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US bishops oppose immigration raids, Trump defers

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2019 / 11:12 am (CNA).- On Saturday US President Donald Trump announced he would delay immigration raids meant to begin that weekend, and the US bishops stated their opposition to the planned deportations.

“We recognize the right of nations to control their borders in a just and proportionate manner. However, broad enforcement actions instigate panic in our communities and will not serve as an effective deterrent to irregular migration,” Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin said June 22.

“Instead, we should focus on the root causes in Central America that have compelled so many to leave their homes in search of safety and reform our immigration system with a view toward justice and the common good,” said the bishop, who chairs the US bishops' migration committee.

He added: “We stand ready to work with the Administration and Congress to achieve those objectives.”

Trump had announced upcoming immigration raids June 17, but on Saturday said he would delay the action two weeks, to allow Congress to modify US asylum law.

The Trump administration is eager to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the US.

Earlier this month, Mexico agreed to take measures to reduce the number of migrants to the US, in order to avoid the imposition of tariffs.

Some 6,000 National Guard troops will be assigned to Mexico's southern border with Guatemala, and some asylum seekers in the US will be sent to Mexico to wait while their claims are processed.

In the US, the House passed a bill June 4 that would provide a citizenship path for some brought to the US illegally as children, as well as for qualified holders of Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure.

Bishop Vásquez commented that “Dreamers, TPS and DED holders are working to make our communities and parishes strong and are vital contributors to our country. We welcome today’s vote and urge the Senate to take up this legislation which gives permanent protection to Dreamers, TPS and DED holders.”

The bill, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, would grant qualifying childhood arrivals 10 years of legal residence, after which they could receive permanent legal residence with two years of higher education or military service, or three years of employment. Those with TPS or DED could apply for lawful permanent residence if they have been in the country for at least three years and have passed background checks. After five years of lawful permanent residence, they would apply for citizenship.

In May, Bishop Vásquez and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, president of the US bishops' conference, voiced concern over a separate immigration plan from the Trump administration which prioritizes immigration status based on merit rather than family ties.

“We oppose proposals that seek to curtail family-based immigration and create a largely ‘merit-based’ immigration system,” they said. “Families are the foundation of our faith, our society, our history, and our immigration system.”


For perhaps ten years, on the evening before every Fourth of July, there were fireworks over Boston Harbor synchronized with Handel’s “Royal Hymn to Fireworks.” When this piece was first composed to celebrate the peace treaty that put an end to the War of the Austrian Succession, the fireworks were just the background for the music. In Boston, they were the main event.

I always had a front-row seat. At the time I was working the second shift (3 to 11 p.m.) at the New England Aquarium, on a barge where the sea lions and dolphins were lodged. The band played on a patio alongside the aquarium barge, while the fireworks barge sat in the harbor just behind the aquarium. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The whole spectacle was breathtakingly beautiful. The fireworks were perfectly in sync with the music. Smoke would linger with a sustained note. Small, discreet, but extremely graceful fireworks represented the softer, slower parts. The crescendos swept you up with them. Once, as I watched and listened, it occurred to me that this was perhaps the most beautiful manmade spectacle I had ever seen.

The fireworks ascend in various displays of glory and then silently descend as wisps of smoke, symbols of grace.

It didn’t last. People didn’t appreciate it—though maybe if they had had my seat they would have. The aquarium barge had a function room on the top deck, and the week before the Fourth the band would come aboard to practice there. I happened to be passing by when one of the rehearsals was breaking up and noticed a woman who had a piccolo in her hand and seemed rather lost. I thought maybe I could cheer her up by telling her how wonderful I thought the show was, and how grateful I was that she was helping to make it happen. She replied, a little sadly, that she wasn’t able to see the fireworks because everyone in the orchestra had their backs to the harbor. And, anyway, her whole attention was focused on not making any big mistakes in her piccolo part.

For some reason, that reply impressed me deeply. Aren’t most of us in a similar situation? We are locked up in our own little worlds, trying not to get hurt too much or screw things up too badly, and we have our backs to the fireworks going on all around us, to all the activity of the saints, the whole household of God, with the angels and the patriarchs, the prophets and the martyrs, the virgins and apostles—the festal gathering of all those who’ve accepted the Divine Mercy, who have buried the dead, fed the hungry, and wiped the tears of the sorrowful. The fireworks ascend in various displays of glory and then silently descend as wisps of smoke, symbols of grace. It’s like Jacob’s dream of the ladder between heaven and earth and God’s messengers continually descending and ascending. And there is the mysterious presence of all those whom we have known and loved, who have made us what we are, with whom we’re linked forever.

I wish I had thought of this in time to tell the piccolo player, whose name I never knew and whom I never saw again. But, as so often happens with me, I thought of what I should have said too late. I should also have told her that, even though she couldn’t see what was going on around her, her piccolo role was very important: without it, something would have been lacking in the spectacle. We must play our part without (yet) knowing its whole significance.


‘Turn the Page’

It was the summer of 1889, and William Morris was reclining in the shade of an elm tree somewhere in Oxfordshire. As he recalled the moment in an essay published in the Commonweal, the journal of the Socialist League (and later the inspiration for this magazine’s name), the bucolic scene opened on an earthly paradise invaded and despoiled by avarice. The fields and hedges were “redolent of bean-flowers and clover and sweet hay and elder-blossom.” The river was “sapphire blue,” its banks adorned by “pearly white-flowered water-weeds” along with “meadowsweet and dewberry, comfrey and bedstraw.” Blackbirds and starlings glided over a “labyrinth of grasses” set back from the river. Medieval towers dotted the countryside, an architecture made by craftsmen “bent on pleasing you and making all things delightful to your senses.” The ambience was languid and sensuous—not the hectoring, inflammatory tone one would expect from a revolutionary socialist.

But a serpent had slipped into Eden, and the idyllic prose turned combative as Morris spiraled into radical dudgeon. The day before, he had come upon some older men and women, “ungraceful and unbeautiful” haymakers toiling and sweating in the midday sun. As one of them explained, the younger people refused the low wages paid by the farmer who owned the field. Only one young man, desperate for money, had acceded to the skinflint’s terms; but after leaving and looking unsuccessfully for factory work, he had returned “begging for his slavery.” “What will happen,” Morris asked, “with all this country beauty?” What an appalling waste, he thought, of land exploited by absentee profiteers “for the sake of villa-dwellers’ purses.” But the greater outrage was the injustice and indignity inflicted on godlike beings:

When people had created in their minds a god of the universe...they were driven to represent him as one of that same race to which the thirsty haymakers belong; as though supreme intelligence and the greatest measure of gracefulness and beauty and majesty were at their highest in the race of those ungainly animals.

Now, the moneybags had reduced this race of divinities to “a population of slaves and slave-owners.”

This tale of subjugation to Mammon was a “shabby, sordid story,” but Morris saw a happy ending if the workers could mobilize and topple their masters. “Turn the page, I say,” and the story concluded with a vision of beloved community in labor and repose:

Suppose the haymakers were friends working for friends on land which was theirs...with leisure and hope ahead of them instead of hopeless toil and anxiety—need their useful labor for themselves and their neighbors cripple and disfigure them and knock them out of the shape of men fit to represent the Gods and Heroes?

“Under an Elm-Tree” (1889) is a vintage Morris essay: the vivid rapture at the natural world, the reverence for craftsmanship, the passion for things medieval, all blended in an elegant and vigorous homily against the iniquity of capitalism and in favor of the loveliness, as well as the justice, of a socialist and eventually communist future. In our callously mercenary neoliberal era—coming after the disappointment of revolutionary hope in what the historian Eric Hobsbawm once called “the short twentieth century”—such a vision is dismissed as a utopian reverie or a dangerous historical delusion.

But “socialism” is once again popular, especially among younger voters in the North Atlantic world—fearful of their own enslavement to debt and low-wage, precarious employment, and increasingly impatient with the neoliberal insistence that “there is no alternative” to capitalism. Yet if the left’s rejuvenation is electrifying, there is hardly a unified program. The Labour Party that Morris’s work did so much to inspire is still trying to recover from its pact with the devil that Tony Blair signed and sealed in the 1990s. Here in the United States, epitomized in the Green New Deal that takes aim at inequality, racism, and ecocide, a social-democratic insurgency is challenging the establishment of the Democratic Party, those woke but intellectually bankrupt minions of the techno-financial plutocracy. Though vilified as “socialists” both by Republicans and by their own insipid party leaders, the Green New Dealers aren’t nearly as radical as Peter Frase and his comrades at Jacobin, who contend that the spread of automation augurs a society beyond wage labor—“the realm of freedom,” as Karl Marx dubbed it in Capital.

What could a laureate of craftsmen and haymakers say to a cybernetic world? Isn’t Morris an exquisitely irrelevant heirloom of Victorian radicalism? His writing and handicraft spurred the Arts and Crafts movement at the turn of the twentieth century; but what began as resistance to mass production soon morphed into a market in high-end ornaments. Still, far from being period pieces, Morris’s ideas on art, work, technology, and politics are more important than ever for those eager to create a post-capitalist world. He would remind proponents of a “Green New Deal” that even the most far-reaching reforms cannot be equated with socialism, and he would warn enthusiasts for automation—following, so they think, the dialectical trajectory of capitalist technological development—that they might be depriving human beings of the pleasures of creation, just as the moneybags do. Morris was a revolutionary Romantic, and his utopianism arguably made him a more incisive critic of capitalism than Marx.


Morris and Ruskin contemplated forming a celibate religious order dedicated to the life of art; but Morris soon drifted away from religion, and abjured the consecrated life.

Born on March 24, 1834 to William and Emma Morris of Walthamstow, Essex, the bard of Romantic communism grew up in an impeccably bourgeois household. His father was a successful broker and speculator who owned shares in a lucrative copper mine. The wealth enabled his parents to devote the family to what Morris later scorned as “rich establishment puritanism”: the stodgy and venal sanctimony practiced by middle-class Evangelicals, in which Sabbath observance, abstention from alcohol, philanthropy, and kindness to the help were considered the pith and marrow of the Christian life. For relief, he read John Keats and Sir Walter Scott, whose Romantic insistence that beauty was a portal onto truth afforded Morris an imaginative refuge from his family’s philistinism.

Although his father died suddenly in 1847, the copper mine’s dividends allowed his mother to send young William to Marlborough College, an especially awful specimen of England’s public-boarding-school culture. Morris endured his education stoically; bored both by his snobbish classmates and by the musty classical curriculum, he was only mediocre as a scholar, preferring to swoon over the Middle Ages and spin “endless stories of knights and chivalry.” Morris fell in love with the churches and prehistoric mounds in the countryside around Marlborough, and his letters home conveyed his affection for the alluring landscape; “what a delectable affair a water meadow is to go through,” he once wrote to his mother.

In the winter of 1853 Morris entered Exeter College, Oxford, arriving there at the crest of the Romantic critique of industrial capitalism. In part a reaction to the crisis of Christian faith in the wake of the Enlightenment, Romanticism registered, in the historian Bernard Reardon’s words, “the inexpungable feeling that the finite is not self-explanatory and self-justifying...[that] there is always an infinite ‘beyond.’” For many artists and intellectuals Romanticism offered a surrogate for the sacramental imagination of Christianity, from William Blake’s “Heaven in a Wild Flower” to William Wordsworth’s “sense sublime / Of something far more deeply interfused.” But it could also enkindle challenges to the brutal emergence of capitalist modernity. Unlike the “progressive” dialecticians of Marxism, Romantics looked to the past for resources to oppose the pecuniary and instrumentalist values of bourgeois life. In Britain, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Cobbett, Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, and others were Romantic prophets of “Tory radicalism,” a conservative opposition to the corrosive effects of capitalism on tradition, custom, and hierarchy.

Raised, like Morris, in a wealthy Evangelical family, Ruskin experienced an “unconversion” from orthodox Christianity, but a firm (albeit heterodox) faith always leavened his art history and social criticism. While he was certainly a “conservative” who recoiled from the progressive pieties of liberalism and socialism, Ruskin also mounted one of the most compelling moral and religious critiques of capitalism. Though Ruskin was known and respected primarily as an art critic and historian, Unto This Last (1862)—his impassioned and controversial treatise on economics and one of the greatest moral documents of the nineteenth century—was revered by innumerable workers, trade-union leaders, and Labour Party members. And he exerted a broad influence on intellectuals across the political spectrum, from G. K. Chesterton to G.D.H. Cole, R. H. Tawney, and Mahatma Gandhi. Throughout the five volumes of Modern Painters (1843–60), the three volumes of The Stones of Venice (1851–53), but especially in Unto This Last, Ruskin insisted that both the theory and practice of capitalism represented nothing less than a sacrilege against humanity. Topping Carlyle’s dismissal of economics as “the dismal science,” Ruskin likened it to “alchemy, astrology, witchcraft, and other such popular creeds.” The phony discipline’s account of homo economicus—the self-interested, maximizing utilizer—was not just unedifying but, at bottom, untrue. A human being is the imago Dei, “the witness and glory of God,” as he wrote in the second volume of Modern Painters. Ruskin’s sacramental view of the human person underlay his sardonic observation, in Unto This Last, that he knew “no previous instance in history of a nation’s establishing a systematic disobedience to the first principles of its professed religion.”

To Ruskin, the capitalist assault on the divine image and likeness was most evident in industrial work and technology. Looking back to the Middle Ages in “The Nature of Gothic,” a renowned chapter in The Stones of Venice, Ruskin surmised that “the principal admirableness of the Gothic school of architecture” was that it hallowed “the labor of inferior minds”: the great cathedrals were built not by geniuses but rather by ordinary, now-unknown artisans, who with humble and imperfect talents created monuments of enduring beauty. Driven by the imperatives of productivity and profit, capitalists enforced an industrial division of labor that subdivided tasks, imposed absolute precision of motion, and thus deskilled the mass of everyday workers. Mechanization made people into machines: “you must either make a tool of the creature, or a man of him. You cannot make both.” In order to maximize accumulation, one must not honor workers but rather “unhumanize” them—in other words, one must defile the imago Dei. Thus, for Ruskin, the fundamental evil of capitalism was not inequality but rather desecration, a profaning manifest in the factory discipline that extinguished all delight in labor: “It is not that men are ill fed, but that they have no pleasure in the work by which they make their bread.” Still, Ruskin virulently opposed socialism—“simply chaos,” he once mused—and called instead for a renewed paternalism.

This was the Tory Romanticism that Morris encountered as a student at Oxford, and he expressed his opposition to bourgeois society in its loftily aestheticized accent. He fell in with other students enthralled by the Oxford Movement—another genuine, albeit reactionary, bastion against the mercenary spirit of the age—and they formed a “Brotherhood” devoted to poetry and art as antidotes to commerce and industry. “Full of enthusiasm for things holy and beautiful and true,” as his friend Edward Burne-Jones later described them, the Brotherhood adopted the “High Church” Anglicanism associated with the Reverend Edmund Pusey, and affirmed a medieval aesthetic as the antidote for industrial ugliness. (Inspired by the “Gothic Revival” in architecture, Morris joined several of the brethren who toured medieval churches in France and Belgium.) They also grew fond of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, and other “pre-Raphaelite” painters, who rejected the classicism that in their view had enervated much of the art of the past three centuries. United by what Morris later termed “a hatred of modern civilization” and stirred by a “desire to produce beautiful things,” they contemplated forming a celibate religious order dedicated to the life of art; but Morris soon drifted away from religion, and abjured the consecrated life.

Propelled by his “hatred of modern civilization,” Morris’s quest for the life of art and beauty led him inexorably to Ruskin, who made an indelible impression on the young and increasingly rudderless Romantic. After reading the first four volumes of Modern Painters while a student at Oxford, Morris proclaimed him “a Luther of the arts”; almost forty years later, in a preface to “The Nature of Gothic,” Morris declared the aging sage “my master” and praised him as a great “teacher of morals and politics.” Despite Ruskin’s aversion to socialism, Morris learned from his “teacher” and “master” that “art is the expression of man’s pleasure in labor,” that beauty is “a natural and necessary accompaniment of productive labor,” and that the craft ideal must be revived and reaffirmed as “the hallowing of labor by art.”

In the almost three decades after he left Oxford in 1856, Morris embarked on an apostolate of art, a secularized “hallowing” project that turned out to be remunerative but not revolutionary. He apprenticed to a London architect and befriended Rossetti and other pre-Raphaelites, whose dreamy medieval reveries aroused his own poetic imagination; he wrote The Defence of Guenevere (1858) and The Earthly Paradise (1870), as well as Love is Enough (1872), and published illustrated translations of medieval Icelandic eddas and sagas. In 1861, along with Burne-Jones, Rossetti, and other partners, he founded a decorative arts firm, Morris and Company (also known as “the Firm”), which produced furniture, tapestries, stained-glass windows, and murals for walls and ceilings. Determined to recover medieval craftsmanship in the Firm’s day-to-day operations, Morris became a virtuoso of craft, mastering carpentry, embroidery, ceramics, weaving, dyeing, and printing. Objecting to architectural restoration that involved the removal of medieval accretions to buildings, he formed the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (“Anti-Scrape”) in 1877.

Morris theorized his devotion to craft and architecture in “The Lesser Arts” (1877), a lecture that encapsulated some of the basic concerns that would animate his socialism. Aiming at the exaltation of Art, he rejected the separation between the decorative or “lesser” arts and the supposedly “higher” arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture. Because of this chasm, the decorative arts had grown “timid, mechanical, unintelligent,” while much of the art of the galleries and museums consisted of “dull adjuncts to unmeaning pomp, or ingenious toys for a few rich and idle men.” Morris traced the invidious distinction between the arts to the belief that beauty and utility are mutually exclusive. Rather, he maintained, they are mutually reinforcing; “nothing can be a work of art which is not useful.” The duty of the artist—now understood as an artisan—is “to beautify the familiar matters of everyday life.” Morris realized that this was a profoundly democratic conception of art: “I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.”

Still, Morris imagined this democracy of art within the mercantile parameters of capitalism; the erasure of illegitimate aesthetic boundaries would foster “the pleasure of cheerfully buying goods at their due price” and “the pleasure of selling goods that we could be proud of.” Like other bien-pensant Victorian intellectuals, Morris looked to culture rather than politics for a solution to “the social question,” hoping that his prodigious literary and artisanal production could elicit transformation:

To what a heaven the earth might grow

If fear beneath the earth were laid,

If hope failed not, nor love decayed.

Yet the Firm’s clientele was overwhelmingly bourgeois, and despite his disdain for middle-class life Morris found himself “ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich.” (This goes a long way toward explaining what his biographer E. P. Thompson perceived to be the “evasive” quality of his verse.)

By the mid-1870s, Morris was no longer politically indolent. Still, if he had died at that time, he would have been remembered as a prototypical bourgeois bohemian, a Romantic liberal espousing what he later called “ordinary middle-class radicalism”: extension of the suffrage, some modicum of reform, and a pronounced distaste for the more egregious atrocities of British imperialism. Recoiling from London’s poverty and squalor, he evinced no support for socialism or the trade-union movement. In 1876, outraged by Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s indifference to Ottoman atrocities in the Balkans, Morris joined other dissident Liberals in the Eastern Question Association (EQA). But when Disraeli’s Liberal successor, William Gladstone, pursued similar policies elsewhere, Morris learned his first important political lesson: there was an effective consensus among Tories and Liberals about maintaining the imperial system. The Liberal Party, he realized, was “made for and by the middle classes” and “will always be under the control of rich capitalists.” Then as now, “bipartisan consensus” was the talisman invoked to ratify and obfuscate injustice.


In the world Morris envisioned, workers would labor (and rest) in conditions worthy of their human nature.

By the early 1880s, Morris was beginning to perceive the threads that connected the “swinish luxury of the rich” to urban destitution and imperial brutality. In 1883, he joined Eleanor Marx, H. M. Hyndman, and others in the Social Democratic Federation (SDF), Britain’s first socialist party. For the rest of his life he threw himself wholeheartedly into revolutionary agitation—even after he and other disgruntled SDF members defected in 1885 to form the Socialist League. He also entered the most prolific phase of his career, writing essays and pamphlets as well as his utopian masterpiece, News from Nowhere (1890). Having apparently embraced Marxism, Morris, it seemed, had repudiated his old “master” Ruskin, the radical Tory. In Thompson’s neat formulation, he had completed the ideological metamorphosis “from romantic to revolutionary.”

But was Morris a Marxist? To make his case in 1955, Thompson had to finesse or evade some fairly obvious counterevidence. As Thompson himself noted, Friedrich Engels considered Morris “a sentimental socialist”—decidedly not the “scientific” variety. Moreover, Morris himself disclaimed the theoretical prowess that Thompson attributed to him. In “How I Became a Socialist” (1894), his own account of his political transformation, Morris admitted that while he “put some conscience toward trying to learn the economical side of Socialism”—he “even tackled Marx” and his “great work,” Capital—he experienced “agonies of confusions of the brain.” Besides, Morris wrote, he “had no transitional period”; while the SDF afforded “a hope of the realization of my ideal,” that ideal itself had already been formed.

Indeed, the wellspring of his socialist commitment, he asserted, was the medievalism of “Carlyle and Ruskin,” especially the latter. Through Ruskin he had “learned to give form to [his] discontent” which was “not by any means vague.” For all his eagerness to align himself with “scientific socialism,” Morris remained a revolutionary Romantic. (In an appendix to the 1977 edition of his book, Thompson conceded curtly that his original argument had been marred by “some hectoring political moralism as well as a few Stalinist pieties.”)

Morris’s revolutionary Romanticism was most evident in his writing on work and technology. It’s important to remember that, for Marx, the dehumanization of production is a tragic but ultimately liberating objective. In his dialectically promethean account of “machinery and modern industry” in Capital, the dispossession of artisans and craftsmen from control over the means of production and their conversion into wage laborers—in short, their proletarianization—are the necessary conditions of both technological innovation and socialism. Driven to lower costs by gaining mastery over the social and technological processes of production, capital introduces mechanization—what we now call automation. While the relocation of human skill in machinery enhances the power of capital over labor, it also creates the material basis for socialist and communist society. Now, machinery increases the exploitative intensity of capital; after the revolution, it will relieve human beings of drudgery and allow them the pleasures of free time. This is Marx’s “realm of freedom” adumbrated today in briefs for automation such as Frase’s Four Futures (2016) and Aaron Bastani’s Fully Automated Luxury Communism (2019).

But there is a price for this emancipation, one that Morris thought exorbitant: the degradation and monotony of labor. “Labor cannot become play,” Marx observed; the realms of necessity and freedom are forever divided by an impenetrable wall. This demarcation was of a piece with Marx’s disdain for “utopian socialism,” his epithet for any radical politics he considered disconnected from the Forces of History, among which was capitalism’s “progressive” technological development of productive power. Just as he was unwilling to accept the separation of the “lesser” from the “higher” arts, Morris devoted his career as a socialist to the joyful reunion of labor and play—a reversal, not a culmination, of the alleged trajectory of history. In a series of essays—“A Factory As It Might Be” (1884), “How We Live and How We Might Live” (1887), “The Society of the Future” (1887), and “Useful Work versus Useless Toil” (1888)—as well as in News from Nowhere (1890), Morris transformed his “desire to produce beautiful things” into a revolutionary project, turning Ruskin’s Tory Romanticism into a template for Romantic communism.

Marx and Morris agreed that the problem of work and technology was a political one. But for Marx it was quantitative (automation reduced the amount of necessary labor and increased the amount of free time), while for Morris it was qualitative. Promulgating “the semi-theological dogma that all labor, under any circumstances, is a blessing to the laborer,” capitalism both keeps us “terrified for our livelihood”—servile and harried as we sacrifice ourselves for the sake of shareholder value—and shifts our attention to the length of the workday and away from the way it damages us, eroding our manual and imaginative dexterity by the progress of mechanization. Against the inferno of busywork enforced by stockholders, managers, and technicians, Morris posed the ancient ideal of poiesis and upheld the medieval icon of the artisan who “stamped all labor with the impress of pleasure.” Rather than demand higher wages—“improved slave-rations,” in Morris’s view—workers should demand the abolition of wage labor and the full delights of production and leisure: “hope of rest, hope of product, hope of pleasure in the work itself.” In a world of artisanal communards, the slavery of the Protestant ethic would yield to a new freedom in labor, not from it.

Morris did not oppose all mechanization; some machines were indeed “miracles of ingenuity,” but they should be used only to minimize “unattractive labor.” The point, for Morris—as one would have thought it was for his Marxist comrades—was that workers, not a class of technical and managerial specialists, should control the design of production technologies and their deployment in the workplace. If workers think that “handicraft is better than machinery for production and pleasure”—and Morris clearly believed they would—then “they will certainly get rid of their machinery.” Machines may be efficient in some strictly technical way, but in a new world of playful labor, “people will be able to use them or not as they feel inclined.” (The same principle would conceivably apply to the labors of care—doctors, nurses, teachers, janitors, and others should determine the practices and technologies they employ.) Morris’s insistence on what Lewis Mumford would later call “democratic technics” stemmed both from his socialist convictions and from his lifelong commitment to the hallowing of labor.

In the world Morris envisioned, workers would labor (and rest) in conditions worthy of their human nature. As Hammond, the narrator’s guide in News from Nowhere, explains, because the utopians are no longer driven by the consumption of goods, “we have time and resources enough to consider our pleasure in making them.” Morris imagined the factories of the future as both workshops and community centers, with libraries, schools, dining halls, and venues for theatrical and musical performances. Rather than specialize in one trade or profession, people would vary “sedentary occupation with outdoor” (everyone, he believed, should learn at least three crafts), while instruction in the liberal arts and sciences would be open to people of all ages. And while Morris focused (too much) on work, he thought four hours a day sufficient for all necessary, reasonable production—as Hammond tells him, “we have now found out what we want, so we make no more than we want”—to be followed by idleness, or the free pursuit of interests, or the manifold forms of love and conviviality. (The subtitle of News from Nowhere is “an epoch of rest.”) The spirit of the post-revolutionary world would be gentle, lighthearted, and voluptuous, with a love of the earth “such as a lover has in the fair flesh of the woman he loves.”

It’s not clear that Morris grasped just how profoundly incompatible his views on technology were with those of Marx. (Thompson certainly didn’t: Soviet factories, he wrote, were “the poet’s dream already fulfilled.”) While Marxists often denigrate the ideal of craftsmanship as a “regressive” or “petty-bourgeois” fondness for a vestigial mode of production, the craft ideal enables us to ask questions about automation that its current enthusiasts seem disinclined and even unable to pose. If industrial technology under capitalism is designed not only to increase productivity, but also to give capital untrammeled control over the social as well as material processes of production, isn’t that technology marked ineradicably by the politics and sensibility of domination? For all its legitimate uses in eliminating dangerous and tedious labor, doesn’t automation deprive human beings of the pleasures of agency, ingenuity, and tactility? While writers such as Richard Sennett, Matthew Crawford, Wendell Berry, and Nicholas Carr have addressed these unfashionable concerns, anarchists have long envisioned the reconciliation of craftsmanship and automation, from Peter Kropotkin’s forecast of “industrial villages” to Murray Bookchin’s vision of “liberatory technology” that blends cybernetics with artisanal fabrication. By contrast, today’s left-wing votaries of robotics seem content to take whatever comes from Silicon Valley.

Perhaps even more significant, Morris challenges us to rescue socialism, even communism, from what Thompson called the “enormous condescension of posterity.” Before the Bolshevik Revolution, there was considerable debate on the left over the meanings of “socialism” and “communism”; the Marxist vernacular was only one among many. But whatever else they meant, “socialism” and “communism” meant the abolition of property in the means of production, and thus the overthrow of the aristocratic and industrial elites who exploited workers and peasants. Both words denoted the achievement not only of equality but also of freedom: from landlords, bosses, and stockholders. It meant the freedom of workers—like Ruskin’s imperfect artisans—to arrange their own affairs and design their technology without the supervision of managers or technocrats. Bringing property and production under workers’ control, socialism and communism represented not the bureaucratization of tyranny, as its critics claim, but rather the consummation of democracy.

Thus Morris helps us remember that socialism is not the sum of reforms to capitalism. Conservatives will usually vilify any restriction on the power of capital as “socialism”; liberals—“the more democratically inclined part of the ruling classes,” as Morris rightly perceived them—constitute a more complicated opposition. Because conservatives mock them for their oversensitivity, while socialists deride their moderation, liberals tend to see themselves as sensible pragmatists. And they are, within the horizon of capitalist rationality: they want wage slavery “somewhat ameliorated” (higher wages and benefits, a welfare state, perhaps even a universal basic income) as long as the imperatives of capitalist property remain the fulcrum of society. Contemporary liberals comprise the left wing of the neoliberal ruling class.

To be sure, Morris did not oppose reforms; what mattered was “what else is being done, while these were going on.” Unless reforms were part of a broader effort to overcome capitalism, they would turn out to be only “makeshift alleviations” that capital would terminate at the first opportunity. Indeed, if the history of the welfare state in the North Atlantic democracies offers any lessons on this score, it’s that New Deal liberalism and social democracy flourished only as long as business put up with them; always chafing at taxes and restrictions, capital threw them off as soon as they became politically vulnerable. (Accordingly, many liberals and social democrats morphed into business-friendly neoliberals.) What Morris would emphasize now to Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and other self-avowed “democratic socialists” is that the reformist political imagination will always be circumscribed by the imperatives of capital.

Which is why we need utopia back, leavened by the Romantic desire for beatitude with which Morris endowed it—and more. Christians in particular have been warned about the seductive dangers of utopian hope, chastised with Augustinian platitudes about the intractability of human imperfection. But we might also think of utopianism as a form of realized eschatology, a proleptic politics rooted in a faith that the future can pay a visit to the present. Though a prodigal son from orthodoxy, Morris the Romantic captured something of this sacramental imagination; he praised (and, one suspects, envied) those medieval men and women “to whom heaven and the life of the next world was such a reality, that it became to them a part of the life upon the earth, which accordingly they loved and adorned.” If, in the Kingdom, we live as a beloved community of godlike beings—akin to those haymakers in Oxfordshire, but manumitted from oppressive toil—why not insist on flourishing, to the extent that we can, on this damaged side of the eschaton? Turn the page, I say.


How the Church can better respond to the problem of domestic violence

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2019 / 04:12 pm (CNA).- This Sunday, in Catholic parishes across the country, one in four women sitting in the pews will have experienced severe physical violence in their own homes from their spouses or partners - including burns, choking, beating, or the use of a weapon against them. One in nine men will have experienced the same.

According to one priest who is an expert in the subject, priests in the U.S. are still not doing enough to address the issue.

“The Church has been complicit in this because we haven’t talked about it enough,” said Fr. Charles Dahm, a priest of the Chicago Archdiocese who leads its domestic violence outreach program.

Dahm was a priest at a large parish with a majority-Hispanic population near downtown Chicago for 21 years. During his time there, after hiring a counselor on his staff, he learned that many of his parishioners were victims of domestic abuse, he told CNA. He asked his counselor to train him in recognizing and responding to abuse, and he started to talk about domestic violence in his homilies.

“And the more I spoke about it, the more victims came to me,” he said. Word of Dahm’s parish ministry spread, as parishioners referred their relatives, neighbors and friends. Around the year 2000, the parish office was receiving an average of one victim of domestic violence every day, he said.

Today, he coordinates the Church’s response to domestic abuse at the Archdiocese of Chicago, educating and training priests and other Church leaders on how to prevent and respond to instances of domestic abuse. He travels to give homilies and workshops on the topic, and while he’s been to many parishes throughout his own archdiocese, Dahm said it has been difficult to get other dioceses to respond to his offers of help.

The clergy of the U.S., including the bishops, are largely ignorant about the existence of domestic violence, Dahm said.

“The studies show it’s rampant in the United States. Every pastor who stands up on Sunday looking out on his congregation - he is facing dozens if not scores of victims in his congregation in front of him, and he does not know how to speak to them.”

The ignorance surrounding domestic abuse has a variety of causes, Dahm noted. Priests have not been educated on domestic violence in the seminary, and so they do not expect to encounter it in the priesthood. If a priest does not talk about domestic violence, victims may not approach him about it, and he can therefore have a false sense that it does not exist in his parish. Priests are also overstretched and overworked, and can be weary about taking on new ministries, he added.

“It’s a real travesty that...the clergy is resistant to this topic,” he said.

Misunderstanding abuse as a Catholic

There can also be misunderstandings among Catholics - lay people and clergy alike - about the prevalence of domestic violence and how to respond to it within the context of a Christian marriage.

For example, Dahm said, it is a mistake to think that because couples are religious and going to church, they are less likely to experience or perpetrate abuse.

A 2019 study from the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution of Brigham Young University found that while religion offers many benefits to couples, it unfortunately does not positively impact their rates of domestic violence.

“When it comes to domestic violence, religious couples in heterosexual relationships do not have an advantage over secular couples or less/mixed religious couples. Measures of intimate partner violence (IPV)—which includes physical abuse, as well as sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and controlling behaviors—do not differ in a statistically significant way by religiosity,” the study noted.

Other misunderstandings about how to respond to domestic violence come from an incomplete understanding of the Catholic teaching about the permanence of marriage, or the role of suffering in the life of a Christian.

Sharon O’Brien is the director of Catholics For Family Peace, an education and research initiative that is part of the National Catholic School of Social Service’s Consortium for Catholic Social Teaching at the Catholic University of America.

O’Brien told CNA that while marriage is meant to be a sacrament that lasts until the end of a person’s or their partner’s life, domestic violence can be a valid justification for a Catholic to seek at least physical separation from their spouse.

“Catholics I think are challenged to understand that abuse in a marriage is unacceptable,” O’Brien said. “But it’s sinful and it’s usually criminal.”

Greg Pope is the assistant general secretary for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, which recently held their annual Day for Life, a day set aside for raising awareness of various pro-life issues. This year, they chose domestic violence as the theme of the day.

Pope told CNA that domestic violence “fundamentally undermines the Church’s teaching on the inherent dignity of the human person and the complementarity of couples within a marriage.”

He said that Catholic couples experiencing domestic abuse should know that Canon Law, the governing law of the Church, addresses domestic violence, and states: “If either of the spouses causes grave mental or physical danger to the other spouse or to the offspring or otherwise renders common life too difficult, that spouse gives the other a legitimate cause for leaving, either by decree of the local ordinary or even on his or her own authority if there is danger in delay.” (Can. 1153 §1.)

“The Church does not force anyone to remain in an abusive relationship,” Pope reiterated.

Furthermore, O’Brien said, Catholics can have a misunderstanding of the role of suffering in their lives, and some may think that the suffering they experience through domestic violence may be God’s way of “punishing” them for some other sin.

“Yes, suffering exists and yes, we can offer it to the Lord, but we’re not to seek suffering,” O’Brien said, and Catholics should not tolerate abuse in the name of suffering.

“The other big deal with Catholics is understanding that this is not punishment,” she added.

“Yes, maybe you had an abortion, or yes, maybe you all were engaged in relations before marriage...but experiencing domestic abuse is not punishment for some other sin, and you are called to address it, to figure out what to do,” she said.

How the Church responds to domestic abuse

In 1992, the Catholic bishops of the U.S. wrote “When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women.”

In the document, the bishops clearly state Catholic Church teaching regarding domestic abuse. They also examine why abuse happens, how one can respond to it, and information on where and how abused women and men can seek help.

The document “was cutting edge in 1992 and is still incredibly relevant and appropriate,” said Fr. Dahm. It has since been updated, but only in very minor ways.

“As pastors of the Catholic Church in the United States, we state as clearly and strongly as we can that violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form —physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal —is sinful; often, it is a crime as well. We have called for a moral revolution to replace a culture of violence. We acknowledge that violence has many forms, many causes, and many victims—men as well as women,” the bishops stated in the document’s introduction.

But while the document is excellent, it is still a “really well-kept secret” of the Church, Dahm said, in that many priests and Church leaders do not know that it exists. He said part of his work over the years has been to bring this document to the attention of priests and seminarians during his workshops on domestic violence.

Catholics for Family Peace is another key part of the Church’s response in the United States.

“All the major religions have a national office where clergy and leaders can be trained on domestic abuse, and so we’re it for Catholics,” O’Brien noted.

“We work with dioceses to implement the 20 strategies in the (bishop’s) statement and to create a coordinated, compassionate response to domestic abuse,” she said. They also host several awareness-raising events during the month of October, which is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Lauri Przybysz, co-founder of Catholics For Family Peace, told CNA that their mission extends beyond education and training for clergy and leaders to “education for engaged couples as they prepare for marriage, for them to understand what a healthy relationship means for their marriage, and just facts about domestic violence that a lot of people aren't aware of.”

“We actually have an education module that we can share with marriage preparation leaders... [that] has a little questionnaire that a couple can take to say, to identify: ‘Is there something in my relationship that could be better?’” she said.

They also educate teens on healthy dating and relationships, and they compile good secular resources that clergy can use too, because many of them do not have anything in them contrary to the Catholic faith, Przybysz said.

O’Brien also said that the archdioceses of both Chicago and Washington, D.C., have modeled some of the best responses to domestic violence.

Laura Yeomans is the program manager for the Parish Partners Program at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. The website for the program includes a homily on domestic violence, a downloadable packet for pastors responding to domestic violence, definitions and explanations of domestic violence and Church teaching, as well as links to emergency resources for victims, among other things.

Yeomans and her team connect with priests and families at the parish level when they are notified about cases of domestic abuse, she said.

“We go out to the parish setting and we meet individually with families who are suffering domestic abuse,” Yeomans said.

Basic do’s and don’ts of responding to domestic violence

While a natural response for pastors or Catholics who learn about a case of domestic abuse may be to call the police, Przybysz warned against it. If a perpetrator knows they have been found out, their violence could escalate to the point of killing their victim.

“It's about walking beside someone, giving them information about where they can find safety, when they decide to make the move,” she said.

Yeomans seconded this advice. “When you're talking with family suffering, domestic abuse, it's very important that we not go in with an agenda,” she said.

The first thing to do is listen, Yeomans said, and to say: “I believe you.” Next, she said, ask: “What can I do? How can I help you? What step would you like to take?”

“It's very important not to say, ‘You should forgive him,’” she said, because this gives the victim the false impression that they must continue enduring the abuse in the meantime. Forgiveness may come eventually, Yeomans said, but the first priority is the safety of the victim.

“Forgiveness is not permitting the abuse to continue,” she said. “It is not allowing yourself and your children to be in danger.”

Spreading awareness of domestic violence, and of the resources available, is one of the best things priests can do for their parishioners, Fr. Dahm said, because then they will know where to turn for help. He said he found it especially true among Hispanics and Latinos, especially those who had recently come to the United States and prefer going to the Church for help.

“It is absolutely true that Hispanics prefer to go to their parish,” he said. “They feel more welcome, they feel safer, that was why in our parish we were so successful - people came to us from all over. I think that had a lot to do with the fact that people wanted to go to a place they trusted.”

Yeomans said that besides speaking about domestic violence at Mass, priests should find out what resources are available to them locally. Once they know what domestic violence hotlines and resources are available, they can print flyers with information and hang them in parish bathrooms, and put informative inserts in their parish bulletins.

Another thing that Yeomans has seen priests do is to raise the question about domestic violence and healthy relationships during times like baptism class, when couples are already at Church to receive some education and information.

Pope said that in the UK, the bishops’ goals for having domestic violence as the theme for their Day for Life was to raise awareness of the issue, to raise additional funds for resources, and to make domestic violence culturally unacceptable.

Fr. Dahm added that he is willing to travel throughout the United States to preach and give workshops on domestic violence in parishes.

“If there are bishops in dioceses who are interested, just tell me, and I will go there,” he said.

By focusing on domestic violence, among other issues, as important pro-life issues, Pope said the bishops hope to help their people follow God’s call in the Gospel of John more closely: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

If you or a loved one are experiencing domestic violence, call the national domestic violence hotline at: 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TTY). For more information, go to

Domestic violence resources through the Archdiocese of Chicago are available at:

Domestic violence resources, including the pastoral response packet, are available through Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at:

Catholics can also visit Catholics for Family Peace or For Your Marriage for additional information.

St. John the Baptist and the Birth of a New Era

The birth of a child always represents both an end and a beginning.

Three priests sue Corpus Christi diocese for inclusion in credibly accused list

Corpus Christi, Texas, Jun 22, 2019 / 08:01 am (CNA).- Three priests have filed suits against the Diocese of Corpus Christi and its bishop, claiming that they were wrongfully included in a list of clerics credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor within the diocese.

The Corpus Christi Caller Times reported June 20 that Fr. Jesús García Hernando had filed a suit over his inclusion on the list. In March, both Msgr. Michael Heras and Fr. John Feminelli filed similar suits.

The suits state that “Defendants knew the statement was false and acted with reckless disregard for the truth. The publication of the statement was made with malice.”

All three are being represented by Andrew Greenwell of Harris & Greenwell, who told the Caller Times that a fourth suit may be filed as well.

The diocese had earlier filed motions to dismiss the suits from Heras and Feminelli, saying the list was “made in good faith.”

The Corpus Christi diocese released a list of credibly accused clerics Jan. 31, amid a wave of such admissions throughout the US following a Pennsylvania grand jury report on abuse by clerics in six of the state's dioceses.

Announcing the list, Bishop Michael Mulvey of Corpus Christi said that “an Independent Committee comprised of outside legal professionals reviewed all cleric files to determine whether an allegation was credible,” and that “in some cases, files were also reviewed by the Diocesan Review Board.”

The diocese “accepted all recommendations from the Independent Committee and the Diocesan Review Board regarding the names to be included on this list,” he stated.

The bishop added that the diocese “has worked diligently to be accurate with the information presented,” and said that “if any information is found to be incorrect” the diocese's victim assistance coordinator should be contacted.

His statement included a nota bene that “A determination that an allegation against a member of the clergy is credible is not equivalent to a finding by a judge or jury that the cleric is liable or guilty of the sexual abuse of a minor under canon, civil or criminal law.

On the list were 26 clerics, 12 of whom are deceased.

According to the list, Fr. Hernando was incardinated into the Corpus Christi diocese in 1983, and was ordained the following year in Burgos. He was excardinated from the diocese in 2000, and was removed from ministry in 2011.

Greenwell told the Caller Times that Hernando is still a priest in Spain.

The Caller Times said that Hernando was indicted in 1996 on charges of sexual assault and indecency with a child related to an alleged 1992 incident with a 15-year-old altar boy. Hernando returned to the US from Spain after the indictment. He was not convicted, and the criminal case was dismissed; the prosecutor indicated he needed more evidence than the accuser's testimony.

He has also been accused in a suit “of molesting at least two other men from 1991 to 1994.”

According to the diocese's list, Fr. Feminelli was ordained for the diocese in 1987, and retired in 2007. The Caller Times said in February that a couple filed a suit against the diocese in 1988, “claiming diocese employees circulated false information about their 15-year-old son.” Feminelli was accused of buying the boy gifts in exchange for “wrestling matches” in a hotel room.

The Caller Times wrote that “the suit alleged slander and libel,” saying the bishop and priests “humiliated the family, causing the boy to recant … No wrestling matches took place, the boy said in court.”

Msgr. Heras was ordained for the diocese in 1984, and was removed from ministry in 2014.

That year, district attorneys received complaints of inappropriate conduct which was alleged to have happened 25-30 years earlier. Criminal investigations were not pursued, but a civil suit was filed in October 2018.

A diocesan directory of priests which indicated it was last updated Oct. 30, 2018, listed Feminelli as retired. Heras' status was not indicated.

Drone strikes and proportionality: What is 'just war?'

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2019 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- On Thursday night, President Donald Trump confirmed that he had ordered a military strike against Iran, and then called it off, after a U.S. military drone was shot down by Iran earlier in the week.

Trump said he cancelled the military strike because the expected 150 Iranian casualties were not “proportional” to the destruction of a U.S. drone.

“Ten minutes before the strike I stopped it, [it was] not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone," Trump said.

The concept of proportionality in military conflict is rooted in what is often called the “just war theory,” most famously expounded by St. Thomas Aquinas.

Modern conflicts, which often involve missile and air strikes rather than pitched battles between troops, present a more complicated concept of war than in previous centuries but, theologians told CNA, just war theory remains applicable to modern warfare.

Dr. Kevin Miller, a moral theologian at Franciscan University of Steubenville, explained that the concept was a well established part of Church teaching and thought.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church does a nice job of summarizing the criteria for entering into the use of military force for self-defense,” Miller told CNA, “though I tend to think of just war as more of a ‘doctrine’ than a ‘theory’ in the Church.”

Miller said the Church’s moral criteria are divided into two categories – the ius ad bello and the ius in bello, covering the criteria for resorting to war and how it is to be conducted once begun.

“Regarding proportionality, the Catechism says that ‘the use of arms must not produce evils or disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.’ That would be the criterion that [President] Trump seems to be alluding to in saying what he did.”

While the prospect of air strikes causing casualties in response to shooting down an unmanned drone presents a clear case for weighing the proportionality of any response, Miller said, there can be some broader confusion about what proportionality means.

“It does not necessarily mean you cannot take the lives of more enemy combatants than have been lost on your side, that would be almost to say there was an obligation to lose the war. Nor does it necessarily mean that you cannot prosecute a war of self-defense in response to an initial strike – take for example the attack on Pearl Harbor, which was not necessarily intended to precede an invasion of the United States but nevertheless triggered a just response of war with Japan.”

Considering the specific example offered by Trump’s comments, Miller said that, at least based on what has been reported, the reasoning was less straightforward.

“If you think about the act of shooting down a drone – is that intended to be the beginning of a military action leading to further deadly damage to either American or allied personnel or interests? It might be clear that such an act was intended as a provocation, but not necessarily to war.”

Dr. Taylor Patrick O’Neill, assistant professor of theology at Mount Mercy University, told CNA that the ongoing nature of a threat was an important part of invoking a just military response.

“The first criterion for the use of military force is, of course, a just cause,” O’Neill told CNA.

“I think that in response to an act which has not yet caused any casualties, which is not part of an ongoing pattern of military aggression with lives at stake, there is a real question here about the just cause and the proportionality of engaging in a response which would certainly take lives – maybe many lives and even civilian ones at that.”

Miller agreed that responding with deadly force to a non-deadly provocation requires serious scrutiny.

“If it really is the case that the response to, say, the shooting down of an unmanned drone, is only intended to take out the infrastructure which made that possible and to prevent it happening again, it is all the more clear that proportionality really does come to bear when you are looking at taking human life – especially if those lives might include civilians. It becomes very problematic,” Miller said.

Modern conflicts often involve remote means of warfare and targets which are of unclear military status, such as governmental intelligence posts, radar stations, or other logistical installations.  While the personnel in them might be primarily military, the presence of civilians has to weighed carefully in discerning military action.

“The classification of people involved can be very difficult to discern in modern conflicts,” O’Neill said.

“We don’t necessarily see artillery shelling enemy lines. With strikes from distance on military targets, there are people involved who might not be military personnel: they might be government intelligence workers or people in a grey area, but then there’s the possibility of just the civilian janitor in the building, how do you put them in the balance of proportionality? It makes things very difficult.”

O’Neill said that with modern means of warfare, there is a very high burden on governments to take all measures possible to limit the loss of potentially innocent human life.

“To have the moral justification and to make some calculus of proportionality, you have to have some good intelligence about who could be harmed – obviously there can be unintended consequences but you have to have a good amount of information about what the effects of a military action could be before you can judge if it is a just response.”

Miller emphasized the same point, telling CNA that even in response to the deaths of soldiers, any military response has to involve a difficult prudential judgment about the risk to civilian life.

“If lives are being lost and there is, say, an installation which is helping make that happen, a responsive attack there could be justified and proportionality satisfied, but only as long as everything that reasonably can be done to limit civilian casualties is done,” said Miller.

“Of course, so much of this is about thinking five or ten steps down the road, and it is about balancing the need to prevent an escalation while keeping an eye on all the possible unforeseen consequences,” O’Neill said.

“Whenever an action could have a double effect, proportionality becomes important,” Miller agreed.

“In war especially, but in moral thinking more broadly, where there is that risk, there is a prudential judgment to be made. Each situation needs to be assessed on its own merits and it is not always perfectly quantifiable, even almost a case of ‘you know it when you see it.’ There is no algorithm or mathematical formula for this.”

Wis. Catholic Conference dismayed by veto of abortion bills

Madison, Wis., Jun 21, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- As the Democratic Governor of Wisconsin vetoed Friday four bills regulating abortion, Catholics in the state expressed disappointment with the decision.

The Republican-controlled state legislature sent Gov. Tony Evers four bills June 20. They would have imposed criminal penalties on doctors who do not provide medical attention to babies born after a failed abortion; bar Medicaid funding from going to Planned Parenthood; prohibit abortions based on the baby’s sex, race, or defects; and require abortion providers to inform patients that a medical abortion may be reversed after the first dose of mifepristone.

"Everyone should have access to quality, affordable healthcare, and that includes reproductive healthcare,” Evers said June 21.

Regarding his veto of Assembly Bill 182, which would have prohibited sex, race, and disability-based abortions, Evers stated: "I object to the political interference between patients and their healthcare providers ... The provisions of this bill perpetuate harmful stereotypes and put women at risk by making reproductive healthcare less accessible."

Kim Vercauteren, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, told CNA the conference was let down by the governor’s declaration. She said the bills signified the dignity of all women.

“In the terms of the ... governor's veto of these bills, obviously, we are disappointed and dismayed by that,” she said.

Vercauteren said the bills would protect all women, whether unborn or pregnant.

“These bills do an amazing job of trying to help women that truly respects them, whether they're inside the womb or elsewhere,” said Vercauteren. “It shows that the bills are devoted to prevention diagnosis and care and not the termination of life.”

“It just aligns with our Catholic teaching. Our march for justice for the unborn and newly born children … is the just the recognition of everyone’s full humanity. We have an obligation to protect and promote that. We would hope the government would do the same,” said Vercauteren.

Supporters of the bills do not have enough votes to override Evers' vetos.

In a June 21 tweet, Wisconsin’s Planned Parenthood expressed support for the governor's decision, claiming the bills were based on inaccurate facts.

Evers “vetos a package of anti-women's health bills aimed at misinforming the public about abortion care. These bills and their supporters are making claims that are inflammatory, offensive and blatantly false,” read the tweet.

The ‘dire’ border crisis continues as federal funds run out fast

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Amid of a surge of migrants, many of them minors, seeking to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, federal officials have called for emergency funding to address a growing humanitarian crisis. While reports differ, budget constraints have led to cuts to legal aid and educational programs for detained migrant youths.

“We continue to experience a humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border of the United States, and the situation becomes more dire each day,” Alex M. Azar II, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Human Services, and Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said in a June 12 letter to Members of Congress.

Massive numbers of migrants, often fleeing gang violence and extreme poverty in Central America, are seeking to cross the U.S. border. In May an average of 4,650 people per day crossed into the U.S. or arrived at ports of entry without proper documentation, said Azar and McAleenan in their letter.

There were over 144,000 total enforcement actions on the border, a 32 percent increase over April and the highest monthly total in more than 15 years.

“We urge Congress to take swift action to provide the necessary funding to address the severe humanitarian and operational impacts of this crisis and enact reforms to the root causes of these problems so that they do not persist into the future,” the Trump administration leaders said in their letter.

They warned of “rapidly depleting funds caused by the border surge.” Third-quarter funding is already being withheld in almost all U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Budgetary constraints mean the HHS has started to defund education services, legal services, and recreation for unaccompanied minors in federal migrant shelters on the ground such activities are “not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety.”

Safety of children in federal care is “the primary concern” of both HHS and DHS, Azar and McAleenan said in their letter. As of June 10, over 2,500 unaccompanied children were among the 17,000 people in Customs and Border Protection custody. On May 1 they numbered only about 870. The number of arriving children “greatly exceeds existing HHS capacity.”

Catholic leaders are also concerned about the funding shortfall.

Kathryn Kuennen, associate director of children’s services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Children and Migration Office, told CNA that the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services serves about 2,000 unaccompanied children per year, though programs could serve more children in coming months. These services work through a national network of licensed unaccompanied refugee minor foster care programs until children in its care are approved for release and reunification with a vetted sponsor in the U.S.

At present these Catholic-run services have not been mandated to cut their budgets.

“We are working within the funding and resources available to cover those expenses,” said Kuennen. “We certainly would be concerned if there is not supplemental funding available.”

Catholic migrant services leaders are confident that their educational programs can continue to cover costs “for a short time,” but they are concerned over long-term funding.

“We are at risk of placing programs in jeopardy with their own state licensing requirements for the children in their care,” Kuennen said June 20.

Melissa Velarde Hastings, a policy advisor to the U.S. bishops, said that the USCCB and its Migrant and Refugee Services have been advocating for Congress to appropriate $2.88 billion for HHS supplemental funding that would ensure funding through the rest of the fiscal year and to provide adequate care for children.

The appropriations process is an important way to ensure better treatment for minors in federal custody or care, especially given concerns about some large-scale facilities which detain undocumented border crossers.

“From our perspective we see these facilities as being an important tool to have available in times when the referral numbers are quite high and it needs the additional capacity,” Hastings told CNA. “However, we are advocating for increased oversight and heightened standards for those facilities.”

She encouraged those concerned to visit the USCCB’s Justice for Immigrants website at

Kuennen saw a need to ensure adequate bed capacity for children and more child-friendly options for migrants.

“There’s absolutely a need to continue to increase available foster home placements or smaller-scale placements for children so that there are alternatives to some of the large-scale facilities that we see and hear about often,” she told CNA. “We continue to support the work in building up a network that is more safe and appropriate for children.”

Earlier this month the Washington Post reported that HHS funding cuts could violate a federal court settlement and state licensing agreements that require education and recreation for minors in federal custody.

One shelter employee, speaking to the Washington Post on condition of anonymity, said the cuts have worried workers who think the care for children will suffer. The educational classes and sports are crucial for the children’s physical and mental health, the employee said.

Unless criteria are met, the Anti-Deficiency Act requires HHS to reallocate up to $167 million to the unaccompanied children program and away from Refugee Support Services, trafficking victims and survivors of torture.

Almost 85,000 people who were part of a “family unit” were apprehended on the Southwest border, with another 4,100 deemed inadmissible. at the border’s ports of entry. The “vast majority” of those apprehended were released into the U.S. “due to a lack of space and authority to detain them,” said Azar and McAleenan’s letter.

In all of fiscal year 2012, the border patrol apprehended just over 11,000 people who were part of a family unit.

Border patrol agents now spend most of their time caring for families and children, providing medical assistance, transportation, and food service “instead of performing law enforcement duties.”

Azar and McAleenan’s letter to Congress cited flu outbreaks at the Centralized Processing Center in McAllen, Texas and other facilities. These outbreaks require separate quarantine facilities to reduce the risk to children and other vulnerable people.

“While agents are providing the best care possible, these groups need more appropriate care, and they need it now,” they said.

Cuts to legal services have also drawn criticism. Such services are necessary for many unaccompanied minors to contest possible deportation.

“We are deeply troubled that these services are being cut for children, who are among the most vulnerable population of immigrants in detention,” Kica Matos, director of the Center on Immigration and Justice at the Vera Institute of Justice, told the Washington Post. Matos’ center manages legal aid programs for the U.S. government.

For decades the U.S. bishops have been active on immigration issues, and recent developments were a focus of their annual spring meeting in Baltimore.

Bishops like Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said there were serious challenges facing the Church’s mission to migrants and refugees, criticizing the “inhumane” and “immoral” treatment of migrants, asylum-seekers, and others seeking to enter the U.S.

The bishops cited the Trump administration’s lowering of refugee intake caps for a third straight year to 30,000 for FY 2019, as well as the ending of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program in 2017, and the ongoing non-renewal of Temporary Protected Status designations.

Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas said U.S. policy puts “vulnerable people in harm’s way” by forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their request is processed. He also criticized increases in family detention, rules “to further restrict access to asylum and due process,” and an “enforcement-only approach to migration.”

Religious ministry to detained migrants is also a concern.

With thousands of undocumented immigrants in detention centers throughout the country, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said last week, “we as pastors should be concerned that we have our priests there celebrating Mass for them, that the Church is present to them in this area.”

“We have to respond to them and not let the Church be invisible to them,” said Wenski.


“Good Omens”: The Spiritual-Religious Zeitgeist

Amazon released the hit mini-series Good Omens this year to the rave reviews it deserves. Good Omens proves itself well acted, cinematically sizzling, and entertainingly both frivolous and deep. Good artistry captures the prevailing spirit of its age, and Good Omens does unveil Western society’s spiritual-religious zeitgeist. Caught literally between heaven and hell, Aziraphale (the posh angel) and Crowley (the troubled demon) stage a plot to prevent the Last Days from ending. Strewn throughout both their actions and banter bubbles up a telling anthropological question: Does humanity need the admixture of both virtue and sin in order to be, well, free and human? Good Omens situates the viewer into a cosmic worldview that presents both heaven and hell in telling caricatures. Scenes in Heaven lead us to something of an Apple store, with tattooed and flannel-wearing hipsters replaced by stuffy squares; it’s pure in its…