FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The U.S. bishops June 13 decried U.S.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision that asylum seekers fleeing
domestic or gang violence cannot find protection in the United States.
its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life,” the
bishops’ statement said. They urged the nation’s policymakers and courts
“to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system
to preserve and protect the right to life.”
“elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many
women who lack adequate protection,” it said. “These vulnerable women
will now face return to extreme dangers of domestic violence in their
The statement from the bishops came on the first day of their June 13-14 spring assembly in Fort Lauderdale.
after opening prayers, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston,
president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, read the
statement from the dais, and the bishops voiced their support.
by Sessions at a news conference June 11, the decision “negates decades
of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeing domestic
violence,” the bishops stated. “Unless overturned, the decision will
erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that
involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors.”
attorney general reversed an immigration court’s decision granting
asylum to a Salvadoran woman who said she had been abused by her
husband. He said U.S. asylum laws cannot be used to remedy “all
misfortune,” including violence someone suffers in another country or
other reasons related to an individual’s “social, economic, family or
other personal circumstances.”
In his remarks, Cardinal DiNardo
also said he joined Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of
the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, “in condemning the continued use of
family separation at the U.S./Mexican border as an implementation of the
administration’s zero tolerance policy.”
“Our government has the
discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated
from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma,” the
cardinal said. “Families are the foundational element of our society and
they must be able to stay together.
“While protecting our borders
is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a
society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies
from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”
Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J., said the new policy “is consistent with
cardiosclerosis” or a hardening of the American heart. He called for a
widespread discussion among bishops on how to more vocally respond to
He asked the bishops to consider sending a
delegation to inspect the detention facilities holding children “as a
sign of our pastoral response and protest against what is being done to
Several bishops said it was imperative to do a better
job of sharing Church teaching on migration and welcoming the stranger,
as Christ taught.
Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, Calif.,
expressed concern about a “very deliberate effort being made on the part
of the administration, particularly the Department of Justice, to put
in regulations that actually defy the implementation of immigration
He urged the entire body of bishops to become more active in
pushing Congress and the courts to understand long-standing American
values and practices regarding the welcoming of immigrants.
just seems nefarious how the immigration system is being undone by more
and more restrictive regulations that are being put in place,” he said.
bishop asked about the possibility of “canonical penalties” being
enforced on Catholics who cooperate with unjust immigration policies.
Bishop Edwin J. Weisenburger of Tucson, Ariz., said such penalties are
put in place to heal and “therefore, for the salvation of these people’s
souls, maybe it’s time for us to look” at such action.
that, added Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, Ky., should be steps to
offer broader pastoral care for immigration enforcement officials, some
of whom he has heard from questioning the need to carry out “these
Other items on the agenda
In the morning session on the
first day of the USCCB spring assembly, the U.S. bishops heard a report
from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio to the United
He talked about the need of Church leaders to not just
hear young people but to really listen to them, emphasizing that this is
what Pope Francis often talks about it.
The nuncio talked about
the encuentro process currently underway in the U.S., using it as a
strong example of the Church listening to the faithful
Archbishop Pierre also talked about the Church’s upcoming Synod of Bishops on young people.
on the agenda for their first day were reports from Father David
Whitestone, chair of the bishops’ National Advisory Council, which is
marking the 50th anniversary of its formation, and from Francesco
Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, which oversees
implementation of the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of
Children and Young People.”
The bishops also heard preliminary presentations on several action items they will be voting on, including:
Revised guidelines governing Catholic and non-Catholic health care
partnerships. The revisions are limited to Part 6 of the “Ethical and
Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” the document
that governs moral questions related to the delivery of health care.
A new document described as a “pastoral response” to the growing Asian
and Pacific Island Catholic community in the United States.
“Encountering Christ in Harmony” offers pastoral suggestions to address
the concerns and needs of Asian and Pacific Island Catholics.
Revisions in language to clarify seven of the 17 articles in the
“Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Adults.” The changes
offer more specific language in several areas. Article 4 has been
revised to protect the seal of the sacrament of reconciliation. Changes
in Articles 6 and 12 specifically state that all people who have contact
with minors rather than those in positions of trust “will abide by
standard of behavior and appropriate boundaries.”