Washington D.C., Dec 8, 2010 (CNA) - Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moved on Dec. 6 to end discussion on a controversial bill that would grant citizenship to many children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents – a move that allows the legislation to be voted on as early as this week.
Although the DREAM Act has incited fierce cultural debate, many leaders within Catholic community have given it their support. Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Gomez advocated the act's passage in a Dec. 2 letter to the U.S. Congress. He described the bill as “a practical, fair, and compassionate solution for thousands of young persons” who had not voluntarily broken the law.
The act's full title is the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. It would allow young people who entered the United States before the age of 16 to apply for legal permanent residence and eventual citizenship, as long as they completed two years of higher education or military service.
The legislation's main support in Congress comes from Democrats, many of whom consider it an effective and fair solution to a problem that young people did not bring on themselves. However, some Republicans have warned that the bill would create more incentive for others to enter the country illegally in the future.
An Senate vote could happen as early as Wednesday morning, though Senate Republicans have a chance to filibuster the measure if they garner 60 votes. The bill is expected to pass through the House with less difficulty.
On Dec. 6, the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders urged its members to contact their congressional representatives to vote for passage of the DREAM Act.
“We are making this call-to-action in hopes of helping thousands of young people realize the American dream,” said Robert Aguirre, group president.
Archbishop Gómez, who serves as the group’s Episcopal Moderator, said that our “elected officials can provide a remedy for a very vulnerable group of immigrants – young persons who entered the United States with their parents years ago.”
“Their futures are limited because of their undocumented status, yet they have so much to give to our communities and nation."
``The success stories of earlier generations of child immigrants, like the Cuban children of the 1960s, Operation Pedro Pan, have amply demonstrated this.''
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami also lent his support to the measure Dec. 1, telling a meeting of students and professors at St. Thomas University that the act would have “ life-changing impact on the students who qualify, and not only for the qualifying students, but all American society would benefit,” according to the Miami Herald.
The Miami archbishop cited Operation Pedro Pan, a 1960s program that allowed Cuban children to legally settle in the U.S., as an example of the positive impact the law could have.
Washington D.C., Dec 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has come out in favor of the proposed “New START” treaty, which would continue a mutual U.S.-Russian reduction of nuclear arms that began in 1991.
President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed the treaty in April 2010, enabling it to take effect if both countries' legislatures agree to its terms. The treaty would commit each country to reduce its stockpile of nuclear warheads by around 10 percent, relative to previous levels that Presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush agreed on in 2002.
The Second Vatican Council condemned nuclear war, along with many other forms of modern warfare that “inflict massive and indiscriminate destruction,” as a “crime against God and man.” Pius XII had previously condemned nuclear warfare in similar terms.
The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen, now a candidate for beatification, speculated during the 1970s that America's use of nuclear weapons in 1945 had degraded the nation's moral conscience, inaugurating an era of “no limits and no boundaries.”
Speaking on behalf of the USCCB's Committee on International Justice and Peace, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, New York explained in a Dec. 7 press conference that the New START treaty would represent an important step toward bringing public policy into line with Church teaching.
“Nuclear war is rejected in Church teaching because nuclear weapons cannot ensure noncombatant immunity,” he explained, adding that such weapons' “destructive power and lingering radiation cannot be meaningfully proportionate” even to the aims of an otherwise-just war.
The bishop quoted Pope Benedict's insight that “in a nuclear war, there would be no victors, only victims.”
Like many other forms of bombing, nuclear strikes almost inevitably involve the direct killing of innocent civilians. Thus, in terms of traditional Catholic teaching, they are equivalent to abortion and other forms of homicide. Accordingly, the Holy See also endorses the ratification of the New START treaty, as a modest step toward the goal of universal nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
“Our Conference understands this is a deal that will take years to reach,” Bishop Hubbard acknowledged, “but it is a task which our nation must take up with renewed moral energy.”
“As the world's leading nuclear powers, the United States and the Russian Federation have the moral responsibility to lead by example.”
Bishop Hubbard also articulated the urgent need for the new treaty, without which there will be “no inspections or verification regimens in place” between the United States and the Russian Federation. He called that prospect a “disturbing and potentially dangerous situation” which “our nation has not faced in decades.”
Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the current president of the USCCB, has also publicly affirmed the position of the conference as a “steadfast supporter of strong and bipartisan action on the New START treaty.”
The bishops were joined in their support of the treaty by Leith Anderson, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Madrid, Spain, Dec 8, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - Spain will not extend the country's length of maternity leave until the economy improves.
The country's Minster of Health, Social Policy and Equality, Leire Pajin announced that the government will not extend the length of maternity leave from 16 weeks to 20. She noted that “Spain's objective is to not apply the measure until the economic situation changes,” at least until next year.
Extending maternity leave to 20 weeks could cost $1.3 billion per year, according to a study by the European Parliament.
Pajin’s statements came after the European Union rejected proposals Dec. 6 to extend the length of paid maternity leave saying the measure would carry “an excessive cost in the context of the current economic crisis.”
In addition, the ministers voiced opposition to demands by European lawmakers that member states shorten paid paternity leave by at least two weeks.
Rome, Italy, Dec 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A delegation of Christian leaders visited Mount Carmel in Israel to express solidarity after a recent fire killed 42 people and injured dozens.
The delegation included Melkite Bishop Elias Shacour, Latin Rite Vicar of Jerusalem Msgr. Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, and Anglican Bishop Emeritus Riah Abu al Assal, reported Vatican Radio. The group traveled to the city of Haifa Dec. 4 to receive an update on the damage from the Mount Carmel fire.
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said that during the meeting, the bishops “expressed their condolences for the deceased and praised the efforts of volunteers and Christian institutions.” They also “expressed their willingness to participate in the reconstruction, especially in the reforestation.”
Msgr. Marcuzzo also conveyed the solidarity of Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem and Pope Benedict XVI, according to the SIR news agency.
Vatican City, Dec 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict said on today's Feast of the Immaculate Conception that the day honoring Mary should give Christians “comfort” and remind them that God's mercy “is more powerful than evil.”
On a cloudy morning in St. Peter's Square, pilgrims came to pray the Angelus with the Pope and to hear his remarks on the significance of the Marian feast day.
Pope Benedict briefly spoke from his study window overlooking the square and recalled that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception – Mary being born without original sin – was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854. The teaching, he said, is “a source of inner light, of hope and comfort,” in the midst of life's difficulties.
The reality of sin in the world, he explained, can be traced to disobedience to God's will, adding that now evil has its root in the human heart, which is “sick and wounded,” and “unable to heal itself.”
But the life of Mary, Mother of Christ, shows us that tells us that God's mercy is more powerful than evil and that grace is greater than sin, the Pope taught.
He added that God has prepared a new and everlasting covenant, sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ who was “born of a woman.” Pope Benedict then explained the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, saying that the Virgin Mary experienced in advance the redeeming death of her Son, since she was conceived without sin.
After his remarks in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict greeted pilgrims in several different languages. Speaking in English, he said that Church “joyfully” celebrates the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
“By her prayers, may our hearts and minds be kept free from sin, so that like Mary we may be spiritually prepared to welcome Christ,” he said.
“Let us turn to her, the Immaculate, who brought Christ to us, and ask her now to bring us to Him. Upon each of you and your loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings!”
Later in the afternoon, Pope Benedict also led a traditional procession to crown a statue of Mary at the Piazza di Spagna – one of Rome's most prestigious shopping districts. Leading the way in his popemobile, the pontiff and procession solicited curious stares from busy onlookers doing their holiday shopping.
He emphasized to the crowds gathered in the piazza that the message of the Virgin Mary is for everyone, even those not aware of the feast day, and especially for those who may feel alone or abandoned.
Lincoln, Neb., Dec 8, 2010 (CNA) - Sister Theresa Gottvald, M.S., one of the two founders of the Marian Sisters of the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb. died Tuesday, Nov. 30, at the age of 88.
Born in the Czech Republic as Marie Gottvald in 1922, Sister Theresa knew from an early age that she was called to the religious life. When she was only 10 years old, she went to gain admission to the Mercy Sisters of Saint Frances.
She was sent home with a kind, “Wait a few years.”
At age 14, Marie was approached by a classmate named John on Valentine’s Day. The boy offered her a chocolate heart cut into pieces – a symbol representing his romantic intentions.
Politely, Marie refused the gift, explaining that she was soon to be married to someone more prestigious. Just months later, she was accepted by the Mercy Sisters of Saint Frances as an aspirant.
At her funeral Mass Dec. 4, Msgr. John Perkinton related this story, noting, “Poor John… His little cut-up chocolate heart paled in comparison to Jesus, as he extended His Sacred Heart, pierced for our offenses for Marie’s embrace.”
Sister Theresa would later recall how easy it was for her to leave home for the religious life.
“I traveled light, ”she is remembered saying. “My mother packed my few belongings in an old tablecloth and tied the four corners together.”
After her first profession of vows in 1940, Sister Theresa became a registered nurse, working alongside Sister Marta Silna, M.S. They were able to continue their work after the Nazis invaded their homeland.
However, shortly after World War II ended, things became more difficult. Communist leaders took over the sisters’ motherhouse for government purposes. Religious intolerance swept the nation.
Under the direction of their superior, Sister Theresa and Sister Marta fled to Austria in 1950. There, they worked as nurses.
Meanwhile, Bishop Louis B. Kucera of Lincoln was dealing with a severe staffing shortage at Saint Thomas Orphanage. He learned about the two refugee sisters from a Czech priest who had gained refuge in the U.S.
Bishop Kucera arranged for the sisters to come to Lincoln. Unfortunately, visa problems prevented their immediate immigration.
Sister Marta was able to get to Canada in October 1951. Sister Theresa continued to work in Innsbruck. She finally received her visa to the U.S in November 1952 and immediately began working at Saint Thomas Orphanage.
Sister Marta finally joined her there in December 1953. They mothered many youngsters over the years, including Gloria High Hawk, who arrived at the orphanage around the same time as Sister Marta.
“Mother Marta named me Gloria after Gloria in Excelcis Deo and Mother Theresa named me Rose because of all the roses in her garden in the summer.” Miss High Hawk recalled.
From time to time, Miss High Hawk would be sent to visit a potential adoptive family. She would invariably spend nights away from the orphanage shedding homesick tears and begging to return to her “mom.”
“Those two sisters were my mom,” Miss High Hawk asserted.
In February of 1954, Bishop Kucera authorized the founding of the American community of the Mercy Sisters of Saint Francis with permission from the Vatican. Under the direction of Sister Theresa, who alternated with Sister Marta as major superior from 1954 to 1970, the sisters all worked at Saint Thomas orphanage at first.
In 1961, Bishop James V. Casey changed the name of the order to the Marian Sisters of the Diocese of Lincoln. Continuing to follow the rule of Saint Francis, the sisters began training for a teaching apostolate.
The orphanage was closed in 1963, and the sisters adjusted to serve the diocese as teachers, nurses and in other roles as needed. Sister Theresa worked with the elderly at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital.
Also that year, the Marians moved to a new motherhouse near the Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat Center in Waverly. Three mission houses in other towns have enabled the sisters to serve communities outside of Lincoln.
As Sister Theresa grew older and had to retire from nursing, her apostolate changed. She worked in the garden as long as she could, providing beautiful flowers to adorn the sisters’ chapel. She used her gifts of music and art to praise the Lord.
In her last few years, she accepted the apostolate of suffering with grace and cheerfulness and devoted herself to the apostolate of prayer.
Sister Theresa remained a source of wisdom and leadership to the other sisters. “Do with love, whatever God asks,” she would tell them. “Find joy in doing little things with love for Jesus.”
Miss High Hawk continued to telephone Sister Theresa for counsel and encouragement, even past the days when Sister Theresa was able to hear her on the phone.
“Sister Margaret would talk to me and keep me caught up, and she would give my messages to Sister Theresa,” Miss High Hawk said. “I’d say, ‘Tell her I love her!’”
Sister Theresa’s death came on the Feast of Saint Andrew, which, Msgr. Perkinton said at her funeral Mass, “strikes me as something of a providential sign.”
He explained, “We remember Andrew, filled with joy, running up to his brother Peter and proclaiming, ‘We have found the Christ!’ That was Sister’s life. Her life filled with the love of God was in itself a joyful proclamation: ‘I have found our Lord, Jesus. Come and see for yourself.’”
Printed with permission from the Southern Nebraska Register, newspaper for the Diocese of Lincoln.
Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Coadjutor Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles presided at the 79th Annual Mass and Procession in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe before some 25,000 Catholics. He invited the attendees to lead lives of sacrifice and humility to help bring others closer to God.
At the Mass, held Dec. 5 at East Los Angeles College, Archbishop Gomez noted the fervent devotion that exists throughout the Americas to Our Lady of Guadalupe. “Millions of our brothers and sisters will direct their prayers and affection to her” in the coming days, he said.
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated each year on Dec. 12.
“Each one of us has a vocation, a personal call from God that involves our entire lives and upon which many good things depend,” the archbishop continued. He urged the faithful to embrace Advent as a time of hope and renewal and not to allow the commercial aspect of the season to overshadow its religious meaning. “During this time we once again have the opportunity to strengthen and deepen our personal relationship with Jesus,” he added.
“The celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe should help us to welcome Jesus into our lives as the Virgin Mary did, to open our hearts to the love of Jesus and prepare a place for him in our hearts through prayer and repentance,” he continued.
The pilgrim image of Our Lady of Guadalupe—a detailed copy of the original image preserved in Mexico City—was on display for the faithful during the celebration.
Puno, Peru, Dec 8, 2010 (CNA) - Fr. Philip Bloom's medical missionary work aims for more than just healthy bodies. He's helping Peruvians cultivate a healthy respect for marriage, fertility, and new life, through natural family planning.
The Mary Bloom Center, in the highlands city of Puno, near Peru's Lake Titicaca, is named after Fr. Bloom's mother. He began the center's work during his years as a Maryknoll priest associate in Peru, in conjunction with the Canadian lay missionaries Denis and Liane Bruneau.
They wanted their work to pass on what Mary Bloom taught her son about valuing “marriage, family, children, and faith in God.” The center began in 1994, while Mrs. Bloom was still alive.
She died in 2000, but her legacy continues to inspire her son's efforts to promote authentic women's health care. Although he is now a parish priest in the state of Washington, he remains president of the center, and leads a group from the Archdiocese of Seattle to volunteer every year.
WOOMB international, which teaches the Billings Ovulation Method of fertility awareness and natural family planning, has partnered with the center to educate married couples, as well as medical workers and young adults.
Fr. Bloom explained to CNA that the center's work began when Denis and Liane Bruneau introduced a local obstetrician and midwife, Luz Marrón, to the Billings Method of natural family planning.
Marrón had been trained to “help” women through conventional means of birth control, which pose serious health risks and can cause septic abortions. But she soon wholeheartedly embraced the natural methods that the Bruneaus showed her, and now serves as the Bloom Center's director.
Fr. Bloom teamed up with the Bruneaus, to give spiritual and moral grounding to their practical instruction. According to Fr. Bloom, many residents of Puno's rural villages understood the logic of natural family planning better than more educated and cosmopolitan Catholics elsewhere.
“The people that we taught largely were farmers and country people, so the method made a lot more sense to them just intuitively. They're used to planting seeds, and know that the rains have to come first, that the earth had to be moist in order for a seed to grow.”
For the farming families of Puno, that understanding of cycles and fertility throughout nature “led into the basics of the Billings method and how to use self-observation” to observe fertility within marriage.
While proponents of artificial contraception praise its apparent convenience, advocates of natural family planning point to the increased communication their method promotes between men and women. Circumstances in Puno allowed Fr. Bloom to observe this phenomenon in a remarkable way.
“A lot of times, the women in the countryside would have very limited literacy skills. The men, generally, would be more able to read and write. So the men would be the ones who would keep the journal. We encourage that, too, even if both knew how to read and write.”
This family planning and women's health clinic is a far cry from other Peruvian organizations that might describe themselves in the same terms.
Fr. Bloom mentioned that other forms of artificial and dangerous “family planning” have received significant U.S. government funding, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Those methods, he said, are based on a mechanistic concept of the body, that strips sexuality of its meaning.
“In an urban environment, we can be more alienated from our bodies, and treat our bodies as a kind of machine – and not really see the integration of body and spirit that the (NFP) method is based on.”
Fr. Bloom noted that no population could possibly stand to benefit from policies that treat fertility as a disease, and new life as an inconvenient byproduct. He explained that natural family planning, besides being practical, also expresses a larger “philosophy of life” that affirms women as they were created.
Although the Mary Bloom Center's primary purpose is to strengthen families by helping them appreciate and manage fertility, its donors and volunteers partner to meet a number of other needs among the population of Puno – including medicine, food, clothes, scholarships, and school supplies.
Just as their concern for children goes far beyond safe birth, their work in women's health encompasses the broadest range of needs. The center has provided hundreds of screenings for female cancers, as well as local treatment and help with referrals to those who are diagnosed.
According to Fr. Bloom, the Mary Bloom Center has also helped women value themselves in a more authentic way – one that bypasses Western feminism's obsession with power and independence, in favor of helping communities value women for their unique roles and capacities.
“We have women seeing their own dignity, and the whole beauty of their creation. I always tell them, it's not an accident that woman was the very last thing that God created. Because she's the most beautiful, and the most complex thing in God's creation.”
Fr. Bloom asked one man, at the end of the five-week Billings method course, what the main point was that he would take away from it. He told Fr. Bloom: “The main thing I learned was respect for women.”
More information on the Mary Bloom Center is available at http://stmaryvalleybloom.org/marybloom.html.