New Column- Sandy Hook and Evil

What Adam Lanza did at Sandy Hook Elementary was evil. It cannot be explained away as solely the consequence of biology, psychology, economics, family situations, or laws. At the same time, Adam Lanza himself was not evil. A person’s act can be evil even if the person is not.

Read it here . . .

Bishops Urge Retention Of Charitable Deduction, Other Tax Credits And Programs As Nation Approaches “Fiscal Cliff”

Catholic institutions rely on the charitable deduction to feed, house, clothe, educate, and care for millions of people around the world,” said the bishops who oversee the domestic and international justice and peace efforts of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and should be protected in any final agreement to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”

In a December 14 letter to Congress, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, called the tax system an “important tool” for raising adequate revenue and fulfilling the responsibility of ensuring basic human needs, such as food, clothing, health care, work and education, are accessible to all people.

“One way our tax system attempts to accomplish this is with the charitable deduction, which encourages taxpayers to support private charity, religion, and education,” the bishops wrote.

In their letter, Bishop Blaire and Bishop Pates also noted the importance of protecting the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, Emergency Unemployment Compensation, poverty-focused international assistance, and other programs that “help guarantee basic human rights for millions of people.”

Bishop Blaire also joined other Christian leaders of the Circle of Protection in releasing principles regarding the ongoing budget negotiations surrounding the fiscal cliff, and calling on Republicans and Democrats to adhere to the basic moral principle of protecting programs that serve low-income people. Circle of Protection leaders also called for protecting the charitable deduction.

Statistics on the number of people served by Catholic charities is available online: www.usccb.org/about/media-relations/statistics/health-care-social-service.cfm

The full text of the bishops’ letter is also available online: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/federal-budget-letter-congress-2012-12-14.pdf

USCCB Committees Call For Action In Response To Newtown Tragedy

United in prayer for families, communities mourning the loss of loved ones
Need to return to values that foster a culture of life
Need to improve resources to help the mentally-ill, their families, caregivers

WASHINGTON—In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a joint statement to decry violence in society. The bishops repeated the call from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of USCCB, who expressed on the day of the horrible tragedy, deepest sorrow for all the victims and a call to work for peace in our homes, streets and world. They called on all Americans, especially legislators, to address national policies that will strengthen regulations of firearms and improve access to health care for those with mental health needs.

“As Catholic Bishops, we join together with the President of our Conference, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who on the day of the horrible tragedy expressed his profound solidarity with and prayers for the families, friends, neighbors, and communities whose hearts have been rent by the loss of a child or loved one,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

The bishops are chairmen of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Committee on Communications; and the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, respectively. “Sacred Scripture reminds us time and again to ‘be not afraid.’ Indeed, we must find within ourselves the faith-filled courage to address the challenges our nation faces, both in our homes and in our national policies,” they said.

They also addressed the need for healthcare policies that provide support to people with mental health needs, and called on the entertainment industry to address the proliferation of violence and evaluate its impact in society.

Full text of the statement follows:

Call for Action in Response to Newtown Tragedy
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend
December 21, 2012

The Lord Jesus Christ, in his Sermon on the Mount, teaches us, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:4, 9).

In the face of the horrific evil that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, as people of faith we first and foremost turn to God and pray. We pray for those whose lives were robbed from them. As Catholic Bishops, we join together with the President of our Conference, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who on the day of the horrible tragedy expressed his profound solidarity with and prayers for the families, friends, neighbors, and communities whose hearts have been rent by the loss of a child or loved one. No words can capture your suffering. We look to Christ, his words and deeds, and ultimately to his Cross and Resurrection. It is in Jesus that we place our hope.

The Sandy Hook tragedy has caused great anguish for parents and others who attempt to safeguard our children. In addition to the outpouring of prayers and support from around the nation, understandably this tragedy has given rise to discussions about national policies and steps that can be taken to foster a culture that protects the innocent and those most vulnerable among us. It is time for our nation to renew a culture of life in our society.

Sacred Scripture reminds us time and again to “be not afraid.” Indeed, we must find within ourselves the faith-filled courage to address the challenges our nation faces, both in our homes and in our national policies. These challenges encompass many areas with various complexities. Here, we offer particular words regarding the issue of the regulation of fire arms, the standards for the entertainment industry, and our service to those with mental health needs.  As religious leaders, we are compelled to call on all Americans, especially elected leaders, to address these issues.

With regard to the regulation of fire arms, first, the intent to protect one’s loved ones is an honorable one, but simply put, guns are too easily accessible. The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in their document, “The International Arms Trade (2006),” emphasized the importance of enacting concrete controls on handguns, for example, noting that “limiting the purchase of such arms would certainly not infringe on the rights of anyone.”

Secondly, our entertainers, especially film producers and video game creators, need to realize how their profit motives have allowed the proliferation of movies, television programs, video games and other entertainment that glorify violence and prey on the insecurities and immaturity of our young people. Such portrayals of violence have desensitized all of us. The massacre of twenty little children and seven adults causes each of us to reflect on our own understanding of the value of human life. We must improve our resources for parents, guardians and young people, so that they can evaluate entertainment products intelligently. We need to admit that the viewing and use of these products has negative emotional, psychological and spiritual effects on people.

We must also reflect on our own fears as we grapple with our prejudices toward those with mental health needs. Our society must provide health services and support to those who have mental illnesses and to their families and caregivers. As a community we need to support one another so no one feels unable to get help for a mentally ill family member or neighbor in need. Burdensome healthcare policies must be adjusted so people can get help for themselves or others in need. Just as we properly reach out to those with physical challenges we need to approach mental health concerns with equal sensitivity. There is no shame in seeking help for oneself or others; the only shame is in refusing to provide care and support.

The events in Newtown call us to turn to our Lord in prayer and to witness more profoundly Christ’s perfect love, mercy and compassion. We must confront violence with love.
There are glimmers of hope in this tragedy. Many people, including some of the victims, made extraordinary efforts to protect life. In particular, the teachers, the principal, the children, the first responders and other leaders showed tremendous courage during the tragedy. Some sacrificed their own lives protecting others.

In their memory and for the sake of our nation, we reiterate our call made in 2000, in our statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, for all Americans, especially legislators, to:

1.         Support measures that control the sale and use of firearms
2.         Support measures that make guns safer (especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use by children and anyone other than the owner)
3.         Call for sensible regulations of handguns
4.         Support legislative efforts that seek to protect society from the violence associated with easy access to deadly weapons including assault weapons
5.         Make a serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime.
As we long for the arrival of the Prince of Peace in this Advent and Christmas season, we call on all people of goodwill to help bring about a culture of life and peace.

 

Bishop Blaire, Bishop Pates Urge Congress To Protect The Poor, Future Generations As Sequestration Looms

Congress should avoid measures that harm at-risk students, low-income families and people currently benefiting from poverty-focused international assistance, according to a letter from the bishops who oversee the justice and peace efforts of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“As you work to avoid sequestration and enact responsible deficit reduction that protects poor persons from cuts and future generations from unsustainable debts, we hope longstanding moral principles and values will inform your decisions,” wrote Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, in a November 13 letter to the House and Senate. Bishop Blaire and Bishop Pates chair the USCCB Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace, respectively.

The bishops said Pope Benedict XVI warns against “downsizing of social security systems” and emphasizes “solidarity with poor countries” and asked Congress to weigh the “human and moral consequences” of numerous policy choices, including:

  • Section 8 housing vouchers, the Women, Infant and Children’s (WIC) program and community health centers, which “help to keep children and families with a roof over their heads, with food on the table, and in good health.”
  •  Title I-A, which supports struggling low-income students, Title II-A, which supports the professional development of teachers, and IDEA, which supports students with disabilities.
  •  Poverty focused international assistance, which comprise less than one percent of the federal budget and “save lives, treat and prevent disease, make farmers more productive, help orphans, feed victims of disaster, and protect refugees.”
  •  The Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and Pell Grants, which assist “people living in or near poverty.”

“We have great concerns that sequestration would negatively affect many important domestic programs that meet the basic needs of people and communities in poverty,” the bishops wrote and urged Congress to “act in a bipartisan manner to address the impact of long-term deficits on the health of the economy and on future generations, and to use limited resources efficiently and effectively. However, this important goal must not be achieved at the expense of the dignity of poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad.”

The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/sequester-letter-house-2012-11-13.pdf

U.S. BIshops’ Migration Chairman Urges President Obama And Congress To Enact Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of USCCB’s Committee on Migration, urged President Barack Obama and the newly elected Congress to work together to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Archbishop Gomez issued the statement during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Fall General Assembly, November 13 in Baltimore.

“I urge the President and Congress to seize the moment and begin the challenging process of fashioning a bipartisan agreement,” Archbishop Gomez said. “Millions of persons remain in the shadows, without legal protection and marginalized from society. As a moral matter, this suffering must end.”

  Statement of Archbishop José H. Gomez Archbishop of Los Angeles Chairman, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Committee on Migration On Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Archbishop Gomez urged lawmakers to work together on a proposal that upholds the rule of law, preserves family unity, and protects the human rights and dignity of individuals. He also urged fellow Catholics to make their voices heard in support of the issue.

 

In light of the unprecedented bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform expressed during the last week, I call upon President Obama and congressional leadership to work together to enact bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform in 2013.

I am heartened by the recent public statements of the leaders of both political parties supporting the consideration of comprehensive immigration reform in the new Congress. I urge the President and Congress to seize the moment and begin the challenging process of fashioning a bipartisan agreement.

For decades, the U.S. Catholic bishops have advocated for a just and humane reform of our nation’s immigration system. We have witnessed the family separation, exploitation, and the loss of life caused by the current system. Millions of persons remain in the shadows, without legal protection and marginalized from society. As a moral matter, this suffering must end.

I invite our fellow Catholics and others of good will to make their voices heard in support of this important issue. I encourage our elected officials to work toward the creation of a system which upholds the rule of law, preserves family unity, and protects the human rights and dignity of the person.

Bismarck Tribune: Bismarck Catholic schools look at ways to create space

“Seventh- and eighth-grade students attending the three Roman Catholic grade schools in Bismarck will attend school at St. Mary’s Central High School next fall to create space at the elementary level temporarily. Officials are talking about building a new school.”

Read the full story . . .

Bishops To Vote On Canonical Step For Dorothy Day Canonization

The U.S. bishops will engage in a canonical consultation regarding the cause for canonization of Dorothy Day, a pacifist and convert to Catholicism from New York City.

This consultation will take place during the bishops’ General Assembly November 12-15 in Baltimore. Dorothy Day dedicated her life fighting for justice for the homeless in New York City and was co-founder the Catholic Worker Movement.

Biographical materials provided by the New York Archdiocese note she was born in Brooklyn, New York, on Nov. 8, 1897. Her parents moved to San Francisco and she was later baptized in the Episcopal Church. Her family later moved to Chicago, and she attended the University of Illinois at Urbana. In 1916 left college to go to New York City to work as a journalist on social newspapers.

Her biographies describe a political activist who participated in protest marches and developed friendships with famous artists and writers. At the same time she experienced failed love affairs, a marriage, a suicide attempt and an abortion.

A key moment in her life occurred in 1926 with the birth of her daughter Tamar. She embraced Catholicism and had Tamar baptized to the dismay of her associates and ending her common-law marriage. She reported for several Catholic magazines, including America and Commonweal, as she struggled to find her role as a Catholic. In 1932, she met Peter Maurin, a French immigrant and former Christian Brother, with whom she co-founded The Catholic Worker newspaper. Work at The Catholic Worker led to the founding of several Houses of Hospitality and farm communes in the United States and other nations.

Day’s life was marked by fidelity to the Scriptures, voluntary poverty, the works of mercy and work for peace and justice. She was shot at while working for integration and prayed and fasted for peace at the Second Vatican Council. She died November 29, 1980, at Maryhouse in New York City, where she died among the poor.

The canonical consultation is a procedural step in the process toward canonization. Church law governing canonizations as found in the Vatican document Sanctorum Mater requires that the diocesan bishop promoting a canonization cause to consult at least with the regional bishops conference on the advisability of pursuing the cause. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and head of the Archdiocese of New York, is seeking the consultation of the full body of bishops.

Day already carries the title “Servant of God,” a designation awarded by the Vatican when it gave her cause a Nihil Obstat, that is, a formal declaration that the Vatican has no objection to the cause moving forward.

New Column: Response to Oil Boom Could Be Clash of Ideologies

“The pope was writing about developing nations after the end of the Cold War, but change a few words and it could apply to Western North Dakota. . . . Indeed, Western North Dakota is facing many of the same type — though not perhaps the same scale — of “irregularities and imbalances” that developing nations experience, such as wealth disparity, demographic changes, urbanization, burdens on infrastructure, and threats to natural resources.”

Read more . . .

Video: Bishop Kagan on Catholic Citizenship

Catholic Citizenship

“What I ask each of you to do before you vote is to consider carefully what our Catholic Church teaches about these issues, then consider how your vote for a particular candidate will contribute to the common good of us all as persons with that human dignity which must be respected and protected always.”

Bishop Kagan has written a letter to the faithful of the Bismarck and Fargo Dioceses regarding Catholic Citizenship.

Read the letter here.

Get answers to questions about the letter here.