The Rev. Thomas E. Kramer, pastor at Bismarck’s Cathedral of the Holy Spirit for 32 years, died at 5 p.m. Friday at St. Alexius Medical Center. He was 79.
by Christopher Dodson, Executive Director
Most of us know the story of the Good Samaritan, but we often overlook that Jesus told the story as an answer to a specific question.
Luke tells it this way:
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan and then asks the scholar: “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” The scholar answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Note that Jesus never directly answers the scholar’s question. He reverses the roles, putting the scholar in the place of the victim. If you were the victim on the side of the road, who would you consider a neighbor? In a sense, Jesus is telling us not to ask who is our neighbor or, if we must ask, we are to put ourselves in the place of the person in need. A person truly in need does not care about the status, race, nationality, past acts, or even the visibility of the person giving help. When giving help, we should try to do likewise.
Christ’s message is also relevant to the debate over the federal budget, especially with regards to foreign poverty programs. Tackling the federal budget and deficit problems will require tough choices. Unfortunately, some proposals in Congress disproportionately impact the least of our neighbors in poverty-stricken countries.
Americans vastly over-estimate how much we spend on foreign aid. Most think that foreign aid accounts for 15% to 20% of the federal budget. When asked how much of the U.S. should spend on foreign aid, Americans usually say about 10% of the budget. Here’s the truth: Less that one percent of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. Indeed, in Fiscal Year 2010 only about 0.6% of federal spending was for foreign assistance.
Here’s another truth: This is real aid that makes a difference in the lives of the poor, not questionable assistance to governments or imperialistic population control. It is aid that, when leveraged with charitable organizations like Catholic Relief Services, literally saves lives.
In the zeal to reign in federal spending, these programs already took an eight percent cut in 2011. Now House leaders are proposing additional cuts that would reduce these programs 20% from 2010 levels. Some programs would face over a 40% reduction.
Very few question the need to curb federal spending, but are these disproportionate cuts to foreign poverty and humanitarian programs an example of seeing “neighbor” in our eyes rather than through the eyes of those in need? When making cuts, is it just too easy to start with those who we will probably never see?
Food and aid organizations from different faith traditions are asking Congress, especially the Senate, to treat everyone as our neighbor. If cuts must be made, they should be made proportionally across the entire federal budget and not fall disproportionately on the world’s poor.
As a Christmas gift to your neighbor, contact Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven and ask them maintain the levels of life-saving poverty-focused international assistance and to oppose any amendments that would cut poverty-focused international assistance.
Catholics called to offer hospitality to those in need
WASHINGTON—National Migration Week will be observed in dioceses around the country January 8-14. This year’s theme, “Welcoming Christ in the Migrant,” and the artistic renderings in the week’s materials depict the disciples welcoming a stranger on the road to Emmaus.
“Just as on the road to Emmaus, Christ’s disciples met him in the guise of a stranger, this year’s theme helps remind us that Christ makes himself present to each of us in the lonesome traveler, the newcomer, and the migrant,” said Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles. “We are called to open our hearts and provide hospitality to those in need, especially for migrants who find themselves far away from home and in vulnerable situations.” Archbishop Gomez is the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration.
Dioceses around the country will mark National Migration Week with different activities. At the national level, USCCB and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) are sponsoring a multi-state conference with the theme “Immigration: a 50 State issue,” which will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah, January 11-13.
The observance of National Migration Week was begun over a quarter century ago by the U.S. bishops to provide Catholics an opportunity to take stock of the wide diversity of peoples in the Church and the ministries serving them. As the face of the local church continues to change, educational materials produced for National Migration Week have become increasingly important. They can be used throughout the year by individuals, families, schools and parishes to learn about the complex issues surrounding migration.
Resources for National Migration Week can be found on the USCCB website (http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-and-refugee-services/national-migration-week/). Posters, prayer cards and booklets can be ordered through the USCCB publishing service at http://www.usccbpublishing.org or by calling 800-235-8722.
Additionally, the U.S. bishops continue to encourage advocacy efforts by the Catholic community on comprehensive immigration reform. Visit the Justice for Immigrants Campaign website for more information: www.justiceforimmigrants.org
Earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI also unveiled the theme for the 98th World Day of Migrants and Refugees to be celebrated January 15, 2012: “Migration and the New Evangelization.” In his message the pope says that the present time calls upon the Church to intensify its missionary activity both in the regions where the Gospel is proclaimed for the first time and in countries with a Christian tradition.
“Proclaiming Jesus Christ the one Savior of the world ‘constitutes the essential mission of the Church’…Today we feel the urgent need to give a fresh impetus and new approaches to the work of evangelization in a world in which the breaking down of frontiers and the new processes of globalization are bringing individuals and peoples even closer,” said Pope Benedict.
Internal or international migration, in search of better living conditions or to flee from the threat of persecution, war and violence, has led to an unprecedented mingling of individuals and peoples, with new problems not only from the human standpoint but also from ethical, religious and spiritual ones, the pope said. And, he added, “Christian communities are to pay special attention to migrant workers and their families by accompanying them with prayer, solidarity and Christian charity, as well as by fostering new political, economic and social planning that promotes respect for the dignity of every human person.” World Day of Migrants and Refugees was instituted by Pope Pius X in 1914.
Pope Benedict’s message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2012 can be found athttp://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/migration/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20110921_world-migrants-day_en.html.
The House version of the Fiscal Year 2012 Labor/Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill (not numbered) contains the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA). It is critical that this conscience protection bill remains a part of the omnibus appropriations bill now being considered by Congress.
ANDA strengthens existing federal conscience protection laws and affirms the principle that no health care entity should be forced by government to perform or participate in abortions.
A 1996 law prohibits governmental discrimination against health care entities because they decline to train in, perform, or arrange for abortions. In 2004, through passage of the Hyde/Weldon Amendment, Congress extended the 1996 law’s protection to the full range of health care entities and prohibited discrimination also when these entities do “not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” The Hyde/Weldon Amendment has been part of the annual Labor/Health and Human Services appropriations bills since then. ANDA will close loopholes that make the Hyde/Weldon Amendment less effective, and codify its protection in permanent law.
ANDA will enable Federal courts to provide the remedies needed to stop discrimination. Currently, the presumed recourse for violations of the law is the denial of all funding to a government entity under the Labor/HHS bill. ANDA makes the remedies more focused. The courts will have jurisdiction “to prevent and redress actual or threatened violations” of this law, until the prohibited discrimination has ceased.
The need for ANDA is clear from recent increased threats against pro-life health care providers. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has begun discriminating against grant applicants that will not do abortion referrals, claiming that current conscience laws do not forbid this. The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey recently threatened the jobs of twelve nurses who would not assist in abortions, saying the nurses have no right to sue them in court because existing laws do not clearly state this. In California, state officials are demanding that even Catholic organizations provide abortion coverage, arguing that current laws do not apply and that the federal government would never deny California all its funds under the Labor/HHS bill. These threats will only grow unless ANDA is enacted now.
ACTION: Contact your Representative and Senators by e-mail, phone, or FAX letter:
- Send an e-mail through NCHLA’s Grassroots Action Center: CLICK HERE.
- Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members’ local offices.
- Additional contact info can be found on Members’ web sites at: house.gov or senate.gov.
MESSAGE: “Please keep the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act as a part of the omnibus appropriations bill. No health care provider should be forced by government to perform or participate in abortions.”
WHEN: Please contact your Representative and Senators today. Thanks! 12/6/11
In Congressional Testimony, Bishop Ramirez Urges Greater Measures To Ensure International Religious Freedom
Congress and the Administration must take more steps to protect religious freedom around the world, said a member of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace. In November 17 testimony to the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of La Cruces, New Mexico, named countries where religious freedom is threatened and called for the U.S. government to act.
“Religious freedom is not solely freedom from coercion in matters of personal faith; it is also freedom to practice the faith individually and communally, in private and public,” said Bishop Ramirez. “Freedom of religion extends beyond freedom of worship. It includes the freedom of the Church and religious organizations to provide education, health and other social services, as well as to allow religiously-motivated individuals and communities to participate in public policy debates and thus contribute to the common good.”
Bishop Ramirez cited policies in China, the New Year’s Day bombing of a Coptic church in Egypt, the Christmas Eve bombings of churches in Nigeria and the October 2010 attack on a Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad as just a few examples of religious freedom under attack. He noted that there is persecution of Christians in Eritrea, Baha’is in Iran, Ahmaddis in Indonesia, and Christians and Muslims in Uzbekistan.
He outlined the U.S. bishops’ experience on the issue, including meetings between the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Pakistani minister for minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, who was assassinated in March, and the October pastoral visit of two U.S. bishops to Catholic communities in Baghdad.
Bishop Ramirez recommended that Congress and the Administration place a higher priority on religious freedom. He called on the Senate to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and on the State Department to consider designating additional “Countries of Particular Concern,” including Pakistan. He also asked the President and Secretary of State to review actions that can be taken to pressure states where particularly severe violations of religious freedom occur.
The full testimony is available at: www.usccb.org/about/international-justice-and-peace/upload/2011-11_USCCB_Religious_Freedom_Testimony.pdf
A provision of the Senate’s Financial Services bill that “completely eliminates Congress’s longstanding provision against federal funding of health plans that cover elective abortions in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP),” which means “Congress will directly use taxpayers’ funds for elective abortion coverage – contradicting repeated assurances by supporters of the health care reform law of 2010 that Congress had no intent of doing so.”
A second provision in the Financial Services bill that would allow congressionally appropriated funds to go to elective abortions in the District of Columbia.
Report language accompanying the State /Foreign Operations bill that “recommends $40 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), despite that agency’s continued support for a brutal program of coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization in China.”
Section 7086 of the State/Foreign Operations that would permanently ban restoration of the Mexico City Policy, a policy of the Reagan and Bush administrations that prevented U.S. funding of foreign non-governmental organizations that perform and promote abortion as a method of family planning.
Bishop Lori To Brief Bishops On Religious Liberty Issues; Names Members, Consultants Of Ad Hoc Committee
Bishop William E. Lori, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty will update the bishops on committee efforts at the November 14-16 meeting of the U.S. bishops.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, named Bishop Lori chair of the newly established subcommittee at the USCCB Administrative Committee in September. The bishops also approved hiring of additional staff in the offices of general counsel and government relations to address the issue.
When announcing the Committee, Archbishop Dolan noted an upswing in government actions that appear to violate the religious freedom guaranteed Americans under the U.S. Constitution (www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/dolan-letter-on-religious-liberty.pdf).
Bishop Lori has since underscored the importance of these matters in October 26 testimony before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives (www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/lori-testimony-on-religious-freedom-2011-10-26.pdf).
New members of the ad hoc committee include Bishop John O. Barres of Allentown, Pennsylvania; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap. of Philadelphia; Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas; Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta; Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis; Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix; Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois, Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Alabama; Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington.
Consultants include Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus; Kevin Baine, attorney, Williams & Connolly; Father Raymond J. de Souza, a priest of the Archdiocese of Kingston, Ontario (Canada) and a columnist; Richard Garnett, associate dean and professor of law and political science, University of Notre Dame Law School; John Garvey, President, The Catholic University of America; Mary Ann Glendon, professor, Harvard Law School; Philip Lacovara, attorney; Judge Michael McConnell, professor, Stanford University Law School; L. Martin Nussbaum, attorney, Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons; and Mary Ellen Russell, executive director, Maryland Catholic Conference.