Catholic Leaders Criticize Trump Decision to End TPS for Tens of Thousands of Hondurans in US

via NY Times:

Tens of thousands of Hondurans who have lived in the United States for up to two decades must prepare to leave, government officials announced Friday, a decision that effectively spells the demise of a humanitarian program that has protected nearly half a million people who had sought refuge from unstable homelands.

The Trump administration is ending temporary protected status for Hondurans who have been allowed to live and work in the United States since 1999, after a hurricane that ravaged their country. With an estimated 86,000 people currently registered, Hondurans represent the second-largest group of foreigners who have benefited from the program.

 Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso responded:

Anyone who has been to Honduras in recent months knows we are sending innocent people back to one of the most chaotic and dangerous places in the world. We have clearly lost our moral compass.

via CLINIC (Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc):

CLINIC’s board chairman, Bishop Kevin J. Vann of the Diocese of Orange, California, said: “I got to know many Hondurans when I was in the Diocese of Fort Worth, as we had a relationship with the Diocese of Juticalpa. They not only were proud of their origins in Honduras, but contributed very positively to the life of the Diocese of Fort Worth and the economy of North Texas. Such action ignores all of this, and comes across as nativist and xenophobic.”

CLINIC outlined the clear case for redesignating TPS for Honduras in information presented to the administration.

“Due to staggering homicide rates and instability from the ongoing political crisis there, the administration can redesignate TPS for Honduras under the section of the law which allows for designation under extraordinary and temporary conditions,” said Jill Marie Bussey, CLINIC’s advocacy director.

via the Sisters of Mercy:

Today’s decision by the Trump Administration to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for more than 57,000 Honduran nationals is the latest in a series of inhumane and indefensible decisions that are uprooting and disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands families and their communities.

The elimination of TPS will result in the removal of women and men who have been in the U.S. for 20 years, who worship by our side, who have families, own homes, pay taxes and work every day to improve their communities. These individuals will be forced to make the horrific choice of either bringing their U.S. citizen children to a dangerous and impoverished country in which they are strangers, or leaving them behind in the only country they have known.

“The termination of TPS for Honduran nationals is both disgraceful and immoral,” said Sister Patricia McDermott, RSM, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. “Many of these individuals have been in the U.S. for 20 years, raising families and creating vibrant communities. Forcing their return to a country that is wracked by endemic violence and poverty will put their lives in danger, separate families, and have devastating effects on communities both in Honduras and the United States.”

Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for May 2018: For the Lay Faithful

Lay people are on the front line of the life of the Church.
We need their testimony regarding the truth of the Gospel and their example of expressing their faith by practicing solidarity.
Let us give thanks for the lay people who take risks, who are not afraid and who offer reasons for hope to the poorest, to the excluded, to the marginalized.
Let us pray together this month that the lay faithful may fulfill their specific mission, the mission that they received in Baptism, putting their creativity at the service of the challenges of today’s world.

Paul Ryan Backs Down, Fr. Conroy Will Remain House Chaplain

via CNN:

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he accepts the decision by the Rev. Pat Conroy, the House chaplain, to rescind his resignation, following a week’s worth of lawmakers from both parties questioning Ryan’s request that Conroy step down.

“I have accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as chaplain of the House,” Ryan said in a statement.

Fr. Conroy Rescinds Resignation, Setting Up Showdown with Paul Ryan

via NY Times:

The chaplain of the House of Representatives, who was recently forced to resign by Speaker Paul D. Ryan, said Thursday that he is rescinding his decision — in effect forcing Mr. Ryan to try to fire him.

Father Patrick J. Conroy, a Catholic priest who has been the chaplain since 2011, wrote in a letter to Mr. Ryan that he would like to serve out his full two-year term, “and possibly beyond,” unless he is officially terminated.

In the letter, he states:

I have never been disciplined, nor reprimanded, nor have I ever heard a complaint about my ministry during my time as House Chaplain…

While you never spoke with me in person, nor did you send me any correspondence, on Friday, April 13th, 2018, your Chief of Staff, Jonathan Burks, came to me and informed me that you were asking for my letter of resignation. I inquired as to whether or not it was “for cause,” and Mr. Burks mentioned dismissively something like “maybe it’s time that we had a Chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic.” He also mentioned my November prayer and an interview with the National Journal Daily.

At that point, I thought that I had little choice but to resign, as my assumption was that you had the absolute prerogative and authority to end my term as House Chaplain.
Recently, on April 27, you publicly indicated that my “pastoral services” to some Members were lacking and that I did not offer adequate “spiritual counseling” to others. This is not the reason that Mr. Burks gave me when asking for my “resignation.” In fact, no such criticism has ever been leveled against me during my tenure as House Chaplain. At the very least, if it were, I could have attempted to correct such “faults.” In retracting my resignation I wish to do just that…

Had I known of any failure in providing my ministry to the House, I would have attempted to make the appropriate adjustments, but in no case would I have agreed to submit a letter of resignation without being given that opportunity. Therefore, I wish to serve the remainder of my term as House Chaplain, unless terminated “for cause.”

Time for a New New Deal

The summer before I entered the Jesuits was a magical one, full of sunsets, road trips, awesome Western thunderstorms, bison, and a cave. I was an interpretive ranger at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. In the southwest corner of the Black Hills, the cave is one of the longest in the world and the plains above are home to one of the few herds of purebred bison.

All of these opportunities stemmed from my internship through the Student Conservation Association, a program initially founded to model the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and develop future conservation leaders. The long term impact of the CCC and other New Deal programs is evident today. From buildings constructed, to the recording and collection of personal stories, to planting forests, New Deal programs helped shape our nation and communitarian values. As I look at crumbling infrastructure, parks in need, and the number of Americans that go unheard, I am unequivocally convinced: America needs a new New Deal.


Our Great Depression

Our current economic data hides many flaws. It can be easy to point to the number of jobs created, the rate of unemployment, and the GDP as figures of economic strength. Whereas the Great Depression featured a jump in unemployment to 20%, we presently sit at a measly 4.1%. Examining this data alone might point to a lack of US economic hardship. But while the unemployment rate is low, other factors such as underemployment, poverty, infant mortality, and the wealth gap say otherwise. For many Americans, we are living our own Great Depression.

The wealth gap in the US is almost as high as 1929, which you may remember as the year the stock market crashed to usher in the Great Depression. While this is a relational rather than causational fact, the wealth gap nevertheless points to a tragic maldistribution. This wealth gap is even worse when examined through a racial lens. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, the wealthiest 100 households now own about as much wealth as the entire African American population in the United States. Among the Forbes 400, just 2 individuals are African American –­ Oprah Winfrey and Robert Smith. Moreover, the wealthiest 186 members of the Forbes 400 own as much wealth as the entire Latino population. Just five members of the Forbes 400 are Latino including Jorge Perez, Arturo Moreno, and three members of the Santo Domingo family

In addition to this great inequality, other statistics demonstrate the undercurrents of America’s bleaker economic reality. Over 20 percent of America’s children live below federal poverty standards. Even more accurate measurements that account for the needs of families place childhood poverty at a staggering 40 percent.

Another key indicator of population well-being is the infant mortality rate. Of the 20 wealthiest countries in the world, the US has the worst infant mortality rate at 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births. It again gets worse when examining it by race. In 2014, the Center for Disease Control reported that white children have an infant mortality rate of 4.9 deaths per 1,000 live births; black children, in comparison, have more than double that with 10.7 deaths per 1,000 live births.

America is haunted by entrenched poverty, one which it created and sustains. This deep poverty lurks across major cities, the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia, America’s farmlands, and more. While we can point to the Great Depression as a massive fall for America, the preceding Roaring Twenties had their own deeply embedded poverty that often ran unnoticed until the Depression. To truly break these long-standing cycles, America needs to recreate programs for the good of communities so often forgotten.

A New New Deal

The number and variety of New Deal programs is a bit staggering, ranging from the creation of the US Travel Bureau to the National Housing Act. These efforts sought to reduce poverty and inequality while bolstering the health of the nation. Three programs from the original New Deal stand out as having incredible potential to attack the issues at the heart of our current Great Depression: the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation (FSCC); the Glass-Steagall Banking Act; and Social Security expanded into a national healthcare system.

The FSCC began as a way to simultaneously bolster food prices and provide food to families in need. The program connected and funded food from over-stocked farmers to impoverished communities. In 2016, over 40 million Americans (including 13 million children) were food insecure, meaning that they were unable to afford nutritious and sufficient amounts of food. Meanwhile, America threw out enough food in 2012 for every American to have 1,200 additional calories in their daily diet. Recreating the FSCC could drastically increase the stability of smaller and family farms and ensure that low-income Americans have enough healthy food to eat.

Passed in 1933, the Glass-Steagall Act created a buffer between investment banking (i.e. the stock market) and commercial banking (i.e. everyday deposits & loans). The act helped reduce bank closures from 10,000 at the start of the Great Depression to fewer than 600 from WWII into the 1980s. It also led to the creation of the FDIC. While the Glass-Steagall Act would not directly supply food or other immediate relief, it would decrease inequality and create greater protections for consumers.

Lastly, the United States needs a national healthcare system. Social security initially included a program to provide a baseline of healthcare to all Americans, but pushed it aside to assure passage of the rest of the Social Security Act. Guaranteeing access to healthcare would reduce costs, expand Title V and maternal health, and tackle issues like the boom of poverty-related illnesses like dengue and Chagas disease.

Protecting Public Lands

The original New Deal also had an incredible impact on America’s public lands through the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Works Progress Administration (WPA), and even the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). These projects largely started as a way to employ millions of jobless young men, as well as preserve a rapidly degrading land.

The continuing impact is tremendous. From 1933 to 1942, the CCC planted over 3 billion trees, erected over 3,400 fire watch towers, created drainages on millions of acres of land, and helped to restore wild rivers and habitats. They worked to preserve the land, as well as make it more accessible, improving over 800 parks nationwide.

While the CCC frequently worked on land-focused projects, the WPA created the infrastructure to enjoy these incredible places. The list of WPA accomplishments is somewhat absurd, including but not limited to: 40,000 new buildings, 85,000 improved buildings, 1,600 parks, 1,000 libraries, hundreds of lodges, and thousands more spaces for recreation. The lasting impact on America’s public spaces is difficult to quantify. Unfortunately, Congress shuttered both the CCC and WPA with the onset of World War II. We need a new New Deal to renew our commitment to protecting our parks and public spaces.

Recovering our History

The original New Deal also recognized the value of the stories that accompany the lives of American people. For example, the Federal Writers Project collected the stories of hundreds of former slaves. This incredible project realized the importance of people so often forgotten. The value of these stories is hard to articulate. While historians at that time tended to focus on great figures and incredible deeds, the WPA shifted the focus to the stories of those unnoticed.

We need to recapture our history. I wonder what would be the result if we took on a similar project today. In my mind, several groups stand out who have stories and lessons that are worth retelling: those who survived the Great Depression, those who participated in civil rights efforts, veterans of 20th century wars, itinerant laborers, and the people of Appalachia. Each of these groups includes people so often embattled by stereotypes, those who regularly read stories of themselves full of falsehoods and half-truths. America would benefit immensely from people having the opportunity to tell their stories, what happened in their lives, and more. Our empathy, cura personalis, and commitment to justice would drastically increase if we would drastically increase if we re-started the Federal Writers Project in an effort to recapture our history once again.

Communitarian Values

Each of these – economic justice, protecting public lands, and recapturing our history – were essential components of the New Deal. Our current economic and social climate points to the need for a new New Deal.

At the root of it all, I believe that America has lost its tradition and memory of communitarian values. In examining our past, we must realize that we were strongest when we took care of whole communities, recognizing our dependence on communities and their dependence on us.

America’s national childhood (1715 to 1789) took place during a boom of individualism. We grew from philosophies that emphasized our personal liberties and freedoms, and pulling oneself up by their bootstraps. Despite this grand philosophy, it has hardly ever been our reality.  Even while espousing the value of individual hard work, communities bonded to support each other. While our national rhetoric depends on John Wayne-style cowboys who go it alone, our truest identity depends on the stories from the whole community.

I believe that deep down, America truly needs to rediscover itself as a community. It must meet its own neighbors, share their stories, and share in their work. A new New Deal can create programs which can make that happen. We must be willing to offer of ourselves for the betterment of our community and country.

This article by Ken Homan, SJ originally appeared at The Jesuit Post.

6 Quotes from Pope Francis on Saints

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Here are six quotes from Pope Francis on saints and sainthood in Gaudete et Exsultate:

  • [The Lord] wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. (1)
  • In times when women tended to be most ignored or overlooked, the Holy Spirit raised up saints whose attractiveness produced new spiritual vigor and important reforms in the Church. We can mention Saint Hildegard of Bingen, Saint Bridget, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. But I think too of all those unknown or forgotten women who, each in her own way, sustained and transformed families and communities by the power of their witness. (12)
  • In the words of León Bloy, when all is said and done, “the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.” (34)
  • The saints are not odd and aloof, unbearable because of their vanity, negativity and bitterness. The Apostles of Christ were not like that. (93)
  • “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom 8:31): this is the source of the peace found in the saints. Such inner strength makes it possible for us, in our fast-paced, noisy and aggressive world, to give a witness of holiness through patience and constancy in doing good. It is a sign of the fidelity born of love, for those who put their faith in God (pístis) can also be faithful to others (pistós). They do not desert others in bad times; they accompany them in their anxiety and distress, even though doing so may not bring immediate satisfaction. (112)
  • Far from being timid, morose, acerbic or melancholy, or putting on a dreary face, the saints are joyful and full of good humor. Though completely realistic, they radiate a positive and hopeful spirit. (122)