Build Bridges Not Walls, Stop Tearing Families Apart

via Fr. Sean Carroll, SJ:

For me, the teachings of the Catholic Church are as clear as God’s commands to the people of Israel in Hebrew Scriptures: We are called to welcome widows, orphans, the poor and migrants. Sadly, these explicit instructions are as needed today as they were thousands of years ago.

Nativism and xenophobia are resurgent. Those with a reasonable desire for security fall prey to the scaremongering tactics of cynical politicians. The ideals that define not only our faith but also our nation’s character are being set aside in a deeply troubling way….

Coming just a day after the pope’s appeal, the deportation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos demonstrated the consequences of the administration’s hard-line policy. Guadalupe migrated to the U.S. two decades ago to find a better life as a teenage girl and is now a married mother of two….

On Feb. 8, she was detained at her check-in and deported within 24 hours to her native Mexico. Her family has been abruptly ripped apart….

This cruel and inhumane policy is not necessary. It not only destroys families but it drives others into the shadows, where they are vulnerable to crime and exploitation by unscrupulous employers. Our willingness to defend migrants is a matter of life or death in the most literal sense. Our willingness to protect the institution of the family is critical to the well-being of society.

via the bishops of the border between Texas and northern Mexico:

Over the years we have seen first-hand the suffering that is caused by a broken immigration system caused by political structures and economic conditions that result in threats, deportations, impunity and extreme violence.

We have seen the pain, the fear, and the anguish suffered by the persons who have come to us, who may be facing having to live among us in the periphery of our society.  Many have been extorted in their workplace, they have lived under the constant threat of deportation and have suffered the fear of the possible separation from their families and friends.

This reality is made evident as we consider the measures taken by the present administration.  We can sense the pain of the separation of families, loss of employment, persecutions, discrimination, racism, and unnecessary deportations that paralyze the development of persons in our societies and the development of our nations leaving them of hope.

Immigration is a global phenomenon that arises from economic and social conditions, and the poverty and insecurity that directly displaces entire populations, causing families to feel that migration is the only way to survive.  The migrant has a right to be respected by international law  and national law as he/she faces the violence, criminality and inhuman policies of governments as well as the world’s indifference.

Regardless of their migration condition, the human dignity that every person possesses, must be respected in the person of the migrant. They are subjected to punitive laws and often mistreated by civil authorities both in their country of origin, the countries through which they travel, and the country of their destination. It is essential that governments adopt policies that respect the human rights of migrants and undocumented residents.

Steve Bannon is as Bad as You Think He is

While some are downplaying the relationship between Steve Bannon and other prominent Catholic reactionaries, no one is denying that a certain brand of reactionary Catholicism shapes his worldview. But it is equally clear how divorced his populist nationalism is not just from Pope Francis’ worldview, but from Catholic orthodoxy itself. A number of recent articles on Bannon show just how toxic and antithetical to authentic Christianity his views are:

via the Washington Post:

In November 2015, Stephen K. Bannon — then the executive chairman of Breitbart News — was hosting a satellite radio show. His guest was Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), who opposed President Obama’s plan to resettle some Syrian refugees in the United States.

“We need to put a stop on refugees until we can vet,” Zinke said.

Bannon cut him off.

“Why even let ’em in?” he asked.

Bannon said that vetting refugees from Muslim-majority countries would cost money and time. “Can’t that money be used in the United States?” he said. “Should we just take a pause and a hiatus for a number of years on any influx from that area of the world?”…

That worldview, which Bannon laid out in interviews and speeches over the past several years, hinges largely on Bannon’s belief in American “sovereignty.” Bannon said that countries should protect their citizens and their essence by reducing immigration, legal and illegal, and pulling back from multinational agreements.

At the same time, Bannon was concerned that the United States and the “Judeo-Christian West” were in a war against an expansionist Islamic ideology — but that they were losing the war by not recognizing what it was. Bannon said this fight was so important, it was worth overlooking differences and rivalries with countries like Russia….

In interviews with reporters since Trump’s election, Bannon has eschewed the traditional it’s-all-about-the-boss humility of presidential staffers.

“Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power,” he told the Hollywood Reporter in November, embracing the comparisons of him to those figures….

 “I am Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors,” Bannon told the Hollywood Reporter.

via Vox:

“Isn’t the beating heart of this problem, the real beating heart of it, of what we gotta get sorted here, not illegal immigration?” Bannon asked Miller. “As horrific as that is, and it’s horrific, don’t we have a problem? We’ve looked the other way on this legal immigration that’s kinda overwhelmed the country?”

Bannon goes on to decry the “oligarchs” of Silicon Valley and Washington and call the number of immigrants in the United States “scary.”

via Middle East Eye:

Steve Bannon, a self-described Leninist who wants to “destroy the state” and “bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment,” has risen to become one of the most powerful men in Washington.

Now the former director of extreme right-wing documentaries is currently writing and directing his biggest film yet: Trump’s America.

It’s unbelievable to think but Bannon, a man who thinks “darkness is good,” and cites Dick Cheney, Darth Vader and Satan as evidence, is now sitting on the National Security Council, in place of the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff….

A champion of white nationalism, Bannon proudly turned Breitbart News into “the platform for the alt-right” (neo-Nazis) with goading headlines like “Why equality and diversity departments should only hire rich, straight white men”, “The solution to online ‘harassment’ is simple: women should log off” and “Political correctness protects Muslim rape culture.”

Michael Flynn Resigns, Need for Independent Investigation Remains

via CNN:

Embattled White House national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned Monday night, two sources tell CNN.

His departure came just after reports surfaced the Justice Department warned the Trump administration last month that Flynn misled administration officials regarding his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States and was potentially vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.

While the Trump administration may hope that this ends the controversy, the need for a full, independent investigation of his and President Trump’s ties to Russia remains essential.

Burritos, Microwaves, and Walls—Lessons in Adulting from High Schoolers

President Donald Trump recently announced that refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries would be denied entry into the United States. As a white, American-born school teacher in a Midwest Catholic school, I didn’t anticipate that this would change my day-to-day life very much. Then a student’s prayer stopped me in my tracks.

In my theology classroom, our daily devotion is a prayer of thanksgiving called “Gratitude Journals.” Every day, the students write five things about which they are grateful, and they’re told to never repeat a past entry. It’s hard. You really have to take notice of the little things, and you have to be creative. So anything goes. And I mean anything. I’ve gotten everything from “creamy garlic mashed potatoes” to “Harambe” to “the way my mom laughs when she’s not stressed” and everything in between. My students come from all sorts of cultural, political, and socioeconomic backgrounds so almost nothing surprises me. I usually just smile and call on the next student. But this week I heard one that stopped me in my tracks:

“What are we grateful for today, people?” I asked.
“Trump’s ban.”
“What was that?” I had heard, but I needed to make sure.
“Trump’s ban.”

These students are fourteen and fifteen years old. They don’t yet understand political rhetoric, extreme nationalism, or norms that sustain the  delicate balance of democracy.

Their parents do.

The same day I heard this distressing gratitude journal entry, I received a note from the office to give to another student. As I glanced at it and passed it on, I had to fight to hold in my laughter. It read in all caps:


These students are still figuring out how to warm up their own lunches, how to write a three paragraph essay, how to wear deodorant and look cool walking down the hallway with textbooks in their arms. Most things they know about life and the real world they learned from the adults they live with. That’s what was so concerning to me about the gratitude journal.

As a teacher, I strive to keep my political views to myself. During election time, Clinton supporters, Trump supporters, and third party supporters had equal rights in my classroom. My faith does not make me part of a political party, and neither should it impact my students’ choice of political affiliation.

But, when it comes to President Trump’s recent ban of refugees coming into the United States from certain countries, the faith is clear: Jesus says welcome the stranger. All strangers.

Fr. James Martin put it well: “Jesus doesn’t say help the stranger only if there’s no risk to you. Or help the stranger only if it’s convenient. Or help the stranger only if he or she is the same religion you are.” He just says help.

When parents baptize their children into the Christian faith they promise to teach their children what it is that Jesus taught. The rite goes like this:

“You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”

I always wonder if parents know what they have undertaken.

Love God, love your neighbor.

Pope Francis has a message for parents who think they are handing on the faith while handing on the idea that it’s okay to ban refugees: “It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty.”

I realize that, at this age, my students’ “beliefs” are still really a reflection of their families’ beliefs. I don’t hold my freshman students responsible for thinking it can be congruent with a Christian faith to turn away refugees or for thinking it’s okay to put metal in the microwave. I do hold their parents responsible.

Don’t let our students nuke their burritos and burn down the cafeteria. And please, don’t let our students believe that the message of Christ is anything but a message of justice, compassion, and welcome to all, especially the refugee.

Allison Walter is a theology teacher and track coach. She was formerly press secretary with Faith in Public Life and policy education associate with NETWORK Lobby Organization in Washington, DC. She has also written for the National Catholic Reporter, Patheos, and Busted Halo.

Pope Francis Denounces Myanmar’s Anti-Rohingya Atrocities

via Reuters:

Pope Francis issued a stinging criticism of atrocities against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority on Wednesday, saying they had been tortured and killed simply because they wanted to live their culture and Muslim faith.

The pope’s remarks at his weekly audience followed last week’s U.N. report that said security forces in the north of the country had carried out mass killings, gang rapes and had burned villages.

“They have been suffering for years, they have been tortured, killed simply because they wanted to live their culture and their Muslim faith,” the pope said.