Wednesday, August 03, 2011


As the 129th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus opened with a bang on several fronts yesterday, here's a quick recap of the lead session's big news:
  • In the traditional papal message to the gathering -- during whose reading, according to longtime KofC custom, all present stand -- Benedict XVI said that the order's "clear and courageous moral witness is all the more necessary in the light of a proliferation of legislative initiatives which not only undermine such basic institutions of society as marriage and the family, but also threaten the fundamental human rights of conscientious objection and religious freedom." Given the note's date of 8 July, the line can be seen as, albeit implicitly, a first Vatican comment on late June's passage of same-sex marriage in New York state. In the message -- signed by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB (who previewed B16's 2008 US trip at the Knights' 2007 convention in Nashville) the pontiff called the 1.8 million-member group "to renew and reinforce its praiseworthy programs of catechesis and continuing formation in the faith and in the principles of Christian morality, so that each Knight can be prepared to offer a reasonable account of his deepest convictions."
  • Second, in a development foreseen on Page Three late Monday, the KofC settled one of American Catholicism's most long-standing quandaries as Supreme Knight Carl Anderson announced the order's purchase of the long-beleaguered Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington to serve as a "national center and shrine" to the now-Blessed pontiff, and to "establish a new museum [there] to celebrate the 500-year Catholic heritage of North America." Built at a cost of some $40 million, much of it donated or loaned by Detroit's retired Cardinal Adam Maida as a tribute to his Polish countryman, the 100,000 square-foot museum and meeting-space has mostly fallen on hard times since its early 2001 opening, suffering from a combination of factors ranging from economic and tourism downturns, to a hard-to-reach location and lacking set-up. Over the years since, the center has become best known as the site of the Pope's 2008 speech to national interfaith leaders and, above all, as the DC studios of EWTN and home to the network's weekly news-show, The World Over; a planned bid for the building by Michigan's rapidly-growing Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist fell through earlier this year. While the Detroit church's investment in the facility eventually rose to $54 million -- including a monthly $60,000 in maintenance costs -- the final sale price will only see Detroit recoup $20 million (in other words, still taking a $34 million loss). Regardless, Motor City Archbishop Allen Vigneron's first reaction to the move was "relief."
  • And lastly, providing an assist on a key pastoral concern for the tending of the 1.5 million American Catholics in uniform, the knights announced an initiative to boost the chaplain corps of the US Armed Services, providing dedicated scholarships for seminarians who pledge to minister in the archdiocese for the Military Services alongside a territorial local church. Particularly given the strains of service and, to a notable degree, the disproportionately young age of his flock, AMS Archbishop Timothy Broglio has frequently pleaded with his confreres to lend reinforcements to the chaplain ranks -- while the Military church estimates a need for some 800 chaplains across the branches to cover its bases, the corps currently numbers 280.
The "strong right arm of the church," Anderson said that in 2010, the KofC and its membership provided some $155 million in charitable donations, and a record 70 million hours of volunteer service.

Among the order's contributions on the global level was a roving TV production truck given to the Holy See for the broadcasting of Vatican events in high-definition. The gift's efforts are likewise utilized in the Vatican's recently-released video player, which streams the coverage online and allows for later viewing on-demand.

Opening Day closed with the traditional States Dinner, this year's keynote given by the church's Wisconsin-born "chief justice," Cardinal Raymond Burke.

All that said, there is the proverbial "one more thing" of note out of Denver... and it's not even the distinct likelihood of a Phils sweep of the Rockies in a bit.

As it takes a bit of backstory to set up, though, the donors might want to keep an eye on your mail over the next couple days... the thanks is beyond overdue, and this one's something you'll enjoy.

SVILUPPO: Just as an update, two key interventions from today's sessions -- a homily at today's large Mass from Galveston-Houston's Cardinal Daniel DiNardo... and in another expression of a heavily amped-up push on immigration as he reaches six months at the helm of the nation's largest local church, a talk on the hot-button issue this afternoon from Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles:
I know this issue is hard for people — including many people who are trying to be good Catholics.

I am not a politician. I am a pastor of souls — and an American citizen. That is my perspective on these issues.

As pastor of the largest Catholic community in the United States, I am deeply affected by our nation’s immigration policy crisis.

Historically, the Catholic Church has always been a Church of immigrants — just as America has always been a nation of immigrants.

American Catholics form one spiritual family drawn from some 60 ethnic and national groups from every continent. In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, ministry and worship is conducted in 42 languages.

About 70 percent of the flock I minister to is Hispanic. And Los Angeles is not exception — but a sign of the future.

More than one-third of Catholics in America today are of Latino descent — and that number is growing.

Hispanics accounted for almost 60 percent of our population growth in the last ten years. They now make up 16 percent of the U.S. population. Nearly one-quarter of all American children age 17 and under are Hispanic.

So immigration policy, especially as it relates to Latino immigration, is of deep concern to us as Catholics and as citizens.

The Church’s perspective on these issues is rooted in Jesus Christ’s teaching that every human person is created in God’s image and has God-given dignity and rights.
From a Catholic standpoint, America’s founders got it exactly right. Human rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are universal and inalienable. They come from God, not governments. And these rights are not contingent on where you are born or what racial or ethnic group you are born into.

The human right to life, the foundation of every other right, implies the natural right to emigrate. Because in order for you and your family to live a life worthy of your God-given dignity, certain things are required. At minimum: food, shelter, clothing, and the means to make a decent living.

If you and your family are unable to secure life’s necessities in your home country – due to political instability, economic distress, religious persecution, or other conditions that offend basic human dignity — you must be free to seek these things in another country.

In Catholic thinking, the right to immigration is a “natural right.” That means it is universal and inalienable. But it is not absolute. Immigrants are obliged to respect and abide by the laws and traditions of the countries they come to reside in.

Catholic teaching also recognizes the sovereignty of nations to secure their borders and make decisions about who and how many foreigners they allow into their countries.

Our government has the duty to consider immigration’s impact on the domestic economy and our national security.

However, we must always make sure that we are not exaggerating these concerns in ways that deny the basic humanitarian needs of good people seeking refuge in our country.

These Catholic principles are consistent with America’s founding ideals. They are also consistent with America’s proud legacy as one nation under God made up from many peoples of all races and creeds.

Based on these principles the American bishops support comprehensive immigration policy reform that protects the integrity of our national borders and provides undocumented immigrants the opportunity to earn permanent residency and eventual citizenship.

So the political issue is basically this: How can we find a way to accept these newcomers and balance that with the need for our nation to protect our borders, to control the flow of immigrants, and to keep track of who is living within our borders?
But the important thing for us is to approach these political issues — not as Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives — but as Catholics.

And as Catholics, we should be alarmed by the human toll of our failure to fix our broken immigration system....

America has always been a nation of justice and law. But as Americans we have also always been a people of generosity, mercy and forgiveness. Unfortunately, our nation’s current response to illegal immigration is not worthy of our national character.

My point is simple: We need to find a better way to make immigration policy and enforce it.

And in this policy debate, Catholics have a special place.

Because Catholics — especially — bear the truth about all Americans. Namely, that we are all children of immigrants.

If we trace the genealogies of everyone in this room today, they will lead us out beyond our borders to some foreign land where each of our ancestors originally came from. In my personal case, the first members of my family came to what now is Texas in 1805.

Our inheritance comes to us now as a gift and as a duty. At the least, it means we should have some empathy for this new generation of immigrants.

For Christians, empathy means seeing Jesus Christ in every person and especially in the poor and the vulnerable.

And we need to remember, my friends: Jesus was uncompromising on this point.

In the evening of our lives, he told us, our love for God will be judged by our love for him in the person of the least among us. This includes, he said, the immigrant or the stranger.

Very few people “choose” to leave their homelands. Emigration is almost always forced upon people by the dire conditions they face in their lives.

Most of the men and women who are here illegally have traveled hundreds even thousands of miles. They have left everything behind, risked their safety and even their lives. They did this, not for their own comfort or selfish needs. They did this to feed their loved ones. To be good mothers and fathers. To be loving sons and daughters.
...given the context, if that's not a "Kaboom" talk, nothing is.

PHOTOS: Knights of Columbus