Well, I made my reaction known in a statement that the Archdiocese posted. My concern for the provisions of this, first the ban on refugees from some of the most suffering parts of the world, and secondly, his total ban on any people who are coming from several different countries, but also to people who belong to the Islamic faith. Those were all sources of concern not simply for me but also for my brother bishops.
Q: I know you've had differences with Vice President Michael Pence on this in the past, and in the end the local government took the same position as the Church. Do you expect the bishops will have any sway on this issue now, particularly the specific attention Trump has shown to Catholics?
I would just add that in that former disagreement with the-then governor of Indiana, it wasn't simply the government but it was also the courts later on, because the State tried to justify its ban in federal court and in two different courts it was discarded as not being constitutional. So I think the whole constitutionality of this ban is going to be questioned not simply by Catholic bishops, but by other interested groups and perhaps the courts will have a say in it. I think what bishops need to do and what we do is to tell the truth, and to tell the truth in light of the Gospel.
Q: Have you received any sort of advice from the Vatican on how to engage the Trump administration on this issue?
Actually yesterday I was meeting with, on a completely different issue, but I was in the same building as the Migration (section), and the (undersecretary), Fr. Michael Czerny, came to see me, and he said the Holy Father doesn't feel the need to intervene because he believes the bishops, not just one bishop, but the bishops of the United States are making an adequate response, a Gospel response.
Q: For Catholics in particular the Trump administration can be kind of puzzling. He's been very strong on prolife issues but radically opposite when it comes to immigration. What advice would you give to Catholics who perhaps feel caught in the middle?
All of us have the challenge of seeing this respect for life as being, in the famous words of Cardinal Bernardin, Chicago's "seamless garment," which is just that the garment of Christ wasn't torn apart at the foot of the cross and neither is our moral reflection on life. Now, it is encouraging if the present administration – I think the fact the vice president and other White House officials addressed the March for Life last week was very encouraging and I think it's a good boost. I've walked in that march a number of times and have been amazed at the sort of dedication of people who come out in the middle of January, usually in freezing weather, to witness and often times it's just ignored by the media. So this was I think a great gift to the people, the attention that the administration gave. I hope that they'll make good on that intention. However I think that there's probably part of public policy that was announced last week that needs to be challenged and needs a respectful debate, and I think that that's what the bishops of the country intend to do.
Q: Shifting to another announcement that was made this week, the Vatican confirmed your post in the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. The Pope met with the members this weekend. Do you have a reaction to his speech?
The theme of the meeting of the congregation – those are the cardinals and bishops that advise the department in the Vatican on policies affecting consecrated life across the world. The theme of it had to do with fidelity and perseverance, so I think that he, obviously as a religious, is interested in the witness that consecrated people give. So he talked about what are elements that can enhance fidelity among religious, things like spiritual direction, regular use of the sacraments, the importance of having a spiritual advisor. I think that he helped us see that the work we were doing was pretty crucial.
Q: You've worked with the congregation before and you have a lot of experience working with different religious communities. Given your experience, what would you say are some of the biggest areas of opportunity of consecrated life today, but also the great strengths it has?
Consecrated life, like any committed life, faces particular challenges today, particularly in the West, where a famous sociologist here in Italy used to talk about the "liquid society," a society that is so fluid in its identity that you can say you're something one day, and then change it the next, even the most profound characteristics of what it means to be human. I think as vowed people, people who have given ourselves to the Lord, to maintain that commitment within such fluidity is going to be a challenge. I think also that this sort of freedom that religious life should model isn't always evident if we're not truly free – free from striving for power, wealth or unlimited satisfaction. In a consumerist society, that's going to be a challenge, to say no, living simply and living gratefully is the real secret to a happy life. So I think religious can model that for the rest of the Church. But if we're not faithful to that, then we become like the salt that's lost its flavor, and we don't want to do that.
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Q: One final question. The topic of faith and vocational discernment is also the topic of the next Synod of Bishops. Will your congregation be contributing any specific materials? To what extent will you be involved in the planning?
I think that all the Roman dicasteries are asked to contribute to the synod, to the preliminary and preparatory documents, so I imagine this congregation, but also the Conference of Catholic Bishops in the United States. I suppose I'll be involved a little bit because I'm the Chair on the Committee for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. So I know an important part of the preparatory process for a synod, is a sort of consultation and then trying to refine those consultations into a workable document to guide the synod. So yeah, I think that we'll be involved.
Q: What are some of the big themes you think should be part of the discussion?
I think there are a number of things. How the Church is present among young people today, I think some sensitivity of what young people are looking for in themselves, what will be obstacles to young people embracing a vocation to which God is calling her or him, what is the particular witness that young people can give in the Church and the world and how does the Church need to support young people.