Posts Tagged ‘President Obama’

God Bless and Guide Us

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

A lot going on as we get back to routine after what I trust was a good summer, as we re-open school and so many parish programs, and as we wish our Jewish neighbors the happiest of their holy days.

Three things I especially wanted to mention to you:

For one, we’re all worried about the perilous situation in Syria and the entire tortured region of the Middle East.

You may have heard that on Sunday, at his noon Angelus address and blessing to the tens-of-thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis firmly and soundly condemned the use of gas and chemical warfare, recently and brutally unleashed in Syria, but also cautioned against any escalation in force or weaponry that would only exacerbate the already volatile situation.

When we believers are frustrated, impatient, and “don’t know what to do,” – - and we are “all of the above” when it comes to the continued turmoil in the ancient lands of the Mideast – - we pray.  That’s what the Holy Father has asked us all to do this weekend.

Our prayers are with our President and Congress as they consider the appropriate American response.  Lord knows, as the world’s major power, we do indeed have a duty to remind the nations, cogently if necessary, that certain lines of civil and inhumane behavior cannot be tolerated in the community of nations.

Of the many sane and compelling voices heard on this horror, you will not be surprised that I pay special attention to those of religious leaders, particularly the weary and anxious, yet brave pleas of the tiny, persecuted, bloodied, threatened, venerable Christian communities in Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt.  They are there, right in the midst of it, poisoned by the gas, singed by the flames, shredded by the bombs, wounded by the guns.  Just what to do they humbly admit they do not exactly know; but they sure are united on what not to do:  please, they beg, no more bombs, no more arms, no more invasions, no more violent reaction.  They deserve to be heard!

The Holy See’s ambassador to the United Nations, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, will offer the 5:30 p.m. Mass Saturday evening at the cathedral for this intention.  In response to the request of Pope Francis, I wish all our Catholic people to abstain from meat this Friday, and  add this intention to their prayers at Sunday Mass.

Two, while we will indeed heed the Holy Father’s invitation to keep this Sabbath as a World Day of Prayer  for peace in the Middle East, we’ll also keep our plans to pray as well for fair and comprehensive immigration reform.   Our senate has already passed a good bill.  Perfect?  No.  A lot better than what we now have?  Yes!  And now we ask the Lord – - who has told us in the Bible that He has a soft spot in His heart for the immigrant and refugee – - to illuminate the House of Representatives so they can bring home the reform this autumn.

Three, we prepare for our vote in the mayoral primary next Tuesday.  We thank God for the generous spirit of our candidates in answering the call to public service, and we study the pressing issues so we can make an informed and enlightened vote.

Traditionally, we Americans consider not only issues, but character  when we vote.  While we hardly expect our candidates to be angels – - Lord knows none of us are! – - we do want them to be men and women of honor, integrity, principle, and, yes, virtue.

We Americans follow the political philosophy of thinkers such as Aristotle and Plato, mirrored in our own historically revered public servants, that politics is a noble vocation, that those who aspire to office can be expected to set a good example, to keep their word, their promises, their vows and oaths, and comport themselves with decency and propriety.  Yes, they do fail – - as do we religious leaders on occasion, I’m afraid – - but we still keep trying.

Recently, a mom asked “Who can our kids look up to?  Hollywood, athletes, entertainers, business leaders, clergy, and politicians are no longer good examples we can hold up for our children.”

That’s worrisome, isn’t it?  Jesus told His followers – - that’s us! – - that “I expect more out of you.”  Our guide is not what’s chic, pragmatic, “cool,” or popular, but what’s good, honorable, noble, decent, and virtuous.

The cynics claim “We deserve the leaders we get.”  Is it still possible to hope we get leaders whom we can hold up as examples for our children?

God bless and inspire our candidates!

God bless and guide us as we vote!       

Advocating for Gun Control

Friday, February 15th, 2013

It’s been an extremely full week in terms of news, with Monday’s surprising announcement from Pope Benedict, and Wednesday’s start of Lent.  But I wanted to be sure to take a moment to highlight the President’s call for sensible steps on gun control in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, as well as similar actions by Governor Cuomo here in New York State, and Mayor Bloomberg in New York City.

Gun control has been much on my mind since the Newtown killings, and, in particular, seeing the devastating effects that gun violence can bring when I celebrated the funeral Mass at Saint Mary of the Assumption parish in Katonah for Anne Marie Murphy, a brave teacher who died in that horrible tragedy, protecting her little student.

Advocating for gun control is not something new for the Church.  The Holy See has continuously been a strong voice in opposition to international arms trading, the world’s version of gun control; it’s even in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official teaching of the Catholic faith (see numbers 2315-2316 in particular) .   Here in the United States, the bishops have for decades supported measures to get handguns off the streets, and to ban assault weapons.  To cite but one instance, in Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration, released in 2000, the bishops reiterated their support for legislative efforts that seek to protect society from the violence associated with easy access to deadly weapons. “As bishops, we support measures that control the sale and use of firearms and make them safer (especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use by children and anyone other than the owner), and we reiterate our call for sensible regulation of handguns.”

That’s why I found myself nodding in agreement when the President said, “I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence.  But this time is different.  Overwhelming majorities of Americans — Americans who believe in the Second Amendment — have come together around common-sense reform, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun.  Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.  Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs, they’re tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.”  It’s also why I was very much in favor a month ago when our own New York State legislature, heeding the call of Governor Cuomo, passed NY Safe, (New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act) the most comprehensive gun control bill in the country.

Whenever I mention my support for gun control, the calls and emails come in, telling me that I’m naïve, reminding me of the Second Amendment to our Constitution, and arguing that the only thing gun control measures will accomplish is to keep guns out of the hands of honest, law-abiding people.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on what should be in each specific bill, and I will never be an authority on the number of bullets that should be in an ammo clip, or the proper way to conduct background checks before selling someone a firearm.  That’s the proper responsibility of our legislators, and, should constitutional questions arise, of our courts.  However, there can be no denying that, in the wake of Newtown, Aurora, Blacksburg, Tucson, Columbine, and almost countless other horrific and senseless deaths by guns, that something must be done.

For me, regulating and controlling guns is part of building a Culture of Life, of doing what we can to protect and defend human life.  The easy access to guns, including assault weapons, that exists in our nation has contributed towards a Culture of Death, where human life and dignity are cheapened by the threat of violence.  No law, no piece of legislation, will ever be able to protect us from every act of aggression, or from the harm that can come from an individual bent on killing.  But, we must do what we can to minimize the opportunities for such acts, by limiting the easy access to guns – and, I would add, by increasing funding for programs to treat those who suffer from mental illness, especially those that might lead someone to commit mass murder.

I have a long list of things to pray for this Lent.  Asking God’s help that our elected representatives in Washington and in state houses across the country have the courage and the wisdom to pass meaningful and effective gun control bills, will certainly have a prominent place in those prayers.

Al Smith Dinner

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

FEAST OF ST. MAXIMILIAN KOLBE

Last week I was out in Anaheim for the annual Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus. It was, as usual, a most uplifting and inspirational event.

In his rousing address to the thousands of delegates, representing 1.8 million knights, Dr. Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight, exhorted us to a renewed sense of faithful citizenship, encouraging us not to be shy about bringing the values of faith to the public square. This duty, he reminded us, came not just from the fact that we are Catholic, but also from the fact that we are loyal Americans.

He then went on to announce a promising initiative of the Knights of Columbus to foster civility in politics. Quoting a very recent study, he noted that over 80% of Americans are fed up with the negativity, judgmentalism, name-calling, and mudslinging of our election-year process, and eagerly want a campaign of respect, substance, amity — civility!

For seven decades, the Al Smith Dinner here in New York has been an acclaimed example of such civility in political life. As you may know, every four years, during the presidential election campaign, the Al Smith Dinner is the venue of history, as it is the only time outside of the presidential debates that the two presidential candidates come together, at the invitation of the Al Smith Foundation, through the archbishop of New York, for an evening of positive, upbeat, patriotic, enjoyable civil discourse.  This year, both President Obama and Governor Romney have accepted our invitation. I am grateful to them.

The evening has always had a special meaning, as it is named after Governor Al Smith, the first Catholic nominated, in 1928, as a candidate for president, who was viciously maligned because of his own Catholic faith.  Smith was known as The Happy Warrior, because while he fought fiercely for what he believed was right, he never sought to demonize those who opposed him.  And, the dinner named in his honor is truly life-affirming as it raises funds to help support mothers in need and their babies (both born and unborn) of any faith, or none at all.

The Al Smith Dinner has never been without controversy, since, as Carl Anderson reminded us, politics can inspire disdain and negativity as well as patriotism and civility.

This year is surely no exception: I am receiving stacks of mail protesting the invitation to President Obama (and by the way, even some objecting to the invitation to Governor Romney).

The objections are somewhat heightened this year, since the Catholic community in the United States has rightly expressed vigorous criticism of the President’s support of the abortion license, and his approval of mandates which radically intruded upon Freedom of Religion. We bishops, including yours truly, have been unrelenting in our opposition to these issues, and will continue to be.

So, my correspondents ask, how can you justify inviting the President? Let me try to explain.

For one, an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner is not an award, or the provision of a platform to expound views at odds with the Church. It is an occasion of conversation; it is personal, not partisan.

Two, the purpose of the Al Smith Dinner is to show both our country and our Church at their best: people of faith gathered in an evening of friendship, civility, and patriotism, to help those in need, not to endorse either candidate. Those who started the dinner sixty-seven years ago believed that you can accomplish a lot more by inviting folks of different political loyalties to an uplifting evening, rather than in closing the door to them.

Three, the teaching of the Church, so radiant in the Second Vatican Council, is that the posture of the Church towards culture, society, and government is that of engagement and dialogue. In other words, it’s better to invite than to ignore, more effective to talk together than to yell from a distance, more productive to open a door than to shut one. Our recent popes have been examples of this principle, receiving dozens of leaders with whom on some points they have serious disagreements. Thus did our present Holy Father graciously receive our current President of the United States.  And, in the current climate, we bishops have maintained that we are open to dialogue with the administration to try and resolve our differences.  What message would I send if I refused to meet with the President?

Finally, an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner in no way indicates a slackening in our vigorous promotion of values we Catholic bishops believe to be at the heart of both gospel and American values, particularly the defense of human dignity, fragile life, and religious freedom. In fact, one could make the case that anyone attending the dinner, even the two candidates, would, by the vibrant solidarity of the evening, be reminded that America is at her finest when people, free to exercise their religion, assemble on behalf of poor women and their babies, born and unborn, in a spirit of civility and respect.

Some have told me the invitation is a scandal. That charge weighs on me, as it would on any person of faith, but especially a pastor, who longs to give good example, never bad. So, I apologize if I have given such scandal. I suppose it’s a case of prudential judgment: would I give more scandal by inviting the two candidates, or by not inviting them?

No matter what you might think of this particular decision, might I ask your prayers for me and my brother bishops and priests who are faced with making these decisions, so that we will be wise and faithful shepherds as God calls us to be?

In the end, I’m encouraged by the example of Jesus, who was blistered by his critics for dining with those some considered sinners; and by the recognition that, if I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I’d be taking all my meals alone.

*Due to an overwhelming response to this blog post, the comment section is now closed.

Insights from the Press

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

I would like to share two well-written editorials about the recent lawsuit against the healthcare mandate. The first editorial was printed in yesterday’s New York Daily News.

Here is an excerpt:

The church’s positions on contraception and abortion have been clear from time immemorial. While many Americans — perhaps most — live by other codes, Catholic teaching holds that intervening in the procreative process and terminating pregnancy violate the sanctity of life.

Dismissing that principle of faith, the administration decreed that, under the Obama health reform program, even church-related employers must provide insurance coverage whose benefits include not only contraception, but contraception without any payments by patients.

Click here to read the whole editorial.

The second editorial was printed in the Wall Street Journal.  (The online version is password protected. You would need an account to view it.)

Here is an excerpt from the editorial:

The famously liberal Notre Dame gave President Obama an honorary degree in 2009 despite his support for abortion rights. At the time, Notre Dame President John Jenkins applauded Mr. Obama’s “willingness to engage with those who disagree with him and encourage people of faith to bring their beliefs to the public debate.”

So much for that. The lawsuit signals that far from engaging with “those who disagree,” Mr. Obama has rebuffed Catholic leaders in their attempt to work out a compromise over the Administration’s mandate that all insurance plans offer contraception and sterilization services, including abortifacients. “If the government wants to provide such services,” Father Jenkins said in a statement Monday, “means are available that do not compel religious organizations to serve as its agents.”

But the Administration deliberately rejected any such means, exempting a religious employer only if it is a nonprofit whose goal is the “inculcation of religious values” and which primarily employs and serves people who share the same values. That leaves out legions of parochial schools, universities, hospitals, soup kitchens and other charities whose beliefs are also threatened by the mandate.

You can read the whole editorial here. Again, you would need a WSJ account to read it.

Statement of the USCCB on President Obama’s Remarks On Marriage

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

I would like to share with you the following press release that was issued yesterday by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on President Obama’s Remarks On Marriage.

CARDINAL DOLAN: PRESIDENT OBAMA’S REMARKS ON MARRIAGE ‘DEEPLY SADDENING’

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the following statement:

President Obama’s comments today in support of the redefinition of marriage are deeply saddening. As I stated in my public letter to the President on September 20, 2011, the Catholic Bishops stand ready to affirm every positive measure taken by the President and the Administration to strengthen marriage and the family. However, we cannot be silent in the face of words or actions that would undermine the institution of marriage, the very cornerstone of our society. The people of this country, especially our children, deserve better. Unfortunately, President Obama’s words today are not surprising since they follow upon various actions already taken by his Administration that erode or ignore the unique meaning of marriage. I pray for the President every day, and will continue to pray that he and his Administration act justly to uphold and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. May we all work to promote and protect marriage and by so doing serve the true good of all persons.

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Statement of the USCCB on Religious Liberty

Friday, February 10th, 2012

I would like to share with you the statement that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released to the press today regarding religious liberty.

The following press release was issued today by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, quoting Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and president of the USCCB.

Begin USCCB Release:

BISHOPS STUDYING INITIAL WHITE HOUSE MOVEMENT ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

New opportunity to dialogue with executive branch, obtain details
Too soon to tell whether and how much improvement on core concerns
Commitment to religious liberty for all means legislation still necessary

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sees initial opportunities in preserving the principle of religious freedom after President Obama’s announcement today. But the Conference continues to express concerns. “While there may be an openness to respond to some of our concerns, we reserve judgment on the details until we have them,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The past three weeks have witnessed a remarkable unity of Americans from all religions or none at all worried about the erosion of religious freedom and governmental intrusion into issues of faith and morals,” he said.

“Today’s decision to revise how individuals obtain services that are morally objectionable to religious entities and people of faith is a first step in the right direction,” Cardinal-designate Dolan said. “We hope to work with the Administration to guarantee that Americans’ consciences and our religious freedom are not harmed by these regulations.”

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Protecting Religious Freedom

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

A few days ago, I came across an interesting column in The Long Island Catholic written by Bishop William Murphy of Rockville CentreHe writes about President Obama’s healthcare mandate.

Here is an excerpt:

This mandate is a radical incursion on the part of our government into freedom of conscience founded on our religious beliefs! It contravenes the First Amendment and several federal laws. More importantly, it violates the law of God who gave us life and calls us to respect all human life. The Bill of Rights assures us that we have a right in this country to obey God’s law and follow our conscience, free to live out our religious beliefs as individual persons and as institutions. Forcing all of us to buy or provide coverage for sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that induce abortion, is a radical incursion into our freedom of conscience and religious exercise.

There is in this mandate a very narrow exception clause that is practically meaningless to the exercise of freedom of conscience and religious belief. It would, in an alarming number of circumstances, not except or exempt even Jesus, or anyone else who offers the healing care of Jesus to others, from being forced to act like persons who do not share their beliefs. It is, therefore, a direct assault on our own right to freedom of exercise of our beliefs. Further, with so few exceptions protecting religious freedom, this mandate forces virtually all insurance plans to cover such services and, in so doing, endangers the ability of our Catholic hospitals to continue to provide health care according to the tenets of Jesus and the Church, rather than the government.

You can read his whole column here.

Religious Freedom: The Cornerstone of American Government

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Today, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed article that I wrote on President Obama’s healthcare reform law and protecting our religious freedom. I thought you might want to read it. Here is an excerpt:

Scarcely two weeks ago, in its Hosanna-Tabor decision upholding the right of churches to make ministerial hiring decisions, the Supreme Court unanimously and enthusiastically reaffirmed these longstanding and foundational principles of religious freedom. The court made clear that they include the right of religious institutions to control their internal affairs.

Yet the Obama administration has veered in the opposite direction. It has refused to exempt religious institutions that serve the common good—including Catholic schools, charities and hospitals—from its sweeping new health-care mandate that requires employers to purchase contraception, including abortion-producing drugs, and sterilization coverage for their employees.

Last August, when the administration first proposed this nationwide mandate for contraception and sterilization coverage, it also proposed a “religious employer” exemption. But this was so narrow that it would apply only to religious organizations engaged primarily in serving people of the same religion. As Catholic Charities USA’s president, the Rev. Larry Snyder, notes, even Jesus and His disciples would not qualify for the exemption in that case, because they were committed to serve those of other faiths.

small image of PDF Icon  You can read the whole op-ed here.