Posts Tagged ‘Pro-life’

Serving Young Adult Catholics in New York

Friday, January 24th, 2014

You might remember how, about four-and-a-half years ago, Bishop Dennis Sullivan, then our auxiliary bishop, now the chief shepherd in the diocese of Camden, began what I call the antipasto for our current process of pastoral planning, Making All Things New.

He, along with a couple dozen faithful collaborators, toured the archdiocese, holding “town hall meetings” for thousands of the folks. His question was simple: what are the needs of God’s People? What spiritual care and pastoral service do you most expect from the Church? What especially would you like to see this archdiocese start, or do better?

Five or six pressing pastoral needs surfaced, and we’ve spent the last four years trying to respond to them. Let me mention one of them to you: young adult ministry.

Our parents and grandparents reported that young adults — that means usually post-college to late thirties — were drifting from the Church. Used to be, they noted, that young adults got married in their early twenties, had babies quickly after that, and got settled into a parish. No more! The average age for marriage (for those that do marry at all, which is yet another big challenge) is now late twenties and early thirties.

So, guess what? Young adults drift , and are sometimes in a “no-man’s land” when it comes to the Church. Thank God, some remain active and committed, although they may “parish-hop”; others become lacklustre in their faith; others, sadly, leave the Church, for no religion at all, or for another, usually evangelical Church.

The priests told us this was indeed the case, and that the problem was beyond the remedy of any one single parish. What was needed, they all urged, was diocesan-wide action. We heard you!

Over the last six-weeks or so, I’ve been to three “humdinger” events for young adults.

In Advent, our recently expanded Young Adult Office sponsored a Mass on a weekday evening at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and asked me to be the celebrant. They do this monthly. The cathedral was jammed. Confessions were heard prior to Mass; the music was excellent; I tried my best to give a decent sermon; the crowd was attentive, reverent, happy.

Young Adults gathered for Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral

After Mass, I mingled with them, and heard them observe how much they appreciated the company of other Catholics their age. A big chunk of the group then adjoined to a nearby locale for “milk and cookies.” (You know better!)

Right after New Year’s, I attended another event for our young adults, this one called Catholic Underground, at Our Lady of Good Counsel parish on East 90th Street.

Again, SRO, with even hundreds down in the basement. This crowd spent the hour in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament, praying the evening divine office of the Church, with moving, live meditative chant and music as a backdrop. A half dozen priests heard confessions, and they coaxed me into saying a few words at the conclusion of our prayer. All adjourned to the hall afterwards for a concert, refreshments, and fellowship.

Finally, a couple of Sundays ago, I offered the 7:30 p.m. Mass at St. Ignatius Loyola Church on Park Avenue. I had heard that this, too, was a popular mecca for young adults, and sure enough, it was. Great crowd, uplifting music, good participation, well-planned worship . . . and drinks and snacks afterwards.

I heard the same message: these young adults enjoy sleeping-in and loafing on Sunday morning, and look forward to the evening Eucharist and good company later in the day.

These young adults tell us they search for three things: nourishment in their faith through good prayer and worship; friendship with others who share their religion; and opportunities for Christian service.

Our Archdiocesan Young Adult Office is hyper to respond to these needs. From what I have seen, they’re doing it! And, they’ve even got workers in the other areas of our expansive archdiocese to meet young adults there. Here’s how you can access them: www.catholicnyc.com.

We’ll keep trying, because these young adults need the Church . . . and we sure need 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?

Greetings from San Diego

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Greetings from San Diego, where I have joined with my brother bishops from across the country for our annual Spring meeting. I spent last evening catching up on the news from back home, and came across a few items I’d like to share.

Yesterday, the online edition of USA Today ran an op-ed column from me, as president of the USCCB, expressing our support for the immigration reform bill now before the U.S. Senate. Let me share an excerpt with you:

Immigration reform is an issue close to Catholic hearts. America has wonderfully welcomed generations of immigrant families, and our parishes, schools and charitable ministries have long helped successfully integrate immigrants into American life.

Congress will soon debate the most comprehensive overhaul of our nation’s immigration laws in almost 30 years. With the stakes so high, it’s important that Congress craft legislation that balances the legitimate needs of security with our heritage of welcoming immigrants and the gifts they bring to our country.

You can read the whole column here.

This past weekend, I asked that a letter be shared in the parishes of the Archdiocese of New York on two very important issues: immigration reform, and, here in New York, the provision in the Women’s Equality Act that would expand abortion.

There were also two well-written pieces on the Women’s Equality Act. The first opinion piece was written by Greg Pfundstein in the New York Post. Pfundstein examines the problems with the abortion provision of the bill. Here is an excerpt from his op-ed:

Gov. Cuomo is trying to sell New Yorkers a bill of goods about his abortion legislation — claiming it would just codify federal law. That’s a lie.

The governor and his allies say the bill would merely align state law with Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision.

Yet Roe — which effectively constitutionalized abortion on demand up until birth — is no longer the governing federal case on abortion. In 1992, Casey v. Planned Parenthood substantially altered the landscape by explicitly allowing states to impose some sensible restrictions on abortion.

Click here to read his whole op-ed.

The second piece that I came across is an editorial published in the New York Daily News questioning Governor Cuomo’s decision to promote this abortion expansion bill at this time. Here is an excerpt:

The governor triggered the fight by proposing a bill that, he says, is intended only to clarify a woman’s legal right to terminate a pregnancy in New York. But in so doing, he is addressing an issue that has long been settled in both law and practice.

This state can rightly be called the abortion capital of America, thanks to the city’s extraordinarily high rate of pregnancy terminations.

Women in the city have abortions at a rate more than three times that of the U.S. as a whole, while women in the rest of the state surpass the national average by a small margin.

You can read the editorial here.

Statement of the Bishops of New York State on Abortion Bill

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Today I joined my brother bishops of New York State in releasing a statement to the press regarding the New York State abortion bill.

Here is the press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 4, 2013
STATEMENT OF THE BISHOPS OF NEW YORK STATE ON ABORTION BILL

The following is a statement of Timothy Cardinal Dolan and the Bishops of New York State:

We are profoundly distressed by the introduction of a bill in New York State today that would ease restrictions in state law on late-term abortion and runs the serious risk of broadly expanding abortion access at all stages of gestation. This legislation would add a broad and undefined “health” exception for late-term abortion and would repeal the portion of the penal law that governs abortion policy, opening the door for non-doctors to perform abortions and potentially decriminalizing even forced or coerced abortions. In addition, we find the conscience protection in the bill to be vague and insufficient, and we are concerned about the religious liberty of our health facilities. While the bill’s proponents say it will simply “codify” federal law, it is selective in its codification. Nowhere does it address the portions of federal laws that limit abortion, such as the ban on taxpayer funding, the ban on partial birth abortion or protections for unborn victims of violence.

As the pastors of more than 7.2 million Catholic New Yorkers, we fully oppose this measure, and urge all our faithful people to do the same, vigorously and unapologetically. We invite all women and men of good will to join in this effort and defeat this serious attempt to expand abortion availability in our state and to codify the most radical abortion proposals of any state in the nation.

We support the first nine points in the Governor’s agenda that enhance the true dignity of women. We commit ourselves to examining those proposals and working with the legislature on any and all efforts that help guarantee real equity for all women and men.  Our position on these issues will be consistent with all the efforts of the Catholic Church throughout the world to enhance the dignity of women. The direct taking of the life of a child in the womb in no way enhances a woman’s dignity.

Instead of expanding abortion and making abortions even more prevalent, we would like to protect both the woman and the child in the womb. In New York, where one in every three pregnancies ends in abortion (and upwards of 6 in 10 in certain communities), it is clear that we as a state have lost sight of that child’s dignity. We pledge all our efforts to defeat this proposal. We call on all pro-life New Yorkers to stand together with us and with all the leadership in Albany who share our conviction that we have no need for such a bill to become law. We need instead to enhance and promote the life and dignity of all human beings from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.

-30-

The Gift of Life

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Here we are, in the month of May, when everyone joyfully celebrates Mothers Day, and we Catholics particularly remember our Blessed Mother Mary. It is Springtime, when God’s creation is bursting forth in all its beauty and fertility. All around us, we are reminded that our lives are a gift, ultimately from God, but also from our human mother and our human father. And we are grateful for this gift.

But anyone who picks up the morning newspaper, or turns on the television, can’t help but be deeply troubled by the condition of our culture, particularly how we treat the gift of life.

The national news has given us the nauseating story of the late-term abortionist, Dr. Kermit Gosnell. He was convicted of multiple counts of murder last week, for killing babies who had been born alive after attempted abortions. For years he carried out his terrible trade under unsanitary and inhumane conditions, while the public health authorities of Pennsylvania stood aside and did nothing, out of an ideologically-motivated reluctance to intrude upon a woman’s “right to choose”. Many people, including other abortionists, knew about the abuses and injuries, yet nobody intervened. The Gosnell trial focused our nation’s attention on something it has been avoiding for decades — the essential cruelty of abortion.

So, you would think we could now finally start speaking openly and with common sense about abortion, seeking ways to limit it, discussing creative alternatives.

Apparently, though, that’s not as easy as it sounds.

Instead, we see the President of the United States attending a gala event and toasting Planned Parenthood. Interestingly, the President never mentioned the word “abortion”, but instead praised Planned Parenthood for their work for “women’s health”. But make no mistake — Planned Parenthood may hide behind the term “women’s health”, but their business is really abortion. They do over 300,000 abortions every year, a great number of which are paid for by taxpayers. And they oppose any and all reasonable regulations of abortion, or even discussion about it.

We also have the threat of an expansion of abortion here in New York, under the rubric of “women’s equality”. Many of the governor’s proposals being advanced under that title are worthy of support, and we have not yet seen the actual details of his “Reproductive Health Act.” However, some of the advocates continue to insist that abortion is a central part of “women’s equality.” Their proposals include defining abortion as a “fundamental right”, as if it were equal in significance to the right to vote. They are also pressing to permit non-doctors to do abortions, and allowing risky late-term procedures to be done outside of hospitals. All this would expand the number of late-term abortions, and prevent many common-sense regulations, like ensuring that parents are involved in a decision made by a minor.

How does any of that make any sense? One abortion is too many, but every year we have over 100,000 in New York, and over a million in the United States. Over half of the African-American children conceived each year in New York are aborted, as much as 60% in some areas. So expansion of abortion is hardly something that anyone needs. I’m glad that more and more of our political leaders, including Governor Cuomo, are urging creative ways to decrease the number of abortions by assisting pregnant women, their unborn and newly-born babies.

Nor is there any reasonable way to consider abortion as good for “women’s health” or “equality”. Half of the aborted children are women, some of whom are aborted for no reason other than their sex. Women who have experienced abortion sometimes die from complications, or suffer psychological and physical effects for years afterwards. It is utter madness to treat the gift of a woman’s fertility as if it were a disease, and her unborn baby as if it were a tumor to be eliminated.

We frequently hear calls for a “national conversation” about serious issues, yet our leaders never seem to want to talk frankly about abortion. It has become the great taboo, the subject that we must never mention. When we do raise the subject, we are accused of “imposing our values” on others.

Really, who is imposing values? When our cultural leaders deny or avoid the truth about abortion, isn’t that imposing a view of reality? When the government forces taxpayers to pay for abortion, isn’t that an imposition of anti-life values? What about the unborn babies — how do they feel about having the value of “choice” imposed on them in the most permanent way possible?

Deep in our hearts, there are truths that cannot be erased, that cannot be completely clouded by ideology, or utilitarian calculations, or by our own weaknesses and self-delusions. Our lives are an awesome gift, they are precious and must be safeguarded and nurtured. But not just our own — every human life is just as important, and must be preserved and protected as well. We are all called to be a gift of self, a loving servant, to our brothers and sisters, particularly those in need. And we know, at the core of our being, that abortion contradicts these truths.

Our society is once again challenged to recognize these fundamental truths, to discuss them candidly, to deal with the hard and challenging decisions that they entail, and to support those who struggle with them. The days of denial have to come to an end. We can no longer hide behind euphemism and distraction.

Can we all finally agree that things have gone way too far, and begin to make corrections? Can we start to talk common sense?

 

A Letter from a Pro-Life Democrat

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Recently, Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter, cited an interesting letter on his blog from a pro-life Democrat. Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats For Life, wrote to Senator Jeff Klein in response to his statement on abortion.

Here is an excerpt from Ms. Day’s letter:

I am writing to respond to your comments that “real” Democrats support a woman’s right to choose. I disagree with your assessment. Opportunity for everyone, not abortion, is a core Democratic value.

There is no longer overwhelming support for abortion without restrictions and no longer overwhelming support for taxpayer funding of abortion. An increasing number of individuals are identifying themselves as pro-life — reaching over 50 percent in a recent Gallup Poll. Conversely, people identifying themselves as pro-choice has reached a record low of 41 percent according to the same May 23, 2012 poll. Further, one-third (or 21 million) Democrats self-identify as pro-life.

We, as a party, need to focus on ways to bring together Democrats on both sides of this issue and focus on what unites us — not tell people that they do not belong because they disagree on one position.

You can read the whole letter here.

Bernard Nathanson, Rest In Peace

Monday, February 28th, 2011

This morning I had the immense privilege of celebrating a Requiem Mass for Dr. Bernard Nathanson.  It was inspiring to see so many people present to celebrate the life of this champion of life.  Dr. Nathanson’s pastor, Father Gerald Murray, preached a magnificent homily.  I’m privileged to share it with you.

Here is an excerpt:

“Dr. Bernard Nathanson was a fearless advocate of the self-evident truth that it is a grave injustice to kill people before they are born. The unjust decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton mandating legalized abortion in our country cry out for the counter-witness of those who will not abide this injustice. Heroism is called for. True heroism is never easy and is only possible through God’s grace. We acknowledge today our gratitude to a true hero who would not abide such grave injustice in our land. In doing so, we too recognize the Hand of God in the life of Dr. Nathanson.”

You can read the whole thing here.

Pro-Life Sunday

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Here is a copy of my homily from Pro-Life Sunday, Sunday, October 3, 2010, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. An audio clip of the homily is available online here.

AMDG                                                                                                              JMJ

27/OT/C/3/X/10
(Pro-Life)

“For the vision, still has its time,

presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;

if it delays, wait for it

it will surely come, it will not be late.”

The vision . . . God’s holy Word this Sunday morning, from the Prophet Habakkuk.

The vision . . . what is this vision?

From the beginning, our creator had this vision:  to share His life with us, His creatures, life now, life forever.

The vision of the sacredness of life, life now, life forever.

A reign of life, not destruction

A kingdom of life, not extinction

A culture of life, not death.

This vision our creator planted in the depth of every human person, as part of our normative law: that life is sacred; that, once God breathes it into us, it lasts forever; that to take innocent life is so inimical to a righteous society that its protection is mandated in the very middle of the ten commandments; that the more innocent and fragile the more it begs protection; that, indeed, to protect life is the most noble of vocations.

This vision, while enshrined in every great religious creed, whether Jewish, Catholic, Islamic, evangelical, Hindu, Buddhist . . . the list goes on . . . , is at its core not denominational or confessional at all, but human, basic, fundamental, rational, natural law, so much so that it was at the core of the enlightened founding fathers who fashioned on these shores a new “promised land” acknowledging from day one that human beings are endowed with certain basic inalienable rights, and that the first of these is . . . guess what? . . . life.

The sacredness of life, life now, life forever.

The vision is threatened, dulled, eclipsed . . . Habakkuk uses vocabulary such as “violence . . . ruin . . . misery . . . destruction . . . strife . . . discord.”

We today add words such as “war . . . terrorism . . . abortion . . . euthanasia . . . trafficking . . . experimentation on living organisms . . .” and are at times tempted to shout out with the prophet, “How long, O Lord?  I cry for help, but you do not listen!”

And the one who implanted that vision within His creatures soothes,

“For the vision, still has its time,

presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;

if it delays, wait for it

it will surely come, it will not be late.”

This is the vision that inspired a Francis (whose feast we celebrate tomorrow) to genuflect before a pregnant woman; a Peter Claver to climb onto slave ships to pour clean water in to the parched throats of African captives; a Bartholomew de las Casas to challenge a system that abused and violated native rights; a Teresa of Calcutta to bathe maggots from the face of a dying beggar in a gutter; a Marine sergeant to jump on a live grenade in a foxhole to preserve the lives of his platoon; a Gianna Molla to carry the baby in her womb all the way to birth even though she knew it would mean her own death . . .

This is the vision that inspires today’s premier civil rights cause, the pro-life movement, renewing our nation, world, culture, and Church.

We may legitimately ask, with Habakkuk, “when . . . how long . . . how much longer will the distortion of death seem to trump the vision of life? . . .” but we never ask if . . . for, fellow dreamers, we hold this truth to be self-evident.

“For the vision, still has its time,

presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;

if it delays, wait for it

it will surely come, it will not be late.”