'We are called to live our faith in our businesses, homes and communities, and in our participation in public life.That means we have to bring a Catholic faith perspective to this debate about immigration. We cannot just think about this issue as Democrats or Republicans or as liberals or conservatives.'
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - On April 6, 2010 Archbishop Jose H. Gomez was appointed Co-Adjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles California and assumed the office of Archbishop of Los Angeles on February 27, 2011. He is highly regarded for his theological orthodoxy, warm pastoral heart and teaching gifts.
Though he is loved by many people, he is, in a special way, loved within the Hispanic community. He has an abiding friendship with the Archbishop of Mexico City. He was born in Monterrey, Mexico. He is the only "Numerary" (celibate and lifelong member) of the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei currently serving in episcopal office. He was ordained a priest for Opus Dei in 1978. He first served as an auxiliary Bishop to Archbishop Charles Chaput in Denver. Then, he was sent to San Antonio where he again served with distinction. Time Magazine named the Bishop one of the most influential Hispanic leaders in America.
He has been a long time proponent of the "New Evangelization" advocated by Blessed John Paul II, to whom he has had a long and deep devotion. His marvelous letter entitled "You Will Be My Witnesses" is one of the best statements on the Call to the New Evangelization available. On Sunday, March 6, 2011 he gave his first homily as the Archbishop of Los Angeles. It was wonderful, reflecting his passion for the New Evangelization, it was appropriately titled "Our world needs a new evangelization!"
In it he said: "We are living in a time when the awareness of God is fading away. More and more people are living in indifference, with no religion at all. Our society increasingly encourages a kind of practical atheism in which people go about their daily lives as if God does not exist. This is a false path, my friends. It can't lead to true freedom or happiness.
"We can see this all around us in our society. Indifference to God leads to indifference to the needs of the weak and vulnerable. When we don't believe we have a Father in heaven, we find it harder to live as brothers and sisters here on earth.Our world needs a new evangelization! We need a new mission to the American continent! We need to bring the beauty of the Gospel to the people of our time. This is our task as the Church of Los Angeles! "
He is also a passionate advocate for the poor and the authentic Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church. On July 28, 2011 he gave an extraordinary address to the Napa Institute entitled "Immigration and the "Next America": Perspectives from Our History" which can be - and should be - read in its entirety here. In introductory remarks he said: "Our political debate about immigration in America frustrates me. Often I think we are we are just talking around the edges of the real issues.Both sides of this argument are inspired by a beautiful, patriotic idea of America's history and values. But lately I've been starting to wonder. What America are we really talking about? America is changing and it has been changing for a long time. The forces of globalization are changing our economy and forcing us to rethink the scope and purpose of our government. Threats from outside enemies are changing our sense of national sovereignty.
"America is changing on the inside, too.Our culture is changing. We have a legal structure that allows, and even pays for, the killing of babies in the womb. Our courts and legislatures are redefining the natural institutions of marriage and the family. We have an elite culture - in government, the media and academia - that is openly hostile to religious faith.
"America is becoming a fundamentally different country. It is time for all of us to recognize this - no matter what our position is on the political issue of immigration.We need to recognize that immigration is part of a larger set of questions about our national identity and destiny. What is America? What does it mean to be an American? "Who are we as a people - and where are heading as a country? What will the "next America" look like?
"As Catholics who are faithful citizens in America, we have to answer these questions within a larger frame of reference. We have to always remember that there is more to the life of any nation than the demands of the moment in politics, economics and culture. We have to consider all of those demands and the debates about them in light of God's plan for the nations.
"This is a big challenge for us in this culture. Our culture pushes us to "privatize" our faith, to separate our faith from our life in society. We always have to resist that temptation. We are called to live our faith in our businesses, homes and communities, and in our participation in public life.That means we have to bring a Catholic faith perspective to this debate about immigration. We cannot just think about this issue as Democrats or Republicans or as liberals or conservatives.
"That means we have to listen to the teachings of our Church on this issue. But that's not what I want to talk about today. I think we all know the teachings of our Church on this issue.What we need to understand better is how to see immigration in light of America's history and purposes, as seen through the perspective of our Catholic faith. When we understand immigration from this perspective we can see that immigration is not a problem for America. It's an opportunity. It is a key to our American renewal."
He continued his treatment of this vital issue in a stirring address at this weeks Knights of Columbus Convention in Denver, Colorado. Here is a snippet, courtesy of Rocc Palmo's "Whispers in the Loggia" : "I know this issue is hard for people - including many people who are trying to be good Catholics.I am not a politician. I am a pastor of souls - and an American citizen. That is my perspective on these issues. As pastor of the largest Catholic community in the United States, I am deeply affected by our nation's immigration policy crisis. Historically, the Catholic Church has always been a Church of immigrants - just as America has always been a nation of immigrants.
"American Catholics form one spiritual family drawn from some 60 ethnic and national groups from every continent. In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, ministry and worship is conducted in 42 languages.About 70 percent of the flock I minister to is Hispanic. And Los Angeles is not exception - but a sign of the future.More than one-third of Catholics in America today are of Latino descent - and that number is growing.
"Hispanics accounted for almost 60 percent of our population growth in the last ten years. They now make up 16 percent of the U.S. population. Nearly one-quarter of all American children age 17 and under are Hispanic. So immigration policy, especially as it relates to Latino immigration, is of deep concern to us as Catholics and as citizens.
"The Church's perspective on these issues is rooted in Jesus Christ's teaching that every human person is created in God's image and has God-given dignity and rights. From a Catholic standpoint, America's founders got it exactly right. Human rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are universal and inalienable. They come from God, not governments. And these rights are not contingent on where you are born or what racial or ethnic group you are born into.
"The human right to life, the foundation of every other right, implies the natural right to emigrate. Because in order for you and your family to live a life worthy of your God-given dignity, certain things are required. At minimum: food, shelter, clothing, and the means to make a decent living.If you and your family are unable to secure life's necessities in your home country - due to political instability, economic distress, religious persecution, or other conditions that offend basic human dignity - you must be free to seek these things in another country.
"In Catholic thinking, the right to immigration is a "natural right." That means it is universal and inalienable. But it is not absolute. Immigrants are obliged to respect and abide by the laws and traditions of the countries they come to reside in. Catholic teaching also recognizes the sovereignty of nations to secure their borders and make decisions about who and how many foreigners they allow into their countries.
"Our government has the duty to consider immigration's impact on the domestic economy and our national security. However, we must always make sure that we are not exaggerating these concerns in ways that deny the basic humanitarian needs of good people seeking refuge in our country.These Catholic principles are consistent with America's founding ideals. They are also consistent with America's proud legacy as one nation under God made up from many peoples of all races and creeds.
"Based on these principles the American bishops support comprehensive immigration policy reform that protects the integrity of our national borders and provides undocumented immigrants the opportunity to earn permanent residency and eventual citizenship.So the political issue is basically this: How can we find a way to accept these newcomers and balance that with the need for our nation to protect our borders, to control the flow of immigrants, and to keep track of who is living within our borders?
"But the important thing for us is to approach these political issues - not as Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives - but as Catholics. And as Catholics, we should be alarmed by the human toll of our failure to fix our broken immigration system.... America has always been a nation of justice and law. But as Americans we have also always been a people of generosity, mercy and forgiveness. Unfortunately, our nation's current response to illegal immigration is not worthy of our national character. My point is simple: We need to find a better way to make immigration policy and enforce it.
"And in this policy debate, Catholics have a special place. Because Catholics - especially - bear the truth about all Americans. Namely, that we are all children of immigrants. If we trace the genealogies of everyone in this room today, they will lead us out beyond our borders to some foreign land where each of our ancestors originally came from. In my personal case, the first members of my family came to what now is Texas in 1805. Our inheritance comes to us now as a gift and as a duty.
"At the least, it means we should have some empathy for this new generation of immigrants.For Christians, empathy means seeing Jesus Christ in every person and especially in the poor and the vulnerable. And we need to remember, my friends: Jesus was uncompromising on this point.In the evening of our lives, he told us, our love for God will be judged by our love for him in the person of the least among us. This includes, he said, the immigrant or the stranger.
"Very few people "choose" to leave their homelands. Emigration is almost always forced upon people by the dire conditions they face in their lives.Most of the men and women who are here illegally have traveled hundreds even thousands of miles. They have left everything behind, risked their safety and even their lives. They did this, not for their own comfort or selfish needs. They did this to feed their loved ones. To be good mothers and fathers. To be loving sons and daughters."
Not only is the new Archbishop of Los Angeles shaking up an important part of the Catholic Church in the United States,the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, he is shaking up the entire U.S. Church. He calls us to approach one of the "hot button" issues of the hour with a Catholic mind and a Catholic heart - and to take our place in building a new and true Culture of Life and Civilization of love.
We need to heed the words of this messenger of the Lord. We are not first "liberal", "conservative" or any other permutation of these political labels. We are first Catholics and, as such, we need to approach this issue - and every 'social issue" - with the mind of the Lord as revealed through His Church. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez Addresses Immigration with Prophetic Insight and Compelling Clarity. We need to listen.
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