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Ending DACA program called ‘reprehensible’ and ‘heart-breaking’ by U.S. bishops

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5 that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is “being rescinded” by President Donald Trump, leaving some 800,000 youth, brought illegally to the U.S. as minors, in peril of deportation and of losing permits that allow them to work.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals supporters demonstrate near the White House in Washington Sept. 5. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5 that the DACA program is “being rescinded” by President Donald Trump, leaving some 800,000 youth, brought illegally to the U.S. as minors, in peril of deportation and of losing permits that allow them to work. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

Although the Department of Homeland Security will immediately stop accepting applications to the DACA program, current recipients would not be affected until March 5, which Sessions said will “create a time period for Congress to act, should it choose.”

He described the 2012 policy, popularly known as DACA and implemented under President Barack Obama, as an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”

DACA does not provide legal status for youths who were brought to the country without legal permission as children, but it gives recipients a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization in the United States, as long as the applicants meet certain criteria.

In the days leading up to the decision, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with other Catholic organizations, asked the president to keep the program.

A Sept. 5 statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the cancellation of DACA “reprehensible” and something that “causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families.”

“Today, our nation has done the opposite of how Scripture calls us to respond. It is a step back from the progress that we need to make as a country,” they said, adding that the decision by the Trump administration is a “heartbreaking moment in our history that shows the absence of mercy and goodwill, and a short-sighted vision for the future.”

The bishops also urged Congress to “immediately resume work toward a legislative solution.”

They told DACA recipients: “You are children of God and welcome in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church supports you and will advocate for you.”

The statement was signed by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president; Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, USCCB vice president; Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, chairman of the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees, and Travelers.

 

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U.S. bishops form panel to address ‘sin of racism’ that afflicts nation

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WASHINGTON — Saying there is an “urgent need” to address “the sin of racism” in the country and find solutions to it, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has established a new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and named one of the country’s African-American Catholic bishops to chair it.

Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, will lead the new U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, initiated the committee Aug. 23 “to focus on addressing the sin of racism in our society, and even in our church, and the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions.”

He appointed Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Catholic Education, to chair the new ad hoc committee.

“Recent events have exposed the extent to which the sin of racism continues to afflict our nation,” Cardinal DiNardo said in a statement. “The establishment of this new ad hoc committee will be wholly dedicated to engaging the church and our society to work together in unity to challenge the sin of racism, to listen to persons who are suffering under this sin, and to come together in the love of Christ to know one another as brothers and sisters.”

The naming of members to serve on the new body will be finalized soon, the USCCB said in an announcement. It added that the committee’s mandate “will be confirmed at the first meeting.”

“I look forward to working with my brother bishops as well as communities across the United States to listen to the needs of individuals who have suffered under the sin of racism and together find solutions to this epidemic of hate that has plagued our nation for far too long,” Bishop Murry said in a statement.

“Through Jesus’ example of love and mercy, we are called to be a better people than what we have witnessed over the past weeks and months as a nation. Through listening, prayer and meaningful collaboration, I’m hopeful we can find lasting solutions and common ground where racism will no longer find a place in our hearts or in our society.”

The new ad hoc committee also will “welcome and support” implementation of the U.S. bishops’ new pastoral letter on racism, expected to be released in 2018. In 1979, the bishops issued a pastoral in racism titled “Brothers and Sisters to Us,” in which the overall message then as today was “racism is a sin.”

Creation of a new formal body that is part of the USCCB, formed on the USCCB Executive Committee’s “unanimous recommendation,” speaks to how serious the U.S. Catholic Church leaders take the problem of racism in America today.

It is the first ad hoc committee the bishops have established since instituting the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty in 2011 to address growing concerns over the erosion of freedom of religion in America. The federal governments mandate that all employers, including religious employers provide health care coverage of artificial contraceptives and abortifacients was one of the key issues that prompted formation of the committee.

Chaired by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, that body was elevated to full USCCB committee status during the bishops’ spring assembly in Indianapolis this past June.

In addition to the Executive Committee’s recommendation, the USCCB said, the decision to initiate the new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism also was made in consultation with members of the USCCB’s Committee on Priorities and Plans.

The formation of the ad hoc committee also follows the conclusion of the work of the Peace in Our Communities Task Force. The task force was formed in July 2016 by then-Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., who was then USCCB president. He initiated it in response to racially related shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as well as in Minneapolis and Dallas.

To head it he named Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, one of the nation’s African-American prelates who was the first black Catholic bishop to be president of the USCCB (2001-2004).

The task force’s mandate was to explore ways of promoting peace and healing around the country.

On Nov. 14, 2016, during the USCCB’s fall general assembly, Archbishop Gregory told the bishops to issue, sooner rather than later, a document on racism.

“A statement from the full body of bishops on racism is increasingly important at this time,” said the archbishop in reporting on the work of the task force.

He said the president of the bishops’ conference and relevant committees need to “identify opportunities for a shorter-term statement on these issues, particularly in the context of the postelection uncertainty and disaffection.”

He also urged prayer, ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, dialogue, parish-based and diocesan conversations and training, as well as opportunities for encounter.

The bishops’ 1979 pastoral, now in its 19th printing, declared: “Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.”

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U.S. bishops say Syria peace can only come through ‘dialogue, reconciliation’

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WASHINGTON — Officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops April 7 urged renewed peace efforts for Syria, echoing Pope Francis’ call for “dialogue and reconciliation” as the only way to attain peace in a country rocked by an ongoing civil war.

The USS Porter, in the Mediterranean Sea, fires a Tomahawk missile April 7. The U.S. Defense Department said it was a part of missile strike against Syria. (CNS photo/Ford Williams, U.S. Navyvia Reuters)

The USS Porter, in the Mediterranean Sea, fires a Tomahawk missile April 7. The U.S. Defense Department said it was a part of missile strike against Syria. (CNS photo/Ford Williams, U.S. Navyvia Reuters)

“The long-standing position of our conference of bishops is that the Syrian people urgently need a political solution,” said a joint statement from Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“We ask the United States to work tirelessly with other governments to obtain a cease-fire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities,” they said.

The U.S. launched 59 missiles from the USS Ross and USS Porter in the Mediterranean early April 7 local time. U.S. officials said they targeted Shayrat Air Base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas.

The United States was criticized for carrying out the missile strikes against Syria before investigations into the origins of chemical attacks reported April 4.

But U.S. President Donald Trump said Syrian President Bashar Assad “launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians” and “choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children.”

“No child of God should ever suffer such horror,” he said April 6, announcing that he had ordered the strike against the air base from which he said the chemical weapons attack was launched.

“The use of internationally banned indiscriminate weapons is morally reprehensible,” said Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Cantu, reiterating an April 5 statement that like Pope Francis, the U.S. bishops condemned the use of such weapons. “At the same time, our conference affirmed the call of Pope Francis to attain peace in Syria ‘through dialogue and reconciliation.’”

They said that again they make the pope’s call their own, that the international community “make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people.”

Quoting the pope, they added: “May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries.”

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Trump’s banning of refugees called chaotic and cruel by church leaders – update

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This update to a story posted earlier adds comments from the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s executive memorandum intended to restrict the entry of terrorists coming to the United States brought an outcry from Catholic leaders across the U.S.

People in New York City participate in a Jan. 29 protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban. (CNS photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters)

People in New York City participate in a Jan. 29 protest against President Donald Trump’s travel ban. (CNS photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters)

Church leaders used phrases such as “devastating,” “chaotic” and “cruel” to describe the Jan. 27 action that left already-approved refugees and immigrants stranded at U.S. airports and led the Department of Homeland Security to rule that green card holders, lawful permanent U.S. residents, be allowed into the country.

The leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops late Jan. 30 praised fellow prelates for “their witness” in speaking out against Trump’s actions and “in defense of God’s people,” and called on “all the Catholic faithful to join us as we unite our voices with all who speak in defense of human dignity.

“The bond between Christians and Muslims is founded on the unbreakable strength of charity and justice,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president, in a joint statement.

“The church will not waiver in her defense of our sisters and brothers of all faiths who suffer at the hands of merciless persecutors,” they said.

“The refugees fleeing from ISIS (Islamic State) and other extremists are sacrificing all they have in the name of peace and freedom,” they said. “Often, they could be spared if only they surrendered to the violent vision of their tormentors. They stand firm in their faith.”

Like all families, refugees “are seeking safety and security for their children,” they said. The U.S. “should welcome them as allies in a common fight against evil” and also “must screen vigilantly for infiltrators who would do us harm.” But the country “must always be equally vigilant in our welcome of friends,” the prelates said.

“Our desire is not to enter the political arena, but rather to proclaim Christ alive in the world today. In the very moment a family abandons their home under threat of death, Jesus is present,” Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Gomez said.

In Chicago, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said in a Jan. 29 statement that the past weekend “proved to be a dark moment in U.S. history.”

“The executive order to turn away refugees and to close our nation to those, particularly Muslims, fleeing violence, oppression and persecution is contrary to both Catholic and American values,” he said. “Have we not repeated the disastrous decisions of those in the past who turned away other people fleeing violence, leaving certain ethnicities and religions marginalized and excluded? We Catholics know that history well, for, like others, we have been on the other side of such decisions.

“Their design and implementation have been rushed, chaotic, cruel and oblivious to the realities that will produce enduring security for the United States,” Cardinal Cupich said. “They have left people holding valid visas and other proper documents detained in our airports, sent back to the places some were fleeing or not allowed to board planes headed here. Only at the 11th hour did a federal judge intervene to suspend this unjust action.”

“The Protection of the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” which suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days, bans entry from all citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia — for 90 days. It also establishes religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.

“We are told this is not the Muslim ban that had been proposed during the presidential campaign, but these actions focus on Muslim-majority countries,” said Cardinal Cupich. “Ironically, this ban does not include the home country of 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers. Yet, people from Iraq, even those who assisted our military in a destructive war, are excluded.”

The cardinal quoted Pope Francis’ remarks to Congress in 2015: “If we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”

He said Pope Francis “followed with a warning that should haunt us as we come to terms with the events of the weekend: ‘The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.’”

Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego said the executive action was “the introduction into law of campaign sloganeering rooted in xenophobia and religious prejudice. Its devastating consequences are already apparent for those suffering most in our world, for our standing among nations, and for the imperative of rebuilding unity within our country rather than tearing us further apart.”

“This week the Statue of Liberty lowered its torch in a presidential action which repudiates our national heritage and ignores the reality that Our Lord and the Holy Family were themselves Middle Eastern refugees fleeing government oppression. We cannot and will not stand silent,” he said in a statement Jan. 29.

Shortly after Trump signed the document at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, said the bishops “strongly disagree” with the action to halt refugee resettlement.

“We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope,” Bishop Vasquez said.

The USCCB runs the largest refugee resettlement program in the United States, and Bishop Vasquez said the church would continue to engage the administration, as it had with administrations for 40 years.

“We will work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed in collaboration with Catholic Charities without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans, and to ensure that families may be reunified with their loved ones,” he said.

He also reiterated the bishops’ commitment to protect the most vulnerable, regardless of religion. All “are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus has challenged us to do.”

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington called attention to the USCCB statement and the executive action and noted that “the legal situation is still fluid and news reports are sometimes confusing.”

“The political debate, which is complex and emotionally highly charged, will continue, but we must do our best to remain focused on the pastoral and very real work we undertake every day for the vulnerable and most in need … for the strangers at our doors,” he said.

Around the country, people gathered at airports to express solidarity with immigrants and green card holders denied admission, including an Iraqi who had helped the 101st Airborne during the Iraqi war. More than 550 people gathered at Lafayette Park across from the White House Jan. 29 to celebrate Mass in solidarity with refugees.

In a letter to the president and members of Congress, more than 2,000 religious leaders representing the Interfaith Immigration Coalition objected to the action.

In a separate statement, Jesuit Refugee Services-USA said the provisions of the executive action “violate Catholic social teaching that calls us to welcome the stranger and treat others with the compassion and solidarity that we would wish for ourselves.”

Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, said: “Welcoming those in need is part of America’s DNA.

“Denying entry to people desperate enough to leave their homes, cross oceans in tiny boats, and abandon all their worldly possessions just to find safety will not make our nation safer. The United States is already using a thorough vetting process for refugees, especially for those from Syria and surrounding countries. CRS welcomes measures that will make our country safer, but they shouldn’t jeopardize the safety of those fleeing violence; should not add appreciable delay nor entail unjust discrimination,” he said.

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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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U.S. bishops’ president calls Supreme Court ruling on marriage ‘tragic error’

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WASHINGTON — The president of the U.S. bishops’ conference called the Supreme Court’s June 26 marriage ruling “a tragic error” and he urged Catholics to move forward with faith “in the unchanging truth about marriage being between one man and one woman.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said June 26 that, “Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable." (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said June 26 that, “Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable.” (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

“Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky.

“It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage,” he said.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court June 26 said same-sex marriage is constitutional nationwide.

“Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over 40 years ago,” when it legalized abortion in the U.S. virtually on demand, Obergefell v. Hodges “does not settle the question of marriage today,” Archbishop Kurtz said.

“Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail,” he added.

The court had several marriage cases to consider and bundled them under the title of the Ohio case, Obergefell v. Hodges. That case arose after the October 2013 death of John Arthur of Cincinnati. He and his longtime partner, Obergefell, had married earlier that year in Maryland. When the local Ohio registrar agreed to list Obergefell as the surviving spouse on Arthur’s death certificate, which is key to a range of survivor’s benefits, the state attorney general challenged the status because Ohio law bars same-sex marriages.

The other cases included: Tanco v. Haslam, the Tennessee case, and Bourke v. Beshear, the Kentucky case, which similarly challenge those states’ refusal to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, and DeBoer v. Snyder, the Michigan adoption case.

“The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female,” Archbishop Kurtz said in his statement. “The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the integral ecology that Pope Francis has called us to promote.

“Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.”

The archbishop said the U.S. bishops will continue to teach as Jesus did. Christ taught with great love and “unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman,” he added.

Archbishop Kurtz encouraged Catholics “to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.”

He urged all people of goodwill to join the Catholic Church “in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.

 

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Millions could benefit from Obama’s new immigration policies

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Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Bishops’ leader emphasizes their role in helping families to build their faith

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — Acknowledging that families come with complications, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reminded his fellow bishops Nov. 10 that their role is to accompany their family of the church through their fears and concerns.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, gives his address Nov. 10, the first day of the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. He reminded his fellow bishops that their role is to accompany the family of the church through their fears and concerns. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, gives his address Nov. 10, the first day of the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. He reminded his fellow bishops that their role is to accompany the family of the church through their fears and concerns. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

“Evangelizing means witnessing to our hope in Jesus,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, in opening the USCCB’s annual fall general assembly in Baltimore. It was his first address as conference president.

“As pastors, we accompany so many families who face their own fears and concerns and who yearn to experience the love of Jesus in and through his loving family, the church,” he said. “Together, brothers, we seek to walk with these families and to build their confidence in faith.”

Archbishop Kurtz framed his remarks around a conversation he had recently with Italian journalist Paolo Rodari, who has a brother with Down syndrome. Archbishop Kurtz for many years was responsible for the care of his late brother, who also had Down syndrome.

The two discussed how they learned to communicate with their brothers through the things that were important to their siblings, film and books, and that they otherwise could be difficult to understand.

“Paolo has learned to understand Giovanni, because they’re family,” Archbishop Kurtz said, continuing the metaphor as an example of what the bishops are called to do, “walk with our brothers and sisters, helping them grow closer to Jesus through his mercy.”

He noted that Pope Francis has said the church is “a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.”

Archbishop Kurtz spoke about the recently concluded extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, saying it resulted in positive steps to “witness to the beauty of church teachings on marriage,” to “deepen the way we accompany those struggling with the many challenges families face today,” and encourage married couples to “have confidence in their ability to faithfully live the Gospel of the family.”

He said the bishops “must especially seek out those who suffer under the weight of the difficulties of seeking to come closer to Christ,” quoting Pope Francis’ call to approach the coming year before the synod work continues as “joyful messengers of challenging proposals, guardians of the goodness and beauty which shine forth in a life of fidelity to the Gospel.”

The archbishop commented about some of his experiences over the last year as USCCB president, such as visiting the Philippines with Catholic Relief Services to see the relief work after Typhoon Haiyan, and the conference’s work on issues such as religious freedom and respect for life.

“We all strive to be faithful pastors, so we know what this looks like,” he said. “Think of the home visits we’ve all done in parishes. When I’d come to someone’s home, I wouldn’t start by telling them how I’d rearrange their furniture. In the same way, I wouldn’t begin by giving them a list of rules to follow.

“Instead, I’d first spend time with them, trying to appreciate the good that I saw in their hearts. I’d acknowledge that, like them, I was in the process of conversion toward greater holiness,” the archbishop said. “I would then invite them to follow Christ and I’d offer to accompany them as we, together, follow the Gospel invitation to turn from sin and journey along the way. Such an approach isn’t in opposition to church teachings; it’s an affirmation of them.”

 

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Bishops’ president says ACLU lawsuit is ‘baseless, misguided’

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Dec. 6 called a lawsuit filed against the USCCB over its directives for Catholic health care “baseless” and “misguided.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan filed the suit in U.S. District Court Nov. 29.

The ACLU and the plaintiff, Tamesha Means, claim she received negligent care at a Michigan Catholic hospital when her pregnancy was in crisis at 18 weeks, leading her to suffer emotional and painful trauma that resulted in a premature birth and the death of the baby shortly thereafter.

The ACLU suit blames the bishops’ “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care” for the inadequate care it says Means received.

“It is important to note at the outset that the death of any unborn child is tragic, and we feel deeply for any mother who suffers such pain and loss,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., USCCB president. He noted that the USCCB had not yet been served with the complaint but decided to respond because of media requests for comment about the suit.

“We cannot speak to the facts of the specific situation described in the complaint, which can be addressed only by those directly involved,” he said.

He called it “baseless” for the ACLU to claim the directives encourage or require “substandard treatment of pregnant women” because they do “not approve the direct killing of their unborn children.”

The USCCB directives are now in their fifth edition, approved by the U.S. bishops in 2009, and are available at www.usccb.org. The 43-page document includes 72 directives.

They “urge respectful and compassionate care for both mothers and their children, both during and after pregnancy,” Archbishop Kurtz said. They “restate the universal and consistent teaching of the Catholic Church on defending the life of the unborn child,” he added, a teaching he noted “also mirrors the Hippocratic oath that gave rise to the very idea of medicine as a profession, a calling with its own life-affirming moral code.”

“A robust Catholic presence in health care helps build a society where medical providers show a fierce devotion to the life and health of each patient, including those most marginalized and in need,” he said. “It witnesses against a utilitarian calculus about the relative value of different human lives. And it provides a haven for pregnant women and their unborn children regardless of their financial resources.”

Mercy Health spokeswoman Joan Kessler told Catholic News Service in a Dec. 3 email that hospital officials were “still reviewing the situation and at this time we have no comment.”

Asked for comment on the case by CNS, the ACLU of Michigan provided a statement Dec. 5, quoting Kary Moss, executive director: “The best interests of the patient must always come first and this fundamental ethic is central to the medical profession. In this case, a young woman in a crisis situation was put at risk because religious directives were allowed to interfere with her medical care. Patients should not be forced to suffer because of a hospital’s religious affiliation.”

All Catholics hospitals in the United States are required to adhere to the directives. They guide Catholic health care facilities in addressing a wide range of ethical questions, such as abortion, euthanasia, care for the poor, medical research, treatment of rape victims and other issues.

ACLU filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan/Southern Division. Besides the USCCB it names three former or current chairs of Catholic health care system that includes Mercy Health Muskegon, as it is now called, where Means sought care.

According to the suit, the plaintiff was 18 weeks pregnant in December 2010 when her water broke and she had a friend rush her to the Catholic hospital, the only health facility close to her home. It says as a mother of three, Means, then 27, knew something was seriously wrong with her pregnancy.

Means says because the hospital had to adhere to the USCCB directives, and it was prevented from telling her “the fetus she was carrying had virtually no chance of surviving” and informing her the safest option was to “induce labor and terminate the pregnancy.”

The lawsuit says that an ultrasound showed that Means was suffering from “oligohydramnios,” a condition characterized by a deficiency of amniotic fluid surrounding the unborn child. The lawsuit said that in Means’ case, it was caused by “the premature rupture of membranes.”

The hospital, then called Mercy Health Partners, or MHP, “did not tell Ms. Means that it would not terminate her pregnancy, even if necessary for her health, because it was prohibited from doing so by the directives,” the lawsuit says.

The suit says the hospital sent Means home and told her to make an appointment with her own doctor. She returned to Mercy Health the next day, was sent home again, only to return a third time, according to the suit. As “she waited to be sent home for the third time … she began to deliver,” the suit says. “The baby died shortly after birth.”

“Ms. Means brings this negligence action against the defendants for their roles in promulgating the directives,” the lawsuit says. “As a direct result of these religious directives, Ms. Means suffered severe unnecessary and foreseeable physical emotional pain and suffering.”

In his statement, Archbishop Kurtz said the USCCB will continue to defend the principles of Catholic teaching, including as there are outlined in the ethical directives, “in season and out, and we will defend ourselves against this misguided lawsuit.”

Others named as defendants are three former chairs of what the suit calls “Catholic Health Ministries, the religious sponsor of MHP.”

Mercy Health Muskegon in west Michigan is part of a regional system of Catholic health care facilities. In May of this year, its parent company, Trinity Health, merged with Pennsylvania-based Catholic Health East. The consolidation created one of the nation’s largest Catholic health systems, serving patients and communities in 21 states.

The new organization has its headquarters in Livonia, Mich., and maintains a divisional office in Newtown Square, Pa.

 

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