Tuesday, January 31, 2017

the unbreakable strength of charity and justice

January 30, 2017

“When did we see you a stranger and welcome you?” (Matthew 25:38)
WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB, have issued the following joint statement regarding the recent executive order on the new refugee policy announced by President Trump this past Friday. President Trump’s executive order suspends the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days. The order also indefinitely stops the admission of Syrian refugees and for 90 days, bars individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Full joint statement as follows:
Over the past several days, many brother bishops have spoken out in defense of God’s people. We are grateful for their witness. Now, we call upon all the Catholic faithful to join us as we unite our voices with all who speak in defense of human dignity.
The bond between Christians and Muslims is founded on the unbreakable strength of charity and justice. The Second Vatican Council in Nostra Aetate urged us to sincerely work toward a mutual understanding that would “promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.” The Church will not waiver in her defense of our sisters and brothers of all faiths who suffer at the hands of merciless persecutors.
The refugees fleeing from ISIS and other extremists are sacrificing all they have in the name of peace and freedom. Often, they could be spared if only they surrendered to the violent vision of their tormentors. They stand firm in their faith. Many are families, no different from yours or mine, seeking safety and security for their children. Our nation should welcome them as allies in a common fight against evil. We must screen vigilantly for infiltrators who would do us harm, but we must always be equally vigilant in our welcome of friends.
The Lord Jesus fled the tyranny of Herod, was falsely accused and then deserted by his friends. He had nowhere to lay His head (Lk. 9:58). Welcoming the stranger and those in flight is not one option among many in the Christian life. It is the very form of Christianity itself. Our actions must remind people of Jesus. The actions of our government must remind people of basic humanity. Where our brothers and sisters suffer rejection and abandonment we will lift our voice on their behalf. We will welcome them and receive them. They are Jesus and the Church will not turn away from Him.

Our desire is not to enter the political arena, but rather to proclaim Christ alive in the world today. In the very moment a family abandons their home under threat of death, Jesus is present. And He says to each of us, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (MT 25:40).

Monday, January 30, 2017

a dark moment in US history

January 30, 2017

Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, said Sunday that this "weekend proved to be a dark moment in U.S. history."

"These actions give aid and comfort to those who would destroy our way of life,” Cupich wrote in a Sunday statement. "They lower our estimation in the eyes of the many peoples who want to know America as a defender of human rights and religious liberty, not a nation that targets religious populations and then shuts its doors on them."

Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas, the migration committee chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement released the same day Trump signed the order that "we strongly disagree" with its major restrictions on refugee admissions. "We will work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed in collaboration with Catholic Charities without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans, and to ensure that families may be reunified with their loved ones."

Trump told the faith-based CBN TV station on Friday that he wanted to see Christians facing persecution receive preferential consideration for refugee resettlement in the U.S., and he tweeted on Sunday that "Christians in the Middle East have been executed in large numbers. We cannot allow this horror to continue!” 

Christian refugees from Syria have “been horribly treated,” Trump went on to tell CBN News’ The Brody File. “Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria, it was impossible, at least very tough, to get into the United States?” Trump asked. “If you were a Muslim, you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible. And the reason that was so unfair ― everybody was persecuted, in all fairness ― but they were chopping off the heads of everybody, but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair.”

As Elise Foley reported in Huffington Post on January 27, it’s true that Christians make up only a small portion of Syrian refugees admitted into the United States. In the 2016 fiscal year, less than 1 percent of Syrian refugees admitted were Christian, although Christians make up about 10 percent of the Syrian population.

It’s worth noting that Christians made up 44 percent of refugees from around the world admitted to the U.S. in the 2016 fiscal year, while 46 percent were Muslim ― calling into question the idea that Christians were being discriminated against as a whole. As of 2010, Christians made up about 31 percent of the world’s population and Muslims made up 23 percent, but the Muslim population was projected to grow more quickly.

For Syrian Christians specifically, Obama administration officials and experts have said the numbers have more to do with logistics than any attempt to focus on one religion over another. Only about 1 percent of all refugees worldwide are chosen for resettlement at all. Most are first vetted by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, which determines whether they are, in fact, refugees ― someone who has been forced to leave his or her country and who “has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group,” according to the UNHCR. The refugee agency also determines whether resettlement is an appropriate option for an individual or family.

Government officials explained the discrepancy in the resettlement rates of Christian and Muslim refugees from Syria during a Senate hearing in September. Simon Henshaw, of the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, said that although Christians made up about 10 percent of Syria’s prewar population, they comprised only about 1 percent of those who have fled. Some still reside in Syria’s government-controlled areas, while others have fled to Lebanon, where UNHCR and the U.S. have smaller programs for screening refugees, he said. Henshaw said they were trying to build up those programs.

It’s worth noting that Christian, Jewish and other refugee-focused organizations have condemned efforts to exclude Muslims or to prioritize members of one religion for resettlement over another.

Besides that, World Relief vice president of policy Jenny Yang, whose evangelical group works to successfully resettle refugees, says that the Trump administration is misguided to presume that Christians in the Middle East would benefit from potential exemptions they might receive under the executive order.

"I don't think they understand the risk Christians face when they’re refugees," Yang said in an interview. "Thinking Christians are preferred to other religions actually perpetuates the risk they face" while seeking shelter in the U.S.

Though this may be even scarier:

The whirlwind first week of Donald J. Trump’s presidency had all the bravura hallmarks of a Stephen K. Bannon production.

It started with the doom-hued inauguration homily to “American carnage” in United States cities co-written by Mr. Bannon, followed a few days later by his “shut up” message to the news media. The week culminated with a blizzard of executive orders, mostly hatched by Mr. Bannon’s team and the White House policy adviser, Stephen Miller, aimed at disorienting the “enemy,” fulfilling campaign promises and distracting attention from Mr. Trump’s less than flawless debut.

But the defining moment for Mr. Bannon came Saturday night in the form of an executive order giving the rumpled right-wing agitator a full seat on the “principals committee” of the National Security Council — while downgrading the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence, who will now attend only when the council is considering issues in their direct areas of responsibilities. It is a startling elevation of a political adviser, to a status alongside the secretaries of state and defense, and over the president’s top military and intelligence advisers.

In theory, the move put Mr. Bannon, a former Navy surface warfare officer, admiral’s aide, investment banker, Hollywood producer and Breitbart News firebrand, on the same level as his friend, Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, a former Pentagon intelligence chief who was Mr. Trump’s top adviser on national security issues before a series of missteps reduced his influence.

Regarding that, someone sent me this. Could it be true?

"Everyone is missing what is happening here.

Trump's Muslim ban getting slapped down by courts, the media condemning it, protesters coming out, politicians from ...both parties finally starting to speak up about it, all tee up something.

Now, with Steve Bannon on the NSC, and the DNI and Chair of the Joint Chiefs sidelined, the ONLY thing that needs to happen is for a big terrorist attack by a Muslim refugee, especially a green card holder. No previous president would ever have done this, but we've gone through the looking glass. That attack would give Trump and Bannon rhetorical space to say that not only are Muslims the problem, but also, politicians from both parties are a problem, the media is a problem, protesters are a problem, and the courts and judges are a problem. They've already prepared all of this. Kellyanne Conway was on TV this morning saying that the ruling of the "Obama appointee judge" doesn't affect the executive order, because the order is "preventing not detaining" and it's only a small percentage of people affected. They're TRYING to cause a Constitutional crisis and tee up the idea that national security, and executive law enforcement, trumps EVERY other consideration. Almost every Latin American country that copied our constitution fell to dictatorship because of that argument that national security trumps court rulings at some point in the last hundred years.

And since Trump's national security establishment has been hollowed out by purges and hiring freezes, and since the Constitution forbids military deployment within the US, Trump can say that government law enforcement isn't working, we need to contract out to private law enforcement.

Erik Prince, the former CEO of Blackwater, the private army that occupied Iraq, is reportedly "advising Trump from the shadows." His sister is Betsy DeVos, one of Trump's biggest donors. There is already a mercenary army waiting in the wings.

Russia won this election for Trump for a reason, and we are failing to appreciate the gravity of it. We are so much closer to zero hour than anyone in Washington seems to realize. ... He MUST be impeached before it's too late."

Sunday, November 20, 2016

an epidemic of animosity

It’s as bad or worse than we thought. I guess I still held out hope that actually getting the job would make Mr. Trump sensible and not need any longer to pander to the alt-right. As David Brooks said, hit “pause,” let the democratic mechanisms do their work, and see what happens. But I am just appalled at his first choices. I gleaned these reports from various news outlets…

Steve Bannon: Just appalling! It has become clear in the past few days that Democrats, and even some Republicans, aren’t happy with President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for chief strategist in the White House, campaign CEO Steve Bannon. Bannon, who runs the conservative news site Breitbart, has been called racist, anti-Semitic and white nationalist -- and he runs a site that has, in addition to having been unapologetically pro-Trump throughout the election, is known as a home for the so-called “alt-Right.” A quick look at the headlines on Breitbart shows that there is substantial fodder for critics of Bannon. Stories published on the site include items such as: “Bill Kristol: Republican spoiler, renegade Jew,” “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy,” “Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?” and “Gay rights have made us dumber, it’s time to get back in the closet.”

Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn has already accepted the position of national security adviser, the office of President-elect Donald Trump announced Friday. Flynn, who advised Trump’s presidential campaign, had been considered a leading contender for the position, given his support of many of Trump’s most grave foreign policy proposals. Earlier this year, he defended Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from immigrating to the U.S. and said he was open to bringing back waterboarding as a torture method and to killing the families of accused terrorists, which constitutes a war crime under the Geneva Conventions! General Flynn served as the chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency but was forced out due to his controversial views on Islam and vocal opposition to the Obama administration’s policies to fight Islamic State. He claimed that “political correctness” was at fault in the U.S. efforts against terrorism. He also called Islam a “cancer” and argued that fearing Muslims is “rational.”

Jeff Sessions: Republican Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was rejected as a federal judge in 1986 due to allegations of racist comments. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, 69, would serve as the nation’s top law enforcement official if confirmed by his fellow members of the Senate. Sessions, an early Trump backer, is an immigration hard-liner who has been in the Senate since 1997 and previously served as attorney general for the state of Alabama. Back in the mid-1980s, when Sessions was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, President Ronald Reagan nominated him to become a federal judge. But during the nomination process, allegations emerged that Sessions had called a black attorney “boy,” that he suggested a white civil rights lawyer was a race traitor, that he joked he liked the Ku Klux Klan until he found out they smoked marijuana and that he referred to civil rights groups as “un-American” organizations trying to “force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them.”

John Bolton, top candidate to serve as President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state, is publicly calling for the U.S. to help overthrow the existing government in Iran. “The only long-term solution is regime change in Tehran,” the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily on Thursday morning. “The ayatollahs are the principal threat to international peace and security in the Middle East.” The call for regime change is very much in line with past statements from Bolton, a hyper-hawkish Bush administration official who stands by the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. He has repeatedly urged the U.S. to help Israel bomb Iran or do it alone. Even as Iran was in the final stages of negotiating an international agreement that requires it to dramatically scale back its nuclear infrastructure, Bolton recommended a military attack.

It seems as if is as bad as it could possibly be and yet still slip through whatever teeth congress and American checks and balances has left. What happens when the bully gets voted in a homecoming king and principal of the school at the same time? Folks just do not feel safe.

Contrast that with the homily the Holy Father gave the other day at the consistory that created the new cardinals. Reported by Phillip Pullela on Huffington Post:

On Saturday Pope Francis said an “epidemic of animosity” against people of other races or religions was hurting the weakest in society, striking a note of caution against the rise of populist nationalism. Little more than a week after Donald Trump was elected the next US president, buoying anti-immigrant parties in Europe and elsewhere, the pope noted “how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant or a refugee become a threat, take on the status of an enemy… An enemy because they come from a distant country or have different customs. An enemy because of the color of their skin, their language or their social class. An enemy because they think differently or even have a different faith,” he said at a ceremony to induct new cardinals.
While not naming any country, Francis appeared to refer to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attitudes that surfaced during the U.S. campaign and since the election.

The US Justice Department said on Friday it was investigating reports of intimidation and harassment in schools, churches and elsewhere since the election. One of the new cardinals, Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, told Reuters the pope was “very much aware of the fact that if that (animosity) is not checked, it is very contagious and it can spread quickly, it can be like a wildfire.”

So, how are we going to check this epidemic of animosity?