Thursday, August 30, 2012

Deferred Action Eligible Youth and the Opportunity to Live out of the Shadows

By Norma Montenegro Flynn

Nearly one million young people have the opportunity to access temporary work authorization and protection from deportation under the Deferred Action granted on June 15, 2012, by President Barack Obama.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) will allow talented young people to fully participate in our society.  However, it is important to point out that this program will protect them from deportation only temporarily.  The protection will last only for two years, and in order to continue, another extension must be approved. In addition, this program applies only to certain youth who must meet specific requirements such as having arrived to the country before age 16, are currently in school or received at least a high school diploma or equivalent, and do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.    
As a guide to those who wish to submit their application, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs has posted on its website, the document: Q&A on DeferredAction for Childhood Arrivals, which provides answers to the most common questions, such as the qualifications criteria, what does “significant misdemeanor” means, and explains the application process.
It is also important to remind those interested in applying that if they decide to seek professional help to fill out their applications, they must rely on legitimate professionals or organizations to avoid becoming victims of scams. The information also provides links to social service organizations throughout the country that provide assistance in the application process.
As Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, chairman of USCCB’s Committee on Migration said, “The action by the President is no substitute for enactment of the DREAM Act in Congress. We encourage our elected officials of both parties to take this opportunity to work together to enact this important law, which would give these youth a path to citizenship and a chance to become Americans.”
It’s important to allow these young men and women to build their own bright futures away from the shadows.

Jóvenes que califican para Acción Diferida y la oportunidad de salir de las sombras

Por Norma Montenegro Flynn

     Cerca de un millón de jóvenes ya tienen la oportunidad de obtener protección de deportación y acceso  a permisos de trabajo bajo la orden ejecutiva conocida como Acción Diferida, emitida el 15 de Junio por el Presidente Barrack Obama.
     El programa Acción Diferida o DACA (por sus siglas en ingles) da la oportunidad a jóvenes talentosos y sobresalientes de poder contribuir con sus talentos y conocimientos a este país. Sin embargo cabe recalcar que este programa que protege contra la deportación es temporal, es decir que solamente brinda un amparo durante dos años, y luego para continuar en efecto otra extensión tendría que ser aprobada. También se debe recalcar que este amparo solo aplica a aquellos jóvenes que deben cumplir una serie de requisitos como haber llegado al país antes de cumplir los 16 años, se encuentran estudiando o recibieron al menos un diploma de la secundaria o equivalente en este país, y no representan una amenaza a la seguridad del país o a la sociedad.
     Como guía para quienes deseen presentar su aplicación, la Oficina de Política Migratoria y Asuntos Políticos de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos, en su sitio web, ha preparado el documento titulado: Acción Diferida para Jóvenes Elegibles alDREAM, que da respuestas a las preguntas mas comunes, como por ejemplo, cuales son los requisitos, que significa un “delito menor significativo,” que solicitudes deben ser presentadas y los costos de solicitud y procesamiento. 

     También es importante recordar a esa comunidad vulnerable que si deciden buscar asesoría para iniciar el proceso, deben hacerlo con profesionales u organizaciones legítimas a fin de evitar ser victimas de fraude. El documento también provee información y enlaces a organizaciones de servicios sociales a través del país que proveen asesoría en el proceso de solicitud.  

     Como lo dijo el Arzobispo de Los Ángeles José Gómez, Presidente del Comité sobre Migración de USCCB, “la acción tomada por el Presidente no es un sustituto para la promulgación de la Ley DREAM en el Congreso. Animamos a nuestros funcionarios electos de ambos partidos para aprovechar esta oportunidad para trabajar juntos para aprobar esta importante ley, que daría a estos jóvenes un camino a la ciudadanía y una oportunidad para convertirse en estadounidenses.”
     Es importante permitir que estos jóvenes puedan forjarse un futuro brillante y lejos de las sombras.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Catholic schools give America more than chump change

            I’ve bought pizza, chaperoned dances, donated to appeals – all fundraisers for Catholic schools – and paid tuition. Which is why I am bent out of shape by an article on church finances in Aug. 18 issue of The Economist. The article in the magazine that defines itself as “authoritative” makes all kinds of claims without data to back them up. Most annoying is its blithe statement that local and federal government “bankroll” Catholic schools.

            The article is filled with errors, such as its guess that church giving dropped by 20 percent because of the sex abuse scandal heralded in the media in 2002 and henceforth.  Real data from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) indicate, however, that church giving increased significantly in recent years. CARA researcher Mark Gray noted August 21 that "on average, Catholic households gave about $8 in weekly collections in 2000 and today they give about $10. Even after adjusting for the effects of inflation, annual offertory in parishes in the U.S. grew from $361,000 in 2000 to 478,000 in 2010."  Adds Gray, who spends his life crunching numbers, “there is no evidence I know of that Catholic parish weekly collections have declined.”

As another school year starts, it is time to highlight the church’s contribution to American education.

            The government has a mandate to educate youth, and some public schools in well-off suburbs perform spectacularly; in other areas, not so well. However, in meeting its obligation, the government gets huge help from the Catholic Church, to the tune of about $23 billion dollars a year. That is what the government does not have to pay because Catholic schools educate about two million U.S. students annually. Catholic schools provide a realistic choice in education. Given this $23 billion, you could argue it’s the church subsidizing the government (or “bankrolling” it, if you wish to use The Economist’s hyperbole), not vice versa.

            In many nations, the government subsidizes Catholic schools, but in the U.S., government aid to non-public schools is minimal. In fact, other than the DC Opportunity Scholarship program, which helps fewer than 2,000 students, no U.S. government programs fund non-public schools. In some school districts, government pays for textbooks and transportation, but even that aid is for students, not schools. It does not pay for heat, light, building repair or the principal’s salary, for example. In some impoverished areas, students receive remedial help, whether they go to a public school or parochial school. Again, such aid is for students, not schools. In fact, the money does not go directly to the Catholic school, but to a public school central office, earning interest for the public schools until the district meets its obligation to provide resources for needy students.

            Who benefits from the Catholic schools? The nation.

The National Catholic Education Association provides informative data, here from the 2010-2011 school year:

·       Catholic schools help more than Catholics. Non-Catholic enrollment is 15.4 percent. In the urban/inner-city, the percentage of non-Catholic students soars to 42 percent.

·       Minority enrollment is 30.2 percent.

·       The average per pupil tuition in parish elementary schools is $3,673. That is approximately 62.4 percent of actual costs per pupil of $5,367. About 93.9 percent of elementary schools provide some form of tuition assistance.

·       The mean freshman tuition in a Catholic secondary school is $8,182. That is approximately 80 percent of actual costs per pupil of $10,228. About 97 percent of secondary schools provide some form of tuition assistance.

·       An estimated 99 percent of Catholic secondary school students graduate, and 84 percent go on to college, compared to 44.1 percent of public school students.         

How do Catholic schools meet the shortfall between actual cost and what families pay? Primarily through direct subsidy from parishes, dioceses, religious orders, development programs and fund-raising activities.

            The Economist ought to be embarrassed. A little fact-checking would have gone a long way. When it comes to who is helping whom, the church’s contribution to America is worth $23 billion annually. Not exactly chump change.

Friday, August 10, 2012

U.S. Catholics’ Satisfaction with Bishops Up to 70 Percent

By Sister Mary Ann Walsh

U.S. Catholics’ satisfaction with bishops leaped from 51 to 70 percent in the last decade, according to the Pew Forum. That’s impressive, though it is hard to imagine a lower point than 2002, when Catholics saw a flood of news on clerical sexual abuse of minors.  To copy Queen Elizabeth’s description of 1992, when one of her sons divorced and Windsor Castle erupted in flames, 2002 was the church’s Annus Horribilis.

Causes of the uptick may be many: steadfastness, action in a crisis, and the bishops’ courage to walk forth when they probably would have preferred to hide in a hole. Steadfastness in troubled times means serious leadership

The Pew Forum measured current satisfaction with bishops against feelings a decade ago when the bishops faced the fact that sexual abuse of minors by clergy was a horrific reality in the church. The news had been simmering but broke out big time in Boston in January 2002. Six months later a few thousand media showed up at the bishops’ June meeting in Dallas to see how the bishops would fix the problem.

To their credit, the bishops acted. They developed the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a 17-article promise to forthrightly confront child sexual abuse. They set up review boards comprised primarily of lay people to evaluate reported cases. They launched a massive educational campaign for professional staff and volunteers who work with minors and educated the minors themselves on appropriate interaction between themselves and adults. They established a compliance audit system for the Charter.

Today as the Boy Scouts, Penn State, and public and private schools address sexual abuse of minors in their ranks, people hear them promise to do what the church has already been doing for ten years. They include enforcing prevention strategies, such as not allowing minors to be alone with adults on outings; conducting background checks to eliminate unsavory characters attracted to youth; and educating children and adults about principles of healthy interaction, including the kindergarten rule: keep your hands to yourself.

With media reports of sexual abuse in youth groups and in public and private schools, Catholics saw that abuse is a tragic human problem, but not one rooted in clerical celibacy or Catholicism. They saw that sexual abuse of minors crosses all levels of society and exists more often in the home than outside it. All of which started to calm their earlier justifiable rage at “the bishops.”

The bishops’ facing the problem led to Catholics’ increased confidence. People  find reassurance in results too, and, though any instance of abuse is reprehensible, there is hope in the fact that in the last audit period (2011) there were only seven accusations of minors molested by clerics deemed credible by law enforcement – that in a church of 77.7 million U.S. Catholics. That’s enough reason to make the satisfaction rate soar.

Other factors fed the uptick. Though shamed by the scandal, bishops remained bishops. They faced financial crises squarely, confirmed youth in parishes, led dioceses in prayer and held the line on church teaching in the public square. They now maintain the high satisfaction rate despite seeming to be the sole voice for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the nation.

The bishops have other positions that seem to please no one. For example, they still want universal health care – they’ve sought it for decades – with particular concern for the plight of the poor and protection of innocent and fragile lives. Ironically, though their quite broad positions would protect so many, their positions right now please so few.

The bishops may take some satisfaction in an approval rating of 70 percent, but raising poll numbers was never their goal. The year 2012 still presents challenges, especially in the area of sexual abuse, which demands constant vigilance and transparency. Pew numbers show, however, that people are with the bishops, which ought to be a measure of comfort in still trying times.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Catholic Social Media in Latin America Following USCCB Lead

(Versión en español abajo)

By Norma Montenegro Flynn

Social media platforms have become essential tools for evangelization not only in the United States but also in Latin America and around the world. Catholics and the media in other countries like Spain, Mexico and Argentina know instantly what is going on with the U.S. bishops’ Religious Freedom Campaign and other issues and can provide updates on their websites on a regular basis.

As these groups in Latin America also strive to grow their followers on Twitter, Facebook and blogging websites, no wonder they look to the United States as an example. Spanish language websites that provide guidance for news and evangelization through social networks, like Gaudium Press and RIIAL Mexico (Red Informática de la Iglesia en America Latina or Social Network for the Church in Latin America,)  have translated and posted the USCCBlog post: The Gospel and Social Media as a practical guide to connect with readers.  

The United States is one of the ten leading markets in the world for online social networking.  According to one of Nielsen’s most recent studies, by the end of 2011, 6.7 million people published blogs on blogging websites, and 12 million wrote blogs using their social networks. Like U.S. Catholics, many evangelization groups in Latin America know that social media is not a fading trend, but an important growing industry.

Another interesting trend is that the USCCB Español Twitter account is followed not only by Catholic individuals, groups, and parishes in the United States, but also from individuals, groups and bishops’ conferences of Mexico, Peru, Argentina and other nations. It is not surprising, considering that many of their citizens reside in the U.S. while maintaining close ties to their home countries, as is the case with Mexico.

It is also a reminder that, just as the social network is global, the Church crosses many borders.


Por Norma Montenegro Flynn

Las plataformas de redes sociales se han convertido en una herramienta esencial de evangelización no solo en los Estados Unidos pero también en Latinoamérica y alrededor del mundo. Los Católicos y medios de comunicación en otros países como España, México, y Argentina conocen instantáneamente lo que está ocurriendo con en Estados Unidos con la Campaña de Libertad Religiosa de los obispos y otros temas y pueden proveer actualizaciones instantáneas regularmente.

Conforme estos grupos en Latinoamérica también se afanan en aumentar las listas de seguidores en Twitter, Facebook y en sitios de blogs, no es de extrañarse que sigan a los Estados Unidos como un ejemplo.  Sitios de internet en español que proveen guías en noticias y evangelización a través de las redes sociales, como Gaudium Press en español y RIIAL México, (Red Informática de la Iglesia en América Latina) han traducido y publicado el blog de USCCB denominado El Evangelio y Las Redes Sociales como una guía práctica para llevar el mensaje a los lectores de una manera efectiva.

Estados Unidos es una de las diez naciones del mundo con los principales mercados de redes sociales. Según uno de los mas recientes estudios de Nielsen, a finales del 2011, 6.7 millones de personas publicaron blogs en sitios de blogueros, y unos 12 millones los publicaron utilizando sus redes sociales. Como los católicos en Estados Unidos, muchos grupos de evangelización en Latinoamérica saben que las redes sociales no son una moda efímera pero una industria creciente e importante.

Otra tendencia de interés es que USCCB Español en Twitter es seguido no solo por individuos, grupos y parroquias católicos en Estados Unidos, sino también por individuos grupos y conferencias episcopales de México, Perú, Argentina y otras naciones. Eso no es de extrañarse, considerando que muchos de sus ciudadanos residen en este país y mantienen lazos cercanos a sus países de origen como es el caso de México.

También es un recordatorio de que tal como en el mundo de las redes sociales, la Iglesia también traspasa muchas fronteras.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Catholics and Social Media

By Sister Mary Ann Walsh

            A recent sign of technology in church was a man watching the Olympics on his Smartphone. He may be among those very few Catholics who, the Public Religion Research Institute says, “incorporate technology into their practice of worship.”     

Public Religion’s July 2012 report finds that few Americans use social technology for religion and that Catholics especially lag in this area: while 19 percent of Evangelical Christians reported having posted something about being in church on Facebook, only six percent of mainline Protestants and two percent of Catholics have done so. It added that while a quarter of Evangelicals have downloaded or listened to a sermon on line, just six percent of mainline Protestants and Catholics have done so.

However, there is much proof that Catholics are present in the new media world via blogs, Facebook, Twitter, web pages and other forms of social media.

            The U.S. bishops’ website, attracts almost 100,000 visitors each day to its site for liturgical readings of the day, These visitors see and hear a brief reflection on the readings at

            The bishops’ Facebook page,, boasts about 40,000 followers and is growing. Posts on USCCBlog, found at find their way into other corners of the blogosphere, both through church blogs, such as America Magazine’s “In all things…” and blogs in the secular arena, including Huffington Post, Politico, Washington’s Post’s “On Faith” and USA Today’s “Faith & Reason.”

            A recent social media foray is the church’s religious liberty texting campaign. The bishops urge people to text “Freedom” or Libertad” to 377377. Texters can sign up for brief messages about religious freedom, a key issue now.

            Church blogs abound. Gossip blogs offer “inside” information, such as who might become a bishop next. Several blogs feed a liberal or conservative base, and, I fear, stoke church polarization in this election year.

            Some bishops blog. Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, files a “Monday Memo” at Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York often makes news at Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston lets people know what he’s doing on his travels with Others, such as Bishop Christopher Coyne, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, post homilies, or at least 140 characters from their homilies, on Facebook or Twitter.

            Catholics who use the Web for spiritual development can go to many sites, including not only the USCCB site but also sites geared to meditation, such as the Irish Jesuits’ http://www.sacred and Franciscan Father Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico,

            The church has a long history of wise use of media technology. Once Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type in the mid-15th century, the first book off his printing press was the Bible. Radio became popular in the United States in the early 20th century, and one of its first shows was “The Catholic Hour,” which ran from 1930-1950, and featured the priest/preacher Fulton Sheen. Television surged into popularity in the fifties and Sheen became an Emmy-Award-winning TV star for his program “Life Is Worth Living,” 1951-1957. The syndicated “Fulton Sheen Program” followed, 1961-1968. Given this history, despite the Public Religion Research Institute data, the Catholic Church won’t lag for long in use of the newest technological means of communication, social media.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

To Accommodate Caesar or to Follow Conscience

Senior Judge John L. Kane of the District Court for the District of Colorado did his Solomon-like duty July 27. The Carter appointee issued an injunction against the government’s Affordable Care Act mandate that forces employers to pay for contraceptives, including abortion-causing drugs, and female sterilization for employees.

The mandate he’s forestalled in Newland v. Sebelius comes from Health and Human Services’ preventive services mandate under the Affordable Care Act. It went into effect August 1.

The employer, Denver-based Hercules Industries, makes heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning parts. It is owned by four Catholic siblings, the Newlands, who run their business according to Catholic principles, even if it might affect the bottom line. The company is self-insured and offers a generous health plan but doesn’t fund contraceptives, sterilization and abortion. The Newlands sued HHS for violating their First Amendment rights, which guarantee free expression of religion, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (known as RFRA).

The judge weighed two rights: the individuals’ claim that the HHS mandate would violate their religious beliefs and the government’s claim that it had to do so in order to meet the public good. He then looked at the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It states that the government may not “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” RFRA adds that the government may only justify a substantial burden of the free exercise of religion if the challenged law “(1) is in furtherance of government interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest.”

Judge Kane’s ruling found that the government’s case for compelling government interest was undermined by the fact that it already has offered exemptions to 190 million health plan participants already.

He also noted the government has a greater interest in upholding the individuals’ free exercise rights than in the government’s claims that it was acting to improve health care for women and children.
Could there be another way to make the government happy? The plaintiffs offered a solution that would not violate their religious freedom and suggested “government provision of free birth control,” even though they would not recommend this as a matter of public policy.  They further pointed out that the government already provides free contraception to some women, so their suggestion should not be seen as infeasible by the government.

In some ways this is a small victory, for the injunction stands only until the court case is decided. It affects but one company. It is huge, however, because it is the first HHS mandate case to consider religious freedom issues, and religious freedom won. Caesar may figure out a way to rain down contraceptives from the clouds, but in no way should the government order religious groups and individuals to violate their consciences and underwrite the mandate that opposes the clear teaching of their church.