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June 19, 2014

Cardinal speaks out against sexual violence in war -
The plight of unaccompanied children migrating across borders -
Linking human dignity with human solidarity

In this edition:
1. Linking human dignity with solidarity.
2. Solidarity: Making receivers of givers.
3. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Evangelization and solidarity.
b) The new dad and paternity leave.
4. Immigration: Unaccompanied children and teens.
5. Church speaks against sexual violence in war.
6. Catholic bishop leads Anglican retreat.

1. Linking Human Dignity and Solidarity

"A more authentic way of knowing and learning" is encouraged by Pope Francis and may represent "his unique contribution to the tradition of Catholic social teaching," Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Wash., told participants in a June 3 forum sponsored by The Catholic University of America's Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.

"Instead of approaching life from the 30,000-feet level of ideas, he challenges policymakers and elected officials -- indeed all of us -- to experience the life of everyday and real people," said Bishop Cupich.

In other words, Pope Francis uses "real-life experience" rather than "competing ideas" as a starting point for understanding the people in our surrounding world and the way the economy affects their lives, the bishop observed. Some critics hold that the pope's "views on the economy are wanting precisely because he speaks out of the limited experience of living in Argentina with its difficult economic and political history or that he is just uninformed about capitalism and a market economy, especially its claims of reducing global poverty."

But Bishop Cupich thinks "those who easily dismiss what the pope is saying because of his turn to real-life experience fail to appreciate that he is calling people to a more authentic way of knowing and learning. He is challenging them about how they are informed."

The bishop made these remarks during a forum titled "Erroneous Autonomy: The Catholic Case Against Libertarianism." His address appears in the June 19 edition of Origins, CNS Documentary Service.

He acknowledged that libertarians "share with Catholic social teaching a respect for human dignity," and this "anchors their insistence on human freedom." Moreover, "they rightly argue that this dignity is not given by society but by the Creator."

However, libertarians do not hold that because "dignity belongs to all human beings in common, it implies the solidarity of all peoples," Bishop Cupich said. "By uncoupling human dignity from the solidarity it implies, libertarians move in a direction that not only has enormous consequences for the meaning of economic life and the goal of politics in a world of globalization, but in a direction which is inconsistent with Catholic social teaching."

"For Francis, politics seeks the common good. For his libertarian critics, politics seeks to maximize the freedom of markets and individual choice," Bishop Cupich stated.

"Living in the world of ideas only, without being tethered to reality, is a particular risk for leaders in the West and especially in the U.S.," he said. "We can become quite content to quote statistics, sift through and interpret data, categorize populations, all the while remaining indifferent to and unaware of the needs of real people."

But "to paraphrase the pope," he continued, "this approach is a dead end, for it only creates 'ethical systems bereft of kindness' and carries on 'intellectual discourse bereft of wisdom.'"

What Pope Francis means, the bishop said, is that "politicians and policymakers need to know the smell of the sheep, otherwise their objectives will be more ideal than real, and reality will be masked in empty rhetoric using 'a rationality foreign to most people.'"

2. Solidarity: Making Receivers of Givers

Those who live in solidarity with others react against the results of a "speculative economy" that make "the poor ever poorer, depriving them of the essentials for life such as a home and employment," Pope Francis said June 15 when he visited the community of Sant'Egidio in the Trastevere section of Rome.

Today, so many want to rid the dictionary of the word "solidarity" because in their culture it sounds like "a bad word," the pope commented. But he proclaimed "solidarity" a Christian word. Living in solidarity with others makes the Sant'Egidio community the family of homeless people and the friend of people with disabilities, he said.

Sant'Egidio, a lay community, is known for its peacemaking work in troubled nations, along with its closeness to the poor and its accent on prayer and spirituality. "He who looks to the Lord, sees others," Pope Francis said in his Sant'Egidio remarks.

He encouraged the community to follow the advice of its founder, Andrea Riccardi, and to forget "who gives and who receives help." This allows givers and receivers to be confused in such a way that the notion of giving care is transformed into one of "encounter and embrace" between givers and receivers, who are gift to each other.

The day after his visit to Sant'Egidio, Pope Francis addressed a Rome conference on "impact investing for the poor," a concept some might refer to as "responsible investing." It was "a sense of solidarity with the poor and with the marginalized" that led the conference to reflect on this form of investment, he commented.

Impact investors "are conscious of the existence of serious unjust situations, instances of profound social inequality and unacceptable conditions of poverty affecting communities and entire peoples," Pope Francis explained.

The "logic" of these investors' thinking acknowledges the connection between profit and solidarity, the pope said.

He called it "increasingly intolerable that financial markets are shaping the destiny of peoples rather than serving their needs or that the few derive immense wealth from financial speculation while the many are deeply burdened by the consequences."

3. Current Quotes to Ponder

Evangelization, Solidarity and the Realities of Actual Lives: "Generally, there is a growing inequality and polarization between the rich and the poor in many countries today. This holds true for developing countries, emerging countries as well as industrialized countries. It also goes for the United States and China. The gap between incomes today in the U.S. is wider than 100 years ago. . . . Evangelization [in the thinking of Pope Francis] always asks for an analysis of the situation based on the Gospel; Francis does not ask for a neutral sociological analysis but for an evangelical discernment. Discipleship and evangelization according to Francis mean taking the point of view of Jesus Christ and looking at the people's and the world's reality with his eyes. This goes for all areas of human day-to-day life and for all dimensions of evangelization." (From the June 3 address by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to a conference at The Catholic University of America titled "Erroneous Autonomy: The Catholic Case Against Libertarianism.")

"The New Dad" and Paternity Leave: "Most fathers in our survey felt that between two to four weeks of paid paternity leave is an appropriate amount, considering both work and family obligations, although some men seek more as they take on the role of primary caregiver [for a couple's children]. Organizations that want to retain their best talent must acknowledge that fathers are playing a more active role in their families and consider paternity leave as an essential benefit." -- "The United States is such an outlier on this issue, you can't even imagine. If you saw the list of countries, both developed countries and developing countries, that offer paid parental leave for moms and dads, the list is enormous. For fathers, about 70 countries have some kind of paid paternity leave, and we don't. When you compare the United States to all the other developed countries in the world, we are an absolute outlier and very much standing alone." (Brad Harrington, executive director of the Center for Work and Family at Jesuit-run Boston, College, discussing the latest study in the center's ongoing study of fathers in America today. The center released "The New Dad: Take Your Leave" June 9 - www.thenewdad.org.)

4. Immigration: Unaccompanied Children, Teens

The great number of children and teens currently migrating alone across borders in order to flee war, as well as other forms of violence and oppression in their homelands, or to rejoin their parents in a new land, is a cause of real concern, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told the U.N. Human Rights Council June 13. "Children on the move constitute a humanitarian emergency that calls for immediate remedies," he said. The remedies should include efforts to reduce extreme poverty and violence "at the source of the children's exodus."

Children migrating alone are "exposed to sexual violations, to starvation, to mutilations when they fall (off trains or trucks) and even to the loss of life when their boats sink or they get lost in the desert," Archbishop Tomasi said. He is the Vatican observer for U.N. agencies in Geneva.

He said that in 2011 some 12,225 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in Europe, coming from "all the trouble spots of the Middle East and Africa." Also, he noted, "the explosion of child migrants traveling alone in the hope of crossing the border into the United States" is a problem. According to Archbishop Tomasi, 38,883 children migrating alone were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexican border in 2013, and the number could be much larger in 2014.

Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., wrote about unaccompanied minors migrating into the United States along the Mexico-U.S. border in the June 16 edition of his online "Monday Memo" to the diocese.

"So many people in our diocese and community have become aware of the plight of over 1,000 unattended immigrant children, most of whom are being transferred from the international border with Mexico in southern Texas to Nogales, Ariz," he said. "We have also become aware of a large number of mothers with children who are entering the United States both here and in Texas."

During a diocesan meeting to discuss the situation, confidence was expressed "that the children's physical needs were being attended to," but there were concerns about "whether they are receiving enough emotional and pastoral support," as well as culturally appropriate food and necessary legal services.

Who are these youths and these mothers? "Most of these unaccompanied minors and women with children are coming from Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), fleeing violence and economic disaster in their own country," Bishop Kicanas explained. He said this calls "for a humanitarian response from our governmental agencies and from our community."

Bishop Kicanas said the current situation reminds him "how countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt are working to assist the enormous number of people crossing their borders, fleeing the horrendous conditions caused by the civil war in Syria. Those countries have no obligation to help the people flooding their borders, but the countries have seen the desperate needs of those arriving and have spent millions of dollars and have utilized their country's resources to provide humanitarian aid."

5. Church Addresses Sexual Violence in War

"It is to the shame of our world that the systematic use of sexual violation is still today, in some places, considered as a duty of soldiers, an order that they must carry out," Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, said in a June 12 address in London to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The cardinal insisted that even under conditions of war "the demands of justice remain in place," and a crime remains "a crime." Sexual violence "is always a crime; it is always an immoral act," he said. Moreover, "no declaration of war -- whether arguably legitimate or not -- excuses those who fight from their obligation to observe fundamental moral principles."

The goal of the global summit the cardinal addressed was "to shatter the culture of impunity for sexual violence in conflict by launching a new international protocol with international standards for documenting and investigating sexual violence in conflict zones." The summit was co-chaired by William Hague, British foreign secretary, and American actress Angelina Jolie, special envoy for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the summit it is time to consign the crime of wartime sexual violence "to the history books."

Cardinal Nichols said that the damage done "to the human dignity of the large numbers of victims of sexual violence is so radical and so permanent that it defies description." As "an instrument of warfare," sexual violence "is a deep wound in the body of humanity, to borrow a phrase of Pope Francis. That it is as old as humanity is a cause for our lasting shame," the cardinal stated.

"At the noxious heart of sexual violence" in situations of war and conflict, the cardinal commented, is "the deliberate and ordered tactic of oppression, domination and destruction." He said, "There is no place in sexual relations for brutality, aggression or any kind of dehumanization of a person."

The cardinal decried sexual violence as "always and absolutely a violation of human freedom and of every rational standard of human decency." Lamentably, "its de facto cultural acceptance in many places and in so many circumstances contributes significantly to the degradation of women in particular."

Every person's human dignity, encompassing "the right to life itself and the right to bodily integrity," is fundamental," Cardinal Nichols said. He called "the violation of that bodily integrity in sexual violence" a denial both "of human dignity and a most gross breach of a person's human rights."

The Catholic Church "wholeheartedly backs every initiative to prevent sexual violence being perpetrated against anyone, anywhere and under any circumstances," he told the global summit, adding that "the justice at the heart of human sexual relations must be respected as integral to all justice, even in conflict and warfare."

6. Catholic Bishop Leads Anglican Retreat

Retired Bishop Brian Noble of the Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury, England, was slated to lead a June 26-28 retreat for those being ordained Anglican deacons June 29 at the Church of England's Chester Cathedral. After leading the retreat, the bishop was to preach at the deacons' ordination service, Catholic News Service reported. The Anglican Diocese of Chester had 21 candidates for the diaconate this year.

Anglican Bishop Peter Forster of Chester invited his friend Bishop Noble to lead the retreat. Bishop Forster said, "He is already well-known to the cathedral, and perhaps the best way to advance ecumenism today is through practical cooperation and common mission." Bishop Noble said he was "happy and honored to have been invited."