Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Church’

Supporting the Euromaidan Movement in Ukraine

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Along with many others in the New York community, I am following the somber situation in Ukraine with growing alarm.

Last August, I was honored to be part of the dedication of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s Resurrection Cathedral, in Kiev, and was in awe at the youth and vitality of a Church that had been starved, jackbooted, imprisoned, tortured, persecuted and martyred by Hitler, Stalin, and company.  With thousands of others, I praised God for an apparent new springtime where Democracy, human rights, and religious freedom were in bloom in Ukraine.

Those high summer hopes have now turned as cold as this New York winter day.  What began as inspirational, prayerful, peaceful, powerful protest, dubbed the Euromaidan Movement, characterized by prayer and song led by Jewish, Orthodox, and Catholic clergy, has turned brutal and nasty, with government thugs relishing the chance to bludgeon and harass the hundreds of thousands of patriotic Ukrainians, and oppressive laws quickly passed to suppress freedoms.

Two men I deeply admire — the Metropolitan Archbishop of Kiev, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, His Beatitude, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, and Bishop Borys Gudziak, one of the founders of the promising Catholic University of Ukraine — keep in touch.  They’ve been leaders urging peace and restraint, while prophetic on behalf of human dignity, civil rights, and the place of religion in the reconstruction and renewal of Ukraine.  They are near tears, and look in vain for allies in their noble cause.

We Catholics in the United States cannot let these brave Ukrainians, whose allegiance to their religious convictions has survived “dungeon, fire, and sword,” languish.  They deserve our voices and our prayers.

Nor can we as American citizens fail them, as we call for our government to stand with them.

Respecting Life in New York

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Sunday is always colorful, interesting, and inspirational at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, as thousands from all over the world crowded in for prayer, to light a votive candle, or to worship at one of a dozen Masses.

Last Sunday seemed even more so.  I started the day meeting the leadership of our Knights of Columbus, the largest volunteer organization in the country.  We spoke about our common efforts to protect the innocent, fragile life of the baby in the womb, but also about their sterling work to assist poor, mostly immigrant children attend our first-rate inner city Catholic schools, and their touching initiatives on behalf of our “special kids” with physical and mental challenges.

It was frigid outside as I processed to the Cathedral for 10:15 Mass, and I noticed a larger than usual number of police officers.  When I asked why, I was told that a Fundamentalist sect had warned that they would protest in front of St. Patrick’s, to blast the Church for being “gay-friendly,” for welcoming people with same-sex attractions, and for the teaching of the catechism that gays were God’s children, with an inherent right to dignity and respect.  Nothing new – – these fringe folks had picketed us before.

Sunday’s was a special “Right-to-Life” Mass, penance for the tragedy of abortion on demand, and recommitment to the civil right to life for the baby in the womb.  The Knights were there, as mentioned earlier, and the Mass as SRO with others in the pro-life movement.  The Sisters of Life were there, for instance, with mothers and their babies who had gotten through a “problem pregnancy” with the sisters’ love.  A high school basketball team from California, on their way to a championship game, then to D.C. for the renowned March for Life on Wednesday were there, and there was the police officer, his wife, three other children, and their new baby, whom I would have the joy of christening after Mass.  That beautiful new baby had Down’s Syndrome, reason enough for an abortion, as 90% of such babies are aborted, in this culture Pope Francis calls “throwaway.”  Not for this loving family!

After the moving Mass, back out to the cold, in yet another “Pro Life” project, the Feeding Our Neighbor initiative, sponsored by Catholic Charities and the United Jewish Appeal.  Last year, 900,000 meals were provided the hungry by the food donated in parishes and synagogues last Sabbath and next.

A reporter asked if the scheduling of the event had anything to do with the Birthday of Reverend Martin Luther King.  I replied that the date was chosen since it’s the coldest time of the year; when a lot of the food donated at Christmas had already run out; because it was close to the January 22nd Respect Life observance, and to feed the hungry was sure pro-life; and, yes, because Reverend King preached the Bible, that all are God’s children, made in his image and likeness, and that wherever life was threatened – – violence, poverty, hunger, discrimination, abortion – – God’s People defend it.

On the way back into the Cathedral, I greeted many of the great folks from the Dominican Republic, now proud New Yorkers, jamming St. Patrick’s for their feast of “Our Lady of Altagracia.”  I know so many of them as Catholics active in immigration reform, pro-life, curbing of gun-violence in their neighborhood, and keeping our inner-city schools open for their kids.

A good Sunday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral . . .does any of this seem “extremist” to you?

Ways to Love the Poor with Pope Francis

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Pope Francis is an excellent teacher.  He’s a classical Jesuit, and has himself taught in high school (chemistry and literature, I hear) in Argentina.

An effective pedagogue sets a few clear goals for his class.  “Professor” Francis sure has done so for the Church, for the world, for all God’s children.

Among his goals is a call to love and serve the poor.  No surprise, since this is a clear, clean goal of Jesus in the gospels.

This month of January presents us a chance to grow in our love and service of the poor.

January 20th is the birthday of the Reverend Martin Luther King, a man admired by Pope Francis, a man prophetic in his summons to racial justice and equal opportunity for the poor.

Then, January 22 is the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of the Unborn Baby.  Is anyone more vulnerable, more fragile, more in need of love, care, and protection than the unborn baby in her mother’s womb?

January 26 – February 2 finds us again in the Feeding Our Neighbor Campaign, as we come together in the cold to collect food to stock our shelters, soup kitchens, and parish pantries, responding to the Lord who said, “When I was hungry you gave me to eat.”

And, January 26 – February 1 is Catholic Schools Week.  The experts tell us that one of the tried-and-true ways of helping the poor escape a trapped-life is by educating the children in one of our excellent Catholic schools.  They’re really the best “War on Poverty” programs around.

Not bad messages — from Jesus and Pope Francis — this first week of the year.

ArchCare: An Innovative Approach to Catholic Healthcare

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Healthcare in our country is in a state of turmoil. While there are many areas of concern, what troubles me the most is the inaccurate perception that Catholic healthcare in our country and, especially here in New York, is in retreat.

True, we have seen the closings of numerous Catholic hospitals in our area, and, sadly, just a few weeks ago another Catholic facility, Saint Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, filed for bankruptcy after a long financial struggle. While Saint Francis was not affiliated with the archdiocese, the potential loss of yet another Catholic institution is still troubling to us as Catholics. I am sure this is a very difficult time for the wonderful Sisters of St. Francis, who have so ably tended the sick there for nearly a century.

These negative headlines should not obscure all the great things that are happening in Catholic healthcare across the Archdiocese of New York. Our archdiocesan healthcare ministry, ArchCare, today is serving more people than ever, and has grown in ways we never could have imagined just a few years ago, when changing health policy and plummeting government reimbursements made the outlook far from certain.

The genius of the Church is that we have always been able to adapt our ministry to meet the needs of society. In the last two years alone, ArchCare has modernized and expanded its rehabilitation centers and opened two new community-based care centers that deliver all the services needed to keep seniors out of nursing homes. We introduced an array of healthcare plans that coordinate members’ every care need, created a new Assisted Living Program, and took steps to expand our palliative care and hospice services. Through its sponsorship of Empire State Home Care, one of the region’s oldest and most respected home care providers, ArchCare now provides top quality home care for infants through elders throughout the five boroughs and Westchester. As part of our efforts to bring still more of our Catholic services to the northern counties, we have already expressed interest in acquiring Saint Francis’ home care unit.

Our healthcare ministry continues to care for nearly 2,000 elders in five nursing homes. In addition, we care for the elderly in nine religious orders, significantly reducing their financial burden of caring for retired members and freeing funds to reinvest in their Catholic missions. And ArchCare’s renowned centers for people with HIV and Huntington’s disease, children with profound neurological impairments, and developmentally disabled children and adults all were established to fill critical gaps in care in our community. Where others said, “We can’t,” we as Catholics said, “We can, and we will!”

As our society continues to struggle with all the changes taking place in healthcare, I am pleased to tell you that the Catholic health ministry of the Archdiocese of New York is strong. While there have been changes in some of our programs, our creative care of the sick in the name of Jesus, the Divine Physician, will continue in fresh, innovative ways long into the future. I encourage you and your families to explore all that ArchCare has to offer.

A War For Women

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

In this week’s Catholic New York columnI wrote about Our Lady of Guadalupe and the importance of women in the Catholic Church.  I thought you might want to read it.

Here is an excerpt:

If there is a “war on women,” those who defend the bond of marriage and the sanctity of the family (realizing that women are the ones usually left shattered and financially strapped by shattered marriages); those who believe that abortion is destructive of baby, mother, and father; those who hold that all God’s children, male and female, are made in God’s image, and thus deserve dignity and respect; those who sacrifice to run the world’s most effective projects of health care and education for women (led, for the most part, by generous, faithful women); and those thought idolatrous for placing a woman named Mary at the center of history, are hardly on the wrong side, but the right side, of such an alleged battle!

In two weeks, 75 percent of the world will come to a stop to celebrate a mother and the birth of her baby. Millions of children will point to the newborn baby in nativity scenes throughout the world and ask, “Who’s that?” and parents and grandparents will whisper, “That’s Jesus, our Lord and Savior.” Then they’ll point to Mary and inquire, “And who’s that?” and the answer will come, “That’s His mother, without whom Christmas could not have happened.”

A blessed Advent!

You can read my whole column here.

Welcoming Newcomers

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Today the Wall Street Journal published my editorial on the Catholic Church’s history of welcoming immigrants. I would like to share it with you. (*Subscription to this article may be required).

Here is an excerpt:

It’s a familiar sight at the Catholic Center, the archdiocesan headquarters on First Avenue in Manhattan where I work. Dozens of new arrivals to our country line up early in the morning, waiting for our office to open. They know that here they will get the help they need to become citizens, learn English and civics, reunite with their families, and navigate the complex legal immigration system. Our telephone counselors answer 25,000 calls from immigrants each year in 17 different languages.

It isn’t, however, confined to our office. We’ve all seen the men—almost 120,000 of them nationally on any given day—queuing up on the side of the road on hundreds of street corners throughout the U.S., hoping to be hired for the day. In places like Yonkers, N.Y., volunteers from Catholic Charities offer these day laborers coffee and sandwiches and even some employment advice.

The Catholic Church is doing the same things in Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Houston, Newark and Miami. More than 150 Catholic immigration programs across the nation assist immigrants in becoming Americans. Helping the newcomer to our land feel at home is part of our mission, as Christ reminds us in Matthew 25 that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Historian Henry Steele Commager wrote that: “The Church was one of the most effective of all agencies for democracy and Americanization.”

You can read the whole editorial here.

Revitalizing the Church

Friday, September 13th, 2013

I recently came across this article, 10 ways to revitalize the Catholic Church, written by Fr.  I. Michael Bellafiore.

Here’s an excerpt:

“The new pope’s agenda is simple: spread the good news of Jesus Christ in a freer and more convincing way. Christ stated the church’s mission very plainly: “Go out and make disciples of all the nations.”…The church is not a spiritual McDonald’s whose success largely depends on its managers, the clergy. Paraphrasing President John Kennedy’s call to service, “Ask not what the church can do for you, but what you can do for the church.” Evangelicals and Pentecostals have much to teach Catholics in this regard. Polls show Catholics stayed away from church because they were ignored, slighted, or scandalized. Sometimes they misunderstand church teaching.  They need to know that they are missed and that the door is open for them…

Remember that being Catholic in America, or anywhere, means we can rejoice and trust Christ’s admonishment, “be not afraid.”

You can read the whole article here.

Statement of the USCCB on Pursuing Political Solution in Syria

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

I would like to share with you the following press release that was issued today by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on pursuing a peaceful political solution in Syria instead of a military intervention.

CARDINAL DOLAN, BISHOP PATES URGE CONGRESS TO PURSUE POLITICAL SOLUTION IN SYRIA, NOT MILITARY OPTION

Bishops make appeal same day Pope Francis urges G20 nations to pursue peace
Affirm Congressional finding that only negotiated political settlement will work
Assure Congress of their prayers

WASHINGTON—On the same day that Pope Francis asked the G20 nations to “lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution” in Syria, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote to every member of Congress, urging them not to resort to military intervention, but instead work to end the violence in Syria through a political solution.

In their September 5 letter, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Pates affirmed the finding of a proposed Congressional resolution that acknowledges that “the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement,” and questioned military intervention. The bishops also condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria, declaring these “indiscriminate weapons have no place in the arsenals of the family of nations.” They noted that more than 100,000 Syrians have lost their lives, more than 2 million have fled the country as refugees, and more than 4 million within Syria have been driven from their homes by the ongoing conflict.

“Our focus is on the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Syria and on saving lives by ending the conflict, not fueling it,” the bishops wrote. They echoed the appeals of Pope Francis and bishops in the Middle East who “have made it clear that a military attack will be counterproductive, will exacerbate an already deadly situation, and will have unintended negative consequences.”

“We ask the United States to work urgently and tirelessly with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities,” they wrote. The bishops also assured Congress of their prayers in the midst of this complex situation.

Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Pates wrote to President Obama September 4, also urging a political solution in Syria.

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An Occasion of Great Joy

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Today’s announcement that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has approved the cause for canonization of two of his beloved predecessors, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, is an occasion of great joy for the entire Church!

These two great Popes each had a profound impact on the Church and the world.  In beginning the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII helped present the timeless teaching of Jesus and His Church in the modern age.  And, Pope John Paul II helped to bring that teaching to every corner of the globe, as a tireless missionary for the faith.

I know that today’s news has gladdened the hearts of the faithful throughout the world, just as it did for me.  I look forward to being with Pope Francis when he raises to the altars of sainthood these two tremendous apostles of Jesus.

Release of Deposition by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Today the Archdiocese of Milwaukee released documents related to how they responded to the evil of the sexual abuse of minors by priests.  One of the documents they released was my deposition from this past February that was part of their on-going bankruptcy proceeding.  I thought you might like to see the statement I issued today, as well as read the full deposition.

“I welcome today’s voluntary release of documents by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee that contain information and details related to sexual abuse by clergy, and how the Archdiocese of Milwaukee responded to it.  I am especially grateful that my deposition of February 2013, given as part of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, is one of the documents being released.

Responding to victim-survivors, taking action against priest-abusers, and working to implement policies to protect children, were some of the most difficult, challenging, and moving events of the 6 ½ years that I served as Archbishop of Milwaukee.  One of the principles that guided me during that time was the need for transparency and openness, which is why I not only welcomed the deposition as a chance to go on-the-record with how we responded to the clergy sexual abuse crisis during my years in Milwaukee, but also encouraged that it be released.

Unfortunately, we have already seen how the release of these documents will cause some to raise old and discredited attacks – like priest-abusers having been “paid” to apply for laicization, (like it or not, bishops do have a canon law obligation to provide basic support like health care and room and board for their priests until they have finally moved on) or  that establishing a perpetual care fund from money belonging to cemeteries and designated for that purpose – as required by state law and mandated by the archdiocesan finance council – was an attempt to shield it from the bankruptcy proceedings.  While certain groups can be counted-upon to take certain statements or events out of context, the documents released show plainly that the bishops have been faithful to the promises made over a decade ago: permanent removal from ministry of any priest who abused a minor; complete cooperation with law enforcement officials; and, strict child-safety requirements.

The sexual abuse of minors is a crime and it is a sin.  The Church must remain rigorous in our response when an allegation of abuse is received, and ever-vigilant in maintaining our safeguards to do all that we can to see that children are protected.  It is my hope that the release of these documents will also help to show how the Catholic Church in the United States has become a leader in dealing with the society-wide scourge of sexual abuse, and help other groups and organizations who are also seeking combat this evil.”