Archbishop Leonard P. Blair affirms the January 27 statement made in Washington, D.C., by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that the bishops “believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion … welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope.”
The social teaching of the Catholic Church has long given consideration to the issue of immigration based on fundamental moral principles that flow from both faith and reason.
“What are some of those principles?” Archbishop Blair asked in an article published in 2014, “For one,” he wrote, “people have a right to a decent life in their own homeland so that they don’t have to leave; but if that fails, people also have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families, just as so many of our ancestors did. Another principle is the rule of law and the right that sovereign nations like the United States have to control their own borders, but this does not abolish the duty every country has not only to grant asylum to the persecuted and to war refugees, but also to respect the basic human dignity and human rights of every immigrant… As good Catholics and good citizens, let us make a positive, informed and morally principled contribution to the national debate.”
I am writing this second reflection while attending a semi-annual meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. All the lives lost and people senselessly injured in Orlando as a result of terrorist brutality is central to our conversations about the pastoral care and spiritual leadership we as bishops need to exercise as part of our ministry.
No matter what one’s religious or political beliefs may be, senseless hatred, rage and bloodshed are more than most of us can process – psychologically, emotionally and spiritually, especially since the Orlando massacre follows other murderous rampages in Paris, Mumbai, London, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino and beyond.
Many people are asking: What does faith have to say about this? What is an appropriate response? How are we to show mercy and live by “fraternal love” in the face of such a hateful and violent assault on human life? The overriding faith question, though, is this: What do mercy and forgiveness mean in the wake of terrorism?
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, proclaimed by Pope Francis, we recall Christ’s command to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). However, the call to forgive is certainly not easy to fulfill, especially in the face of the “worst mass shooting in U.S. history.” Only faith in God can free us to have the will to forgive despite our feelings. Why? Because faith teaches us that God is both infinitely just and infinitely merciful. One does not negate the other. Right now, we cannot comprehend how the two can be reconciled. It will only be given to us to understand in eternity. Hence the need for faith, just as the apostles needed faith on Good Friday while they were still clueless about Easter Sunday.
I am heartened and inspired by the outpouring of compassion, generosity and courage that is shown far and wide after acts of terrorism. The swiftness of security and emergency first-responders, the blood donors standing in mile-long lines, people supporting victims and their families, those offering their prayers worldwide are all emblematic of human solidarity and goodness in the face of evil.
Mark Twain once described forgiveness as the “fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” The fragrance of our prayers rising up to God as a result of hatred is rightly offered for the repose of the souls of those who have died and for the living who bear the wounds of personal loss and grief. But, if we are to be true to Christ and his words, we must also pray for those who have committed such horrific crimes. We must pray for all who seek their ends by violence and terror, imploring our Heavenly Father that they have a conversion of heart and come to know the value and sanctity of human life.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).
From the Most Reverend Leonard P. Blair, Archbishop of Hartford (June 12, 2016 – 9:07 p.m.)
I sadly write this reflection on the Lord’s Day. It is a day when Orlando’s death toll is reported to be 50 people and another 53 people are said to be seriously wounded. These victims are young people who died brutally at the hand of a 29-year-old, heavily armed gunman identified as a U.S. citizen who authorities say pledged allegiance to ISIS and mentioned the Boston Marathon bombers before he died in a hail of gunfire.
How do we as Christians respond to such murderous hate and the carnage of terrorism – to what is being described as the most deadly mass shooting in U.S. history?
First, let us pray for those who died tragically, and for their families now grieving and struggling with emotions ranging from shock to outrage to fear. Let us also send our loving prayers to those who have been physically and emotionally injured, acknowledging the security and medical professionals who helped in their rescue and who are currently administering care.
As Catholics, we firmly believe that acts of terrorism and violence never serve to honor God.
Instead, we praise our heavenly Father and all of humanity whenever we chose to remain faithful, loving agents of peace. Even as we do what is necessary to defend ourselves and others, we have to recall Our Lord’s words: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
As an archdiocesan family of faith, we call upon our bond of humanity to help raise Orlando up from abject suffering to God’s unconditional love and mercy. We grieve with you and hold dear in our hearts the precious lives that have been senselessly lost, as we pray for the recovery of those who survived today’s massacre.
Statement from Archbishop Leonard P. Blair (November 20, 2015)
The new film “Spotlight” recounts a deeply painful and pivotal chapter in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States, when in 2002 the Boston Globe investigated and reported on sexual abuse by clergy and the failures of Bishops in the face of such reprehensible acts.
We recognize the important role of the journalists who brought this issue to light. It prompted a call-to-action, leading to major Church reforms and meaningful change. We also acknowledge the scores of people at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and others who worked diligently with the Bishops to create the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, published in June 2002.
Since the inception of the Charter 14 years ago, the Archdiocese of Hartford has remained true to its principles. The Archdiocese has developed and upheld a culture of “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse, with clearly defined legal and pastoral consequences for offenders should abuse of any form take place.
Our overriding goal is to create a safe, protective environment for children, young people and others who might be vulnerable. This goal is supported by mandatory background checks for all personnel who come in contact with a minor or vulnerable adult. To ensure that the Charter and its conduct codes are followed, we willingly comply with an annual audit overseen by an independent, unbiased entity. Additionally, we require sexual abuse awareness training for all Archdiocesan employees, as well as those who teach Catholic school or a parish religious formation program. We thank the many clergy, lay faithful, religious and professionals involved in developing and implementing training. The Archdiocese of Hartford welcomes Pope Francis’ Papal Commission, which the Holy Father created in 2014 to advise him on additional reform measures.
The Catholic Church has asked, and continues to ask, for forgiveness from those whose sacred trust was violated through the crime of sexual abuse of minors, and who have endured emotional and physical pain because adequate safeguards were not in place or not enforced. The Church is profoundly sorry for the damage that was wrought on young people and their families.
More information about the protocols and programs run by the Archdiocese of Hartford to protect the faithful and promote healing and reconciliation may be found through the Office of Safe Environment.
From the Most Reverend Leonard P. Blair, (November 18, 2015)
Archbishop of Hartford
I write this reflection as Paris’ death toll nears 130 people – mostly young concert-goers, soccer fans and Parisians who thought they were going to enjoy Friday night out. Instead, they died as innocent victims at the hands of militant extremists, and France experienced the deadliest violence to strike the country since World War II, or what some journalists have called France’s version of 9/11.
How does the world make sense of the atrocities when the ‘City of Light’ faces such darkness? Moreover, how do we as Christians respond to the murderous hate and hideous carnage of terrorism?
First, let us pray for our brothers and sisters who died senselessly and tragically, and for their families now grieving and grappling with emotions ranging from sorrow to anger to fear. Let us send our loving light to those who have been physically injured and acknowledge the medical professionals who helped in their rescue and care. Let’s include in our intercessions prayers for all those around the world who are the victims of terrorism, violence and religious persecution.
As Catholics we firmly believe that acts of terrorism and violence never serve to praise God.
We honor our heavenly Father and each other whenever we choose to remain faithful, loving agents of peace. Even as we do what is necessary to defend ourselves and others, we have to remember Our Lord’s words: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” And we certainly cannot judge all refugees from Syria, who are themselves the victims of terror, on the basis of some individual acts.
As an Archdiocesan family of faith, may we call upon the bond of humanity and help raise Paris up to the Light of God’s unconditional love and mercy. To the people of France, please know that we mourn with you and hold dear the lives lost from many countries, including our own.
Archbishop Blair, who is currently attending the annual November meeting of the U.S. Bishops and who is a member of its Administrative Committee, has directed that the following statement be issued on his behalf and that of the whole Administrative Committee:
A Statement of Solidarity from the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Terror always seeks to separate us from those we most love. Through their suffering, courage and compassion, Parisians are reminding us that the common bond of humanity is strongest when the need is greatest. We pledge our prayers for everyone who suffers from this horrific violence and our advocacy to support all those working to build just and peaceful societies.
To the people of France, we mourn with you and honor the lives lost from several nations, including our own. To our brothers and sisters in the Church in France, your family in the United States holds you close to our hearts. May the tender and merciful love of Jesus Christ give you comfort during this great trial and lead you on a path toward healing and peace.
“Today Pope Francis made public a document regarding a reform of the marriage nullity process of the Church, called 'Lord Jesus, Clement Judge.' At present, no official English translation has been issued but rather the document is currently found in Latin and Italian. Further detailed study will, of course, be necessary. At this stage, however, it can be said that the document makes procedural changes to the marriage nullity process, and seeks to complement the Church’s current norms, not eliminate or completely replace them. Pope Francis’ general emphasis is to ensure all those seeking such a declaration that they are provided a timely hearing and not subject to undue delays or financial burdens. It does not seek to relax the actual reasons for which marriages are declared invalid, and thus to make for “easy annulments.” In fact, it calls for ecclesiastical judges to be certain that reconciliation of the parties is impossible before entertaining a request for nullity. The changes thus generally aim to expedite the processing of these requests, simplify the legal demands, and ensure that the Church’s Tribunals are readily available for approach by interested parties. Pope Francis states in the Introduction, “In full harmony with this desire I have decided to introduce… provisions that favour not the nullity of marriage but rather the speed of processes, along with the appropriate simplicity, so that the heart of the faithful who await clarification of their status is not long oppressed by the darkness of doubt due to the lengthy wait for a conclusion.” It can be noted that some of these norms are already practiced in United States Tribunals.
In regard to the changes, one of the most significant is that the present need for two decisions by two separate Church courts in order for an annulment to be granted is no longer necessary; the decision of one diocesan Church court is now sufficient. A second significant change involves the introduction of a briefer procedure, in which a full judicial process is not necessary when certain conditions are present. In addition, Bishops of the Church are encouraged to be more involved in these cases, including serving as judges themselves. The development or enhancement of methods to assist persons in submitting such cases is also called for.”