained that he was “flattered” to be invited to participate by inauguration planners.

The cardinal has one minute to read the passage. “That’s more than enough,” he said. “I’ve timed it.”

He also was asked to send his selection to the Trump team. “I don’t know if that was for vetting purposes or not, which I think is appropriate to do so,” he told CNS.

And in these divisive times in the country, Cardinal Dolan acknowledged that he opened himself to critics by agreeing to be part of the ceremonies on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol.

“I know they are (there) because they’ve written to me,” he said. “And as I tell them, had Mrs. (Hillary) Clinton won and invited me, I would have been just as honored.

“We pastors and religious leaders are in the sacred enterprise of prayer. People ask us to pray with them and for them. That doesn’t mean we’re for them or against them,” he added.

“That’s our sacred responsibility.”

The cardinal noted that he had met Trump twice. The first time came Oct. 14 in the midst of the presidential campaign when Trump and his wife, Melania, made the six-block trip from Trump Tower to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. At the time, diocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling said that Trump had requested the meeting weeks before it occurred.

The two met again at the 71st annual dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation six days later.

For the record, Cardinal Dolan met Clinton a few months earlier and also at the dinner, according to Zwilling.

The inauguration of a new president can be a time of hope and renewal for the country, Cardinal Dolan said.

“Many people may have reservations of the president-elect and I certainly do, as with any incoming president. But in the great American tradition, we look at the time of an incoming president as a time of hope … a way to give a man a chance and try to fulfill some of the promises he made.”

Trump’s inauguration won’t be the first in which a Catholic cleric participated. History shows that Msgr. John Ryan, a pioneer of the church’s social justice advocacy who served a long term as director of the U.S. bishops’ social action department, offered a prayer at the President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1937 inauguration.

Prelates who prayed at inaugurations include Cardinal Richard J. Cushing of Boston at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961; Cardinal Terrence J. Cooke of New York, at both of President Richard Nixon’s inaugurations in 1969 and 1973; and, most recently, Archbishop John R. Roach of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who was U.S. bishops’ conference president in 1977 when President Jimmy Carter took the oath of office.

Cardinal Dolan said he attended ceremonies as a private citizen for President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and President George H.W. Bush in 1989.

 

The full Bible passage of Wisdom chapter 9 can be found online at www.usccb.org/bible/wisdom/9:13.

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Cardinal Dolan to participate at Trump inauguration

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — New York’s Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan will take part in the upcoming presidential inauguration of Republican Donald Trump.

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has been invited to read from Scripture at the upcoming Trump inauguration. (CNS/Bob Roller)

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has been invited to read from Scripture at the upcoming Trump inauguration. (CNS/Bob Roller)

“I am honored to have been asked to offer a reading from Scripture at the upcoming presidential inauguration, and look forward to asking almighty God to inspire and guide our new president and to continue to bless our great nation,” Cardinal Dolan said in an email to Catholic News Service.

Trump, a lifelong New Yorker, will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States Jan. 20.

According to the president-elect’s inaugural committee, other faith leaders who are scheduled to be present include the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Paula White of New Destiny Christian Center; Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; the Rev. Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; and Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries International.

 

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Cardinal Dolan urges stronger effort to stop physician-assisted suicide

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WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities has called for increased efforts and “renewed vigor” to stop legalized physician-assisted suicide after the practice was approved by voters in Colorado and the District of Columbia City Council.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York urged Catholics to join medical professionals, disability rights groups and others “in fighting for the authentic care” of people facing terminal illness in a statement released Nov. 21.

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan speaks Nov. 14 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan speaks Nov. 14 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

“The act of prescribing a fatal, poisonous dose, moreover, undermines the very heart of medicine,” Cardinal Dolan said. “Doctors vow to do no harm, and yet assisted suicide is the ultimate abandonment of their patients.”

His concern comes after voters in Colorado passed a physician-assisted suicide measure that was on the ballot Nov. 8. The law also allows insurance companies to refuse treatment of patients they consider terminal.

Colorado became the sixth state in the nation with a so-called “right-to-die law,” joining Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont and Montana.

In Washington, D.C. City Council members in a second vote Nov. 15 approved the “Death with Dignity Act” that permits physicians in the district to legally prescribe the drugs to patients who have been deemed mentally competent and who have received a terminal diagnosis of six months or less. Under the measure, third parties are allowed to administer the drugs used in the procedure. The bill goes to Mayor Muriel Bowser to veto it, sign it or let it become law without any action on her part. If it becomes law, it would be subject to congressional review before it takes affect.

Cardinal Dolan called the district’s measure “the most expansive and dangerous so far” because it opens “the door to even further coercion and abuse.”

“Every suicide is tragic, whether someone is young or old, healthy or sick,” the cardinal added. “But the legalization of doctor-assisted suicide creates two classes of people: those whose suicides are to be prevented at any cost, and those whose suicides are deemed a positive good.

“We remove weapons and drugs that can cause harm to one group, while handing deadly drugs to the other, setting up yet another kind of life-threatening discrimination,” he continued. “This is completely unjust. Our inherent human dignity does not wane with the onset of illness or incapacity, and so all are worthy of protection.”

Seriously ill people require “authentic support, including doctors fully committed to their welfare and pain management as they enter their final days,” the statement said. “Patients need our assurance that they are not a burden; that it is a privilege to care for them as we ourselves hope to be cared for one day. A compassionate society devotes more attention, not less, to members facing the most vulnerable times in their lives.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on assisted suicide 2011 titled “To Live Each Day with Dignity,” the full text is online at http://bit.ly/2ga5cht.  

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Candidates spar at Al Smith Dinner that raises $6 million for New York’s Catholic Charities

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Catholic News Service

NEW YORK — When Donald J. Trump stepped over yet another invisible line of the contentious presidential race Oct. 20, many of the 1,500 people at 71st annual dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation broke historic precedent to boo him.

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan shares a light moment with U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the 71st annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City Oct. 20. The charity gala, which honors the memory of the former New York Democratic governor who was the first Catholic nominated by a major political party for the U.S. presidency, raises money to support not-for-profit organizations that serve children in need. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan shares a light moment with U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the 71st annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City Oct. 20. The charity gala, which honors the memory of the former New York Democratic governor who was the first Catholic nominated by a major political party for the U.S. presidency, raises money to support not-for-profit organizations that serve children in need. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Candidates Trump and Hillary Clinton flanked the host, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, on the five-tiered dais of the Grand Ballroom at the heavily secured Waldorf Astoria hotel for the charitable gala.

The event has been a traditional opportunity for speakers to poke good-natured fun at themselves, one another, and prominent guests from the worlds of politics, business and philanthropy without inflicting wounds.

In 1928, Alfred E. Smith, former governor of New York who was raised in poverty, was the first Catholic nominated by a major political party to run for president of the United States.

Despite an introductory warning delivered as a humor-coated reminder of the evening’s ground rules by emcee Alfred E. Smith IV, chairman of the dinner, Trump veered from the safety of chuckle-inducing barbs and zings. He said she is “so corrupt” she was kicked off the Watergate commission. The room erupted in a crescendo of boos and shoutouts, as he lobbed one accusation after another that his opponent is deceptive and a Catholic-hater. “She is here tonight … pretending not to hate Catholics,” he said.

Decorum was restored when the Republican nominee recalled past Al Smith dinners as a special occasion to spend time with his father, developer Fred Trump.

Smith, a great-grandson of the foundation’s namesake, aimed jokes equally at both candidates and reflected the general discomfort of the electorate with them. He told Trump to watch his language because “even though the man sitting next to you is in a robe, you’re not in a locker room.” He advised Clinton to remain stoic in the face of insults during the evening by considering it a fourth debate.

Noting the proximity on Fifth Avenue of St. Patrick’s Cathedral to Trump Tower, Smith said Trump’s appearance was historic, marking the first time the Catholic Church was not the largest tax-exempt landowner at the dinner.

Trump was greeted warmly with applause. He quipped that the huge event was a small intimate dinner with friends for him, but that it counted as his opponent’s largest crowd of the season.

Trump gave a shoutout to politicians in the room who formerly loved him, but turned on him when he sought the Republican nomination. He said the dinner gives candidates an opportunity to meet one another’s teams and those working hard to get them elected.

As he spoke, he pointed out chairmen of media corporations seated on the dais and among the assembly. As an example that the media is biased against him, Trump said Michelle Obama gave a speech that everyone loved, but when his wife, Melania, delivered the exact same speech, “people got all over her case. I don’t get it.”

Trump said he knows Clinton is very gracious because, if elected, she wants him to be her ambassador to either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Trump said the presidential debates were the most vicious in the history of politics. In a rare reflective moment, he turned to Clinton and asked, “Are we supposed to be proud of it?”

We need to stand up to anti-Catholic bias, defend religious liberty and create a culture that celebrates life, Trump concluded.

Trump sat down to mixed applause and boos. Retaking the microphone, Smith said,
“As Ronald Reagan would say, ‘There you go again!’” He noted the dinner raised a record $6 million.

The Democratic nominee was introduced to a standing ovation. Clinton said the fiery populist Al Smith would be proud of the money raised at the event, but if he saw the
“room full of plutocrats” gathered to celebrate his legacy, he’d be confused.

Clinton said she was taking a break from her rigorous nap schedule to attend, but the event was also treat for the guests because she usually charges a lot for a speech. She said she was a little amazed at the opportunity to speak, because she didn’t think her opponent would be OK with a peaceful transition of power.

Clinton said, “Every year this dinner brings together a collection of sensible, committed mainstream Republicans, or as we now like to call them, Hillary supporters.”

She said critics accuse her of saying only what listeners want to hear. “Tonight that is true. This is exactly what you want to hear. This election will be over very, very soon.”

Clinton said when Trump wanted her to undergo a pre-debate drug test, “I was so flattered he thought I used some sort of performance-enhancers. Actually I did. It’s called preparation.”

Trump has questioned her stamina, Clinton said, but over the course of three debates, she has stood next to him for longer than any of his campaign managers. She said Trump is so concerned about her health, he sent a car to bring her to the dinner. “Actually it was a hearse.”

Nonetheless, Clinton said if elected, “I will be the healthiest and youngest woman ever to serve.”

Clinton said one of the things the candidates have in common is the Republican National Committee “isn’t spending a dime to help either one of us.”

Turning serious, Clinton said it’s easy to forget how far the country has come. When Al Smith ran for office, she said there were rumors that he would forbid Bible-reading in schools, annul Protestant marriages and make the Holland Tunnel into a secret passageway to the Vatican so the pope could rule the country. “Those appeals to fear and division can cause us to treat each other as ‘the other.’ Rhetoric like that makes it harder for us to respect each other,” she said.

“We need to get better at finding ways to disagree on matters of policy while agreeing on questions of decency and civility,” she said.

Although the candidates shook hands across Cardinal Dolan at the dinner, he jokingly attributed his nascent cold at the benediction to having spent two hours seated between them, which he said is “the iciest pace on the planet. Where is global warming when you need it?”

He noted the funds raised at the dinner would provide grants for thousands of mothers and children who are most in need and least visible to society.

Dinner guests in formal attire sat elbow-to-elbow at gold-covered tables in the ballroom and its two balconies. The $3,000-a plate meal included a seafood trio appetizer, tournedos of beef and a chocolate dessert duet. Metropolitan Opera soprano Nadine Sierra sang the national anthem from the dais, set against the backdrop of a huge American flag.

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Gloves come off at 71st annual Al Smith Dinner in New York

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Catholic News Service

 

NEW YORK (CNS) — When Donald J. Trump stepped over yet another invisible line of the contentious presidential race Oct. 20, many of the 1,500 people at 71st annual dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation broke historic precedent to boo him.

Candidates Trump and Hillary Clinton flanked the host, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, on the five-tiered dais of the Grand Ballroom at the heavily secured Waldorf Astoria hotel for the charitable gala. Read more »

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Iraqis ask U.S. Catholic leaders to work for peace, ‘don’t forget us’

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Catholic News Service

IRBIL, Iraq — A delegation of U.S. Catholic leaders visiting northern Iraq was challenged to go home and work for peace in the troubled region.

“You have come to listen to your brothers and sisters in Iraq who are suffering. The situation is very hard. We cry out with one voice, ‘Don’t forget us,’” Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad said during a Mass in the small village of Inishke, near Dahuk.

A woman holds an image of Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York during a Mass in Inishke, Iraq, April 10. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

A woman holds an image of Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York during a Mass in Inishke, Iraq, April 10. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

The Chaldean Catholic service included members of the local Christian community, as well as Christians who were displaced by the Islamic State group from elsewhere in Iraq. Representatives of the Yezidi and Muslim communities also greeted the delegation, which was headed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. The group spent April 9-11 in Kurdistan, the autonomous region of northern Iraq. When Islamic State swept through Mosul and Qaraqosh in 2014, more than 125,000 Christians, along with other victims, fled to safety in Kurdistan, where CNEWA has helped local churches construct housing, clinics and schools.

Yet Bishop Warduni said peace trumps humanitarian aid any day.

“We don’t want anything. Iraq is very rich, but now it is very poor. We only want our rights to go back to our homes and villages,” he said.

Looking directly at Cardinal Dolan, Bishop Warduni said: “We need a good Samaritan, but a new one, and this is you, along with the other leaders who came with you. We thank you and your people, for they have done so much for us with their prayers and with their money. But we ask you to ask your government to establish peace in our country. Tell your president, please, that our children and our youth want to grow in freedom. Your Eminence, take with you our good wishes to your faithful, and don’t forget us.”

In his homily for the Mass, Cardinal Dolan told those in the small church: “You are now suffering away from your homes and families. You are on the cross with Jesus. But we can never forget that Easter always conquers Good Friday. The resurrection always triumphs over the cross.”

Speaking through a translator because the service was in Aramaic, Cardinal Dolan said: “Jesus is alive in the love and charity that his people have for one another. That is why in our time here in Kurdistan we have seen Jesus alive in hospitals and clinics and refugee camps and schools and parishes like this. And it is our privilege to be able to be part of this love and charity that you have for one another here.”

“We have come to tell you we love you very much,” Cardinal Dolan said. “We know of your suffering. And we can never forget you.”

The cardinal was accompanied by Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, who is also on the CNEWA board.

In an April 11 Mass in a camp for the displaced in Ankawa, on the outskirts of Irbil, the delegation got the same message it heard the previous day.

“We feel very grateful for this fraternal solidarity that you are showing. And we all do hope that you will intervene with your government, with those who have a word to say on the international scene, to be faithful to the principles on which your country was founded. That includes the right of all people, every human being, to live in freedom and dignity,” Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said in his homily.

“When we see that strong nations like yours uphold the rights of those who have been uprooted, at that time we will really live the hope of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.”

In an interview at the end of the visit, Cardinal Dolan said that the pastoral visit would provoke renewed advocacy back home.

“We value the relationship we have with our government, but we sometimes smile when outsiders think we have a lot more clout than we really have. But that’s not going to stop us from trying,” the cardinal said. “When we get back, Bishop Murphy and I will brief our fellow bishops and the Holy See, and we will share with our political leaders what we have seen and heard. We owe it to the people here because they have asked us to do that.”

Cardinal Dolan acknowledged that the church’s counsel was rejected in the lead up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, which many believe helped create the conditions from which Islamic State emerged.

“Pope St. John Paul II told our presidents, ‘This will be a road of no return, and you will look back in future years and regret what you’re doing.’”

As they visited with the displaced and the pastoral workers who accompany them, some of what the U.S. church leaders saw and heard was not easy to experience. In an April 9 public forum in a displaced camp in Ankawa, Amal Mare was one of several displaced persons who offered testimony. She praised local Christians for welcoming her family when they fled from Qaraqosh.

“Yet when are we going to be able to leave? We are living here in misery, and we want to go back to Qaraqosh,” she said, sobbing as Cardinal Dolan embraced her. “We miss our churches. We are sons and daughters of the church. Here we created a church in this hall, and every night for the last 18 months we have all prayed the rosary here. But now we’re losing hope. How much longer will we have to wait?”

Meeting April 9 with a group of students at the Chaldean Catholic St. Peter’s Seminary in Irbil, Cardinal Dolan told the seminarians that they had good models of ministry from which to learn.

“Pope Francis keeps saying that we priests must be with our people. We just came from a refugee camp where we met a priest who slept outside on his mattress because he said he couldn’t sleep inside if his people were outside. We’ve met with sisters and priests who walked with the people from Mosul as they were fleeing. That’s the model of the priesthood. That’s Jesus. To be with our people all the time, to be especially close to your people in the difficult times,” the cardinal said.

The head of the Chaldean Catholic community in Kurdistan, which has provided a variety of services to the displaced, praised the church leaders’ visit.

“It has been a visit of solidarity, a visit of love, a visit of hope, where we can really feel that we are not forgotten, that we’ve been in the prayers of His Eminence and the bishops and the whole Christian community in America. It means a lot for us,” Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil told Catholic News Service.

In addition to Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Murphy, the delegation included Msgr. John Kozar, president of CNEWA, and Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of New York.

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