Washington D.C., Nov 21, 2014 / 03:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration was met with both praise and concern from Catholic groups, who emphasized that more must be done to find long-term solutions for a broken immigration system.

“I am happy that some temporary relief is being offered to help parents and children who right now are living in daily fear that their families will be broken up by arrests and deportations,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, the highest-ranking Hispanic bishop in the U.S.
 
However, he cautioned, “the relief is not permanent and the problems are still not fixed.”

On Thursday night, President Obama announced that he would stay the deportation of certain undocumented immigrant parents for up to three years, allowing them to work legally. Eligibility requirements include having lived in the U.S. for at least five years, having children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents, passing a criminal background check and agreeing to pay taxes.

Roughly 4 million people will likely qualify for this measure, while thousands of others will benefit from other changes. The president extended benefits of temporary residence to more children of undocumented immigrants, expanding the eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and extending their temporary stay from two to three years.

In addition, the president said he would increase border security resources and deport those who had illegally crossed the border recently. He said he would focus government enforcement resources on criminals and those who threaten security.

Archbishop Gomez welcomed the actions as pro-family but emphasized that much more must be done for immigrant families.

Similarly, leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the deferred deportations while stressing the need for “a more humane view of immigrants and a legal process that respects each person’s dignity, protects human rights, and upholds the rule of law.”

“They [the bishops] welcome the executive action in the sense that it would ease some of the separation of families here,” Ashley Feasley, the bishops’ Migration & Refugee Services immigration policy advisor told CNA. She added that “the bishops are still advocating for working with Congress for a more permanent solution.”

In a statement responding to the president’s announcement, Archbishop Gomez insisted that “the President’s actions today are no substitute for the comprehensive immigration reform our nation needs.”

“Too many families are being torn apart by deportations, uncertainty about their status, and delays in our visa process that can take years, even decades. Too many men and women who are immigrants are being exploited in the workplace and forced to live in society’s shadows,” he stated.

The announcement of the executive order was met with criticism from members of the Republican Party, who said that it was an overstep of presidential authority that would encourage continued illegal immigration, with negative social consequences.

CatholicVote.org, a group that works to promote Catholic principles in public life, voiced wariness about the precedent that could be set by the executive order.
 
“We support immigration reform. But strongly oppose President Obama’s executive action announced last night,” the group said in an email to its members.

It warned that if a president “may selectively enforce laws based on his or her political preferences (even policies we agree with) – our nation is in trouble.”

Acknowledging the obligation for Catholics to respect the human dignity of each person, Catholic Vote said that the border situation illustrates a need for real reform.

“Children are being led by criminals across the border, families are being torn apart, and gang and drug violence is rampant. It’s disgusting and it’s unsustainable,” the group said, arguing that if the GOP attempts to stall the executive order through a funding decision, they should also offer “reform proposals of their own.”

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., also pushed for a long-term solution to keep families together.

“The administration’s decision will improve the lives of millions of immigrants who are already here, building communities and supporting families,” said executive director Jeanne M. Atkinson.

“However, administrative relief is no substitute for legislative reform. We need a permanent fix to the immigration system that can only be achieved through bipartisan Congressional action.”

 

Boston, Mass., Nov 20, 2014 / 05:37 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley has clarified his recent 60 Minutes interview, saying its “difficult questions” on women’s ordination and Vatican investigations of a Missouri bishop and a women’s religious conference needed more discussion and nuance.
    
“The program’s interviews include difficult questions that are often on many people’s minds. For some people, being featured on 60 Minutes would be exhilarating, but television interviews are not at the top of my list of favorite things to do,” Cardinal O’Malley said in his Nov. 19 column for the Boston Pilot.

While he praised 60 Minutes reporters and the news show’s “trying to go deeper into the topics they address,” he said the “provocative” matters that he discussed “call for more time and consideration than can be given in a 20 minute broadcast segment.”

“I hope that one take-away from my 60 Minutes interview will be that cardinals, bishops and priests are human, and that we love the Church,” said the cardinal, who is part of a special advisory board for Pope Francis.

The CBS news show broadcast its interview with cardinal on Nov. 16. Topics included the ordination of women as priests and Vatican investigations of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, as well as a Missouri bishop.

The cardinal made headlines over comments from his 60 Minutes appearance touching on Catholic teaching on the priesthood. He had said: “If I were founding a church, I’d love to have women priests.” However, he also added that Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church, “and what he has given us is something different.”

His television interview also rejected claims that Catholic teaching on priestly ordination was immoral, saying “Christ would never ask us to do something immoral.” He said that “not everyone needs to be ordained to have an important role in the Church.”

The cardinal discussed these remarks in his column, saying “The Church is called to be faithful to Christ’s will, and that is not always easy or popular. Understanding the Church's teaching is always a process that begins with faith.”

Cardinal O’Malley acknowledged that Catholic teaching on women’s ordination is “particularly painful to many Catholic women who feel that the teaching on women's ordination is a rejection and unfair.” He said “many wonderful Catholic women have wished to be priests, among them St. Therese, the Little Flower.” However, he also pointed for the need to fidelity to Christ’s teaching.

He said his comments had been “trying to communicate that women are often holier, smarter and more hard-working than men, and that the most important member of the Church is a woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

The cardinal in his 60 Minutes interview also said that the Vatican should “urgently” address the situation of Missouri Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, who was convicted on a misdemeanor count of failure to report suspected child abuse after he and his diocese failed to report that lewd images of children, which the bishop never saw, had been found on a laptop belonging a priest of his diocese.

The cardinal appeared to agree with 60 Minutes’ interviewer Norah O’Donnell that Bishop Finn would not be allowed to teach Sunday School in Boston under its “zero tolerance” policy.

In his column, Cardinal O’Malley said advance reporting on his interview “did not reflect the nuances of my answer to the question.”

He said there is a need both for “justice for all” and a need to “avoid crowd-based condemnations.”

“I said that the Vatican must attend to this situation. The Holy Father is aware of this need, and recently an episcopal visitator was sent to Bishop Finn's diocese,” he said.

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Canada has visited the diocese on behalf of the Congregation for Bishops.

Cardinal O’Malley stressed the need for bishops to be accountable for the safety of children and for “clear protocols that will replace the improvisation and inertia that has often been the response in these matters.” He also said bishops deserve “due process that allows them to have an opportunity for a fair hearing.”

The 60 Minutes interview also referred to the Vatican investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

A multi-year, Vatican-initiated doctrinal assessment of the women's conference raised concerns about dissent from Church teaching on topics including homosexuality, the sacramental priesthood and the divinity of Christ. The assessment found major theological and doctrinal errors in the presentations at the conference’s annual meetings.

O’Donnell said the investigation “looked like a crackdown from men in the Vatican.”

Cardinal O’Malley said in the interview that it appeared to be “a disaster.”

In his column, Cardinal O’Malley expanded on his comments and noted that there was also an apostolic visitation of communities of religious women.

“I trust that there were serious concerns that gave rise to the visitations, but it would seem that better planning and a wider participation of American religious and U.S. bishops would have been helpful,” he said in his newspaper column.

“The Church personnel who carried out these assignments have done an admirable job under very difficult circumstances,” he said. “Unfortunately, many religious women have been alienated by the process and the bishops in this country have been blamed for shortfalls in communications and the process.”

Cardinal O’Malley said he hoped that the final report on the visitations will present “a more positive experience that will contribute to healing in our Church and be helpful for the cause of religious life.”

He said the Catholic Church’s upcoming Year of Consecrated Life is “an opportunity to celebrate the great achievements of our religious.”

 

Washington D.C., Nov 20, 2014 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Knights of Columbus is putting more than $2 million toward new homes for Iraqi and Syrian refugees fleeing violence, and not a moment too soon, said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson.

“We have tens of thousands of refugees in this area [Northern Iraq] who have been driven from their homes at the point of a gun. Many of them are sleeping outdoors, in hallways, three, four families together in a Christian school. And winter is coming,” Anderson told CNA in a Nov. 20 interview.

“So we have to provide something for them on a more permanent basis because this isn’t going to be solved in the next few months or maybe even in the next few years,” he continued. “What we don’t want to have happen is people being born and dying in huge refugee camps, like what’s happened to the Palestinians, for example. So it’s important that we take some action.”

Construction on the houses “may begin as early as next month,” the Knights of Columbus website noted. More than 100,000 Christians have fled their homes in the Mosul region of Northern Iraq after Islamic State forces drove them out in their summer offensive. Many of the inhabitants had to leave most or all of their belongings behind, and refugees are now living in tents or schools.

The Church has been the sole source of aid to the refugees because the Iraqi government has done nothing, a member of the international aid group Aid to the Church in Need told CNA in October.

With 1.8 million members worldwide, the Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal order.

The Knights announced on Nov 19 that they would be donating over $2 million to aid Iraqi and Syrian refugees fleeing violence – and not only to Christians but other religious minorities as well. Permanent homes will be constructed in the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, which lies in territory controlled by the Kurds in Northern Iraq.

The Knights raised $1.7 million from individual members, local councils and other donations since August, on top of the $1 million the fund began with. Money came along with prayers for the refugees, Anderson said. The fund is still open for public donations.

In addition to house funding, the Knights’ Christian Refugee Relief Fund is giving $200,000 in general aid to the Greek Melkite Catholic Archdiocese of Aleppo, Syria.

Anderson emphasized that Christians have a right to live in the region they have inhabited for thousands of years.

“Those people who want to stay – and you have to remember that these people speak the same language that Jesus spoke – this is a community of faith that was there long before many other communities. They have a right to stay there.”

The Knights’ action is in response to Pope Francis’ call for a “globalization of charity” towards migrants worldwide, Anderson affirmed.

“This is maybe the most glaring example of this crisis. It is – in many other places in the world – my experience has been people like to stay in their homes if they can. People are emigrating because it’s impossible for them to stay in their homeland. So we have to be able to find a way of solving these problems,” he said.

“These new homes are signs of hope that will allow this community to begin to blossom once again,” he stated in a Nov. 19 statement.