Posts Tagged ‘Religion & Politics’

Standing Up for Persecuted Christians in the Middle East

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Recently I read this moving piece on the plight of Christians in the Middle East. It is our duty to stand up for them as is eloquently outlined by Johnnie Moore, author and Professor of Religion and Vice President at Liberty University, on FoxNews.com:

I wept as I heard their stories, and I wondered why Christians around the world weren’t incensed by it all.

Ironically, that meeting in Jordan was not convened by Christians, but by Muslims who cared about the plight of their Christian neighbors.

At one point, Jordan’s strong and kind king said that “it is a duty rather than a favor” to protect the Christians in the region, and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, a senior adviser to the king, acknowledged that “Christians were in this region before Muslims.” He said, “They are not strangers, nor colonialists, nor foreigners. They are natives of these lands and Arabs, just as Muslims are.”

While I was deeply encouraged by the tone of these Islamic leaders, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “I wonder how many Christians in the West even care about those in the East?”

In that moment, I decided I would be their advocate.

Read the rest here.

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.

Rev. Martin Luther King and the Value of Faith

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Yesterday, during my radio program, Conversation with the Cardinal, that is broadcast on The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM, I talked about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the great impact his faith had on his life.  Here’s a little of what I had to say:

“Where would we be without his enlightened leadership?  But once again, would you find that today those who would extol, rightly, the Reverend Martin Luther King’s leadership would also very often might not be on our side with religious values being in the public square?  In other words, today it is kind of a secularist mindset that religion, morality, the Bible, teachings that we have from our religion, our churches, those are best kept private.  And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Wow, I’m sure glad Martin Luther King didn’t believe that.’  I’m sure glad that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King did not believe that what he prayed on Sunday morning was not to be implemented on Monday morning.  For him, politics was shot through with religious values and for him there was no apologizing for the fact that the Bible, that Jesus, that the Old Testament prophets, they were definitive in culture, in life, in our nation….So, I’m proud of him as a religious leader, as a clergyman, as a minister, as a preacher, that he’s the one that led us in this great act of freedom and emancipation.”

I’m also happy that I got to participate in NBC-TV’s celebration of Dr. King’s speech, in what they’re calling #DreamDay.  You can find my video here.

Respecting Religious Freedom

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Since I returned from Rio, I am catching up on some reading. I came across this insightful op-ed on religious freedom that was published last week’s Wall Street Journal.

Here is an excerpt:

A common theory about freedom of religion suggests that such a value is grounded in a modus vivendi, or compromise: People agree to respect each other’s freedom in order to avoid religiously motivated strife. But the modus vivendi theory obscures the deep ground of principle on which the right of religious liberty rests and the true reasons for respecting the religious freedom of others.

As a Republican and a Democrat on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, we are committed, with our colleagues, to advancing religious liberty around the globe. One of our goals is to make clear that such liberty is not simply a matter of sensible social compromise, or just an American ideal or a Western value, but an essential element of human dignity.

You can read the whole op-ed here.

In Memoriam: Lindy Boggs

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Just home yesterday from World Youth Days in Rio, with three million young people and Pope Francis, I am saddened to learn of the passing of one of the more gracious, influential people I’ve ever come to know, a woman at 97 still ever young, Lindy Boggs.

I came to know her when she served with such charm and effectiveness as the American ambassador to the Holy See.  There she told me that she relished the appointment when offered it by President Clinton, as it gave her the chance to work for two of the towering loves of her life, her Church and her country.

Or, as she quoted her daughter, Cokie, as remarking, “This job is made for you, mom, because you’ll get to do every day the two things you most enjoy:  going out for lunch, and Mass!”

I found her remarkably perceptive at the Vatican about issues of mutual concern to both the Holy See and the United States:  world hunger, disarmament, the plight of refugees, religious freedom, the rights of women and unborn babies, healthcare, education, human trafficking, and world peace.

She had worked hard on these concerns during her celebrated years in Congress, so, she was a natural.

And she could get by with calling everybody, even the most formal and stuffy cardinal, “Honey.”

Never will I forget a dinner I shared with her and Lady Bird Johnson at the Villa Richardson, the residence of the American ambassador, on a sultry Roman July evening.  I had just read an article about the heroic efforts of both women in working closely with their renowned husbands on civil rights in the mid-60’s, and about their courageous train tour through the South to encourage leaders to support civil rights legislation.  Over a “mint julip” – - Lindy’s home was the only place in Rome you could find one – - they reminisced, to my delight, over their lobbying.

I never knew her age – - she told me once that it was “the fourth secret of Fatima” – - but her energy left many in the dust.

Although she told me she was “baptized a Catholic – - and a Democrat!” she did not hide her high disappointment over her party’s abandonment of the right to life of the innocent baby in the womb, and wondered if that’s what kept her from the vice-presidential nomination in 1984.

Ambassador Boggs – - even though she kept insisting, I could never call this great woman “Lindy” (although I loved it when she called me “honey,”) – - tonight I toast you with a mint julep, as I commend you to the Lord you so loved and served.

And I’ll remember January 26, 1998, when the man you so revered, Blessed John Paul II, arrived in my hometown, St. Louis, for a visit. You were there, the caboose in a lengthy line of people President Clinton was introducing to the Holy Father.  When you stood before him, the President began, “Your Holiness, this is . . .,” but Pope John Paul II stopped him:  “I know her!  I love her!”

That’s infallible!  We all loved her.  Now, by God’s mercy, and the intercession of her friend, our blessed Mother, Mary, we trust God loves her forever!

A Call to Counter Cultural Witness

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Sad . . . worrisome . . . but hardly surprising.

That’s how I answered another concerned person who asked my sentiments about Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision allowing the redefinition of marriage.

Sad, because the ominous erosion of the pivotal institution of society and civilization — marriage – has been accelerated.  Yes, the decision could have been more troublesome, but it’s still somber.

The understanding of marriage as the lifelong, faithful, loving union of one man and one woman, as a husband and a wife become a mom and dad to their babies, and bring about a family, is a given in the human heart, a constant in history, flowing from what philosophers term the natural law, a definition embedded in reasoned reflection on the human person, antedating any government, written law, or religion.

To protect and foster that union has been the driving force of civilization.  Sure, it’s been under pressure from the start – by, for instance, cheating on one’s spouse, abandoning spouse and children, lack of selfless love, or divorce, just to mention a few threats — but culture has always understood that such pressures could not prevail, and that this ancient institution had to be cherished if the human community were to flourish.  Governments then have a duty to enact and defend laws that protect this special relationship, in order to promote the common good of all.

For those of us who believe in God, things get even better, because this God has revealed that this foundational relationship of marriage is a mirror of the way God loves us!  In other words, God loves us like a wife loves her husband, like a husband loves his wife.  Since God’s love for us is forever, faithful, and fruitful (bringing life), so is marriage!

The creator elevated this natural understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman, faithful and forever, giving us new life in babies, to a supernatural level, as Jesus taught.

In recent decades, this fundamental relationship of marriage has been under dramatic pressure:  no-fault, easy divorce; living together like a husband and wife before marriage, or even for years without the formal bond; glorification of promiscuity; and even same-sex “marriage.”

In the face of each threat, people of faith, and thoughtful, reflective people of no faith at all, have expressed genuine concern that the ordinary, intended, given definition of marriage was almost becoming the exception.  People of faith have tried — not always successfully, I admit — to do this in a non-judgmental, calm way.  In other words, we discourage divorce, without harshly judging those who have to suffer through it; we oppose same-sex “marriage” while never condemning those with same-sex attraction (a bigotry God also abhors); we consider adultery wrong, while forgiving adulterers.  In other words, we’re pro-marriage, not anti-anyone.  Thus, while we highly respect the Supreme Court, we find very troubling the statement that one’s defense of marriage as historically and naturally understood to be based only on bigotry.  The justices have the responsibility to interpret law, not the motives of honest citizens.

We love many people:  our parents and siblings, our good friends.  But we don’t marry them.  Marriage is about love, yes, but a unique love that procreates children.

This past Wednesday, marriage as classically defined, naturally understood, and historically defended, took a big hit.  That makes us sad.

We’re also worried, because those of us who will continue to hold to the definition of marriage consonant with reason, nature, tradition, and faith, might now be coerced to accept, promote, and allow what we find so sad and ominous.  We’ll be told to “keep our oppressive, bigoted, medieval, outmoded” opinions to ourselves.  If we want to hand those “opinions” on to our children, teach them to our people, behave in accord with them, and exercise the duties of our faith publicly — to serve, teach, heal — we’re worried we’ll be harassed.

We’re worried enough to ask, now just who is doing the imposing?  We’ve been stereotyped as imposing our strange “view” of marriage upon others.  We worry, because now the highest court in our land has undermined the definition of marriage, and imposed a new definition on everyone else.

We also worry about an apparent understanding of government that considers itself able to exercise such power.  If I remember my American Studies courses correctly, the wisdom of our founders, as we’ll celebrate Thursday, was that they viewed government as a human construct to protect and defend mediating institutions such as family, marriage, and faith, not to change or tamper with them!  Kings claimed a “divine right” to alter the natural order, and our founders rebelled against that claim.

So, as one commentator observed, “The government can talk and issue rulings all it wants, but nobody can change the very definition of marriage.”

Sad, worried, but hardly surprised.  I confess that I won a $5 bet last week, as I had wagered months ago that the Supreme Court would follow this rush.  The powerful engine to redefine marriage left the station about a decade ago.  Somberly, we’ve come to realize that, once Hollywood, the entertainment industry, college professors, the society and editorial pages of our big urban newspapers, the sit-coms, movies, and talk shows get behind something, get out of the way.

What becomes normative, then, is not natural law but the polls, not the Constitution but the “correct,” not the Bible but the blogs and the TV, not the Church but the chic.

No surprise . . .

What to do?  We can get mad, bitter, angry, and harsh.  Forget it.  That’s hardly decent, and it’s counterproductive.

We could “circle the wagons” and retreat from a culture that more and more finds our values toxic and wants to stifle us.  Don’t go there.  We’re to engage the culture, not run from it.

We could long for the “good old days,” and wring our hands about these awful modern times.  Of course, the older you get, the more you realize there were no good old days, and that our job is “to make pasta with the dough we got,” to work and live honorably and justly in the here and now.

We better start with ourselves, because, a good chunk of people of faith, even among our own Catholic people, do not share this sense of sadness and worry over Wednesday’s decisions.  Part of the New Evangelization is to present the timeless teachings of our faith – - like true marriage – - in a cogent, coherent, fresh way, re-convincing our people.

We remind ourselves of what Blessed John Paul II called our duty to be counter cultural:  that our beliefs are often at odds with contemporary trends, but that this reality only encourages us to live them out more heroically.  True freedom is not the license to do whatever we want, but the liberty to do what we ought.

We recover a sense of faithful citizenship, and, as loyal American citizens, continue to explore every method of reversing this sad and worrisome decision, reminding our elected officials and magistrates that the rights of conscience and religious freedom are not government favors or concessions, but flow from the very nature and dignity of the human person.

And, we never give up hope.  The witness given by our husbands and wives, moms and dads, to faithful, life giving, lifelong love is more cherished and essential than ever.  These days, the vocation of a man and woman, united forever in faithful love, leading to babies and families, is as potent a sign as celibacy is for priests!

Besides, “the truth shall set us free!”  That always gives us encouragement, and trumps worry and sadness, right?

A blessed Independence Day!

Fortnight For Freedom

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Standing in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty is one of our most beloved landmarks, both as New Yorkers and as Americans.  So many of our ancestors fondly recalled seeing Lady Liberty, their first vision of a new homeland.  Many of them told the story of seeing her for the first time, and not a few of them had to pause in retelling it because of a lump in their throat or a tear in their eye.

Even those of us who were born in America cherish the Statue of Liberty, and, even more importantly, what it stands for.  Who indeed can fail to be moved by the line from Emma Lazarus’ famous poem:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”

That atmosphere of liberty is so much a part of the American experience and heritage.  Of course, most of us did not have to travel far and suffer hardship to glimpse the torch of the Statue, and to embrace her promise of freedom.  Most newcomers today do not come by ship, and so never set eyes upon her.  We New Yorkers, frequently in a rush to our next destination, don’t even look out into the Harbor very often.

So it would be easy for us to take the Statue of Liberty for granted, as just another landmark for tourists to visit.  And it would be all too easy to forget how precious — and fragile — is that breath of freedom that our forerunners yearned for so ardently.  This desire for freedom was written into the human heart by God, and exalted in God’s word in the Bible.  It is expressed so powerfully in the founding documents of our nation, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  It is the ideal to which all our national institutions aspire, and which they are bound to protect and respect.  It is for freedom that so many of our brothers and sisters have been willing to sacrifice their lives to defend.

I don’t wish to push this analogy too far, but in recent years it has become a bit more difficult to “breathe free” as deeply as we would like.  The atmosphere is not quite so clear and mild any more.  Our liberty — like clean air — isn’t something we can take for granted.

This is the reason that the Bishops of the United States have called upon all Catholics, and all people of good will, to spend the days from June 21 through July 4 as a Fortnight for Freedom.  These fourteen days are designed to raise awareness and to encourage action on a number of the current challenges to religious liberty.  These include:

  • The HHS mandate, which presumes to intrude upon the very definition of faith and ministry, and could cause believers to violate their consciences.
  • Impending Supreme Court rulings that could redefine marriage, which will present a host of difficulties to institutions and people who stand on their faith-based understanding of authentic marriage as between one man and one woman
  • Proposed legislation at the national and state levels that would expand abortion rights, legalize assisted suicide, restrict immigrants from full participation in society, and limit the ability of Church agencies to provide humanitarian services.
  • Government intrusion into the rights and duties of parents regarding their children.
  • Overt persecution of believers in many countries of the world.

My brother bishops and I are encouraging people to offer prayers to God, the source of our freedom, that we may fully enjoy the liberty that was sought by those who came to our shores.  We are also urging practical action to defend our freedom.

Our two weeks begin tomorrow, June 21, and include moving feasts, such as June 22, the feast of Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher, both martyrs in England as they prophetically defended the rights of the Church against intrusion by the crown; June 24, the Birth of Saint John the Baptist, the one who defended God’s law to a tyrant and lost his head because of his courage; and, of course, Independence Day.

We must never forget the power of the American promise, which was passed on to us by our ancestors, and which we hold in trust for generations to come.

And, like Lady Liberty, may we always be proud to lift high the torch of freedom and hope to those who yearn for it today.

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.

Letter on Immigration Reform and Abortion Expansion

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

I am sending the following letter to all of our parishes today, asking that it be shared with parishioners this weekend.  It concerns two important issues: immigration reform, and abortion. Might I also ask your help and your prayers on these two key pieces of legislation in Washington and Albany?

June 6, 2013

My dear friends in Christ,

Can I ask your help and your prayers on two important issues.

Both concerns flow from our solid belief in the dignity of the human person and the promotion of a culture of life.

The first is about the reform of our nation’s immigration laws.  As Catholics, we gratefully acknowledge that our parents and grandparents came here as immigrants, and were welcomed by this country we love.  As Americans, we believe the United States is at her best when she remains true to her heritage of hospitality.  All recognize that our current immigration laws are unfair and do not work.  The current bill before congress, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act,” while not perfect, is sure promising, and, we bishops believe, deserves support, as it is consonant with our cherished beliefs as Christians and citizens.

The second is the “Woman’s Equality Act.”  Of the ten proposals in this act, we’re supportive of nine.  Not bad.  Sadly, the tenth is, literally, “a killer,” as it increases access to abortion.  In a state where 40% of babies are aborted – - and, in some areas, 60% of babies of Latino or African American blood – - we hardly need to further the abortion license.  Can’t we work together to help pregnant women in trouble with more lifegiving alternatives?  Would you support our courageous civic leaders in Albany who share our concern about this sad and unnecessary measure?   (www.nyscatholic.org).

Thanks for your prayers and support. I’ll keep you posted.

Faithfully in Christ,

Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York

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.

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