Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Little Sisters of the Poor urgently oppose HHS Mandate

On March 1, the Little Sisters of the Poor’s center for communications in Baltimore released a statement claiming the HHS insurance mandate “violates the individual and collective religious liberty and freedom of conscience of the Little Sisters serving in this country.”

Sister Beatrice Mary Scully, lsp, of the Little Sisters’ Jeanne Jugan Center in Kansas City sent the statement to the Key adding that “the reversal of the HHS mandate is vital to the mission of the Little Sisters of the Poor, not only in our great diocese but throughout the United States. Sister Beatrice said, “The decision to make a public statement was made after prayer, study of this issue, and attention to the witness of the U.S. Bishops.” She said the Little Sisters desired to “do all we can to show our support for the Bishops on this matter,” and urged that their statement be printed in the Catholic Key. The full statement follows:

The Little Sisters of the Poor are an international Congregation of Catholic women religious serving 13,000 needy elderly persons of all faiths in 31 countries around the world. Thirty of our homes for the aged, accommodating over 2,500 low-income seniors, are located in the United States. In these homes we quietly spend our lives in the humble service of the elderly, accompanying them with love and respect until God calls them to Himself.

Long-term care is considered the most highly regulated segment of health care in America. The Little Sisters of the Poor have always done their best to comply with all the government regulations applicable to our homes. We are not prone to making statements on politics or public policy. But at this moment in our country’s history we cannot refrain from speaking out regarding the Department of Health and Human Services rule for “preventative services,” and the “compromise” announced by President Obama regarding religious liberty.

We Little Sisters of the Poor stand with the Catholic Bishops of the United States, and leaders of many other religious communities, in strongly objecting to this mandate. We believe that it violates the individual and collective religious liberty and freedom of conscience of the Little Sisters serving in this country. To quote Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Surely it violates religious freedom to force religious ministries and citizens to buy health coverage to which they object as a matter of conscience and religious principle.” Even the indirect subsidizing of such benefits, which would still be the case through the President’s “compromise,” is unconscionable to us.

‘As Little Sisters of the Poor we are not strangers to religious intolerance.’

As Little Sisters of the Poor we are not strangers to religious intolerance. Our foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan, was born in the midst of the French Revolution and established our Congregation in its aftermath. In 1851 the first group of Little Sisters ventured beyond France to begin establishing homes for the elderly in Great Britain, where their selfless charity triumphed over the rampant anti-Catholic sentiments of the time.

In 1868 the first Little Sisters of the Poor to set foot on American soil were amazed at the warm welcome and generosity of the people of this country. For over 140 years Little Sisters have cared for the elderly poor, welcomed the collaboration of volunteers and benefactors from their local communities and employed lay staff and consultants to help in our mission—all without discriminating on the basis of race or religion. Nor have the Little Sisters of the Poor ever faced religious discrimination or persecution in this great nation.

The health insurance offered to employees of the Little Sisters of the Poor has always explicitly excluded sterilization, contraception and abortion from its covered services. This longstanding policy has never been a matter of controversy in our homes. Policy revisions put in place as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act clearly state that to the extent the Act would legally require our insurer to provide a particular benefit, they will do so, “unless providing the benefit would conflict with the doctrine or tenets of the Roman Catholic Church.”

Because the Little Sisters of the Poor cannot in conscience directly provide or collaborate in the provision of services that conflict with Church teaching, we find ourselves in the irreconcilable situation of being forced to either stop serving and employing people of all faiths in our ministry—so that we will fall under the narrow exemption—or to stop providing health care coverage to our employees. Either path threatens to end our service to the elderly in America. The Little Sisters are fervently praying that this issue will be resolved before we are forced to take concrete action in response to this unjust mandate.

Beyond the immediate issues related to sterilization, contraception and abortifacients, we are deeply concerned about the erosion of religious liberty and freedom of conscience which the HHS mandate signals and the impact this could have on our health care ministry. We fear that the successful implementation of this rule could set a precedent for further intrusion of government into health care, with an increasingly broad array of medical treatments and procedures—preventive or otherwise—falling under federal mandates. If the federal government succeeds in enforcing this rule, what is to stop it from rationing health care to seniors or including euthanizing procedures on the list of required “preventive services” as a way of eliminating the costs associated with caring for our aging population? Would health care providers like the Little Sisters of the Poor then be forced to cooperate in such practices?

In 1991 Mother Marie Antoinette de la Trinité, then Superior General of the Little Sisters of the Poor, took a public stand and made the Congregation’s voice heard against just such measures when the European Parliament was debating euthanasia. We now find ourselves at a similar crossroads in our nation’s history. We wish to affirm that the HHS mandate is an unjust and dangerous infringement upon the natural and Constitutional rights of Americans and that the only just solution is to rescind it. The Little Sisters of the Poor call upon Congress and the Executive Branch to reverse this decision as soon as possible and we pledge our prayers and sacrifices for the true good of our beloved country.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cardinal Dolan to Bishops - ‘Where does it end?’

In a new letter to his fellow US bishops, USCCB President Timothy Cardinal Dolan asserts that President Obama’s accommodation to the HHS birth control, abortifacient and sterilization mandate has changed nothing and he again asks the bishops to help in the fight to pass the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.

The letter, co-signed by Bishop William Lori and dated today, is the strongest statement yet on the subject of religious freedom which the writers say is a God-given right which “does not depend on any government’s decision to grant it.”

The bishops worry that the mandate sets a terrible precedent for religious liberty, “If the government can, for example, tell Catholics that they cannot be in the insurance business today without violating their religious convictions, where does it end?”

Full text below:

Dear Brother Bishops,

Since we last wrote to you concerning the critical efforts we are undertaking together to protect religious freedom in our beloved country, many of you have requested that we write once more to update you on the situation and to again request the assistance of all the faithful in this important work. We are happy to do so now.

First, we wish to express our heartfelt appreciation to you, and to all our sisters and brothers in Christ, for the remarkable witness of our unity in faith and strength of conviction during this past month. We have made our voices heard, and we will not cease from doing so until religious freedom is restored.

As we know, on January 20, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a decision to issue final regulations that would force practically all employers, including many religious institutions, to pay for abortion inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraception. The regulations would provide no protections for our great institutions—such as Catholic charities, hospitals, and universities—or for the individual faithful in the marketplace. The regulations struck at the heart of our fundamental right to religious liberty, which affects our ability to serve those outside our faith community.

Since January 20, the reaction was immediate and sustained. We came together, joined by people of every creed and political persuasion, to make one thing resoundingly clear: we stand united against any attempt to deny or weaken the right to religious liberty upon which our country was founded.

On Friday, February 10, the Administration issued the final rules. By their very terms, the rules were reaffirmed “without change.” The mandate to provide the illicit services remains. The exceedingly narrow exemption for churches remains. Despite the outcry, all the threats to religious liberty posed by the initial rules remain.

Religious freedom is a fundamental right of all. This right does not depend on any government’s decision to grant it: it is God-given, and just societies recognize and respect its free exercise. The free exercise of religion extends well beyond the freedom of worship. It also forbids government from forcing people or groups to violate their most deeply held religious convictions, and from interfering in the internal affairs of religious organizations.

Recent actions by the Administration have attempted to reduce this free exercise to a “privilege” arbitrarily granted by the government as a mere exemption from an all-encompassing, extreme form of secularism. The exemption is too narrowly defined, because it does not exempt most non-profit religious employers, the religiously affiliated insurer, the self-insured employer, the for-profit religious employer, or other private businesses owned and operated by people who rightly object to paying for abortion inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. And because it is instituted only by executive whim, even this unduly narrow exemption can be taken away easily.

In the United States, religious liberty does not depend on the benevolence of who is regulating us. It is our “first freedom” and respect for it must be broad and inclusive—not narrow and exclusive. Catholics and other people of faith and good will are not second class citizens. And it is not for the government to decide which of our ministries is “religious enough” to warrant religious freedom protection.

This is not just about contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization—although all should recognize the injustices involved in making them part of a universal mandated health care program. It is not about Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. It is about people of faith. This is first and foremost a matter of religious liberty for all. If the government can, for example, tell Catholics that they cannot be in the insurance business today without violating their religious convictions, where does it end? This violates the constitutional limits on our government, and the basic rights upon which our country was founded.

Much remains to be done. We cannot rest when faced with so grave a threat to the religious liberty for which our parents and grandparents fought. In this moment in history we must work diligently to preserve religious liberty and to remove all threats to the practice of our faith in the public square. This is our heritage as Americans. President Obama should rescind the mandate, or at the very least, provide full and effective measures to protect religious liberty and conscience.

Above all, dear brothers, we rely on the help of the Lord in this important struggle. We all need to act now by contacting our legislators in support of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which can be done through our action alert on www.usccb.org/conscience.

We invite you to share the contents of this letter with the faithful of your diocese in whatever form, or by whatever means, you consider most suitable. Let us continue to pray for a quick and complete resolution to this and all threats to religious liberty and the exercise of our faith in our great country.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Most Reverend William E. Lori
Bishop of Bridgeport
Chairman, Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Missouri Moves to Repeal HHS Mandate

A Missouri Senate Committee has passed and sent to the full Senate a bill which would protect the conscience rights of Missouri citizens, employers and insurance companies from the effects of the Obama administration’s sterilization, abortifacient and contraceptive mandate.

SB 749 by Senator John Lamping (R-Clayton) has been fast tracked and could be up for consideration as early as Monday. The bill’s summary reads, in part:

This act provides that no employee or any other person, employer, health plan provider or sponsor, health care provider or any other entity shall be compelled to obtain coverage for or provide coverage for abortion, contraception, or sterilization in a health plan if such items or procedures are contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of such employee, health care plan, provider or sponsor, or any other entity or person. No such employee, health care plan, provider or sponsor, or any other entity or person shall be discriminated against by any governmental entity, public official, or entity acting in a governmental capacity for failing to obtain or provide such coverage because of such religious beliefs or moral convictions of such employee, health care plan, provider or sponsor, or any other entity or person.

The bill further directs the State Attorney General to bring action in state or federal court is any of its provisions are threatened or violated. Below is the Missouri Catholic Conference analysis of the bill and the HHS Mandate situation in general (Don’t miss the action item at the bottom):

The Missouri Senate is moving swiftly to respond to the Obama Administration's recent edict that employers, including the Catholic Church, provide health coverage for contraceptives, sterilization procedures and abortion drugs. SB 749, sponsored by Senator John Lamping (R-Clayton), won committee approval Tuesday and is fast-tracked and may be debated next week by the full Senate. (Click here to see the Fox 2 News video.)

SB 749 would place in state law a clear prohibition on government forcing employers, including the Catholic Church, to pay for contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion drugs. The bill would also ensure that individuals would not be forced to purchase health plans that include these items if they object to them on moral or religious grounds.

WHY STATE ACTION MUST BE A PRIORITY

Congress has so far failed to enact revisions to the federal health care law (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) that will protect rights of conscience and religious liberty. Leaders in the U.S. Senate in particular have stymied efforts to amend the law.

It is becoming increasingly clear that change will only come when there is a groundswell of protest from citizens. And that is most effectively mobilized at the state level. State officials are closer to the people and more responsive to their concerns.

The MCC has great hope that the Missouri General Assembly will pass SB 749. If Governor Nixon then signs the bill into law, this will send a powerful message to Congress that events are leaving them behind and they need to act.

WHY OBAMA'S "ACCOMMODATION" FAILS TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Last Friday President Obama announced a so-called "accommodation" on a rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that required all employers, including the Catholic Church, to pay for contraceptives, sterilization procedures and abortion drugs. This "accommodation" requires insurance companies offering health plans to religious organizations to separately provide free coverage to the employees for contraceptives, sterilization and abortion drugs. 

In fact, insurance companies are not going to offer this coverage for free. Someone is going to pay for it and that someone is the religious employer. The religious employer will pay a higher premium and thereby subsidize the use of these products that violate their religious and moral tenets. And religious employers that self-insure, that is, don't buy their health insurance on the open market, will have to pay for and provide contraceptives, sterilization and abortion drugs in the health plans they offer to their employees.

The "accommodation" also does not offer a private (non-Church) employer the option to refuse to pay for abortion drugs etc if they have moral or religious objections. Individuals (employees) will also be forced to pay through premiums for health plans that include abortion drugs etc, even if they don't use them or if they object for moral or religious reasons.

DEEPLY FLAWED PROCESS, DEEPLY FLAWED LAW

This deeply flawed "accommodation" has not been issued as a revised rule. That rule will not be issued until after the election. People are being asked to just trust that the President will take care of the problem, somehow, later. It's a sad day when our religious liberties depend upon some edict from the White House.

We got to this point because Congress, when they wrote the new health care law, failed to include provisions protecting rights of conscience and religious liberty. Instead, the law ceded broad authority to HHS to write rules and HHS proceeded to define the "preventive services" that employers must offer to include contraceptives, sterilization procedures and abortion drugs.

If we have learned anything in recent weeks, it is that we should not trust our religious liberties to federal regulators. Without clear guidance from the new federal health care law, regulators proceeded to write a rule that violates the moral and religious convictions of Americans.

IT'S ABOUT RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Opponents (and much of the media) are trying to characterize this issue as one about birth control. But people get it: this is about religious liberties. Click here to view a short video prepared by the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  1. Contact your state senator today.
  2. Forward this email alert to family, friends and others.
  3. Pray for wisdom and understanding by all our Missouri Senators.
  4. Report back to the MCC on what your senator is saying.

THE MESSAGE/TALKING POINTS

  • Please don't delay in protecting our religious freedoms; pass SB 749.
  • The President's so-called accommodation is flawed (cite reasons above).
  • Missouri should send a message to Congress today; don't delay in protecting our religious freedoms.
  • Government should not force churches or private employers to pay for abortion drugs or other things they morally object to.
  • Individuals should not be forced to pay for health plans that include abortion drugs.
  • It's about religious liberty; pass SB 749.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why Prop 8 Decision Was No Surprise

By now you’ve heard that the Ninth Circuit Court has upheld Judge Walker’s decision to overturn the will of the voters in California who supported Proposition 8. The case will immediately be appealed to the Supreme Court. Catholics for the Common Good which has done so much important work educating Californians on the meaning and value of marriage sends along their analysis of why the decision was no surprise:

THE JAMES R. BROWNING COURTHOUSE, SAN FRANCISCO, CA – “The decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold Judge Walker’s radical decision overturning Prop 8 comes as no surprise,” said Catholics for the Common Good President William B. May.

“We always knew this case would be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Now that the Ninth Circuit has rendered its decision, the case can finally move to the U.S. Supreme Court where it will be decided on sound legal arguments rather than the emotional appeals by those trying to obliterate the only institution that unites children with their moms and dads.”

“The author of the decision, Judge Stephen Reinhardt, is one of the most overturned judges in the most overturned court in the U.S.”

According to Prop 8 Legal Defense General Counsel Andy Pugno, this decision “is completely out of step with every other federal appellate and Supreme Court decision in American history on the subject of marriage.” ProtectMarriage.com will immediately file its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It is outrageous that judges continue to disregard the will of 7 million voters who voted to protect the centrality and integrity of marriage for children and society,” May said.

Federal District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker presided over a show trial about marriage in which plaintiff’s counsel trotted out witness after witness with emotional arguments in a PR attempt to re-argue Proposition 8.

“Failing to disclose that the judge himself was similarly situated as the plaintiffs (in a long-term committed relationship with a same-sex partner), Walker could find no rational reason for the voters to define marriage between a man and a woman and concluded they were bigoted and discriminatory,” said May.

“To reach his judgment about the voters and his decision to strike down Prop 8, he created a new definition of marriage as merely the public recognition of a committed relationship for the benefit of adults. However, the voters of California know that marriage is much more than that. It is the reality that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union. This is what marriage is; that is what it does. It is a reality that can only be recognized by law and never changed.”

Catholics for the Common Good works for a more just society. It is the sponsor of the Stand with Children Project, a movement promoting marriage and family as an imperative of social justice.

Friday, February 3, 2012

USCCB’s pro-life head goes Maccabees on HHS rule - ‘not just about eating a little pork’

I haven’t posted one of these offerings from the USCCB’s Life Issues Forum lately, but this one is fairly striking in its implication. Just released from the executive director of the USCCB’s Pro-Life Secretariat:

The High Cost of Conscience

By Tom Grenchik

At the end of the liturgical year, the Mass readings tell dramatic stories from the Books of Maccabees of simple folks standing courageously for their faith in the face of torture and death. Their exemplary witness can strengthen us as we defend our conscience rights and religious liberty which are under attack today.

In second century B.C., a conquering king was intent on suppressing Judaism in Palestine. He issued a decree that his whole kingdom should all be one people, each abandoning his particular customs and religious laws and observances. Whoever refused to comply would be killed. Though large numbers did comply, we’re told that many in Israel “preferred to die rather than be defiled with unclean food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. Terrible affliction was upon Israel” (Maccabees 1:63).

The king sent inspectors to root out anyone suspected of following Jewish law. Some enforcers used verbal pressure (“everyone else is doing it”). Others offered riches and powerful positions to community leaders who might cave in. Most relied on torture or massacre.

Eleazar, a prominent Jewish leader, was so respected by his torturers that they privately offered him a chance to fake his obedience to the king. He could bring his own meat and pretend to be eating the forbidden pork. That way he could publicly please the king, technically please God, and fake it for everyone else, leading them to violate their consciences. Eleazar refused and was beaten to death.

A mother and her seven sons also refused to comply. After being severely tortured, each was offered a choice: comply with the king’s mandate, or be dismembered and fried. The mom, killed last, boldly encouraged each son to remain steadfast and not compromise his faith.

What inspired such martyrs to follow the tenets of their faith, when eating a bite of pork could have prevented dreadful suffering and likely would have been widely supported as best for the common good? They knew in their hearts that no king or government agency could force them to compromise their faith.

Similar stories of heroes killed for refusing to violate their conscience by following unjust decrees are found throughout history and cultures. Yet their courageous resistance to violations of faith and conscience often surprises leaders who impose such unjust laws.

On January 20, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that nearly all health plans will be forced to cover drugs and procedures even if this violates the consciences of those who offer, sponsor or purchase the plan. As many have noted, this is not just about access to contraception, abortifacients, or sterilization. The mandate is about forcing religious groups or individuals, against their beliefs, to pay for or provide these things under threat of sizeable penalties. For Eleazar, too, it was not just about eating a little pork. It was about being forced to act against his beliefs and lead others astray.

The backlash against HHS’s contraception and sterilization mandate should surprise no one. People of conscience are rising up against this unjust and unconstitutional mandate. Folks from all walks of life have spoken out. Facebook groups are organizing “Stand with the Bishops” campaigns. Others are participating in “Days of Fasting and Prayer” for their bishops. Still others are launching online “Rosary Campaigns for Religious Freedom,” and so on. All of these efforts are encouraging. At the Catholic bishops’ conference webpage www.usccb.org/conscience you can learn more about this issue and take action to defend conscience rights.

Defending the right of conscience comes at a high cost; but the cost of failing to do so is incalculable.

It is cause for great hope that the Catholic community understands the threat, is united in opposition, and is swiftly mobilizing in parishes and dioceses, in hospitals and academic institutions, and nationally under the leadership of our bishops to demand that the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment be upheld. If we do not stand and be counted now, what will be the next moral challenge forced upon people of faith? Who will be the next group targeted?

_____________________________________________________________________

Tom Grenchik is Executive Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Go to http://www.usccb.org/conscience to learn more about the bishops’ activities on conscience protection.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Catholic schools in KC diocese DO NOT seek Missouri tuition aid

An unfortunate headline in the Kansas City Star missed the “DO NOT”. To be fair, reporters typically don’t headline their stories, but the misconception that SB 706 (Cunningham) provides public tuition assistance to families sending their kids to Catholic schools is one that made its way into numerous stories and blog posts on the bill yesterday.

SB 706 provides a wide array of fixes to the problems of three unaccredited Missouri public school districts, one being the Kansas City district. Numerous Catholic school leaders and students testified in the State Senate yesterday in favor of a provision of the bill called the Passport Scholarship Program. The program would provide a nonrefundable tax credit to individuals or corporations making donations to a qualified scholarship-making organization. Scholarships made through those donations must be provided to a student residing in an unaccredited school district and spent for tuition at a qualified, accredited non-public school. So to be clear:

- The scholarships are provided by private individuals and corporations.

- No public money is expended for the scholarships.

- Catholic and other private schools and the students who attend them would not be receiving any tuition aid from the state.

- Even the tax credit for donors to these scholarships is nonrefundable, meaning not a single dollar leaves state coffers; if the credit exceeds your tax liability, you are not getting a check.

- The tax credit is not for payment of your own child’s tuition. Only those making donations to a qualified scholarship-making organization get the credit.

- Finally, the financial benefit to the state outweighs the revenue lost in tax credits. For instance, if a taxpayer makes a donation in the full amount of the cost to educate a child in a Kansas City Catholic elementary school ($5,500) that taxpayer would receive a 60 percent tax credit ($3,300). If that child had gone to a KCMSD school, instead of a Catholic school, it would have cost the government $14,556 (the cost per student in KCMSD schools). Under the Passport Scholarship Program, a student on a full, privately funded scholarship to a Kansas City Catholic school saves the public $11,266.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Fr. Emil Kapaun’s Cause Gets an Assist from Kansas Congressional Delegation

FrKapaun Well, not his sainthood cause which you can read all about here, but a separate cause for the heroic U.S. Army Chaplain from Pilsen, Kansas to be awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor.

Matt Manta from Rep. Kevin Yoder’s office sent me a release today on the Kansas Congressional delegation’s recent letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta encouraging him to recommend that Father Emil Kapaun be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism and service in the Korean War.

Along with Yoder, U.S. Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran and U.S. Representatives Tim Huelskamp,  Lynn Jenkins and Mike Pompeo signed the letter:

“We write to express our appreciation for your agency’s ongoing support for awarding the Medal of Honor to (Captain) Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun and to encourage your official recommendation to the President as the next step in the awards process.

“We write in strong support of your recommendation to the President to award the Medal of Honor to (Captain) Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun. In previous correspondence, our delegation has expressed our resolute support for recognizing Father Kapaun’s numerous acts of heroism and selflessness during his service in the Korean War. To that end, our delegation offered legislation in both the House and the Senate to waive the time limitation and award the Medal of Honor to Father Kapaun. In response to our inquiry, Dr. Jo Ann Rooney, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, later confirmed the Department of Defense’s support for the time waiver legislation for Father Kapaun. We are extremely pleased the time waiver legislation was included in the final Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 112-81).

“The next step in the process is for the Secretary of Defense to officially recommend that the President award Father Kapaun the Medal of Honor. We respectfully ask for your support and further request that you convey your recommendation to award the Medal of Honor to Father Kapaun to the President in the near future.

“During the Korean War, Father Kapaun served as a chaplain of the 8th Cavalry Regiment of the First Army Division. Amidst the devastating Battle of Unsan, Kapaun pulled wounded soldiers to safety and attended to their injuries. He was taken prisoner along with other American soldiers and carried severely injured fellow soldiers on his back, while rallying others to help in a similar fashion. While in the prison camp he served his comrades by escaping to steal food from nearby farms to bring back to the starving prisoners. He cared for sick soldiers, washed them, shared his food with them, and inspired them with his unfailing faith and acts of generosity until his death in May 1951. Fellow soldiers who benefitted from or witnessed the many examples of Father Kapaun’s service shared the stories of his heroism after their release.

“It is our strong belief that these acts of selfless service on behalf of his fellow soldiers make Father Kapaun a true hero who deserves this high honor. We appreciate your time and attention to this matter and stand ready to assist in any way required.”

Much thanks to the Kansas delegation!

Now you, readers, can keep helping ‘Servant of God’ Kapaun on his other cause:

Lord Jesus,

in the midst of the folly of war,
your servant, Chaplain Emil Kapaun
spent himself in total service to you
on the battlefields and
in the prison camps of Korea,
until his death at the hands of his captors.

We now ask you, Lord Jesus,
if it be your will,
to make known to all the world
the holiness of Chaplain Kapaun and the
glory of his complete sacrifice for you by
signs of miracles and peace.

In your name, Lord, we ask,
for you are the source of peace,
the strength of our service to others,
and our final hope.

Amen

Chaplain Kapaun, pray for us.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Co-Founder of Major U.S. Catholic Charity Dies

Bud Hentzen, co-founder of Kansas City based charity Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA), died November 30. The 30 year old charity he helped found has served more than 650,000 children and aging through their tremendously successful sponsorship program which matches donors with individual children and other beneficiaries worldwide.

Hentzen was 83 and news of his death in Wichita was sent out today by CFCA’s Carlos Casas.

CFCA has a low-profile compared to other well-known Catholic and Christian charities, but it has grown to be one of the largest because of the trust its sponsors have in the organization and the loyalty they continuously prove to deserve.

Hentzen was a tremendous Catholic – K of C, Serra, Holy Sepulchre, 9 kids and 52 grand and great grandkids. May he rest in peace and may his efforts continue to prosper to the benefit of God’s children in need. In lieu of flowers, please join CFCA. Instructions are in the release below:

CFCA co-founder Bud Hentzen dies at 83

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (Dec.2, 2011) — Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA), a lay Catholic organization based in Kansas City, Kan., is mourning the passing of co-founder Bernard A. “Bud” Hentzen. Hentzen died Nov. 30, 2011, in Wichita. He was 83.

Hentzen, along with three siblings, CFCA President Bob Hentzen, the late Jim Hentzen and Nadine Pearce, and their friend, the late Jerry Tolle, founded CFCA in 1981 to help provide much-needed assistance to families living in extreme poverty in developing countries.

"Bud was the face of CFCA to many of the church institutions — Catholic Press Association, Knights of Columbus, Serra Club," said Scott Wasserman, chief governing officer of the CFCA governing board.

Through the years, Hentzen remained an active member of CFCA and recently traveled to Kansas City to attend a board meeting and celebrate the organization’s 30th anniversary.

Hentzen served CFCA in various capacities, most recently as director emeritus on the governing board. His contributions helped the organization grow from a small home-based charity into one of the 200 largest U.S. nonprofit organizations listed by Forbes. Since CFCA’s founding, sponsors and donors have contributed more than $1 billion in total revenue, resulting in more than 650,000 children, youth and aging persons and their families being served through the sponsorship program.

Hentzen was an active member of the Wichita community through his involvement in various local organizations, including Catholic organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, Serra Club and Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, a pontifical society entrusted with preserving Christian sites in the Holy Land.

Hentzen is survived by his wife, Joanne Wilkes Hentzen; nine children; and 52 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A daughter, Kitty Bircher, preceded him in death.

A funeral Mass for Hentzen will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 5, at St. Jude Catholic Church in Wichita.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to CFCA. Donations can be made directly through the CFCA website at www.hopeforafamily.org.

Founded 1981 in Kansas City, CFCA is a lay Catholic, international nonprofit working with families living in poverty in 22 developing countries. Through the contributions of U.S.-based sponsors, CFCA’s Hope for a Family program provides basic resources and encouragement to children, their families and the elderly. To learn more, visit www.hopeforafamily.org.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Time is not Slippin’ into the Future . . .

From the next edition of the Catholic Key comes our first Advent reflection on the Christian conception of time from Fr. Ernie Davis:

I’ve had an irritating song lyric stuck in my head on and off for thirty-five years.  All of you baby-boomers will recognize it immediately, and fans of the Steve Miller band will remember it too.

“Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, into the future.”

It is irritates me not only because it sounds whiney, but also because no matter how hard I try to see how time could act that way, I simply cannot.  The present doesn’t slip into the future, it slips into the past.  Whatever awareness I might have of the “now” is already past as soon as I reflect on it.

I love traveling, and I love reading history.  I’m interested in reading about and in seeing what people in various times and cultures accomplished and how they lived.  As I look at the great Pyramids of Giza or the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem or the bullet holes in Berlin, I experience not only the present reality, but also a past reality that was once as present as the moment now.  Once present, they all slipped into the past. We experience bits of long-gone present moments as we encounter their relics.

I can also see how the past may be slipping into the present.  We are continually on the leading edge of a wave that has already been somewhere.  We remember past experiences and they continue to shape us. We avoid some things in the present because of past bad experience, and we hope that something that happened in the past will happen again.  Isaiah remembered the great deeds of the Exodus and hoped that God would make them present again, helping and saving people from the distress they were experiencing.  We read about his remembering, and kindle a similar hope that God will act for us in our present distress.

It seems to me that Jesus invited his disciples – and us – to experience another reality in relationship to time, different from the way the present may slip into the past or the past into the present.  When he told his disciples, “Be watchful! Be alert!” he was not recalling a past action that could shape the present, and he was not looking at a present evolving moment.  He was looking ahead to a reality already present with God that is now breaking into the human present.  Rather than looking at relics of past events, he was inviting his disciples to look up and look ahead to events that are already rushing into our experience. He invited, warned, encouraged and cajoled them to reorient their lives to that new reality, a future reality charging in our direction.

"Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: 'Watch!'" (Mark 13:33-37)

The Collect for the First Sunday of Advent seems to catch this invitation to reorient ourselves: 

“Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.”

Advent is an invitation to allow God to reorient us now to the coming reality.  It doesn’t invite us to make a pious wish, but step into a reality that is coming and eternal and becoming present.  That reorientation involves our human choices and it involves God’s action in our lives.  Our collect prays that God will give us the resolve we need to live in accordance to that new reality, that we may be truly righteous, just and loving.  When we catch glimpses of that reorientation in ourselves and in the lives of others, we might want to sing a new song, one the angels and saints are singing now and we’re just learning how to sing.

Fr. Ernie Davis is administrator of St. Therese Little Flower Parish in Kansas City.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

‘The saints are alive and they pray with us’

From the upcoming edition of the Catholic Key:

Praying With Our Eyes Fixed on Heaven

By Most. Rev. Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City – St. Joseph

In every Mass after the Consecration we express an affirmation about the power and promise of Jesus. The proclamation of the Mystery of Faith takes different forms, but it is a reminder to us that the profound truth that is taking place at the altar – the death and rising of Jesus truly made present - also tells us to look forward to the Day when we shall see the Lord in glory.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass unites us with Jesus and with a Communion of Saints and Souls who have gone before us. Throughout the history of Christian art and architecture some churches have fittingly provided reminders to us of the heavenly goal to which God calls us. Even while the orientation of the church may keep us aware of those with whom we are worshipping, at the same time many of the great churches provide us with images of God in heaven and the saints: They show us the heavenly Jerusalem which is our ultimate home. It is right for us to keep such realities in mind. I have often said that no matter what is going on in our life – sufferings or joys – the most important goal of everything we do is to get ourselves to heaven and bring with us as many as we can.

The month of November begins with the two great celebrations: All Saints day (November 1) and the Commemoration of All Souls (November 2). These feasts celebrate our communion with the “Church triumphant” in heaven, and the “Church suffering” in purgatory.

Near these feast days I have gathered with the priests to celebrate the Purgatorial Mass for all our deceased priests. I hope you also remember your family members, friends and “heavenly heroes” who have gone before us. Those in heaven intercede for us.

To me this is such a natural and beautiful part of our faith: that the saints are alive and they pray with us, just as we might ask a friend to remember our intentions in their prayers. This sense of saintly intercession and patronage has been lost in many Christian traditions, perhaps seeing this practice of turning toward Mary or the saints as a distraction away from Christ. In one of the Prefaces used at Masses for the Holy Men and Women, we acclaim God: “You are glorified in Your saints. In their lives on earth You give us an example. In our communion with them, You give us their friendship. In their prayer for the Church You give us strength and protection.” All Saints Day provides us with a special “feast day” when we can celebrate God’s power at work, not only among the extraordinary saints canonized or officially recognized by the Church, but also in “our saints;” our Moms and Dads, tiny babies who have died in innocence, and others who were instrumental in helping us know and love God.

The Commemoration of All Souls is likewise a meaningful reminder to us to pray for those who have died who may still need our prayers as they await the Day of the Lord. We know very well that our lives are not always perfect and faithful. We cling too often to selfishness and sin: things that keep us from loving God and our neighbor. In her wisdom and with the Light of the Holy Spirit, the Church teaches clearly about purgatory, that “All who have died in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, … after death undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1030).

In the Old Testament Book of Maccabees, we see how the faithful prayed and offered sacrifices for the salvation of those who died (2 Macc 12:46). We should never cease to pray for those who have gone before us. We can be sure that these loving prayers will never be wasted, even if our loved one has already reached heaven.

Throughout November – and indeed at all times in the Church’s liturgical year – we can renew our focus on the eternal life to which we are called by Christ. We do not travel alone. We continue to support, pray for, and encourage one another. And we have a host of heavenly friends supporting us on our journey of faith. We often miss having the physical presence of our loved ones with us. It is at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass when we are very closely united to the faithfully departed, the Church throughout the world, and the saints in heaven.

Mary, Mother of the Church, Queen of All Saints and All Souls, keep us on a safe path to your Son.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Diocesan Statement Concerning Action of Jackson County Grand Jury

The Jackson County Prosecutor announced this afternoon Grand Jury indictments surrounding the case of Shawn Ratigan. The Grand Jury returned misdemeanor indictments against Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn and the Diocese itself. Each was charged with failure to report suspected child abuse, a Class A misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to a one year prison term and $1,000 for an individual and up to a $1,000 fine for a corporation. Attorneys for Bishop Finn and the Diocese both entered pleas of not guilty in Jackson County Court.

The following statements were issued by the Diocese and Bishop Finn today.

 

Statements of the

Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph

and the
Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph

concerning
Action of the Jackson County Grand Jury

Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 14, 2011 -- Bishop Robert Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph today acknowledged receipt of the misdemeanor charges brought by the Jackson County Prosecutor.  Jean Paul Bradshaw and Tom Bath, counsel for the diocese, entered a plea of not guilty for the diocese. According to Gerald Handley and J.R. Hobbs, counsel for Bishop Finn, the bishop also entered a plea of not guilty.

“Bishop Finn denies any criminal wrongdoing and has cooperated at all stages with law enforcement, the grand jury, the prosecutor’s office, and the Graves Commission. We will continue our efforts to resolve this matter,” said Gerald Handley, counsel for Bishop Finn.

“In response to these charges Bishop Finn said, “Months ago after the arrest of Shawn Ratigan, I pledged the complete cooperation of the diocese and accountability to law enforcement. We have carried this out faithfully. Diocesan staff and I have given hours of testimony before grand juries, delivered documents, and answered questions fully.”

More importantly, to address the issues that led to this crisis, I reinforced and expanded diocesan procedures. We added the position of ombudsman, effectively moving the ‘gatekeeper function’ outside the Chancery and under the authority of an independent public liaison, a skilled and experienced former prosecutor. I commissioned the Graves Report to accomplish a full independent investigation of the policies and events that led to this crisis.  I ordered the report to be published in its entirety for the sake of full transparency.”

Today, the Jackson County Prosecutor issued these charges against me personally and against the Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph.  For our part, we will meet these announcements with a steady resolve and a vigorous defense.”

I ask the prayerful support and unity of our priests, our people, the parishes, and the Catholic institutions. With continued dedication, we will persevere in the many good works that are the hallmark of the faithful people of the diocese throughout its 27 counties and nearly 150-year heritage. With ever stronger determination, we will form, teach, and protect children and care for the spiritual and material needs of people who look daily to the diocese for assistance.”

With deep faith, we will weather this storm and never cease to fulfill our mission, even in moments of adversity,” said Bishop Finn.

In addition to full and complete cooperation with all levels of law enforcement, the diocese has taken an array of steps to ensure accountability for the protection of children in diocesan, parish and school programs.

  • June 9 – Engaged Todd Graves, a former U.S. Attorney and national co-chair of the Department of Justice Child Exploitation Working Group, to conduct an independent investigation of events, policies and procedures,
  • June 22 – Expanded diocesan administration with the appointment of Father Joseph Powers as Vicar for Clergy,
  • June 17 – Completed listening sessions with parishioners served by Shawn Ratigan,
  • June 30 – Appointed Jenifer Valenti, a former prosecuting attorney, as ombudsman to field and investigate all reports of suspicious or inappropriate behavior by clergy, diocesan personnel and volunteers,
  • August 15 – Reviewed requirements for the mandatory reporting of abuse and neglect with more than 925 employees and made the training available by video conferencing to others,
  • September 1 – Published the complete findings and recommendations of Graves Bartle Marcus and Garrett.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Luck, Power, and the 99 Percent

From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key, by Santiago Ramos:

“WE ARE THE 99 Percent” is the online presence (http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com/) of the Occupy Wall Street movement which is quickly spreading throughout our major cities. The idea behind the website is simple: to document the precipitous gap between the haves and have-nots in this country. As the homepage says:
We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.
The site is a place where the 99 percent can air their grievances. Anyone can send in a photograph consisting of a headshot (sometimes the face is partially covered) and a note (usually handwritten) which takes after the style of the message above. For example, here is a short one:
My dad subjects himself to harmful chemicals 50+ hours a week so I can go to college and I don’t even know if I’ll have a job when I graduate.
We are the 99%.
If we could find one common denominator, one common attribute to the mood of all these messages, it would not be desperation. It would be a sense of individual helplessness and indignation. But the very act of sending a photo to this website implies at least the flicker of hope—the hope that something will come of this movement.

The 1% who has everything has it either because of injustice or because they were lucky. But if they were so lucky and the rest of us are unlucky, that is also an injustice. “Either way,” the site seems to be saying in a collective voice, “we have to do something together, because what needs to be done no one person can do on their own. We have to help each other to fight injustice.”MediaPicOct14

THE LATEST EPISODE of The Office—“Lotto”—also deals with luck and money and jobs. Perhaps the show’s writers were attempting to address, however obliquely, the grievances of Occupy Wall Street. Regardless of their intentions, they touched on some of the same grievances that one encounters as one scrolls down the “We are the 99 Percent” page.

Because it’s The Office, they do it in a pleasant, inverted way. No one loses his job in this episode. Someone is simply passed up for a promotion, and doesn’t win the lottery.

The warehouse workers of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company—the guys who actually put the boxes of papers into the delivery trucks—win the lottery. The prize money is not quite a million dollars, and it is also split several ways among the workers who took part in the lotto pool. Nevertheless, the prize is big enough that they all quit their jobs and move on to better lives.

Darryl (Craig Robinson) was once part of the warehouse crew, and even part of the lotto pool, until about a year ago, when he took advantage of an opportunity to move upstairs for an office and a promotion: warehouse foreman. Now the workers he was the boss of all have cashed out, leaving him alone. On top of that, their winning ticket was based off of Darryl’s birthday.

Darryl spins into an existential crisis. He left the warehouse on a lucky break, in order to work for a better life for himself. Yet the real luck eluded him—insulted him, even. The real luck went to the people who stayed in the warehouse and won all the cash. He becomes a zombie, retreats into self-pity. He tells his boss to fire him.

The boss responds to Darryl’s request by reminding him that he (Darryl) had been promoted because he showed promise, and hunger, and hard work. But in the last year, he “stopped pushing”: his fire was gone. That’s why he was overlooked for another promotion, when that opportunity came along. That is the real reason why Darryl is unhappy: because he isn’t working to make himself better, and is thinking about luck.

Darryl learns his lesson: “My future will not be determined by seven white lotto balls… I control my destiny. I do.”

BEYOND CONTROL, THERE is only luck. That is what both the website and the TV show appear to be saying. The only difference lies in types of control. Darryl rediscovers his own will: he can control his destiny. The people posting on “We are the 99” are smarter than that, because they have suffered more. They can’t control their own destiny, but perhaps there is hope in mutual cooperation and, therefore, in politics.

Some will find value in “Lotto” because it reaffirms the importance of personal initiative. Don’t blame others for your problems: work harder. There is something to be said for that. But it is not something that should be said to most of the people who have shared their predicaments in “We are the 99 Percent.” Most of them have suffered from problems beyond their control—medical problems, corporate downsizing, the end of industries.

What strikes me about both the website and the TV show, however, is that neither appeals to charity. Not charity in the Salvation Army sense. I mean the word “charity” as it connotes friendship and dependency: we need others in order to get through life. Charity as solidarity: brotherhood in the face of suffering. Charity as love, and as something upon which to build the political order.

Charity won’t tell us (at least not directly) what political policies to pursue. But we all know how real it is: we all know how much we need someone else’s help when life becomes difficult. If nothing else, it is as real as luck and power. And perhaps, in times of anger and disappointment, it is something we should appeal to—not as a substitute for politics or hard work, but as a necessary precondition for both.

Santiago Ramos writes from Boston, MA.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Just the Facts – A Review of ‘The Way’

From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:

Just the Facts

The Way
DIR Emilio Estevez
SCR Emilio Estevez
Starring Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, Deborah Kara Unger, James Nesbitt, Yorick van Wageningen

Reviewed by Santiago Ramos

mediapicsept30 EL CAMINO DE Santiago, or the “Way of St. James,” is a pilgrimage route in Spain which stretches for around 500 miles, if you start from the most popular starting point in the French Pyrenees. The path leads right up to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in the Spanish region of Galicia, where the remains of St. James the Apostle rest and are venerated. Most pilgrims take a month or more to make the journey. For hundreds of years, pilgrims from all over the world have traveled the Camino, in a quest to pray before some bones which also had to travel—to Spain, from the Holy Land, where James had died.

Martin Sheen (whose real name is Ramon Estevez), had heard about the Camino from his elder relatives in the Old Country. For years he entertained the romantic idea of going on it himself, but he was not able to do so until he already had grandchildren. During a West Wing filming hiatus, he flew to Spain with his grandson Taylor (son of Emilio Estevez), and traveled the Way—by car. (“Like a good American,” as he said during a Q and A session I attended in Boston.) During the trip, his grandson fell in love with a Spanish girl, and so the Way and the pilgrimage became even richer with meaning for them.

The best way to celebrate this happy significance, this joyous pilgrimage, would be to make a film. Sheen wanted to make a humble documentary, but his son Emilio (who already has directing credits for Bobby under his belt) wanted to tell a story. And he wrote a script with his father in mind for the starring role.

THE RESULT OF their efforts is The Way. Martin Sheen plays Tom Avery, a wealthy ophthalmologist whose estranged son, Daniel (played by Emilio) dies on the first leg of the Camino. Traveling to Europe to retrieve his son’s body, he decides to go on pilgrimage himself, as a way to honor his son. While in the Pyrenees he befriends a policeman, a veteran of the Way who warns Tom that one only ever does the Camino for one’s self.

Along the way, Tom meets three other characters who make it clear that they are on the path for themselves. Yoost (Yorick van Wageningen) is an archetypical decadent Dutchman, smoking marijuana and gorging on food and wine. He is on the path for a very worldly reason: he needs to lose weight. Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), a Canadian woman in her thirties, is coy: she chain smokes and says that she will leave her last pack of cigarettes on the foot of the statue of Santiago, and never smoke again. But her real reason for traveling will become clear later on. Finally, Jack (James Nesbitt), aggressively annoying when you first meet him, endears himself to the audience once we figure it that he is a broken hearted writer who is trying to find something real to write about.

This collection of motivations might, at first, appear to have nothing to do with the bones of St. James. They are not explicitly religious. One month is a long time to go on pilgrimage. Without having the reasons for the pilgrimage clear in one’s mind, that month might feel like a year. If those reasons aren’t significant, that year might feel like a lifetime. Yet it is the case that people go on the Camino for many reasons, lofty and banal, as people who have been there will tell you. In the film, a gypsy tells Tom that the Camino “has nothing to do with religion.” Tom also runs into a priest suffering from brain cancer, who hands him a rosary. “I am a lapsed Catholic,” Tom tells the priest. But a few stops later along the Way, he finds the priest and thanks him for the rosary, saying that it has come in handy. Later on, Tom encounters real-life flagellants—bleeding, faces hidden, slowly walking the same path that he is on. The path is crowded with spirits.

This film places us before the brute fact of the pilgrimage. It shows that 1.) people go on it for many different reasons and from all parts of the world; 2.) that what they all have in common, in the most essential sense possible, is the need for something that they cannot obtain without help; and 3.) that they go to pilgrimage to this site, and not another. They go to Santiago, not to Madrid, or Disney, or the beach. That they travel the same road that has been traveled and this is the most interesting fact of all.

WHY THIS PILGRIMAGE and not that one? Or, why a pilgrimage at all? In a beautiful book titled The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage, the writer Paul Elie defines a pilgrimage in this way: “A pilgrimage is a journey undertaken in the light of a story. A great event has happened; the pilgrim hears the reports and goes in search of the evidence, aspiring to be an eyewitness. The pilgrim seeks not only to confirm the experience of others firsthand but to be changed by the experience.” All of the pilgrims in The Way have heard reports from a specific place, and they seek confirmation.

This film is the story of their experience. It doesn’t force coherence upon it, and it doesn’t explain it completely. But this film is also, in its own way, the report of a great event. It makes you want to go on the Camino itself, looking for confirmation and experience. The film is interesting in itself because it makes you interested in life itself. What more can you ask from a movie?

The Way opens in theatres October 7. Santiago Ramos is pursuing graduate studies in philosophy at Boston College.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Commemorating 9-11: In Mary, Christians and Muslims Find a Common Path

From the current edition of The Catholic Key, by Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn:

In its first joint statement after the 9-11, 2001, tragedy the United States Bishops echoed the hope and promise of our Lord: His formula for holiness with which He introduces the Sermon on the Mount.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted….
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy….
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Mt. 5:4,6,7,9)


“These words of Jesus challenge us,” the bishops wrote, “and offer us hope today as our community of faith responds to the terrible events of September 11 and their aftermath.”

The November 14, 2001 statement went on to prayerfully remember all who were killed and wounded, and to honor “the selflessness of firefighters, police, chaplains, and other brave individuals who gave their lives in the service of others. They are true heroes and heroines. … In these difficult days, our faith has lifted us up and sustained us. Our nation turned toward God in prayer and in faith with a new intensity.”

Ten years later we still experience the changes that, because of the terror of a day, continue to have their effect on the way we do business, on airport security, and the interchange between cultures.

Ten years later we can still see the need for healing. For those who lost a family member or friend or work associate, the need may be deeper as the effects of the tragedy are more lasting and profound. The necessity of supernatural faith and Christian hope is real. Far beyond material compensations, these supernatural graces from God are perhaps the only context in which the work of reparation can commence. Jesus Christ’s way of forgiveness and life is the only path that has the capacity to reach peace.

Several years ago I became acquainted with two women from New York. Erin von Uffel enthusiastically told me about a French Daughter of Charity, Sr. Marie de Mandat Grancey, who had given up her position of nobility and wealth in France to serve the sick and the poor in Paris and later in Turkey. She cared for Christian and non-Christian children near Smyrna, and went on to find the House of the Blessed Mother, Mary on a hill above ancient Ephesus.

Both Erin and her friend and co-worker Lorraine Fusaro had known people killed in the 9-11 attack. These two women of faith had begun to see the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation as vital steps on the road to peace. In their experience of Mary’s House in Ephesus, they saw a place where every year millions of pilgrims came to ask the intercession of Mary in her maternal love. The extraordinary difference in this ‘Christian’ shrine was that the majority of those who came to Mary’s House in Ephesus were Muslims. Here the children of Mary were gathering, Christian and Muslim alike, to seek favors from this Woman who is heralded in the Christian Bible and the Koran. Erin and Lorraine also saw Sr. Marie as a modern day instrument and holy apostle whom God used to reestablish this holy place where – in God’s own mysterious way – diverse creeds could find a common path to God.

Our Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, in another mysterious way, has been given a special role to play in studying the life of Sr. Marie, whom God used to provide a place where perhaps even the tragedy of 9-11 could be reversed, where Christians and Muslims together might come and pray, and find refuge in the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attack, let us pray for healing for all those who sorrow over the terrible losses of that day. Let us pray for renewal in our nation based on our deep supernatural faith in God; for reconciliation and peace with any we may regard as our enemies. After the example of Sr. Marie, who served the Christian and Muslim people of Turkey; through the intercession of Mary, Theotokos, Mother of God and Mother of all people, may we find a true path to the beatitude, reconciliation and peace to which we are called by Jesus Christ.

A resolution has been passed in our country recommending, on Sunday, September 11, 2011, “the observance of a moment of remembrance or prayer to last for 1 minute beginning at 1:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time (12 Noon Central), to the maximum extent practicable, by

a) ceasing all work or other activity; and
b) marking the moment in an appropriate manner, including by ringing bells, blowing whistles, or sounding sirens.”
Certainly, for us as Catholics, this can be a special moment of prayer, and, pastors may direct church bells to be rung, if possible.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Archbishop Gomez’ Provocative Entry to Immigration Debate

Over at NCRegister, Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez begins an essay ostensibly on the immigration debate by lamenting that too often, “we are just talking around the edges of the real issues.” He then continues for nearly 3,000 words without saying a single thing about immigration policy.

But Archbishop Gomez is not himself “talking around the edges of the real issues.” He has done something new for a Church leader in America. He has provoked, in the best sense of that word, what should be a wide consideration among American Catholics of what it means to be American and what it means to be Catholic in America.

The Archbishop knows well that how an American Catholic understands his history and identity fundamentally frames his response to the immigration debate. As it stands, I think it’s fair to say, the self-concept of a good majority of American Catholics leads them inevitably toward a legalistic and often nativist approach to the immigration debate. Archbishop Gomez’ has done something groundbreaking for a church leader by suggesting not policy, but a framework for American Catholics to understand their history and purpose, which while true, is very little attended to.

As I read him, there are two major points in Archbishop Gomez’ article that I think should provoke a spirited round of self evaluation among American Catholics:

First - He asserts that the part of our history which is pre-statehood, ie., Hispanic and Catholic out West, should still inform our current American identity. He argues against a diminished or “downsized” view of American identity which begins at Plymouth Rock and proceeds only through the thirteen colonies on out to the Pacific.

The rest of the story starts more than a century before the pilgrims. It starts in the 1520s in Florida and in the 1540s here in California.

It is the story not of colonial settlement and political and economic opportunity. It’s the story of exploration and evangelization. This story is not Anglo-Protestant, but Hispanic-Catholic. It is centered, not in New England, but in Nueva España — New Spain — at opposite corners of the continent.

From this story we learn that before this land had a name its inhabitants were being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. The people of this land were called Christians before they were called Americans. And they were called this name in the Spanish, French and English tongues.

From this history, we learn that long before the Boston Tea Party, Catholic missionaries were celebrating the holy Mass on the soil of this continent.
Catholics founded America’s oldest settlement in St. Augustine, Fla., in 1565.

Immigrant missionaries were naming this continent’s rivers and mountains and territories for saints, sacraments and articles of the faith.

We take these names for granted now. But our American geography testifies that our nation was born from an encounter with Jesus Christ.

California does not have a Jefferson City or a Washington, but it does have a Sacramento. It may surprise the people of Marin County, California that Pt. Reyes got it’s name because Spanish Carmelite priests celebrated Mass there on the Feast of the Three Kings in 1603, but it shouldn’t. San Diego, Santa Barbara and Carmel were named in similar fashion by Spanish Carmelites more than 150 years before Blessed Junipero Serra founded the California Missions and 250 years before California became a State.

Speaking of California and the Southwest, Archbishop Gomez says, “Before there were houses in this land, there were altars.” We should not forget that history or omit it as part of our story and identity, Archbishop Gomez argues. Nor should we fail to assume the mission of those saintly missionaries who named and evangelized the West and Southwest. They too and their mission are part of the American story:

This is the real reason for America, when we consider our history in light of God’s plan for the nations. America is intended to be a place of encounter with the living Jesus Christ. . .

. . .When we forget our country’s roots in the Hispanic-Catholic mission to the New World, we end up with distorted ideas about our national identity. We end up with an idea that Americans are descended from only white Europeans and that our culture is based only on the individualism, work ethic and rule of law that we inherited from our Anglo-Protestant forebears.

Second – And Archbishop Gomez does this more subtly, but he all but says that America’s needed economic, political, spiritual, cultural and moral renewal is dependent on “new, youthful” Hispanic Catholics and that this renewal has something to do with God’s plan for salvation.

. . .I believe our immigrant brothers and sisters are the key to American renewal.

And we all know that America is in need of renewal — economic and political, but also spiritual, moral and cultural renewal.

I believe these men and women who are coming to this country will bring a new, youthful entrepreneurial spirit of hard work to our economy. I also believe they will help renew the soul of America.

In his last book, Memory and Identity, written the year he died, Blessed John Paul II said: “The history of all nations is called to take its place in the history of salvation.”

We must look at immigration in the context of America’s need for renewal. And we need to consider both immigration and American renewal in light of God’s plan for salvation and the history of the nations.

Well, reading that again, maybe he wasn’t so subtle.

What is remarkably refreshing about Archbishop Gomez’ approach is his candor. His candor has been met with similar candor in opposition to his points over at the Register’s combox. I do not think that is bad.

All through the DREAM Act debate, it was very clear that argument over the contents of the bill was merely a proxy fight for competing broader narratives*. It seems that rational debate over policy will never be achieved until we confront, examine and debate those underlying narratives. I am very grateful to Archbishop Gomez for so forthrightly laying out his. I also think his has the benefit of being true, but regardless, he has introduced a new and vital way of approaching the debate.

Do read the whole thing.

* – I hesitate using the word “narrative” because I generally used it as a pejorative, but I am using this in a generous sense allowing that some narratives are narration.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Will China Buy Our Silence About Persecution of Catholics? – Bishop Finn

From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:

Will China Buy Our Silence About Persecution of Catholics?

By Most Rev. Robert W. Finn

In May of 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a Pastoral Letter to Clergy, Religious, and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China. There the Holy Father expressed his affection for the people and his solidarity with them. He explained the proper relationships within the diocese, between the dioceses and the State, and the indispensable link between the local Churches and the Church Universal. The Pope offered encouragement for unity and a guide for evangelization.

The challenging circumstances for the work of the Church in China have been intensified because of a separation that has existed between a state-supervised Patriotic Catholic Association, China’s only legal public form of Catholicism, said to have about 5 Million members, and an “illegal,” “underground church,” believed to be the home for perhaps 10 million clergy, Religious and laity, who have sought to maintain a more unfettered communion with the Vatican. It is acknowledged that many members of the Patriotic Association, bishops included, have attempted to keep ties with Rome.

In his letter of four years ago, the Holy Father seemed to succeed in establishing a conciliatory note, while clearly outlining vital principles of religious freedom, and the Church’s requisite foundation for governance and pastoral action. The Vatican was able to build some level of communications with the Peoples’ Republic, giving rise to what has been, for the last few years, a more active and helpful collaboration in the selection of bishops – within the Patriotic Association – on the Mainland.

As 2010 was drawing to a close, the mood of cooperation collapsed as the Patriotic Catholic Association began forcibly gathering bishops in order to bring them to Beijing for an assembly, the intended purpose of which was to elect a new national president of the Patriotic Association and president of the council of Chinese bishops. A number of bishops resisted and fled; others refused to participate in Masses that were to be part of the assembly.

An illicit ordination of a bishop – one in which there was no mandate from the Holy See or permission from the Holy Father – took place in November of 2010; another a few weeks ago on June 29, 2011, and another last week. In the Vatican’s daily Press Release of July 15, Vatican Press Office Director, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. spoke of the Pope's “sadness and concern at the latest illegitimate episcopal ordination in China” which, he said, damages “the unity of the universal Church.”

July 14, 2011, “at Shantou in the region of Guandong Fr. Joseph Huang Bingzhang was ordained a bishop without pontifical mandate. … A number of bishops who are in communion with the Pope were obliged to attend yesterday's ceremony.” Shantou already had a bishop, and the “new bishop” had been cautioned several times by the Holy See not to accept Episcopal ordination.

Following the June 29 ordination, the Holy See released a declaration highlighting how a bishop ordained “without the papal mandate, and hence illegitimately, has no authority to govern the diocesan Catholic community, and the Holy See does not recognize him as the bishop of that diocese.” In a release of July 18, the Vatican formally confirmed the sanctions against the illegitimate bishops, expressed support for the conscientious resistance of those who remain faithful to the Holy See, and asked for a cessation of the hurtful actions, “The Holy Father, having learned of these events, once again deplores the manner in which the Church in China is being treated and hopes that the present difficulties can be overcome as soon as possible”.

Some news sites suggest that, after the forced elections of the Patriotic Associations, in which ballots were reported to have only one name, as many as ten ordinations of new bishops are expected.

Aside from the concern over the kidnapping and arrest of bishops compelling them to participate in fraudulent elections, there are grave implications for all Catholics in China who, whether within the Patriotic Association or in the so-called ‘illegal’ or underground church fear more interference in Church life, and a renewal of reprisals from years past.

According to a July 17 CNN story, leaders in China have, in turn, accused the Vatican of interfering in its religious affairs. Last November the U.S. State Department listed China as one of eight countries of "particular concern" on religious freedom. Specifically the U.S. accused China of persecuting followers of the Dalai Lama in Tibet and Uyghur Muslims in western China. While President Barak Obama met last week with the Dalai Lama, apparently no public mention has yet been made by the administration about actions against Catholics.

In his July 17 blog post, Deacon Keith Fournier of Catholic Online (www.catholic.org) lamented the silence of the U.S. and other western governments about these abuses against human rights and religious freedom in China. “We should ask ourselves the following question; with our growing economic reliance and dependence upon the Regime in China: Are we sacrificing our fundamental obligation to defend human freedom and human rights because we depend on the economic assistance of a repressive regime?”

At one time we might have insisted that China’s desires to be accepted and welcomed as a partner with the West must be met by an insistence that it respects this fundamental human right of religious expression and organization. Now we must be careful that our need to come, hat in hand, to China in the economic sphere doesn’t require us to be silent about such significant restraints on human dignity.

For our Catholic brothers and sisters on the Mainland who have endured so much to hold on to an authentic Catholic faith, this is hardly an intellectual exercise. They need our support in prayer and political clout. Mary, Mother of the Church, intercede for your children. St. Joseph, defender of justice, pray for us.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Illinois Lied about Civil Unions Law – A Lesson for Other States

When a bill creating civil unions in Illinois was signed by Governor Pat Quinn in January, sponsors and activists for the law agreed that its provisions would not affect religious social service or adoption agencies. Now, quite predictably, it has. Today, the AP reports that Governor Quinn has determined the State of Illinois can no longer contract with Catholic Charities for adoption and foster care services because the charities don’t comply with the Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act.

The reason for “religious freedom” preceding “civil union” in the title of the law now appears to have been entirely cosmetic. Opponents of the bill charged that creating civil unions would impinge on religious freedom. The bill’s proponents went out of their way to say it would not – in order to get it passed.

According to an op-ed in the Quad City Times,

The bill sponsor, Sen. David Koehler, clearly promised in his Senate floor testimony that the law would not impact “the social services” or the “adoption agencies” of religious organizations.

Equality Illinois, a major proponent of the bill, even put together a widely distributed Q & A on the bill intended to dismiss “myths” about the bill’s intentions. One question read:

5.      How would the Act affect religious affiliated adoption agencies?

Answer: The Act would not impact faith-based adoption agencies or adoption procedures. The Act does not amend the Adoption Act, which governs both public and private adoption agencies.

But then the bill passed, and religious freedom went out the window as some in state government, the Catholic governor included, began to argue that the passed bill does not in fact exempt Catholic Charities from facilitating adoptions to those in civil unions.

The position of the state government on the religious freedom provisions of the law was so contrary to the rhetoric leading up to the bill’s passage, that in April, original sponsor Sen. David Koehler introduced an amendment to make it absolutely clear that:

“A child welfare agency that is religiously based or owned by, operated by, or affiliated with a bona fide religious organization may decline an adoption or foster family home application, including any related licensure and placement, from a party to a civil union if acceptance of that application would constitute a violation of the organization’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Under fire for introducing the amendment, Koehler said he had to keep the guarantee he made on religious freedom when he was championing the civil unions bill. “No group should have to go against what its religious principles were and that included organizations that were involved in adoption,” he told WBEZ radio.

Koehler’s amendment failed 7-6 in the Senate’s Executive Committee. For Illinois civil union supporters, the time for supporting guarantees of religious freedom had passed. With civil unions now the law, civil unions will also be the hammer against religious freedom that anybody could have predicted they would be. Everywhere civil unions or same-sex marriages have become the law, they have been used to shut Catholic Charities out of adoption and foster care services. And there is no reason to expect they won’t be used to erode other religious freedoms down the road.

Other states would do well to consider Illinois’ experience. When it comes to the hierarchy of freedoms in a post-civil union/same-sex marriage state, the desires of same-sex couples for affirmation trumps every other right – no matter how well you craft your legislation. It is far safer not to consider civil unions at all.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Vatican Nuncio to U.N. Discusses ‘Nuclear Question’ in Kansas City

20110701_0236 Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikat, Apostolic Nuncio to the United Nations, gave a major address July 1 on the Church’s teaching on nuclear deterrence, the use of nuclear weapons and the goal of a nuclear weapon free world. Before his appointment to the UN post last year, Archbishop Chullikat served as Nuncio to Jordan and Iraq. The address at The Catholic Center of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph was sponsored by the diocesan Human Rights Office.

Two years ago, the diocese and Bishop Finn himself had made statements on a proposed nuclear weapon parts plant in Kansas City. It became clear that in the general public, and not just locally, the Church’s teaching on nuclear weapons and their proliferation is not well known. Bishop Robert Finn invited Archbishop Chullikat to address this subject because of the Nuncio’s expertise, but also to help make Kansas Citians more aware of the Church’s teaching on nuclear weapons.

Following the address, Archbishop Chullikat and Bishop Finn held a press conference on the subject. Look for more in the next edition of the Catholic Key.

This is probably the longest blog post you’ll ever see here, but since there is little readily available explaining the Church’s teaching on this important subject, it is well worth while publishing the full text of Archbishop Chullikat’s speech:

The Nuclear Question:

The Church’s Teachings and the Current State of Affairs
Remarks by Archbishop Francis Chullikatt
Kansas City, 1 July 2011

Thank you, Bishop Finn, for the opportunity to join you in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and address a very critical question that has such particular relevance here. The “nuclear question” is at once complex and straightforward: what do we do with the Cold War legacy of thousands of the most destructive weapons humankind has ever created? For more than 60 years since the dawn of the nuclear age, the world, and particularly the Church, has grappled with the role of these weapons, their legality and the moral implications of their production, deployment and intended use.

What I would like to do here is to share how the development of the Church’s teachings have advanced over the years and what those teachings say to us today. I will then explore the current status of efforts to address these unique weapons and specifically, the position of the Holy See.

As you all are aware, new attention is being paid to the unresolved problem of 20,000 nuclear weapons located at 111 sites in 14 countries. More than half the population of the world lives in a nuclear-armed country. Each year, nations spend $100 billion on maintaining and modernizing their nuclear arsenals.

When we are talking about the nuclear disarmament, the principle of good faith is vital within international law. Essentially, good faith means abiding by agreements in a manner true to their purposes and working sincerely and cooperatively through negotiations to attain agreed objectives.

Therefore, the current modernization of nuclear forces and their technical infrastructure are contrary to such good faith because they make difficult or impossible a negotiated achievement of global nuclear disarmament.

President Ronald Reagan at his second inaugural address in 1985 said: “We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth”. I think it is time to follow through on his goal.

The vastness of this problem has long concerned the Catholic Church. With new efforts now being made to build a global legal ban on nuclear weapons, this is a good moment to review the Church’s teaching on weapons of mass destruction.

Catholic teaching on nuclear deterrence is found in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and in subsequent statements by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

Indeed, we can see that the indiscriminate use and devastating effects of nuclear weapons have led the Church to abhor any use of nuclear weapons. In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the Church’s fundamental condemnation of any use of nuclear weapons is stated clearly: “Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation” (n. 80).

As you well know, the Church’s condemnation of any use of nuclear weapons has always been grounded in the Church’s respect for life and the dignity of the human person.

Although the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council expressed their desire for a universal prohibition against war, they, with the understanding they had at that time, seemed to have rather reluctantly accepted the strategy of nuclear deterrence. The accumulation of arms, they said, serves “as a deterrent to possible enemy attack.”

Pope John Paul II restated the Catholic position on nuclear deterrence in a message to the UN Second Special Session on Disarmament in 1982 at the height of the Cold War nuclear weapons build-up by the United States and the Soviet Union:

In current conditions, ‘deterrencebased on balance, certainly not as an end in itself but as a step along the way towards a progressive disarmament, may still be judged morally acceptable. Nonetheless, in order to ensure peace, it is indispensable not to be satisfied with the minimum which is always susceptible to the real danger of explosion.

This statement made clear that nuclear deterrence during the Cold War years could only be acceptable if it led to progressive disarmament. What is intended therefore is not nuclear deterrence as a single, permanent policy.

Here lies the central question of deterrence: the Church’s moral acceptance of nuclear deterrence was always conditioned on progress toward their elimination.

Deterrence must be an interim measure; it should not be an acceptable long-term basis for peace. Deterrence must be used only as a bridge to provide stability while nuclear disarmament is pursued, as required under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Nuclear deterrence is only justified in this limited way, as a means of deterring the use of nuclear weapons by an adversary. Deterrence was never accepted as a means of projecting state power, protecting economic or political interests, nor was it acceptable to use nuclear deterrence as a primary defense strategy to address other security issues or to deter other, non-nuclear threats.

As the Soviet Union disintegrated and the Cold War came to a close, great hope was ignited that the world could move decisively and expeditiously with nuclear disarmament. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was extended in 1995 and new energy was focused on Article VI, the grand bargain, as it were, which lies at the heart of the NPT. The nations of the world agreed to forgo any development of nuclear weapons in exchange for a commitment from the nuclear-weapon states to eliminate their own arsenals and provide access to nuclear technology for peaceful uses.

The Holy See is party to the Nonproliferation Treaty and remains actively engaged in the Treaty’s review process every five years. Unfortunately, rather than pursuing disarmament as they are obligated to do under the Treaty, the nuclear-weapon states engaged in a reinvestment in their nuclear weapons complexes, pouring tens of billions of dollars into new technologies to allow them to continue to design, test and deploy these weapons for the indefinite future. New missions were conceived for their nuclear arsenals and new capabilities and upgrades for their weapons were aggressively pursued.

As the Cold War receded and a new century dawned, the international community continued to press the nuclear-weapon states for concrete movement on fulfilling their obligations to eliminate their nuclear arsenals as called for under the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. The Church’s efforts in this area increased, and became focused on challenging what we came to see as the institutionalization of deterrence. Deterrence was not being considered anymore as an interim measure. Rather, nuclear-weapon states started to pursue nuclear advantage, maintaining that nuclear weapons were fundamental to their security doctrines. Modernization programs were accelerated. Hundreds of billions of dollars were earmarked for these modernization efforts and the fragile barrier between nuclear and conventional arms was obliterated.

In 2005 when the nations of the world gathered to review the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Treaty itself was on the verge of collapse. Not only were the commitments to disarm under Article VI being ignored, the very concept of nuclear elimination was dismissed out of hand by the nuclear-weapon states. And the Church increased its pressure on the nuclear-weapon states.

The Holy See voiced its growing concern over this situation, for example, at the 2005 Review Conference of the NPT:

When the Holy See expressed its limited acceptance of nuclear deterrence during the Cold War, it was with the clearly stated condition that deterrence was only a step on the way towards progressive nuclear disarmament. The Holy See has never countenanced nuclear deterrence as a permanent measure, nor does it today when it is evident that nuclear deterrence drives the development of ever newer nuclear arms, thus preventing genuine nuclear disarmament.

On his part, Pope Benedict XVI reinforced this position in his address on World Peace Day, 1 January 2006, when he asked:

What can be said, too, about those governments which count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries? Along with countless persons of good will, one can state that this point of view is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims. The truth of peace requires that all —whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them— agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament. The resources which would be saved could then be employed in projects of development capable of benefiting all their people, especially the poor.

Indeed, experts have estimated that more than $1 trillion has been spent on developing and maintaining nuclear arsenals. Today, hundreds of billons of additional dollars are being channeled to maintain this scourge. With development needs across the globe far outpacing the resources being devoted to address them, the thought of pouring hundreds of billions of additional dollars into the world’s nuclear arsenals is nothing short of sinful. It is the grossest misplacement of priorities and truly constitutes the very “theft from the poor” which the Second Vatican Council condemned so long ago.

Today, more and more people are convinced that nuclear deterrence is not a viable means of providing security. If some nations can continue to claim the right to possess nuclear weapons, then other states will claim that right as well. There can be no privileged position whereby some states can rely on nuclear weapons while simultaneously denying that same right to other states. Such an unbalanced position is unsustainable.

Some 40 nations possess the capacity to weaponize their civilian nuclear programs. Proliferation is a real and serious challenge. However, nonproliferation efforts will only be effective if they are universal. The nuclear-weapon states must abide by their obligations to negotiate the total elimination of their own arsenals if they are to have any authenticity in holding the non-nuclear-weapon states to their commitments not to pursue nuclear weapons or if they are to be effective in bringing those last few states who remain outside the NPT to the table of negotiations for the gradual elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

It is now more than two decades since the end of the Cold War. Though nuclear weapons stocks held by the major powers have been reduced, they are still being maintained and modernized, and the prospect of even more proliferation to other countries is growing. We are now witnessing an “extended deterrence” by which non-nuclear countries are put under the protection of a friendly nuclear state. Instead of being a temporary measure during the Cold War, the “doctrine of nuclear deterrence” has become permanent and is used to justify continued nuclear buildup.

When the 2010 Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty opened, Pope Benedict XVI, who had previously called for “negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons sent a message asking delegates to “overcome the burdens of history”. He said, “I encourage the initiatives to seek progressive disarmament and the creation of zones free of nuclear weapons, with a view to their complete elimination from the planet”.

From this body of teaching, the Church has made clear its growing abhorrence of nuclear weapons. It is now recognized that they are incompatible with the peace we seek for the 21st century. In the 2001 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) Conference, the Holy See Delegation had stated:

The most perilous of all the old Cold War assumptions carried into the new age is the belief that the strategy of nuclear deterrence is essential to a nation’s security. Maintaining nuclear deterrence into the 21st century will not aid but impede peace. Nuclear deterrence prevents genuine nuclear disarmament. It maintains an unacceptable hegemony over non-nuclear development for the poorest half of the world’s population. It is a fundamental obstacle to achieving a new age of global security.

International law and the Church’s Just War principles have always recognized that limitation and proportionality must be respected in warfare. But the very point of a nuclear weapon is to kill massively; the killing and the poisonous radiation cannot be contained (Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl are permanent ominous reminders). The social and economic consequences of nuclear war in a world whose life-support systems are intimately interconnected would be catastrophic.

In the event of a nuclear explosion, the severe physical damage from radiation would be followed by the collapse of food production and distribution and even water supplies. The prospect of widespread starvation would confront huge masses of people. Rampant disease would follow the breakdown in health-care facilities. The entire question of human rights would be up-ended. The right to a social and international order, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, would be completely lost. The structures underpinning international law would be gone. Order would be inverted into disorder.

The Holy See believes that international law is essential to the maintenance of peace among nations. When peace breaks down, international law, setting limits on the conduct of warfare, is essential to the reestablishment of an enduring peace and civilized life at war’s end.

In 1996, fifteen years ago this very month, the International Court of Justice issued its landmark decision on the threat or use of nuclear weapons and the obligations of States parties to the NPT. The Court said that negotiations for elimination must be concluded. The Court’s decision stated: "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control".

The Catholic Church embraced the Court’s call for negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons and, in 1997, in addressing the United Nation’s First Committee, the Holy See Delegation put forth the Church’s position in the strongest terms:

Nuclear weapons, aptly described as the 'ultimate evil', are still possessed by the most powerful States which refuse to let them go.... If biological weapons, chemical weapons, and now landmines can be done away with, so too can nuclear weapons. No weapon so threatens the longed-for peace of the 21st century as the nuclear. Let not the immensity of this task dissuade us from the efforts needed to free humanity from such a scourge. With the valuable admonition offered in the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, the international community can now see how the legal and moral arguments against nuclear weapons intertwine with the strategic: since nuclear weapons can destroy all life on the planet, they imperil all that humanity has ever stood for, and indeed humanity itself...

The work... in calling for negotiations leading to a Nuclear Weapons Convention must be increased. Those nuclear-weapon States resisting such negotiations must be challenged, for, in clinging to their outmoded rationales for nuclear deterrence, they are denying the most ardent aspirations of humanity...

And finally, in that statement, the Holy See Delegation voiced in clearest terms the Church’s position on nuclear weapons, “Nuclear weapons are incompatible with the peace we seek for the 21st century. They cannot be justified. They deserve condemnation. The preservation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty demands an unequivocal commitment to their abolition.”

Yet the comprehensive negotiations called for by the International Court of Justice have not even started. The bilateral START treaty between the US and Russia only makes small reductions and leaves intact a vast nuclear arsenal on both sides, with many nuclear weapons held on constant alert status.

At last year’s Review Conference of the NPT, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put forth a Five-Point Plan for Nuclear Disarmament, which is worthy of the full support of all nations. He called specifically for a new convention or set of mutually reinforcing instruments to eliminate nuclear weapons, backed by strong verification and has asked that nations start negotiations. “Nuclear disarmament is not a distant, unattainable dream,” Mr. Ban said. “It is an urgent necessity here and now. We are determined to achieve it.”

The Holy See supports this plan and strongly advocates for transparent, verifiable, global and irreversible nuclear disarmament and for addressing seriously the issues of nuclear strategic arms, the tactical ones and their means of delivery. The Church remains fully engaged in efforts both to stem proliferation and to move forward on negotiating a binding international agreement, or framework of agreements, to eliminate existing arsenals under effective international verification.

The 2010 NPT Review Conference called on “all nuclear-weapon states to undertake concrete disarmament efforts,” and also affirmed that “all states need to make special efforts to establish the necessary framework to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.” This responsibility must be taken seriously. Nations which continue to refuse to enter a process of negotiating mutual, assured and verifiable nuclear disarmament are acting irresponsibly.

From its part, also the UN Security Council held summit level meetings devoted to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

The Holy See welcomes such developments regarding nuclear non proliferation and disarmament.

Viewed from a legal, political, security and most of all - moral - perspective, there is no justification today for the continued maintenance of nuclear weapons. This is the moment to begin addressing in a systematic way the legal, political and technical requisites for a nuclear-weapons-free world. For this reason, preparatory work should begin as soon as possible on a convention or framework agreement leading to the phased elimination of nuclear weapons.

To accomplish this goal, we must rethink and change our perception of nuclear weapons. It is a fact that no force on earth will be able to protect civilian populations from the explosion of nuclear bombs, which could cause as many as millions of immediate deaths. We must understand the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.

Reports indicate that workers employed by the nuclear weapons industry are exposed to radiation at nuclear weapons production sites across the globe. Hundreds of highly toxic substances are used every day in the production and maintenance of nuclear weapons and their non-nuclear components. Workers suffer from a range of illnesses, many affecting them only years after exposure. People are asking for transparency and guarantee about the safeguards measures. Secrecy surrounding nuclear weapons programs has led to a failure to inform - if not an outright misleading of - workers and civilian populations living in close proximity to nuclear weapons facilities about the dangers their activities pose to human health.

The Holy See cannot countenance this disregard for human life and the health of those most directly and immediately affected by the nuclear weapons enterprise. Provisions must be established to ensure transparency and appropriate safeguards support to workers as well as civilians living in proximity to these facilities to ensure their safety, even as we move expeditiously to a process for dismantling and destroying these unlawful weapons under international supervision. Moreover, the toxic legacy of the nuclear era will continue to pose urgent challenges requiring substantial investments of resources to clean up the heavily contaminated sites that dot the landscapes of every nuclear weapon state.

The need to effectively and transparently address the toxic legacy posed by six decades of nuclear weapons production and maintenance is of the highest priority. The risks involved with even the peaceful use of nuclear technology illustrate the problem. Here I wish to underscore the Holy See’s active role in confronting global environmental issues. His Holiness Benedict XVI has personally appealed for environmental justice in defense of creation. Nothing less than the dignity of the human person and the right to a fully human and healthy life are at stake in the global challenge to clean up the environmental damage of the nuclear era.

The recent experience in Fukishima, Japan, has refocused attention on the inherent dangers and indiscriminate nature of radiation.

As a founding Member State of the IAEA, the Holy See participated last week in the IAEA Ministerial Conference which took place in Vienna, Austria. The concerns and observations made there by the Holy See bear repeating.

Is it legitimate to construct or to maintain operational nuclear reactors on territories that are exposed to serious seismic risks? Does nuclear fission technology, or the construction of new atomic power plants, or the continued operation of existing ones exclude human error in its phases of design, normal and emergency operation?

Besides the above questions, there are others concerning political will, technical capacity and necessary finances in order to proceed to the dismantling of old nuclear reactors and the handling of radioactive material or waste. With regard to standards of safety and security, the Holy See asks:

Are States willing to adopt new safety and security standards? If so, who will monitor them? However, one fact remains: without transparency, safety and security cannot be pursued with absolute diligence.

Understanding that enhanced safety standards are only part of the solution, the Holy See also observed that

threats to security come from attitudes and actions hostile to human nature. It is, therefore, on the human level that one must act – on the cultural and ethical level.... What is absolutely necessary are programs of formation for the diffusion of a “culture of safety and security” both in the nuclear sector and in the public conscience in general.... Security depends upon the State, but also on the sense of responsibility of each person....

As a result of the nuclear crisis in Fukishima, one point emerges with ever greater clarity. A shared and co-responsible management of nuclear research and safety and security, of energy and water supplies and of the environmental protection of the planet call for one or more international authorities with true and effective powers.

The nuclear sector can represent a great opportunity for the future. This explains the “nuclear renaissance” at the world level. This renaissance seems to offer horizons of development and prosperity. At the same time, it could be reduced to an illusion without a “cultural and moral renaissance.” Energy policies are to be viewed in the perspective of the “integral development of the human being” (Declaration on the Right to Development of 1986, 5), which includes not only material development, but, above all, the cultural and moral development of each and every person and of all peoples. All are involved in this ambitious and indispensable project, both inside and outside of the nuclear and energy sector, both in the public and private sector, and both on a governmental and non-governmental level. In this way, a common commitment to security and peace will lead not only to a just distribution of the earth’s resources, but above all to the building of a “social and international order in which the rights and freedoms” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 28) of all human persons can be fully realized.

As terrible as the Fukishima disaster has been - let us not forget what happened in Chernobyl in 1986 - its impact would be dwarfed by the effects of a nuclear weapon explosion. Perhaps it is also because of this Germany decided just recently to close all of its nucelar reactors by 2022. So, the Church’s condemnation of any use of nuclear weapons remains as unequivocal today as it was nearly 50 years ago when the Second Vatican Council expressed that condemnation so clearly.

International law governing the conduct of warfare is known as the law of armed conflict. More recently, it is referred to as “international humanitarian law.” This recognizes the purpose of protecting civilians from the effects of warfare, and also protecting combatants from unnecessary and cruel suffering. The Church’s unequivocal commitment to the dignity of the human person lies at the very heart of its commitment to international law.

The simple truth about the use of nuclear weapons is that, being weapons of mass destruction by their very nature, they cannot comply with fundamental rules of international humanitarian law forbidding the infliction of indiscriminate and disproportionate harm. Nor can their use meet the rigorous standards of the Just War principles’ moral assessment of the use of force.

Both Just War principles and international humanitarian law prohibit the use of means of attack incapable of distinguishing between military objectives and civilians or civilian property. In this regard, it is appropriate to recall what the International Court of Justice has to say about it: “states must never make civilians the object of attack and must consequently never use weapons that are incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets.”

Your 40th president asked: “Is there either logic or morality in believing that if one side threatens to kill tens of millions of our people, our only recourse is to threaten killing tens of millions of theirs?” So, even President Regan considered the strategy of deterrence to be in need of being replaced by a more permanent solution.

The threat as well as the use of nuclear weapons is barred by law. It is unlawful to threaten an attack if the attack itself would be unlawful. This rule makes unlawful specific signals of intent to use nuclear weapons if demands are not met. It also makes unlawful general policies of so-called deterrence declaring a readiness to resort to nuclear weapons when vital interests are at stake.

The unlawfulness of the threat and use of nuclear weapons calls into serious question the lawfulness of the possession of nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty prohibits acquisition of nuclear weapons by the vast majority of states. In conformity with the good faith principle, it cannot be lawful to continue indefinitely to possess weapons which are unlawful to use or threaten to use, or are already banned for most states, and are subject to an obligation of elimination. Countries must abide by agreements to “pursue negotiations on... a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control” (NPT, Art. VI).

The Holy See supports this gathering body of work and calls for more stringent attention to the urgency of implementing a well-founded comprehensive approach to eliminating nuclear weapons. For far too long, nuclear weapons have threatened humanity and there has not been sufficient political will toward removing this scourge. Now is the time for a profound rethinking and change in our perception of nuclear weapons. Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are essential from a humanitarian point of view. That is why the Holy See welcomed the clear statement made in the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review conference which stated:

The conference expresses its deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, and reaffirms the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.

This principle lays the groundwork for a possible outlawing of nuclear weapons. The international community is now challenged to ensure that every step on the non-proliferation and disarmament agenda is geared toward ensuring the security and survival of humanity and built on principles of the preeminent and inherent value of human dignity and the centrality of the human person, which constitute the basis of international humanitarian law.

The Holy See delegation articulated this very sentiment at the 2009 Deterrence Symposium organized by the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska. There the Delegation stated that:

In Catholic teaching, the task is not to make the world safer through the threat of nuclear weapons, but rather to make the world safer from nuclear weapons through mutual and verifiable nuclear disarmament… The moral end is clear: a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons. This goal should guide our efforts. Every nuclear weapons system and every nuclear weapons policy should be judged by the ultimate goal of protecting human life and dignity and the related goal of ridding the world of these weapons in mutually verifiable ways.

It is becoming ever clearer that nuclear disarmament must be addressed from a comprehensive approach. Despite steps for decades, we still have a profusion of nuclear weapons. The Holy See believes there needs to be a binding together of steps into a coherent commitment to eliminate nuclear weapons in clearly defined phases for an incremental disarmament. Only the expression of a visible intent to construct a global legal basis for the systematic elimination of all nuclear weapons will suffice. It cannot be considered morally sufficient to draw down the stocks of superfluous nuclear weapons while modernizing nuclear arsenals and investing vast sums to ensure their future production and maintenance. This current course will ensure the perpetuation of these weapons indefinitely.

The Holy See therefore welcomes the new dialogue starting on a Nuclear Weapons Convention or framework of instruments to accomplish nuclear disarmament. At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the Holy See Delegation stated:

The world has arrived at an opportune moment to begin addressing in a systematic way the legal, political and technical requisites for a nuclear-weapons-free world. For this reason, preparatory work should begin as soon as possible on a convention or framework agreement leading to the phased elimination of nuclear weapons.

A critical component of any framework to eliminate nuclear weapons is an immediate ban on the testing of new weapons. For decades the international community has struggled to institute a legal ban on all forms of nuclear weapons test explosions. In this regard, the Holy See continues to call upon all non signatory States to ratify without delay the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty for its earliest entry into force. Its passage and entry into force remains a commitment made by the nuclear-weapon states at the 2000 Review Conference of the NPT that would most clearly signify their willingness to forgo the development of new nuclear weapons. The international community views the CTBT not as an end in itself but as a concrete signal by the nuclear-weapon states that they intend to fulfill their international commitments and take seriously the global demand to end the nuclear arms race and begin negotiations to eliminate these weapons.

In closing, I think it is appropriate to restate the position of the Holy See expressed back in 1997, that “If biological weapons, chemical weapons, and now landmines can be done away with, so too can nuclear weapons.” This is the challenge before the international community today. It is the challenge before the Church today, and it is the challenge facing all people of goodwill today, believers and non believers alike.

As someone wrote, in the 18th and 19th centuries individuals fought for the abolition of slavery because they understood that every human being has the God-given right to live in freedom and dignity. In the end, slavery was brought to an end. In today’s world, we confront an issue of even greater importance: the possible annihilation of human species and human civilization by nuclear explosion. So, together we should work to build a world free of nuclear weapons. A world without nuclear weapons is not only possible, it has now become urgent.

Thank you and God bless you all!