Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
For decades local Catholic Charities agencies have worked with the federal government to help resettle refugees from war-torn countries or other politically difficult parts of the world. The Church engages in this activity to provide humanitarian assistance to highly vulnerable and displaced persons. In fact, the Catholic Church is the nation’s leading institution and advocate for the dignity of all persons, especially those who have been displaced and marginalized, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Catholic agencies work with refugees who have been approved for entrance into the country by locating safe and affordable housing; providing furniture, food and basic household items; providing English as second language classes; enrolling children in school; providing extensive cultural orientation, financial literacy and employment services; and assistance for health screenings and medical follow-ups. In recent years, the number of refugees fleeing their home country has increased in volatile locations such as Iraq, Syria and other parts of the world. Pope Francis addressed this reality in his speech to the U.S. Congress in September:
“Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions…We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.”
The ongoing conflict in Syria has displaced nearly half of that country’s population, and many of its citizens are applying for refugee status in the United States. Earlier this year Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who has been outspoken in support of immigrants and their contributions to society, encouraged the federal government to send more applicants toward this state. This week, however, following the terrorist attacks overseas, Governor Snyder issued a directive suspending his previous outreach with the federal government until he was satisfied that Homeland Security and other branches of government are taking the appropriate steps to ensure the safety of all Americans. In response to the Governor’s decision, Michigan Catholic Conference released a statement articulating the Church’s readiness to continue assisting refugees:
“Going forward, once the Governor receives the safety reassurances from Homeland Security he feels are necessary, we expect that Michigan will continue to be a welcoming place. The Catholic Church in Michigan, through its vast network of human service agencies, stands ready and is eager to assist incoming refugees and the most vulnerable who are in desperate need of assistance.”
In addition, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ committee on Migration, released a statement this week regarding the national refugee conversation and its relation to national security. On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure by a 289–137 vote to suspend U.S. admissions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees until additional procedures are in place. The measure would require the FBI director to certify the background investigation for each Syrian or Iraqi refugee and Homeland Security and intelligence officials would have to certify that they are not security threats before they could come into the country. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is monitoring the bill, which now continues to the U.S. Senate. More information will be provided as it is available.
Over the next two to three weeks, the U.S. Congress will be considering “must pass” legislation that will fund government programs for the 2016 Fiscal Year. Language is included in this legislation that would protect conscience rights for health care providers. The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) will close loopholes in existing law and provide a private right of action, so that healthcare providers, whose freedom of conscience is denied, can defend their rights in court. While existing policies forbid governments who receive federal health care funds from discriminating against those who decline to take part in abortion, these policies must be renewed every year. Send a message to your federal officials today encouraging their support for the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA).
The U.S. bishops met this week in Washington, D.C. for their Annual Fall General Assembly. During the meeting, Pope Francis’s apostolic nuncio (or representative to the United States), Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, spoke to the body of bishops on the importance of Catholic education and Catholic identity in schools. He spoke specifically on the need to give attention and care to Catholic educational institutions, as well for Catholic colleges and universities to be faithful to their Catholic mission. Here is a short excerpt from the speech about Catholic schools:
“Our students should be taught how to pray and how to become familiar with Christ. They should experience how enriching is the encounter with the poor, with the sick, the elderly, and the immigrant—a reality often excluded from our privileged society. They should also experience, along with the great quality of education, the inspiring devotion to Our Lady, and a love for the missions.”
The U.S. bishops discussed a number of topics at their week-long meeting, including the approval of a new introductory note and revised text for the document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. This document advises Catholics on the Church’s teaching on political life and involvement in the public realm. During their time together, the bishops also approved and issued a document called Create in Me a Clean Heart to address the widespread problem of pornography in our culture today. Further resources regarding this topic can be found on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.
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