Immigration Reform and the Christian

Millions of people living in the United States are illegal immigrants. The vast majority have come from Mexico and Central America. States like Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas have all been seriously impacted by legal and illegal immigration. It has effected education, health care, crime, and even language. The majority of the illegal and legal immigrants who come to the United States come for jobs and we can see these immigrants working in the restaurants, construction, and service industry, childcare and as domestics. The majority of the immigrants have strong Christian values and are active in the Church. Statistics show that the growth in the American Roman Catholic Church is primarily a result of immigration both legal and illegal.

Recently the discussion of illegal immigration has focused on a piece of legislation that allows local law enforcement officers who have suspicion that a crime has been committed and suspect that the alleged violator is an illegal immigrant to check their citizenship or immigration status. This piece of legislation has caused a great deal of controversy. Even Christians are divided as to where they stand on the issue. Some see it as an incredible injustice and denial of basic civil rights, while others have suggested it is merely an enforcement of Federal Law and a protection of the rights of Arizona citizens.

The issue of immigration and the migration of peoples across national boarders is not merely an American issue as nations around the world are struggling with the issue. Europeans nations have been as conflicted as the United States. Countries in areas where there are civil wars and persecution are dealing with ever growing refugee camps, as people flee their homelands merely to survive.

As Christians our response must always be on the side of justice and respect for the dignity of every person. We must always remember that the immigrant, legal or illegal, is a victim of a failed system both of the country they fled and their new dwelling. Most immigrants, legal or illegal, are searching out the basic human needs of food, shelter, medical care, and education. Immigration, whether legal or illegal, is a story of hope – hope for a better future for themselves and their families. Most often immigration is about hope for the lives of children.

The governments have often failed at addressing immigration because the issues are complex. But too often they fail to respond because of underlying political realities, either seeing the immigrants as a new voting block or fearing the loss of re-election because of disenfranchising those who want to halt illegal immigration.

The entire story of Old Testament from Abraham to Moses is a story of immigration of a people seeking the promise of a better life. Our Lord Jesus was in a sense an immigrant to Egypt for a period of time. People around the world today are fleeing persecution, violence, genocide, unspeakable poverty, and oppression. All around the world are refugee camps where there are hungry, thirst and disease yet those in the camps live there because they cannot return to their own homeland for fear of death.

The best summary of the Biblical view of immigration is found in Exodus 22.21, “You shall no wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Leviticus 19.34, reads, “the alien who resides among you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” Hebrews 13.2, says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some have entertained angels unawares” And, our Lord Jesus tells us in ministering to strangers we have done ministry to Him – Matthew 25.35

The charge of Scripture to the people of God was to show justice to immigrant peoples because they were once immigrants in Egypt. This could apply certainly to Americans who must remember that the vast majority of Americans come from immigrant families. The city where I live history is significantly tied to the history of immigrant people – the Irish, the Italians and now the Asians and peoples from Central America.

The history of immigration has never been an easy one. In America immigrant groups have often been met with violence and protests. Often the immigrant group is forced to live in poverty. The story of the immigrants of the early 1900’s is also the story of the lower east side of York and the poverty of tenant housing. The story of Brooklyn is a story of immigrants leaving the lower east side for a better life. Most of the members of my congregation are descendants of these immigrants – they are the grandchild and sometimes the children of the immigrant community.

The fact is that most of these immigrants came to the United States legally through places like Ellis Island in the New York Harbor. These immigrants came to become Americans and almost all of them spent years learning English so that they could pass the citizenship exam and be sworn in as American citizens.

The story of the Hebrew people in Egypt is a story of legal immigration. Joseph asks permission of Pharaoh for his family to move to Egypt (Genesis 45.16-18). When they arrived, the brothers asked Pharaoh if they could sojourn in the land (Genesis 47.1-4) and Pharaoh allotted them a section of the land of Goshen/Rameses (Genesis 47.5-7).

The story goes on that though the Hebrew people labored and prospered often to the benefit of the Pharaoh, the government began to oppress the people as slaves and eventually enforced genocide on the Hebrews.

The study would teach us that we are to show justice and equality to legal immigrants. The legal immigrants are not to be oppressed or discriminated against but rather have full access to the social networks of the country. The laws of the land were equally applied to both Israelites and legal immigrants.

Justice is a characteristic of our God. Where there is injustice the Church must speak clearly and profoundly for if injustice for one group is allowed then there is injustice everywhere. If there is a group of people without basic human rights, without a voice in government, without legal resources and protection then it places all of us at risk.

The governments of the world have the right to establish boarders, to make immigration regulations, and establish guidelines for citizenship. These boarders must be honored and the governments have the right to enforce their own requirements. It is up to the governments to insure that the regulations and enforcement are just and non-discriminatory.

The debate is how does the government respond to illegal immigration or the plight of refugees. It is not the task of the Church to establish laws. It is the task of the Church to minister to the stranger among us for the Kingdom of God knows no earthly boundaries. The Church should advocate for just humane laws and treatment of all persons. Often the Church will be called to be the voice for those who have no voice. The Church is always called to show compassion and mercy.

The Church must pray for our governments and government officials. We must obey the laws of our nation and call for a change of law when the law is unjust or immoral. It is not the responsibility of the Church to support political campaigns, draft legislation, or enforce law. Christians in democratic nations have the responsibility to vote for persons who will work to ensure that the country is secure so we can live in peace. Persons who ensure equal opportunity. Persons who will protect the rights of all people groups. Persons who will be proponents of justice. Persons who will respect the dignity of every human from conception to natural death.

As individual Christians evaluating the complexity of immigration law or the securing of national boarders we must not be tempted by political expediency, fear, or our own prejudices. We must examine the issue in light of Scriptures and the call for justice, mercy, and grace.

As the Patriarch of the Charismatic Episcopal Church my call is an international call and not an national call. I am the Patriarch of dozens of national churches each facing their own unique set of issues. Some of the nations are involved in long term civil wars, others deal daily with thousands of refugees fleeing genocide or the rape of millions of women, some struggle with the issue of sex trade, slavery, and exploitation of children through kidnapping and forced service in the military. For many of our churches their ministry is to a people who live day to day merely to survive and have a meal or clean water. As the Patriarch I will refrain from making political statements for this reason. I encourage us as Christians to remain informed on the issue of legal immigration reform and illegal immigration. In all of this I remind us to seek the heart of God who is creator and father of all and remember that citizen, immigrant (legal or illegal), or refugee is created in His image not the image of a nation.

Under His mercy,
The Most Rev. Craig W. Bates,
Patriarch, ICCEC

Nun at St. Joseph's Hospital rebuked over abortion to save woman

A Catholic nun and longtime administrator of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix was reassigned in the wake of a decision to allow a pregnancy to be ended in order to save the life of a critically ill patient.
The decision also drew a sharp rebuke from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Phoenix Diocese, who indicated the woman was "automatically excommunicated" because of the action.

Neither the hospital nor the bishop's office would address whether the bishop had a direct role in her demotion. He does not have control of the hospital as a business but is the voice of moral authority over any Catholic institution operating in the diocese.

The actions involving the administrator, mostly taken within the past couple of weeks, followed a last-minute, life-or-death drama in late 2009. The patient had a rare and often fatal condition in which a pregnancy can cause the death of the mother.

Sister Margaret McBride, who had been vice president of mission integration at the hospital, was on call as a member of the hospital's ethics committee when the surgery took place, hospital officials said. She was part of a group of people, including the patient and doctors, who decided upon the course of action.

The patient was not identified, and details of her case cannot be revealed under federal privacy laws.

The Catholic Church forbids abortion in all circumstances and allows the termination of a pregnancy only as a secondary effect of other treatments, such as radiation of a cancerous uterus.

The hospital defended the ethics committee's decision.

In a statement, Suzanne Pfister, a hospital vice president, said that the facility adheres to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services but that the directives do not answer all questions.

"In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother's life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy," Pfister said.

Pfister issued the four-paragraph statement on behalf of the hospital, its parent company Catholic Healthcare West, and the Sisters of Mercy, McBride's religious order.

McBride was part of the discussion about the surgery, described as urgent. It involved a serious illness, pulmonary hypertension. The condition limits the ability of the heart and lungs to function and is made worse, possibly even fatal, by pregnancy.

In a statement issued to The Republic late Friday, the diocese confirmed that Olmsted learned of the case after the surgery.

"I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this diocese," Olmsted said. "I am further concerned by the hospital's statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother's underlying medical condition.

"An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother's life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means."

Olmsted added that if a Catholic "formally cooperates" in an abortion, he or she is automatically excommunicated.

Excommunication forbids the person from participating in church life. Remedies are available through an appeal to the Vatican or confession.

"The Catholic Church will continue to defend life and proclaim the evil of abortion without compromise, and must act to correct even her own members if they fail in this duty," the bishop said.

It is unknown whether the bishop took action against the others who were involved in the matter, and Pfister would not answer questions about the physicians involved in the surgery.

Neither Olmsted nor his spokesman at the Phoenix Diocese would answer additional questions.

Although Olmsted does not have direct control of the hospital, his authority as bishop over Catholic institutions is substantial. For one thing, religious orders work in the Valley at his invitation.

In an e-mail, Pfister said McBride has been transferred "to another position in the hospital to focus on a number of new strategic initiatives."

According to the medical directives that the hospital follows, abortion is defined as the directly intended termination of pregnancy, and it is not permitted under any circumstances - even to save the life of the mother.

On the other hand, a second directive says that "operations, treatments and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted . . . even if they will result in the death of the unborn child."

A letter sent Monday from Catholic Healthcare West, signed by Sister Judith Carle, board chairwoman, and President and CEO Lloyd Dean, asks Olmsted to provide further clarification about the directives. Agreeing that in a healthy mother, pregnancy is "not a pathology," it says this case was different. The pregnancy, the letter says, carried a nearly certain risk of death for the mother.

"If there had been a way to save the pregnancy and still prevent the death of the mother, we would have done it," the letter says. "We are convinced there was not."

James J. Walter, professor of bioethics at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, a Catholic university, said that is a tough argument to make. He said a pregnancy may be terminated only in limited, indirect circumstances, such as uterine cancer, in which the cancer treatment takes the life of the fetus.

Catholic teaching, he said, is that a pregnancy cannot be terminated as a means to an end of saving the life of a mother who is suffering from a different condition.

Asked if the church position prefers the mother and child to die, rather than sparing the life of one of them, Walters said the hope is that both would survive.

Not all faith groups see things the same way.

The Jewish tradition, the Mormon Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are among the groups that frown on abortion on demand but permit it when the life of the mother is at stake or if the mother is impregnated by rape or incest.

McBride declined to be interviewed. She was the highest-ranking member of the Sisters of Mercy at the hospital, which the order founded in 1895.

Vatican Hall of Shame

A Friend sent this to me and I found it quite humorous- Enjoy-

The scandals may be coming thick and strong from the Vatican at the moment, but the Church has always waged a losing battle with its own vice-ridden staff.

The problem was that transgressions from official policy often began at the top.

Fellow priests put one of the first popes, Sixtus III (432-40), on trial for seducing a nun. He was acquitted after quoting from Christ in his defense: “Let you who are without sin cast the first stone.”

In the centuries to follow, political skullduggery and a corrupt election process thrust one improbable candidate after another into the position as god-fearing believers looked on in impotent horror.

In fact, so many Vicars of Christ have been denounced as the “Worst Pope Ever” that we have to settle for a Top Ten list.

1. Sergius III (904-11), known by his cardinals as "the slave of every vice," came to power after murdering his predecessor.

He had a son with his teenage mistress — the prostitute Marozia, 30 years his junior — and their illegitimate son grew up to become the next pope.

With top Vatican jobs auctioned off like baubles, the papacy entered its “dark century.”

2. The 16-year-old John XII (955-64) was accused of sleeping with his two sisters and inventing a catalog of disgusting new sins.

Described by a church historian as “the very dregs,” he was killed at age 27 when the husband of one of his mistresses burst into his bedroom, discovered him in flagrante, and battered his skull in with a hammer.

3. Benedict IX, (1032-48) continually shocked even his most hardened cardinals by debauching young boys in the Lateran Palace.

Repenting of his sins, he actually abdicated to a monastery, only to change his mind and seize office again. He was “a wretch who feasted on immorality,” wrote Saint Peter Damian, “a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest.”

4. After massacring the entire population in the Italian town of Palestrina, Boniface VIII (1294-1303) indulged in ménages with a married woman and her daughter and became renowned through Rome as a shameless pedophile.

He famously declared that having sex with young boys was no more a sin than rubbing one hand against the other — which should make him the patron saint of Boston priests today.

The poet Dante reserved a place for him in the eighth circle of Hell.

5. All pretense at decorum was abandoned when the papacy moved to Avignon in southern France for 75 years. Bon vivant Clement VI (1342-52) was called “an ecclesiastical Dionysus” by the poet Petrarch for the number of mistresses and the severity of his gonorrhea.

Upon his death, 50 priests offered Mass for the repose of his soul for nine consecutive days, but French wits agreed that this was nowhere near enough.

6. Decamping back to Rome, the papacy hit its true low point in the Renaissance. (Church historian Eamon Duffy compares Rome to Nixon’s Washington, “a city of expense-account whores and political graft.”) Sixtus IV (1471-84), who funded the Sistine Chapel, had six illegitimate sons — one with his sister. He collected a Church tax on prostitutes and charged priests for keeping mistresses, but critics argued that this merely increased the prevalence of clerical homosexuality.

7. The rule of Innocent VIII (1484-92) is remembered as the Golden Age of Bastards: He acknowledged eight illegitimate sons and was known to have many more, although he found time between love affairs to start up the Inquisition. On his death bed, he ordered a comely wet nurse to supply him with milk fresh from the breast.

8. The vicious Rodrigo Borgia, who took the name Alexander VI (1492-1503), presided over more orgies than masses, wrote Edward Gibbon. A career highlight was the 1501 “Joust of the Whores,” when 50 dancers were invited to slowly strip around the pope’s table.

Alexander and his family gleefully threw chestnuts on the floor, forcing the women to grovel around their feet like swine; they then offered prizes of fine clothes and jewelry for the man who could fornicate with the most women.

Alexander’s other hobbies included watching horses copulate, which would make him “laugh fit to bust.”

After his death — quite possibly poisoned by his pathological son, Cesar Borgia — this pope’s body was expelled from the basilica of Saint Peter as too evil to be buried in sacred soil.

9. Julius II (1503-13) is remembered for commissioning Michelangelo to paint the Sistene Chapel’s ceiling. He was also the first pope to contract “the French disease,” syphilis, from Rome’s male prostitutes. On Good Friday of 1508, he was unable to allow his foot to be kissed by the faithful as it was completely covered with syphilitic sores.

10. Incurable romantic Julius III (1550-55) fell in love with a handsome young beggar boy he spotted brawling with a vendor’s monkey in the streets. The pope went on to appoint this illiterate 17-year-old urchin a cardinal, inspiring an epic poem, “In Praise of Sodomy,” probably written by a disgruntled archbishop in his honor.

Poisoned chalice? Swine flu hits church wine.

The archbishops of Canterbury and York are recommending that churches stop sharing the chalice at communion over swine flu fears, the Church of England said Thursday.

The Church of England's leaders are recommending parishoners don't share the chalice.

The archbishops wrote a letter to all Church of England bishops with the recommendation. It follows government advice not to share "common vessels" for food or drink so as not to spread the virus.

In the Anglican Church, worshippers commonly drink from the same chalice during communion. The chalice is wiped before the next person drinks from it.

For churches that still wish to offer both bread and wine, the archbishops recommend the priest dip communion wafers in the chalice before handing them out to those taking communion.

"The Department of Health have recently advised us that 'in a pandemic it makes good sense to take precautions to limit the spread of disease by not sharing common vessels for food and drink,'" the archbishops write in the letter.

"In the light of this advice, we recommend those presiding at Holy Communion suspend the administration of the chalice during this wave of pandemic flu. For those who still wish to offer in both kinds, we recommend the practice whereby the presiding minister, whose hands should have been washed with the appropriate alcohol-based rub before handling the elements and the vessels, personally intincts all wafers before placing them in the hands of communicants."

The archbishops note that this practice is widely observed in Anglican churches throughout Africa. "Communicants receiving in this way need to be confident that the clergy and all assistant ministers follow the relevant guidance on hygiene," they write.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Church, the second-largest Western Christian denomination after the Roman Catholic Church.