USCCB Chairman Calls Senate Vote On Dream Act “A Setback, Not A Defeat”

USCCB Chairman Calls Senate Vote On Dream Act “A Setback, Not A Defeat”

Archbishop Gomez reaffirms Church support for immigrant rights

Archbishop Jose Gomez, coadjutor archbishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, today described the vote on the DREAM Act in the U.S. Senate as a “setback, not a defeat.”   The DREAM Act, short for the Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors Act, failed to attain the sixty votes needed to end a filibuster on the bill, thus ending its prospects for passage in the 111th Congress.  The final vote count was 55 in favor of cloture, 41 against, five short of the needed number.
The DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for young people who entered the country illegally with their parents as children or infants, provided they complete two years of higher education or two years of military service.   As many as 1.8 million young persons could have benefited from the enactment of the DREAM Act.

“With the passage of the DREAM Act in the House of Representatives and with a majority of the U.S. Senate voting in favor, it is clear that a majority of Congress and of the American public support this common-sense humanitarian measure,” said Archbishop Gomez.  “I am confident that one day—sooner rather than later—the DREAM Act will become the law of the land.”

Archbishop Gomez extended thanks to those in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate who supported the legislation.
“On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I express my gratitude to those elected officials who did the right thing and voted for this important bill,” he stated.

He added, “My heart goes out to the thousands of young people who would have been helped by the DREAM Act and were disappointed by the Senate action.  We will continue to work so that one day soon you will have the opportunity to become Americans.”

Archbishop Gomez reaffirmed the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ commitment to safeguarding the basic human rights of immigrants and to enacting humane and just reforms of U.S. immigration law.   He added that the U.S. bishops had more work to do to educate Catholics on the issue of immigration and its importance to the mission of the Church and the future of the country.

“The U.S. Catholic bishops will continue to advocate for humane immigration reform, so that we can attain an immigration system that properly balances the need to protect our national sovereignty with our obligation to honor fundamental human rights.”

“More education is needed to ensure that Catholics, as well as all Americans, fully understand the humanitarian consequences of a broken immigration system, especially on families,” he concluded.

Call your Senators ASAP: DREAM Act vote is tomorrow (Saturday, December 18th)!

Please call your Senators as soon as possible to ask for their vote for the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for young persons who were brought to the United States by their parents as children or infants. The U.S. Catholic bishops have been long-time supporters of the DREAM Act.

A vote on cloture for the DREAM Act will be on Saturday morning.
This will be the final vote on the DREAM Act.

You can get more details on the legislation and also send a postcard in support of the DREAM Act through the Justice for Immigrants website at www.justiceforimmigrants.org ( http://capwiz.com/justiceforimmigrants/utr/1/AKQZNUNTGI/HWMINUNTPH/6253628621 ).

CALL NOW!  The main U.S. Senate number is 202-224-3121.

Migrant Families Focus of 2011 National Migration Week

Addressing root causes of migration key to resolving current migration patterns

Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice is the primary theme for the 2011 National Migration Week, to be held January 2-8 in parishes and dioceses around the country.

Following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI, who has focused on migrant families in his 2011 World Day of Migrants and Refugees message, the U.S. Catholic bishops focus this year’s National Migration Week message also on the family by highlighting the stresses and strains that migration has on families and the effects that economic underdevelopment has in this process.

“Systemic poverty, economic instability and a lack of viable employment are fundamental, root causes of unregulated migration,” said Archbishop José Gomez, coadjutor archbishop of Los Angeles. “Given the economic inequalities that separate the devel­oped from the developing nations, and the important role that these differences play in migration patterns, the Catholic bish­ops have repeatedly stressed that an open-door immigration policy is not a solution to the problem of illegal immigration. International economic development is a crucial component in the management of migration patterns.”

Archbishop Gomez, who is chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, stressed the need to work for economic and social development in sending countries so that people won’t be forced to migrate in order to sustain or find a better life for their families.

“The bishops of the United States, in their pastoral let­ter Strangers No Longer, called on the United States to work in solidarity with the international community to help raise the standard of living, uphold human rights and implement complementary political institutions in the underdeveloped world so that people can have the chance to prosper in their homelands,” Archbishop Gomez said.

Domestically, other steps can be taken to help regulate illegal immigration, such as Congress developing policies that provide legal avenues of entry for low-skilled workers that better match fluctuations in the marketplace.

The observance of National Migration Week began over a quarter century ago by the bishops to provide Catholics with an opportunity to take stock of the wide diversity in the Church and the ministries serving them. As the face of the local churches continues to change, the availability of materials explaining the plea and celebrating the contributions of immigrants and refugees is becoming increasingly important. They provide an important educational resource that can be used throughout the year by individuals, families, schools and parishes to learn about the complex issues surrounding migration.

In conjunction with The Catholic University of America, USCCB will develop a new educational website that will focus on the important role that the Catholic Church has played in the area of refugee resettlement for nearly seven decades. The site is expected to be operational in the spring and will be hosted at http://libraries.cua.edu/achrcua/packets.html where other resources are already posted. These resources are directed to assist teachers, directors of religious education and others interested in migration and refugee issues.

National Migration Week resources can be downloaded directly from the website http://www.usccb.org/mrs/nmw/ or can be ordered in bulk through the USCCB Communications office at 1-800-235-8722 or www.usccbpublishing.org (browse under Migration and Refugee Services).

Legislative Committee Assignments

Legislative leaders have finished the committee assignments for both the state House and Senate.  Find them here and here.

State’s Wrongful Birth Ban Upheld

At a time we have reason to ask whether any of the state’s prolife laws have any force (see here and here), the North Dakota Supreme Court has upheld the state’s ban on “wrongful birth” lawsuits.

According to the opinion,” The plaintiffs alleged the doctors provided medical care to S.K.L. (mother)  during her pregnancy with B.D.H. (child) and negligently failed to detect the presence of Trisomy 21, an abnormality consistent with Down Syndrome, in the unborn child. The plaintiffs further alleged that as a result of the doctors’ negligence, S.K.L. and C.S.H. (father) were deprived of their constitutional right to terminate S.K.L.’s pregnancy and were damaged as a result of the wrongful birth of B.D.H., a child born with Down Syndrome on April 12, 2007.”

N.D.C.C. § 32-03-43 prohibits wrongful birth claims.  The parents argued that the statute did not apply to the parents suing on behalf of the child.  The court disagreed.

Wrongful birth suits are an affront to the dignity of human life.  The North Dakota legislature and the state supreme court did the right thing.

Catholic Bishops, Evangelicals Call For Ratification Of New START Treaty – Action Needed

Representatives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) called for the ratification of the New START Treaty in a December 7 media conference call.

Both Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Leith Anderson, president of NAE, applied the moral teachings of their faith traditions to concerns related to the treaty, which was signed by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on April 8.

“Nuclear war is rejected in Church teaching because nuclear weapons cannot insure noncombatant immunity and their awesome destructive power and lingering radiation cannot be meaningfully proportionate,” said Bishop Hubbard. He cited the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 World Day of Peace message, in which the pope said, “In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims.”

Anderson said, “In the long and tragic history of human warfare the nuclear weapon occupies a singular position due to the scope and scale of its terrible and indiscriminate power to destroy human life. Evangelicals strongly believe in the sanctity of life.”

Anderson cited the history of NAE in speaking out on the dangers of nuclear weapons and supporting nuclear arms reduction. He cited the broad military support for the New START Treaty and urged bipartisan cooperation for its ratification.

“Ratification of the New START Treaty will give the U.S. new rights to inspect Russian nuclear weapons facilities, reducing our military’s need for costly ‘worst case’ contingency planning—a concernwhich grows with each passing month that the treaty is not ratified,” Anderson said. “The treaty will reduce by 30 percent the number of Russian nuclear warheads which threaten our nation, while honoring our commitments under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.”

Bishop Hubbard noted, “Timely ratification of the New START Treaty is critical because verification ensures transparency and transparency builds trust. Trust is essential for reducing the threats of misunderstandings and accidents that could be catastrophic for human life if they led to a nuclear exchange. The earlier START Treaty verification and monitoring requirements expired one year ago. Without a new treaty there are no inspections or verification regimens in place, a disturbing and potentially dangerous situation our nation has not faced in decades.”

Bishop Hubbard cited the support of the former president of the USCCB, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, as well as the bishops’ new president, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, for ratification of the treaty. He also said the treaty has global importance.

“Strong and timely ratification of the new treaty will communicate our nation’s moral commitment to continue down a road that reduces the nuclear threat,” Bishop Hubbard said. “It will encourage other nations to adhere to their responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The new treaty will make our nation and world safer by reducing nuclear weapons in a verifiable way. For the safety of our nation and world, we urge the Senate to take up the New START Treaty without delay.”

START Action Alert

Religious Leaders Voice Shared Commitment To Protect Marriage

Leaders of some of the largest religious communities in the United States have come together to express their commitment toward the protection of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In an open letter released today, entitled “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment,” leaders from Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon, Orthodox, Pentecostal and Sikh communities in the United States affirmed the importance of preserving marriage’s unique meaning.

“The broad consensus reflected in this letter—across great religious divides—is clear: The law of marriage is not about imposing the religion of anyone, but about protecting the common good of everyone,” said Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, newly elected president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and one of the letter’s signers. “People of any faith or no faith at all can recognize that when the law defines marriage as between one man and one woman, it legally binds a mother and a father to each other and their children, reinforcing the foundational cell of human society.”

The release of this letter comes the same morning that oral arguments on the Proposition 8 case are set to begin. In August, Judge Vaughn Walker had ruled California’s Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional, based in part on the claim that defining marriage as between a man and a woman lacked any rational basis at all, and instead reflected nothing but religion-based hostility to homosexual persons. This ruling has been appealed and its hearing is scheduled for today, December 6.

“Today is the moment to stand for marriage and its unchangeable meaning. We hope this letter will encourage just that,” Archbishop Dolan said. “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared
Commitment” is being circulated nationwide. Downloadable PDF versions of the letter can be found at www.usccb.org/defenseofmarriage/shared-commitment.shtml . A backgrounder on the statement can be found at http://www.usccb.org/comm/backgrounders/shared-commitment.shtml

Full text of the letter and signers follows:

The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment

Dear Friends,

Marriage is the permanent and faithful union of one man and one woman. As such, marriage is the natural basis of the family. Marriage is an institution fundamental to the well-being of all of society, not just religious communities.

As religious leaders across different faith communities, we join together and affirm our shared commitment to promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We honor the unique love between husbands and wives; the indispensible place of fathers and mothers; and the corresponding rights and dignity of all children.

Marriage thus defined is a great good in itself, and it also serves the good of others and society in innumerable ways. The preservation of the unique meaning of marriage is not a special or limited interest but serves the good of all. Therefore, we invite and encourage all people, both within and beyond our faith communities, to stand with us in promoting and protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Sincerely yours,

Leith Anderson
President
National Association of Evangelicals

Dr. Thomas E. Armiger
Dr. Jo Anne Lyon
Dr. Jerry G. Pence
The Board of General Superintendents
The Wesleyan Church

Dr. Gary M. Benedict
President
The Christian and Missionary Alliance

Glenn C. Burris Jr.
President
The Foursquare Church

Bishop H. David Burton
Presiding Bishop
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Dr. Ronald W. Carpenter, Sr.
Presiding Bishop
International Pentecostal Holiness Church Ministries

Nathan Diament
Director, Institute for Public Affairs
Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

Most Rev. Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The Most Rev. Robert Duncan
Archbishop, Anglican Church in North America
Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh

Rev. Jim Eschenbrenner
Executive Pastor
Christian Union

Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Gammon
Conference Minister
Conservative Congregational Conference

Rev. Matthew C. Harrison
President
The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod

John Hopler
Director
Great Commission Churches

Dr. Clyde M. Hughes
Bishop
International Pentecostal Church of Christ

Ken Hunn
Executive Director
The Brethren Church

Bishop Harry Jackson
Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church
Bishop, Fellowship of International Churches

The Most Blessed Jonah
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
Orthodox Church in America

Dr. Richard Land
President
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Rev. Frederick J. Moury Jr.
National Conference Chair
Evangelical Congregational Church

Dr. James Murray
Interim Executive Director
General Association of General Baptists

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
President
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Manmohan Singh
Secretary General
World Sikh Council – America Region

The Rev. Paull E. Spring
Bishop
North American Lutheran Church

Dr. Joseph Tkach
President
Grace Communion International

Rev. Phil Whipple
Bishop
Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA

Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent
Assemblies of God

Please contact your Senators and Representative and ask them to support the DREAM Act

BACKGROUND

If enacted, the DREAM Act would create a pathway through which undocumented immigrant students could obtain conditional permanent residency and, ultimately, American citizenship. Under the legislation, certain students would be eligible for conditional permanent residency if they meet certain criteria, including: entering the United States before age 16; living in the U.S. for at least five continuous years immediately before the bill becomes effective; graduating from high school or gaining admission into an institute of higher education; having “good moral character” and not committed certain crimes; and being younger than 35 when the bill becomes effective. Students must also demonstrate that they have not been under a final order for deportation. After a six year period of conditional permanent residency, these individuals could apply for citizenship if they had continued to demonstrate “good moral character,” continued to live in the U.S., and completed at least two years of higher education or served at least two years in the military.

The DREAM Act has always had strong bipartisan support, and the U.S. Catholic bishops have been long standing supporters of the legislation. Archbishop Jose Gomez, co-adjutor archbishop of Los Angeles and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, recently reaffirmed USCCB support for the legislation, stating that passage of the bill was “the right thing to do.”

The DREAM Act would make a difference in the lives of undocumented youth who were brought to the United States by their parents and now, because of their lack of legal status, face obstacles to their future. By removing such barriers, the DREAM Act permits immigrant students to pursue a promising future through college education or military service. Those benefitting from the DREAM Act are talented, intelligent and dedicated young people who know only the U.S. as their home.
More information about the DREAM Act may be found at www.justiceforimmigrants.org/learn-issues.html

TAKE ACTION

The DREAM Act could come up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives as early as the week of November 29th. To promote Congressional action on the DREAM Act, we urge you to email or call your Senators and Representative (with the message provided below) and ask them to co-sponsor or publicly support the DREAM Act.

I write to ask your support for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which may soon be considered by the full House and Senate.
The DREAM Act is about fairness to high school graduates who were brought to this country unlawfully through no fault of their own, since they came with their parents. Those who would benefit from the DREAM Act are talented, intelligent, and dedicated young persons who know only the United States as their home.

The DREAM Act represents a practical, fair, and compassionate solution for thousands of young persons in our nation who simply want to reach their God-given potential and contribute to the well-being of our nation.

The DREAM Act has always had strong bipartisan support. Please help do what’s right for the lives and hopes of thousands of kids across America by adding your support for the DREAM Act.

Senator Kent Conrad
530 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510-3403

Phone: (202) 224-2043
Fax: (202) 224-7776
Washington: (202) 224-2043
Bismarck: (701) 258-4648
Toll Free: 1-800-223-4457
Fargo: Telephone: (701) 232-8030
Grand Forks: Telephone: (701) 775-9601
Minot: Telephone: (701) 852-0703
Online: http://conrad.senate.gov/contact
E-mail: https://conrad.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm

Senator Byron L. Dorgan
322 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
Washington: (202) 224-2551
Bismarck: (701) 250-4618
Toll Free: 1-800-666-4482
Fargo: (701) 239-5389
Grand Forks: (701) 746-8972
Minot: (701) 852-0703
http://dorgan.senate.gov/contact/contact_form.cfm

Representative Earl Pomeroy
United States House of Representatives
1501 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Telephone: (202) 225-2611
FAX: (202) 226-0893
Bismarck: Telephone: (701) 224-0355
Fargo: Telephone: (701) 235-9760
rep.earl.pomeroy@mail.house.gov

State Catholic Conferences Support Bp. Herzog’s Call to Engage Social Media

State Catholic conferences that utilize Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms are strongly supporting Bishop Ronald Herzog’s speech to the USCCB annual gathering this week on the need for the Church to engage further in social media. According to Bishop Herzog, the Catholic Church must begin to adapt to social media platforms, otherwise she risks incurring a third millennium digital version of the Protestant Reformation.

“Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are just a few of the more popular social networking sites that state Catholic conferences are utilizing to share with Catholics what is taking place in the public square,” says Dave Maluchnik, director of communications for the Michigan Catholic Conference. “As technology fields continue to grow and expand, communication mediums such as social networking help the laity become more involved in legislative advocacy. By engaging Catholics through social media platforms, we believe we can be of service to our bishops in their role as teachers and shepherds.”

State Catholic conferences have been in existence in their current form since the early 1960s and present their respective bishops’ positions on matters of public policy to state government and the state’s congressional delegation. Catholic conferences exist in approximately 38 states, a handful of which employ communication directors that have been actively involved with social media in their profession. States such as California, Maryland, New York, Florida, Texas and others use Facebook to share legislative developments and opportunities to become more involved in the democratic process with their followers.

“Over the last year, Facebook and Twitter have become integral to our advocacy,” said New York State Catholic Conference communications director Dennis Poust. “Email is quickly becoming an afterthought for online communications, particularly among the young. We need to reach people where they are, and that’s on social networking sites. We’ve established a thriving community on Facebook, and it really helps us to keep our fingers on the pulse of the Catholics in the pews.”
Catholic conference staff members use the social media site Twitter to share news and positions on legislative issues with those who follow the organization. Twitter allows its users to broadcast messages in 140 characters or less, which is ample space for seasoned communication professionals to provide pithy, informed quotes to members of the news media who may also follow the organization. Missouri, Michigan, Texas, Maryland, and North Dakota are just a few of the state Catholic conferences that can be found “tweeting.”
“We’ve found Twitter to be an excellent resource for making our position known to a large number of people without having to dedicate an inordinate amount of staff time to the exercise,” says Kathy Dempsey, director of communications for the Maryland Catholic Conference. “Twitter also provides an opportunity to link to web pages, YouTube clips or other media where additional, more detailed information can be conveyed to Catholics, their friends and families.”
Young people are no longer relying on traditional email accounts for news or to converse electronically with their peers, Bishop Herzog noted in his 16 November speech. According to Bishop Herzog, a member of the USCCB communications committee: “The news, entertainment, their friends—are all coming to them through their mobile devices and through their social networks. If the church is not on their mobile device, it doesn’t exist. The Church does not have to change its teachings to reach young people, but we must deliver it to them in a new way.”
“Social media is directly integrated into our mission of serving as the bishops’ public policy arm,” says Maria Huemmer, communications director for the Texas Catholic Conference, which also tweets in Spanish at @TXcatolica. “We welcome social media as a new method of informing Catholics about the legislative priorities of our bishops and helping Catholics continue to form their consciences and to act as faithful citizens on issues that concern our state and our nation.”
Editor’s Note: State Catholic Conferences can be found on Twitter by following @MiCatholicConf @TXCatholic @NYSCatholicConf @mdcathcon @ndcatholic @IACatholicConf @mocatholic @VaCatholicConf

State Catholic Conferences that can be found on Facebook include California, Maryland, New York, Texas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Virginia and North Dakota.

– From the Michigan Catholic Conference

Statement of Christopher Dodson, Executive Director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference on Decision to Not Pursue Charges for Illegal Abortions

Cass County state’s attorney Birch Burdick’s failure to file charges stemming from illegal abortions performed at the Red River Women’s Clinic is disappointing and sets a dangerous precedent.

The interest of the North Dakota Catholic Conference in this case has not been about attacking Dr. Thorndike or the Red River Women’s Clinic, but about whether our state’s abortions laws will be enforced and whether women seeking abortions will get the full protection under the law.

The investigation left no doubt that Lori Thorndike performed “a number of abortions” without a North Dakota license on September 30.  According to state law, that means she committed several misdemeanors and one felony for each abortion.  The facts are established.  The law is on the books.  What is missing is a willingness to enforce the law.

The reasons given by Mr. Burdick for declining to prosecute are not persuasive.

Burdick concludes that the “administrative mechanisms” available to the Board of Medical Examiners provides a “suitable remedy.”  That conclusion, however, disregards the express provisions of the law and the will of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly.  If the administrative remedies were sufficient, the legislature would not have passed the provisions of the Abortion Control Act.

Burdick states that he is “unable to conceive of a reason” for treating unlicensed abortionists differently from other physicians.  With all due respect, it is not his place to second guess the legislature on why they enact laws.

In fact, there do exist reasons for the difference.  As I wrote previously:

“One reason is that some abortion providers around the country have shown disregard for basic health, safety, and medical standards.  The North Dakota legislature took notice of these instances and chose to prevent them by enacting more stringent standards.  In addition, abortion advocates have insisted that non-physicians have a ‘right’ to conduct abortions.  A felony penalty prevents non-physicians from performing abortions – thus endangering women’s lives – and accepting a misdemeanor penalty as ‘one for the cause.'”

The state’s attorney concludes that he “believes” the only purpose of the legislation was to prevent medically untrained persons from conducting abortions.  That belief is not supported by the language of the law itself and would lead to the absurd conclusion that a medical school graduate never needs to get a license to perform abortions.

While the state’s attorney has the discretion to consider extenuating circumstances when recommending penalties, the complete absence of any charges for the many criminal violations that occurred at the clinic sends the wrong message about protecting women and rule of law.