Monday, January 30, 2017

A Message from Archbishop Hebda Regarding President Trump's Executive Order on Immigration Ban

Related Off-site Links:
Archbishop Hebda Joins Minnesota Faith Leaders in Opposing Trump’s Immigration Ban – Matthew Davis (The Catholic Spirit, January 30, 2017).
Trump Bars Refugees and Citizens of 7 Muslim Countries – Michael D. Shear and Helene Cooper (The New York Times, January 27, 2017).
Trump's Immigration Ban Ban Excludes Countries with Direct Links to Terrorism and Where Trump Has Commercial HoldingsThe Real News, January 27, 2017).
Trump's Muslim Ban Triggers Chaos, Heartbreak, and Resistance – Ryan Devereaux, Murtaza Hussain and Alice Speri (The Intercept, January 29, 2017).
Judge Blocks Trump Order on Refugees Amid Chaos and Outcry Worldwide Michael D. Shear, Nicholas Kulish and Alan Feuer (The New York Times, January 28, 2017).
Judge Halts Deportations After Protesters Swarm Airports Over Trump’s Order Barring Muslims – Robert Mackey (The Intercept, January 28, 2017).
Donald Trump, the Refugee Ban, and the Triumph of Cruelty – Dylan Matthews (Vox, January 28, 2017).
Donald Trump Fires Acting Attorney General Hours After She Refuses to Defend His Immigration Ban – Leon Neyfakh (Slate, January 30, 2017).
Trump Refugee Ban Clashes With Faith-Based Groups' Religious Missions – Tom Gjelton (NPR News, January 27, 2017).
Pope Francis: You Can’t Defend Christianity by Being “Against Refugees and Other Religions” – Catholic News Service via Catholic Herald (October 13, 2016).
USCCB Speaks Out Against Trump’s Immigration Orders – Mary Pezzulo (Patheos, January 25, 2017).
Responding to Trump's Ban, Top Catholic Bishops Pledge Solidarity with Muslim Refugees – Michael O'Loughlin (America, January 30, 2017).
Bishop McElroy: Trump’s Executive Order is Rooted in Xenophobia and Religious PrejudiceMillennial (January 29, 2017)
Chicago's Archbishop Calls President Trump's Immigration Order a “Dark Moment in U.S. History” – Madeline Farber (Time, January 29, 2017).
LGBT Catholics Stand with Immigrants, Refugees, Visitors from Banned Countries — DignityUSA (January 30, 2017).
Twin Cities Clergy Join Protest Against Trump Immigration Ban — Jean Hopfensperger (Star Tribune, January 30, 2017).
A Message from Archbishop Hebda Regarding President Trump's Executive Order on Immigration BanThe Progressive Catholic Voice (January 30, 2017).
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, James Martin Labels as "Appalling" President Trump's Plan to Demonize ImmigrantsThe Wild Reed (January 27, 2017).
550 Attend Mass Outside White House in Solidarity with Refugees – Teresa Donnellan (America, January 30, 2017).
How the Catholic Mood About the Trump Administration Shifted in Just a Week – Michael O'Loughlin (America, January 30, 2017).

Saturday, January 28, 2017

100 Years Ago, Americans Talked About Catholics the Way They Talk About Muslims Today

An example of how xenophobia has appeared
time and time again throughout US history.

By German Lopez

NOTE: This article was first published January 18, 2017 by Vox.

About a century ago, millions of Americans feared that members of a religious group was amassing an arsenal of weapons for a secret, pre-planned takeover of the United States.

The feared religious group wasn’t Muslims. It was, as Los Angeles Times reporter Matt Pearce wrote in a great piece in 2015, Catholics:

Hatred had become big business in southwestern Missouri, and its name was the Menace, a weekly anti-Catholic newspaper whose headlines screamed to readers around the nation about predatory priests, women enslaved in convents and a dangerous Roman Catholic plot to take over America. . . .

America’s deep and widespread skepticism of Catholics is a faint memory in today’s post-Sept. 11 world. But as some conservative politicians call for limits on Muslim immigration and raise questions about whether Muslims are more loyal to Islamic law than American law, the story of Aurora’s long-ago newspaper is a reminder of a long history of American religious intolerance.

Today, there are calls for federal surveillance of mosques in the name of preventing terrorist attacks; a century ago, it was state laws that allowed the warrantless search of convents and churches in search of supposedly trapped women and purported secret Catholic weapons caches.

This may seem absurd today, but there was a real fear among Protestant Americans back then that Catholics were planning to take over the country. As Pearce reported, the fears led to serious violence: Lynch mobs killed Catholic Italians, arsonists burned down Catholic churches, and there were anti-Catholic riots. It was a similar sentiment to the kind of Islamophobia today that’s led many Americans to call for shutting down mosques, forcing Muslims to register in a national database, and even banning Islam.

The point of the comparison is not to say that the US faces the same problems today as it did a century ago, or that the discrimination toward Catholics back then and Muslims today is exactly the same. But when looking back at the history of the US, it’s easy to see a pattern of consistent xenophobia and fears of outsiders.

Xenophobia is a staple of American history

In response to terrorist attacks across the globe, much of the conversation has focused on refugees and immigration. This conversation has been tinged by xenophobia toward Muslims, with President-elect Donald Trump once calling for a ban on Muslims entering the US.

But this sort of rhetoric is not new to the US. As the Pew Research Center found, Americans have generally opposed taking in refugees even as they went through abhorrent, well-known crises. (Dara Lind reported for Vox that America even rejected some Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany.)

Xenophobia has fueled other policies too. In the late 19th century, the US passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to stop the flow of Chinese laborers into the US. During World War II, the US put Japanese Americans in internment camps after the country declared war on Japan. Throughout the war on drugs, lawmakers have regularly tapped into xenophobic sentiments to prohibit certain drugs — such as when San Francisco banned opium smoking that was perceived as popular among Chinese immigrants, and when prohibitionists built up opposition to marijuana by fear-mongering about its use among Mexican immigrants.

Throughout all of these periods and policies, the public and lawmakers cited genuine policy interests: national security, keeping American laborers competitive in the job market, and preventing drug abuse. But underlying such policy stances were obvious signs that Americans were simply scared of foreigners who weren’t like them.

By and large, we tend to recognize the underlying xenophobia today, and that the policies it produced were wrong, bigoted, and self-destructive.

As Islamophobia rears its ugly head in the US again, it’s worth thinking about how we now look back on those moments of American history — and whether we’re making the same mistakes again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Building Bridges as an Exercise of Hope

By Bill Moseley

Note: The following reflection was delivered before the start of mass at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church on the weekend of January 21-22, 2017.

People of God, my name is Bill Moseley and it’s my privilege to reflect with you on today’s readings.

Most Americans pride themselves on a constitution and set of laws that facilitate the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next every four to eight years. That said, these changes are never easy, and some would argue that this particular shift, given the political divisions in our country, has been more challenging than others. These past few hours, days, weeks and months have been an emotionally fraught time for many of us. In monitoring my own feelings, talking with family and friends, interacting with colleagues and students at the college where I teach, and watching the reactions of others on the news, I have witnessed the entire panoply of human emotions: from depression and despair, to anger and protest, to joy and jubilation.

My family and I happened to be visiting my parents in Milwaukee the week after the election this past November. My father had poured his heart into the campaign. For someone approaching 80, I marveled at the hours and miles he logged walking the streets of his city to canvas and knock on doors. He was now deeply depressed, more depressed, frankly, than I had ever seen him before. When he and I stayed up late that first night chatting, he shared with me that he had a plan to move to Canada. While many of us have said we might move to Canada in jest, my father had actually worked out the details of such a move. He had identified a small town over the border from Niagara Falls, explored the real estate market, and calmly explained that they would only be a few hours from where my brother lives in Northeastern Ohio. Now, thank God for my mother, who had the fortitude to tell him that he’s nuts and they’re not moving anywhere. To be clear, I think my Dad had a right to be depressed. He had worked far harder than I to get out the vote, only to see his efforts come to naught.

Many of my students and co-workers were also deeply depressed after the election. I recall taking a photo of my female colleagues in their pant suits the day of election. There was a sense of anticipation and optimism in the air. The next day could not have been more different. Some students were crying and others were genuinely scared. In some cases this depression and fear would eventually turn to anger and then calls for political organizing. On Thursday and Friday of this week I found myself in the heart of a teach-in on my campus, and yesterday I marveled at the tens of thousands of people who gathered for women’s marches in DC and Saint Paul, including my wife and many of you.

I have also read in the papers, and heard on the news, the joy and jubilation of those who supported this election result. While there is a dark element to our new president’s constituency (a group motivated by racism, misogyny and xenophobia), let us not forget that there are also folks who have been left out of the new knowledge economy, who have seen their livelihoods unravel as manufacturing jobs have left the country, and who have felt looked down upon by urban elites. For them, they are elated because they feel like their voices have finally been heard.

Not unlike our contemporary political climate, today’s readings are also filled with darkness, division and hope.

In our first reading from Isiah, we hear about areas near the Sea of Galilee (Zebulun and Naphtali), a land that was “humbled and in gloom, darkness and anguish,” yet a land that will also experience a light that will bring them joy and rejoicing.

In our second reading from Corinthians, we learn about divisions and quarreling in the early Christian community. These tensions are clearly troubling to Paul. The source of these divisions has to do with people lining up behind different leaders in an emerging Christian tradition. Paul confronts these divisions with two arguments. First, he suggests that his role, and those of other preachers, is both minor and in service to the same, larger Christian message. As such, their work and message must not become a source of division. Second, he argues that we are all one. We might imagine critical and consequential differences among ourselves that are worth fighting and dying for, but these divisions are illusory and we must recognize that we are all connected. We are all one in our common humanity.

Lastly, in our gospel reading from Matthew, we learn about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry which, frankly, is not a very happy story. Jesus’ spiritual mentor, John the Baptist, has been arrested and, we know, murdered. God did not intervene to save Jesus’ beloved John. This had to have been a very difficult moment. How do we have faith, how do we believe that there is good in the world, when bad seemingly triumphs over good? It is at this point, I imagine, that Jesus could have made the decision to move – metaphorically - to Canada. He might have been deeply depressed and it would have been quite normal to just want to escape.

Alternatively, Jesus could have fomented violence. These were, after all, challenging economic times for everyday working people. The area where Jesus retreats to after John’s arrest, to the western shores of the Sea of Galilee (the same lands mentioned in today’s old testament reading) were hit hard by the extractive practices of the Roman Empire. Farmers were losing their lands and becoming sharecroppers who were barely able to survive. People living in communities on the shores of the Sea of Galilee were losing their rights to fishing. It is here that Jesus started his ministry and recruited his early followers. These lands were ripe for an insurrection and Jesus could have chosen to channel peoples’ economic anxieties with a message of hate and violence.2

What ensues, instead, is something remarkable. Rather than retreating from the world, or being fueled by anger over the murder of John the Baptist, Jesus appears to have had an epiphany that God does not intervene from on high, but that he works through us. And so he begins his ministry as an itinerant preacher, spreading the good news and curing people of diseases. Furthermore, his philosophy and message is completely counter-intuitive for his time. As we willlearn next week in the Sermon on the Mount, and in Sundays thereafter, he has a message of hope for the poor and the downtrodden. His message is also not solely reserved for those in good standing with his group. He understands that he needs to cross social boundaries, to cross party lines, in order to build his vision for the future.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these readings and how Jesus started his ministry this past week. I’ve also been asking myself what a person of faith should do in this particular moment of our nation’s history. Clearly, after taking some time to reflect, we need to move forward. Working peacefully for what we believe in is important. For me, this means fighting for political change and not accepting the normalization of racism, misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia.

But if Jesus could acknowledge the common humanity of tax collectors, prostitutes and lepers (the untouchables within his community at that time), then we can also engage outside of our own political and cultural comfort zones. Jesus was roundly condemned for consorting with the outcasts of his era, and many today may scoff at efforts to reach across deeply entrenched political divides. But as the Apostle Paul suggests, we likely imagine our differences to be greater than they really are. Despite the invocations of some political leaders, I believe there is much common ground and shared concern over issues like inequality, under-employment and trade. While there may be disagreement about the best way to address these issues, we can’t have a thoughtful, provocative and transformative dialogue about them if we don’t recognize our common humanity and engage.

My favorite example of this approach is the marriage equality movement in Minnesota. This movement started with the basic premise that change is not just about partisan politics, but about getting to know the other side. Once you acknowledge family members, neighbors and friends in same sex relationships, once you recognize their common humanity, hopes, aspirations and concerns, then it is much more difficult to see them as an abstract ‘other’ and to demonize their perspective.

Like a shroud torn asunder, the current political rifts in our social fabric may seem insurmountable. And while clearly there are some who stand to profit from such cleavages in the short term, and they will do everything in their power to deepen them, we all stand to lose if these differences are left to fester. While Jesus was not afraid to speak truth to power, and to hold those in power to account, he was also a social bridge builder. He was willing to sit down with anyone regardless of their past. It is never easy to build bridges, to understand the hopes and fears of our enemies, to see the divine in all of us, but it’s the only way forward. As Paul Wellstone said, “we all do better when we all do better.”

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