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Amid NY officials' legal threats, Christian adoption agency gets chance for appeal

New York City, N.Y., Nov 12, 2019 / 10:01 pm (CNA).- New Hope Family Services, a Christian non-profit, is defending its long-standing child placement program from New York state officials who say it must shut down if it does not place children with same-sex and unmarried couples.

It is appealing a U.S. district court’s dismissal of its lawsuit, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has temporarily halted action against the agency until its appeal can be heard.

“Every child deserves a permanent home with loving parents,” Roger Brooks, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group, said Nov. 5. “New Hope’s faith-based services do nothing to interfere with other adoption providers, but banishing it means fewer kids will find permanent homes, fewer adoptive parents will ever welcome their new child, and fewer birth parents will enjoy the exceptional support that New Hope has offered for decades.”

“We hope the court will permanently uphold New Hope’s ability to serve children and families according to the very beliefs that motivate its valuable services,” said Brooks, whose legal group is representing the agency.

New Hope Family Services said it has placed over 1,000 children in New York. It operates a pregnancy resource center and a foster placement agency. In accord with its beliefs, the agency only places children with married men and women.

Its lawsuit charged that New York state officials ordered the agency to change its child placement policy or submit a close-out plan.

State officials are “actively demanding that such ministries, including New Hope, violate their religious convictions and say things that they believe to be false — or shut their doors,” its lawsuit said. It objects that New York state has never changed adoption laws to require the placement of children with couples other than an adult husband and wife, Courthouse News Service reported in May.

According to the lawsuit, officials with the New York Office of Children and Family Services who made a site visit to the agency initially praised it for showing “a number of strengths in providing adoption services within the community.”

State officials later reviewed New Hope’s policy and procedures manual and allegedly singled out its policy on child placements. The officials described the policy as “discriminatory and impermissible.”

The attorneys said the agency refers couples it cannot serve to other providers and has received no formal complaints.

In May, U.S. District Judge Mae D’Agostino dismissed the agency’s lawsuit. She said Christian agencies are free to believe that unmarried or same-sex couples are unfit parents but cannot prohibit such couples from adopting without running afoul of laws barring discrimination, Courthouse News Service reported.

“While religious belief is always protected, religiously motivated conduct enjoys no special protections or exemptions from neutral, generally applied legal requirements,” she said.

While the agency argued that it faced discrimination based on its religious beliefs, the judge said the law was not discriminatory because it applied to any adoption service and did not single out the agency or Christian agencies.

“The fact that New Hope’s conduct springs from sincerely held and strongly felt religious beliefs does not imply that OCFS’s decision to regulate that conduct springs from antipathy to those beliefs,” she said.

She said the agency is not being forced to state that it approves of non-married or same-sex couples. The state agency “is not prohibiting New Hope’s ongoing ministry in any way or compelling it to change the message it wishes to convey.”

In the judge’s view, the New York adoption statute was not drafted to interfere with any agency’s religious expression.

However, New York state rules have already forced the adoption and foster services of Catholic Charities of Buffalo to close because the rules do not allow the agency to maintain its practice of only placing children in homes with a married mother and father. The agency had been providing such services almost since it began more than 90 years ago.

“Because Catholic Charities cannot simultaneously comply with state regulations and conform to the teaching of the Catholic Church on the nature of marriage, Catholic Charities will discontinue foster care and adoption services,” the agency said in August 2018.

Long-standing Catholic and other Christian child placement agencies have been forced to close due to new laws or policies that considered their practices discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation. March 2006 marked the end of adoption services for Catholic Charities of Boston and the end of adoption services of Catholic Charities affiliates in Illinois came in November 2011.

In 2018, the city of Philadelphia stopped placing adoptive children with Catholic Social Services, only days after calling for 300 new families to adopt foster children. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to review the case in mid-November.

On Nov. 1 the Trump Administration announced a change to federal rules to preserve federal funding of faith-based adoption agencies, regardless of their views on same-sex marriage.

The Department of Health and Human Services said it would revise a 2016 rule that required federally-funded child welfare agencies to place children with same-sex couples.

Analysis: US bishops at odds over abortion and 'the Francis test'

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- During the second day of the USCCB Fall General Assembly in Baltimore, divisions among the bishops bubbled briefly to the surface, with bishops exchanging sharp interventions on the “preeminence’ of abortion as a social concern.

The exchanges highlighted simmering tensions among the bishops, which have less to do with the centrality of abortion to the Church’s political engagement, and more to do with bishops contending to appear closer to the pope than their colleagues.

Cracks in the conference appeared as the bishops discussed amendments to a letter meant to accompany a series of videos aimed at helping Catholics engage with the American political process when Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago asked for a separate consideration of one of the amendments.
The cardinal suggested the insertion of a long paragraph into the text which would contextualize the Church’s position on life issues, and especially the teaching of Pope Francis.
The committee considering the amendments, led by the USCCB president-elect Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, agreed to include an abbreviated version of Cupich’s paragraph, including language insisting that the “firm and passionate” defense of the unborn should be matched with support for the “equally sacred” lives of the poor, inform, elderly, and marginalized.
Cupich argued that his proposed wording was necessary, even if it was longer, in order properly to represent the full concerns of the pope.
Speaking in support of Cupich, Bishop Robert McElroy told the assembly that he was specifically opposed to the letter’s retention of language calling abortion the “preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself.”
McElroy told the conference this language was “discordant with the pope’s teaching, if not inconsistent,” and implied that a failure to accept Cupich’s proposed language was tantamount to a breach with the Holy Father’s magisterium.
“It is not Catholic teaching that abortion is the preeminent issue that we face as a world in Catholic social teaching. It is not.”
McElroy’s intervention triggered murmurs on the conference floor, with several bishops visibly distressed.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia responded to McElroy, saying that calling abortion the “preeminent priority” was not just correct but necessary, pointing out that in the current American political context it was the most pressing concern. Chaput went on firmly to reject McElroy’s implication that recognizing this reality was in any way a breach with the pope, or a failure to present or value his own magisterium.
“I’m certainly not against quoting the Holy Father’s full statement [as Cupich proposed],” Chaput said, “I think it’s a beautiful statement and I believe it.”
“But I am against anyone saying that our stating that [abortion] is preeminent is contrary to the teaching of the pope, because that isn’t true. It sets up an artificial battle between the bishops’ conference of the United States and the Holy Father which isn’t true.”
“I don’t like the argument Bishop McElroy used, because it isn’t true.”
In a rare break with etiquette, the bishops in the hall broke into applause in support of Chaput.

Pope Francis himself has repeatedly spoken out against abortion in the strongest possible terms, likening abortionists to “hitmen,” and comparing the practice to genocide “with white gloves.”
McElroy’s pointed suggestion that the U.S. bishops are out of step, even resistant, to the pope’s own teaching comes one week after the publication of a book which accused the American bishops of resisting the pope’s leadership in their efforts to pass stricter measures for bishops’ accountability last year. That book, Wounded Shepherd, drew a strong response from the USCCB, which last week said it “perpetuates an unfortunate and inaccurate myth that the Holy Father finds resistance among the leadership and staff of the U.S. bishops’ conference.”
As the bishops of the United States have been at pains to emphasize their closeness to the pope, many in Rome have noted the rise of a narrative in which Americans are cast as totems of opposition to Francis.
During a September trip to Africa, the pope casually remarked that “it is an honor that Americans are attacking me,” in response to a book which suggested that so-called conservative opposition to his teaching was organized by U.S. Catholics.
In his address at the opening of the USCCB assembly on Monday, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S. emphasized the importance of the pope’s priorities being reflected in American dioceses, and many U.S. bishops, including the USCCB leadership, are deeply sensitive to the impression that they are anything less than supportive of the pope and reject any suggestion of disloyalty. Many also saw McElroy’s intervention as harmful to the conference and even disingenuous.
“He wants us to think that to disagree with him – or [Cardinal] Cupich – is to disagree with the pope. It’s not true, but it works to undermine the conference leadership,” another bishop told CNA immediately following the vote. “It doesn’t serve communion among us, or with the pope. It’s about personalities and power.”
The final vote on the amendment declined to include Cupich’s longer text, with applause again breaking out when the result was announced, but several bishops approached CNA after the session concluded to express their concerns that the actual substance of the amendment had been obscured by McElroy’s pointed intervention.
“I had no problem with either [Cupich’s] longer version or [Gomez’s] preferred formulation,” one bishop told CNA. “But Bishop McElroy suggesting that by calling abortion what it is in our society we are against the pope is absurd.”
The bishop suggested to CNA that McElroy’s intervention “needlessly weaponized” the debate about the language of the letter.
During a press conference after the morning session, several bishops sought to smooth over the exchange between McElroy and Chaput, insisting that there was no contradiction between the bishops holding abortion to be the “preeminent” concern for the conscience of Catholics and the teachings of Pope Francis.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2016, said that “The short answer is that yes, abortion is the preeminent [concern] and the vote makes that obvious.”
Asked about McElroy’s characterization of his view, and that of the conference, that calling abortion the preeminent concern was either opposed to or discordant with the pope’s teaching, the cardinal suggested the McElroy was perhaps trying to make a different point.
“I think Bishop McElroy was warning against exclusive choices – either/or – or highlighting something to the point that other issues disappear. And I think, if I have understood his intention correctly, he was right.”
It is likely that McElroy’s intervention will be raised behind closed doors, when the bishops will gavel themselves into executive session. Behind closed doors, efforts to insist that the conference speaks and thinks with one mind are unlikely to continue long.
The increasingly serious challenge facing the large majority of U.S. bishops is how to deal with a small minority of their number who seem to be attempting to position themselves between the conference leadership and Rome, and appearing to drive a wedge between them and the pope at the same time.

US bishops approve updated seminary program, Hispanic ministry efforts

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 04:32 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference on Tuesday passed several action items, including an update of seminary formation and an effort to catalyze the evangelization of Hispanic Catholics in the U.S.

Approval of the measures came as the bishops met for the second day of their annual fall meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, held from November 11-14.

The bishops approved a new edition of the Program of Priestly Formation, as well as a new translation of the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults and a new translation of Latin hymns for the Liturgy of the Hours.

The Program of Priestly Formation is the blueprint for the formation of seminarians in the U.S.; the sixth edition, which was approved on Tuesday, incorporated the Vatican’s 2016 document “The Gift of Priestly Vocation.”

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, said in a presentation on Monday that the updated program provides flexibility for dioceses, provinces and regions to adapt to individual circumstances of seminarians.

It focuses on benchmarks of priestly identity rather than “chronological time” in the advancement of a diocesan seminarian toward the priesthood, he said, by drawing from the concept of a “propaedeutic stage” of priestly formation that was called for in the 2016 Vatican document. This is a beginning stage with an emphasis on the study of philosophy, prayer, and discipleship.

Bishop Felipe de Jesus Estevez of St. Augustine, Florida, in floor discussions preceding the vote, said that in the last two years both he and Bishop Andrew Cozzens, auxiliary bishop of St. Paul, Minnesota, had been working as part of a larger group on a “deepening” of understanding of priestly celibacy in seminary formation.

This understanding of clerical celibacy, he said, is “based on an effective maturity” that is “both spousal and paternal.” Estevez said that he and Bishop Cozzens would be working to publish a book on this called “Spiritual Husbands, Spiritual Fathers.”

The bishops approved the new edition of the priestly formation program by a vote of 226-4 with three bishops abstaining.

Also on the agenda was a new, reportedly more user-friendly, translation of the Latin edition of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), under a more accurate title of “Order of Christian Initiation of Adults” (OCIA).

The bishops first voted to approve a translation of the Latin edition of the rite, followed by a second vote on the book in its final form, to be sent to Rome for approval.

A text for RCIA had been in use in the U.S. since 1988. The new translation was approved on Tuesday, by a vote of 217-3, with three abstaining.

The bishops also voted on a new translation of Latin hymns for the Liturgy of the Hours.

To provide a sample of the new hymns, a choir with members from The Catholic University of America and the Fellow of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) performed two of the new hymns for bishops at the fall meeting.

The bishops voted to approve the translation 205-5, with two abstaining.

The votes were followed by a discussion of the V Encuentro meeting of 2018, a national gathering of more than 3,000 Hispanic Catholic leaders in the U.S. The bishops discussed some of the results of the Encuentro as providing a blueprint for the future of the Church in the U.S., and how the conference needs to incorporate those results at the parish level.

More than a year after the close of the V Encuentro, the bishops voted on Tuesday to start the process of incorporating the meeting’s conclusions and findings into its strategic plan for 2021-2024.

Recently, a Pew Research report on religious identity in the U.S. found that Catholics no longer make up a majority among Hispanics. The percentage of Catholics among Hispanics fell by 10% over the last decade.

Bishop Nelson Perez of Cleveland, Ohio, said a statement from the conference in response to the V Encuentro should emphasize leadership development among Hispanic Catholics, as well as vocations to the priesthood or religious life, successful models of ministry, and a vision of the Church as a defender of social justice and human dignity.

Regarding the upcoming statement of the conference, Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, expressed his hope that the vision outlined in it would be “very practical” and not full of “platitudes and too generic.”

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont said that bishops should produce a pastoral plan of evangelization rather than a statement that would simply be a “large document that just disappears on a shelf.”

Catholic education was a key topic for much of the discussion, as the cost of education was cited as a significant obstacle to the Church’s efforts to provide a nurturing environment for Hispanic Catholics at the parish level.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston emphasized a push for tax credits and school vouchers for Catholic schools, as well as more youth centers, after-school programs and weekend programs for Hispanic Catholic children to involve families in local parish life.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini-I travel, work

Memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin I travel, work, suffer my weak health, meet with a thousand difficulties, but all these are nothing, for this world is so small. To me, space is an imperceptible object, as I am accustomed to dwell in eternity. — St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

The post St. Frances Xavier Cabrini-I travel, work appeared first on Catholic Digest.

Memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin

Memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin Readings: Wisdom 6:1-11 Psalms 82:3-4, 6-7 Luke 17:11-19

The post Memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin appeared first on Catholic Digest.

US bishops approve hymn translations for Liturgy of the Hours

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- The Latin rite bishops of the US voted overwhelmingly Tuesday morning to approve the International Commission on English in the Liturgy gray book translation of the hymns of the Liturgy of the Hours.

The Nov. 12 vote was 204 in favor, and five against.

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville tweeted that "the translation of the Latin hymnody in the editio typica of the Liturgy of the Hours is a tremendous contribution to the liturgical heritage. The theological insight and aesthetic of the Latin hymns will have an English voice into the future; a work of theological transmission."

Before the vote, the Fall General Assembly was treated to a concert performance in which the hymn translations were sung for the bishops.

The choir, which was directed by Adam Bartlett of Denver, consisted of Fellowship of Catholic University Students missionaries who live in the Baltimore area, as well as music students from the Catholic University of America. The choir sang the opening verse of the hymns, and were then joined by the bishops.

Bartlett told CNA that the choir had only just met up and rehearsed Tuesday morning before performing before the bishops. He knew some of the singers through his work with FOCUS, and he has directed the choir that performed at the organization’s national conference for the past four years.

Before ICEL did this translation, the vast majority the hymns that were printed in the English edition of the Liturgy of the Hours were translations of those found in the editio typica.

"What's unique about this translation is that the hymns of the Latin typical edition are actually being translated, which didn't happen the first time around,” said Bartlett.

“So we have hymns from St. Ambrose, Gregory the Great, you know, all of the great hymn writers … that are being translated and also paired with chant tunes that come from our rich tradition. In addition, of course, to modern melodies that they can be sung with,” he added. He said these translations created “great utility” as they could be sung with different tunes.

Bartlett said he found the updated hymns to be “absolutely gorgeous” and “so rich with theological imagery.” He thinks that these hymns are going to “make a really remarkable contribution to the musical life of the Church.”

“These are our hymns as Catholics,” he said. “These are the ones that come from the liturgy itself, and are put in the place where they ought to be sung, which is the Liturgy of the Hours. But I think that's probably going to have an impact on the hymns that we sing at Mass as well."

Valeria Lamarra, a chorister who sang on Tuesday, got involved with the ICEL hymn project through her school’s campus ministry. She had never met anyone she performed with before Tuesday morning.

“We had half an hour to practice, before getting up in front of 200 bishops,” said Lamarra. “It feels like a huge victory that the changes passed.”

Catholics lead rosary on way to DACA rally outside Supreme Court

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

By Josephine von Dohlen

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As the U.S. Supreme Court justices prepared to hear oral arguments in a case on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program the morning of Nov. 12, Catholics met at Columbus Circle in Washington to pray the rosary for the intention of all DACA recipients, their families and all immigrants in the United States.

"We're not just praying for the justices to be on the right side today, we're praying for elected officials to wake up and to finally give a solution for the 700,000 DACA recipients living in this country," said Jose Arnulfo Cabrera, a DACA recipient and the director of education and advocacy for migration for the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

The prayer gathering -- which was followed by a walk to the steps of the Supreme Court, joining others participating in the national Home is Here campaign rally -- was co-sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Justice for Immigrants, the Ignatian Solidarity Network, the Catholic social justice lobby Network and others.

"It's time that we give them (DACA recipients) a solution. It's time that they are recognized as the Americans that they grew up as, and that they are," Cabrera said. "This is more than just prayers for the justices; this is more than just prayers for DACA recipients. This is also prayers for ourselves because we have a long way to go. ... We're praying for that strength to keep it going and keep that fire lit in ourselves."

In a 2012 executive order, President Barack Obama instituted DACA, a policy allowing immigrants brought as children by their parents into the United States without documents to apply for deferred action from deportation while also applying for a work permit or attending school. In 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to end the DACA program. The resulting legal challenges led to the Supreme Court hearing the case on the program's future.

Giovana Oaxaca, a DACA recipient and the government relations associate for Network, led more than 50 people in the rosary.

"We're praying the rosary today for our elected leaders and the justices of the Supreme Court, knowing that God can open minds and change hearts," Oaxaca said. "We commend those in the DACA community and our immigrant brothers and sisters into the loving hands of blessed mother, Virgin de Guadalupe."

By gathering first in prayer, Oaxaca said the group was making a powerful statement.

"We are able to bridge a lot of divides by praying together," she said. "It is a solemn thing ... but we want everyone to know we have faith and hope."

Originally from Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, Oaxaca came to the United States at age 3. She received DACA status before applying to college, where she was able to graduate with a degree in political science and economics. Without DACA, she said, it would have been a lot harder to go to college and to afford college.

The wait to hear the Supreme Court's decision, which is expected to be issued in June, will be "painstaking," Oaxaca said.

"It will keep us all on our toes," she added, saying that work will continue to place pressure on legislators to "keep the drumbeat going."

Alyssa Aldape, associate pastor for young adult and youth ministries at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington, joined the walk from Columbus Circle to the Supreme Court building. She said she saw her participation in the day's events, "part of her faith."

"It's a way for me to stand in solidarity with those who are vulnerable," Aldape told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

For Valeria Bejar, a DACA recipient who led the group in one of the decades of the rosary, whenever she hears the number 700,000 representing DACA recipients, she said she tries to keep in mind all the other families who might remain in this country without documents.

"I try to remember it's more like double that," she said.

As to what the upcoming months might look like as many wait for the Supreme Court's decision, Bejar said she has no idea what to expect.

"There are so many different things that could happen, but we'll continue the fight," she said.

Now living in Arizona, Bejar traveled to the Washington area to join other immigrants on a walk from New York City to Washington that ended before the rally. The 230-mile walk began Oct. 26 and Bejar said she joined the group at mile 223.

"It was a beautiful expression to see the diversity in DACA recipients," Bejar said.

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Von Dohlen is a reporter at the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Update: Archbishop Gomez elected USCCB president; first Latino in post

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles was elected to a three-year term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during the bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore.

The native of Mexico was chosen Nov. 12 with 176 votes from a slate of 10 nominees.

Archbishop Gomez, 67, is the first Latino to be elected president. He has served as conference vice president for the past three years, working alongside Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the outgoing president. His term as president begins when the assembly ends.

The Los Angeles prelate has been a leading advocate of immigrant rights, often voicing support for newcomers as they face growing restrictions being implemented by the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies.

In subsequent voting, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, conference secretary, was elected vice president. He was elected on the third ballot by 151-90 in a runoff with Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services.

Under USCCB bylaws, after the election for president, the vice president is elected from the remaining nine candidates.

The two top officers begin their terms at the conclusion of the fall assembly Nov. 13.

In voting for a new secretary, the assembly elected Archbishop Broglio, 112-87, over Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo, Ohio. Archbishop Broglio will serve through the end of the term in 2021.

The bishops also voted for the chairman of one committee, chairmen-elect of five other conference committees and three representatives on the board of Catholic Relief Services, which is the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.

In the first committee vote, there was a tie vote between Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami and Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, for chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty. Each candidate received 121 votes, but Bishop Murry, at 70, became chairman under USCCB bylaws because he is the older of the two candidates. Archbishop Wenski is 69.

The committee had been chaired by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, but he stepped down earlier this year to undergo treatment for bladder and prostate cancer. Bishop Murry will serve the remaining year of Archbishop Kurtz's term.

Vote tallies for committee chairmen-elect are:

-- Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance: Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee elected over Bishop Mark L. Bartchak of Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 144-97.

-- Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs: Bishop Daniel P. Talley of Memphis, Tennessee, elected over Bishop Steven J. Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, 123-114.

-- Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis: Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis, elected over Bishop Thomas A. Daly of Spokane, Washington, 151-88.

-- Committee on International Justice and Peace: Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, elected over Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, 140-101.

-- Committee on Protection of Children and Young People: Bishop James V. Johnson of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, was elected over Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri, 167-77.

Each chairman-elect will begin his three-year term as chairmen at the end of the 2020 fall general assembly.

In addition, several chairmen-elect chosen last year will become committee chairmen at the end of this year's assembly and will serve three-year terms:

-- Committee on Catholic Education: Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, California.

-- Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations: Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey.

-- Committee on Divine Worship: Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut.

-- Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development: Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City.

-- Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth: Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco.

-- Committee on Migration: Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington.

A final vote was taken for three seats on the CRS board. Elected were Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut; Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas; and Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas.


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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Fund helps displaced Bahamas students, teachers after Hurricane Dorian

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gabriella N. Baez, Reuters

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) -- Two months after Hurricane Dorian upended life in the northern Bahamas, a newly launched fund will support hundreds of Catholic school students displaced by the storm.

The Archdiocese of Nassau recently launched the Each One Reach One initiative of its Bahamas Catholic Board of Education. Under the initiative, donors can assist some 220 students from Abaco and Grand Bahamas islands who have enrolled in Catholic schools in and around the Bahamas capital of Nassau on New Providence Island.

Janelle Albury, development officer with the Bahamas Catholic Board of Education, told Catholic News Service by phone Nov. 8 that Catholic schools in the Bahamas are committed to maintaining affordable fees to ensure Catholic education is available to as many families as possible. Annual fees for Catholic schools in the Nassau Archdiocese start at close to $3,000.

Albury noted a global children's charity report highlights that getting children back to school is vital for their survival after natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons and hurricanes.

The Each One Reach One fund also will assist 35 displaced Catholic school faculty from the affected areas. All teachers and faculty at St. Francis de Sales Catholic School and Every Child Counts School had to leave Abaco, and those who did not travel to New Providence went to the U.S. or Canada, Albury added. Some teachers chose to resign and return to their home countries.

The Category 5 Hurricane Dorian -- which first made landfall Sept. 1 -- resulted in the indefinite closing of St. Francis de Sales School in Abaco, which suffered both high winds and devastating storm surge. Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy, Grand Bahama, has reopened, but many of the homes of students there were destroyed by the hurricane.

"This program, EORO, intends to provide personal care and individual attention to those most severely impacted by Hurricane Dorian," Nassau Archbishop Patrick Pinder said in a statement. "This is charity alive and on a very human scale. This is what solidarity in action looks like."

Separately, the Archdiocese of Nassau is appealing for material and financial support for other evacuees who have relocated to New Providence and who are not living in shelters but are living with relatives and who may be in need of assistance with food, blankets, sheets, towels and toiletries.

That outreach is being managed by the Nassau Archdiocesan Office of Family Life and is a direct response to evacuees coming mostly to New Providence from Mary Star of the Sea Parish on Grand Bahama and St. Francis de Sales and Sts. Mary and Andrew parishes on Abaco.

A recent report from the Bahamas Catholic Board of Education noted that while Abaco was most severely impacted by the storm, Grand Bahama received significant damage, with only five miles of the island not flooding. Flooded homes impacted approximately 85% to 90% of the student population.

Electricity and water have been restored on Grand Bahama, but many of the buildings are not livable.

The Bahamas death toll following Hurricane Dorian stands at approximately 70 people. One estimate puts the material damage there at $7 billion after the storm lingered over Abaco and Grand Bahamas for some 70 hours.

The country's tourism industry has been appealing to foreigners to visit the country's other islands this holiday season as a means of helping the Bahamas recover economically. Tourism high season there runs from December through April.

To obtain further information or to receive instructions on making a wire transfer to the initiative, email [email protected]

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Immigration reform among priorities for new USCCB president

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Chaz Muth

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- It will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez that immigration reform is at the top of his priority list as the newly elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"That's something I've been working on for almost 25 to 30 years," Archbishop Gomez told Catholic News Service during the U.S. bishops' fall general assembly Nov. 11-13 in Baltimore.

On Nov. 12, the body of bishops elected him to lead them for a three-year term, and he is the first Latino to hold the USCCB presidency. Archbishop Gomez has served as the conference's vice president since 2016. As president, he succeeds Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. His term begins at the end of assembly.

For the 67-year-old shepherd of the largest archdiocese in the U.S., Catholic teaching drives his advocacy for migrant rights, based on biblical principles of welcoming the stranger and upholding the dignity of immigrants and refugees as children of God.

In fact, the U.S. bishops have listed immigration reform and migration rights as a top priority for many years. The bishops have sparred with the Trump administration over its policies for asylum-seekers at the border.

Pope Francis also has made migrant rights a top priority during his papacy.

This topic also is very personal for Archbishop Gomez, who was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and eventually migrated to the U.S., where he has served as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Denver, archbishop in San Antonio and eventually archbishop in Los Angeles.

"It's really part of my life," he said. "I have relatives and friends ... on both sides of the border. So, I think it's important for us to understand that we are all children of God. If we work together, we can find a solution for this reality and come up with a really clear, simple and good immigration system that can address the needs of the people on both sides."

Violence and poverty at home have been a driving factor for Central Americans seeking refuge in the U.S., but Archbishop Gomez points out that migration is more than an American issue -- it's a global concern.

According to statistics reported by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, by the end of 2018, "70.8 million individuals have been forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations."

The Bush and Obama administrations both attempted and failed to get immigration reform passed through Congress to make it easier for immigrants to legally migrate to the U.S.

The U.S. bishops were in dialogue with previous administrations to develop what they believe is a humane resolution to the immigration debate.

Archbishop Gomez said he will continue to talk with President Donald Trump, whose administration has been criticized by Catholic advocates for its policy of separating families at the border, its restrictions on immigrants seeking asylum and a proposal to further decrease the number of refugees accepted into the United States.

The Catholic Church does defend a nation's right to secure its borders, but most of the world's migrants are leaving their homeland to escape war, violence and extreme poverty, he said. "There is a lot of suffering. Most of them come to our country because they want to provide for their families."

Ahead of the Nov. 12 oral arguments on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the U.S. Supreme Court, Archbishop Gomez said there are "no doubt" constitutional and legal questions "raised by DACA and how it was enacted."

"But we need to be clear: The fate of these young adults should never have been in the courts in the first place," the archbishop wrote in a Nov. 6 column in the Angelus, the online news outlet of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. "And it would not be, if our leaders in Washington would simply set aside their political interests and come together to fix our nation's broken immigration system."

The "failures" of the nation's leaders in Washington to make "comprehensive reforms to immigration policy "cut across party lines," Archbishop Gomez said.

DACA was established by President Barack Obama's 2012 executive order, and Trump ordered an end to the program in 2017. Several legal challenges to this order have resulted in a consolidation of three DACA cases now before the high court.

"Our nation made a promise to these 'Dreamers,'" Archbishop Gomez wrote. "We have a moral obligation. It is time for the president and Congress to honor that promise and live up to this obligation."

Though he's passionate about immigration reform, the archbishop said he will not be a single-issue president of the USCCB.

Continuing renewal and reform in the church with regard to the clergy sexual abuse crisis will be an ongoing priority, as will combating clericalism in the church, support and promotion of marriage and the family and evangelization. And he will continue to pray for the laity to become missionary disciples.

"It has been a challenging time for the church in these past three years," Archbishop Gomez said, and as vice president of the USCCB, he had a leadership role in dealing with the crisis. "I hope I continue to be a source of support for my brother bishops and especially to continue this time of renewal."

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