Civility must guide debate on social challenges, USCCB president says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

(CNS) — Acknowledging wide divisions in the country over issues such as health
care, immigration reform, taxes and abortion, the president of the U.S. Conference
of Catholic Bishops called for civility to return to the public debate.

challenges are great, but that they can be addressed without anger and with
love Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said in his first address
as USCCB president during the bishops’ fall general assembly.

are facing a time that seems more divided than ever,” Cardinal DiNardo said.
“Divisions over health care, conscience protections, immigration and
refugees, abortion, physician-assisted suicide, gender ideologies, the meaning
of marriage and all the other headlines continue to be hotly debated. But our
role continues to be witnessing the Gospel.”

explained that the National Catholic War Council, created by the U.S. bishops in
1917 in the response to the world refugee crisis that emerged from World War I
and the forerunner to the USCCB, was formed to address great national and
international needs at a time not unlike today.

He said the
history of the American Catholic Church is full of examples of the work of “holy
men and women” responding to social challenges. He particularly mentioned Capuchin
Franciscan Father Solanus Casey, who ministered alongside homeless and poor
people in Detroit and who will be beatified Nov. 18.

history of Christianity is also the story of reconciliation. In 2017, we mark
the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Begun as a moment of painful
division, it stands as a journey toward healing, from conflict to communion,”
Cardinal DiNardo said.

He continued,
“Civility begins in the womb. If we cannot come to love and protect innocent
life from the moment God creates it, how can we properly care for each other as
we come of age? Or when we come to old age?”

cardinal lamented that abortion continues despite the existence of alternatives
to save the life of unborn children.

DiNardo also laid out several policy stances for the country to pursue.

He said
hospitals and health care workers “deserve conscience protections so they
never have to participate in the taking of a human life.”

cardinal called for “good and affordable health care” for poor people
and action to address the country’s opioid abuse epidemic.

applause, Cardinal DiNardo urged lawmakers to enact comprehensive immigration
reform and protections for the country’s 800,000 young adults who have been protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Donald Trump in September called for an end to the program, handing off the
solution to the immigration status of young adults brought to this country illegally as children to Congress and giving the lawmakers
a six-month window to act.

that a country has the right to defend its borders, Cardinal DiNardo reminded
the country’s leaders that it should be done in a humane way.

“We join
our Holy Father in declaring that a pro-life immigration policy is one that
does not tear families apart, it protects families,” he said.

too, has risen to become a major challenge for the country, the USCCB president

our towns and in our cities, as civility ebbs, we have seen bolder expressions
of racism, with some taking pride in this grave sin. Sometimes it is shocking
and violent, such as in Charlottesville (Virginia, in August). More often it is
subtle and systematic. But racism always destroys lives and it has no place in
the Christian heart,” he said.

The cardinal
called for a “bold national dialogue … a frank and honest commitment to
address the root causes of racism.”

don’t like to talk about it. Nonetheless, it is time to act. Our common
humanity demands it of us. Jesus demands it of us,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

He discussed
the work of Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the bishops’ new
Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. The committee will meet with people throughout
the country to learn how the best can best respond “in ending this
evil,” he added.

Beyond such
challenges, Cardinal DiNardo said, society has had to respond to a series of
natural disasters including hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the
U.S. Virgin Islands, wildfires in California and earthquakes in Mexico.

tragedies have brought the church in America together, he said, “and has
reminded me of how wonderful the gifts of faith, hope and love truly are.”

“We need to constantly
put forward these virtues, especially in light of violence from what is a long
and growing list of mass shootings in our schools, offices, churches and place
of recreation,” he explained.

“The time
is long past due to end the madness of outrageous weapons, be they stockpiled
on a continent or in a hotel room,” the cardinal said.

DiNardo said the love of Jesus is “stronger than all the challenges

brothers, let us follow our Holy Father ever more closely, going forth to be
with our people in every circumstance of pastoral life. Drawing strength and
wisdom from these past hundred years, let us sound our hands and voices
joyfully. And let us always remind our people, and ourselves, that with God,
all things are possible.”

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Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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