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Bishops mark World Refugee Day amid 'biggest migratory crisis since WWII'

Washington D.C., Jun 20, 2019 / 03:35 pm (CNA).- Today, on World Refugee Day, the world marks the highest number of forcibly displaced people in nearly 70 years. In their statement marking the day, the U.S. bishops said “the world is embroiled in the biggest migratory crisis since World War II with more than 25 million refugees around the world.”

A new report from the United Nations refugee agency found that more than 70 million people were displaced from their homes worldwide in the year 2018.

The UN counts in this number anyone who was displaced from their home “as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations” at the end of 2018. The numbers included 13.6 million people who were newly displaced this year, which amounts to about 37,000 people who are displaced from their homes every day, the report notes. The other 67 million had been displaced in other years, and are still living as displaced persons.

“We have seen the images of the refugee crisis, and World Refugee Day calls attention to the critical need to assist our refugee brothers and sisters and make them feel a sense of welcome,”  Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, said in a statement.

“It is imperative for us to highlight the contributions refugees make in our communities,” he added.

Refugees are people displaced from their homes who are living in a different country, after an application process. Asylum seekers are those who are still seeking official placement in another country. Of the 70 million displaced people in 2018, about 25 million were refugees, while 2.5 million were asylum seekers. More than half - about 41 million - were internally displaced within their own countries.

The report found that a majority of the world’s refugees were escaping violent conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, or Somalia. Four in five refugees now live in a country bordering their former home.

Since the year 2000, the world has marked the celebration of World Refugee Day, created by the United Nations to raise awareness about the plight of refugees around the world.

In their statement, the bishops noted that in the United States, “the Presidential Determination for refugee resettlement was set at an all-time low of 30,000 refugees for the current fiscal year. This comes only one year after half of the 45,000 refugees set forth by the Administration’s determination were resettled in the United States.”

According to the UN report, 16% of refugees are hosted by developed nations, while another one-third of them were hosted by “Least Developed Countries.”

In their statement, the bishops noted that a representative of the U.S. bishop’s Migration and Refugee Services, as well as a member of Catholic Charities USA, would be part of a briefing before Congress on Thursday about the root causes of forced displacement, and the impact of refugee resettlement in the U.S.

The Catholic Church has a long history of helping resettle refugees in the United States, having helped nearly one-third of all refugees received by the United States since 1980.

Indianapolis archbishop revokes Jesuit prep school's Catholic identity

Indianapolis, Ind., Jun 20, 2019 / 01:49 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Indianapolis announced Thursday that a local Jesuit high school will no longer be recognized as a Catholic school, due to a disagreement about the employment of a teacher who attempted to contract a same-sex marriage.

“All those who minister in Catholic educational institutions carry out an important ministry in communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students both by word and action inside and outside the classroom,” the archdiocese said in a statement Thursday.

“In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, every archdiocesan Catholic school and private Catholic school has been instructed to clearly state in its contracts and ministerial job descriptions that all ministers must convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Teachers, the archdiocese said, are classified as ‘ministers’ because “it is their duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. To effectively bear witness to Christ, whether they teach religion or not, all ministers in their professional and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic Church teaching.”

“Regrettably, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School has freely chosen not to enter into such agreements that protect the important ministry of communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students. Therefore, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School will no longer be recognized as a Catholic institution by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.”

School leaders said that despite the archdiocesan decision, “our identity as a Catholic Jesuit institution remains unchanged,” in a June 20 statement to the school community.

The conflict between the school and the archdiocese began with an archdiocesan request that the contract of a teacher who is in a same-sex marriage not be renewed.

The school became aware of the teacher's same-sex marriage in the summer of 2017, according to a June 20 statement from Fr. Brian Paulson, SJ, head of the Jesuits' Midwest Province.

Paulson said the archdiocese requested “two years ago that Brebeuf Jesuit not renew this teacher’s contract because this teacher’s marital status does not conform to church doctrine.”

The school leaders wrote that “After long and prayerful consideration, we determined that following the Archdiocese’s directive would not only violate our informed conscience on this particular matter, but also set a concerning precedent for future interference in the school’s operations and other governance matters that Brebeuf Jesuit leadership has historically had the sole right and privilege to address and decide.”

Paulson stated that Brebeuf Jesuit “respects the primacy of an informed conscience of members of its community when making moral decisions.”

“We recognize that at times some people who are associated with our mission make personal moral decisions at variance with Church doctrine; we do our best to help them grow in holiness, all of us being loved sinners who desire to follow Jesus.”

He added that this problem “cuts to the very heart of what it means to be a Jesuit institution with responsibilities to both the local and universal church, as well as for the pastoral care we extend to all members of our Catholic community.”

“I recognize this request by Archbishop Charles Thompson to be his prudential judgment of the application of canon law recognizing his responsibility for oversight of faith and morals as well as Catholic education in his archdiocese,” the priest wrote. “I disagree with the necessity and prudence of this decision.”

The Jesuits maintain that their school's internal administrative matters should be made by their own leaders, rather than the local Church.

While the Code of Canon Law establishes that religious orders, like the Jesuits, “retain their autonomy in the internal management of their schools,” it also says that the diocesan bishop has “the right to issue directives concerning the general regulation of Catholic schools” including those administered by religious orders.

Canon law also says that the diocesan bishop “is to be careful that those who are appointed as teachers of religion in schools, even non-Catholic ones, are outstanding in true doctrine, in the witness of their Christian life, and in their teaching ability.”

The Church’s law adds that the diocesan bishop “has the right to appoint or to approve teachers of religion and, if religious or moral considerations require it, the right to remove them or to demand that they be removed.”

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis policy, which says that all school teachers and administrators have a responsibility to teach the Catholic faith, is a common interpretation of those norms in U.S. Catholic dioceses.

The archdiocesan June 20 statement notes that the archdiocese “recognizes all teachers, guidance counselors and administrators as ministers.” The 2012 Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC Supreme Court decision established that religious institutions are free to require those it recognizes as ministers to uphold religious teachings as a condition of employment.

The school's leaders claim that “the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ direct insertion into an employment matter of a school governed by a religious order is unprecedented.”

Fr. Paulson framed the problem as one of “the governance autonomy regarding employment decisions of institutions sponsored by the USA Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus.”

“Our disagreement is over what we believe is the proper governance autonomy regarding employment decisions which should be afforded a school sponsored by a religious order. In this particular case, we disagree regarding the prudential decision about how the marital status of a valued employee should affect this teacher’s ongoing employment at Brebeuf Jesuit.”

The school's leaders added that failing to renew the teacher's contract would cause “harm” to “our highly capable and qualified teachers and staff.”

“Our intent has been to do the right thing by the people we employ while preserving our authority as an independent, Catholic Jesuit school.”

The leaders noted that they “are prayerfully discerning how best to proceed with the process of appealing the Archdiocese’s directive.”

Fr. Paulson said the province will appeal the decision, first through the archbishop “and, if necessary, [pursuing] hierarchical recourse to the Vatican.”

Canon law establishes that “no school, even if it is in fact Catholic, may bear the title 'Catholic school' except by the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority,” in this case, the Archbishop of Indianapolis.

Brebeuf was founded in 1962 by the Society of Jesus. Its 2019 enrollment is 795 students, and tuition at the school is $18,300.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has previously addressed similar issues.

In August 2018, Shelley Fitzgerald, a guidance counselor at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, was placed on paid administrative leave. An employee of an archdiocesan school, Fitzgerald had attempted to contract a same-sex marriage in 2014.

At that time, Archbishop Thompson wrote that “the archdiocese’s Catholic schools are ministries of the Church. School administrators, teachers and guidance counselors are ministers of the faith who are called to share in the mission of the Church. No one has a right to a ministerial position, but once they are called to serve in a ministerial role they must lead by word and example. As ministers, they must convey and be supportive of the teachings of the Catholic Church. These expectations are clearly spelled out in school ministerial job descriptions and contracts, so everyone understands their obligations.”

He added that “When a person is not fulfilling their obligations as a minister of the faith within a school, Church and school leadership address the situation by working with the person to find a path of accompaniment that will lead to a resolution in accordance with Church teaching.”

The archbishop concluded: “Let us pray that everyone will respect and defend the dignity of all persons as well as the truth about marriage according to God’s plan and laws.”

 

Family Research Council president elected to chair religious freedom commission

Washington D.C., Jun 20, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The president of a Christian political advocacy and lobbying group has been elected to serve as chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council and has been a member of the commission since he was appointed by Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2018.

“I would like to thank my fellow commissioners for entrusting me with the responsibility of guiding this Commission. It is an honor to work with this diverse group of dedicated professionals on such an important issue,” Perkins said June 19.

“I look forward to continuing our efforts to promote the fundamental human right of religious freedom for all people.”

USCIRF is a bipartisan commission that advises the President, Congress, and the Secretary of State on international religious freedom issues. It issues annually a report detailing religious persecution around the globe, and commissioners advocate for religious liberty protections with global leaders and domestic lawmakers.

Perkins, 56, served two terms as a Louisiana state legislator, and ran unsuccessfully as a Republican in the state’s 2002 senatorial race. In 2003, He became president of the Family Research Council,  a lobbying organization affiliated with Focus on the Family.

Although Perkins was elected as commission chairman, leaders at the “LGBT-rights” advocacy organization Human Rights Campaign told the Huffington Post that Perkins’ new role is “another weapon” in an “anti-LGBTQ crusade” perpetrated by the Trump administration, largely in response to Perkins’ opposition to same-sex marriage

Perkins has not responded to directly criticisms regarding his election.

In a June 19 column, however, he wrote that “as Christians, we must care about the plight of those suffering for their religious beliefs — even when those beliefs are very different from our own.”

“In China, the government has detained over 1 million Muslim Uighurs and subjects them to Communist Party indoctrination, forced labor and torture. Increasingly violent anti-Semitic attacks against Jews are on the rise in France. In Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses regularly face criminal charges for practicing their faith. Iran’s Baha’i community is attacked for its religious identity. Yazidis in northern Iraq have been hunted mercilessly by ISIS, all for simply what they believe,” he wrote.

“These examples are all gross violations of the fundamental human right to religious freedom. In the face of such religious freedom violations and atrocities, it is my duty as a Christian to pray for these people and advocate for their religious freedom on their behalf.”

 

 

 

Catholic governor signs law enshrining abortion access

Providence, R.I., Jun 20, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed the Reproductive Privacy Act on Wednesday. The act codifies the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade into state law.

The law permits unrestricted access to abortion at any time up to “fetal viability,” a disputed term with no fixed scientific meaning. Even after supposed viability, abortion will still be legal in cases where the life or health of the mother is at risk.

Raimondo, a Catholic, said when signing the bill that the abortion issue was a difficult one and that “there are good and principled people on both sides of the issue.”

“But in light of all the uncertainty in Washington, and frankly, around the country in many other states, there is a great deal of anxiety that … a woman’s right to access reproductive healthcare is in danger,” said Raimondo.

She described the bill as one that “preserves the status quo” in the Ocean State.

The population of Rhode Island has the highest percentage of Catholics of any state in the nation.

The Rhode Island Senate voted 21-17 to approve the bill. All five of the state’s Republican senators voted against it, together with 12 Democrats. In the Rhode Island House of Representatives, the vote was 45-29. In the House, one Republican voted in favor of the bill, and 21 Democrats voted against.

Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Pawtucket), a self-described “Catholic and pro-life” politician voted in favor of the bill.

During debate, Cano has said that she “believes that life is sacred” and that her faith is “very important,” to her.

“However, I also believe that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and I can’t impose my faith on others,” said Cano, who is currently pregnant.

A statement from the Rhode Island Catholic Conference, published following the Senate vote on Wednesday, called the passage of the legislation “a sad day for Rhode Island, and a tragedy for thousands of defenseless unborn.”

“We applaud the 17 senators who, by voting no, exposed the truth that this is much more than a mere confirmation of the status quo. Rather, the surprisingly close vote reflects the degree to which legislators knew in their private thoughts that this bill significantly expands abortion in Rhode Island.”

The statement was signed by Rev. Bernard Healey, director of the conference, who added that the legislation was “deeply disappointing.”

Before Wednesday’s vote, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence said on Twitter that he was praying that members of the Rhode Island Senate would vote against the bill. After the bill was passed, he tweeted that, although he was disappointed, he had “sincere appreciation” for the state’s pro-life community.  

“Your witness to the dignity of human life has been powerful, peaceful and prayerful,” tweeted Tobin. “God is pleased!”

Tobin also offered encouragement for the state’s pro-lifers in the face of shifting public opinion against unrestricted abortion, calling the law a “very temporary set-back.”

“We will continue to oppose the prevailing culture of death in our society and faithfully and joyfully proclaim the goodness and beauty of life! God bless you!”

May cooler heads prevail regarding Iran, US bishops plead

Washington D.C., Jun 20, 2019 / 10:36 am (CNA).- The US must avoid war with Iran and instead pursue dialogue and engagement, the chair of the US bishops' committee on international justice and peace wrote Tuesday amid escalating tensions between the nations.

“It is my sincere hope that the United States will initiate sustained dialogue with allies, world powers and Iran, in order to deescalate the current situation that is a danger to both the region and the world,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Services wrote in a June 18 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The US accused Iran of being responsible for explosions which hit two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week, which Iran has denied.

The Department of Defense announced June 17 it would deploy an additional 1,000 troops to the area in response to Iran's “hostile behavior.”

The same day, Iran announced it will surpass the limit on low-enriched uranium to which it had agreed in a 2015 nuclear deal reached under the Obama administration, unless Europe would protect its oil sales.

The nuclear deal had been welcomed by both the US bishops' conference and the Holy See.

Under the Trump administration, the US unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal agreement and imposed sanctions on Iran.

Both these factors “seem to have contributed to a pattern of heated rhetoric on the part of both Iran and the United States,” wrote Archbishop Broglio.

“The moves have also exacerbated tensions with close allies and other world powers. For its part, Iran has continued its verbal threats against Israel and the arming of various militia groups in the region,” he stated.

“In the absence of real diplomatic dialogue, military deployments and perceived threats on both sides increase risks of confrontation.”

The archbishop called it “ironic and troubling” that Iran “has threatened to resume some activities that potentially violate” the nuclear deal “in response to sanctions.”

“The Church consistently champions dialogue and engagement as ways to resolve political crises,” he said, recalling that the use of military force is permissible only as a last resort and when there is a probability of success.

“There is little probability that another war in the most volatile region in the world, where the recent and current experiences of conflict in Syria, Iraq and Yemen are vivid, will succeed in bringing peace to the region,” Broglio stated. “A different approach is needed. The President’s recent statement that the United States does not seek war with Iran is encouraging.”

Since Broglio's letter, tensions have only increased.

In the early hours of June 20, a US military surveillance drone was shot down by Iranian forces over the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran claims the drone violated its airspace, while the US claims it was over international waters at the time.

After the drone was downed Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said, “Iran is not seeking war with any country, but we are fully prepared to defend Iran … our borders are our red line.”