Archive of January 29, 2009

Cardinal Vanhoye: Bible should be read in a spirit of prayer

Madrid, Spain, Jan 29, 2009 (CNA) - In an interview published this week by the Spanish Catholic magazine Ecclesia, Cardinal Alberto Vanhoye, S.J., the former Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute of Rome and Secretary Emeritus of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, said the way to overcome the temptation to read the Sacred Scriptures with the rationalist approach characteristic of some contemporary scholars, is to read it with an authentic spirit of prayer.


The renowned Bible scholar, who was made cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI on March 24, 2006, said in the interview, “Providence has deigned that I have been able to consecrate truly all of my life to the profound study of Scripture to the benefit of so many students from all over the world. Therefore, I thank the Lord for giving me this privilege.”


The 85 year-old Jesuit then laid out some premises for studying the Bible, which he said are “clearly premises of faith.”


“The Bible is a text that expresses the faith. In order to receive it in a serious and profound way, we must enter into the current that produced it. Therefore, approaching the inspired text with a spirit of faith is essential. On the other hand, there also exists the conviction that the Bible is at the same time an historical book, not simply a theoretical word.  It is a revelation with facts, events, an historical, existential reality that must be received in this way,” he said.


“Sacred Scripture,” the cardinal added, “is essential for knowing Christ, for following him, for researching all of the dimensions of the mystery of Christ.” Moreover, he pointed out, there is a “close relationship between exegetical research and the deepening of faith and the spiritual life. This has made me never doubt once about studying, researching and employing all of my strength and capacities in this study of such fundamental importance for the life of the Church.”


Cardinal Vanhoye also brought up the topic of giving the faithful the means to meditate on the Word of God. He said that Lectio Divina is a special and effective way of doing so.


Asked about how to keep the Bible from becoming a mere object of study separate from one’s spiritual life, the cardinal said, “The principal remedy is mediation on the biblical texts, with a spirit of faith and of prayer.”


“Exegetes cannot be content with just studying the texts. They should meditate on them in an atmosphere of searching for the Lord and for union with Him, and always aware that only Christ gives all the riches of the inspired Scripture.  He is the one who fully opens our minds to the knowledge of the Scriptures, as the end of the Gospel of St. Luke says. Therefore, the remedy is daily prayer, understood as meditation that seeks union with the Lord, receiving his light, receiving his love. Only this can save one from the danger of a rationalist and sterilizing spirit, that can become an obstacle for the lives of the faithful,” the cardinal said.

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Amicus brief argues Prop. 8 prevents ‘systemic’ church-state conflict

Sacramento, Calif., Jan 29, 2009 (CNA) - A coalition of Jewish, Catholic and Protestant organizations has filed an amicus brief asking that Proposition 8 be upheld. The coalition argues that the successful 2008 ballot measure, which overturned a state Supreme Court decision imposing same-sex “marriage,” prevents widespread church-state conflict.

The parties to the brief include the California Catholic Conference, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church State Council, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Union Of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. Their brief, one of sixty submitted to the court, was drafted by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The brief warned that overturning the ballot measure would undermine the democratic process.

Proposition 8 “serves the common good of society to allow the interconnected and religiously sensitive issues of marriage, family and children to be discussed and decided within the political process, not silenced by judicial pronouncement,” the brief argued.

The ballot measure also prevents the creation of “a systemic, irresolvable conflict between church and state” in issues such as housing and public accommodations.

“Although no one expects these religious adherents or their ministers to be required actually to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies, we do expect them to be—and have already seen them be—sued and otherwise punished for their refusal to treat same-sex and different-sex couples as moral equivalents in the numerous other contexts where religious institutions operate in society,” the brief continued.

Eric Rassbach, national litigation director at the Becket Fund, in a Jan. 27 statement argued that there are “many fundamental rights and interests at stake in the debate over same-sex marriage.”

“Those rights and interests can best be balanced if the political process is allowed to continue. If the Court instead overturns Proposition 8, it sets the stage to gridlock California courts with hundreds, even thousands, of legal challenges and decades of societal rancor and legal strife,” he said.

"We have an opportunity here to reason, debate and negotiate our way to a place where the civil rights of both gays and lesbians and religious people are recognized and respected. But not if the court steps in and freezes the debate, forcing each side to assume an entrenched position."

The statement adds that the Becket Fund takes no position on the recognition of same-sex marriage. It argues that in states where same-sex marriage is recognized, governments should provide “robust exemptions” for those with conscientious objections.

In November, the Becket Fund released a study titled “Same-Sex Marriage and State Anti-Discrimination Laws” which claimed the legal recognition of same-sex marriage could affect over 350 separate state anti-discrimination laws and could render objectors to same-sex marriage vulnerable to lawsuits.

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Senator criticizes Obama nominee’s claim that Mexico City Policy is ‘unconstitutional’

Washington D.C., Jan 29, 2009 (CNA) - An Obama nominee for Deputy Secretary of State who argued the Mexico City Policy would be a free speech violation if applied domestically is being charged by a U.S. senator with contradicting U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

The Mexico City Policy forbids funding for groups which perform or promote abortions. It was originally enacted under the Reagan administration, reversed under the Clinton administration, reintroduced under the George W. Bush presidency, and again reversed on Jan. 23 by President Barack Obama.

The Deputy Secretary of State nominee, James B. Steinberg, made his comments in written testimony to the Foreign Relations Committee.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) asked whether Steinberg supported President Obama’s efforts to lift the Mexico City Policy’s restrictions “and use the federal taxpayer dollars to fund abortion services overseas.”

“Do you support President Obama's efforts to lift the Mexico City restrictions? Do you believe our foreign policy should contradict long held domestic policies?” Sen. DeMint asked.

Steinberg replied:

“President Obama has supported repeal of the Mexico City policy, as has Secretary Clinton. Longstanding law, authored by Senator Jesse Helms, expressly prohibits the use of U.S. funds of abortion. The Mexico City policy is an unnecessary restriction that, if applied to organizations based in this country, would be an unconstitutional limitation on free speech.”

“Steinberg’s opinion is in direct contradiction to the U.S. Supreme Court,” a Monday posting on the blog of Sen. DeMint argued, saying that the high court “definitively decided” the matter in a 1991 case Rust v. Sullivan.

“The Government has no constitutional duty to subsidize an activity merely because it is constitutionally protected, and may validly choose to allocate public funds for medical services relating to childbirth but not to abortion,” the court’s majority decision read.

CNA spoke about Steinberg’s testimony in a Wednesday phone interview with Sen. DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton.

“It’s pretty clear that the Supreme Court has emphatically ruled on this issue and that there is no constitutional protection of taxpayer funding for abortion. To restrict those funds is perfectly legitimate under the constitution,” Denton said.

“There’s a concern that without the Mexico City Policy countries that receive foreign aid that have strong pro-life laws may feel forced to remove those laws and restrictions against abortion to receive U.S. foreign aid,” he explained.

He referenced a 2006 list titled “44 Nations Arbitrarily Pressured by UN Treaty Committees To Legalize or Increase Access to Abortion,” produced by Focus on the Family U.N. Representative Thomas W. Jacobson.

Denton called Steinberg’s attempt to distinguish between funding of abortion services and funding of organizations which perform or promote abortion “a distinction without a difference.”

“They just move the money around within the organization,” he claimed in his conversation with CNA.

Sen. DeMint co-sponsored an amendment to the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 seeking to restore the Mexico City Policy. The amendment was defeated by 60-37 in a Wednesday vote.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), reputed to be a pro-life Democrat, voted against the amendment. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) was the only Democrat who favored the measure.

Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) broke with fellow Republicans and opposed the amendment.

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Virginia bill targeting pro-life pharmacies shelved

Alexandria, Va., Jan 29, 2009 (CNA) - DMC Pharmacy, a new pro-life pharmacy in Chantilly, Virginia claims to have been the target of a bill recently introduced into the Virginia House of Delegates. The bill, which was tabled indefinitely, placed restrictions on pharmacies which refuse to prescribe contraceptives.

Virginia House Bill 2373 was proposed on Jan. 14 and tabled in the Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions on Tuesday. Bob Laird, Executive Director of DMC’s parent company Divine Mercy Care, told CNA that the effect of the bill being tabled is that “the issue cannot be brought up again this year.”

Laird added that he knew the bill was aimed at DMC because it is the only pro-life pharmacy in the state.

The bill read: “Any pharmacist who refuses to fill a prescription for contraception shall ensure that the patient seeking such contraception is treated in a nonjudgmental manner and is not subjected to indignity, humiliation, or breeches in confidentiality. The pharmacist shall not confiscate a prescription for contraception that he refuses to fill.”

The bill also required licensed pharmacies which do not prescribe contraceptives to place a “conspicuous notice” in at least 30-point boldface type in both English and Spanish reading “THIS PHARMACY WILL NOT FILL OR REFILL BIRTH CONTROL PRESCRIPTIONS.”

The bill would have imposed a similar rule for pharmacies that do not prescribe “Plan B emergency contraception.”

The legislation was sponsored by delegate David Englin from Virginia’s 45th district.

Laird testified on Monday against the bill before the House committee, arguing “this bill is to stop an imagined problem which does not exist.”

Dr. John Bruchalski, President and Chairman of Divine Mercy Care, said he was not opposed to a business displaying the sign but argued it was not the right of the Commonwealth of Virginia to require the display of the sign.

“This is the second issue in a few days which attempts to suppress the ability of Catholics and the Catholic Church to practice their moral beliefs,” he said in a press release, naming U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s defense of funding birth control in the economic stimulus package as the first issue.

DMC Pharmacy, following Divine Mercy Care’s policies, does not dispense, recommend or counsel on contraceptive products.

Dr. Bruchalski explained the policy, saying “Divine Mercy Care is values-based and consumer-driven.  Both patients and professionals do not want to abandon their conscience while they seek medical care.”

“We need to be professional, personal, and passionate about how we infuse our community with the love of Jesus Christ as we meet their healthcare needs.”

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Family is reason Knights of Columbus exist, says advisor to Supreme Knight

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 29, 2009 (CNA) - Luis Guevara, assistant to the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, D. Carl Anderson, spoke with CNA earlier this week about the purpose of the Catholic men’s fraternal organization, saying, “The family is the reason the Order exists.”

In exclusive statements to CNA, Guevara said, “The family is reason the Knights of Columbus exist as it is the domestic church, the first Christian community.”

“By making committed laymen the foundation of the order, Father McGivney (founder of the Knights) sought to effectively and concretely safeguard the life of the family as the foundation of the community, conscious that it is from the parish where the family also gives itself to the world with Christ,” Guevara explained.

He went on to emphasize the role the Knights played at the Sixth World Meeting of Families that took place in Mexico and was attended by 150 families from the Order. Guevara said the main challenge the Knights of Columbus see for the family in Mexico is the social transformation that the country is experiencing and suffering “as part of its desire to become a democratic and inclusive society.”

Likewise, he pointed out that “the only response is the committed participation of Catholics, conscious that it is precisely through their testimony and daily effort at work, home and school and of course in the family, that will transform society to make it reach its ultimate good, which is Christ.”

Guevara also addressed Mexicans and Americans by recalling that both countries “share one future due to the demographic integration they are experiencing, and that on these two countries depends the future of not only Latin America but of the entire continent.”

This “makes it even more crucial that Catholics on both sides of the border establish bonds of fraternal collaboration, and the Order of the Knights of Columbus is a good example of collaboration between people of different nations,” Guevara said.

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Holy Father: Russia needs a united Christian witness

Vatican City, Jan 29, 2009 (CNA) - With the challenges that our society is currently facing, it is necessary that Christians be united, said the Pope as he addressed prelates from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation, who recently completed their "ad limina" visit.

During his meeting with the bishops, the Holy Father praised their commitment to re-launching participation in the liturgy and the Sacraments, catechesis, the formation of priests, and to the preparation of a mature and responsible laity capable of becoming an evangelical ferment in families and in civil society."

He then encouraged the prelates not to lose heart in the face of difficulties or when their pastoral efforts to do not appear to be rewarding.  "Rather," he continued, "nourish - in yourselves and in your collaborators - an authentic spirit of faith, with the evangelical awareness that Jesus Christ will not fail to make your ministry fruitful with the grace of His Spirit."

Pope Benedict also raised the issue of promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and asked the Russian bishops to lend more support to priestly and religious formation.  "Look to the formation of consecrated people and the spiritual development of the lay faithful, that they may come to consider their lives as a response to a universal call to sanctity, which must find expression in coherent evangelical witness in all the circumstances of daily life."

The need for a “renewed commitment to dialogue” between the Catholic and Orthodox,” was also touched on by the Pope, who noted that "despite the progress that has been made," this relationship "still encounters difficulties."  With this in mind, the Holy Father reiterated his best wishes to the newly-elected patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Metropolitan Kirill, "for the delicate ecclesial task with which he has been entrusted."

This dialogue is necessary to unite Christians who "face the great cultural and ethical challenges of the present moment, which concern the dignity and the inalienable rights of the person, the defense of life at all stages, the protection of the family, and other pressing economic and social questions," the Holy Father continued.

Ending his address, Pope Benedict expressed his "profound gratitude" to the prelates for their faithfulness and ministry, and to the priests, religious and lay people who “collaborate with you in the service of Christ and His Gospel."

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Benedict XVI discusses role of mental incapacity in annulments

Vatican City, Jan 29, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict gathered the Roman Rota at the Vatican this morning to mark the end of the judicial year and to speak about marriage annulments involving mental incapacity.

The meeting was attended by the dean, judges, promoters of justice, defenders of the bond, officials and lawyers of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, also known as the Church’s court.

This issue raised by the Pope dealt with questions surrounding annulment cases that could involve mental incapacity on behalf of one of the spouses.

Noting that John Paul II also addressed the same issue in his meetings with the Roman Rota in 1987 and 1998, Pope Benedict said that John Paul II’s words "give us the basic criteria, not only for studying the psychiatric and psychological examinations, but also for the judicial definition of the causes."

The Code of Canon Law's norm concerning mental incapacity was further enriched, he noted, by the Instruction 'Dignitas connubii' of January 25, 2005.

Benedict XVI explained that certifying that a mental incapacity existed must meet specific conditions: "there must be a specific mental anomaly that seriously disturbs the use of reason at the time of the celebration of the marriage, ... or that puts the contracting party not only under a serious difficulty but even under the impossibility of sustaining the actions inherent in the obligations of marriage."

The Church must not fall into a pessimistic view of marriage that "considers marriage as almost impossible," the Holy Father warned.

"Reaffirming the inborn human capacity for marriage is, in fact, the starting point for helping couples discover the natural reality of marriage and the importance it has for salvation. What is actually at stake is the truth about marriage and about its intrinsic juridical nature, which is an indispensable premise if people are to understand and evaluate the capacity required to get married," the Pope said.

"Such capacity," he explained, "must be associated with the essential significance of marriage - 'the intimate partnership of married life and love established by the Creator and qualified by His laws' - and, particularly, with the essential obligations inherent to marriage that must assumed by the couple."

Finally, Pope Benedict cautioned the jurists about "certain 'humanistic' schools of anthropology, which tend towards self-realization and egocentric self- transcendence." These schools "idealize human beings and marriage to such an extent that they end up denying the mental capacity of many people, basing this on elements that do not correspond to the essential requirements of the conjugal bond."

"In principle, causes of nullity through mental incapacity require the judge to employ the services of experts to ascertain the existence of a real incapacity, which is in any case an exception to the natural principle of the capacity necessary to understand, decide and accomplish that giving of self upon which the conjugal bond is founded."


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Venezuelan cardinal reacts to ‘enemy of the state’ charge

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 29, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Sabino, said Tuesday in an interview on Union Radio that people who have different opinions should not be labeled enemy of the state, and he called for respect and plurality from Venezuelan political authorities.

“One can have an ideological and political difference with somebody, but exposing the person to public mockery is not a good example for the Venezuelan people and is not something that we should do.”

“I think you can have a position, defend an idea without having to criticize another person and label them as enemies of the homeland. As if the people who have a different opinion on that matter were acting against Venezuela. This is not true,” the cardinal said.

“We urgently need to respect people, ideas, the opinions of others,” he added.

Cardinal Urosa rejected the accusation of President Chavez that the bishops “are meddling in politics.”  “We are talking about peace, about peaceful coexistence in society, about something as important as respecting the fundamental elements of the Venezuelan state in accord with the national constitution.”

“We are not meddling in partisan questions. We are defending the right of all Venezuelans to live in peace. That is the great vision we have from the social point of view,” the cardinal said.

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Personal prelature recommended for Anglican-Catholic union

Rome, Italy, Jan 29, 2009 (CNA) - In a move that could help bring hundreds of thousands of Anglicans into the Catholic Church, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has recommended that the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) be given a personal prelature if talks between the TAC and the Vatican succeed.

An announcement could be made after Easter this year, according to the northwest Australian Catholic newspaper The Record. Pope Benedict XVI reportedly has taken a personal interest in the matter and has linked the effort at ecclesial union to the Year of St. Paul.

In 2007 the TAC, a global community of about 400,000 members, began to seek full corporate and sacramental communion with the Catholic Church. Its members had split from the Anglican Communion over theological and moral issues such as the ordination of women priests and the episcopal consecrations of women and active homosexuals.

In October 2008 it is believed that the CDF decided not to recommend the creation of an Anglican rite within the Catholic Church similar to the Eastern Catholic Churches.

Rather, any such union would take the juridical form of a personal prelature, which resembles a global diocese headed by its own bishop and possessing its own membership and clergy, The Record reports.

Opus Dei was the first personal prelature in the Church, a development that took decades to achieve.

TAC Primate Archbishop John Hepworth, who is based in Adelaide, Australia, told The Record he has informed the Vatican that he wants to bring all TAC bishops to Rome for the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman, an Anglican convert to the Catholic Church. The visit would be a show of Anglican-Catholic unity.

There has been no announcement of Cardinal Newman’s beatification, though many consider it likely.

When TAC bishops agreed to seek full union with the Catholic Church in 2007, they signed a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and placed it on the altar of the historic National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk, England.

On October 11, 2007 Archbishop Hepworth and fellow TAC bishops Robert Mercer and Peter Wilkinson presented the signed items to Fr. Augustine Di Noia, OP, the senior ecumenical theologian at the CDF. The meeting had been organized by CDF secretary Archbishop Angelo Amato.

A week prior to the meeting, the TAC bishops also signed a declaration which The Record reports as partly saying:

“We accept that the most complete and authentic expression and application of the Catholic faith in this moment of time is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium, which we have signed, together with this letter as attesting to the faith we aspire to teach and hold.”

One obstacle to the union: most of the TAC bishops are married, but neither the Roman Catholic nor Eastern Catholic churches permit married bishops.

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Pope presented with altar for Jerusalem

Rome, Italy, Jan 29, 2009 (CNA) - At the conclusion of the Wednesday General Audience this week, Pope Benedict XVI offered praise for the plan by a Polish association to raise “an altar to pray for peace in the Holy Land and in the whole world.”

According to the L’Osservatore Romano, the altar was brought to the Pope by the Polish association “Queen of Peace Community.” During his greetings in various languages at the conclusion of the audience, the Pope thanked the Poles for the altar.

The altar, which was blessed by the Pope, features a monstrance decorated with an image of Our Lady of Czestochowa with the Child Jesus.  After a pilgrimage to the Marian shrines of Poland and Germany, the altar will be placed in the Armenian Chapel of the Fourth Station of the Cross in Jerusalem.

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Spanish couples give up vacations to help those hurting from economic crisis

Madrid, Spain, Jan 29, 2009 (CNA) - The Caritas office of the Diocese of Valencia has received numerous calls this week from married couples in the region who have offered to donate the money they planned to use for trips celebrating their anniversaries to help victims of the economic crisis. 

According to the AVAN news agency, the couples expressed their desire to show solidarity by giving up a vacation in order to donate the funds for those who “especially at this time cannot even think about an activity such as this.”

Mari Luz Monzo, an official with Caritas Valencia, said such forms of expressing solidarity “are not common, but they are very valuable for helping those most in need.”

In the wake of the financial crisis, “the number of people requesting basic assistance to pay water bills, rent or avoid eviction has increased,” Monzo said, adding that “these kinds of donations are of great help.”

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Spanish political party protests Obama abortion funding policy

Madrid, Spain, Jan 29, 2009 (CNA) - The Alternativa Espanola political party has sent a “letter of protest” to the U.S. ambassador to Spain over the decision by President Barack Obama to “remover the barriers to the practice of abortion.”

In a press release, the party said the letter was delivered to the embassy “calling for the restrictions put in place by President Ronald Reagan to be maintained.”

On January 23, Obama signed an executive order lifting restrictions on the use of federal funds to promote abortion overseas. The so-called “Mexico City Policy” was put in place by President Reagan in 1984 after a U.N. conference that was held in the Mexican capital. President Bill Clinton revoked the policy in 1993 but it was reinstated by President George W. Bush in 2001.

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Bishops ask that stimulus package address recession’s ‘human impact’

Washington D.C., Jan 29, 2009 (CNA) - Writing on behalf of the U.S. bishops, Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York urged Congress to make poor families and vulnerable workers central priorities in economic recovery legislation.

“Low-income families and individuals are experiencing the greatest hardship and have the least capacity to cope in this time of economic crisis,” said Bishop Murphy, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Writing in a Jan. 28 letter, he also argued these people are most likely to use new resources on essentials and would thus advance the economy.

Bishop Murphy offered the bishops’ collective support on recovery legislation which would increase funding for nutrition assistance through food stamps and other programs, protect low-income families from losing Medicaid and social service assistance, and extend unemployment insurance benefits.

According to Bishop Murphy’s letter, the bishops “strongly support” efforts to support and expand the refundable child tax credit and the Earned Income Tax credit.

The bishop also advocated the rejection of measures concerning contraception and immigration.

He argued that efforts to increase family planning funding neglect women’s “real needs” and “serve no legitimate purpose.” Pursuing a family planning agenda, he warned, could even reduce basic health coverage if regulations are introduced that cancel support for health benefit programs which do not include contraceptive coverage.

He further cautioned that some regulations would effectively make family planning clinics, many of which are abortion providers, a “necessary entry point” into the health care system. This would ignore women’s genuine needs “as well as their moral concerns.”

Bishop Murphy said the bishops “strongly oppose” a measure requiring that every stimulus package funding recipient use employee identity verification system designed to verify that employees are U.S. citizens or legal residents. He argued that the system’s database has an “unacceptably high” error rate and requiring the system would increase the costs of small businesses, schools and hospitals, state and local governments and non-profit organizations required to enroll in the system.

“We urge Congress to act quickly and wisely with a constant attention to addressing the human impact and moral dimensions of this recession,” Bishop Murphy’s letter concluded. “I pray that working together you can find the courage, wisdom, and skill to build a prosperous economy with greater justice for all.”

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