Monday, December 17, 2012


David Freedman, right, kneels with his son Zachary, 9,
as they visit a sidewalk memorial for the Sandy Hook Elementary
School shooting victims in Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
I can't help looking at the first and second graders I see with their parents.  In the past I noticed young children in a general way, but did not focus on them.

Until now.

The tragic murder of 20 first-graders and six adults last Friday has stunned us all, and has caused us to realize how young and innocent such children are.

Yesterday afternoon I was in downtown Los Angeles and saw the great movie, Lincoln.  The theater is part of the L.A. Live complex, and there were several thousand people walking around, some ice-skating on the annual rink, others shopping, and still others taking in the fabulous Christmas decorations.

Most of the people were families, and many with small children--and many first graders in the mix.  I noticed these young people like never before.  I even found myself counting them--I would count up to 20, say a prayer, and start counting again.  What a precious 20.

Several things struck me about these families and small children.  How small first graders really are.  How joyous their faces and their laughter.  Their innocence.  Their obvious longing for Christmas to come.  And the special way their parents were holding on to them--obviously in response to Friday's tragedy.

Several thoughts from the Bible came as well.  "Let us make man and woman in our image and likeness," God speaks in the book of Genesis.  "Let the small children come to me," Jesus tells us in the Gospels.  "Unless you become like a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of God," Jesus warns us. "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father."

I doubt if my emotional and spiritual experiences being around first graders now is any different from yours.  We see them with fresh eyes; we love them ever more deeply; and we now scan their surroundings to make sure they are safe.  A new instinctive care and concern for young children is taking hold among us.  A work of the Holy Spirit.

May these 20 Little Angels, and the 6 Big Angels ask God to have mercy upon all of us, and to lead us forward with a new love and appreciation for such great gifts. 

Monday, December 10, 2012


As once again we celebrate the joyous Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is it not opportune to pray and reflect on the possibility that she be named a Special Patroness of the United States?

This suggestion in no way diminishes the importance of our primary Patroness here in our country, Our Lady under her title of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated each December 8th. 

I was privileged to serve as one of the three President—Delegates of the Special Assembly for the Americas of the Synod of Bishops which took place in the Vatican from November 16 to December 12, 1997.  Those four weeks were inspiring and opened new opportunities to explore the remarkable role of Our Lady of Guadalupe across all of the Americas, especially as she relates to the poor and marginalized of our society.  The fact that she chose to be depicted as an indigenous Indian young woman speaks volumes about God’s love for the lowest and the least among us. 

That Special Assembly concluded with the celebration of a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it was obvious that the enormous walls of that Basilica could not contain the love and devotion we all had for our Madre Morenita.  What makes Our Lady of Guadalupe so unique is that this is the only artistic portrayal of her ever given to us, her children!

 Devotion to her is not limited to those with their roots in Mexico.  She has become endeared to peoples all around the world and is celebrated in special ways in so many cultures and religious devotions.
The Fathers of the Special Assembly asked Pope John Paul II to name her as Patroness of the Americas.  Our Holy Father traveled to Mexico City and on January 22, 1999 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he solemnly proclaimed her Patroness of the Americas.

The depth and richness of our devotion to Mary, in my opinion, does not limit us to simply one expression of her many titles.  Why could we not proclaim Mary under two patronal titles:  the Immaculate Conception, and, Our Lady of Guadalupe?

As we in this country move forward with eagerness and enthusiasm to bring Jesus Christ to more of our brothers and sisters through the New Evangelization, what could be more appropriate than to link Jesus and his Mother to our overall efforts?

With our Catholic Church increasing daily with so many Hispanic members, how fitting it would be for them to witness that shared love we all have with them for Our Lady of Guadalupe!

¡Viva Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Presently members of both parties in Congress are discussing how to move forward with a comprehensive reform of our broken immigration system.  However, at this early moment in the debate neither party is offering the scope of reform that is essential for our immigrant brothers and sisters and for the country.

Please review the following items so that you will understand what is really needed in a comprehensive reform of our immigration laws.


The Catholic Catechism teaches that in the realm of immigration law all governments have two essential duties, both of which must be carried out and neither of which can be ignored.

The first duty is to welcome the foreigner out of charity and respect for the dignity and rights of the human person. Persons have the right to immigrate and thus government must accommodate this right to the greatest extent possible, consistent with its other obligations to the common good. The right to immigrate is a therefore a qualified, rather than an absolute right. Nevertheless, all nations and especially financially blessed nations are called to make every possible effort to assist persons who are compelled by their circumstances to migrate. As the Catechism states:

"The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.” 1

The second duty of government is to secure its border and enforce immigration law for the sake of the common good, including the safety and well-being of the nation’s inhabitants and the rule of law. Sovereign nations thus have the right and the responsibility to enforce immigration laws and all persons must respect and obey the legitimate exercise of this authority. For their part, immigrants are called to obey the law and carry out their civic duties in furtherance of the common good. 2 According to the Catechism:

“Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens." 3

In January 2003, the U.S. Catholic Bishops emphasized and affirmed the Catechism’s teaching on immigration in a pastoral letter on migration entitled, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.” In their letter, the Bishops stressed that, “When persons cannot find employment in their country of origin to support themselves and their families, they have a right to find work elsewhere in order to survive. Sovereign nations should provide ways to accommodate this right4…More powerful economic nations…have a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows.” 5

Furthermore, the Church has taught that both the sovereign nation and the immigrant should remain in solidarity by each actively seeking the common good. As Pope John Paul II stated in Solicitudo Rei Socialis:

“Those who are more influential, because they have a greater share of goods and common services, should feel responsible for the weaker and be ready to share with them all they possess. Those who are weaker, for their part, in the same spirit of solidarity should not adopt a purely passive attitude, or one that is destructive of the social fabric, but, while claiming their legitimate rights, should do what they can for the good of all.”6


The United States Catholic Bishops Conference (USCCB) believes that meaningful immigration reform must properly balance the right to migrate and the right to regulate migration. Thus, the USCCB opposes “enforcement only” immigration policies because they lack proper accommodation of the right to migrate. Instead, the USCCB supports “comprehensive” immigration policies that pare valid enforcement laws with fair and generous legalization measures. The U.S. Catholic Bishops have outlined various elements of their proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. The key elements of comprehensive reform advocated by the Bishops are:

Earned Legalization:       An earned legalization program with a path to citizenship would require unauthorized workers to work for several years, take English courses, and pay a fine in order to participate in the program. Such a program would help stabilize the workforce, promote family unity, and bring a large population “out of the shadows,” as members of their communities.

Enforcement:         The Bishops support the legitimate and important role of the United States government in enforcing immigration law at the border and in the interior. The Bishops also believe that by replacing illegal migration with legal migration, law enforcement will be better able to focus upon those who truly threaten public safety: drug and human traffickers, smugglers, and would-be terrorists. Any enforcement measures must be targeted, proportional, and humane.

Future Worker Program:         A worker program to permit foreign-born workers to enter the country safely and legally would help reduce illegal immigration and the loss of life in the American desert. Any program should include workplace protections, living wage levels, safeguards against the displacement of U.S. workers, and family unity.

Family-based immigration reform:         It currently takes years for family members to be reunited through the family-based legal immigration system. This leads to family breakdown and, in some cases, illegal immigration. Changes in the family-based immigration should be made to increase the number of family visas available and reduce family reunification waiting times.

Addressing Root Causes:         Congress should examine the root causes of migration, such as wage inequities and the lack of job opportunities in sending countries, and seek long-term solutions. The antidote to the problem of illegal immigration is sustainable economic development in sending countries. Ideally, migration should be driven by choice, not necessity.

Restoration of Due Process Rights:         Due process rights taken away by the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) should be restored, particularly the use of judicial discretion in deportation proceedings.


1 Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Libreria Editrice Vaticana—United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2000, no. 2241.

2 Pope John Paul II took up this point on the duties of both the advantaged and disadvantaged in Solicitudo Rei Socialis: “Those who are more influential, because they have a greater share of goods and common services, should feel responsible for the weaker and be ready to share with them all they possess. Those who are weaker, for their part, in the same spirit of solidarity should not adopt a purely passive attitude, or one that is destructive of the social fabric, but, while claiming their legitimate rights, should do what they can for the good of all.” John Paul II, Encyclical letter, Solicitudo Rei Socialis, no. 39 (1987).

3 See fn. 1.

4 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Committee on Migration, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope. A Pastoral Letter Concerning Migration from the Catholic Bishops of Mexico and the United States,” no. 35 (January 2003).

5 See fn. 3 at no. 36.

6 John Paul II, Encyclical letter, Solicitudo Rei Socialis, no. 39 (1987).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Our 11,000,000 undocumented immigrant brothers and sisters spread across the country have reason for new hope that their status in the shadows may finally give them a new future which leads to legal residency and to citizenship.  Thank God for this blessing!

Three post-election events give me great hope:

1.     Senator Charles E. Schumer (D--NY) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R--SC) have agreed to dust off their previous bipartisan plan for comprehensive immigration reform, and to begin discussions among other Senators to help broaden the debate and to move legislative initiatives forward.  This is a most helpful step forward since any immigration legislation will need to begin in the Senate and be adopted by that body before going to the House of Representatives.

2.     Emerging coalitions of Evangelical Churches and their pastors are pressing forward with their congregations on behalf of immigrants in our land, and are setting forth proposals which are very much in harmony with those promoted over the years by our Catholic Church.  I surely welcome these religious partners in helping to bring dignity, respect, and legal protection for all immigrants in our midst.  This is a new moment for comprehensive immigration reform, and we need to seize the moment with new vigor and determination.

3.     Even more conservative national radio and TV commentators are beginning to broaden their own thinking on the issue of how to deal with the 11,000,000 undocumented immigrants among us.  Sean Hannity is a good example of a shift in understanding and outlook.  He recently stated on his program that his position on immigration has "evolved," and that he sees the need to find a pathway to legal residency and even citizenship for this large group.  I would hope that other conservative groups would help change minds and hearts with their members, and join us to view our immigrants as a value and asset, not a threat.

We have arrived at a new moment in our struggle on behalf of the 11,000,000 unauthorized immigrants, and we need to use every means possible to help bring about a lasting and just resolution to their plight.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Now that the Presidential election is over, now is the time to move forward at once with one major piece of unfinished Congressional business:  pass the DREAM Act so that 1.6 million of our young people can obtain legal status in the only country they have really known.

There was an attempt in December of 2010 to pass the DREAM Act, and while it passed the House of Representatives, it only got 55 votes in the Senate.  Sixty votes were needed to halt a filibuster against the DREAM Act.

President Obama:  on Election night you proclaimed once again your commitment for real immigration reform.  Now is the time to move that agenda forward.  Begin with our young men and women who are in college and who are serving in our military.  Your DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] program is a small step in the right direction.  But it does not have the permanency nor the security of Federal legal residence status.

Some say that nothing effective can be accomplished during a Lame Duck session of Congress.  I don't believe that.  There is never a wrong time to accomplish good and positive legislation.

I urge everyone who is committed to bringing our immigrant brothers and sisters out from the shadows and from exploitation to email your Senators and House members--the ones who are serving  now, and implore them to help support the passage of the DREAM Act.

When the new Congress convenes in January of 2013, the President must offer them a comprehensive  immigration reform package, and take the leadership to get it passed.  A good place to start is to look to the McCain--Kennedy comprehensive plan of 2001--which enjoyed broad bipartisan support.

Leaving some 11 million people in our country in the shadows and in fear is a shameful and immoral situation.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to welcome the strangers in our midst, and in so doing, to discover the face of Jesus in each one of them.

May God's grace be abundant among us so that we will come to see our immigrants as a great value for our country, not as a threat.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Most Americans are aware of the National Labor Relations Act [NLRA] enacted and signed into law on July 5, 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.   It was this Act which established protections for the nation's workers, and put in place mechanisms to hold union elections, to help resolve labor disputes, and to mediate issues between employers and employees.  The National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] is the enforcement arm for the NLRA.

However, few Americans realize that 77 years ago the NLRA specifically excluded two groups of workers:  agricultural workers and domestic workers.  And worse, those two groups of American workers are still excluded from the Act and have no recourse to the laws, procedures, and protections of the Act.

The very words of the Act:

§ 152. Definitions

(3) The term "employee" shall include any employee, and shall not be limited to the employees of a particular employer, unless the Act explicitly states otherwise, and shall include any individual whose work has ceased as a consequence of, or in connection with, any current labor dispute or because of any unfair labor practice, and who has not obtained any other regular and substantially equivalent employment, but shall not include any individual employed as an agricultural laborer, or in the domestic service of any family or person at his home, or any individual employed by his parent or spouse, or any individual having the status of an independent contractor, or any individual employed as a supervisor, or any individual employed by an employer subject to the Railway Labor Act, as amended from time to time, or by any other person who is not an employer as herein defined.

And why were these two groups excluded in 1935?  Historians tell us that the  reason for their exclusion at that time was both groups were primarily African Americans.  Many members of Congress with larger populations of African Americans would not vote for the Act without this exclusion.

Even more shameful for our country is that over these past 77 years no session of Congress has ever attempted to amend Section 152 and to remove this blatantly racist exclusion.

And why does Congress today not try to amend that original Act?  In my opinion, it is because so many of those workers are unauthorized immigrants.  To many of us, this seems yet another punitive action against a large group without political voice or power.

Here in California, recent attempts to assist farm workers and domestic workers in the State resulted in two bills which passed the State Legislature.  However, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed both measures.  Fortunately, he has indicated an openness to sign future versions if certain changes are made.  I urge our Legislature to take up those two issues once again in January when their new Session begins.

To his credit, Governor Brown did help pass and sign the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975.  Modeled after the NLRA, ever since it has covered the States farm workers with similar protections.

Nothing has been done for domestic workers, however.  With Baby Boomers turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day, one can imagine the huge number of domestic workers will be needed in the coming years to help care for this large population.

I hope and pray that organized labor and other groups working on behalf of the poor across the country would press the next Congress to end the shameful exclusion of farm workers and domestic workers.

It is the only just step for us to take as a nation.

Monday, September 17, 2012


On a recent trip to Philadelphia, I had the privilege of visiting four Catholic campuses on immigration issues:  Villanova University, St. Joseph's University, La Salle University, and Cabrini College.  I am both impressed and inspired with the faculty and students as they help educate about our immigrant brothers and sisters, and how they are reaching out to them in the greater Philadelphia area.

At Cabrini College I attended a large gathering to give my power point presentation on immigration issues.  A young lady gave an opening reflection, and I was truly impressed.  With her permission I am reprinting it here for you--it is truly insightful and powerful.

I'm an immigrant but not like you think.  You're one too and I'm about to tell you how.

These are the things people characterize an immigrant as:

     *  how you sound

     *  the language you speak

     *  what you don't know

     *  your mannerisms, and

     *  the questions you may ask.

You're an immigrant too.  Listen close because I'm about to tell you how.

Remember your first day in a new place?

Whether it be college, work or even a new face?

You come to a foreign land, and new country and eventually want to be loved.

Am I wrong?

You expect that over time you will be accepted and that this foreign country won't be one anymore.

That your face won't be a new one but one that's become a part of.

You're an immigrant too, listen close because I already told you.

When you say immigrant it should hit home, no matter where your home lies.

Don't look across the border for someone to sympathize with.

Look in your own eyes and realize you long for that very same prize.

That your face won't be a new one but one that's become a part of.

A part of a melting pot of culture that we all have a piece of in us.

We can't deny someone else our warm embrace only because they have a different face.

Think of immigration as your own immigration.

Jenay M. Smith

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Several days ago the results of a recent poll gave heartening encouragement to all of us in favor of assisting younger undocumented adults and children to obtain legal status.

The USC Annenberg--L.A. Times poll showed that 61% of respondents favored granting a legal residency status following the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [DACA]; 30% opposed the program; and 9% did not know or did not answer. 

That 61% to 30% is consistent with all polls which  give Americans the opportunity to voice their approval or disapproval to find a pathway to legal status for the 11 undocumented people living in our country.  This is really encouraging for all of us who are trying to highlight the impossible status of so many of our immigrant brothers and sisters.

I hope and pray that President Obama and Governor Romney will take note of these polling numbers, and that they will be bolder in offering new and creative ways to bring our immigrant brothers and sisters out of the shadows, and to give them a sense of dignity and worth in our midst.

With almost 1.7 million young people eligible to participate in the DACA program, I am so enthusiastic about their ability to participate fully in our society and our economy, and with the right to work openly and freely, they will now be contributing to our economy through their various payroll taxes.  This is truly a "win--win" situation for all of us.

However, the DACA program only grants this limited legal status for a period of two years.  What will happen in 2014 when the two years expire?  What will be the status of these young people?  Will there be the will to extend the program indefinitely?

I am hopeful that these two years will convince Americans that the immigrants in our midst deserve to have their dignity recognized and to have an earned path forward so that they can move from the shadows and live fully in the light of our society.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Recently I met a Hispanic man in his 50s who is surely the poster image for how immigrants are helping to establish small businesses and create jobs for others.  The man is from Mexico and is documented.

He had been working in the field of optical products, and eventually, he moved up the ladder and bought the company.  He has since expanded the company and employs 140 people, most of them with immigrant backgrounds.  The jobs require specialized training with optical equipment, and many have learned the skills needed.

However, he told me of a recent very difficult problem--agents from the government were coming to his company to check the documents of all his employees.  While he had on file documents for each employee, he could not verify the accuracy of each piece of paper.  Employers in our country are not required to take extraordinary steps to verify documents submitted by employees.

He informed all the employees that agents would be coming to their company on a certain date, and that they would want to question each employee and review their documents.

This announcement created panic among the employees, since in many cases documents had been supplied by relatives or others.  Not everyone would be able to verify each piece of paper.  As a result, 20 of his employees quit their jobs prior to the visit by government agents.

They feared that any irregularity would lead to their immediate detention, where they might languish for many months before their case would be resolved.  This would break up their families and impose great hardships on themselves and their loved ones.  So they just quit and left.

What is so sad about this case is that these 20 employees had learned highly technical skills and were producing optical products which people needed.  They were contributing to our country, to their families, and to their communities.  They were paying payroll taxes, they were helping a small business become successful, and they were part of building up the economic strength of our nation.

I commend the millions of small business owners across the country who have hired newly arrived peoples, have given them needed training, and who have given them the opportunity to provide for their families and the community.

Our current broken immigration system does not allow small businesses to hire, train, and utilize the labor of immigrants in our midst.  We all lose because of this broken system.

There are some 10 million undocumented brothers and sisters across the country in similar situations.  And like these 20 people, many were trained and fulfilling an important role for our economy.  But our hopeless immigration policies leave these people in the shadows, living in fear that their families will be broken up, and that their labors will be in vain.

As a nation we have a moral obligation to end this dreadful situation in which millions of people are not respected, are not shown basic human dignity, and are not permitted to regularize their legal status.

The new Deferred Action program to benefit DREAM students is a helpful step forward, but it only deals with a small portion of our immigrant population.  We need a comprehensive approach which creates an "earned" path towards legal status for all those in the shadows.

Both candidates for President have a moral obligation to lay out their plans for these 10 million undocumented and how their status can be gradually moved from undocumented to an earned legal status.  Members of Congress running for reelection have the same obligation.

Let us continue to stand with our undocumented brothers and sisters, and let us continue to point out the countless success stories across the country like the one I have outlined above.  Let us continue to raise our voices on their behalf, and let us expand networks among all peoples of faith to give a new and bright future for all of these brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Providentially, a new program to assist our Dreamer young people goes into effect on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven, August 15, 2012.

Young people who are under 31 years and who were brought to the US. as infants or children are often referred to as "Dreamers" and they would have been granted legal status under the provisions of the Dream Act in Congress.

However, various forms of the Dream Act have been stymied or even voted down in Congress over the years, the last time occurring in December of 2010.  This means that Dreamers have no legal U.S. national status or identity.

Many Dreamers find out about their legal limbo when they try to get a driver's license a Social Security card, or try to get a job.

Two months ago President Obama announced the Deferred Action Program for Child Arrivals [DACA].  This program will apply to undocumented children and young people brought by others to the U.S. under the age of 16 years, who have spent the past five years here, and who are under 31 years as of June 15, 2012.

The program is set to take effect on August 15, the feast of the Assumption of Mary.

In charge of implementing the program are the Department of Homeland Security [DHS] and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service [USCIS].
What will Dreamers be able to achieve under the provisions of this new program?  Their benefits will include a two-year reprieve from the danger of deportation, renewable in two-year increments.  They will have the right to apply for a work permit, and therefore, be able to work legally.  Obviously, they will now begin paying taxes when they are legally employed.

Unfortunately, no legal immigration status is conferred--either temporary or permanent.  Only Congress can grant that status, and to date, they have refused to do so.
The young people who qualify, however, will have no ability to petition for the legal status of a spouse or other familly member.
Applicants must be at least 15 years of age and have a clean criminal record.  Any applicant who is suspected of being a danger to the community or national security will be denied.

Applicants will need to obtain a passport and birth certificate, and I urge them to apply at once to the Consulate of their country of origin.
Applicants also need to check to see if they have any criminal record, including misdemeanors, and they will have to prove that their status is not a threat.  The applicant will have to pay the costs involved in all of these steps.

It is anticipated that at least one million young people will apply.  Fees will include a $465 processing charge for the "Request for Deferred Action for Children Arrivals" form, and this includes an $85 biometrics fee.

The work permit appllication, which is submitted with the DACA form, is an additional $380.
Applicants must show that they have completed education or military service requirements.  Fortunately, they can now enroll in school and GED classes in order to meet this requirement.
Dreamers are encouraged to begin now collecting proof of their date of birth, their date of arrival in the U.S., and proof of residence for the past five years.

These requirements could be met from various parsh records, such as Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, and the like.  Our parishes may be the only place where such proof of residency could be located, and we must urge our parishes to cooperate with our young people making application.

Some Dioceses, such as the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, are developing a parish identification document for parishioners in order to demonstrate their stable presence in the U.S.

There are several links that are helpful for our Dreamers:

     1.  USCIC website:

     2.  ICE website:

     3.  DHS website:

Applications will be accepted on-line beginning August 14 or 15 with a new form "Request for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals."  Look for it on:

We also need to alert our young adults about the danger of scams, of some people and even attorneys offering to do everything for the Dreamers for a large additional fee.  Many of these are bogus and not helpful.

Uncertainty remains because of unanswered questions.  What happens when a young person has been denied the new status, but now have their name, address, and other information with the federal government?  Will there be appeals for denied applications?

Since the Catholic Church has been in the forefront of advocating for the rights of all undocumented persons, this offers us a good opportunity to oencourage our young people to apply, and to assist them in any way that we can.

Our Lady of the Assumption, strenthen our Dreamers in this new phase of their lives in our midst!

Saturday, July 28, 2012


In the past several months the Catholic Church has been alerting everyone in the nation to the great new dangers affecting religious freedom:  The government determining what constitutes a Church, who belongs, and what services they may or may not offer, and to whom.

The end of June leading to the 4th of July we Catholics celebrated a "Fortnight for Freedom" to highlight the present dangers to our constitutional religious freedoms, and to point out how the federal government increasingly attempts to restrict those freedoms, as well as to regulate how Churches live out their freedoms.

The latest visible and glaring example of people in government punishing people for holding differing beliefs from government leaders focuses on a chicken sandwich. 
Chick-fil-A is a national restaurant chain which specializes in chicken sandwiches, other chicken foods, as well as various sides, drinks, and desserts. 

Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy has consistently backed "the biblical definition of a family," and his foundation has contributed to groups working to maintain the traditional definition of a marriage--one man and one woman.  He later added, "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage'."

Sounds to me like speech from a son of God and speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to our Constitution.

But three liberal Mayors not only attacked Cathy's beliefs and words, but they threatened to block any Chick-fil-A restaurants from being opened in their cities.  Those threats were not veiled.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago stated "Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values," and threatened to make it impossible for Cathy to open any more stores in Chicago.  He's probably too late.  There are 19 stores across Illinois, and several are on or near college and university campuses.

Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston offered this:  "There is no place for discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it."  Massachusetts has two stores, and I suspect that this outrageous comment will prompt new ones to open.  How a Mayor could so violate the true meaning of the historical basis of the Freedom Trail is staggering.  The Freedom Trail takes visitors past the many important places in the development of our freedoms as Americans.  Can one walk along such locations as the Shaw Memorial or the Park Street Church in Boston and not realize that such places stand for the very freedoms Mr. Cathy is expressing?

Mayor Edwin Lee of San Francisco tweeted:  "Closest Chick-fil-A to San Francisco is 40 miles away "and I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer."  California has 59 stores, Mayor Lee, and more are in the works.

Mayor Richard Bloomberg of New York brought some constitutional sense to these outrageous remarks mocking the faith beliefs of Mr. Cathy.  He said:  "...trampling on the freedom to marry whoever you want is exactly the same as trampling on your freedom to open a store."  Although he favors gay marriage, nonetheless, he realizes that basic freedoms are at stake.

New York lawyer Richard Socarides, a former Clinton White House adviser on gay rights, said Bloomberg is right.  "Consumers can disagree with a company's corporate political position and decide not to spend money there, but the city cannot regulate speech by denying someone a permit to operate their business just because you disagree with their political beliefs."

Amen.  But there is more to the issue than political beliefs.  These are deeply held faith beliefs, and those beliefs have various values underpinning them. 

Regarding marriage, the question is rather simple:  Is marriage of God's origin?  Or, is marriage of government origin?  We Catholics and many others of similar belief shout loudly that marriage is of God's origin, and we will never stop our efforts to maintain that understanding and practice of marriage in our broader society.
All Catholics, but especially Catholic business leaders, should be in the forefront of efforts to protect all religious liberties and freedoms across our nation.  Because as we have just seen, lots of folks out there are eager to punish us for clinging to and expressing our faith beliefs, values, and practices.  If government can "punish" a store owner for his faith beliefs and threaten to close his store because of those beliefs, then we are all in big trouble.
We as Catholics need to stand tall, know our faith beliefs, and proclaim those to the whole world in the name of Jesus Christ!

Monday, June 25, 2012


Today's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on four provisions of Arizona's immigration law [S.B. 1070] gives some measure of relief for immigtrants in our country, but still leaves them at risk because one section of 1070 remains in place--at least for now.

The three sections of 1070 struck down by the Supreme Court are the folllowing:

     Section 3:  "makes failure to comply with federal alien-registration requirements a state misdemeanor"

     Section 5(C):  "makes it a misdemeanor for an unauthorized alien to seek or engage in work in the State [Arizona]"

     Section 6:  "authorizes state and local officers to arrest without a warrant a person 'the officer has probably cause to believe...has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States"
Upheld by the Court is section 2(B):  "requires officers conducting a stop, detention, or arrest to make efforts, in some circumstances, to verify the person's immigration status with the Federal Government"

Why should immigrants across the nation still be concerned?  Because the very real threat of racial profiling of immigrants remains.  The decision leaves enormous discretion in the hands of the law enforcement officers who are making a stop of a person.  How is an officer to make a clear and unbiased determination in the Arizona law:  "Section 2(B) of S.B. 1070 requires state officers to make a 'reasonable determine the immigration status' of any person they stop, detain, or arrest on some other legitimate basis if 'reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States."

How is "reasonable suspicion" to be interpreted?  Color of skin?  Primary language?  Certain physical features?  How long can a person be detained while state officers seek immigration status reports from the Federal Government?
This is at the heart of the challenge to S.B. 1070 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in our Amicus Curiae Brief.

Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized these inherent dangers, and has agreed to allow Section 2(B) to go forward while implementation takes place:  "This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutinal challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect."

I am hopeful that the Church and various immigration rights organizations will monitor the implementation of this law across Arizona--as well as in other States where the same provision is enacted.  Specific examples of the suspicion of racial profiling need to be documented so that any needed preemption and constitutional challenges can take place.

If I were a person of dark skin who spoke another language as my primary language, I would still be fearful of being stopped and detained because of what some might term "reasonable suspicion."

This U.S. Supreme Court decision continues to underline our need for comprehensive immigration reform so that these piecemeal approaches can be avoided, and at long last, all immigrants in our country will be clear about their status and about their options to obtain legal status.

Friday, June 15, 2012


The announcement today by Janet Napolitano, head of Homeland Security, granting assistance to young immigrants who were brought to this country as minors, is welcome news!  I welcome this news because I have met and worked with countless young people who will benefit from this change.

Some 800,000 young men and women could qualify for the new policy which removes them from the fear of deportation and allows them to obtain work permits. 

We are all winners with this new policy!  The young people are encouraged to finish their high school education, go to college, or join the military services.  Obviously, they must remain active and contributing members of society, avoid any criminal activity, and continue to help our nation grow and provide opportunity for everyone.

This policy shift to move these young people away from deportation to fuller assimilation in our society is taking place precisely because Congress has refused to deal with the plight of some 11.5 million immigrants living in our midst.  Political partisanship has resulted in legislative stalemate.  In a special way, our youngest immigrants have been made to suffer.

Activists and Dreamers watch President Obama's speechFriday afternoon
at the headquarters of the New York Immigration Coalition.
(Photo: Justin Mitchell)
The best avenue forward for all of us would be for Congress to recognize the inherent dignity and worth of all our immigrant peoples and to develop a more comprehensive solution.

Some will object and say that this is amnesty.  It is not.  It is a special enforcement policy which recognizes our futile handcuffing of young immigrant men and women who are eager and anxious to participate fully in the life of our country, and whose only "failure" was in being brought to this country as minors.

I am hopeful that all eligible young immigrants will sign up for this new policy shift, will pursue their education with renewed vigor, will serve our country with new enthusiasm, and will prove once again that as a nation of immigrants we do not fear them, but we welcome them and walk with them on their journeys.

Friday, May 18, 2012





Friday, 18 May 2012

Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with fraternal affection in the Lord. Our meeting today concludes the series of quinquennial visits of the Bishops of the United States of America ad limina Apostolorum. As you know, over these past six months I have wished to reflect with you and your Brother Bishops on a number of pressing spiritual and cultural challenges facing the Church in your country as it takes up the task of the new evangelization.


I would begin by praising your unremitting efforts, in the best traditions of the Church in America, to respond to the ongoing phenomenon of immigration in your country. The Catholic community in the United States continues, with great generosity, to welcome waves of new immigrants, to provide them with pastoral care and charitable assistance, and to support ways of regularizing their situation, especially with regard to the unification of families.

A particular sign of this is the long-standing commitment of the American Bishops to immigration reform. This is clearly a difficult and complex issue from the civil and political, as well as the social and economic, but above all from the human point of view. It is thus of profound concern to the Church, since it involves ensuring the just treatment and the defense of the human dignity of immigrants.

In our day too, the Church in America is called to embrace, incorporate and cultivate the rich patrimony of faith and culture present in America's many immigrant groups, including not only those of your own rites, but also the swelling numbers of Hispanic, Asian and African Catholics. The demanding pastoral task of fostering a communion of cultures within your local Churches must be considered of particular importance in the exercise of your ministry at the service of unity (cf. Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, 63).


Now, at the conclusion of these meetings, I willingly join all of you in thanking Almighty God for the signs of new vitality and hope with which he has blessed the Church in the United States of America. At the same time I ask him to confirm you and your Brother Bishops in your delicate mission of guiding the Catholic community in your country in the ways of unity, truth and charity as it faces the challenges of the future.

In the words of the ancient prayer, let us ask the Lord to direct our hearts and those of our people, that the flock may never fail in obedience to its shepherds, nor the shepherds in the care of the flock (cf. Sacramentarium Veronense, Missa de natale Episcoporum). With great affection I commend you, and the clergy, religious and lay faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, to the loving intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Every report in recent weeks confirms that at least on our southern border the northern flow of people is down to a trickle.  And it's my hunch that these are primarily folks involved in illegal activities, such as drug trafficking and other illegal activities.

There is virtually no flow of people north for three reasons:  work opportunities in this country are not plentiful, the birth rate in Mexico has dropped from 5.8 babies to 2.3 babies, and Mexico's GDP was 5.6 last year [in comparison to 2.2 for the USA].

Over the past several years many in Congress have stated repeatedly that job number one is to secure our borders, and until that happens, we can't turn our attention to the 11 million undocumented people living here in our midst.

Some have espoused an "attrition through enforcement" policy so that people would voluntarily choose to return to their country of origin.  Through voluntary departure and forced departure, over one million people have left our country in the past year.

I suspect that we have seen pretty much the end of such attrition.  Why?  Because of the remaining 11 million people, virtually all are in "blended families," that is, some members have documents, while others do not.  These families are not going to split up--especially when they know that current family reunification processes means separations of 10 to 15 years--maybe even longer.  Parents do not want to leave their children, and family members do not want to be split up.

We cannot afford to leave these people locked into an undocumented status where there is no path forward towards legal status.  It is not good for our country nor our economy to have so many people living in the shadows of our society.  We need to call them forward and begin an earned process towards legal status [notice that I am not saying "citizenship"].

Our Church has advocated for several years that an earned path towards legal status be put in place requiring among other things:  registering with the federal government, paying any back taxes, paying a fine, learning English, learning USA history, continue to be free of criminal activity, and start paying all employment and other taxes.  That, my friends, is not amnesty--it is an arduous and earned path forward.

Upon registering, such persons would be given a card whereby they could legally be employed in our country and begin paying all related taxes.

Citizenship?  In the coming years when these people have completed all of the above requirements, they would then get in line behind all others around the world who have petitioned to become USA citizens.  This is not amnesty.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney:

     Both of you have an obligation to spell out in detail your vision and plans on how to deal with the 11 million people in our midst who need to be brought out of the shadows.

     Please, no cliches, no rhetorical phrases.  Give us a plan that begins with the positive aspects of our immigrant history, and which has particulars and time-lines.

     Use your moral voice to influence all the members of your own political party, both elected and voters.  Help replace myths with facts.  Help put a human face on our immigrant brothers and sisters.

     Step forward boldly to help change minds, hearts, and our badly broken immigration system.  Help forge a consensus on moving this vast population out from a shadow existence and economy.

Recently I heard a commentator on the radio who was never known for any compassionate view of undocumented peoples in our country.  He finally admitted:  "What we are doing now to deal with the 11 million isn't working.  Let's get this population in a line--any line--that will help us move forward towards an earned legal presence among us."  I was astounded, but he finally figured it out.  Human dignity and our long history favors positive steps, not going backwards with punitive actions.

Please press all Congressional candidates for office, as well as Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, to step forward with a bold and detailed action plan to help end the long-simmering immigration stalemate that is helping no one.


Thursday, April 26, 2012


On Wednesday, April 25, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Arizona v. United  States.  It was my privilege to be present for the entire time of the oral arguments.

The Federal government was suing the State of Arizona because the Federal government reads the U.S. Constitution as giving full authority and competence on immigration issues to the Federal government, not the individual States.
U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, D.C.,
April 25, 2012

The Justices did not seem to be persuaded that one part of the Arizona law violated Federal law:  the inquiry about immigration status after a person has been stopped for another violation of the law, and when there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person might not have legal residency.  It would seem that this section could survive. 

However, questions by the Justices were presuming a quick check with the Federal data bases would be carried out, and that persons would not be held longer than for the original reason for the stop.

The Justices had far more serious questions about other sections of the Arizona law, especially those sections which make it a crime for an undocumented person to seek employment, to fail to register, or to take employment.  One will just have to wait until the Court decision to learn its scope and application for Arizona and for other States.

We must keep in mind that there are other challenges to Arizona's S.B. 1070 in the Federal courts--not on the grounds of the Federal government preempting State involvement in immigration issues, but rather, the great danger of ethnic and racial profiling because of the "reasonable suspicion" of not having legal residential status language.  Since the vast majority of people who will be questioned about their immigration status are dark-skinned or Hispanic, one can just imagine who will be checked.

Chief Justice John Roberts was well aware of this fact and that those issues may eventually come to the Court.  When Solicitor General Donald Verrilli began his oral argument, Chief Justice Roberts intervened at once: 

"Before you get into what the case is about, I'd like to clear up at the outset what it's not about.  No part of your argument has to do with racial or ethnic profiling, does it?  I saw none of that in your brief."

Verrelli responded:  "That's correct."

This issue, however, is surely a major problem with the Arizona law.  Who else will law enforcement officers inquire about their legal residency status if not people of color, those who don't speak English well, and Hispanics?

But the Justices cannot be oblivious to the implications and practical effects of the Arizona law.  In my opinion, they simply must analyze the implications on individuals and their families when they render their final decision.

The Catholic Church will continue to stand with all of our immigrant brothers and sisters, regardless of legal residency, and will continue our efforts to extend earned paths to legal residency for all categories of these people.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


The highlight of our Ad Limina Visit was our meeting with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, on Friday, April 20.
(Photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano) April 20, 2012
He received all of the Bishops from the Province of Los Angeles in his private study, and he was most welcoming. We were permitted to bring the five priests from Los Angeles—one working in the Vatican, Msgr. Larry Spiteri; and four doing graduate studies in Rome—Father Thinh Pham, Father Swalomir Szkredka, Father John Montejano, and Father Marco Durazo. They each met the Pope, had a photo taken, and then left the study.
Archbishop José Gomez introduced the Bishops of the Province, and each of us had a few minutes to focus on one aspect of our ministry in California and in our Archdiocese. The various types of ministry were covered by individual Bishops.

My report to the Holy Father centered on the issue of immigration and the current phenomenon of world-wide migration. Some 212 million people are on the move around the world, most of them fleeing various threats and deprivations: wars, terrorism, famine, political unrest, and the search for a place of peace and opportunity for their families.

(Photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano) April 20, 2012
I pointed out to the Holy Father that the last major Papal pronouncement on immigration was the Apostolic Constitution by Pope Pius XII, Exsul Familia, issued August 1, 1952—some 60 years ago. That document was issued following the Second World War and while the world was facing enormous displacement of peoples caused by that war.

I suggested to the Pope that it would be very opportune if he would consider issuing a new Papal document on the challenges facing today’s migrants around the world, and on the Church’s response to this phenomenon in our own time. He was most attentive, and asked me directly, “Do you have a proposal”? Fortunately, I had prepared a letter to him on this very issue and gave it to his secretary at our meeting.

I now plan to ask Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the President of the U.S. Bishops Conference, and Archbishop José Gomez, Chairman of the Committee on Migration and Refugees, to add their positive encouragement to our Holy Father as well.

Given the reality of so many immigrants in our country, and the Church’s continuing efforts to offer them various pastoral and spiritual services, it would be truly opportune to have our Holy Father give us an updated document on this most important pastoral work of our Church.

The Church’s deep concern for peoples on the move and for immigrants is a Gospel imperative for us in Jesus’ own words: “For I was a stranger, and you welcomed me”. (Matthew 25:35)

I am writing this blog post while flying home to Los Angeles, having been renewed and refreshed through our Masses at the four major Basilicas of Rome, through our personal time with the Successor of Peter, Pope Benedict, and through our conversations with so many heads of Vatican Offices.

May Saints Peter and Paul continue to inspire our Church and all of the Dioceses of our Region in the person of Jesus and with the fervor of the Holy Spirit !

Friday, April 13, 2012


The Bishops of the Provinces of Los Angeles and San Francisco begin their Ad Limina visit in Rome on April 15.

Every five years all Bishops are required to Rome to pray at the tombs of St. Peter and of St. Paul, to meet with the Pope, and to visit with the major offices of the Holy See. The name, Ad Limina, comes from the Latin expression "Ad Limina Apostolorum," or, "To the Doorposts of the Apostles."
Each day we will celebrate Mass in one of the four major Basilicas of Rome: St. Peter's, St. Paul's Outside the Walls, St. John Lateran, and St. Mary Major. A visit with Pope Benedict XVI is part of the visit.

Although now the retired Archbishop of Los Angeles, the five-year Report to the Holy See covers the time period up to December 31, 2010. During those years I served as the active Archbishop of Los Angeles, and therefore, am responsible for the Report.

During these wonderful days in Rome, your Bishops will be praying for all of you, the faithful People of God in our various Archdioceses and Dioceses.

As of Wednesday evening, we have so far visited the following offices of the Holy See: the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura [the Supreme Court for the Church], the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Clergy, the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Congregation for Divine Worship, and the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

At each official visit we discuss in general our five-year Reports, and raise up issues for discussion. The atmosphere and dialogue are faith-filled, and we are able to receive helpful guidance in response to our questions.

This Ad Limina visit brought us to the offices of a new entity of the Holy See--the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. Recall that Pope John Paul II had frequently mentioned a "new evangelization" in which each of us would deepen our personal encounter with Jesus Christ, share our faith journeys, and become a more welcoming Church.

With some 22 million inactive Catholics across our country, we need to be proactive in reaching out to them and in inviting them "home" to our Faith Community of Catholics.

A special Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization will take place beginning this coming October, as well as the launching of The Year of Faith for the Church world-wide. Many new pastoral initiatives will be suggested this year for implementation at the Diocesan and parish levels.

Initiatives will be taken to enliven the faith-lives of our Catholic people, and to help them bring the values and imperatives of Jesus Christ in the Gospels to our daily lives. This is an exciting new chapter in the life of the Church, and I look forward with great eagerness to our new evangelization efforts.

May Saints Peter and Paul continue to intercede for us all!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has proposed a more streamlined process to assist petitioners for legal residency in a more streamlined fashion.

Currently, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who have accrued a certain period of unlawful presence in the United States are barred from returning to the U.S. for as long as 3 or 10 years if they leave the country.

Immediate relatives can obtain a waiver of the unlawful presence bar if they show that a U.S. citizen spouse or parent will experience extreme hardship if they are required to remain outside the U.S. But in order to obtain the waiver, these individuals must depart the U.S. and wait abroad while the waiver is processed.

As a result, long years of separation keep families divided waiting while the various government processes churn on slowly. This is particularly difficult when very young or very old members of the family are involved in the process.

Under the new proposed process, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who would need a waiver of unlawful presence in order to obtain an immigrant visa could file a new form form before leaving the U.S. to obtain an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

All individuals eligible for this streamlined process are still required to depart the U.S. and must meet all legal requirements for issuance of an immigrant visa and admission to the U.S.

Those who claim that this new process is some type of new "amnesty" are plain wrong. This new process is intended to hasten the steps for those family members who are clearly eligible for more rapid consideration of their petition. None of the steps in the process are being waived; rather, all of the elements are moved forward in a more certain way.

I support this new Rule and pray that after the 60 days for public comment it will be in effect.

Some estimates are that one million of the current 11 million unauthorized immigrants may be able to secure a more rapid path to legal residency.

This new process will help bring a large number of our residents out of the shadows and to give them a new future in our midst.