Our Sunday Visitor

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After the Senate voted July 25 to proceed with the health care debate, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, urged senators of both parties to "work together to advance changes that serve the common good." The statement from Bishop Dewane, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said the health care reform proposals currently under consideration would "harm millions of struggling Americans by leaving too many at risk of losing adequate health coverage and continue to exclude too many people, including immigrants." "We are grateful for the efforts to include protections for the unborn, however, any final bill must include full Hyde Amendment provisions and add much-needed conscience protections. The current proposals are simply unacceptable as written, and any attempts to repeal the ACA (Affordable Care Act) without a concurrent replacement is also unacceptable," he said in a July 25 statement. During the procedural vote on the Senate floor, 50 Republicans voted yes and two GOP senators -- Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska -- voted no, along with the Senate's 48 Democrats. The tiebreaking vote was necessary from Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate. The vote to debate health care legislation took place after months of ongoing discussion and leaves Senate Republicans with a few options, including completely replacing the health care law, or voting for what has been described as a "skinny" repeal that would remove parts of the Affordable Care Act. They also could pass a measure that would repeal the current law without implementing a replacement. As votes were being cast, all eyes were on Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who returned to the Senate floor just days after being diagnosed with brain cancer, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, who had not assured the Senate of his vote prior to the tally. Just prior to the procedural vote, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, majority leader, urged fellow senators not to let this moment slip by. "All we have to do today is to have the courage to begin the debate," he added as protesters yelled in the background: "Kill the bill, don't kill us." "Shame." "Will we begin the debate on one of the most important issues confronting America today?" he asked before answering: "It is my hope that the answer will be yes." Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, minority leader, stressed that Democrats had been "locked out" of the recent health care debate and he warned that the Republican plan will "certainly mean drastic cuts" in Medicaid and would cause many to lose health care insurance. McCain urged his colleagues to "trust each other" and "return to order" after casting his vote to move the debate forward. In his July 25 statement, Bishop Dewane said, "There is much work to be done to remedy the ACA's shortcomings" and he called on the Senate to make the necessary changes. He also stressed that "current and impending barriers to access and affordability under the ACA must be removed, particularly for those most in need. Such changes can be made with narrower reforms that do not jeopardize the access to health care that millions currently receive," he added.
Posted: July 26, 2017, 12:38 pm
In 2014, a man wrote into the advice column of musician Andrew W.K. in the Village Voice, complaining that he “just can’t deal with” his 65-year-old “super right-wing conservative” father who is “intent on ruining our relationship and our planet with his politics.” The response encouraged the reader to go back and read his letter and find a single instance where he had referred to his dad as a human being. “You’ve reduced your father — the person who created you — to a set of beliefs and political views and how it relates to you,” and in doing so, “You’ve also reduced yourself to a set of opposing views, and reduced your relationship with him to a fight between the two.” What a withering assessment! And yet Catholics might find that it applies to how we go about our lives as citizens of a country or as parts of the Body of Christ: Too often, our primary way of relating to one another is not through an appreciation of the other’s dignity as a unique human person created and loved by God, but through labels that classify, judge, condescend and ultimately do violence. The Indian Jesuit Anthony De Mello said that what we judge we cannot understand: “When you say of someone, ‘He’s a Communist,’ understanding has stopped at that moment. You slapped a label on him. ‘She’s a capitalist.’ Understanding has stopped at that moment.” There are, of course, many other labels: conservative, liberal, ally, adversary. Is this person worthy of my support and agreement? Should I condemn every idea this person puts forth? Do I calibrate my words and actions in accordance with how much I perceive they might placate or infuriate this group of people or that? These are not healthy binaries. Even more destructive, when we label ourselves, that imprint carries over to how we approach the Faith. Claiming a mantle of “orthodox” makes our personal preferences normative and risks closing us to growth, even when the challenge to grow comes from the pope. Labeling oneself “progressive” can carry with it the hubris of projecting one’s own wish fulfillment of how the Church should change onto areas of faith and morals that cannot be undone. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . The dysfunctional coexistence of these types in one Church underscores why the late Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago asserted that all Catholics should strive to be “simply Catholic,” free of labels that do nothing to advance the Gospel, teach us little and ultimately sow division. Simply Catholic means a life centered on the person of Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist. That is where we go to encounter him, to be nourished and filled with the grace to be Christ to one another in our daily lives. It’s an existence focused not on labels but on the core of our being and on the God whose grace transforms us. It is focused on treating others like persons, not as handily labeled objects. And it means not reducing others, ourselves or the Faith we hold dear to something small, convenient and informed only by the dynamics of ideological agendas and political conflict. That is not the grace of the Eucharist. That is not living out the Incarnation as members of the Body of Christ. Editorial Board: Greg Willits, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor
Posted: July 26, 2017, 4:00 am
HONOLULU (CNS) -- An Oahu pro-life pregnancy resource center and a national network of pregnancy resource centers have filed a federal lawsuit to halt the enforcement of a new Hawaii law that requires such centers to "advertise" contraception and abortion "services." Attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit legal group that supports religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and other issues, filed the suit July 12 on behalf of a Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor center called A Place for Women, and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which represents most of Hawaii's five other pregnancy counseling centers. The Hawaii Legislature passed S.B. 501 May 4, and Gov. David Ige signed it into law July 11. It compels Hawaii's six pregnancy care centers to post or distribute information referring clients to state-provided prenatal services that would include contraception and abortion. Failure to provide this information would incur a fine of $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. The lawsuit, Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor v. Chin, asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii to declare S.B. 501 unconstitutional. It lists Hawaii Attorney General Douglas S. Chin and Ige as defendants. Alliance Defending Freedom also filed a motion July 12 for a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the law while the case is being considered. "This is a government-compelled speech issue," said Hawaii Catholic Conference communications director Eva Andrade. "You cannot force someone to post something against their beliefs." S.B. 501 requires "limited service pregnancy centers" to display "in a clear and conspicuous place" the following message on letter-size paper in no less than 22-point-size type: "Hawaii has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, including, but not limited to, all FDA-approved methods of contraception and pregnancy-related services for eligible women. To apply online for medical insurance coverage, that will cover the full range of family planning and prenatal care services, go to mybenefits.hawaii.gov . Only ultrasounds performed by qualified health care professionals and read by advanced clinicians should be considered medically accurate." An alternative would be to give each client a "printed or digital notice" of the message in no less than 14-point-size type. "Freedom of speech also means the freedom to not express views that would violate one's conscience," said Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Elissa Graves in a news release. "Yet, under this law, Hawaii is forcing pro-life centers and physicians to provide free advertising for the abortion industry against their conscience. Because of the First Amendment's protections, courts have repeatedly rejected these types of laws as unconstitutional." According to Alliance Defending Freedom, courts on the U.S. mainland have "invalidated or mostly invalidated" similar laws in Texas, Maryland and New York City. Hawaii has six pro-life pregnancy counseling centers and all have some kind of religious affiliation. The Pregnancy Problem Center of Hawaii in Oahu was founded by a Catholic, Robert Pearson. According to their websites, all offer pregnancy tests and counseling. Most advertise adoption information, childbirth classes, abstinence education, and post-abortion recovery counseling. Some offer ultrasound exams. Some centers explicitly say they do not offer abortions or abortion referrals, while offering information about "abortion methods and risks."
Posted: July 25, 2017, 1:53 pm
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While Rome reels from one of its worst droughts in decades, the Vatican is doing its part to conserve water by shutting down the city-state's 100 fountains. The office governing Vatican City State announced July 25 that the drought has "led the Holy See to take measures aimed at saving water" by shutting down fountains in St. Peter's Square, throughout the Vatican Gardens and in the territory of the state. "The decision is in line with the teachings of Pope Francis, who reminds us in his encyclical 'Laudato Si'' how 'the habit of wasting and discarding' has reached 'unprecedented levels' while 'fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems,'" the office said. The prolonged drought has forced officials from the Lazio region of Italy to halt pumping water from Lake Bracciano, located roughly 19 miles north of Rome. Less than usual rainfalls in the past two years have steadily depleted the lake, which provides 8 percent of the city's water supply. In an interview with Italian news outlet Tgcom24, Nicola Zingaretti, the region's president, said the lake's water level has "fallen too much and we risk an environmental disaster." While the drought already forced Rome city officials to shut down some of Rome's public drinking fountains in June, it may lead to strict water rationing for the city's estimated 1.5 million residents. City officials may also take the Vatican's lead and shut down water pouring down from Rome's many ancient fountains. Pilgrims and visitors alike have marveled at the majestic fountains of St. Peter's Square that have cascaded water for centuries since their construction in the 17th century. While the source of water was once provided from an ancient Roman aqueduct, the two fountains, as well as 10 percent of Vatican City State's 100 fountains "recirculate water currently," Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told Catholic News Service in a July 25 email. Others, he added, "will eventually be transformed in order to recirculate" the same water rather than let it be wasted by running into the drainage or sewer system. Burke told CNS that the Vatican's move to switch off the fountains located within its territory is "a way to show a good example" in conserving water as the city deals with the crisis. "We're not going to be able to solve Rome's water problem this summer, but we can do our part," Burke said. "This is the Vatican putting 'Laudato Si'' into action. Let's not waste water."
Posted: July 25, 2017, 1:42 pm
Perhaps no other issue is more divisive in our Church these days than immigration. Just scan the Letters to the Editor of this publication to see the passion it evokes. Church leaders have been clear about Church teaching in this area, but they always state that welcoming the stranger must be coupled with common-sense application of law. A recent example is the new pastoral letter by El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz, “Sorrow and Mourning Flee Away,” published on July 18. It is remarkable. We have been fortunate to have had Bishop Seitz’s compassionate and reasonable voice on immigration every so often in Our Sunday Visitor. “The Church is not separated by national boundaries,” he told me in 2015. “We are all brothers and sisters. That’s a fundamental identity that comes before any national belonging, and so we really are trying to emphasize those aspects.” This message comes across in the new document, in which Bishop Seitz not only outlines Church teaching on immigration and addresses the reality of the country’s dysfunctional immigration system but offers practical guidelines toward reform. He describes how in his diocese, he is setting up a migration commission for further exploration of how the Church can best intersect with migration realities. He also is establishing a fund to help migrant children attend Catholic schools. His voice contains both an authority of lived experience and a tone of mercy. Bishop Seitz also indicates that immigration officers are not to enter church premises to “execute enforcement actions without a warrant signed by a judge if there is not a situation of imminent danger.” And he addresses the challenges of such an action. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . “There may be those who question whether in these reflections I am not substituting politics for the teaching of the Church,” he writes. “I answer that as a pastor my duty is to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our migrant brothers and sisters, those who worship in our churches, minister in our parishes, study in our schools, labor in the fields, serve in our armed forces ... each of them today is living in a desert of anxiety and isolation. For many of those who continue to come to our border, they are not just seeking a better life, but life itself. Our Christian community is called to journey with them in their anxiety and pain on the road to liberation, away from sorrow and mourning and on the road to a future of joy and gladness.” The stakes surrounding immigration are high – often a matter of life and death. Recently, 10 undocumented immigrants were left dead after being crammed with dozens of others in the back of a tractor-trailer in San Antonio. The conditions described by survivors were horrific and, heartbreakingly, all too common. We are called to action, and Bishop Seitz has given us a good place to start. To read the entire letter, go to bordermigrant.org .
Posted: July 25, 2017, 4:00 am
MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Pope Francis is praying for the parents of Charlie Gard after a U.S. doctor told them nothing could be done to help their son. Chris Gard and Connie Yates announced in London's High Court July 24 that they had ended their legal struggle to take their baby overseas for treatment after a U.S. neurologist, Dr. Michio Hirano, said he was no longer willing to offer Charlie experimental nucleoside therapy after he examined the results of a new MRI scan. Their decision means that the child, who suffers from encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, will receive only palliative care and most likely will die before his first birthday Aug. 4. Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said in a July 24 statement that Pope Francis, who had taken a personal interest in the case, "is praying for Charlie and his parents and feels especially close to them at this time of immense suffering." He said: "The Holy Father asks that we join in prayer that they may find God's consolation and love." The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales also issued a statement July 24 in which they expressed their "deepest sympathy and compassion" for Charlie and his parents. "It is for Charlie, his parents and family that we all pray, hoping that they are able, as a family, to be given the support and the space to find peace in the days ahead," the statement said. "Their farewell to their tiny and precious baby touches the hearts of all who, like Pope Francis, have followed this sad and complex story. Charlie's life will be lovingly cherished until its natural end," the statement continued. A July 24 statement from the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, a bioethical institute of the Catholic Church in the U.K. and Ireland, said it was now time "to remember the preciousness of the child at the heart of this case, and to allow his parents to be with him until he passes from this life." "If further treatment may no longer be worthwhile, Charlie's life is inherently worthwhile, having the dignity and irreplaceability of every human life, and this will remain so even in the coming days," it said. Charlie's parents, who live in London, had fought for eight months for medical help that might have saved the life of their son. They raised 1.3 million pounds (US$1.7 million) to take him abroad for treatment, but the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London had argued that Charlie was beyond help and that it was not in his best interests to be kept alive, triggering a protracted legal battle with the parents that led to interventions from U.S. President Donald Trump and from the pope. "We are about to do the hardest thing that we'll ever have to do, which is to let our beautiful little Charlie go," the parents said in their statement to the court. "Put simply, this is about a sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy who was born with a rare disease, who had a real, genuine chance at life and a family who love him so very dearly, and that's why we fought so hard for him." "Had Charlie been given the treatment sooner, he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy," they said. "We have always believed that Charlie deserved a chance at life." "One thing that does give us the slightest bit of comfort is that we truly believe that Charlie may have been too special for this cruel world," they continued. Concluding the statement, the couple said: "Mummy and Daddy love you so much Charlie, we always have and we always will, and we are so sorry that we couldn't save you. We had the chance but we weren't allowed to give you that chance. Sweet dreams baby. Sleep tight our beautiful little boy."
Posted: July 24, 2017, 7:56 pm
SAN ANTONIO (CNS) -- The "completely senseless deaths" of 10 people who died of heat exhaustion and suffocation they suffered from being held in a tractor-trailer "is an incomprehensible tragedy," said Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio. "There are no words to convey the sadness, despair and, yes, even anger we feel today," he said in a statement released late July 23. Earlier in the day, San Antonio law enforcement officials found eight bodies inside the trailer of an 18-wheeler sitting in the parking lot of a Walmart. The eight people who died were among 39 people packed in the trailer and suffering from extreme dehydration and heatstroke. At least 20 others rescued from the truck were in critical condition and transported to the hospital. Two later died, and by July 24 the death toll was at least 10. In a July 24 statement, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration said the nation's Catholic bishops joined their voices in mourning the loss of life and condemning the treatment of migrants, many of whom were from Mexico and Guatemala, in a suspected human trafficking operation. "The loss of lives is tragic and avoidable. We condemn this terrible human exploitation that occurred and continues to happen in our country," said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin. "In a moment such as this, we reflect upon the words of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, 'The defense of human beings knows no barriers: We are all united wanting to ensure a dignified life for every man, woman and child who is forced to abandon his or her own land,'" Bishop Vasquez said. San Antonio Police Chief William McManus called it "a horrific tragedy" and said it was being looked at as "a human trafficking crime." AP reported that James Matthew Bradley, 60, of Clearwater, Florida, believed to be the driver of the tractor-trailer, was a suspect in the case and had been arrested on charges of smuggling. San Antonio is about 150 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The temperature in the Texas city July 23 was 101 degrees all day and well into late evening. The human cargo in the tractor-trailer was discovered after someone left the truck and asked a Walmart worker for water, AP said. In his statement, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said the community was praying for the recovery of the adults and children who were hospitalized. AP said that at least four of the survivors were between the ages of 10 and 17. "Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Antonio has already reached out to our mayor and promised to offer whatever assistance is needed. We will do anything possible for these brothers and sisters and their families," he said. Archbishop Garcia-Siller said the tragedy was "a clarion call" for the nation to make immigration reform a priority. "Everyone -- the churches, law enforcement, state and national elected officials, civic organizations, charitable groups -- has to prioritize the immigration issue and truly work together in new ways which have eluded us in the past for common sense solutions. No more delays! No more victims!" he said. He recalled that when 19 people died in similar circumstances in a locked trailer in nearby Victoria in 2003, "the nation was stunned, and people of good will vowed to work diligently to ensure that something such as this would never happen again." "Unfortunately, law enforcement has reported an upsurge in these types of human smuggling and trafficking operations at the border in recent months," Archbishop Garcia-Siller said. Such incidents involve "increasingly desperate individuals seeking safety and a better life for their families placing their well-being and indeed their lives in the hands of reprehensible, callous smugglers and traffickers," he said. "We pray for these victims and all victims of human smuggling and trafficking; that this monstrous form of modern slavery will come to a quick and final end," the archbishop added. "God cries seeing this reality and many other ...
Posted: July 24, 2017, 7:13 pm
1. Charlie Gard and the morality of dying (News Analysis, July 30-Aug. 5) 2. Keeping the faith after life-changing accident (Faith, March 5) 3. Top 10 Catholic cities, USA (In Focus, June 2, 2013) 4. 11 questions answered about Mary (In Focus, May 10, 2015) 5. The relationship of Church and university (News Analysis, July 23-29) 6. What every Catholic needs to know about funerals (In Focus, Oct. 9, 2011) 7. What’s the story on angels? (Essay, July 30-Aug. 5) 8. Vatican looks at ethics of artificial intelligence (News Analysis, July 30-Aug. 5) 9. Young people are leaving the faith. Here’s why (In Focus, Aug. 28, 2016) 10. Modern prophets (Pastoral Answers, July 30-Aug. 5)
Posted: July 24, 2017, 2:20 pm
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis called on Muslims and Jews in the Holy Land to "moderation and dialogue" as tensions continued around a key site in Jerusalem that is sacred to members of both faiths. After reciting the Angelus July 23, the pope asked people gathered in St. Peter's Square for the midday prayer to join him in asking the Lord to inspire reconciliation and peace in the region. Tensions in Jerusalem have been high since July 14 when three Israeli Arabs armed with knives and guns killed two Israeli police officers at an entrance to the site the Jews call Temple Mount and the Muslims call Haram al-Sharif. The site includes the Western Wall and Al Aqsa mosque. In his main Angelus talk, Pope Francis spoke about the parable of the weeds among the wheat from the Sunday Gospel reading. The farmer in the parable from the Gospel of Matthew tells his workers not to pull up all the weeds because they might uproot the wheat, but to wait until the harvest when the wheat and weeds can be separated. "With this image, Jesus tells us that in this world good and evil are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them and eradicate all the evil -- only God can do that," the pope said. Human beings are called to the "difficult exercise of discernment" in choosing between good and what is evil, he said, and when they fail -- which all people do sometimes -- the church stands ready to help with the grace of baptism and of confession. Like the farmer in the parable, the pope said, God calls Christians to be patient as they await the harvest. "Patience means preferring a church that is leaven in the dough, that is not afraid of getting its hands dirty washing the clothes of its children, rather than being a church of the 'pure,' who insist on judging beforehand who is in the kingdom of God and who isn't."
Posted: July 24, 2017, 1:48 pm
BELLE PLAINE, Minn. (CNS) -- Two days after hundreds of people -- many of them Catholic -- from around the country descended on Belle Plaine to protest the installation of a Satanic memorial in the city's veterans park, the City Council voted unanimously July 17 to nix all religious symbols there. The council rescinded a designation that made a portion of the park available for monument commissions from any religious group. The decision blocked the arrival of the monument commissioned by the Satanic Temple, but it also sealed the departure of the "Joe" monument, a small iron-cast silhouette of a soldier kneeling on one knee in front of a cross grave marker. Joseph Gregory, a local veteran who died in October 2016, made the memorial. "It's an outcome I can live with," said Father Brian Lynch, pastor of Our Lady of the Prairie in Belle Plaine, "but it's far from a perfect outcome" because the "Joe" statute also had to go. The statue and proposed Satanic memorial became the center of a controversy that made national headlines. It began in August 2016, when the Belle Plaine Vets Club placed the "Joe" statue in the park. A Belle Plaine resident and Freedom From Religion Foundation member complained about "Joe" looking too religious for public property. The City Council had the monument's cross removed at the request of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. Vets Club members filled a Feb. 6 council meeting to request the cross' return. A 3-2 council vote created a limited public forum area in the park, which allowed "Joe" to have the cross back. The designation provided a place where any religion could erect a memorial in the park. The Freedom From Religion Foundation then invited the Massachusetts-based Satanic Temple to commission a memorial for the Belle Plaine park. The city approved the application. The memorial commissioned by the Satanic Temple -- which claims no belief in Satan as a being -- was recently completed, but it had yet to be sent to Belle Plaine. Its design included occult symbolism. Concerns over the Satanic memorial drew hundreds of people to a rosary rally and an adjacent counter rally at Veterans Memorial Park July 15. America Needs Fatima, an independent Pennsylvania-based Catholic organization, held the rosary rally, while Minnesota's Left Hand Path community, which includes Satanists, held a counter rally in support of The Satanic Temple's monument. America Needs Fatima rally organizer William Siebenmorgen, a Pennsylvania resident, said the rally drew 250 people from around the country -- including Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas and Kentucky -- for the rosary, hymns and prayers. "The issue is really not about a free speech zone, it's about trying to prevent Satanism from gaining acceptance," said Robert Ritchie, America Needs Fatima executive director. Ritchie did not attend the event. The two rallies coincided with Belle Plaine's town festival parade on nearby Main Street, a decision Father Lynch questioned. "They were basically asking (local) people to choose between going to the parade or going to (the rally)," Father Lynch told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. "I think many of us (in Belle Plaine) tire from having people from the outside telling us how to do things." Outside input also wore on city officials, and top officials put the resolution to remove the park's limited public forum on the council's July 17 agenda four days before the meeting. According to Ritchie, America Needs Fatima sent a petition with about 23,000 signatures to the city opposing the Satanic memorial. Interim city administrator Dawn Meyer told the Belle Plaine Herald that "city hall received about 300 calls" July 12 alone about the Satanic memorial. She also told the Herald that the "controversy has limited the city staff's ability to complete tasks." A City Council news release on the July 17 decision stated that limited public space had been designated to honor ...
Posted: July 24, 2017, 1:08 pm
On the last weekend of each April, parishes all across the country take up a special collection for Catholic Home Missions to provide a financial lifeline for the work of evangelization carried out in poorer dioceses throughout the country. Since 1998, the U.S. Church has raised $150 million to support its Home Mission Dioceses, which according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are “unable to provide basic pastoral ministries” to their faithful on their own. In the 84 dioceses supported by the appeal, priests, religious and the laity support their parishes on tight budgets but live out a rich Gospel witness. In 2016 the USCCB distributed more than $9 million to the 84 mission dioceses to support efforts in evangelization, Hispanic ministry, seminarian education, lay ministry and other pastoral priorities. Nicholas W. Smith writes from New York. A woman receives the Eucharist at St. Matthew Assyrian Chaldean Catholic Church in Ceres, Calif. Courtesy photo Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle Headquartered in El Cajon, California, several miles north of San Diego, the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle covers the western half of the United States, 19 states in total. It’s a part of the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church with ancient roots in present-day Iraq. The Church has grown rapidly in America, where immigrants and refugees from Iraq have found a welcome home. Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle Number of parishes: 10 Total priests in diocese: 20 Chaldean Catholic population of the U.S.: ≈ 200,000 Bishop Bawai Soro, an auxiliary bishop of the eparchy, said that he sees his diocese as a mission territory in one sense because in ministering to the “sons and daughters of the Church, we’ve gone outside of our original homeland.” Part of the Church’s task now is to welcome the waves of immigrants that have arrived after fleeing persecution by ISIS. Many of the faithful need the Church’s financial help in adjusting to their new life and assistance in navigating the U.S. cultural landscape. “It’s a significant transition from a totalitarian society to living in a free capitalist world like America that they live in,” Bishop Soro said. Most significant, though, is the spiritual formation involved, the bishop said. “The main object of our education is Christ himself and the mystery of salvation.” Bishop Soro once heard a preacher say that “the bombings in Iraq did not only destroy the physical structure, they also destroyed the human soul.” He describes many of the refugees who have arrived after the end of their long journey to the United States as “broken” and “shattered” by their experiences. Newcomers are welcomed into an active and energetic Church. The eparchy has a number of sodalities for the workplace and schools, as well as two convents, a monastery, a seminary and parish youth groups, to live out the Faith and help the refugees “feel at home in America.” Bishop Soro said that the size of the Chaldean Church in America has doubled within the past 20 years. At the same time, the Chaldean population has dwindled in Iraq, from nearly 1.5 million after the fall of Saddam Hussein to fewer than 250,000 today. Around 60,000 Chaldean Catholics live in the eparchy, and the churches are nearly bursting at the seams. In El Cajon, where many Chaldeans live, 22 Easter Masses were split between the cathedral and the only other Chaldean church in the city. Bishop Soro said that the eparchy is looking for a new location to build a third church in the area. And the Faith continues to be strong among the community outside the holidays. Father Michael Bazzi, pastor emeritus at St. Peter Cathedral in El Cajon, told OSV that the people of the parish “are so faithful, and so glad.” He estimated nearly 2,000 people attend the Cathedral during the week, for Mass, Rosary groups and other ministries. Father Bazzi said that an important initiative for his parish has been catechesis. For many parents, fleeing ...
Posted: July 23, 2017, 4:00 am
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- There are plenty of myths that surround natural family planning, but advocates say the Catholic Church can help dispel those myths and raise an awareness of which fertility-awareness options exist for married couples that embrace church teaching. "It amazes me how many people are not aware of the multitude of fertility awareness-based methods out there," said Dr. Marguerite Duane, adjunct professor at Georgetown University and executive director of Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science. Despite the variety of natural family planning methods -- the Billings Ovulation Method, Creighton Model, Two Day Method, Marquette Model, Sympto-Thermal, Standard Days Method, among others -- and the science involved in their medical application, certain myths continue to circulate regarding the effectiveness and benefits of natural family planning. The first myth, said Duane, "is that there is 'only one NFP method,'" i.e., the "rhythm method." The "rhythm method," popularized in Dr. Leo J. Latz's 1932 book "The Rhythm of Sterility and Fertility in Women," uses none of the biological indicators and symptoms, such as cervical mucus observations and basal body temperature, that modern natural family planning methods -- also called fertility awareness-based methods -- use today. "Today, we've got the ability to monitor hormone metabolites in urine at-home test strips," said Mike Manhart, former executive director of the Couple to Couple League. These test strips detect the release of the luteinizing hormone, which is released prior to ovulation. Manhart, who has taught natural family planning alongside his wife for 32 years, said the development of tools like these in the past 20 years especially helps couples with atypical situations. Another myth is the effectiveness rate. "People still don't believe it works," Manhart told Catholic News Service. Outdated and unreliable statistics on efficacy contribute to the problem. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has it wrong, noted Duane. Its website reports a 24 percent "failure rate" for all "natural methods." Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science, teamed with Natural Womanhood, a woman's health literacy program, to organize a petition requesting that the CDC update its website with current, more accurate data and cite the effectiveness rate of each fertility awareness based method individually. This failure rate comes from "retrospective surveys based on patient recall, a flawed methodology," reads the petition. Additionally, "86 percent of the respondents reported using variations of the calendar rhythm method -- an outdated and less effective" method, it continues. Yet, the petition states that when looked at individually, the effectiveness rates of natural family planning methods are between 95.2 and 99.6 percent with correct use. With typical use, the rate of unintended pregnancy ranges from 2 percent to 14 percent. Along with the ineffective myth, another common misconception of natural family planning is that it is too difficult or time-consuming. "There is some legwork in the beginning," said Lucynda Choi, but "like anything, you start a new job and you've got a lot to learn, but once you're in it, you're in it. You know how to do it and it's second nature." "You're just making an observation," she said, "30 seconds of mental work a few times a day." Lucynda and Michael Choi are firm advocates of natural family planning. When doctors in Portland, Oregon, were unable to help the couple conceive, they found the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Nebraska, and began charting Lucynda's cycle with the Creighton Model. After a few surgeries in 2007, the couple conceived in 2008 and now have three children. At the same time, warns Duane, it's important not to oversell natural family planning as too easy. "The reality is these methods can be hard. Most of them call for couples abstaining and that's really hard for a lot of ...
Posted: July 21, 2017, 4:54 pm
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- U.S. senators must reject any bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act unless such a measure "protects poor and vulnerable people, including immigrants, safeguards the unborn and supports conscience rights," said the chairman of the U.S. bishops' domestic policy committee. Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on the Senate to fix problems with the ACA in a more narrow way, rather than repeal it without an adequate replacement. "Both the American Health Care Act legislation from the U.S. House of Representatives and the Better Care Reconciliation Act from the Senate were seriously flawed, and would have harmed those most in need in unacceptable ways," Bishop Dewane said. The House passed its bill to repeal and replace the ACA health care law May 4 with a close vote of 217 to 213. The Senate's version collapsed July 17 after four Republican senators said they couldn't support it, leaving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, short of the 50 votes needed to bring the bill to the floor for a debate. "In the face of difficulties passing these proposals, the appropriate response is not to create greater uncertainty, especially for those who can bear it least, by repealing the ACA without a replacement," he said. Bishop Dewane made the comments in a July 20 letter to U.S. senators released July 21. President Donald Trump had lunch with the GOP senators at the White House July 19 in an effort to get them to commit to moving forward a repeal and replace measure. A new Senate draft of a bill was released July 20, and McConnell is expected to hold a vote to begin debate July 25. Bishop Dewane referred back to a Jan. 18 letter in which the U.S. bishops "encouraged Congress to work in a bipartisan fashion to protect vulnerable Americans and preserve important gains in health care coverage and access." That letter reiterated principles he said the bishops laid out when the ACA was being debated in early 2010. "All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and it should not depend on their stage of life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, where they live, or where they were born," the bishops said at the time. "The bishops' conference believes health care should be truly universal and it should be genuinely affordable." "Before any legislation had been proposed, the bishops were clear" in their Jan. 18 letter to lawmakers, Bishop Dewane said, "that a repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act ought not be undertaken without the concurrent passage of a replacement plan that ensures access to adequate health care for the millions of people who now rely upon it for their well-being. "To end coverage for those who struggle every day without an adequate alternative in place would be devastating," he said. "Nothing has changed this analysis." At the same time, "reform is still needed to address the ACA's moral deficiencies and challenges with long-term sustainability," Bishop Dewane said. "Problems with the ACA can be fixed with more narrow reforms, and in a bipartisan way," he said, "Congress can extend full Hyde Amendment protections to the ACA, enact laws that protect the conscience rights of all stakeholders in health care, protect religious freedom, and pass legislation that begins to remove current and impending barriers to access and affordability, particularly for those most in need." In an analysis issued late July 20, the Congressional Budget office said the new version would still increase the current number of uninsured Americans by 22 million by 2026. In 2016, 28 million people were uninsured last year; in 2010, just over 48 million were uninsured in 2010, the year the ACA was signed into law by President Barack Obama. It would reduce average premiums in the ACA exchanges by 25 percent ...
Posted: July 21, 2017, 4:00 am
LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- When Pope Francis visits Colombia in September, he will take his message of mercy and reconciliation to Cartagena, a city that still bears scars of its painful history as a slave port. And he will walk the streets where another Jesuit, St. Peter Claver, put that message into practice four centuries ago. Canonized in 1888, St. Peter Claver is now considered the patron saint of human rights in Colombia. But although the country abolished slavery in 1851 and passed a law prohibiting discrimination in 1993, racism persists. Many Afro-Colombians in Cartagena, the "children of children of children of slaves ... often remain marginalized, abandoned by the government," said Father Jorge Hernandez, who works with Afro-Colombian communities in and around the city. "In some neighborhoods, people don't have running water. Inhumanity has become natural." The same is true in other Latin American countries. Although about half the population of Brazil is of African descent, Afro-Brazilians make up a disproportionate share of the poor population, according to the 2010 census. Their salaries averaged one-half to one-third those of white Brazilians. On his last day in Colombia, Sept. 10, Pope Francis will pray the Angelus outside of the sanctuary of St. Peter Claver. The building where the missionary welcomed slaves, and which now houses the saint's relics, has also served as a school and a hospital. After private prayer time in the sanctuary, the pontiff will meet with fellow Jesuits. Some people wonder if Pope Francis will ask forgiveness for the church's long acceptance of the slave trade in the Americas. Father Hernandez said he hopes the pope will speak out against modern forms of slavery, including human trafficking and slavery to money and a consumer society. The pope's visit to Cartagena will quietly highlight the persistent inequality in Latin America, which has some of the highest income disparities in the world. Tourists flock to the Caribbean city's beach resorts, which contrast sharply with the poverty in which most of the city's large Afro-Colombian population still lives, said Father Carlos Eduardo Correa, provincial superior of the Jesuits in Colombia. "In Colombia, there are still many human rights violations, especially of Afro-Colombian, indigenous and poor communities, particularly in cultural, economic, social and environmental rights, and rights to education, health and work," Father Correa said. By the time the young Peter Claver arrived in Cartagena from Spain in 1610, the slave trade was already booming. More than 78,000 African slaves arrived between 1570 and 1640 -- some 10,000 a year. By some accounts, slaves made up half the population of Cartagena at the time. After five years of studies in Bogota, he returned to Cartagena, where he was ordained in 1616. Referring to himself as "the slave of slaves," he joined another Jesuit, Father Alonso de Sandoval, who was outspoken about the injustice of slavery, and continued that ministry after his companion was transferred to Peru in 1617. At a time when the Catholic Church did not speak out against enslavement of Africans in the Spanish colonies, and when even some Jesuit superiors criticized his ministry, Father Claver cajoled alms from wealthy residents of the city and used them to buy food and medicine. He met the traffickers' ships at the port, going first to aid children and the sick with the help of slaves he knew in Cartagena, who spoke the new arrivals' languages. His labor of humanitarian care and catechesis continued in the squalid houses where traders housed the slaves until they were sold or shipped to another port. Pope Francis' visit to the place where St. Peter Claver lived, worked and finally died in 1654, after suffering the same diseases that afflicted the people to whom he ministered, will be a reminder that human rights are crucial for the country's peace process after decades of civil war. Peace and reconciliation, Father Correa ...
Posted: July 20, 2017, 2:48 pm
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chair of the migration committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the Trump administration to "ensure permanent protection" for youth who were brought to the U.S. as minors without legal documentation. Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chair of the Committee on Migration Committee, reiterated the bishops' support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a 2012 policy under then-President Barack Obama that, while not providing legal status, gives recipients a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization in the United States as long as they meet certain criteria. During his campaign for president, Donald Trump said he would get rid of the program but later backtracked and it's unclear what will happen to the estimated 750,000 youth who signed up for the program. "DACA youth are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes," said Bishop Vasquez in a July 18 statement. "These young people entered the U.S. as children and know America as their only home. The dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children and youth, must be protected." He urged the administration "to continue administering the DACA program and to publicly ensure that DACA youth are not priorities for deportation." The bishops join other Catholic institutions worried about the group and urging protection. In May, more than 65 college presidents representing U.S. Catholic institutions asked for a meeting with the Secretary of Homeland Security to talk about immigration policy, particularly DACA, saying they worried about the future of their students. They cited incidents in which DACA recipients have been placed under immigration detention, including a case in which one of them was deported. "Many of these students will leave our campuses for internships, summer programs and jobs. Our prayer is that they return," their letter said, but so far there have been no announcements of what the administration will or won't do regarding the program. In his statement, Bishop Vasquez said that since DACA is not a permanent solution, "I also call on Congress to work in an expeditious and bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution for DACA youth as soon as possible." The country's Catholic bishops will continue efforts to find a humane and permanent resolution "that protects DACA youth," Bishop Vasquez wrote. "Additionally, I note the moral urgency for comprehensive immigration reform that is just and compassionate. The bishops will advocate for these reforms as we truly believe they will advance the common good," he said.
Posted: July 20, 2017, 1:37 pm
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Denouncing the "demonization of migrants," hateful rhetoric, the militarization of the border and a system that divides families, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, called on Catholics to heed the church's teachings to welcome the migrant. In a July 18 pastoral letter "Sorrow and Mourning Flee Away," on migration and addressed to the "People of God in the Diocese of El Paso," Bishop Seitz, who serves a border community near Mexico, said the country's security cannot be used as a "pretext to build walls and shut the door to migrants and refugees." "God did not create a world lacking room for all at the banquet of life," he wrote. He said that while some might question his reflections, "I am not substituting politics for the teaching of the church," but as a pastor, his "duty is to the Gospel of Jesus Christ," he wrote. And the Gospel in the Old Testament is clear, he said: "You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you." Bishop Seitz also criticized a system that "permits some to detain human beings for profit," while eroding the country's "historic commitment to the refugee and asylum seeker." In the letter, he shared personal anecdotes. One involves a teenager named Aura he met at a sister parish in Honduras who later decided to make the trip north to escape extreme poverty and violence. She was caught by immigration authorities and ended up in a detention center in El Paso but not before experiencing "serious physical and psychological wounds." She left Honduras for the U.S. because she had been enslaved by a gang and then ended up being treated like a criminal as she sought refuge in the U.S., the bishop wrote. He also wrote about a devoted Texas parishioner named Rosa, who in addition to long hours volunteering, works long hours caring for people with disabilities as well as cleaning houses to raise her family alone after her husband was deported. "Aura is your neighbor! Aura is your sister!" Bishop Seitz wrote, and when it comes to Rosa, he asked: "Who can deny that our community would be diminished without the faith, hard work and contributions of Rosa and her family?" He said moments of encounter with such migrant brothers and sisters can provide opportunities for conversion but he lamented that instead, people keep going about their old ways of seeing the world, with indifference, including an indifference toward God. "This growing indifference toward God seems to exist side by side with a growing coldness toward the poor and suffering, as if they did not exist," he wrote. Bishop Seitz said that even though the immigration system is broken and has not been fixed in large part because "elected leaders have not yet mustered the moral courage to enact permanent, comprehensive immigration reform," migrants should not be the ones paying the price. "Still, migrants are treated, as Pope Francis says, as 'pawns on the chessboard of humanity.' Their labor and talents are exploited but they are denied the protections of the law and are scapegoated for our social and economic ills," he wrote. He praised the work of border communities in welcoming the stranger, and says places such as his diocese, are filled with "heroic individuals, families, pastors, religious, parishes and institutions that spend themselves in service to migrants and refugees" feeling conflict, hunger and persecution. They also advocate for "just laws and against the militarization of our border," he wrote. As the pastor of a border community, he said, he asks God to help him console, denounce injustice and announce redemption. "I am pastor of a diocese divided by walls and checkpoints that separate individuals from loved ones. I am bishop of a flock frightened by the flashing lights of police cars in the rearview mirror, who wonder if this family outing or that drive home from work will be the last," he wrote. "I am (a) spiritual father to thousands of Border Patrol and ICE agents, who ...
Posted: July 19, 2017, 1:11 pm
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act collapsed late July 17 in the U.S. Senate, Catholic health care leaders said they hope Congress will work together, in small steps, to fix flaws in the current legislation. The bill lost ground when two Republican senators announced their opposition to it, joining two other senators who opposed the bill and leaving Republican leaders at least two votes short of the 50 needed to start debate on the measure. Four days earlier, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said in a statement that the measure, a revision of an earlier draft, still did not have "enough improvement to change our assessment that the proposal is unacceptable." "The Catholic Health Association is pleased that the bill in the Senate will not go forward," said Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, who is president and CEO of the association, adding: "It would have had incredibly negative consequences for so many Americans." Dr. Steven White, a pulmonary specialist in Ormond Beach, Florida, and chairman of the Catholic Medical Association Health Care Policy Committee, said that because of the complexity of the heath care legislation, he would hope people would see what happened -- when the Senate failed to secure the necessary votes for the health care repeal -- as a setback not a failure. In his July 13 statement about the Senate bill, Bishop Dewane also referred to his June 27 letter to senators that said any health care reform bill must uphold several moral principles: affordability; access for all; respect for life; and protection of conscience rights. The bishops also have stressed the need for U.S. health care policy "to improve real access" to health care for immigrants. In a July 18 statement, Sister Keehan said Congress can "now turn a page and open a new chapter" stressing that the country deserves a health care bill that gives quality and affordable health care to everyone. The Congressional Budget Office said the Senate bill would leave 18 million more people uninsured within a year, and 32 million fewer people would have coverage in 2026, compared with the number of those insured under the current law. Health insurance premiums also would increase by at least 20 percent within the first year and would likely double by 2026. The bill would have done away with the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid and subsidies for the purchase of private insurance, but it would have left in place requirements prohibiting insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums because of a pre-existing medical condition. Sister Keehan, who was consulted on the initial Affordable Care Act legislation, said moving forward will require bipartisan efforts and broad consultation. "There is the competence and resources to do this if we work together. Health is too critical to be allowed to be a partisan issue," she said, adding that CHA "stands ready to work with all members of Congress to achieve this." The woman religious, who is a nurse and heads an organization of more than 600 hospitals and 1,400 long-term care and other health facilities in the United States, also said her organization would "definitely not support a bill that repeals but delays replacement" of the Affordable Care Act because it would create "incredible uncertainty." "Health care is too critical to put at that much risk," she added. White told Catholic News Service July 18 that members of Congress need to "get together and view in incremental steps what they can do" acknowledging that fixing flaws in the Affordable Care Act "can't all be done at once." He said one aspect of the reform efforts -- Medicaid cuts -- is not fully understood. As he sees it, the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA is currently hurting state budgets, so some type of reform is necessary. He also stressed that any ...
Posted: July 19, 2017, 12:01 pm
The tragic case of Charlie Gard, a terminally-ill 11-month-old British boy with a rare, incurable genetic disease, has caught the attention of presidents, religious leaders, medical ethicists and pro-life activists the world over. The case has also garnered significant traction in the Catholic community because of the many issues that Charlie’s story raises that pertain to parental rights, the appropriate role of public authorities in private health care matters and the complex moral medical decisions that families often have to make when a loved one is near death. “The fact that the hospital is not even allowing the child to be discharged to the parents, I think, has struck a chord with a lot of folks,” said Greg Schleppenbach, the associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. Schleppenbach told Our Sunday Visitor that Catholic moral teaching holds that parents are the ultimate decision-makers for their children’s medical treatment, unless there is incontrovertible evidence that they do not have their children’s best interests at heart. Case history Charlie’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, are fighting to keep their infant son on life support so they can take him to the United States for experimental treatment. For months they have been waging a legal battle against Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, which argues that it is in Charlie’s best interests to be taken off life support because no medical treatment is likely to help him and prolonging his life is likely to cause him undue suffering. Thus far, the courts have sided with the hospital. Having lost an appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court, Charlie’s parents petitioned the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in late June that the hospital could discontinue life support. Originally scheduled to have his life support turned off on June 13, Charlie is still breathing with the help of a ventilator. The British court systems granted extensions while the case progressed. In early July, England’s high court scheduled additional hearings at the hospital’s request to review new evidence. On July 17, Michio Hirano, a professor of neurology at New York’s Columbia University Medical Center, visited the Great Ormond Street Hospital to examine Charlie and meet with other medical experts involved in the case. According to published reports, Hirano says an experimental therapy he is developing could help Charlie, who was born with a rare mitochondrial disease that results in muscle weakness and severe multi-organ damage. Reuters reported that Hirano believes there is between an 11 and 56 percent chance that the therapy would improve Charlie’s muscular strength, and that there is a “small but significant” possibility it could also help his brain function. If the British courts allow Mirano to treat Charlie, his family has already raised more than $1 million in private donations to cover the expenses of transporting Charlie to the United States. Care at the End of Life “Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible. ... “Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded. “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of ‘over-zealous’ treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose ...
Posted: July 19, 2017, 4:00 am
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents swept through U.S. communities the second weekend in June, arresting nearly 200 Iraqi nationals, many of them Chaldean Catholics, for deportation to Iraq. But the violence faced by Christians in Iraq raises the prospect that deportation will deliver these men and women to religious persecution and possibly death. The June 11 operation that arrested 199 Iraqis — 114 of them from the Detroit area — resulted from a deal made between Iraq and the United States that saw Iraq agree to accept Iraqi nationals for deportation in exchange for being left off the travel ban. While Kurdish and Shia Iraqis were apprehended as well, the majority of Iraqis facing deportation are Christian — almost all of them with various criminal records. Prior to March 2017, Iraq had refused to receive any nationals with criminal convictions. The Chaldeans slated for deportation were mostly people who came to the United States on a path to citizenship, lost that opportunity due to a criminal offense and had been ordered to check in with immigration authorities on a regular basis. In the decades since their convictions, they started families and became integral to their churches and communities. ICE Detroit field office director Rebecca Adducci issued a statement that said that the operation addressed a “very real public safety threat.” Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce, disputed that characterization. “They are not a threat to national security,” he said, pointing out those arrested had regular contact with ICE and had become stable members of the community. Persecution concerns The Chaldean community is concerned that the deportations to Iraq would be a death sentence for Christians. “I don’t know how this administration can justify sending people back to a country in which a genocide was committed against Christians and other minorities,” Manna told Our Sunday Visitor. While it is important to follow the nation’s laws, Manna said, there are also “laws that prevent deporting individuals to a country where they will be persecuted.” Philippe Nassif, executive director for In Defense of Christians, a group focused on the plight of Christians in the Middle East, told OSV, “The safety [level] of Christians in Iraq is one of extreme danger.” Despite the recent setbacks for ISIS, he said, Christians are still at risk. “People need to remember Christians were heavily persecuted in Iraq and targeted before ISIS was even in the picture. In some cases, sending people back can lead to almost certain death,” he said. The vicar general for the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, Father Manuel Boji, told OSV that since many had arrived in the United States as youths, “the majority of them don’t speak even Arabic.” They have married, raised families and participate in churches and communities. “A good number of them have nobody over there. It will be a kind of exile, not only deportation. And they will be easy prey for at least being kidnapped, if not more,” he said. The U.S. immigration system provides several opportunities to avoid deportation if an immigrant fears persecution or torture upon returning to their home country. Michelle Mendez, a lawyer with Catholic Legal Immigration Network, told OSV that some of those arrested may have accepted deportation orders without appealing for “asylum-related protection” because they never thought they would be removed. “A lot of these individuals might actually have a claim [to stay],” she said. Andrew Arthur, resident fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, told OSV that failing to apply for protection against deportation was “an odd decision to make, even if you knew you weren’t going to be removed.” Because the removal orders are final, Arthur said, to avoid deportation the Iraqis need to demonstrate fear of torture by Iraq, or ask to have their cases reopened based on changed circumstances or ineffective legal counsel at the time of ...
Posted: July 19, 2017, 4:00 am
The past couple of months have been something of a fakeout, and for this I apologize. While these columns have been running as usual every week, the reality is that I’ve been not at my desk in Huntington, Indiana, but at home cuddling my now (unbelievably!) 2-and-a-half-month-old baby boy. I recently remarked to my husband that nobody ever tells you that parenthood is a series of stiletto-heel tap dances on your heart. You know about the joyous part. You’re prepped for it to be exhausting. But a fast-paced version of the tarantella? Not quite. When Joseph cries in pain, my heart, and sometimes my whole being, cries with him. When he received his first shots, I held my cheek to his cheek, whispering in his ear while he howled. When he was circumcised, I couldn’t even be in the room. Would that I could have taken away his pain. Would that I could have experienced it for him. I guess that’s the vocation of parenthood. Along with the new baby smells, the first sweet smiles and the gurgling giggles, it’s the sword of sorrow piercing our hearts, a sword our Blessed Mother Mary knew better than anyone. I am just beginning to grasp these first precious lessons of parenthood — that being a mother and a father takes an abundance of courage, sacrifice, faith and, perhaps most of all, surrender. Surrender to the fact that we won’t be perfect ­— and that our children won’t be. Surrender to the certainty that we will make many, many mistakes. Surrender to the reality that there will be swords that pierce in pain, along with hearts that sing in joy. Surrender to trust in God’s plan for our children, our family. Joseph’s birth in mid-May was a schooling in that particular gift. Everything was going according to plan, and then nothing was. Eighteen hours of intervention-free labor gave way slowly and with increasing inevitability to the C-section I had wanted to avoid at all costs. Exhausted and faced with the news I didn’t want to hear, the midwife working with me walked to my side, hugged me and asked me if I wanted to pray. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . Together, she, the doctor, my husband and I joined hands, the three of them encircling me in the hospital bed like a personified halo. I don’t remember the words, though I am sure they were full of meaning, but I remember the gesture. I remember the peace that flooded my heart as a result, and I remember the grace of a birth that, though not how I intended, was no less beautiful. As the surgery was underway, my husband and I held hands and prayed a decade of the Rosary — a decade that was followed shortly by the most beautiful cry I had ever heard. I thank you all for your prayers and correspondence over the last several months as I shared with you a bit of my family journey. Please know that you are in my prayers, too, and that I look forward to my return to work in August.
Posted: July 19, 2017, 4:00 am
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