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Reform bill the ‘first step’ to restorative prison justice, advocates say

Washington D.C., May 24, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. House of Representatives has passed prison reform legislation that would integrate faith-based programs into federal prisons to help prisoners prepare to successfully reenter society.

The First Step Act was authored by Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), and has the goal of incentivizing prisoner participation in vocational and rehabilitative programs. Lawmakers approved the bipartisan legislation by a 360-59 vote on May 22.

“I'm thrilled to see such bipartisan support for the First Step Act,” said James Ackerman, president of Prison Fellowship, the largest prison ministry in the United States.

“We have a duty as a society,” continued Ackerman, “to implement a more restorative approach to criminal justice -- one where people become healthier and more productive citizens when they return to society after serving time in prison then when they went into prison.”

The First Step Act calls for the implementation of individualized risk assessment interviews in federal prisons to better address each inmate’s personal needs, Prison Fellowship Vice President Craig DeRoche explained to CNA.

“For one person it, it might be addiction, for another it might be anger management and other issues to work through while they are incarcerated so that when they leave they are transformed and better suited for employability and success," said DeRoche.

This has proven successful at the state level in places like Texas, where it has “reduced expense and it has transformed lives in restored families and healing communities,” according to DeRoche.

Prison Fellowship operates in 428 prisons throughout the country. Their staff have seen many prisoners lives transformed by their faith-based programming.

Tiheba Williams-Bain previously served time in a federal prison in Texas. She explained to CNA that the skill-building and faith-based programming that she participated in positively impacted her life.

“I took advantage of every opportunity that was accorded to me while I was in prison to help me get better,” said Williams-Bain.

“It helped me navigate through the system, as well as my own self-doubt and insecurities that I had about myself,” she continued.

 Williams-Bain added that rehabilitation requires more than programs available, saying “it comes from the mindset of the person that utilizes the programs.”

Prison Fellowship Senior Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Craig DeRoche said that it was only through Christ that he was able to recover from 29 years of addiction.

He said that is why he believes it is significant that the First Step Act “affirmatively states that faith-based programs will be welcomed into the prisons as a solution.”

“No person is beyond Christ's touch and healing grace and offer of redemption,” said DeRoche.

“It doesn't matter if it is a non-violent criminal or a low-level  or a violent criminal that has done horrible things, we've seen that Christ can make a person new again,” he continued.

The First Step Act will likely face opposition from both sides in the Senate, but it has President Donald Trump’s support.

At the White House Prison Reform Summit on May 18, President Trump said, “At the heart of our prison reform agenda is expanding prison work and the programs so that inmates can reenter society with the skills to get a job. We also want more mental health services so released inmates can cope with the challenges of life on the outside.”

The president continued, “Get a bill to my desk.  I will sign it.”

 

A Catholic mom made a big difference in her community – by speaking up

Denver, Colo., May 24, 2018 / 12:29 am (CNA).- Abriana Chilelli is a Catholic mother of four children who lives in Denver, Colo.

Every day on their daily route to school, she and her kids would drive by a strip club downtown that featured a parked van with pornographic images of two women.

While disturbed by the images, especially on behalf of her children, Chilelli initially believed she would not be able to do anything to change it.

“The van was parked on the club’s private parking lot, but was directly facing the street passing by. It infuriated me when I saw it, but we live in a city and society which I assumed would not be offended by the image,” Chilelli told CNA.

“So, I figured what could I possibly do on a city level to get it taken down?” she continued.

However, the images on the van continued to bother Chilelli. She tried distracting her kids every time they passed by the strip club, but eventually they noticed the overt poster of two women “engaged in an obviously sexual act.”

“I got mad – furious – that my children, residents of this city, have an offensive image directed at their eye level every day that advertises the objectification of women and uses women’s bodies to advertise pornography,” Chilelli said.

Motivated to make a change, she began to research city zoning codes and found a few that she believed the strip club might be violating. She called the police non-emergency line to file a report against the club, but the police officer told her that the poster was “not violating public indecency laws in regards to clothing.”

Chilelli did not stop there, however. She took her complaints to her city councilman, who then passed her along to another councilman. Eventually, she received a response saying that the issue was being investigated.

“I expected the councilman to echo what the police officer initially told me over the phone,” she said.

But a few weeks later, Chilelli received news that the city’s Community Planning and Development Zoning board “found the club’s billboard to be out of compliance with Denver Zoning Code,” and was issuing a formal notice to the strip club.

A few days later, the van with the pornographic images was gone.

Looking back on the experience, Chilelli reflected on the need for Catholics to speak up “to proclaim what is true, good and beautiful.”

“It’s important to speak up about issues like these…I often lament the immorality of our culture at large, which for me often ends in just that – lamenting,” Chilelli said, noting that to simply “wish away the problem…doesn’t actually help.” 

“I am quick to forget that I also exist in these public spaces – that my opinion and understanding about the truth of the body also exists in this public sphere we all exist together in, and that my rights as a citizen to not have to view offensive images should also be respected by our city, state, and federal codes and laws,” she continued.

Chilelli hopes that others will be encouraged by the idea that just one voice can promote change.

“[The experience] helped me realize that we can impact and affect change, despite how insurmountable the degradation of the culture seems,” she said. 

Chilelli added that this particular issue was especially important to speak out against because of the confusion fostered by a culture that believes the body is for sexual gratification, exploitation, and consumption.

“I want to encourage others to not passively accept the lies our culture tells us about our bodies, to not passively accept the lies our culture tries to teach our children about their bodies.”

She particularly called upon Catholics to share the truths of their faith, which she sees as a logical response to much of the world’s confusion.

“What I do think is important is that Catholics speak the language of the culture and do their best to identify areas where our culture is seeking truth, so we can speak the Gospel message to our very confused society, bringing light to what is so very dark about our culture’s understanding of the body and human sexuality.”
 
 
Editor’s note: Chilelli is related to CNA’s editor-in-chief, JD Flynn, who was not involved in the reporting or editing of this article.

 

 

Augustine Institute releases video series on the Eucharist

Denver, Colo., May 23, 2018 / 10:49 pm (CNA).- The wealth of the Catholic Church’s teachings and traditions can be challenging for many to understand, which is why the Augustine Institute has released a new video series focused on the Eucharist.

“Catholicism is so vast and deep, learning it can be overwhelming,” Dr. Tim Gray, president of the Augustine Institute, in an interview with CNA.

“But if there is one thing that we can teach Catholics, one thing that holds all our faith together and makes it stick for folks, that is understanding God’s presence in the Eucharist,” Gray continued, adding that “no other teaching can be so uplifting and tangible for people’s spirituality than this mystery, which is why the Church calls it the sum and summit of our faith.”

The Augustine Institute is a Denver-based graduate school and organization which aims to serve the Church through academic and parish programs in light of St. John Paul II’s call to the New Evangelization.

The video series, titled “Presence,” is available for purchase and was released by the Augustine Institute as part of their sacramental video series. It follows the succession of their previous video programs on marriage, baptism, and reconciliation.

“The next in line was the Eucharist,” Gray said.

“We did not want to start with the Eucharist because we knew it was the most important, so in a sense the other sacramental programs prepared us to approach this treatment of the Eucharist so that we could give it our best treatment,” Gray continued.

The series explores the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist through its institution at the Last Supper and its role in the Catholic faith. It is available in two editions – one for personal use and one for group use in parishes.

The personal edition includes three episodes and an explanation of the Mass for children. The parish edition is aimed at sacramental preparation and catechesis and also includes an apologetics section. The series also comes with leader kits and guides, as well as a personal participant guide.

Gray explained that each episode begins with a true story “that is both compelling and dramatic.” His personal favorite of the series are the beginning segments of episodes two and three, “which shows the incredible story of an amazing protestant minister and Jewish woman who encounter the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist.”

Gray went on to say that he hopes viewers will deepen their understanding of the Eucharist through the video series and be reawakened to the beauty of its mystery.

“The Mass and Eucharist is central to Christian life, but too often we assume that everyone understands this mystery when they don’t,” Gray noted.

“This series aims to help open eyes to understand the depth of mystery found in God’s amazing presence, but also rekindle a fire for those of us who believe but need to be reawakened to the tremendous gift we have in the Eucharist,” he continued.

“If Catholics understand this one thing, they will not leave the Church.”

Foreign bishops respond to German intercommunion proposal

Philadelphia, Pa., May 23, 2018 / 06:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several bishops from outside Germany have critiqued a proposal to allow Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive communion in German dioceses under some limited circumstances, citing the proposal’s effects on their own local Churches.

The proposal has been championed by Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, who announced in February that the German bishops’ conference would publish a pastoral handout that allows Protestant spouses of Catholics "in individual cases" and "under certain conditions" to receive Holy Communion, provided they "affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist”.

But the proposal was questioned by seven German bishops, who asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith whether the question can be decided on the level of a national bishops' conference, or if rather "a decision of the Universal Church" is required in the matter.

When several bishops from Germany visited Rome May 3, an inconclusive meeting ended with the Vatican sending the Germans back, saying Pope Francis wants the bishops to come to an agreement among themselves.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia was pointed in his criticism of the proposal in an essay published May 23 at First Things, raising doctrinal concerns regarding what it would mean to allow these non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist.

Chaput explains that while bishops everywhere have disagreements, he believes the situation in Germany to be different due to both the “global prominence of the controversy,” as well as the doctrinal issues. He added that “What happens in Germany will not stay in Germany. History has already taught us that lesson once,” citing the effects of Martin Luther’s schism.

“The essence of the German intercommunion proposal is that there would be a sharing in holy communion even when there is not true Church unity,” writes Chaput, noting that there are serious difference between Protestant theology and Catholic theology, including debate over the divinity of Christ among some more liberal Protestants.

Chaput disagrees with the proposal, as it would fundamentally redefine what the Church is as well as who she is, given that the Eucharist “is the sign and instrument of ecclesial unity.”

The German proposal would, “intentionally or not”, then, be “the first stage in opening communion to all Protestants, or all baptized persons, since marriage ultimately provides no unique reason to allow communion for non-Catholics.”

Admitting Protestant spouses of Catholics to Communion would "adopt a Protestant notion of ecclesial identity" for the Catholic Church, in which only baptism and a belief in Christ would be necessary to receive. Chaput questions if the Protestant spouse would have to also profess belief in other sacraments, such as holy orders. If this were not the case, Chaput suggests that perhaps the German bishops do not believe this sacrament relies on apostolic succession, which would be a “much deeper error.”

The proposal also “severs the vital link between communion and sacramental confession,” he stated.

“Presumably it does not imply that Protestant spouses must go to confession for serious sins as a prelude to communion. But this stands in contradiction to the perennial practice and express dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church, the Council of Trent, and the modern Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the ordinary magisterium. It implies, in its effect, a Protestantization of the Catholic theology of the sacraments.”

Chaput writes that the intercommunion practice would do nothing more than insert a lie into what should be a profound encounter with Christ.

“To insert a falsehood into the most solemn moment of one’s encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist -- to say by one’s actions,’I am in communion with this community’ when one is demonstrably not in communion with that community -- is a lie, and thus a serious offense before God.”

Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht was critical of the pope’s request that the German bishops come to a consensus. Writing in the National Catholic Register May 5, Eijk said Pope Francis’ response was “completely incomprehensible,” as the doctrine of the Eucharist has not changed and cannot change, even with unanimity among a bishops’ conference.

“The practice of the Catholic Church, based on her faith, is not determined and does not change statistically when a majority of an episcopal conference votes in favor of it, not even if unanimously,” wrote Eijk.

Instead, Eijk says that he thinks Pope Francis should have been more direct to the German episcopal conference, and should have instead given them “clear directives, based on the clear doctrine and practice of the Church.”

Eijk’s comments were echoed by Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, who said May 23 at the Catholic Register it was “puzzling” that Pope Francis instructed Germany’s bishops to come to a unanimous decision on the issue.

“This kind of open communion is against Catholic teaching and from what I can see in non-Catholic congregations that follow a discipline of ‘open communion,’ it is also spiritually and pastorally unfruitful,” said Prendergast.

He noted that people in his local Church have already been asking about the German proposal.

Prendergast believes there should be more teaching on the benefit of attending Mass without receiving the Eucharist, as well as what it means “to be properly disposed and in the state of grace.”

“We need to invest more in receiving the sacraments worthily and fruitfully. This is true for the Eucharist, but also for Baptism and Confirmation,” Prendergast added.

“In Holy Communion we receive the Lord, and so, to receiving worthily, we need to be fully open to Him and connected to His Church, visibly and invisibly, institutionally and internally. That and nothing less is Catholic teaching.”

As a fellow Jesuit, Archbishop Prendergast also spoke to Pope Francis, thanking him “for reminding us that accompanying people through their lives, especially in dark times, is essential for being a priest.”

“We Jesuits always have to remember that most Catholics are not Jesuits — a fact we tend to overlook sometimes,” he added. “Our spirituality is not for everyone … For me, becoming a bishop was a real change, for then I had to recognize the whole spectrum of theologies, spiritualities, ministries and charisms present in the diocese entrusted to me. Through this I came to realize what a great gift doctrine is for the Church, enabling it to be one, holy, and catholic.”

The Code of Canon Law already provides that in the danger of death or if “some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”

Trump at SBA gala: 'Vote for love' and 'vote for life'

Washington D.C., May 23, 2018 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Delivering the keynote address at the Susan B. Anthony List’s Campaign for Life Gala, President Donald Trump emphasized the importance of electing pro-life candidates in the upcoming November midterm elections.

“Between now and November,” said Trump, “we must work together to elect more lawmakers who share our values, cherish our heritage, and proudly stand for life.”

Susan B. Anthony List is a network of organizations that includes a PAC supporting the election of pro-life candidates to Congress.

Trump’s May 22 address highlighted the steps his administration has taken to preserve and promote pro-life values and religious liberty, including the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, which prevents taxpayer dollars from funding abortion overseas.

That move, said Trump, was “a little reminiscent of Ronald Reagan.”

“We’ve appointed a record number of judges who will defend our Constitution and interpret the law as written,” explained Trump, saying that he was likely to have the “all-time record for the appointment of judges.”

Early in his presidency, Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch, widely supported by pro-life advocates, wrote a 2004 dissertation at the University of Oxford on euthanasia and assisted suicide, under the supervision of Catholic legal scholar John Finnis.

Trump used the gala to officially announce that his administration has proposed a rule to prohibit Title X funds from going to abortion clinics.

“For decades, American taxpayers have been wrongfully forced to subsidize the abortion industry” through these funds, Trump told the crowd, who gave him a standing ovation.

“We have kept another promise.”

If the rule becomes policy, clinics such as Planned Parenthood would not be eligible to receive federal Title X funds for family planning services unless they decide to stop performing abortions.

Shifting gears to the upcoming elections, Trump said that his goal is to pass a nationwide ban on abortion after 20 weeks gestation. A bill to that effect has already passed the House of Representatives, but remains stalled in the Senate and is unlikely to pass.

In order for this bill to become law, Trump said the country needs to elect Republicans to Congress, because “the Democratic Party is far outside the American mainstream.” He specifically cited Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Heidi Heitcamp (D-ND), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) as four senators up for reelection who voted against the abortion bill. Each of those senators represents a state Trump won in the 2016 election.

“We are nine votes away from passing the 20-week abortion bill in the Senate, so we have to get them out there,” Trump told the crowd.

“Democrats like to campaign as moderates at election time, but when they go to Washington, they always vote for the radical Pelosi agenda down the line,” said Trump to applause, before adding “Can you imagine having Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House?”

Trump warned the crowd against growing complacent going into this November’s midterms, saying that unless the Republicans are able to maintain their majorities in the House and senate, it will be impossible to appoint pro-life judges and pass pro-life legislation.

“Every values voter must be energized, mobilized, and engaged, said the president. “You have to get out there.”

“So this November, vote for family. Vote for love. Vote for faith and values. Vote for country. And vote for life.“

Although Trump’s remarks were decidedly partisan, the Susan B. Anthony List is not directly affiliated with a political party, and has supported pro-life candidates from both major political parties. The PAC supported Rep. Steve Lipinski (D-IL) in a contentious 2017 primary election.

 

Ninja priest? Meet the unlikely new contestant on a hit TV show

Little Rock, Ark., May 23, 2018 / 12:45 am (CNA).- Among the contestants on season 10 of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, there’s one who stands out.

In addition to being a physical trainer, Father Stephen Gadberry is also a Catholic priest. He hopes that his participation in the upcoming season of American Ninja Warrior will make the clergy appear more human and available.

Physical activity can be a “simple way to start a conversation with a spiritual leader, with a pastor, where [people] may be too nervous or hesitant to start [deeper] conversations right off the bat,” he told CNA.

Contestants on the hit NBC show compete in obstacles courses of increasing difficulty, testing their strength, agility, and skill for a shot at $1 million and the title of “American Ninja Warrior.” The final round takes place on the Las Vegas strip, where participants must complete – among other obstacles – a 75-foot rope climb in under 30 seconds.

Fr. Gadberry was challenged to apply for the show by Sean Bryan, a two-time previous contestant who drew attention for donning a shirt bearing the colors of the papal flag and words “Papal Ninja.”

The Arkansas priest applied for the show in December and two months later received an invitation to participate in the preliminary round in Dallas. Fr. Gadberry said he “would be a bad steward of God’s gifts if [he] didn’t humbly and gratefully accept this opportunity as a moment” to proclaim the Gospel.

“[Evangelizing] is the primary reason for me doing this. The Lord tells us to go out and make disciples of all nations,” he said. “As this platform has stumbled into my lap…I can further deliver the message of the Gospel that I am supposed to as a priest.”

The priest serves as pastor for two parishes in the Arkansas Delta: St. Cecilia Church in Newport and St. Mary Church in Batesville. Having been raised on a farm, Gadberry said he grew up loving hard physical labor. Later in the military, he said he was introduced to the fitness regimen CrossFit.

Gadberry works out for 1-2 hours per day, but said that his workouts do not interfere with his priestly ministry, because he rarely watches television and schedules his exercise regime around his duties as a priest.

While he knows other priests who relax by watching television or building in their workshop, Father Gadberry said exercise has become for him a form of recreation that opens doors for spiritual conversations in the community.

“It has given people opportunities … to start conversations on faith, where before they may have been too intimidated to approach a priest or go to church.”

People periodically ask for his advice on lifting techniques, and once dialogue has been established, conversations sometimes turn toward spiritual and personal questions – ranging from struggles with adultery to trouble with teenagers at home.

Additionally, he said, physical activities take him to what Pope Francis has called “the peripheries.” Besides attending to sick and visiting patients in hospital, the priest is heavily involved with prison ministry. There, he has been able to exercise with inmates, building trust and initiating vulnerable conversations.

“The whole time, we are talking about life problems and struggles,” he said. “The guards loved it because they saw it was changing the guys I was working out with.”

The priest cautioned against judging people who exercise as prideful, stressing that taking care of the body is a form of stewardship.

“Often times, people will stereotype a priest or religious or someone who is devout in their faith as being uber spiritual,” to the point of neglecting the body, he said, warning that this not Catholic teaching.

He added that dietary and exercise disciplines have a correlation to the spiritual life “because virtues are developed through physical discipline.”

Whether they face physical or spiritual obstacles, Fr. Gadberry advised individuals to take challenges one step at a time, rather than stressing too much about the end goal.

“The whole mood of this ninja warrior thing is all about conquering obstacles. You’re not going to get the last obstacle, to hit the buzzer, until you get over the obstacle that is right in front of you,” he said.

“You have enough to worry about, so it doesn’t make sense to stress about the obstacles way off in the future. Just deal with the one you got right in front of you.”

The 10th season of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior will premiere on May 30.
 
 

 

Does God make people gay? A theologian responds

Washington D.C., May 22, 2018 / 04:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Sexual attraction does not define identity, a priest has said, after comments attributed to Pope Francis have prompted questions about Catholic doctrine and the nature of sexual orientation.

“Of course God loves all people. This is his defining characteristic: God is love,” Fr. Thomas Petri, OP, told CNA.

“But he does not love sin, indeed he cannot love sin because sin is not only opposed to God but also opposed to the true good and happiness to which he calls every human person.” 

“So while [God] may love every person, he does not love the things we do that separate us from him and harm our dignity as his children,” added Petri, academic dean of the Dominican-run Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

On Friday, Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean victim of sexual abuser Fr. Fernando Karadima, told the Spanish newspaper El Pais that Pope Francis told him that it did not matter that he was gay.

He said the pope told him, “God made you like that and he loves you like that and I do not care.”

The comments have stirred a controversy about Catholic doctrine on homosexuality, with some media outlets reporting them as a “major shift” in Catholic teaching.

The Vatican does not customarily comment on private conversations involving the pope, and has not confirmed or clarified the remarks Cruz attributed to Pope Francis.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “deep-seated” homosexual inclination is "objectively disordered," but that people with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

“Inasmuch as all of us have proclivities and disordered desires in our lives, we must be always be vigilant against temptation and repent when we fall,” Petri told CNA.

Furthermore, he added, it is “dangerous” to assert that God made anything that is sinful or causes suffering, including disordered desires, addictions, or diseases such as cancer.

Things that are not good cannot come from a God who is all good, Petri noted, although it is ultimately a mystery why God permits sin and disorder to exist in this life.

“The relationship of God’s almighty will and his infinite goodness to the disorder, sin, violence, and evil we experience in this life is question the Catechism of the Catholic Church says is ‘as pressing as it is unavoidable and as painful as it is mysterious,’” he said.

“What we know,” he added, “is that nothing escapes the providence of God, even disorders, pathologies, sin, and evil. In a very poignant section on providence and the scandal of evil, the Catechism points to the fact that God has created the world and humanity in a state of journeying. Nothing is perfect and so disorders exist.”

However, we can be confident that God works to bring good from the consequences of disorder and evil, “even those who struggle with disordered desires can, by God’s grace, come to embrace their call to be his children and to live in the dignity to which he has called them, even as they may suffer temptation.”

“In fact, it can be in the face of temptation that a person’s reliance on God becomes all the more strong,” he noted.

In his pastoral experience with people who have same-sex attractions, Petri said some have a harder time believing in God’s love than others.

He added that he has found it useful to compare disordered sexual desires to other disordered desires people experience, whether in relation to food, drink, or other things.

Petri noted that confusion sometimes stems from “the tendency to treat [homosexuality] as an identifying trait of the person, as though it is somehow fixed as an ultimate reality for a person,” Petri said.

“It’s not. The identifying trait of each us is that we are loved by God and children of God. Everything else revolves around that.”

“Attractions, sexual or otherwise, are complicated. They come and go, can alternate and shift, and can often be fickle. Our dignity as human beings is that with grace we are called to become masters of our desires and not servants to them.”

 

 

Archbishop Gomez: It's time for a vote on DACA legislation

Los Angeles, Calif., May 22, 2018 / 03:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles is asking Catholics in the archdiocese to contact their representatives urging a vote on bipartisan legislation to address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“The Dreamers have been waiting for decades for Congress to do its job and pass immigration reform legislation,” said Gomez in a May 18 statement. “But for many years now, reform has been blocked in the House for political reasons by a minority of lawmakers.”

“This is not about Republicans or Democrats,” the archbishop said, noting that more than 75 percent of Americans support offering permanent legal status to DACA recipients. “It is about right and wrong. People’s lives are in the balance.”

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was an executive action created by President Barack Obama that granted protection from deportation as well as job permits to people who were brought to the United States illegally as children. DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” have to register each year with the program.

In September of 2017, President Donald Trump moved to end DACA, saying that he did not believe he had the executive power to continue the program. Initially, Trump gave Congress six months to codify parts of DACA into law and to create a solution to this issue, but a solution was not reached by the March 5 deadline.

Two federal judges blocked the March 5 expiration date for DACA, and the Supreme Court declined to hear an immediate review from the Trump administration protesting this decision, moving the “deadline” to the fall of 2018.

A federal judge ruled in April that DACA must be kept and begin to accept new applications.

Lawmakers in Congress have been unable to agree on stipulations within a bill, including whether a legislative proposal should include funding for a wall along the southern U.S. border, supported by President Donald Trump.

While several bills have been proposed, none have made it out of committee and onto the House floor for a vote.

One bill in particular, the “Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act of 2018,” has gained the support of the U.S. bishops’ conference. In addition to shielding “Dreamers” from deportation and providing for a path to citizenship for certain qualified persons, the bill – H.R. 4796 – would increase border security and would seek to address corruption in Central America, a major cause of “irregular migration.”

A group of moderate Republicans in Congress has been working to force a vote through a rare procedural tool called a “discharge petition.” If successful, this would bypass the committee stage bring all immigration proposals to the House floor for debate and a vote.

Stressing the need for prayer and action, Archbishop Gomez did not blame a particular political party for the stalled progress on the legislation, instead referring to a “minority of lawmakers.”

He urged Catholics to call their congressmen, to encourage them to come to a solution before time runs out.

“Urge them to do what is right and what the American people want them to do — to allow a vote on DACA.”

 

This story originally reported the date of Archbishop Gomez' statement as May 19. It has been corrected to read May 18.

Take Mary into your home, LA archbishop says on new Marian feast

Los Angeles, Calif., May 22, 2018 / 02:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archbishop of Los Angeles encouraged Catholics to love the Blessed Virgin Mary as their mother during a Mass commemorating a newly-proclaimed Catholic feast day.

“Jesus wants you to take Mary into your homes – into your lives and into your hearts,” Archbishop José Gomez  said May 21, during his homily at LA’s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.   

Pope Francis added the Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church to the Roman calendar in February. The feast day will be celebrated annually on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday.

Archbishop Gomez challenged Catholics to receive the Blessed Mother into their homes and hearts.  

“Love Mary as your mother! Ask her to be a mother to you and to never leave you! Ask her to intercede for you and help you grow in faith and to do the will of God,” he said.

Gomez said that “when Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, Mary became the maternal heart of his Church.”

“Mary is still the heart of the Church, the Mother of the family of God. The Mother of Jesus still goes with us, sharing our joys and hopes, helping us in all the challenges of our daily life. She still opens her arms to us with tender love, to give us comfort and guidance.”

Over 3,000 people attended the Mass. Attendees brought to the Mass written prayer intentions, which will be delivered to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City during an archdiocesan pilgrimage in July.

More than 1,300 Catholic school students, teachers, and chaperones from 22 of the archdiocese’s schools were in attendance. Representatives from each of the 22 schools offered flowers to the Virgin Mary.

The Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Brennan of LA, and several priests of the archdiocese.

In honor of the new feast, an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, blessed by Archbishop Gomez, has been made available to every family in the archdiocese. The gift may be ordered free on AngelusNews.com, the archdiocese’s news site.

 

Commentary: Trump/Reagan Title X Protect Life Rule 

Washington D.C., May 22, 2018 / 12:01 am (CNA).- The following are excerpts of remarks delivered by Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) on the House floor May 21, 2018. Published with permission:

 

Last Friday, the Trump Administration announced its intention to reassert and promulgate portions of President Ronald Reagan’s modest but necessary life-affirming Title X Rule—a policy designed to ensure that taxpayers don’t fund, facilitate or promote abortion in America’s $286 million-per-year family planning program.

This new/old policy comes at a time when huge majorities of Americans—over 60 percent according to major polls—strongly oppose the use of taxpayer funds for abortion.

The Trump/Reagan policy—now called the Protect Life Rule—comes at a time when the high utilization of ultrasound imaging of the child in the womb has provided spectacular clarity and empathy and love for the baby.

First baby pictures today—the kind you put on the door of your refrigerator—are of unborn babies. Seeing is believing. No-one can seriously deny anymore that unborn children are alive, dynamic, precious, a miracle—and defenseless.

Created by Congress in 1970, Title X of the Public Health Service Act authorized taxpayer funds to assist “voluntary family planning projects” but made absolutely clear in the statute that federal funds were prohibited from being spent on “programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

As Title X was administered, that didn’t happen.

To faithfully implement both the spirit and letter of the law, President Ronald Reagan issued a rule in 1988 that included physical separation of abortion activities from federally-funded family planning projects.

In response, the American abortion industry sued to get hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies—and lost. On May 23, 1991—27 years ago this Wednesday—the U.S. Supreme Court in Rust v. Sullivan affirmed the constitutionality of the Reagan Title X Rule.

Tragically, President Bill Clinton by executive order reversed the Reagan policy. He not only authorized abortion clinics and family planning activities under the same roof—co-location—but went further, mandating that Title X recipients refer for abortion—an egregious violation of conscience rights protected under federal law. Thus, by requiring abortion referrals, family planning service providers who oppose abortion were and are today precluded all participation in the federal program.

Today, hundreds of abortion clinics are co-located as Title X family planning facilities. For example, 266 of Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinics are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers in the Title X program to the tune of about $56 million each year. Planned Parenthood is an organization that is directly responsible for over seven million deaths of unborn children, a staggering loss of children’s lives.

If past is prologue, I fully expect an organized, aggressive, willful distortion of the Protect Life Rule.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of honest debate and civil discourse, I urge opponents and the news media to be clear as to what this rule actually does and does not do.

According to the White House, the new Protect Life Rule:

• Will physically and financially separate family planning clinics from abortion and make other important reforms.

• Will safeguard the conscience rights of providers, by eliminating the egregious, illegal, mandate that requires all participants in the program to refer pregnant women to abortion.

• Will not prohibit counseling that may include conversation about abortion. This would be in keeping with guidance issued by the George H.W. Bush Administration that affirmed “Nothing in these regulations is to prevent a woman from receiving complete medical information about her condition from a physician.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities summed it up best: “…For too long Title X has been used to subsidize the abortion industry. We need to draw a bright line between what happens before a pregnancy begins and what happens after a child has been created……Abortion always takes the life of a child and often harms the mother, her surviving children and other family and friends as well…”