Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Daring to DREAM

Rumor has it that the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, may soon be considered by the full House and Senate. The DREAM Act offers U.S. high school graduates who were brought unlawfully to this country at a very young age (some as infants), through no fault of their own, a chance to regularize their status.

For the most part, those who would benefit from the DREAM Act have grown up here and know only the United States as their home. These students and youth can now be detained in federal immigrant detention centers and deported to a country they have never known. Currently, they have no legal means to adjust their status in the U.S.

A movement seems to be growing for a vote on the DREAM Act during the lame so-called “lame duck session” of Congress. Passage of the DREAM Act would give these young people an opportunity to serve our country and earn a pathway to citizenship through higher education or military service.

In broad terms, the DREAM Act would allow unauthorized aliens to become conditional legal permanent residents if they have met certain conditions. To qualify, an unauthorized immigrant must: (1) have entered the United States before the age of 16 and have not yet reached the age of 35; (2) been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than five years preceding the date of enactment; (3) earned a high school diploma or its equivalent or have been admitted to college; (4) been a person of good moral character; (5) have not committed certain crimes; (6) not pose a danger to national security; and (7) have never been under a final order of exclusion.

In order to have the conditional basis of their legal permanent resident status lifted, students will have to complete one of the following requirements within six years of being granted conditional status: (1) earn a two year degree from a U.S. institution of higher education or finish at least two years of a bachelor’s degree program; or (2) serve in the U.S. Armed Forces for at least two years, and, if discharged, receive an honorable discharge.

Given the pre-requisites to obtain a higher education, a second major provision allowing states to offer in-state tuition to these students has been part of the bill in the past.

The DREAM Act would offer hope and a brighter future to those willing to work for it.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is asking dioceses and parishes to lift up the theme of immigration in support of the DREAM Act in the next three weeks through pulpit announcements, bulletin inserts, prayer vigils and, most of all, encouraging people to take action by sending electronic letters to their members of Congress. They may also set up visits with them during the Thanksgiving recess (Nov. 22-26).

Go to www.justiceforimmigrants.org for information and to take action.

The North American Integration and Development Center (NAID) at UCLA also has developed an interesting analysis about the economic potential of DREAM Act beneficiaries.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vatican Clarifies Pope's Comments

In response to attention received by recent comments by Pope Benedict XVI on the use of condoms to combat AIDS, Vatican spokesman Father Frederico Lombardi, SJ, has issued the following clarification, which we've included in English and Spanish.


VATICAN CITY, 21 NOV 2010 (VIS) - Given below is the text of a note issued by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. concerning certain remarks by the Pope on the use of condoms, which appear the new book "Light of the World".

"At the end of chapter eleven of the book 'Light of the World' the Pope responds to two questions about the battle against AIDS and the use of condoms, questions that reconnect with the discussions that arose in the wake of certain statements the Pope made on this subject during the course of his 2009 trip to Africa.

"The Pope again makes it clear that his intention was not to take up a position on the problem of condoms in general; his aim, rather was to reaffirm with force that the problem of AIDS cannot be solved simply by distributing condoms, because much more needs to be done: prevention,
education, help, advice, accompaniment, both to prevent people from falling ill and to help them if they do.

"The Pope observes that even in the non-ecclesial context an analogous awareness has developed, as is apparent in the so-called ABC theory (Abstinence - Be Faithful - Condom), in which the first two elements (abstinence and fidelity) are more decisive and fundamental in the battle against AIDS, while condoms take last place, as a way out when the other two are absent. It should thus be clear that condoms are not the solution to the problem.

"The Pope then broadens his perspective and insists that focusing only on condoms is equivalent to trivialising sexuality, which thus loses its meaning as an expression of love between persons and becomes a 'drug'. This struggle against the trivialisation of sexuality is 'part of the great effort to ensure that sexuality is positively valued and is able to exercise a positive effect on man in his entirety'.

"In the light of this broad and profound vision of human sexuality and the problems it currently faces, the Pope reaffirms that 'the Church does not of course consider condoms to be the authentic and moral solution' to the problem of AIDS.

"In this the Pope does not reform or change Church teaching, but reaffirms it, placing it in the perspective of the value and dignity of human sexuality as an expression of love and responsibility.

"At the same time the Pope considers an exceptional circumstance in which the exercise of sexuality represents a real threat to another person's life. In such a case, the Pope does not morally justify the disordered practice of sexuality but maintains that the use of a condom to reduce the danger of infection can be 'a first act of responsibility', 'a first step on the road toward a more human sexuality', rather than not using it and exposing the other person to a mortal risk.

"In this, the reasoning of the Pope certainly cannot be defined as a revolutionary change.

"Many moral theologians and authoritative ecclesiastical figures have supported and support similar positions; it is nevertheless true that we have not heard this with such clarity from the mouth of the Pope, even in an informal and non-magisterial form.

"Thus Benedict XVI courageously makes an important contribution to help us clarify and more deeply understand a long-debated question. His is an original contribution, because, on the one hand, it remains faithful to moral principles and transparently refutes illusory paths such as that of 'faith in condoms'; on the other hand, however, it manifests a comprehensive and farsighted vision, attentive to recognising the small steps (though only initial and still confused) of an often spiritually- and culturally-impoverished humanity, toward a more human and responsible
exercise of sexuality".

VIS 20101122 (630)


CIUDAD DEL VATICANO, 22 NOV 2010 (VIS).-Sigue la nota del padre Federico Lombardi, S.I., director de la Oficina de Prensa de la Santa Sede sobre las palabras del Santo Padre en el libro "Luz del mundo" sobre el uso del profiláctico.

"Al final del capítulo 11 del libro "Luz del mundo", el Papa responde a dos preguntas sobre la lucha contra el SIDA y el uso del preservativo, preguntas que se refieren a la discusión que siguió a algunas palabras que pronunció sobre el tema durante su viaje a África en 2009.

El Papa reafirma claramente que en esa ocasión no quiso tomar posición sobre el tema de los profilácticos en general, pero quiso afirmar con decisión que el problema del SIDA no puede resolverse sólo con la distribución de profilácticos, porque hay que hacer mucho más: prevenir, educar, ayudar, aconsejar, estar cerca de la gente, sea para que no caigan enfermos como cuando están enfermos.

El Papa observa que incluso en ámbito no eclesial se ha llegado a una toma de conciencia similar, según se desprende de la teoría del llamado ABC (Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condon) en la que los dos primeros elementos (abstinencia y fidelidad) son mucho más cruciales y fundamentales para la lucha contra el SIDA, mientras que el profiláctico está en último lugar como recurso, cuando faltan los otros dos. Por lo tanto, debe quedar claro que el profiláctico no es la solución al problema.

El Papa amplía después su mirada, e insiste en el hecho de que concentrarse sólo en el preservativo equivale a banalizar la sexualidad, que pierde su significado como expresión de amor entre las personas y se vuelve como una "droga". La lucha contra la trivialización de la sexualidad forma parte "del gran esfuerzo para que la sexualidad se valore positivamente y
ejerza su efecto positivo sobre el ser humano en su totalidad".

A la luz de esta visión amplia y profunda de la sexualidad humana y de su problemática actual, el Papa reafirma que "naturalmente la Iglesia no considera que los profilácticos sean la solución auténtica y moral" del problema del SIDA.

Con todo ello, el Papa no reforma ni cambia la enseñanza de la Iglesia, sino que la reafirma, colocándose en la perspectiva del valor y la dignidad de la sexualidad humana como expresión de amor y responsabilidad.

Al mismo tiempo, el Papa considera una situación excepcional en que el ejercicio de la sexualidad representa un riesgo real para la vida del otro. En este caso, el Papa no justifica moralmente el ejercicio desordenado de la sexualidad, pero cree que el uso del profiláctico para reducir el riesgo de contagio sea "un primer acto de responsabilidad", "un primer paso en el camino hacia una sexualidad más humana", en vez de no utilizarlo exponiendo al otro a un riesgo para su vida.

En este sentido, el razonamiento del Papa ciertamente no puede definirse como un cambio revolucionario.

Numerosos teólogos morales y notables personalidades eclesiásticas han sostenido y sostienen posiciones análogas; es cierto, sin embargo, que todavía no las habíamos escuchado con tanta claridad en boca del Papa, aunque haya sido de forma coloquial y no magisterial.

Por lo tanto, Benedicto XVI aporta con valor una contribución importante a la clarificación y profundización de una cuestión largamente debatida. Es una contribución original, porque por una parte confirma la lealtad a los principios morales y demuestra lucidez a la hora de rechazar un camino ilusorio como "la confianza en el preservativo"; por otra, pone de manifiesto una visión comprensiva y de amplias miras atenta a descubrir los pequeños pasos -aunque iniciales y todavía confusos- de una humanidad a menudo espiritual y culturalmente muy pobre, hacia un ejercicio más humano y responsable de la sexualidad".

VIS 20101122 (660)

USCCB Comm. Staffer Receives Papal Honor

It isn't every day someone receives a papal honor, which is why the Communications staff here at the USCCB was thrilled to learn that Mar Munoz-Visoso, assistant director of media relations, was recently awarded the Benemerenti Medal by Pope Benedict XVI.

This recognition, which comes directly from the Holy See, is one of the highest honors the pope can bestow on an individual. It's given in gratitude for sustained and exemplary service to the Catholic faith.

In the case of Mar (pictured above with Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., of Denver and USCCB secretary of communications, Helen Osman), the service was rooted in her time working for the Archdiocese of Denver. Mar, who worked in Hispanic ministry, was responsible for founding the archdiocese's Spanish newspaper, El Pueblo Catolico, and the Centro San Juan Diego. For this and the rest of her ministry to the Hispanic community in Denver, Archbishop Chaput conferred this papal honor on Mar. At the USCCB, Mar's serves as a gatekeeper between the bishops and the media, specializing in divine worship, migration, cultural diversity and other areas. She also writes a column, Entre Amigos, on Latino affairs in the Church.

The Benemerenti Medal was created by Pope Gregory XVI in 1832.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Benedict on the Bible

Today the Vatican released Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic exhortation on the Word of God, Verbum Domini. This document is basically the pope's way of summarizing what was articulated at the 2008 Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. A Synod of Bishops involves hundreds of bishops meeting in Rome for weeks at a time to discuss a specific topic relevant to life in the Church. This fall saw a synod on the Middle East, and 2009 saw a synod on the Church in Africa.

In true Vatican fashion (unofficial motto: "We think in centuries here"), the document released today accompanies a synod now two years past. Since the apostolic exhortation itself is over 200 pages long, it might be helpful to read the Catholic News Service report on the document. And for a more point-by-point analysis, Mary Sperry from the New American Bible staff here at the USCCB offers the following summary:

Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (the Word of the Lord) reflects on the meetings and proposals of the Twelfth Ordinary Synod of Bishops which took place in October 2008. The theme of the Synod was “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”

The exhortation begins by affirming that the word is at the heart of every ecclesial activity and likewise should be encountered and interpreted within the community of the Church. After a brief look at 100 years of Church documents on the word and the role of the Synod, the Holy Father divides the exhortation into three main parts.

The first section, Verbum Dei (the Word of God), addresses the multiple understandings of the term “word of God,” all finding their fullest meaning in the person of Jesus Christ. Still, the word of God is Trinitarian. God the Father is the origin of the word. Jesus is the word. And the Holy Spirit inspires the word.

After extensive discussion of the relationship between Scripture and tradition, Pope Benedict turns his attention to our response to Scripture, namely, faith. He holds up Mary as a role model because she heard the word attentively and allowed it to take flesh in her.

Turning his attention to biblical interpretation, Pope Benedict affirms the indispensability of historical-critical exegesis and other methods of textual analysis. The goal of all biblical interpretation is the come to an understanding of the meaning of the Bible as God’s word for today. Such interpretation requires both faith and reason, linking the reality of the faith expressed in the Scriptures to the experience of faith today. He cautions against interpretations which lead to fundamentalism or which are closed to the possibility of Scripture.

In the second section, Verbum in Ecclesia (the Word in the Church), Pope Benedict characterizes the Church as a community that hears and proclaims the word of God. Liturgy is the privileged setting for the word of God and every liturgical action is steeped in Scripture. Similarly, we must understand Scripture in light of the paschal mystery celebrated in the liturgy. Word and gesture are united in the celebration of all the sacraments. There is no separation between what God says and what he does.

The Holy Father offers an extended reflection on the unbreakable bond between Scripture and the Eucharist. In considering the Mass, Pope Benedict discusses the importance of biblical, liturgical, and technical training for readers and gives substantial consideration to the significance of the homily in helping people come to a personal encounter with Christ through the word. He notes that Christ must stand at the center of every homily. Similarly, Scripture must be a part of every sacramental celebration and blessing. The Liturgy of the Hours emphasizes the dialogue at the heart of our encounter with Scripture. As such, participation in at least Morning and Evening Prayer should be encouraged.

Pope Benedict calls the Church to a new season of greater love for Scripture. The Bible should inspire all pastoral work, fostering the personal encounter with Christ who gives himself in his word. Catechesis should be biblically inspired. All the faithful should know the important people and events of the Bible and should even memorize some key passages. Every household should have a Bible to be used for prayer and reading. Scripture helps us to grow in relationship to Christ and, thus, in our call to holiness whatever our vocation.

Turning to Scripture and prayer, Pope Benedict gives extensive consideration to lectio divina, an ancient practice of reading, prayer, and reflection leading to conversion of heart. He looks at traditional Latin and Eastern Marian prayers (including the Angelus and the Akathist Prayer) that help us come to a fuller understanding of the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.

The final section of the exhortation, Verbum Mundo (the Word to the World) states emphatically that the Church’s mission is to preach the word of God to the world. All the faithful must develop a missionary consciousness so as to become heralds of God’s word. This mission belongs to all the faithful by virtue of their baptism. This mission has two parts, the mission ad gentes to those who have never heard the word of God and the new evangelization to those who need to hear the word anew. The credibility of this proclamation requires an authentic Christian witness.

Proclaiming the word requires engagement with society, promoting peace, justice, and reconciliation, reaching out to migrants, the suffering, and the poor. Special attention must be given to young people who will find in Scripture the answers to many of life’s questions.

The word of God must have an impact on culture, through shared human values, the arts, and through communications, including new media. The word of God speaks to all peoples and cultures and the Church must give special care to ensuring that all people have a complete translation of the Bible in their own language. Finally, the word of God must inform interreligious dialogue, helping to identify shared values.

Pope Benedict concludes the exhortation by affirming that the proclamation of the word creates communion and brings joy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Bishops Who Would be President

One item bound to draw some attention at this year's Fall General Assembly of the U.S. bishops will be the election of the new president and vice president of the USCCB.

Held every three years, the new president and vice president take office at the conclusion of the meeting. They are chosen from a slate of 10 candidates compiled from nominations by bishops nationwide. The bishops first cast ballots to elect the Conference president. Once he has been selected, the remaining nine names become the slate for vice president.

Here are the names, as well as some statistics and a brief rundown of the current USCCB involvement of the bishops who make up this year's presidential slate.

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond

New Orleans

Age 61
Ordained May 10, 1975
Bishop since 1996
Formerly bishop of Austin, Texas, 2001-2009

Incoming chairman of USCCB Committee on Divine Worship
Member of the USCCB Committees on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations and Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth

Bishop Stephen E. Blaire

Stockton, California

Age 68
Ordained April 29, 1967
Bishop since 1990
Formerly auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, 1990-1999

Incoming chairman of USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development
Member of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM, Cap.


Age 66
Ordained August 29, 1970
Bishop since 1988
Formerly bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, 1988-1997

Chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on Native American Catholics
Member of USCCB Committees on Cultural Diversity in the Church, Divine Worship, Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Migration, Subcommittee on Marriage and Family Life, Task Forces on Strengthening Marriage and Health Care
Consultant to the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan

New York

Age 60
Ordained June 19, 1976
Bishop since 2001
Formerly Archbishop of Milwaukee, 2002-2009

Chairman of the Catholic Relief Services board
USCCB Moderator of Jewish Affairs
Member of the USCCB Committee on Budget and Finance and Subcommittee on the Church in Africa
Consultant to the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas

Tucson, Arizona

Age 69
Ordained April 27, 1967
Bishop since 1995
Formerly auxiliary bishop of Chicago, 1995-2001

Outgoing vice president of the USCCB
Member of the USCCB Communications Committee, Subcommittee on the Catholic Communication Campaign, and the Board of Trustees of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc.
Consultant to the USCCB Committee on Migration

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz

Louisville, Kentucky

Age 64
Ordained March 18, 1972
Bishop since 1999
Formerly bishop of Knoxville, 1999-2007

USCCB Treasurer
Chairman of USCCB Committee on Budget and Finance and Subcommittee on Marriage and Family Life
Vice Chairman of USCCB Priories and Plans Committee
Member of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, the Task Force on Strengthening Marriage, the Board of Directors of Catholic Relief Services and the Board of Trustees for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc.
Consultant to the Committee on Pro-Life Activities

Bishop George V. Murry, SJ

Youngstown, Ohio

Age 61
Ordained June 9, 1979
Bishop since 1995
Formerly bishop of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, 1999-2007

Current secretary of USCCB
Chairman of USCCB Committee on Priority and Plans
Member of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, the Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions and the Board of Trustees of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc.

Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien


Age 71
Ordained May 29, 1965
Bishop since 1996
Formerly Archbishop for Military Services, 1997-2007

Member of USCCB Committees on and International Justice and Peace
Consultant to the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron


Age 62
Ordained July 26, 1975
Bishop since 1996
Formerly bishop of Oakland, California, 2003-2009

Member of USCCB Committee on Doctrine, the Subcommittee on the Catechism and the Task Force for Strengthening Marriage

Bishop John C. Wester

Salt Lake City

Age 60
Ordained May 15, 1976
Bishop since 1998
Formerly auxiliary bishop of San Francisco, 1998-2007
Outgoing chairman of USCCB Committee on Migration
Member of the USCCB Committee on Catholic Education and the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa
Consultant to the USCCB Comittees on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and International Justice and Peace
Member of the board of directors for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and Catholic Relief Services