Posts Tagged ‘United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’

Where Silence is Not Golden

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

It seems to keep getting worse and worse.  Now we hear of three innocent, beloved sisters raped and beheaded at their mission in Burundi.  Even the police were sickened by the ruthlessness.

Father Paolo Mikko, the local parish priest, tells us how the ISIS forces drove the ancient Christian community from Erbil, in Iraqui Kurdistan:  militants of the “Islamic Caliphate” took over churches and convents, burned crosses, statues, and the Bible, and instructed the few Christians who could not flee to “convert to Islam, pay a protection tax – - or die.”  The director of UNICEF in Iraq, Marzio Babelli, described it as a “jihadist ethnic cleansing,” as the persecutors brag that the city is “Christian free,” with the word “Nazarene” spray-painted in derision on the shells of the torched homes of the fleeing Christians.

Move south to Nigeria, where my friend Ignatius Kaigama, the Archbishop of Jos, spends most of his time burying Catholics butchered by Boko Haram, or praying with his people outside the smoking embers of their former churches, destroyed by militants.

We haven’t even mentioned the attacks on the venerable yet fragile Christian villages of Syria, where half-a-million have fled certain death; or South Sudan, where a systematic and ruthless extermination of a Christian minority is taking place.

No wonder Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, asks, “Who will stand up for the Christians?” and calls this Christianophobia “Nazi like.”  His brave summons is the more heroic given the fact that the Jewish community has all it can do to counteract the nasty growing anti-semitism rolling through Europe, one place you’d think would know better.

Yet voices like this are rare.  No wonder Bishop Warduni in Baghdad asks, “Why are you all silent?  Why do you not speak out?”

The voices are beginning to be heard!  Pope Francis ceaselessly urges a stop to this horror, and recently placed before the UN “the tears, the suffering, the heartfelt cries of despair of Christians and religious minorities,” and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged President Obama to act.

John Carr, a columnist for America, reminds us of the shallowness of those who make political hay out of an alleged “war on women” here in America, while ignoring the rape and beheading of Christian women in many countries dominated by extremists, who place the heads of women and children on crude stick crosses in the villages.

Thank you, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, for asking “How is it possible that . . . atrocities occur?”  I appreciate even more your reply. “For two reasons:  because there are those prepared to commit them, and there are those who remain silent.”

No longer can we be quiet!  We need columnists like Kirsten Powers not scared to speak of the “religicide of Christianity;” we count on the indefatigable efforts of leaders such as Congressman Frank Wolf, who takes every opportunity to bring such “religicide” to the attention of Washington.

And it’s time to wonder about the silence of the leaders of authentic Islam.  Thank you. Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, who calls the atrocities what they are:  “a violation of all the Islamic values, the higher objectives of Islamic law, and the universal values shared by all mankind.”

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks provides us with an examination of conscience as he observes, “It would indeed be awful to think that the West might remain silent as violence rages purely out of a failure to recognize that Christians can be victimized . . .”

Thirteen years ago today, this city we’re proud to call home saw raw evil, hate, and violence up close and personal, and we’re still rightly not over it.   The supportive voices of our global neighbors helped get us through.   They gave us a great example.  Now suffering Christians need our voices, not our silence.

Statement of the USCCB on HHS Mandate

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

The following press release was issued today by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Mandate.

BISHOPS PROMISE TO CONTINUE ‘VIGOROUS EFFORTS’ AGAINST HHS VIOLATIONS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN HEALTH CARE REFORM MANDATE

Declare government has no place defining religion, religious ministry
Seek protection for conscience rights of institutions, individuals
Stress action with the public, White House, Congress, courts

WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops are strongly united in their ongoing and determined  efforts to protect religious freedom, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said in a March 14 statement.

The Administrative Committee, chaired by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the USCCB, is the highest authority of the bishops’ conference outside the semi-annual sessions of the full body of bishops. The Committee’s membership consists of the elected chairmen of all the USCCB permanent committees and an elected bishop representative from each of the geographic regions of the USCCB.

The full statement can be found at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Admin-Religious-Freedom.pdf

The Administrative Committee said it was “strongly unified and intensely focused in its opposition to the various threats to religious freedom in our day.” The bishops will continue their vigorous work of education on religious freedom, dialogue with the executive branch, legislative initiatives and efforts in the courts to defend religious freedom. They promised a longer statement on the principles at the heart of religious freedom, which will come later from the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty.

The bishops noted that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that forces all private health plans to provide coverage of sterilization and contraceptives – including abortion-inducing drugs – called for an immediate response. Of particular concern, they said, are a religious exemption from the mandate that the bishops deem “arbitrarily narrow” and an “unspecified and dubious future ‘accommodation’’’ offered to other religious organizations that are denied the exemption.

The bishops thanked supporters from the Catholic community and beyond “who have stood firmly with us in our vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate.”

“It is your enthusiastic unity in defense of religious freedom that has made such a dramatic and positive impact in this historic public debate.”

The bishops said this dispute is not about access to contraceptives but about the government’s forcing the Church to provide them. Their concerns are not just for the Catholic Church but also for “those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block.”

“Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church – consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions – to act against Church teachings,” they said.

The Church has worked for universal healthcare in the United States since 1919, they added, and said the current issue “is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.”

The bishops called the HHS mandate “an unwarranted government definition of religion,” with government deciding who is a religious employer deserving exemption from the law.

“The introduction of this unprecedented defining of faith communities and their ministries has precipitated this struggle for religious freedom,” the bishops said.

“Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry,” they said.

“If this definition is allowed to stand, it will spread throughout federal law, weakening its healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity,” they said.

The bishops said the government’s foray into church governance “where government has no legal competence or authority” is beyond disturbing. Those deemed by HHS not to be “religious employers,” the bishops said, “will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world.”

The bishops also called the HHS mandate “a violation of personal civil rights.”  The new mandate creates a class of people “with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to live in accordance with their faith and values,” the bishops said. “They too face a government mandate to aid in providing ‘services’ contrary to those values – whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees, or as insurers themselves – without even the semblance of exemptions.”

The bishops called for the Catholic faithful, and all people of good will throughout the nation to join them in prayer and penance “for our leaders and for the complete protection of our First Freedom – religious liberty.”

“Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength,” the bishops said, “for without God we can do nothing. But with God all things are possible.”

My Visit to Haiti

Monday, January 25th, 2010

This past weekend, I had the privilege of representing the bishops of the United States at the funeral of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  The Papal Nuncio to Haiti and the Haitian bishops invited me because of my role as Chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services.  Joining me on this profoundly moving trip were Ken Hackett, President of CRS, and Monsignor David Malloy, General Secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Sean Callahan, CRS executive vice-president for overseas operations, and I look over the rubble of the Notre Dame Cathedral before the funeral.

photo by Sara A. Fajardo

At the funeral of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot and Vicar Charles Benoit, on Saturday, January 23, 2010

photo by Sara A. Fajardo

While we were there, we also had the opportunity to visit just some of the hundreds of CRS workers who are hard at work providing relief to those whose lives were devastated by this tragedy, and who are even know beginning to plan for the next phase – the reconstruction of Haiti. CRS provides not only emergency relief in times of disaster, but has been working in Haiti since the 1950’s, and will be there for decades to come.

photo by Msgr. David Malloy

photo by Msgr. David Malloy

This morning, some members of the New York media interviewed me about my trip.  Here’s a copy of the audio of that press conference, as well as some photos of our visit provided by CRS.