Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said at the fall meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops that Americans appear to be more divided than ever. DiNardo said that while the nation “seems more divided than ever…but our role continues to be witnessing to the Gospel.” He spoke to specific areas where Americans, including Catholics, differ. “Divisions over health care, conscience protections, immigration and refugees, taxes, abortion, physician assisted suicide, gender ideologies, the meaning of marriage, and all the other headlines continue to be hotly debated,” he said.

Cardinal DiNardo, who is the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, was elected last November for  a three year-term as president of the USCCB. When speaking about the bishops’ work on behalf of the unborn and immigrants, he received applause. “Our response must be civility and love. My friends, civility begins in the womb,” said DiNardo. “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?”

Linking the rights of the unborn to immigrants, DiNardo said, “We join our Holy Father in declaring that a pro-life immigration policy is one that does not tear families apart; it protects families. Such a policy includes an equitable path to legal protection.”

 DiNardo urged Congress to pass immigration reform and protections for the country's 800,000 so-called DREAMers -- young adults who have been protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program put in place by Barack Obama. In September, President Donald Trump called for an end to the program, calling on Congress to resolve the situation of young adults who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors. While acknowledging that the U.S. has the right to defend its borders, DiNardo reminded the country's leaders that it should be done humanely. "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.

DiNardo said that racism is a growing challenge. "In 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. DiNardo called for a "bold national dialogue ... a frank and honest commitment to address the root causes of racism."

"Americans 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," DiNardo said.

Moving on to political violence, he spoke about the events of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Las Vegas, Nevada. Regarding Second Amendment rights, the churchman echoed his fellow bishops’ recent plea for gun control. “The time is long past due to end the madness of outrageous weapons - be they stockpiled on a continent or in a hotel room,” he said. 

At a later press conference, DiNardo what he called his conference’s “common sense” approach to guns and its desire to ban “juiced up” weapons.

On the issue of spreading the Catholic faith, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, reflected on Pope Francis’s recent remarks to the bishops of Latin America in which the pontiff called on them to exhibit “the passion of evangelization.”

“What are we as bishops truly passionate about?,” asked Pierre. The archbishop proposed:  “our youth; the mission of evangelization; and the Lord Himself.” He called on the assembled bishops to make the Catholic faith attractive to young people. “The beauty of Catholicism - in art, architecture, music, and in its liturgical, spiritual and intellectual tradition - cannot be hidden but must be re-proposed,” said Pierre. Strong leadership, said Pierre, regarding issues such as the events of Charlottesville, is part of offering a witness to the faith. “Your strong leadership sends a message to a young people of a Church that is prophetic and filled with good-hearted people of every race and tribe!” said Pierre.



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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