Saturday, January 31, 2009

More on Apostolic Visitation

The AP, believe it or not, has a pretty good article on the upcoming Apostolic Visitation of U.S. women religious with some analysis, excerpt:

"The numbers tell you everything one needs to know why they're undertaking an effort like this," said Russell Shaw, a former spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who called the church's interest "very late in the game."

"For many of these communities, the handwriting is on the wall. They're disappearing," he said.

Historically, Catholic sisters concentrated on teaching and health care. Since the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, many sisters have become activists of social causes ranging from protesting nuclear weapons to marching with migrant farmworkers. Some also advocate for women to be ordained as priests or challenge church teaching against abortion rights or gay marriage.

In recent years, newly formed traditional orders — whose members dress in habits, show fidelity to Rome and focus on education, health care and social work — have reported growth. More established orders that tend to take more progressive social stances have seen their members' ages and numbers of vocations dwindle.

"The Vatican may be asking the question, 'Why is this happening, and is there something these more traditional orders offer that the more progressive orders can learn from?'" said the Rev. Jim Martin, editor of the Jesuit magazine America.

The visitation was decreed in December by Cardinal Franc Rodé, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. His thought on the state of religious life was very forcefully explained in a September 27 keynote address at Stonehill College. Zenit has the full text. His analysis of the transformations in religious life over the past 40 years is quite relevant to the rest of the Church and worth study, excerpt:

Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church and concretely in religious life, been so difficult and the source of so much turmoil?” asked Pope Benedict in an important speech three years ago.

The answer he offers is deep and crystal-clear. “It all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or – as we would say today – on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application.” He continues, “The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and clashed. One caused confusion; the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and continues to bear fruit.

“On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call ‘a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the ‘hermeneutic of reform’, of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us.”

1. The ‘hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’ described.

In the Holy Father’s analysis, “The hermeneutic of discontinuity is based upon a false concept of the Church and hence of the Council, as if the former were from man alone and the latter a sort of Constituent Assembly. The call to change would be the true “spirit of the Council”, to such a degree that whatever in its documents reconfirms the past can be safely said to be the fruit of compromise and therefore to be legitimately forsaken in favor of the Council’s ‘spirit.’ This spirit that all is new and has to be made new gives rise to the fervid excitement of the explorer, the prospect of stepping courageously beyond the letter of the Council. But the call is so vague that one is immediately left anchorless, a victim of his every whim and rejecting all correction. It is idealistic in so far as it underestimates the frailty of human nature, and it is simplistic in thinking that a Yes to the modern era will solve all tensions and create harmony. Given these premises, and given also the best of intentions, what calming influence could there be on experimentation, and what principle was there to moderate the tendency to incorporate into religious life the fads and patterns of modern culture?

Read the whole thing.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Vatican to Visit U.S. Women Religious Institutes

Breaking. Just came across my desk. More to come . . . UPDATE posted.

Vatican initiates study of Catholic sisters’ institutes in the United States

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has begun an Apostolic Visitation or comprehensive study of institutes of women religious in the United States.

The action was initiated by the Congregation’s prefect, Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rodé, C.M. The decree, issued December 22, 2008, indicated the Visitation is being undertaken ―in order to look into the quality of the life‖ of the members of these religious institutes.

The Visitation will be conducted under the direction of Mother Mary Clare Millea, A.S.C.J., whom Cardinal Rodé appointed Apostolic Visitator. Mother Millea, a Connecticut native, is superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an international religious institute headquartered in Rome, with approximately 1250 professed sisters worldwide, including 135 in the United States. She entered religious life in 1965 and professed perpetual vows in 1973.

The Visitation, which will collect and assimilate data and observations about religious life, will be limited to apostolic institutes, those actively engaged in service to Church and society. Cloistered, contemplative sisters, who have distinctly different lifestyles, are excluded from the study. Mother Millea will submit a confidential report to Cardinal Rodé at the conclusion of the task. Though there is no deadline, she hopes to complete the task by 2011.

Catholic women religious have been involved in apostolates such as education, healthcare and a variety of pastoral and social services in the United States since before the nation was founded. According to the Washington-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) however, the number of U.S. women religious has been in decline during the past 40 years, while their median age continues to increase.

"I am truly humbled, and a bit overwhelmed," Mother Millea said of her assignment. "While I have visited each of the communities and missions in my own congregation, the thought of gathering facts and findings about nearly 400 institutes across the United States can be daunting in scope."

"I am praying for all the sisters who will be a part of this Visitation, and hoping for their prayers
– both for the good of the process as well as for me in this role," she continued. "I ask the prayers of the American Catholic clergy and faithful too."

Despite her sense of awe at the size of the task, Mother Millea was encouraged by the project.

"I know that the object of this Visitation is to encourage and strengthen apostolic communities of women religious, for the simple reason that these communities are integral to the entire life of the Catholic Church, in the United States and beyond."

Mother Millea indicated that while she is not obliged to visit every community of women religious, she looks forward to learning and better understanding the "multi-faceted dimensions of the sisters’ religious lives, as well as their abundant contributions to the Church and society."

A website,, has been launched to provide basic information about the project.

New Ministry in KC Featured in Washington Post

Marty Denzer wrote an article a few weeks ago on A Simple House - a new ministry of friendship and service to the poor coming to Kansas City. It was started by young adults in Washington, DC, where there are currently two Simple House sites. A Simple House co-founder Clark Massey and other members of his team are pictured at left in front of the soon to be operating Simple House in Kansas City.

The Washington Post had a long article on DC's 'A Simple House' on Sunday. It is well worth reading the whole thing to see what a tremendous gift this is going to be to our community. (Found on Amy Welborn's blog where she has other links and info.)

Excerpts from the Post article below:

Laura's quest to serve God has meant, in essence, turning her back on the material comforts and professional aspirations of her suburban upbringing. And there are others just like her at Simple House and a growing number of Christian "intentional communities" across the country, where residents share a living space as well as a common spiritual purpose. For the devout Catholics and evangelical Protestants in their 20s and early 30s attracted to these communities, it is not enough to attend church, pray before every meal and spend hours at Bible study. It is not enough to ask, "What would Jesus do?" The preferred question is: "How did Jesus live?"

At Simple House, as at other Christian intentional communities, the answer demands devotion and sacrifice. None of the missionaries at Simple House has an outside job. Laura earns just $200 a month to minister to about two dozen families in Southeast, doing everything from delivering food to helping a couple deal with their daughter's suicide attempt. She and her housemates have taken vows of poverty, obedience and chastity. They pray every morning and evening and attend Mass daily. In their rowhouse on T Street NW, they have no TV. No Internet. No alcohol inside the house. And no sex. Ever. What the young women lack in amenities, they make up for in sightings of rats and roaches.This is what it looks like to reject careerism and affluence in pursuit of spiritual fulfillment. This is what it looks like to become a modern-day radical.
. . .
When doing missionary work, Simple House volunteers wear four-inch crucifixes because, as Clark puts it, "Christ has good street cred."
. . .
That's when Laura met Clark. She was a student at Catholic, and they both volunteered with the same organization, working with disadvantaged children in Northeast Washington but never really getting close to them. Laura and Clark decided they could do better. During long walks around the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, when Laura's much shorter legs worked double time to keep up with Clark's long stride, they brainstormed ways to create a more intimate and loving ministry. They wanted to live like Jesus, among the poor, befriending the poor. They wanted their lives to be the antidote to something Mother Teresa once said: "Today it is very fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is very unfashionable to talk with them."
. . .
Simple House calls its work "friendship evangelization," and it's messy and often frustrating. This is not like giving food to those dying of starvation. Gratitude is often elusive, and the problems the missionaries see -- signs of child abuse and neglect, drug dealing, repeated stints in jail, even a girl refusing to attend a private high school that could help lift her out of poverty -- don't lend themselves to simple solutions. At times, to avoid losing their faith in the power of God to change lives, the missionaries debrief one another by asking: "Where did everyone see Christ today?"

Whole article.

Stem Cells 'Reset' Immune System

A very promising new treatment for Multiple Sclerosis patients comes by way of stem cell therapy, according to this Breitbart report:

In clinical trials, a team of scientists led by Richard Burt of Northwestern University in Chicago essentially rebuilt the immune system of 21 adults -- 11 women and 10 men -- who had failed to respond to standard drug treatments.

First they removed defective white blood cells that, rather than protecting the body, attacks the fatty sheath, called myelin, that protects the nervous system.

The immune systems were then replenished with so-called haemopoeitic stem cells -- extracted from the patient's bone marrow -- capable of giving rise to any form of mature blood cell.

Like all promising and proven stem cell treatments to date, this study used ethically derived adult stem cells, not embryonic stem cells.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Help Spread FOCA Email Campaign

Many of you know that the USCCB is encouraging parishes around the country to join in the National Pro-Life Postcard Campaign to Congress opposing the Freedom of Choice Act or any other piecemeal approach to expanding or funding the abortion regime.

I just spoke with Deirdre McQuade at the US Bishops' Pro-Life Office and she is working on getting out the message about a concurrent email campaign.

All you have to do is:

1. Go to this link

2. Fill out your name and address

3. The system automatically figures out your Representative and Senators and sends them an email with your opposition to FOCA or any similar measure and urging them to maintain existing laws against funding and promotion of abortion.

It took me less than a minute. This has nothing to do with the misleading emails on FOCA that have been going around. This is an official campaign of the US Bishops and the National Campaing for a Human Life Amendment.

McQuade says you don't have to be Catholic - or even a registered voter - to participate. You can also still send an email even if you signed a postcard in your parish.

McQuade has already posted the instructions to a facebook group with 85,000 members. Imagine the impact if every pro-life blogger encouraged their readers to join the email campaign.

Everybody can help spread this campaign. Post a link to your MySpace or Facebook page or blast a link to all your email contacts.

The reason FOCA isn't yet introduced in Congress is because the Catholic bishops and pro-life leaders have been uncommonly vocal and strident in opposing it. Greater opposition from more Americans might encourage Congress not to expand abortion funding or promotion by other means.

Please join the campaign.

No U.S. Money for 'Killing Children', Cardinal Says

Reacting to President Barack Obama's Executive Order re-authorizing U.S. funds for agencies performing and promoting abortion overseas, Dominican Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez says,

“The United States,” the Archbishop of Santo Domingo said, “is not going to benefit at all from this measure, what he (Obama) is doing is bringing down the country’s morality even more.”

The cardinal said the decision would have “dramatic consequences” for the Dominican Republic, because “in our country there are many institutions dedicated to promoting abortion and killing children” that will now receive American dollars.

Read the whole report at Catholic News Agency.

Congress Honors Catholic Schools

There is certain to be much division over various proposals before the U.S. Legislature, but yesterday, both House and Senate unanimously approved resolutions honoring Catholic schools during Catholic Schools Week.

If there were only some way that could translate into dollars.

The Senate version is not yet online. The House version is below:

Whereas America's Catholic schools are internationally acclaimed for their academic excellence, but provide students more than a superior scholastic education;

Whereas Catholic schools ensure a broad, values-added education emphasizing the lifelong development of moral, intellectual, physical, and social values in America's young people;

Whereas the total Catholic school student enrollment for the 2007-2008 academic year was nearly 2,300,000 and the student-teacher ratio was 14 to 1;

Whereas Catholic schools teach a diverse group of students;

Whereas more than 25 percent of school children enrolled in Catholic schools are from minority backgrounds, and over 14 percent are non-Catholics;

Whereas Catholic schools produce students strongly dedicated to their faith, values, families, and communities by providing an intellectually stimulating environment rich in spiritual, character, and moral development;

Whereas the Catholic high school graduation rate is 99 percent, with 80 percent of graduates attending four-year colleges and 17 percent attending two-year colleges or technical schools;

Whereas in the 1972 pastoral message concerning Catholic education, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops stated: `Education is one of the most important ways by which the Church fulfills its commitment to the dignity of the person and building of community. Community is central to education ministry, both as a necessary condition and an ardently desired goal. The educational efforts of the Church, therefore, must be directed to forming persons-in-community; for the education of the individual Christian is important not only to his solitary destiny, but also the destinies of the many communities in which he lives.'; and

Whereas January 25, 2009, to January 31, 2009, has been designated as Catholic Schools Week by the National Catholic Educational Association and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) supports the goals of Catholic Schools Week, an event co-sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and established to recognize the vital contributions of America's thousands of Catholic elementary and secondary schools; and

(2) congratulates Catholic schools, students, parents, and teachers across the Nation for their ongoing contributions to education, and for the key role they play in promoting and ensuring a brighter, stronger future for this Nation.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bishop Boland Urges Order of Malta to Support Life

Bishop Emeritus Raymond J. Boland of the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph gave the following homily to members of the Order of Malta gathered at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. during a Jan. 22 Mass for the March for Life:

The Supreme Court decision in the case of “Roe v. Wade” handed down thirty-six years ago today is the reason thousands of Pro-Life advocates will march in protest here in our nation’s capital this afternoon. They uphold the memory of millions of children whose mothers sadly allowed the nurturing sanctity of their wombs to become chambers of death. They march in the name of those children whose lives were cut short at the very moment of birth by the particularly callous and barbaric procedure known as partial-birth-abortion. They march in mourning for all those potential citizens who will never vote in a presidential election or enjoy the benefits of a great democracy, which, because of this predilection to destroy the most vulnerable and defenseless among us, may be in the process of losing the soul of its nationhood. Constitutional lawyers may argue for as long as they feel inclined as to whether or not our Constitution includes a right to privacy but even if it does, where are its limits? Surely it should not extend to the deliberate destruction of human life in the womb or, for that matter, anywhere else!

The inauguration of our new President two days ago was an event of historical importance. Whether or not one voted for President Obama, all Americans, and indeed millions worldwide, were overjoyed that something once thought impossible had been achieved, a person of color a few generations removed from slavery had become the first citizen of the nation. This fact, coupled with the peaceful transition of power we have to come to expect, engendered hope in the hearts of many who are not so privileged.

But here, in the midst of all this national and international euphoria, I must inject a word of caution. There is a shadow which looms large and it portends a future far more devastating than the economic chaos which burdens our global community at the present time. I refer to FOCA, F.O.C.A. which stands for the somewhat attractive sounding title, FREEDOM OF CHOICE ACT. I urge you to study this proposal and its far-reaching implications which its proponents do not want us to understand. If you are, and I know you are, a champion of life and if you do not want the State to tell us what to believe or to coerce us into violating the most sacred obligations of conscience, then we must be keenly aware that it is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” We were unprepared when the “Roe v. Wade” decision unexpectedly overwhelmed us in 1973; we must not be “asleep at the

switch” when and if FOCA, potentially an even more dangerous piece of legislation, is reintroduced in the Senate and House for legislative approval. I submit that it would be the greatest act of political hypocrisy for our new President, who so eloquently pledged to defend the rights of so many of the oppressed, the disadvantaged and the victims of repressive regimes, to sign or support legislation designed to facilitate the abortionist and to destroy our freedom to practice our religion and follow its creed conscientiously. And let us not forget that during the campaign President Obama promised he would sign such a bill.

It is for this reason that I urge you to participate fully in the Bishops’ Postcard Campaign expressing your opposition to FOCA. But we must do more than this. The volume of postcards has an impact but it is limited by the somewhat impersonal nature of its stylized message. Besides the postcards perhaps the most effective way to gain the attention of those who represent you in the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives is to write to them personally. For many years I have done this on February 3rd. Why February 3rd? Because it was my mother’s birthday and she was the one who gave me life.

I listened to and I have read and reread the President’s Inaugural Address. It was a good speech but, in my opinion, it was carefully crafted to avoid addressing our moral obligation to protect the dignity of all human life. Let me submit to you the possibility that it can be used to ask our new President some very logical and searching questions. Here are a few examples:

The President said:

“The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

And I would add, “Mr. President, why don’t our unborn brothers and sisters also deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness?”

Addressing the nations of the world, the President said:

“Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child (emphasis mine) who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.”

And I would add, “Mr. President, what about the child in the womb – doesn’t he or she deserve a future of peace and dignity?”

The President said:

“And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, (emphasis mine) we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us and we will defeat you.”

And I would add, “Mr. President, inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, sounds very much like abortion.”

The President said:

“We will restore science to its rightful place…...”

And I would add, “Mr. President, we already have the science which convinces us that what is growing in the womb is an unique human being, completely distinct from its mother and its father. It has its own DNA structure. It needs nothing but nutrition and a safe place to grow. A separate individual has come into being. He or she will go through many stages and phases, none of which is as monumental as his or her conception. The science speaks for itself. You become a person at the moment of conception, the point of no return.”

And that, my dear friends, is why we march today!


Monday, January 26, 2009

Kansas Priest Stirs State Legislature

The Kansas Legislature's regular chaplain wasn't available on January 22nd, so Father Brian Schieber of Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish filled in. Here is what he prayed according to the Journal of the Kansas House of Representatives:

Gracious Father you created us in your own image and likeness and said of each and everyone of us that we are very, very good.

On this 36th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade we remember the over 53,000,000 beautiful, innocent unborn children who have been legally exterminated in our land.

Forgive us Lord for the times that we have not raised our voices in defense of those who have no voice.

Lord may this injustice move us to action. May we no longer stand by idle. Give us the virtue of fortitude to enact just laws that will respect the unalienable rights that you our Creator have endowed, the first of these being the right to life.

By your grace, guide us to transform this culture of death into a culture of life and a civilization of love. May we here in the heartland of America have hearts on fire for life and liberty and love. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.

Several legislators objected in press accounts. Speaking to AP, "Prayers ought to be more ecumenical," said Rep. Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat. "It's supposed to be a prayer that all 125 people will feel comfortable praying."

Discomfort can be a sign of conscience. Thanks for your witness Father Schieber.

And thanks to Dust of the Time for posting on this. For some reason I didn't see it in The Star.

Vatican's UN Rep. Coming to Benedictine College

The Atchison Globe reports that Vatican Ambassador to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, will be speaking at Benedictine College in Atchison, KS.

The Feb. 18 lecture is open to the public and begins at 7:30 p.m. in the O'Malley-McAllister Auditorium of the student union building.
Archbishop Migliore will celebrate a 5:15 p.m. Mass in the Abbey Church prior to the lecture.

Benedictine is celebrating its sequicentennial this year. Visit their website for campus location, map and other info on one of the country's strongest Catholic colleges.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obama's Coercive Abortion Policy?

By this time, Catholic Key readers are certainly aware of President Obama's reversal of the Mexico City Policy. The USCCB response is here.

Appended to the president's action was a notice in which he said:

In addition, I look forward to working with Congress to restore U.S. financial support for the U.N. Population Fund. By resuming funding to UNFPA, the U.S. will be joining 180 other donor nations working collaboratively to reduce poverty, improve the health of women and children, prevent HIV/AIDS and provide family planning assistance to women in 154 countries.
This action could be even more monstrous than the reversal of the Mexico City Policy. The U.S. government ceased funding the UNFPA after independent investigations found the agency complicit in China's coercive one-child policy - coercion that includes forced abortions.

Following the State Department's own 2002 investigation, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote a letter to Congress saying, "UNFPA's support of, and involvement in, China's population-planning activities allows the Chinese government to implement more effectively its program of coercive abortion."

UNFPA funding has been withheld for that reason since 2002 and the State Department continued to monitor China's coercive "family planning" regime.

The following U.S. State Department notice on UNFPA China policy has been removed from it's site, but is still available in Google's cache:

UNFPA China Program

The Government of the United States is disappointed that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has decided to continue to provide financial and technical assistance to the Chinese birth limitation program under the direction of China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission. We have made our views known at the UNFPA Board meeting, which is currently reviewing the proposed new country program for China.

The U.S. opposition to this program is a matter of principle. It is not directed at UNFPA as an institution. Rather, it is based on the strong opposition of the United States to human rights abuses associated with coercive birth limitation regimes. While the United States has acknowledged that China has made some progress in its approach to population issues, Chinese birth limitation policy continues to contain clearly coercive elements in law and practice. The United States remains deeply concerned about these remaining coercive mechanisms, such as the "social maintenance fee" for "out of plan" births and regulations that leave women little choice but to undergo abortions.

The United States understands that UNFPA does not approve of these policies. Nonetheless, UNFPA’s continuing support for the Chinese coercive birth-limitation program unfortunately provides a de facto UN "seal of approval" on these activities. UNFPA should insist that all coercion end in the counties where it operates. Chinese birth limitation laws and policies are inconsistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with the commitments undertaken by the Government of China at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development.

UPDATE: Not sure why the above is no longer on the State Department site, but other material about UNFPA still is. One quote, "The United States government does not give funds to UNFPA because of its work with China, whose birth limitation program has harsh elements that include coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sad News from Conception Seminary

Nicholas Roberts, a seminarian for KCSJ currently at Kenrick-Glennon, posted sad news today about Jeff City Seminarian Alan Brown (from facebook):

"Alan Brown, 49, beloved seminarian of Conception Seminary, studying for the Diocese of Jefferson City, passed away Thursday at 3:45PM at Heartland Regional Health Center in St. Joseph, MO from heart complications.

Alan came to Conception Seminary College in the fall of 2005. He was a senior and was set to graduate this May.

Alan was greatly respected and loved by his brother seminarians and the Conception community. He will be missed. Please keep Alan and his family in your prayers.

Eternal rest be granted unto him, O Lord."

Pius X Students Continue Sudan Campaign

Former NBA star Manute Bol is trying to raise funds to build the first-ever school in his native village of Turalei in southern Sudan. Education for some 400 children in and around Turalei now takes place under a tree.

A while back, Kevin Kelly wrote a story in The Catholic Key about efforts by students at Kansas City's St. Pius X High School to assist Bol in getting a proper school built for Turalei. In that story, Bol who currently resides in Olathe, KS, received a $650 check from leaders of a student group called "Letters of Compassion" at the Kansas City, MO High School.

The "Letters of Compassion" group at Pius didn't stop there though. Nearly every day, the group is working to find new partners to support construction of the school.

Below is a picture of Manute in Turalei with a brick press students at Pius helped him purchase.

And here's a photo montage of the school under the tree:

Lastly, student organizers Meredith and Mallory O'Malley discuss their project below:

Information about Bol's work in southern Sudan can be found at Sudan Sunrise. Tax deductible contributions can be made online at that Web site, or sent to Sudan Sunrise in care of St. Pius High School, 1500 NE 42nd Terr., Kansas City, MO 64116-2296 with the notation "Manute Bol's School"

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama's Roe Declaration

On the anniversary marking the court decision allowing the killing of tens of millions of children IN A RICH COUNTRY, our new president praises the decision:

"On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose. While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services. On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere."

Common Ground clowns will overlook that he says nothing about reducing abortions, but simply repeats the tired 70s feminist formulation for abortion - making motherhood a curse.

Archbishop Wuerl's Inauguration Prayer

Father Ernie Davis of St. Therese Little Flower Parish in Kansas City, who blogs here, writes in to say of Archbishop Wuerl's prayer at the National Cathedral yesterday:

I thought you might be interested. Although this prayer is sometimes attributed to George Washington, it dates from 1882 and was included in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer (p.36) and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (p.820). I think appropriately calls for obedience to God’s law, an issue especially important on this anniversary of Roe vs Wade.

Here it is:

Almighty God, who has entrusted us with the care of this great land:
We humbly ask that we may always prove ourselves
a people worthy of this trust and pleased to do your will.
Bless our nation with honorable industry, sound learning, and mutual respect.
Save us from violence, discord, and confusion,
from arrogance and greed,
and from every evil way.
Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people
the multitudes brought from all the corners of the earth.
Bestow the spirit of wisdom on those to whom we grant the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home.
Through obedience to your law,
may we show forth your glory among the nations of the world.
In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness,
and in the day of trouble, strengthen our trust in you;
all this we ask in your holy Name.

Thank you Father Ernie.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Blogpost Headline of the Day

This may become a regular feature. Via Anthony Sacramone, formerly of First Things, formerly of Luther at the Movies and now from Strange Herring:

‘Religious,’ Not ‘Spiritual,’ Less Likely to Commit Suicide, Be Abducted by UFOs

Be sure to read the linked story from his post.

This is not a Parody

HT - Iowahawk:

MySpace Celebrity and Katalyst present The Presidential Pledge

Bishop Finn's Catholic Schools Week Message

Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn's column from the upcoming print edition of The Catholic Key:

The Mission of Catholic Schools at the Service of the Church

This week, we acknowledge the gift of Catholic education under the banner of Catholic Schools Celebrate Service. Our community owes a debt of gratitude to parents, teachers, and all who serve and sacrifice for the ministry of Catholic schools.

The tradition of Catholic education began with Christ Himself when Jesus called together his disciples and the multitudes that followed him. In their need He fed them and taught them: food for body and food for soul. He came as the full and definitive revelation of the Father’s love. He taught the truth, and ultimately entrusted this work to the Church, promising the Apostles the help of the Holy Spirit. One of the most important components of the Church’s mission is the work of teaching the faith.

The Declaration on Christian Education, Gravissimum Educationis, from the Second Vatican Council, affirms the priority of this call to parents, who are the first teachers of their children. (no. 3) The Church must assist parents in this responsibility. The Council says that Catholic Schools are of “outstanding importance,” (no. 5) and therefore have a significant role in the Church’s work of promoting an authentic human culture and forming young people.(no. 8)

I wish to repeat here what I have said at other times and places about our Catholic schools. We depend on these schools to carry forward the very work of the Church. While they are certainly not the only means to teach and form youth, they are without a doubt one of the primary means to do so. They are a vibrant part of the work of the whole Church, and they require the support of the broad Catholic community.

For more than a year we have been engaged in a Comprehensive Planning Study for our Catholic schools. A number of meetings are scheduled in the near future as we begin to discuss the recommendations that have been formulated through this careful gathering of data. We want to make sure that our schools are on a firm footing for generations to come. We want to make sure that they are faithful to the very message that Our Lord Himself revealed. They will be excellent in every aspect of their teaching and, perhaps most important, we will continue to examine and intensify the Catholic identity of our schools. The passionate determination to make our schools “unashamedly Catholic” is the unique ingredient that sets us apart, and without which we could never justify the commitment to maintain our own schools.

As a product of Catholic education, I am keenly aware of how Catholic schools helped to provide a foundation for my life. For many years I had the privilege of serving as a teacher and administrator in Catholic high schools. My life and ministry have been immeasurably blessed by the gift of Catholic schooling.

We honor those who serve and sacrifice for Catholic education. In partnership, parents and teachers are today’s channels for passing on the same timeless message of Jesus Christ. Your collaboration and prayerful support for the programs we are now beginning will help us fortify the tradition of Catholic education in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

Pope Benedict's Telegram to President Obama

Sent this morning:







Monday, January 19, 2009

Best Blogpost Headline

What do we want? Gradual change! When do we want it? In due course!

She's also got the best blog banner I've seen.

Cardinal George to President-Elect Obama

USCCB President Cardinal Francis George of Chicago sent a letter to President Elect Barack Obama last Friday urging him not to use executive orders to overturn the Mexico City Policy, conscience rights of abortion opponents or restrictions on funding embryo destruction.

The letter was made public today and is posted below (h/t LifeSite):

Dear Mr. President-elect:

I recently wrote to assure you of the prayers of the Catholic bishops of the United States for your service to our nation, and to outline issues of special concern to us as we seek to work with your Administration and the new Congress to serve the common good.

I am writing today on a matter that could introduce significant negative and divisive factors into our national life, at a time when we need to come together to address the serious challenges facing our people. I expect that some want you to take executive action soon to reverse current policies against government-sponsored destruction of unborn human life. I urge you to consider that this could be a terrible mistake -- morally, politically, and in terms of advancing the solidarity and well-being of our nation's people.

During the campaign, you promised as President to represent all the people and respect everyone's moral and religious viewpoints. You also made several statements about abortion. On one occasion, when asked at what point a baby has human rights, you answered in effect that you do not have a definite answer. And you spoke often about a need to reduce abortions.

The Catholic Church teaches that each human being, at every moment of biological development from conception to natural death, has an inherent and fundamental right to life. We are committed not only to reducing abortion, but to making it unthinkable as an answer to unintended pregnancy. At the same time, I think your remarks provide a basis for common ground. Uncertainty as to when human rights begin provides no basis for compelling others to violate their conviction that these rights exist from the beginning. After all, those people may be right. And if the goal is to reduce abortions, that will not be achieved by involving the government in expanding and promoting abortions.

The regulation to protect conscience rights in health care issued last month by the Bush administration is the subject of false and misleading criticisms. It does not reach out to expand the rights of pro-life health professionals, but is a long-overdue measure for implementing three statutes enacted by Congress over the last 35 years. Many criticizing the new rule have done so without being aware of this legal foundation - but widespread ignorance of a longstanding federal law protecting basic civil rights is among the good reasons for more visibly implementing it. An Administration committed to faithfully implementing and enforcing the laws of the United States will want to retain this common-sense regulation, which explicitly protects the right of health professionals who favor or oppose abortion to serve the basic health needs of their communities. Suggestions that government involvement in health care will be aimed at denying conscience, or excluding Catholic and other health care providers from participation in serving the public good, could threaten much-needed health care reform at the outset.

The Mexico City Policy, first established in 1984, has wrongly been attacked as a restriction on foreign aid for family planning. In fact, it has not reduced such aid at all, but has ensured that family planning funds are not diverted to organizations dedicated to performing and promoting abortions instead of reducing them. Once the clear line between family planning and abortion is erased, the idea of using family planning to reduce abortions becomes meaningless, and abortion tends to replace contraception as the means for reducing family size. A shift toward promoting abortion in developing nations would also increase distrust of the United States in these nations, whose values and culture often reject abortion, at a time when we need their trust and respect.

The embryonic stem cell policy initiated by President Bush has at times been criticized from both ends of the pro-life debate, but some criticisms are based on false premises. The policy did not ban embryonic stem cell research, or funding of such research. By restricting federally funded research to cell lines in existence at the time he issued his policy, he was trying to ensure that Americans are not forced to use their tax dollars to encourage expanded destruction of embryonic human beings for their stem cells. Such destruction is especially pointless at the present time, for several reasons. First, basic research in the capabilities of embryonic stem cells can be and is being pursued using the currently eligible cell lines as well as the hundreds of lines produced with nonfederal funds since 2001. Second, recent startling advances in reprogramming adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells - hailed by the journal Science as the scientific breakthrough of the year - are said by many scientists to be making embryonic stem cells irrelevant to medical progress. Third, adult and cord blood stem cells are now known to have great versatility, and are increasingly being used to reverse serious illnesses and even help rebuild damaged organs. To divert scarce funds away from these promising avenues for research and treatment toward the avenue that is most morally controversial as well as most medically speculative would be a sad victory of politics over science.

I hope you will consider these comments in the spirit in which they are intended, as an invitation to set aside political pressures and ideologies and focus on the priorities and challenges that will unite us as a nation. Again I want to express our hopes for your Administration, and our offer to cooperate in advancing the common good and protecting the poor and vulnerable in these challenging times.

As we approach the first days of your new responsibilities as President of the United States, I will offer my prayers for you and for your family. May God bless your efforts in fostering justice and peace for all, Mr. President, as you begin your term.

Cardinal Francis George

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Seminary Report is Out

Catholic News Service reports that findings from the 2005-2006 U.S. seminary visitations have been released. They also helpfully provide a link to the full report. The Vatican document is signed by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski of the Congregation for Catholic Education and Dated Dec. 15.

This is a public release of general findings and does not include individual seminary assessments which presumably were conveyed to bishops and seminary heads much earlier. Nonetheless, it is refreshingly direct about areas of concern for U.S. seminaries.

Coupled with the assessment that most diocesan seminaries have much improved since the 1990s is a frank description of what those prior problems were and the admission that problems still exist in some diocesan seminaries.

But where diocesan seminaries faired well in this assessment, seminaries for religious orders did not. Over and over again in discussing the 10 major areas under study in the report, faults were most often attributed primarily to seminaries for religious, e.g., while discussing homosexuality:

"The Apostolic Visit was obliged to point out the difficulties, in the area of morality, that some seminaries had suffered in past decades. Usually, but not exclusively, this meant homosexual behavior. Nevertheless, in almost all the institutes where such problems existed, at least in the diocesan seminaries, the appointment of better superiors (especially rectors) has ensured that such difficulties have been overcome. Of course, here and there some case or other of immorality - ­again, usually homosexual behavior -continues to show up. However, in the main, the superiors now deal with these issues promptly and appropriately. Nevertheless, there are still some places - usually centers of formation for religious - where ambiguity vis-a-vis homosexuality persists." (emphases added)

And again, with regard to fidelity to Church teaching, especially in the area of moral theology, the document says:

"Even in the best seminaries, there can be some theology teachers who show reservations about areas of magisterial teacl1ing. This is particularly true in the field of moral theology. Other points of Church teaching, such as ordination being restricted to men alone, are also questioned. Such lack of sentire cum Ecclesia is often not overt, but the students receive the message clearly nevertheless. In a few seminaries, and particularly in some schools of theology run by religious, dissent is widespread.
"Without doubt, the most contested area of theology today is moral theology. It is also one of the most useful in pastoral ministry: without a sound grasp of moral principals, the priest will fail in his duties as a preacher and confessor. While most diocesan seminaries treat the subject fairly well, it is not rare in religious institutes to find basic tenets of Catholic moral doctrine being called into question." (emphases added)

The report doesn't name particular religious orders, which is unfortunate, because there exist many fine and orthodox religious centers of formation. But I suppose most readers can guess who suffers accutely from the defects above.

The most encouraging part of the report is its discussion of the quality of today's seminarians - one that I'd heartily confirm from anecdotal evidence:

"Almost universally, the candidates - both diocesan and religious - received great praise from the Apostolic Visitors. The candidates are generous, intelligent, full of zeal, pious, and faithful to prayer. They are demonstrably loyal to the Church's Magisterium. They are signs of great hope for the Church in the U.S." (emphases added)

The whole thing is well worth reading. Many of its insights could as well be applied to Catholic universities.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Prop. 8 Payback against Church?

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a story today on San Francisco City Assessor Phil Ting's attempt to squeeze millions from the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco in the form of Real Estate Transfer Tax. The unprecedented action is looking a lot like payback against the archdiocese for its support of Proposition 8.

A little backstory - When you sell a piece of property in many California jurisdictions, including San Francisco, the seller must pay a rather exhorbitant tax for the privilege which is based upon the value of the property. It is akin to a sales tax on a home or commercial property.

The San Francisco Archdiocese owns hundreds of lots in San Mateo, Marin and San Francisco counties. The exceedingly vast majority of these properties are the lots which make up a parish plant, i.e., church, school, parish hall, parking lot, rectory. The Chronicle story is mistaken to call the properties in question "empty lots and commercial land". They are not.

The Archdiocese has historically held title to these properties under two names - The Roman Catholic Welfare Corporation and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco, a Corporation Sole.

In December, 2007, San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer announced a corporate restructuring within the archdiocese and by May 2008, almost all properties in question had been consolidated under the title of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Parish and School Juridic Persons Juridic Property Support Corp.

Since this is not a sale or transfer to an different organization or person, no transfer tax is invoked and no transfer tax has ever been invoked in the history of the state for such a transaction. According to Archdiocesan Communications Director Maury Healy, "a tax on transfers of property, all owned by the Catholic Church, within the same family of Archdiocesan corporations, is unprecedented in the history of the state of California and the law is overwhelmingly in our favor on this subject."

In fact, the archdiocese' properties in San Mateo and Marin counties were transferred normally and without a transfer tax imposed. Yet, after a seven month delay, according to Healy, the San Francisco Assessor/Recorder issued a determination that a tax is owed on any transfers in San Francisco County. Apparently pulling a number out of his hat, Phil Ting told the Chronicle that the assessment would be $3-15 million, making it the second largest transfer tax imposed in City history.

The City government has a history anti-Catholicism which has only become more strident, and politically advantageous, since the passage of Proposition 8. Mayor Gavin Newsom excoriated the Catholic Church and the archdiocese during a tirade at what was supposed to be a Mayor's Prayer Breakfast with religious leaders, including Archbishop Niederauer. The Mayor, according to reports, got a standing ovation.

Angry calls for the removal of church tax exempt status are deafeningly widespread in the City. The transfer tax has nothing to do with tax-exempt status, but it certainly is sticking it to the Church.

Any clear-eyed observer might view this action by Ting, who's rumored to want the Mayor's chair after Newsom, as pandering to the anti-Catholic sentiment of voters in San Francisco. At least that's what his supporters are applauding in the combox over at the Chronicle, excerpt:

- Perhaps the archdiocese should have spent less on Prop 8 and instead payed their taxes.

- "Preach politics? Start paying taxes!!"

- Phil Ting for Mayor ! Phil Ting for Governor !

Friday, January 9, 2009

Mensaje del Obispo de Kansas City

(Foto de Santa Francisca Javier Cabrini)

Bienvenida a los extranjeros: los Derechos Humanos de los Migrantes

Mensaje del Obispo de Kansas City – St. Joseph, Robert W. Finn para la Semana de la Migración, Enero 4-11

Un principio central de la enseñanza Católica social es los derechos de los Migrantes. A pesar que es poco lo que hay escrito de los derechos de los migrantes – que es, entrar a un país – claramente el derecho de una persona de dejar su país sin opciones implica que habrá lugares que le permitan y provean oportunidades significantes para alcanzar su bienestar legítimo y el de sus familias. En varios mensajes del Día mundial de la Migración y el Vaticano se dirigen a las Naciones Unidas, el Papa ha urgido la abertura para aquellos que legítimamente buscan ayuda.

Específicamente la Iglesia basa el derecho de los migrantes en otros tres muy importantes derechos humanos: el derecho de la familia al sustento, la prioridad de la familia sobre el estado, y el derecho de la iniciativa económica. Estos tres derechos tienen su origen en el principio universal del bien común, el cual se define como “el conjunto de condiciones de la vida social que hacen posible a las asociaciones y a cada uno de sus miembros el logro más pleno y más fácil de la propia perfección” (Compendio de la Doctrina Social de la Iglesia # 164, ref., también Enseñanza Social Católica en Economía de Emigración, y artículos similares de Andrew M. Yuengert)

Como marcamos la observación la Iglesia en la semana de la Migración, es importante rezar por las iniciativas federales para que cumplan valiosamente los fines de los dos, los migrantes y la soberanía de las naciones. Una llamada nacional a las políticas de migración ayudará a minimizar el paro del progreso del estado y soluciones locales que algunas veces crecen de posturas políticas y simple prejuicio, y esto se convierte en la facilitación de la explotación de extranjeros.

El Papa Pío XII enseñó que un gobierno soberano tiene un derecho vital de controlar sus fronteras, pero este no es absoluto. La necesidad de los migrantes deberá ser medida contra las necesidades de los países que los reciben. Nosotros, como una nación más poderosa, tenemos la obligación de promover el bien universal, acomodando el flujo de la migración de acuerdo con los principios humanos, mientras que no se descontrole la regla de la ley.

- La persona tiene el derecho de encontrar oportunidades en su propia tierra.

- La persona tiene el derecho de emigrar para mantenerse a sí mismo y a su familia.

- La soberanía de la nación tiene el derecho de controlar sus fronteras.

- Los que verdaderamente buscan refugio y asilo deben de obtener protección.

- La inalienable dignidad humana y el derecho humano de migrantes indocumentados deben siempre ser respetados como los de todos los seres humanos.

El papa Juan Pablo II señala a la eliminación del subdesarrollo global como el antídoto para eliminar la emigración. Particularmente queriendo decir – y ayudando a la economía global – podría ser ciertamente un esfuerzo de largo-término que ajuste las diferencias económicas entre las naciones de la manera que provea mejor a los trabajadores con oportunidades de empleo que les permita permanecer en su tierra y se mantengan a sí mismos y sus familias. La creación de oportunidades de empleo en estas naciones podría ayudar a reducir la pobreza y disminuir los incentivos de muchos migrantes de buscar un empleo en los Estados Unidos.

El crecimiento de la adopción del libre mercado está empezando a dirigirse a un in balance global. Como países que se abren ellos mismos al sistema mundial de mercado, hay evidencia que ellos empiezan a alcanzar el mundo subdesarrollado. (Ref. Reforma Económica y el proceso de Integración Global. Jeffrey Sachs y Andrew Warmer) Implementando políticas económicas que crean trabajos con salarios para vivir es vital, especialmente para ciudadanos extranjeros sin habilidades avanzadas.

La Iglesia propone varias soluciones, incluyendo la creación de un “camino a la ciudadanía” que ofrezca algunas oportunidades para el gran número de trabajadores indocumentados que permanezcan legales, o eventualmente que ganen la ciudadanía. Esto proveerá algunos beneficios para el mercado laboral en los Estados Unidos, preservar la unidad de la familia, y mejorar el estándar de vida de las comunidades migrantes. Hay una evidencia apreciable que los trabajadores migrantes han y continuarán contribuyendo a la economía de los Estados Unidos (ref. Los Beneficios de la Economía de los Migrantes, y otros artículos similares por George J. Borjas)

¿Cuáles podrían ser otros elementos para una política de emigración justa? Un nuevo programa temporal de trabajadores deberá reforzar la protección de trabajadores con niveles de salario y beneficios de empleo que sean suficientes para mantener una familia. Serias consideraciones se deberán proveer que deben incluir la protección del trabajador y trabajos portables, protegiendo sus derechos básicos y dándoles la opción de convertirse en un residente legal después de un tiempo específico.

Una nueva política debe de tratar temas de la protección de las fronteras que no intensifiquen el tráfico humano y la muerte de migrantes en lugar de reducir el cruce de ilegales. No hay evidencia demostrable que sugiera que el gran flujo de migrantes de México y de las Américas ha puesto en peligro la seguridad de la nación. El derecho a la vida y la familia, y hasta beneficios económicos al Bien Común Universal, debe ser considerado junto con el cuidado de la integridad de las fronteras.

Nuestra nación continúa creyendo que nuevos migrantes son una fuente de energía, esperanza, y diversidad cultural. Más que eso, sin embargo, tenemos una fe común en Jesucristo que trasciende fronteras, discriminación, y violencia, resultando en un espíritu de solidaridad. Nosotros debemos responder con formas creativas de manera que fortalezcamos nuestra fe, esperanza, y caridad de migrantes y todo el Pueblo de Dios. Confiemos la reforma migratoria a las oraciones de Santa Francisca Xavier Cabrini, ella misma fue una migrante de América, la santa patrona de los migrantes, y la primera ciudadana Americana en ser canonizada. En su propio tiempo, ella experimentó racismo, discriminación, y prejuicio en la búsqueda de mejores condiciones para los migrantes. Que su ejemplo y sus oraciones nos encaminen a hacer leyes justas y humanas para el Pueblo de Dios.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

'Called & Gifted' Workshop in Kansas City

'Called & Gifted', a spiritual gifts discernment workshop will be held this weekend in Kansas City. The workshop is presented by the Catherine of Siena Institute which was founded in 1997 by Dominican Father Michael Sweeney and Sherry Weddell.

Weddell and Fr. Sweeney are two of the sharpest thinkers and teachers on the lay vocation in the Church today. Fr. Sweeney is currently President of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology at Berkeley and Weddell runs the Siena Institute out of Colorado Springs.

To date, they've worked with over 90 dioceses on five continents. Intentional Disciples, a blog by the staff at the Siena Institute, has been on The Catholic Key blogroll since we started.

Kansas City is very fortunate to host this workshop and to have Weddell as one of the presenters. Below is a release about the workshop:

The Archdiocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the Bishop Helmsing Institute will host a unique spiritual gifts discernment workshop presented by the Catherine of Siena Institute in Parkville, Mo., Jan. 9-10, 2009. The Called & Gifted Workshop is a two-day live presentation designed to help Catholics discern the charisms (spiritual gifts) that they have been given for the sake of others and how to use those charisms in their family and relationships, at work, and in the parish and larger community.

The Workshop will be held on Friday, Jan. 9 from 7 – 9:30 p.m. and on Saturday, Jan. 10 from 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. at St. Therese Catholic Church, 7207 NW Highway 9, Parkville (North Kansas City), MO 64152. Though the Workshop is designed for Catholics, it is open anyone who may be interested and will be presented in both English and Spanish in separate rooms. Those who would like to attend are asked to RSVP to Brandi Miller at (816) 756-1850 ext. 250 or There is no cost for the workshop, though a free-will offering will be taken.

Called & Gifted Workshop participants will learn:

- The role of every baptized person and of the local parish in the mission of the Church to the world.

- The critical role of charisms in the lives and callings of lay men and women, in the life of the parish or Christian community, and in the life of the world.

- The signs and characteristics of 24 common charisms.

- How discerning and using one’s charisms can change their life and the life of others, their parish, and the world.

All participants will receive an extensive packet of gift resources, including the “Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory,” the first-of-its-kind gifts inventory designed especially for Catholics.

Discerning their charisms gives many people a new sense of personal purpose and direction as a lay Christian. The Workshop can be especially useful for young adults who are trying to find their career or vocational direction; parents who want to help their children live their faith and recognize their gifts; people in transition – who may be changing jobs or be between jobs, have become “empty nesters,” who are returning to the workplace or facing retirement; new or returning Catholics who want to explore what it means to live their faith as an adult; Catholics who are contemplating a call to religious life or ordination; and parish staff and leaders who want to nurture and empower parishioners.

The Called & Gifted discernment process is the Institute’s most well-known offering and has been used in the formation of over 40,000 lay, ordained, and religious Catholics in more than 85 dioceses on five continents.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Brandi Miller at (816) 756-1850 ext. 250 or or contact the Catherine of Siena Institute by visiting

Monday, January 5, 2009

Bishop Finn's Message for Immigration Week

Following is Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn's message for Immigration Awareness Week, January 4-11.

Welcoming the Stranger: the Human Rights of Migrants

A central principle of Catholic social teaching is the right to emigrate. Although there is little written on the right to immigrate – that is, enter a country – clearly the right to leave a person’s country without undue restraint implies that there be places that allow and provide good people meaningful opportunities to pursue their legitimate well-being and that of their families. In their several messages for World Migration Day and the Vatican’s addresses to the United Nations, the Popes have urged such openness to those who legitimately seek relief.

Specifically the Church bases the right to migrate on three other very important human rights: the right of a family to sustenance, the priority of the family over the state, and the right of economic initiative. These three rights have their origin in the principle of the universal common good, which is defined as “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church #164, cf. also Catholic Social Teaching on the Economics of Immigration, and similar articles by Andrew M. Yuengert)

As we mark the Church’s observance of Migration Week, it is important to pray and work for just federal initiatives that will accomplish worthy ends for both immigrants and the sovereignty of nations. A sound national immigration policy will help to minimize reactionary state and local solutions that sometimes grow out of political posturing and simple prejudice, and that in turn facilitate exploitation of foreign nationals.

Pope Pius XII taught that a sovereign state has a vital right to control its borders, but it is not absolute. The needs of the immigrant should be measured against the needs of receiving countries. We, as a more powerful nation, have an obligation to promote the universal good, accommodating migration flow in accord with just human principles, while not recklessly eroding the rule of law.

- Persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland.

- Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families.

- Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders.

- True refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection.

- The inalienable human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should always be respected the same as those of every human person.

Pope John Paul II pointed to the elimination of global underdevelopment as the antidote to illegal immigration. Particularly meaningful – and helpful to a global economy - would be certain long-term efforts that adjust economic inequalities between nations in such a way as to better provide workers with employment opportunities that allow them to remain at home and support themselves and their families. The creation of employment opportunities in these nations would help reduce poverty and mitigate the incentive for many migrants to look for employment in the United States.

The increasingly widespread adoption of free markets is beginning to address such global imbalances. As countries open themselves up to the world trading system, there is evidence that they will begin to catch up to the developed world. (cf. Economic Reform and the Process of Global Integration. Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Warner) Implementing economic policies that create living-wage jobs is vital, especially for foreign citizens without advanced skills.

The Church proposes several solutions, including creating a “path to citizenship” that offer some opportunities for the large number of undocumented workers to remain as legal workers, or eventually to earn citizenship. This would provide some benefit to labor markets in the United States, preserve family unity, and improve the standard of living in immigrant communities. There is appreciable evidence that migrant workers have and will continue to contribute to the U.S. economy. (cf. The Economic Benefits of Immigration, and other similar articles by George J. Borjas)

What might be some other elements of a just immigration policy? A new temporary worker program should enforce worker protections with wage levels and employment benefits that are sufficient to support a family. Serious consideration ought to be given to provisions that would include worker protections and job portability, protecting their basic rights and giving them the option to become lawful permanent residents after a specific amount of time.

A new policy will have to treat issues of border enforcement that do not intensify human trafficking and migrant deaths rather than reduce illegal crossings. There is no demonstrable evidence to suggest that the large influx of immigrants from Mexico and the Americas has compromised homeland security. The right to life and family, and even economic benefits to the Universal Common Good, must be considered alongside deliberations about appropriate border integrity.

Our nation continues to believe newcomers to be a source of energy, hope, and cultural diversity. More than that, however, we have a common faith in Jesus Christ that transcends borders, discrimination, and violence, resulting in a spirit of solidarity. We must respond in just and creative ways so that we may strengthen the faith, hope, and charity of migrants and all the People of God. May we entrust immigration reform to the prayers of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, an immigrant to America herself, the patron saint of immigrants, and the first American citizen to be canonized. In her own time, she experienced racism, discrimination, and prejudice in seeking better conditions for immigrants. May her example and prayers lead us to enact just and humane laws for all God’s people.

(Mother Cabrini is pictured above.)