From Cardinal Sean

Human Consequences of our Immigration Policies

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Immigration is as ancient as recorded history. It is driven by multiple factors — people move because they are afraid, oppressed, or to escape violence and chaos. Immigration is often accompanied by human tragedy. But not always — people also move because of hopes and dreams. They move to find new opportunities, and they move to contribute to their new country. Having worked with immigrant communities throughout my priesthood, I have seen how deeply patriotic they are when they are welcomed to this country.

Immigration in our time has far exceeded previous experience. The World Health Organization estimates that one billion people are migrating today. We live in a globalized world; in that context, movement is perpetual. Ideas move, products move, money moves. But people do not migrate easily. Obstacles abound.

Part of the reason is that our globalized world is structured and governed by sovereign states. It is a basic function of states to establish secure boundaries, defining the territory where they exercise sovereignty.

Security and sovereignty are part of the reality of immigration, but they are not all of it. Sovereignty has moral content, but it is not an absolute value. The immigration policy of states should combine security with a generous spirit of welcome for those in danger and in need.

That necessary combination of values is seriously lacking in the United States today. Principal responsibility for this moral failure must rest with the federal government, where policy is a product primarily of the president and Congress. But it also must be recognized that, as a society, we are deeply divided over immigration. Our divisions have produced severe human consequences — it is imperative to acknowledge some of them.

First, the most dramatic and dehumanizing consequence is to be found on the border with Mexico. To be sure, the challenge — thousands of adults and children seeking asylum every day — is unprecedented in recent history. But even a challenge of this severity, in a country of our resources and capabilities, cannot justify how these children and families are being treated. The overarching policy of the US government lacks justification.

Rather than a humane plan, existing policy in word and deed is more focused on castigating and confining young and old, male and female, in conditions often pervasively unfit for human life and dignity.

Second, rather than focus the efforts of all relevant agencies on the relief of suffering at the border, there are continuing threats made that the government will scour the country to remove people who have settled here and whose children are citizens.

Third, the dysfunction of our policy is acknowledged across the political spectrum of our country. The crisis at the border and the focus on removals leave the broader policy agenda unresolved in the executive and legislative branches of government.

To be sure, there are thousands at the border who require immediate attention. But there are also 11 million unauthorized immigrants in our midst with no policy to stabilize their existence and provide a path to citizenship — a policy objective advocated by the Catholic Church for decades.

Among the 11 million people are 3.6 million people brought to the United States as children, of which only 700,000 have temporary protection from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is itself under threat. There are also over 400,000 people with Temporary Protected Status who are living in limbo. They have come to the United States for various reasons — for some, their countries have suffered natural disasters and they have no viable option to return home. There are no policies in place to allow TPS holders, the majority of whom have lived in the United State for more than 20 years, to earn lawful residency and move forward in their lives.

The point of identifying these broad categories and consequences of existing policy is to highlight that practical, concrete choices are available to correct a dysfunctional policy. First, we should recognize that economic assistance to El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Mexico could assist people to remain in their home countries. In addition, the historic “guest worker” program, which provides temporary visas for workers, can contribute to the needs of the United States as well. However, our policies on Central America seem exclusively focused on threats, coercion, and punishment. This is surely misguided.

Developing positive solutions does not seem to be the motivating concern of existing policy. Instead, the current emphasis, we are told, is on “deterrence,” a term at home in military policy that is now being advocated to confront people with no power of any kind. The targets in this case are not an armed array of hostile attackers. They are women, children, families.

Fourth, while deterrence can have some role in law enforcement and has been used by other administrations, much depends on the spirit and motivation that animates our broader immigration policy. Current US policy and practices combine to project an attitude of animus toward immigrants. Most evident is the language used at times to describe people on our borders; it is often degrading and demoralizing.

Beyond language, there are the policies to reduce the number of refugees the United States will welcome. The numbers have been reduced substantially, and threats exist to reduce them to zero. The federal government recently announced it will expedite removals of undocumented immigrants without judicial appeal or oversight and move to provide for unlimited detention of families seeking asylum. The tenor, tone, and result of these policies communicate a distinct message: We have no room in our hearts and no space in our country for people facing life-and-death situations. This hostile spirit toward immigrants extends to proposals to expel some of those receiving crucial medical care. A similar spirit of lack of compassion and generosity is manifested in new proposals to focus immigration increasingly on merit-based applicants, leaving the poor excluded.

Our present moment requires civility and charity among the citizens of our society and toward those hoping to become citizens. As a country it is a good time to remember the biblical axiom: To whom much is given, much is expected.

Cardinal Séan P. O’Malley

Twenty-fourth Sunday Ordinary Time Weekend of September 14/15, 2019

Among the primary themes in today’s Gospel when we hear Jesus’ well-known parable of the Prodigal Son is forgiveness and the need to repent. But from a stewardship point of view what is also interesting is one of the secondary themes: the failure to use responsibly the gifts that have been so generously bestowed. The youngest son who demanded his inheritance and left home broke no laws or religious commandments. His wrongdoing was that he wasted his inherited wealth, the abundant gifts given to him. His sin was in his extravagant living; squandering his gifts in pursuit of selfish pleasures. Good stewards acknowledge that everything they have comes from God, and they are required to cultivate these gifts responsibly.
What are our God-given gifts?
Do we use them responsibly?
Do we exercise good stewardship over them?

CARDINAL O’MALLEY ISSUES STATEMENT ON EL PASO, DAYTON SHOOTINGS

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Cardinal Sean P. OʹMalley issued the following statement Monday, Aug. 5, 2019:

The mass murder of 31 innocent people in a 24 hour period, fueled by hate and disregard for human life, is unacceptable in any society. We offer our prayers and support for the communities of El Paso and Dayton in the midst of this time of immense pain.

Our nation was founded on the principle that all people are entitled to ʺlife, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.ʺ We implore our elected leaders to rise above ideological differences and work together to address the serious issues facing our country by enacting meaningful and effective policies to end the violence. This includes keeping firearms, particularly assault weapons, out of the hands of those who would use them to inflict devastating harm on our communities. We must address inadequate mental health care in this country. Finally, we must work towards a more civil and just society that rejects all forms of violence and hatred in our country. The fabric of our national conscience is at risk.

Today we give thanks for the bravery of the first responders who selflessly rush to the aid of the victims and pray for the healing of those injured in the shootings. We call upon the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, for the protection of our loved ones, friends and neighbors as we entrust to our Lordʹs mercy those lost to this violence. Together let us strengthen our commitment to do what is necessary to stop these horrendous attacks.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Weekend of August 10/11, 2019

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus concludes his teaching about those who are “faithful and prudent stewards” with that classic stewardship teaching: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Christian stewards recognize that God is the ultimate source of their gifts, talents, resources and aptitudes, and that God wants them to use these varied gifts in his service.

This week might be a good time to reflect on our God-given gifts. Are we using those gifts to serve the Lord? If Christ came back to us unexpectedly tomorrow would we be able to give a full accounting of how we have exercised stewardship over these gifts?

Cardinal Sean P O’Malley Lenten Letter

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Dear Friends in Christ,

As we begin the holy season of Lent, this annual time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving affords us the opportunity to be renewed by God’s love and mercy as we recommit ourselves to lives of prayer and service to others.

This year, Lent has particular significance for the leadership of the Church at every level, local, national and universal. Recently Pope Francis called bishops from every country in the world to come together at the Vatican for the Summit to Protect Children and Minors. The summit included powerful testimony from survivors of clergy sexual abuse, religious sisters and laypersons who made clear that a meaningful and effective response from the Church is long overdue and of critical importance. I participated in the summit as the President of the Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors and, with all present, was deeply impacted by those who addressed us.

Given the depth and seriousness of the crisis and the failures of the leadership of the Church, the expectations for the meeting were high and people are anxious to see concrete results. I left the meeting convinced that no bishop could possibly say that his diocese is not affected by these issues or that this is not a problem in his country and culture.
Patience among our people and in the wider community is exhausted and understandably the call is rising for effective action.

A dominant theme at the meeting was the need for an effective reporting mechanism when a Bishop or Cardinal has failed in his duty to protect children or has himself abused children or vulnerable adults. Although I believe an effective set of procedures will be developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I nonetheless wish to address this need immediately for the Archdiocese of Boston.

To that end I have decided to implement EthicsPoint, a confidential, anonymous and third-party system, exclusively for the reporting of misconduct by a Cardinal, Bishop or Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston. Since 2011 we have utilized EthicsPoint for concerns of potential ethics violations, financial improprieties, and other violations of the Archdiocesan Code of Conduct related to financial matters.

Like the existing system currently in use, this will be web based and have a toll-free hotline to make a report. Reports will be sent to members of my Independent Review Board who will be charged to immediately notify law enforcement for claims of abuse as well as the apostolic nuncio; the diplomatic representative to the U.S. of the Holy See. The system will be hosted on secured servers at the EthicsPoint facility and is not connected to the Archdiocese of Boston website, intranet system or the existing EthicsPoint system currently in use. We anticipate the system being up and running soon and will provide more information at that time.

In January 2002 the clergy sexual abuse crisis was revealed by the media in powerful and compelling reports on the failures of the Church to protect children. Courageous survivors came forward and forced the Church to face the crisis and accept responsibility for the crimes committed against them. That same year the American Bishops implemented the Dallas Charter of Norms. Where it has been faithfully implemented, it has been effective. But we must aggressively build on the Charter to ensure that there are clear paths for reporting misdeeds of the hierarchy by utilizing the expertise of independent lay professionals.

During the meeting in Rome, the most powerful moments were when survivors of abuse spoke to us. This confirmed my own experience. The way forward for the Church is to hold as a priority the voices and experience of survivors, to keep them close to every step we take and make all possible efforts to provide the means for them to be heard. In Boston we will continue to provide pastoral care and counseling for survivors. We will continue to carry out programs of prevention and education in our schools and parishes. We will continue to do background checks annually for bishops, priests, all archdiocesan personnel, and all volunteers who work with children and young people. You may find the depth and breadth of those efforts in the Archdiocese of Boston on our dedicated website at https://commitment.bostoncatholic.org/.

For more than twenty-six years my ministry has involved responding to the abuse of minors by clergy. The crisis of sexual abuse by clergy is the greatest failure of the Church in my lifetime. It has eroded our moral authority, it endangers our pastoral, social and educational ministry, but worst of all, it devastates children and families.

We must face our past with transparency. Those who were sexually abused by clergy, their families and loved ones must always be the central focus of our response to the crisis. Their courage in coming forward has forced the Church to face the crimes committed against them. We are committed to accompanying them on their journey toward healing. Often it is survivors who teach us not to lose hope.

As we strive to live this season with renewed seriousness and commitment we pray and work for renewal in the life of the Church. We are firmly committed to zero tolerance, transparency and accountability, at all times holding survivors as the priority, always being vigilant to do all possible to prevent any harm to children.

With the assurance of my prayers for you and your loved ones,

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap.