Joint Letter To Congress: 33 Organizations Urge Passage Of Conscience Protection Act Of 2017

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) joined thirty-two other major pro-life, religious, and health care organizations on September 6 urging the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to pass the Conscience Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 644/S. 301). Signatories include numerous medical groups representing tens of thousands of health care professionals who object to abortion and are seeking legal protection to serve their patients in good conscience.

“Federal laws protecting conscientious objection to abortion have been approved for decades by Congresses and Presidents of both parties. Even many ‘pro-choice’ Americans realize that the logic of their position requires them to respect a choice not to be involved in abortion,” they wrote. “Yet, with violations of federal conscience laws occurring in California, New York, Washington, Alaska, Illinois, and most recently Oregon, it is increasingly clear that the current laws offer far less protection in practice than in theory.”

The Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 644/S. 301), introduced in the House on January 24 by Reps. Diane Black (R-TN) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and in the Senate on February 3 by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), addresses several “loopholes” in current federal laws that have allowed violations of conscience rights to continue. The letter cites a 2014 California mandate requiring almost all health plans in the state to pay for elective abortions in direct violation of the Weldon amendment, and the subsequent failure of the HHS Office of Civil Rights to enforce Weldon. It also cites the government’s failure to vindicate the rights of New York nurse Cathy DeCarlo after she was pressured to assist at a late-term abortion.

The joint letter highlights the modest nature of the bill, explaining that it “would mean almost no change in the substantive policy of Congress” but “would be an enormous step forward in assuring Americans who serve the sick and needy that they can do so without being forced by government to violate their most deeply held convictions on respect for innocent human life.”

The full text of their letter to Senate is posted at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Senate-Joint-Ltr-Conscience-Protection-Act-2017.pdf; with the concurrent letter to the House of Representatives at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Joint-Ltr-Conscience-Protection-Act-2017.pdf.

For more on the bishops’ promotion of conscience rights, including a video about a nurse who was coerced to take part in a late-term abortion, visit: www.usccb.org/conscience.

Revised Senate Health Care Reform Bill Still “Unacceptable,” Says U.S. Bishops Chairman

WASHINGTON—Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, reacted strongly to the revised Senate health reform bill, the “Better Care Reconciliation Act” (BCRA).

“The USCCB is reviewing carefully the health care bill introduced by Senate leadership earlier today. On an initial read, we do not see enough improvement to change our assessment that the proposal is unacceptable. We recognize the incremental improvement in funding the fight against opioid addiction, for instance, but more is needed to honor our moral obligation to our brothers and sisters living in poverty and to ensure that essential protections for the unborn remain in the bill.”

In an earlier letter concerning the draft of the BCRA that was introduced in draft format on June 22, 2017, Bishop Dewane had warned that, “[t]he BCRA’s restructuring of Medicaid will adversely impact those already in deep health poverty. At a time when tax cuts that would seem to benefit the wealthy and increases in other areas of federal spending, such as defense, are being contemplated, placing a ‘per capita cap’ on medical coverage for the poor is unconscionable.”

The full letter from June 27 can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/upload/senate-discussion-letter-health-care-reform-2017-06-27.pdf

U.S. Bishops Chairman Calls Senate To “Reject Changes” To Social Safety Net

WASHINGTON—Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, has provided a more detailed critique of the Senate “discussion draft” health care bill, dubbed the “Better Care Reconciliation Act” (BCRA).

“Removing vital coverage for those most in need is not the answer to our nation’s health care problems, and doing so will not help us build toward the common good,” said Bishop Dewane. “For the sake of persons living on the margins of our health care system, we call on the Senate to reject changes intended to fundamentally alter the social safety net for millions of people.”

The BCRA was introduced in discussion draft format on June 22, 2017, and is the Senate’s working heath care proposal. Bishop Dewane again highlighted the need for lawmakers to withhold support for provisions that would harm poor and vulnerable people, including changes to Medicaid, in the June 27 letter. He also stressed the need for protections for the unborn in the bill, indicating that “[s]afeguards pertaining to the use of tax credits for plans that include abortion face steep challenges,” and that the BCRA “needs to be strengthened to fully apply the longstanding and widely-supported Hyde amendment protections.”  Bishop Dewane also noted that coverage for immigrants and conscience protections were lacking in the BCRA.

“The BCRA’s restructuring of Medicaid will adversely impact those already in deep health poverty,” warned Bishop Dewane. “At a time when tax cuts that would seem to benefit the wealthy and increases in other areas of federal spending, such as defense, are being contemplated, placing a ‘per capita cap’ on medical coverage for the poor is unconscionable.”

The full letter can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/upload/senate-discussion-letter-health-care-reform-2017-06-27.pdf

U.S. Bishops Chairman Reacts To Draft Senate Health Care Bill

WASHINGTON—After the U.S. Senate introduced a “discussion draft” of its health care bill, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, highlighted certain positive elements in the bill, but reiterated the need for Senators to remove unacceptable flaws in the legislation that harm those most in need.

The full statement follows:

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is examining very closely the new Senate “discussion draft” introduced today and will provide more detailed comments soon.

It must be made clear now, however, that this proposal retains many of the fundamental defects of the House of Representatives-passed health care legislation, and even further compounds them. It is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft unacceptable as written.

An acceptable health care system provides access to all, regardless of their means, and at all stages of life. Such a health care system must protect conscience rights, as well as extend to immigrant families.

The Bishops value language in the legislation recognizing that abortion is not health care by attempting to prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortion or plans that cover it. While questions remain about the provisions and whether they will remain in the final bill, if retained and effective this would correct a flaw in the Affordable Care Act by fully applying the longstanding and widely-supported Hyde amendment protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the final bill.

However, the discussion draft introduced today retains a “per-capita cap” on Medicaid funding, and then connects yearly increases to formulas that would provide even less to those in need than the House bill. These changes will wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported.

Efforts by the Senate to provide stronger support for those living at and above the poverty line are a positive step forward. However, as is, the discussion draft stands to cause disturbing damage to the human beings served by the social safety net.

The USCCB has also stressed the need to improve real access for immigrants in health care policy, and this bill does not move the nation toward this goal. It fails, as well, to put in place conscience protections for all those involved in the health care system, protections which are needed more than ever in our country’s health policy. The Senate should now act to make changes to the draft that will protect those persons on the peripheries of our health care system. We look forward to the process to improve this discussion draft that surely must take place in the days ahead.

Life: Homily for Monday, January 23, 2017

Readings for Today

Today is the prayer for the legal protection of the unborn.  Life.  Surely there are not many more divisive issues than abortion.  Those on both sides can feel passionate about the issue.  Sometimes, this passion is misplaced in the ways we talk about each other.  We can use very hostile words that prevent any discussion.  But what struck me in watching the women’s march were some of the horrible signs people carried.  One said, “If Mary had had an abortion we would not have this problem.” Another said, “A Baby should not be the punishment for sex.”  I was stunned at the level of vitriol in these two signs.

What surprises me is how this is the tenor of a march for women.  What was clear is organisers saw no place for women who did not believe in abortion.  Sad.  Certainly, there are issues to be addressed.  Women do often face many issues in society that make things difficult.

But what if it were more known what the Catholic Church does on behalf of women who need assistance when their baby is born? After all, despite the often repeated false claim, people that are truly pro-life do care about the baby after he or she is born.  The Catholic Church is the largest provider of social services after the federal government.

Today, let us pray for those women faced with the difficult decisions that come with pregnancy.  And let us pray that by our efforts, they may see the support we provide for them in our actions.

Transcript of Pope Francis’ Press Conference Aboard Plane back to Rome

Please find below the full English transcription:

Fr. Lombardi: Holy Father, thank you for being here, as at the end of every trip, for the summary conversation, a broad look at the trip that has occurred, and for your availability to respond to so many questions from our international community. We have, like usual, asked the different language groups to organize and prepare a few questions, but naturally we begin with our colleagues from Mexico.

Maria Eugenia Jimenez Caliz, Milenio (Mexico): Holy Father, in Mexico there are thousands of “desaparecidos,” (disappeared) but the case of 43 (students) of Ayotzinapa is an emblematic case. I would like to ask you, why didn’t you meet with their families? Also, (please send) a message for the families of thousands of the “desaparecidos.”

To read the full transcript go to: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-of-pope-francis-in-flight-interview-from-mexico-to-rome-85821/

 

Address to US Congress by Pope Francis

Below is the full text of Pope Francis address to the United States Congress, at the Capitol building, Thursday, September 23, 2015, taken from the Vatican website.

Mr. Vice-President,
Mr. Speaker,
Honorable Members of Congress,
Dear Friends,

I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.

Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.

I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.

My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776). If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded theCatholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (ibid., 3). “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (ibid., 14).

In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a “pointless slaughter”, another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

Four representatives of the American people.

I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America!

Homily for Saturday, May 9, 2015

Readings for Today

Do you think you are greater than Jesus? This seems like a question that has an obvious answer, and of course, it does. Of course we are not greater than Jesus. It is easy to see this when we consider the magnificent works of Jesus. Healings, raising from the dead, miracles are obvious signs of the divinity of Jesus. But today’s gospel puts forth another type of comparison. Namely, those who follow Jesus will face persecution precisely because Jesus did. If we seek to imitate Jesus, we simply cannot expect to be treated differently.

Do you feel persecuted? Are there times when you find yourself reluctant to share what you truly believe for fear of a reaction of persecution? I would like to say that I do find there are times where I may not share my faith and beliefs as willingly as I might for fear that it might lead to a confrontation or a disagreement. Sometimes I am afraid that by sharing faith I might rejected by another person.

Of course, at the same time, we need not be picking a fight or looking for a disagreement. But at the right time, we have to understand there will be times when we will called to be courageous, acting in a way where we might have to confront error and hardship. There will be times when we will not be popular, where people make speak ill of us, where our example of loving God and neighbor could lead to persecution and rejection.

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Another Act of School Violence

Once again the country is facing the reality of another act of violence in our schools.  While the weapon of choice was not a gun, but a knife, the same sad and tragic result is happening.  Families are sad, innocence is lost, and at least one family is left asking themselves how was it possible they could not see this action (or anything like it) as even possible for their son?

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Homily for Friday, December 28, 2012

Readings for Today

It is very hard for me to preach on this day without considering the modern circumstances of our day as it pertains to the killing of holy innocents. It seems the death of children has reached epidemic proportions. So perhaps today’s feast of the holy innocents is not so much about events that occurred some 2000 years ago, but rather pertain to our own day and age, those ways in which we killed innocent children in our own time.

The challenge of discussing and preaching on this feast of the holy innocents is that the sins of our day are also quite controversial. But it would not do justice to this feast of the holy innocents, if it did not at least provide us an opportunity to think about the events in the circumstances of our own time.

So first, let’s consider abortion. To be sure, much energy is expended on both sides of this issue. Considerable amounts of money are given to influence votes and positions. Perhaps we would arrive at a place where dialogue is possible, if we sought agreement on what seems to me to be the most agreeable of principles. Is it possible in this discussion of abortion, that we could have is our starting point, that abortion is not a good thing, and it is good to work to reduce the number of abortions whenever possible. To be sure neither side will be completely satisfied with this starting point.

But because this issue is so controversial, we have a series of inconsistent laws, but have failed to define in civil law, the beginning of personhood. On the one hand, abortion remains the only surgery child can receive without parental consent. Moreover, during the entire pregnancy, up until live birth, an abortion can occur. And yet, in the event of an accident, or crime, where the unborn child of a pregnant woman is killed, many states allow for a wrongful death suit not only for the mother if she dies, but also for the unborn child. How can we allow the killing of the child in one circumstance, and penalize others for the killing in another? And so, can we at least agree that it is good to reduce the number of abortions?

The events of Newtown Connecticut have once again focused our attention on gun violence. Perhaps Newtown has made it even more emotionally sensitive, because so many of the victims were small children. But our country is filled with cities dealing with the reality of children killing children. Unfortunately, and I fear this time will be no exception, we remain fixated on simplistic solutions. But perhaps even more tragic, is our inability to sit around the table and even acknowledge that there is a problem that needs to be solved. Careful consideration of gun violence statistics indicates that every two days there are 26 children in the United States who were shot and killed. That’s a Newtown Connecticut every two days.

The sad reality is that so many of these deaths go unreported in the media and unnoticed. They occur in neighborhoods and communities where opportunity is scarce. They occur in neighborhoods were all too often parents are simply hoping their children will live to adulthood. Can we all agree that something, anything, needs to be done to prevent the ongoing carnage of our children?

And then we consider the issue characterized by the euphemism death with dignity. Typically the most sensitive time for healthcare comes in the final days someone’s life. The law is motivated by people who have often witnessed the tremendous suffering of someone they love. They feel helpless. Moreover, since pain management has not yet become perfect, sometimes the person himself or herself can become depressed and seek the end of their life.

Even if the motives for such a law seen good, it appears that the most vulnerable they also experienced the most potential for abuse. It was for this reason that a group that advocates for disabled citizens in Massachusetts argued against the recent initiative that residents voted down concerning the ability to kill oneself.

And can we agree there is a need to look at a sin against life that is the death penalty? Can we be certain our legal system is perfect? Or pointedly, since we’ve all fallen short and send against the glory of God, can we honestly say that the giving and taking of life belongs to anyone other than God?

Perhaps the harshest reality on a day like today, is that for most of us violence perpetrated against holy innocents does not begin with the consideration of such contentious issues as abortion or euthanasia. It begins quite simply with the way in which we treat one another. Often the physical violence that has demonstrated in these issues begins with verbal violence, lack of consideration for others’ needs, or the anger and vengeance which serves as a cover for our own shortcomings.

Obviously I want an end to abortion, captial punishment, gun violence and euthanasia.  Perhaps today reminds us specifically of the line in Deuteronomy. “I set before you today a blessing and a curse; life and death. Choose life then that you and your descendents may live.”