The Message I Delivered to Bernie and Hillary

At last week’s Democratic Party presidential debate in Milwaukee between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, I tried my best to represent the Catholic community and our most fundamental values.

While there, I had the privilege to talk to both candidates about the issues that are at the heart of Pope Francis’ agenda and that should truly matter to Catholic voters in the United States.​

Inspired by the words of Cardinal Hummes to Pope Francis upon his election, I told both Hillary and Bernie that if either becomes President of the United States, they mustn’t forget about the excluded and they must put the needs of the poor first in their public service. This preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, which is rooted in our commitment to the common good and solidarity with all people, is what our faith is all about. Catholics are called to be a voice for those who are excluded and ignored, those cast aside by a culture of indifference. When given the opportunity to express these views, I did my best to share this message.

I’ll be bringing the same message to the Republican candidates ​at a GOP debate next month. I encourage Catholics from both parties and those who are independent to join me in lifting up these values. All candidates for public office should know: Catholics care about the poor and vulnerable, and we expect the same from those elected to public office.PicMonkey Collage


It Is Time to Confront the Problem of Gun Violence

President Obama became emotional today as he talked about the costs of our nation’s radically libertarian approach to gun rights to the other rights we value as Americans:

The White House and the have President outlined a package of executive actions that are designed to reduce gun violence:

The package…includes 10 separate provisions, White House officials said. One key provision would require more gun sellers — especially those who do business on the Internet and at gun shows — to be licensed and would force them to conduct background checks on potential buyers. Obama would devote $500 million more in federal funds to treating mental illness — a move that could require congressional approval — and require that firearms lost in transit between a manufacturer and a seller be reported to federal authorities.

At the president’s direction, the FBI will begin hiring more than 230 additional examiners and other personnel to help process new background checks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Also, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has established a new investigation center to keep track of illegal gun trafficking online and will devote $4 million and additional personnel to enhance the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network.

President Obama is right: Americans need to stand up for sensible gun control. Pope Francis put it best, “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem.”

Let Us Rejoice

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” (Philippians 4:14) 

Today is Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing. How many of us spontaneously associate God and joy? In our alienation from God, we experience God only as judge, as distant and demanding.

But God’s whole business is joy. God is a communion, a community of joy in God’s own inner life. God created everything as a joyous act of self-communication and seeks, above all, to share the joy of God with all of us.

Listen to what the prophet Zephaniah says today: “He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love. He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals” (Zephaniah 3:17).

Let’s rejoice. Our God is near. The Lord is coming to save us.


Our Immigration System Should Not Keep Out the People (Including the Priests) We Need

I just met an American seminarian studying to be a priest in Rome.

When he was a child, his family illegally immigrated to the United States to flee violence and to find a better way of life.

When he decided he wanted to become a priest, his bishop wasn’t able to send him to a college seminary because he was an unauthorized immigrant.

But he knew this young man’s calling was authentic, so he worked with him to send him to a seminary in another country and now in Rome.

But due to our nation’s unjust immigration laws, it isn’t guaranteed that he will be allowed to return to the United States after his ordination to the priesthood.

That’s not right.

This man is everything you would hope for in a fellow American. He’s honest. He works hard. He cares for other.

If we want a country that honors our heritage, we need to make room for immigrants like this young man so that he can come back home and serve the People of God in the United States.

An Iraqi bishop willing to die for his flock

Beirut last night. Baghad this morning. And Paris tonight.

ISIS is on a mission to terrorize the entire world. But while they promote an ideology of hate, there are heroes rising up across the globe to offer a counter-witness of radical love.

Tonight I broke bread with one of them: Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq. Despite calls to abandon the region for his safety, Archbishop Warda stays behind to look after the needs of suffering refugees throughout the nation.

He told me tonight he’s prepared to die if that’s what it comes to: “I don’t want to die. But I’m a priest. I’d rather die than leave any of my people behind. They’re my life.”12249739_10205079821784492_4916569610421304418_n

Hope and Prayer as I Depart from Iraq

On my last night in Iraq and amidst the terrorist attacks in Baghdad, Beirut, and Paris, I joined other Christians in praying to Mary for peace.

My time in the birthplace of civilization has given me a strong belief of how faith lived in the existential peripheries of the world can transform society.

Despite their best attempts, ISIS will never define nor destroy Iraq. Iraq’s future—and our global future—is in the hands of heroic women and men who every day seek justice for the poor and excluded, who make a home for the refugees, and who fight against the ideologies of hate that neither serve God nor are authentic expressions of faith with tangible acts of love.

I’ve spent time on the margins of the faith, and now I go to the Eternal City that is the heart of the faith.

I’m going to Rome to be close with Pope Francis and to meet with young Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and other interfaith leaders as we begin a new project to promote a healthy global pluralism. The argument is simple: when the best of our faith traditions meet the best of culture, we can help create a just and equitable future for everyone–for people of all faiths and for people of no faith.