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In Ireland, Catholic group warns of housing discrimination against migrants

Dublin, Ireland, Aug 15, 2019 / 05:29 pm (CNA).- A representative from an Irish Catholic charity has warned that discrimination against immigrants in the private housing market has forced more people to pursue public housing.

The housing market in Ireland is “unbelievably difficult” for immigrants, said Danielle McLaughlin, a policy officer for Crosscare, a Catholic charity which aids the homeless.

McLaughlin said many immigrants face discrimination in the rental market and workplace, according to RTÉ News. She also said they receive lower wages because of a lack of language proficiency and qualifications.

Many immigrants have encountered a poor quality of accommodation or exploitation efforts by a landlord, she said.

“We have huge numbers coming to us with notices to quit. They are more susceptible to exploitation or not knowing their rights,” said McLaughlin, according to RTÉ News.

She cited two reports - one from the Economic and Social Research Institute and another from the Dublin City Council. The first report found that African immigrants suffered discrimination in the workplace. The other report determined that migrants had a greater chance of becoming homeless than those who were not migrants.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive reported that last March, 2,704 migrants applied for social housing in Ireland.

It also found that, while the total number of applicants on a waiting list for social housing dropped 12% since 2016, the number of immigrant applications have increased by 45%.

For the 2016 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, then-Bishop John Buckley of Cork and Ross expressed gratitude for the contribution immigrants have offered to Ireland. He encouraged parishioners to welcome migrants and refugees, who may have already faced numerous hardships, including hunger and displacement.

“Some will be coming to this country and they are hoping that Ireland will be a place where they are safe and can begin the process of rebuilding their lives,” he wrote.

“It is important that the local church be at the forefront of efforts to welcome them.”

 

After Epstein death, theologians discuss suicide, salvation, and the obligations of the state

Denver, Colo., Aug 15, 2019 / 05:03 pm (CNA).- On August 10, investment banker and multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his jail cell, in what officials have called an apparent suicide.

Epstein, already a convicted sex offender, was awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges, including one count of sex trafficking of a minor and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. He had pled not guilty to both.

Following his death, theories about how Epstein died abound.

The well-connected Epstein, who counted princes and presidents and other elites among his associates, might have exposed the crimes of powerful friends at trial, and the risk of that exposure, some speculate, could have prompted an assassination.

Epstein had been taken off of suicide watch just 12 days prior to his death. According to a report in the New York Times, two guards who were supposed to check on Epstein every 30 minutes fell asleep for three hours and fudged the records of their rounds in an attempt to cover their mistake. They have since been removed from their posts at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, where Epstein was being held.

An autopsy of Epstein has so far raised more questions than answers.

Whether or not Epstein committed suicide remains to be confirmed. But federal data shows that suicide rates in the U.S. are at the highest they’ve been since World War II, and even higher than they were during the Great Depression, according to a report from TIME magazine.

The Catholic Church teaches that suicide is a violation of the 5th commandment “Thou Shall Not Kill,” and a mortal sin.

CNA spoke with three moral theologians about suicide, on the hope for salvation that the Church holds for those who take their lives, and the obligations of the state to protect prisoners from themselves.

Grave matter and mortal sin

David Cloutier is a moral theologian and associate professor of theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Cloutier told CNA that when considering suicide, it is important to remember that it is taught by the Church to be a grave sin.

“(That) means all things considered, this is a serious matter, and to make a choice against life is to choose against God, who gives everyone the gift of life, and to also choose against your obligations to others,” Cloutier told CNA.

In a section on suicide, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that God is the master of life, and that human beings “are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of. Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life.”

The Catechism adds that suicide “unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.”

While suicide is grave matter, the Catechism also notes that in order for a person to commit a mortal sin, three conditions must be a met: that the sin is grave matter, and that the person commits the sin with “full knowledge and deliberate consent.”

There could be mitigating factors, such as mental illness or some other kind of great distress, that might relieve a person of at least some culpability in committing suicide, Cloutier said.


The hope for salvation

Even given the gravity of suicide, Christians should always hope in the love and mercy of God in cases of suicide, Scott Hefelfinger, a moral theologian and assistant professor of theology at the Augustine Institute in Denver, told CNA.

“If we lose all hope with respect to this person's salvation, we could in fact be sort of repeating the same emotional disposition of despair that afflicted the person who did commit suicide. So we're counseled to hope rather than despair,” he said.

“We put our trust in God's mercy.”

Furthermore, Cloutier said, the Catechism itself is “pretty straightforward” in saying that those who commit suicide are not necessarily denied eternal salvatinon, because the state of their mind and soul at the time of committing the act is a factor.

If the person was in “some kind of emotional stress, or depression, or other various ways in which a person’s emotions get in the way of fully knowing what they’re doing,” their responsibility is at least somewhat mitigated, he said.

Fr. Edward Krasevac, OP, is a professor of theology, and the theology department chair at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California.

Krasevac said that because the will to live is such a basic human instinct, it seems possible that many cases of suicide are committed by people who are influenced by serious clinical depression or other mental illnesses or psychological factors that would impair their judgment and mitigate to at least some degree the consent of their will.

“People who are clinically depressed don’t think straight, they can’t think straight,” Krasevac said.

He added there could be other mitigating factors in a person’s life, such as fear of the pain of death, or the fear of what is going to happen to them if they stay alive, such as a person “facing the rest of their life in not a good prison situation, losing everything they ever had, not being able to deal with life in prison...these are what we call modifiers of responsibility.”

“So in many cases of suicide, a person's responsibility is seriously diminished,” he said. “[In such a case] it's not subjectively mortal sin even though it may look like it from the outside and it is objectively a mortal sin.”

Another reason to hope is that a person could have repented of their actions in the moments before their death, Hefelfinger noted.

“In the case of someone who, let's say is culpable of the act of suicide, and they begin this process. Well, usually there's some suffering involved, and usually death doesn't come about instantaneously,” he said.

“And so, God's mercy doesn't need a very wide crack to get through. I think there are always these opportunities prior to death, in the split second before death, where we certainly do not want to rule out the possibility of God's mercy,” he said. 

“And again, we say this without in any way diminishing the gravity of the act. It's the gravity of the act that makes us lean on God's mercy so much, so we turn our attention to that and pray for that so greatly.”

The state and the suicidal person

The Catholic Church teaches that states have a duty to uphold the common good of society, and although the Catechism does not specifically express what a state should do in the case of a suicidal person, Cloutier said the state has several interests in preventing the suicide of people in prison.

“The reason the state wants to avoid suicide is because it wants to allow the prisoner a fair, public trial, which is in the public interest,” he said.

“It’s in the interest of the prisoner, because then he might be found innocent, and it’s in the interest of the public, because if the prisoner is found guilty through this, then the prisoner is subjected to appropriate punishment,” he added.

“So the state...has an interest in the person going through the justice system.”

In upholding the common good, the state also has an interest in keeping prisoners alive, Cloutier said. “This is why we have suicide watch. It is also the case that in our society, we generally believe that anyone who is suicidal should be prevented from taking their own life,” he said.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in prison. According to recent data from the U.S. Department of Justice, 372 suicides occurred in 3,000 federal prisons in 2014. This number is 2.5 times higher than suicide rates in state prisons and 3.5 times higher than in general society.

In the case of someone like Epstein, who was at one point known to be suicidal, the state assumes the responsibility for that person’s mental health while they are in prison, and therefore cut off from other communities of support, Hefelfinger added.

“(Prisoners) typically don't have access to those more closely knit communities,” he said. “And so there is a moral responsibility, it would seem, for the state and for those running these facilities to attend to the mental health of those folks who are in these institutions.”

The investigation of Epstein’s death is ongoing.

If you are feeling suicidal, contact the National suicide preention lifeline at: 1-800-273-8255 or text CONNECT to 741741 to be connected to a crisis counselor in the United States.

International scholars express concerns about John Paul II Institute

Vatican City, Aug 15, 2019 / 04:17 pm (CNA).- A group of 49 academics from universities around the world has asked the administrators of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Rome to reinstate several faculty members recently dismissed from the institute.

Contributors to the recently completed Dizionario su Sesso, Amore e Fecondità, an interdisciplinary academic tome on sex, love, and fertility, expressed their view in an Aug. 3 letter to administrators of the institute.

The project, which involved scholars from multiple specializations, was coordinated by recently dismissed John Paul II Institute professor Fr. Jose Noriega.

The scholars said that their work on the project was “a very fruitful and professional scientific collaboration which has highlighted to us the outstanding academic profile of your institute as well as the great scientific and editorial competence of the main curator of the Dizionario, Professor José Noriega.”

“It is therefore with great distress that we learned the news about the sudden dismissals of two full professors, José Noriega and Livio Melina, together with other colleagues: Maria Luisa Di Pietro, Stanisław Grygiel, Monika Grygiel, Przemysław Kwiatkowski, and Vittorina Marini. All of them are scholars of outstanding international reputation and some of them have equally collaborated with us at the Dizionario,” they wrote.

“We cannot see any convincing reason – academic, doctrinal or disciplinary – which justifies their dismissal.”

“If your institute wants to maintain its high academic profile and international reputation, we ask you to revoke these dismissals and to reassume the aforementioned scholars among the faculty of your Institute,” the scholars concluded.

The letter comes during a period of controversy at the institute.

Last month, new statutes were approved for the institute, in response to a 2017 announcement that Pope Francis would legally refound the Institute, and broaden its academic curriculum, from a focus on the theology of marriage and the family to an approach that will also include the study of the family from the perspective of the social sciences.

After the new statutes designed to implement that vision were approved, students, alumni, and faculty raised concerns about the role of faculty members in the institute’s new governing structure, about the reduction of theology courses and the elimination of some theology disciplines, and about the dismissal of some faculty members, including Msgr. Livio Melina and Noriega.

Faculty members have told CNA they do not object to the pope’s desire to expand the school’s mission or approach, but say that the administrators responsible for implementing that mission have acted unfairly.

More than 250 students and alumni of Rome’s John Paul II Institute have signed a letter expressing their concern about the school’s new statutes, and the dismissal of Noriega and Melina. The letter expresses concern that current students will not be able to complete the academic programs in which they are currently enrolled, and the faculty dismissals have taken place without due process.

On July 31, Fr. Jose Granados, the Institute’s vice-president, told CNA that “the identity of the Institute is seriously threatened,” and called for administrators to resume discussion with faculty members about the approach to implementing Pope Francis’ call for an expansion of the school’s approach.

Earlier in July, the Institute’s president, Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, told Vatican News that that although some students have raised concerns about the Institute's direction, others “have already written expressing confidence in the renewal and expansion of research and training in theological-pastoral and anthropological-cultural fields,” at the Institute.

Sequeri lamented the controversy surrounding changes to the Institute’s identity.

“The polemics, more or less malicious, that in this regard, try to involve the many students that look with trust to the project of a truly 'Catholic' knowledge and formation, obviously cultivate other interests. They are not the ones of John Paul II, not the ones of Pope Francis, not the ones of the Institute."

Among the signatories to the letter are John Crosby, a professor of philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville; Ignacio de Ribera-Martin, an assistant professor at the School of Philosophy of the Catholic University of America; and Tracey Rowland, the St John Paul II Research Chair in Theology at Australia’s University of Notre Dame, Australia and member of the International Theological Commission.
 

 

 

 

Labor Department rule aims to widen religious freedom protection for employers

Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Department of Labor announced Wednesday that it is considering a new rule that would allow federal contractors who identify as religious to hire employees based on faith and religious practice.

The new policy would expand a Johnson-era executive order protecting the rights of religious employers with federal government contracts to hire from within their religious group. 

The new proposal was announced Aug. 14. The Department of Labor said the new policy “clarifies the scope and applications of the religious exemption contained in section 204(c) of Executive Order 11246.”  

Executive Order 11246 forbids federal contractors from engaging in discriminatory hiring on the basis “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” An exemption for religious-based employers allowed them legally to hire only people of a certain faith if they so choose, but the executive order did not fully define as to what “religious-based” meant. 

The proposed new rule takes steps to better define the term, saying that the “religious exemption covers not just churches but employers that are organized for a religious purpose, hold themselves out to the public as carrying out a religious purpose, and engage in exercise of religion consistent with, and in furtherance of, a religious purpose.” 

The new definition also includes companies that claim to be religious “in response to inquiries from a member of the public or a government entity.” 

Additionally, the new rule states that “employers can condition employment on acceptance of or adherence to religious tenets without sanction by the federal government,” meaning that a federal contractor can make hiring decisions based upon how devoutly an employee practices a certain religious faith. 

All companies are still barred from discriminating on other grounds. 

The Department of Labor cited recent Supreme Court cases, including Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Hobby Lobby v. Burwell as having underscored constitutional religious freedom protections.

Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella said in a released statement that “As people of faith with deeply held religious beliefs are making decisions on whether to participate in federal contracting, they deserve [a] clear understanding of their obligations and protections under the law.” 

About a quarter of workers in the United States are employed by a company that is contracted with the federal government. 

LGBT-rights activist groups like the Human Rights Campaign, who called the change a “license to discriminate,” came out strongly against the policy shift.

Louise Melling, acting deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union told a press call that the rule was “just the most recent in an ever-lengthening list of actions by this administration to authorize discrimination in name of religion.”

The White House responded to the criticism in a statement Wednesday, saying “In no way does today’s announcement by the Department of Labor undermine the President’s promise and commitment to the LGBTQ community.” 

“The proposed rule will continue to responsibly protect religious freedom and members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination,” the statement said.

While some activist groups have criticized the new rule as a license for widespread discrimination, Luke Goodrich, senior counsel and vice president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told CNA that he believes the policy is a far from controversial. 

"When a religious group hires people of the same religion to carry out their mission, it's not 'discrimination,' it's common sense,” Goodrich told CNA. 

“And when the government refuses to work with religious groups that do the best job of caring for the needy, it's not 'equality,' it's nonsense,” he added. 

The new rule is open for comment in the Federal Register until September 16.

After Philadelphia police shootings, Chaput calls for 'sensible solutions' to violence

Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 15, 2019 / 03:25 pm (CNA).- After a standoff between police and a gunman in Philadelphia yesterday, in which six officers were shot, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has praised the work of the responding officers and called for solutions to root causes of violence.

“The terror that filled yesterday serves as a stark reminder not only of the fragility of life but also of the clear and present danger that illegal drugs and illegally obtained firearms pose to our community,” Chaput said in a statement.

“In addition to our prayers, let’s work together toward sensible solutions that address the root causes of continued violence and seek to lift up those struggling with addictions.”

According to NBC News, police were attempting to serve an arrest warrant at a house in northern Philadelphia on Wednesday when the suspect, who had prior arrests for undisclosed infractions, opened fire.

Hours later, shortly after midnight on Thursday, the suspect surrendered and was taken into custody. All the officers that had been shot were released from the hospital late Wednesday night, including an officer and father who suffered a graze wound to the head, NBC reported.

“We should all be grateful for the daily self-sacrifice of our law enforcement community as well as the perseverance and professionalism of those who worked to bring yesterday’s standoff to an end without loss of life or further violence,” Chaput noted.

The standoff came less than two weeks after mass shootings left 31 people dead in an El Paso Walmart and Dayton, Ohio bar the weekend of August 3-4.

“In reflecting on violent acts in our country a short time ago, I remarked that we’d soon be on to the next crisis—and it unfolded right here in our city,” Chaput said, who added that he watched the news of the standoff unfold with “growing anxiety and sadness” on Wednesday afternoon. 

“In the aftermath, let’s pray that God will aid the swift recovery of the injured officers, that He will guide the hand of the medical professionals treating them, and that He will pour His comforting grace upon all those suffering burdens of fear and grief,” Chaput noted.

“Let us resolve each day to treat our brothers and sisters with dignity, charity, and respect. May we all embrace that which is good so that the light of Christ will prevail in a world where evil often rears its head.