Friday, September 18, 2009

A new look... and another look

A new look for the newspaper:

We've just completed the redesign of our newspaper -- from flag to folios. Let us know what you think! Of course, you have to pick up the print edition to see just how extensive the redesign really is....

And another look at an issue I write about often: the Catholic Church's commitment to bettering the plight of immigrants and reforming broken immigration policies:

The photos I've included in this post are by freelancer Kevin Cook. They were taken at a Philadelphia Catholic leadership meeting on immigration reform that took place at Our Lady of Ransom School's gymnasium Sept. 11.

Msgr. Hugh Shields, vicar for Hispanic Catholics of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and other Hispanic apostolate leaders addressed approximately 90 people who gathered -- to formulate a genuinely Catholic response to the challenges posed by current immigration policies. An article about the event, written by freelancer Denise Peterson, will appear in the Sept. 24 issue of the Catholic Standard & Times (in English and in Spanish), but here's a teaser:

Sister Pat Madden, S.S.J., who works at the Sisters of St. Joseph Welcome Center in North Philadelphia, attended the meeting at Our Lady of Ransom. “I’m glad to see the energy is back. A couple of years ago we were going to rallies and all, and then it just died. I can feel that the energy is coming back, that the time is now, and that hope is here. The plight of the immigrant is very important to us. Jesus welcomes everyone — lepers, Samaritans, the woman at the well — so we should too.”

On Sept. 17, the Hispanic Bishops of the U.S. met with legislators in Washington D.C. about policy issues most affecting Hispanics in the U.S. This is from a USCCB report on the meeting:

At a series of meetings at Capitol Hill, a delegation of Hispanic Bishops discussed with Democratic and Republican legislators of both houses, four areas of deep concern and offered principles of Catholic social teaching to help in the current debates.

Archbishop José Gomez of San Antonio, Texas, led the September 17 delegation, representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The bishops are keenly aware of the substantial contributions Hispanic communities make to the prosperity and well-being of the United States,” said Archbishop Gomez. “Yet those same communities suffer under the weight of a broken immigration policy, as well as lack of access to quality education, adequate medical care and economic opportunities.”

“We met with our political leaders of both parties to re-affirm the principles of Catholic social teaching about the dignity of all human beings from conception to natural death and the centrality of the common good. We offered these principles grounded in social ethics and our religious heritage as constructive guidelines for achieving a just and equitable resolution of the public policy debates around these key issues,” he said.

The U. S. Church and our Bishops continue to remind Catholics about the moral implications of current immigration policies, and a debate about the issue that has turned increasingly vitriolic. From Catholic News Service:

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Outside the Capitol Sept. 15 bishops of three denominations led a brief prayer service for an end to hate, particularly hatred toward immigrants.
"The current environment dehumanizes our fellow human beings and diminishes us as a nation," said Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the migration committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Meanwhile, elsewhere on Capitol Hill, 47 radio talk show hosts held a two-day broadcast capping a lobbying effort aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration and derailing efforts to approve comprehensive immigration reform.

Read the CNS brief here (scroll to second brief).

Archbishop Wuerl, of Washington, included the following in an op-ed piece about another fractious issue -- health care reform:

The United Stated Conference of Catholic Bishops, following the Gospel mandate to care for the "least of these," urges us to look at health care from the bottom up. A particular gauge against which to measure true universal coverage would be how reform treats the immigrants in our midst who contribute their labor and taxes to our nation, but are at risk of being left out of health care reform.

Read the full op-ed here (and note comments on the post, if you have the stomach for them).

And Our Sunday Visitor, in an editorial about health care reform and the Bishops' call to cover immigrants in it, notes that:

It may be that what America needs right now is a conscience prick about what society is supposed to be all about: serving the common good, as Pope Benedict XVI so forcefully underscored in his latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate.

Read the full editorial here.

Comprehensive immigration reform and the treatment of immigrants in our country is as fractious an issue for the Catholic laity as it is for the rest of the population. Working at a Catholic newspaper I get to see letters to the editor and to field calls from readers who are upset at our priests and religious for their ongoing work to minister to the undocumented.

I get to track poll results from our own newspaper web site that indicate that a substantial number of our readers think the Bishops shouldn't involve themselves in immigration because it is a "political" issue.

But it isn't be the first time we've needed the priests and religious -- and our Bishops -- to remind us that issues of shared humanity and human dignity go beyond the merely political; and that they aren't predicated on race, or ethnicity, or status in society.

Some time ago I fielded an unrelated call that took me into the newspaper's archives. I rooted around in the CS&T issues from the 1960s. By chance I ended up looking at a number of editorial pages. There were lots of letters to the editor in those old issues very similar to ones I'd been seeing about immigration. Catholics were taking the Bishops to task for what the letter-writers saw as meddling in politics. You see, the Bishops had issued statements and were advocating for desegregation... and the readers didn't like it one bit.

Today it is hard to imagine that any Catholic could have wanted the Bishops to stay mute about segregation.

And years from now, I believe, it will be equally inconceivable for us to imagine that any would call for our Bishops to be silent while immigration policies tear families, lives and communities apart.

Prophetic voices are desperately needed (I'm shamelessly stealing this line from one of my favorite CS&T columnists, Msgr. Francis Meehan).

On this issue and in this debate, I'm proud that some of the strongest prophetic voices belong to our Bishops.

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