Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Welcome, Father Sands!

Father Maurice Henry Sands joins the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops September 1, as a “consultant” on Native American Affairs.

Father Sands will provide consultation to the U.S. Catholic bishops and staff, diocesan staff and pastoral ministers on issues concerning Native Americans. He will also assist in the development of web-based resources and workshops for bishops and others on ministry to Native Americans.

The appointment responds to requests by Native American Catholics to have representation in the Cultural Diversity Secretariat created in January of 2008. The Bishops’ Subcommittee on Native Americans has been operational since then but it will be the first time the subcommittee is staffed by a Native American.

Father Sands is a full-blooded Native American belonging to the Ojibway, Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes. He grew up on Walpole Island (Bkejwanong First Nation), which is an Indian reservation located in the St. Clair River between Michigan and Ontario.

An accountant by training, he holds an MBA from the University of Toronto, Ontario, and a BBA from Eastern Michigan University. He worked in corporate banking before joining the diocesan priesthood.

Father Sands was ordained a priest on May 14, 2005 for the Archdiocese of Detroit. He currently is pastor of St. Alfred Parish in Taylor, Michigan. While still in the seminary, he worked for the Archdiocese’s Department of Parish Life and Services in the area of Native American and Hispanic Ministries. He continues to be heavily involved in Hispanic Ministry as a priest and pastor.

From 2006 to 2009, Father Sands served as a board member of the Tekakwitha Conference, a national Native American Catholic organization. He also has served as a consultant to the Bishops’ Sub-Committee on Native American Affairs since 2008. Father Sands will continue to be based in Michigan while providing consulting services to the U.S. Bishops.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, chairman of the subcommittee and a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe, welcomed Fr. Sands’ incorporation to the U.S. bishops’ Cultural Diversity team.

"The Native American Catholic Community in the United States rejoices in the appointment of our brother, Father Henry Sands, as a consultant on Native American concerns for the USCCB. Father Sands is extraordinarily prepared for this service and will represent well the views and needs of the Native American people of the Church. Our prayers and support will accompany him in his service," Archbishop Chaput said.

There are approximately 2,383,500 Native Americans Catholics in the United States, representing roughly 3.5% of all Catholics in the U.S. Approximately 20% of all Native Americans residing in the United States consider themselves Roman Catholics.

At the recent Catholic Cultural Diversity Network Convocation, celebrated last May at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, Native American Catholic representatives noted that “a face was still missing in the picture of the Cultural Diversity Secretariat. Beginning September 1, that picture is now even more inclusive, especially if one looks at the diversity of native peoples Father Sands represents.

Welcome on board, Father Sands!

Welcoming messages

Bishop Jaime Soto, chairman, Committee on Cultural diversity in the Church, USCCB:

The recent Catholic Cultural Diversity Convocation held at Notre Dame University in May, 2010 was a splendid experience of the vast cultural faith expressions that enliven the Catholic Church in the United States. A significant part of the Convocation's reflection, prayer, and celebration came from the members of the Native American Catholic community. The appointment of Father Henry Sands as a consultant is a welcomed development for the work of the Subcommittee of Native American Affairs as well as the overall pastoral endeavors of the Bishops' Committee for Cultural Diversity in the Church. He will become part of a capable team dedicated to building up the diverse members of Christ's One Body, the Church.

Father Allan F. Deck, SJ, executive director, Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church, USCCB:
The appointment of Father Sands as consultant to the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs helps complete the team of staff and consultants that make it possible for the Cultural Diversity Secretariat to accomplish its mission. Attention to the opportunities and challenges faced by millions of Native American Catholics is a major concern of the bishops. We are particularly fortunate to have the services of a Native American priest who is knowledgeable and has demonstrated both skill and zeal in the service of his people.

Sister Kateri Mitchell, Executive Director of the Tekakwitha Conference:

Congratulations, Father Henry Sands! On behalf of the Native American Catholic community we extend to you our best wishes in this first time appointment of a "Native face" at the USCCB Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Repealing Birthright Citizenship Would Create Administrative Havoc (It's Unconstitutional Too)

Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said recently he is considering introducing a constitutional amendment in Congress that would end “birthright citizenship” for children of illegal aliens. His supporters say this could be part of a compromise to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.

Sometimes one gets to wonder who advises congressmen and whether they think things through before they speak.

For one, the Supreme Court has long upheld birthright citizenship for children of unlawful immigrants born in the U.S. In 1898, the court held in United States v. Wong Kim Ark that the U.S.-born child of Chinese immigrants was entitled to citizenship under the 14th Amendment. And in subsequent decisions the court has specifically upheld citizenship for children of illegal aliens. In fact, in 1982, the Supreme Court spoke definitively on this issue when all nine justices agreed in Plyler v. Doe that the 14th Amendment applies to illegal aliens.

The Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment enshrined the centuries-old principle of Anglo-American case law known as jus soli, meaning “the law of the soil” or citizenship by birth. Its framers sought to specifically reverse the Dred Scott decision, which had briefly negated this principle by holding that U.S.-born persons of African descent were not citizens.

Unlikely as it is that the 14th Amendment may be altered in this way, let’s think for a second of the practical policy implications and their far reaching consequences of this proposal.

Immediately, it would render hundreds of thousands of innocent children stateless, leaving them without citizenship or nationality. Since they were born here, they cannot be deported. Other countries’ citizenship and immigration laws kick in. Even those eligible to apply for citizenship in some other country, by virtue of their parents’ nationality for example — an option not always available — may have their claim denied by that country, or might choose not to apply. And what does the good Senator recommend that the United States do with these people?

Shall we confine them into “refugee camps” (refugees from the U.S. government, that is), such as those plaguing the Middle East? Shall we create yet another inglorious reservation, a no man’s land in the Arizona desert, for example, where the “Unlucky Nation of Uncitizens” shall live?

More likely, millions of people born on U.S. soil will now, upon birth, come to increase the list of undocumented people already in the country, living in the shadows, unregistered and unprotected. Instead of reducing illegal immigration, we would have added a whole new category of people to it. Even worse, technically they cannot even be called immigrants. Millions of people forced overnight into illegality with no place to go. Scary.

Then, say for example, you, a hardworking taxpayer citizen, apply for a job or government benefits and need to prove your citizenship. If this proposal is implemented, birth certificates would no longer suffice. Prepare yourself, just in case someone challenges whether your parents had a right to be in this country, to hire an expensive immigration attorney that can trace your family tree and produce documentation proving your blood citizenship.

In order to implement this proposal, the government too would have to hire hundreds of trained immigration attorneys and bureaucrats to adjudicate those claims. There you have it, your taxpayer money at work.

As I said earlier, sometimes you just wonder.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Roman Missal: An Educational Journey

We’re about to embark on a great, broad-based education campaign in the Catholic Church. It involves the introduction of the English-language translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal. The church has 16 months to get priests and people in the United States ready to pray reverently, intelligently and together at Mass. Those most affected will be the priests, who have to learn new words and cadences. People in the pews will learn new responses and hear new phrases, closer to the Latin originals.

The last major liturgical change was in the mid-Sixties, when Roman Catholics went from the Mass in Latin to Mass in the vernacular, with words and phrases common to our ears. For many, it was the first time they knew exactly what they and the priest were praying. While the Mass in English-speaking countries was essentially the same, the United States had one version, Great Britain another, Australia still another. Now we have a text that is the same for all the English-speaking nations. Seems appropriate as the world grows closer together.

We’ll also have language that is less commonplace, which will sound like church language, certainly not inappropriate given that this is for church. It’s not unusual for us to have different language styles in different parts of our lives. How we speak in the ballpark isn’t how we speak in the classroom or how we speak in oratory from a stage. Why not a different language style for church? Processing up to Communion isn’t sliding into home plate. “Give me five” on the basketball court isn’t the same as “Peace be with you” at Mass.

There have been jokes about words as scholars worked out the translation. One word church pundits laughed about is “ineffable,” a description of God. “Ineffable,” Merriam-Webster says, means 1. Too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words, or 2. Too sacred to be uttered. As texts were being edited, the word became less popular with translators and now it is in the Roman Missal just once, in the opening prayer for Mass on December 20.

The word has captured my imagination, however. In prayer it is one of my favorites, my excuse for not quite understanding God, the reasons why God does something, or how God does anything. When I ponder “What does God want,” I realize that I have to live with the fact that I’ll never completely understand the “ineffable” God. It’s not lack of prayer that keeps me from knowing exactly what to do; it’s that the ineffable God holds his absolute knowledge from me. It takes the pressure off.

We Catholics are about to embark on an educational journey. We’ll learn a more exact language for prayer, we’ll deepen our theological roots, and we’ll gain a greater sense of the sacred. And if parishes do it right, we’ll learn this together.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

John Henry Newman: Heart Speaks to Heart

The beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman on September 19 in Birmingham, England, may not draw much media attention, but it is still noteworthy.

Newman’s beatification will be the first one Pope Benedict XVI has presided over. One senses that the theologian/scholar/Pope Benedict might feel a kinship with Cardinal Newman, a great intellect of the Victorian Age, and a figure of renown in both Anglican and Catholic traditions.

Newman was born in 1801 and died in 1890. He converted to Catholicism in 1845 after study and struggle to understand God. His efforts with the Oxford Movement to bring Anglicanism back to its Catholic roots led him instead to join the Catholic Church. Conversion brought no end of grief for him. Anglican scholars felt betrayed; Catholic scholars were suspicious. He must have felt quite bleak when he wrote in his journal in 1863. “O how forlorn and dreary has been my course since I have been a Catholic!” he wrote. “Since I have been a Catholic, I seem to myself to have had nothing but failure, personally.”

He was a prodigious writer who promoted the need for the church to engage the world, a position that did not always make him friends. As a Catholic he fiercely defended the faith, to the point where he nearly went to jail for intemperate words while sparring with an anti-Catholic zealot.

He was a man of intellectual rigor, but writings reveal a humanness too. He expressed it in his motto as a cardinal: “heart speaks to heart.” A favorite poem, written in 1833, when he was 32, is “The Pillar of Cloud.” It reveals both the intellectual quest for God for which he was known, and the deep reach of a soul, to which most can relate at some point in their lives.

LEAD, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home –
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene, -- one step enough for me,
I was not ever thus, nor pray’d that Thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will; remember not past years.
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O’er moon and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Questions and Answers About Perry v. Schwarzenegger (N.D. Cal. Aug. 4, 2010)

What is Proposition 8? Proposition 8 is an amendment to the California Constitution adopted by California voters in 2008. Similar to laws adopted in a majority of states, Proposition 8 provides that marriage in California is only the union of one man and one woman.
What is the basis for the judge’s decision? The judge ruled that Proposition 8 violated two provisions of the U.S. Constitution (due process and equal protection) because in his view it lacks a rational relation to any legitimate government interest. In essence, he ruled that there is a federal constitutional right to government recognition of same-sex “marriage” – that is, he claimed that the government has the ability and constitutional duty to redefine marriage to include two persons of the same sex.
Where does the ruling apply? Technically only in California. If, however, the Ninth Circuit were to affirm, then the appeals court’s decision would create binding precedent in that circuit (the nine western-most states, including California). The case may ultimately end up in the Supreme Court, where a decision will have ramifications for the entire country.
What is wrong with the district judge’s decision? Marriage, the union of one man and one woman, is an institution recognized throughout history. As a union naturally capable of and open to conceiving and nurturing children, marriage is essential to the well-being of society, more so than any other human institution that the state recognizes and supports. The court was mistaken when it found no rational basis for the timeless definition of marriage.
Is preserving marriage between one man and one woman like the ban on interracial marriage that the Supreme Court invalidated in 1967? No. Bans on interracial marriage furthered a system of segregation; they are from a now-discredited era in which people were judged and stigmatized by the color of their skin. Marriage, by contrast, stigmatizes no one. It is, by its very nature, the union of one man and one woman. Sexual difference is an essential characteristic of marriage; racial sameness or difference is not.
What’s wrong with allowing two people of the same sex to “marry”? There are several reasons why redefining marriage is wrong. The consequences would include a neglect of the essential place of sexual difference and complementarity between husband and wife, the neglect of the rights of children to a mother and a father, the false claim that men and women, fathers and mothers, do not matter for families or for society, and requiring a radical revision of laws and education.In law, marriage is shorthand for a package of benefits and responsibilities that the law grants or imposes upon persons who enter into that relationship. The government does not act irrationally or unconstitutionally when it decides not to regulate (i.e., grant comparable legal benefits to, or impose comparable legal responsibilities upon) same-sex couples. Treating different things differently is not unjust discrimination. It’s respecting the unique reality of the relationship between a husband and a wife, who alone are capable of forming a union open to new life.
How is voter approval of Proposition 8 and similar laws relevant to this debate? The people recognize what marriage is. The decision not to extend marital benefits or responsibilities to two persons of the same sex is well-grounded and certainly rational.
Isn’t marriage simply a social construct subject to redefinition? No. Marriage is not devised or invented by people. It is given in nature, human nature. Only a man and a woman – by nature and not by human invention – are capable of forming a spousal union and generating children. That some marriages do not generate, or are incapable of generating, children, or that technological means are sometimes employed to create children outside the sexual act, does not alter the fundamental fact of sexual complementarity between men and women that is part of, and given in, human nature.

Monday, August 9, 2010

“The law is a ass.”

First posted on Washington Post In Faith blog, August 7

"The law is a ass"
So spoke Mr. Bumble in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. The sometimes humorous jab at lawyers hit home August 4, when Federal Judge Vaughn Walker overturned California’s Proposition 8 that had defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman.
The decision called California citizens’ decision to define marriage as “irrational,” which suggests that their decision was absurd and beyond the pale. What’s really irrational is the judge’s dismissal of marriage between a man and a woman – the basic bedrock of our society – as if it were some kookie idea. What’s irrational is his ignoring the will of the people with real life experience of marriage, who have voted down gay marriage not only in California, but throughout the United States whenever legalization of gay marriage has been put to a vote. These votes did not take place in pockets of conservatism. Fourteen years ago, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 342-67, and the Senate voted 85-14, to accept the traditional definition of marriage in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
What is even more irrational is the judge’s dismissal of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and Freedom of Religion with these damning words: “Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.”
The judge’s placing religion and government at odds amounts to Constitutional irrationality. It is no small irony that his anti-religious position is enshrined in a ruling deemed to oppose bigotry. The U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens freedom for religion. That precludes government from weighing in on the “acceptability” of religious beliefs.
Judge Walker, in his decision, backed his bigotry with errors, including the misstatement that the “Catholic Church views homosexuality as sinful.” The fact is, the Catholic Church sees homosexuality as a condition, an inclination in a person, something not intrinsically sinful. The church calls for pastoral support, not condemnation, for people with this inclination. The Catholic Church makes clear that it is homosexual activities it deems sinful, because it holds that all sexual activity belongs within marriage between a man and a woman. At the same time the Catholic Church opposes all unjust discrimination against gays and lesbians and abhors violence against them.
The Catholic Church also holds that marriage is a unique institution with a privileged place because it is foundational to the good of society. The church is not alone in holding that a family headed by a mother and a father is the optimal place in which to raise a child. Judge Walker begs to differ, however, and says with grand aplomb that research that supports the contrary view “is accepted beyond serious debate in the field of developmental psychology.” If there’s ever been a statement open to debate it’s that one.
Judge Walker devoted three pages of his decision to make his case for the bigotry of religion, an insult to the tens of millions of religious people in the nation. This is not to deny that some people act despicably and portray their bigotry against gays as religious expression. So too do those who spew anti-immigrant, anti-woman, and anti-whatever sentiments. They’re an unfortunate result of our human condition that lets the morally weak, even morally decrepit, walk among us. Bigoted people are an unfortunate result but not a reason to upend the U.S. Constitution.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, was spot on when he declared that “marriage is more fundamental and essential to the well being of society than perhaps any other institution. It is simply unimaginable that the court could claim a conflict between marriage and the Constitution.”
On August 4, 2010, Judge Walker proved Dickens was right. The law is a ass.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


The centenary of the birth of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is August 26, and Time magazine has just released an illustrated book on the woman who is in in process of moving toward sainthood in the Catholic Church. Titled “Mother Teresa at 100: The Life and Works of a Modern Saint,” the book includes essays by some who knew her, including the Protestant pastor Rick Warren, Jesuit Father James Martin, Susan van Houte, who was adopted as an infant from one of Mother Teresa’s residences for expectant women in Calcutta, and Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC, a member of the priests’ society of Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity. Father Kolodiejchuk is official promoter for her sainthood cause.
I was perusing the book the same day I read a news report that the Baltimore Archdiocese had just sent Rome materials for the sainthood cause of Father Patrick Peyton. Father Peyton was the Holy Cross priest who marshaled radio and TV stars to promote the rosary and family prayer, first in the United States and then throughout the world. Materials from Baltimore included reports of healings through his intercession that, if accepted by the Vatican, would mean we’ll soon be speaking of Blessed Patrick Peyton.
I was lucky enough to personally meet each of them. Both had a beguiling charm. The diminutive nun made the richest of the rich know that the poorest of the poor were around them. The Nobel Prize winner drew the admiration of President Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana. Former California Governor Jerry Brown spent time working with her in Calcutta.
The tall, Irish-born Father Peyton befriended Hollywood mega-stars, from the crooner Bing Crosby to the starlet Loretta Young and got them and other show biz folk to work for Family Rosary and Family Theater. They helped shape his messages: “The family that prays together, stays together” and “A world at prayer is a world at peace” that were staples of posters and billboards in post-World War II society.
Yet charm alone was not the secret of their success. Each one was rooted in an intense, real, yet other worldly, relationship that grounded them, Mother Teresa with Jesus, and Father Peyton with the Virgin Mary. The relationships began to intensify when they were young adults and they focused everything they did on these relationships for the rest of their lives. Mother Teresa spoke of Jesus and Father Peyton of Mary as if they were standing by their side. I think they were.
I interviewed Mother Teresa a few times. She was a hard interviewee because she did not say much and repeated her message to love Jesus over and over again. It was a challenge to get 300 words for a newspaper article out of her. But I’d leave the interview knowing I had a message to deliver.
I knew Father Peyton better because his headquarters were in my hometown, Albany, New York. He was more loquacious than Mother Teresa but his message was always the same, the power of prayer to Mary. After each encounter I’d feel I had a special commission from God Himself to spread devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
Both Mother Teresa and Father Peyton touched people deeply, but their impacts went beyond impressing them with their accomplishments, many as they were. Each was a mystic who glimpsed the divine and then radiated holiness without their knowing it. It wasn’t something they spoke about specifically. Mother Teresa and Father Peyton were gifts to the 20th Century and proof that holiness can be within our reach even or because of the chaotic world in which we live.