Thursday, September 30, 2010

Are Democrats Trying to Kill Immigration Reform?

We know that the Republicans whose patron saint believed in a shining city where the “doors were open to anyone with the will and heart to get here,” have utterly abandoned that principle in fear of tea party rage. But recent legislative moves by the Democrats make it appear they have no intention of passing immigration reform, even as they seek to use it as a campaign issue.

Round One, The DREAM Act

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attached the DREAM Act to the Defense Authorization bill. At the same time, Democrat leadership attached a provision repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and another allowing for abortions at military medical centers.

The American people, including Republicans, overwhelmingly support the actual provisions of the DREAM Act. A poll conducted this June found 70 percent of those polled, including 60 percent of Republicans, supported the provisions of the DREAM Act. I think it is useful to see the actual question they were asked:

Currently, illegal immigrant children who were brought to the U.S. at a young age and have grown up here have no way to become legal citizens and fully contribute to society.

Congress is considering a proposal known as the DREAM Act which would address this problem. This bill provides illegal immigrant students who were brought here as young children with the opportunity to work legally without fear of deportation and ultimately earn permanent legal resident status if they meet certain requirements. To earn legal status, students must have come to the U.S. when they were very young, lived here for at least five years, stayed out of trouble, earned a high school diploma or GED, and completed at least two years of college or military service.

If passed, the bill has the potential to provide children and young people who meet these requirements with improved access to a higher education and a legal means by which to contribute to society.

Would you favor or oppose the DREAM Act?

Admittedly, this question is an argument for the DREAM Act. But it is a fair argument which accurately describes the Act. It is an argument that could and should have been made. If the DREAM Act were introduced as a stand alone bill, with bi-partisan support, public hearings and a well-thought publicity campaign, it is an argument that could have won the day.

Instead, the Dream Act was attached at the last minute to a defense bill with other controversial attachments only days before the Senate adjourns for the general election. Anti-immigrant activists quickly called the DREAM Act “backdoor amnesty” and there was no fair opportunity to give the Act the consideration it deserved. All any Senator wary of supporting the Act in this electoral season had to do was to say he opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and vote the whole defense bill, along with the Dream Act, down. And that’s what they did.

Seven Republican Senators who are still in office indicated support for the DREAM Act the last time it was brought for a cloture vote in 2007. At least one Democrat, Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who opposed the bill in 2007 has indicated she may change her vote if it comes up again and was open to debate and amendment. There are a whole slew of senators who were not in office in 2007 who have not had the opportunity to debate or indicate opposition or support for the Act.

Senator Reid’s actions in shepherding this bill are not the actions of a Senator who actually wants to get something passed. The fact that he made an impassioned plea for the Act on its merits after the predictable failure of cloture on the defense bill was shameless.

Senator Durbin (D-IL) has re-introduced the Act as a stand-alone bill, but Reid’s shenanigans have already sullied the name of the bill. Durbin said he will do “everything in my power” to get the DREAM Act passed this time. Advice – Get a new Majority Leader.

Killing Immigration Reform, Round Two

Yesterday, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 (S. 3932). It is a bill that, with some work, should be satisfying to a broad constituency. It includes strong border strengthening and enforcement provisions; flexible visa reform based on market needs and a path to permanent legal status for those already here illegally who pay a fine and go through a multi-year process with no recourse to means-tested benefits. In addition, none of the other provisions of the bill go into effect until the border strengthening and enforcement provisions are achieved.

It is a bill that would have the strong support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. But it does not.

Utterly superfluous to immigration reform, Senator Menendez has attached the “Unite American Families Act” to his Immigration Reform Act. The UAFA would treat the “partners” of bi-national couples as married persons.

So today, Menedez got a very nice letter from Salt Lake Bishop John Wester in his capacity as US Bishops’ Migration Chair commending Menedez for his “ongoing leadership on achieving immigration reform,” but
lamenting “that a controversial provision, which would confer marriage-like immigration benefits to same-sex couples, will preclude the U.S. bishops from supporting S. 3932 as introduced.”

Bishop Wester also quite reasonably observed that including UAFA “in a comprehensive immigration reform bill will make it far more difficult to achieve the compromise that will be needed in order to enact a fair and balanced comprehensive immigration reform bill.”

So we now have two attempts at immigration reform proposals diverted by attaching planks from a secondary agenda. Whatever one thinks of that secondary agenda, attaching it to already controversial immigration reform proposals is a sure way to sink desperately needed reform.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

‘Without Saints a Society will not be a Just Society’

That’s the upshot of an excellent column by Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete at Il Sussidiario. The column is a follow up to a previous one in which he wrote:

Protestants think in a Protestant way, and that is as expected. What is sad is how much many Catholics in America also think about faith in a Protestant way.

Albacete then reflected on the intensity and emphasis of devotion Korean Catholics exhibit toward the Korean Martyrs (great) vs. the intensity and emphasis American Catholics exhibit toward their own saints (not so much). He concluded:

The fact is that outside of personal piety and ethical inspiration, sanctity is just not a factor in the shaping of a nation’s history and destiny. This is the Protestant prejudice to which many American Catholics on all sides of the political spectrum have succumbed.

A friend of mine, our media and culture columnist Santiago Ramos, forwarded me Albacete’s first column and I emailed Santiago some thoughts on it. Santiago forwarded my email to Msgr. Albacete, who is a friend of his, and lo and behold, completely unbeknownst to me, my email ends up as the introduction to Msgr. Albacete’s current column. (Yes, this has gone to my head.) Of course, I’m not his only source. He also quotes Pope Benedict. (This has really gone to my head.)

But not for long, because the point of Albacete’s second column is one that can stand as a chastisement to a lot a commentators on politics and faith, most certainly including me. For American Catholics, he writes (my emphases):

The quest for sanctity is understood in ethical terms, bearing fruit in life after death as a favorable divine judgment on our behavior. Politics is simply just another area of our earthly existence in which we are so judged. . .

. . .When the Holy Father talks about faith and Love, he is referring to the quest for a share in divine life, that is, to the quest for sanctity. What he is telling us is thus that without saints a society will not be a just society. Its politics will be dominated by anger and the struggle for power in order to protect personal interests from competing ones. Saints are needed to make society human.

If you’re interested to see what I said and to read the rest of the column, please do.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mary Help of Christians, Pray for Us

MARYHELP My sister was born two years ago. She’s really fun. I can’t wait to play with her, but I can’t. I’m frozen in a tube and doctor says he needs my cells to help cure really famous people with really bad diseases.

Mary Help of Christians, Pray for Us.

Here I am Lord, but momma doesn’t know I’m here yet. Doctor says I can’t possibly be here yet and he gave her some medicine. I’m in a dark place and trying to grab on to mom.

Mary Help of Christians, Pray for Us.

I know I’m not perfect, Lord. Doctor says I have an extra chromosome. He told mom I’d be really miserable when I’m born.

Mary Help of Christians, Pray for Us.

Mom thinks she made a mistake. I’ve been growing in her for a few months now. She doesn’t want anybody to find out. But dad found out. He told mom if she doesn’t take some money and go to Planned Parenthood, he’ll leave her.

Mary Help of Christians, Pray for Us.

Mom’s been taking really good care of me for eight months now, but she never talks to anybody about me. She told grandma about me yesterday and grandma said she’s gonna disown mom. We’re taking a trip to some different state so grandma will still help mom.

Mary Help of Christians, Pray for Us.

Dear God, I’m born at last! I’m in a really bright room. There were lots of people here, but nobody was happy when I came out of mom. Now everybody’s gone, and I don’t have a blanket, and I’m cold, and I’m bloody, and I’m hungry, and I need Help.

Mary Help of Christians, Pray for Us.

Monday, September 20, 2010

URGENT - Oppose Cloture on Defense Authorization Bill

In an ideal world, a Defense Authorization bill would be about defense authorization. But the National Defense Authorization Act for 2011 (S. 3454), is about much more and must be opposed.

Chief among the bill’s defects is an amendment by Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) authorizing the performance of elective abortions at military hospitals in the US and around the world. The USCCB and the Military Archdiocese opposed this amendment when it was proposed and have asked that it be stripped from the bill.  Now it appears that an amendment by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) to strip the abortion provision will not be allowed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

A motion to invoke cloture on the Defense Authorization Act is scheduled for early tomorrow afternoon (Sept. 21). At this point, the only was to prevent turning military hospitals worldwide into abortion clinics is to oppose cloture. Missouri residents please call Senators Christopher “Kit” Bond and Claire McCaskill urging them to vote NO on cloture for the Defense Authorization Act.

Senator Kit Bond
(202) 224-5721
Web Form:

Senator Claire McCaskill
(202) 224-6154
Web Form:

All other states, please visit this link to find your senator and urge them to vote NO on cloture.

Convoluted Politics

The addition of the DREAM Act to the Defense Authorization Act is further complicating matters. The DREAM Act is a good bill, is strongly supported by the U.S. Bishops, and it will not pass as a provision in the Defense Authorization Act. Its inclusion in the defense bill is purely about the mid-term elections and not about passing good legislation.

The DREAM Act would permit states to afford undocumented aliens living within their jurisdictions with in‐state tuition rates. It also would provide for the legalization of undocumented aliens who came to the United States before age 16, have been in the United States for at least five years, have passed background checks, and who agree either to attend college or serve in the military for at least two years.

It is a matter of simple justice to those immigrant children who had no say in their entry to the US, have no home abroad, have been here a long time and who agree to demonstrate being good citizens. It is also good economics. Why any senator would oppose a good education for the people who are going to be paying their social security one day, or from putting them on official tax rolls, is beyond me.

But plenty of Republicans and several Democrats responding to current anti-immigrant fervor will oppose it. The last time the DREAM Act came before the Senate in 2007, it failed to invoke cloture by 8 votes. At that time, 12 Republicans voted in favor of cloture and 8 Democrats opposed cloture. As a provision of the Defense bill and in the lead-up to mid-terms, fewer Republicans are likely to support the DREAM ACT and more Democrats are likely to oppose it.

It will not get a fair hearing. To support cloture on the Defense Authorization Act in the hope that the DREAM Act might pass is folly. And it may very well be folly at the expense of the lives of the unborn and the integrity of our military hospitals.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday Grab Bag – Palin, Bosco, Newman, Shea

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Sarah Palin gave a very moving, personal, prolife speech in Kansas City last night. It was one of the best I’ve heard and I’ve heard plenty. And I didn’t expect it.

The speech was during a benefit dinner for the amazingly effective prolife outreach of Vitae Caring Foundation. Vitae produces soft-sell prolife ads and distributes them in a number of markets, including Kansas City. Their ads are aimed at women in crisis pregnancies. They get women to consider life and consider help. Vitae saves lives.

The non-partisan Vitae had come under fire for bringing in yet another Republican grandee to headline their dinner this year. Well, somebody has got to raise the money for these ads and if the Democrats had a high profile prolifer who could do that, I would expect Vitae to invite them. But Governor Casey is dead.

That aside, to give the naysayers their due, Fred Thompson did give a truly awful speech last year consisting of cliched Republican talking points while scarcely mentioning human life at all. You might have expected Palin to do the same, and honestly, I did.

But Palin rose to the occasion, avoided politics and stuck to message - a fact that was recognized even by the Kansas City Star which had earlier objected to her appearance. I rarely read a news account of an event I’ve attended to find myself saying, “Yes, that’s exactly what happened alright.” But Steve Kraske’s report in the Kansas City Star on the Palin speech tells “exactly what happened”. Kudos to him and the Star.

We’ll have our own complete report in next week’s Key and on the blog soon. It was too late for this week’s issue.

Don Bosco’s relics have made it to the U.S. and Gibbons Cooney at a Shepherd’s Voice has a report on their arrival at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in San Francisco. The saint was a couple hours late because he was caught up in “customs at the U.S./Mexican border,” Gibbons reports along with a lot of other interesting details and pictures. Also check out his second post where Salesian hero Father John Malloy and some of his confreres celebrating jubilees renew their vows right in front of the relics of their founder.

Our friends at the Cardinal Newman Society have a new blog called Campus Notes. They will be chronicling their Official U.S. Pilgrimage to England for Cardinal Newman's beatification (9/15 - 9/22) and be well worth reading beyond that tremendous event. They’re on the blog roll, so visit often. Father Michael Barber, S.J. is the spiritual guide for the pilgrimage. He is one of the great Jesuits today and I got to know him for a time when we worked together in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He’ll be a good guide to follow this coming week.

Mark Shea is the best and today he’s at his best. His regular tipple is whole milk, but I suspect he was drinking strong coffee when he wrote his tour de force wake up call to American Catholics at InsideCatholic today. If you read nothing else this week, take the time to read Jesus Loves You; Caesar and Mammon, Not So Much. “We trust these people more than we trust Christ and His Holy Church.” Go there and find out why.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September 8 - Updated

A couple thousand some-odd years ago, Our Lady was born on September 8.
In 1664, New Amsterdam became New York on September 8.
Galveston, Texas was destroyed by a hurricane on September 8, 1900.
Huey Long was shot in the Louisiana State Capitol on September 8, 1935.
The Italian surrender in World War II was announced on September 8, 1943.
I was born on September 8, 1969.
My brother Michael was born on September 8, 1970.
Nixon was pardoned by President Ford on September 8, 1974.
Oprah went National on September 8, 1986.
UPDATE - On this day, in a year it's impolite to mention, Mary Ambuul, matriarch of the massivest, coolest Catholic family in the U.S. was born.
In the year of my birth, this was the number one song:

Some of these things are better than others.
I'll be at a conference for a few days, so blog and tweets will be light.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Don Bosco Relics Arrive in U.S. this Week

St. John Bosco is to Italians from San Francisco what St. Patrick is to Irish everywhere – the main show in the galaxy of saints. I grew up surrounded by pictures, calendars, trinkets and even a second class relic of dubious authenticity of the saint, due to my grandfather’s great devotion to Don Bosco gleaned from the Salesians at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in San Francisco. My son later picked up this devotion from his first two years of school spent at Sts. Peter and Paul – he gets a mention every night at family prayers.

Sts. Peter and Paul was the first establishment of the Salesians of Don Bosco in the United States, so it is appropriate that the church will be the first in the U.S. to receive the saint’s relics on their 100 nation tour marking the 200th anniversary of Don Bosco’s birth. Details below are provided by my friend Gibbons Cooney, who will no doubt have coverage of the arrival on the blog he runs with Salesian Father John Malloy (good Italian name that):

Relics of Saint John Bosco (Don Bosco)
Founder of the Salesian Order, “Father and Teacher of the Young”
to Arrive in San Francisco THIS SATURDAY September 11!

SAN FRANCISCO--On Saturday, September 11, at 11:30PM, the relics of Don Bosco will arrive at Saints Peter and Paul Church, 666 Filbert Street, in San Francisco. The relics, a portion of Don Bosco’s right arm bone encased in a 1,800 lb. reliquary, will be driven to San Francisco from Tijuana, Mexico, the most recent stop on a worldwide tour commemorating the 200th Anniversary of Don Bosco’s birth. The relics have already visited (among others) Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Mexico.

Don Bosco will be received at Saints Peter and Paul, the first Salesian presence in North America, by an honor guard including members of the SF Fire Department, the SF Police Department, the Knights of Malta, the Knights of Columbus, and the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher.  The Church will be open all of Saturday night, allowing veneration by the faithful.  On Sunday, September 12, there will be five Masses celebrated at Saints Peter and Paul, each emphasizing a particular aspect of Don Bosco’s ministry: as a Model of Service; as Apostle to the Young; as Missionary to the World; as Model of Holiness; as Faithful for the Kingdom.

Don Bosco founded the Salesians to minster to and serve at-risk young people orphaned and dispossessed by the industrial revolution. While not numerous in the United States, the Salesians serve an extremely important role in other countries, a fact attested to by the reception of the relics by governmental dignitaries, including the Presidents of Nicaragua and Honduras. News of the coming of the Saint has generated great enthusiasm, particularly among the Latino population of the Bay Area. The Catholic Church recognizes Don Bosco as Patron of young people, Mexican young people, boys, schoolchildren, students, apprentices, laborers, stage magicians, and editors.

The relevance of the Salesian mission to today’s world is underscored by its amazing rate of growth.  Although only founded in 1859, the order is now the third largest men’s order in the worldwide Church, with over 20,000 members serving in 130 countries.  The Salesian Sisters (Daughters of Mary Help of Christians) are the second largest order of women religious, with 14,000 members serving in 89 countries. Notable contemporary Salesians include Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State; Bishop Carlos F. X. Belo, recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in bringing peace to East Timor; and Sister Enrica Rosanna, FMA, under-secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the most senior post ever held by a woman in the Vatican.

Catholic News Service has more information, including this list of other stops for the relics in the U.S. and Canada:

-- Sept. 11-13, San Francisco.
-- Sept. 14, Richmond, Berkeley and Watsonville, Calif.
-- Sept. 15, Watsonville and Los Angeles.
-- Sept. 16, Los Angeles and Rosemead, Calif.
-- Sept. 17-18, Bellflower, Calif.
-- Sept. 19-20, Harvey, La.
-- Sept. 21, Westwego, La.
-- Sept. 21-22, Harvey, La.
-- Sept. 22-23, St. Petersburg, Fla.
-- Sept. 24-25, Belle Glade, Fla.
-- Sept. 25-26, Miami.
-- Sept. 26-29, Washington, D.C.
-- Sept. 30, Stony Point, N.Y.
-- Oct. 1-2, New York City.
-- Oct. 4-6, Toronto.
-- Oct. 6-8, Montreal.
-- Oct. 8-10, Surrey, British Columbia.

Alas, not Kansas City.

Visit the official Worldwide Relic Pilgrimage page for more info on Don Bosco, his relics and the tour.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Statement on Groundbreaking of Nuclear Weapons Plant

Various Missouri dignitaries will gather September 8 in south Kansas City to break ground on a new campus for the National Nuclear Security Administration. The facility will manufacture parts for nuclear weapons. Following is a statement by Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn on the project:

Statement on the Groundbreaking of the Nuclear Weapons Plant

By Most Rev. Robert W. Finn

On September 8, 2010 ground will be broken to begin construction of a new facility for the production of non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons in South Kansas City. In the Catholic Church September 8th is the feast of the Birth of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The confluence of the groundbreaking with the feast of Mary’s nativity provides the opportunity to pause at the irony of the situation: Mary, mother of the Prince of Peace, and the construction of a facility whose main purpose is the construction of weapons for warfare.

The Catholic tradition has always affirmed the right of a state to defend itself from unjust aggression. Implicit in that right is the need to equip a trained military force. We do not deny this obligation and necessity on the part of any state.

However, the accumulation of weapons of mass destruction – which this nuclear plant proposes to construct – constitutes a grave moral danger. Nuclear weapons are by their very nature weapons of mass destruction: their force and impact cannot be contained, and their use affects combatants and non-combatants alike. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and humanity, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons – especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons – to use them” (CCC #2314; cf. also Gaudium et Spes #80). Since the use of such weapons is morally questionable, it follows that the production of such weapons is also morally questionable.

Others would argue that to possess such weapons would be a deterrent to other nations who also possess such weapons. The Church responds to such an objection: “The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring potential adversaries from war. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace among nations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations; it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation” (CCC #2325; cf. also Pope Paul VI Populorum Progressio #53).

We will continue to stress the Church’s constant call for disarmament: “The Church’s social teaching proposes the goal of ‘general, balanced, and controlled disarmament.’ The enormous increase in arms represents a grave threat to stability and peace. The principle of sufficiency, by virtue of which each state may possess only the means necessary for its legitimate defense, must be applied both by States that buy arms and by those that produce and furnish them. Any excessive stockpiling or indiscriminate trading in arms cannot be morally justified. Such phenomena must also be evaluated in light of international norms regarding the non-proliferation, production, trade and use of different types of arms. Arms can never be treated like other goods exchanged on international or domestic markets” (CSD #508; cf. also John Paul II Message to the United Nations 1985, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace paper “The International Arms Trade” 1994, John Paul II Address to the World of Work 1988).

We have an obligation to think responsibly concerning this nuclear weapons plant; to think beyond the local and examine the global dimensions of this project. “Arms of mass destruction – whether biological, chemical, or nuclear – represent a particularly serious threat. Those who possess them have an enormous responsibility before God and all of humanity. The principle of non-proliferation of nuclear arms, together with measures of nuclear disarmament and the prohibition of nuclear tests, are intimately interconnected objectives that must be met as soon as possible by means of effective controls at the international levels” (CSD #509, cf. also Gaudium et Spes #80; CCC #2314, John Paul II World Day of Peace #2 1986). Let us make a decision for all of humanity: that one day this facility may be transformed from a producer of weapons into a producer of goods that benefit all mankind. We look forward to the day when Isaiah the prophet declared, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (Isaiah 2: 4)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Is Catholics in Alliance Kaput?

This blog has had at least a dozen posts on the background and doings of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good over the last couple years, but this may be the last (let’s hope). It appears they are out of business. Let’s consider the evidence:

They’ve had no blog posts since June 10.

They’ve made no tweets since May 12.

They haven’t posted to their own facebook page since May 12.

Their calendar page is blank.

Their staff bio page is blank.

Their media guy, John Gehring, is now working for Faith in Public Life.

But why rely on circumstantial evidence? I decided to just give them a call. The phone number has been disconnected.

I’ve long asserted that CACG was a campaign organization and not a non-partisan advocate of Catholic Social Teaching as many news outfits have gullibly or willfully maintained. With the president elected and health care passed, it looks, for now, like the campaign is over.