Jack Jenkins, Religion News, June 13, 2018
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opened its spring meeting this week with a stern reproach of the Trump administration’s latest immigration policies, with the group’s president suggesting the new rules on asylum are a “right to life” issue.
Some bishops followed by urging protests, including “canonical penalties” for those who carry out the administration’s new rules.
Within minutes of opening the USCCB’s biannual meeting in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday (June 13), Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB and archbishop of Galveston-Houston, read aloud a statement deeply critical of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent announcement regarding asylum qualifications.
“At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life,” DiNardo said, reading from the statement. “The Attorney General’s recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection.
DiNardo also criticized the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, announced in May, which calls for prosecuting all those who cross the border illegally and separating children immigrating with parents from their families.
When he finished, DiNardo asked bishops to clap if they approved the statement. The room erupted in applause.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, N.J., proposed that a group of bishops be sent to the border to inspect the detention facilities where children are kept as a “sign of our pastoral concern and protest against the hardening of the American heart.” Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, N.M., suggested “public gestures” such as prayer vigils in front of federal courthouses.
Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson, Ariz., made a bolder suggestion, raising the possibility of implementing canonical penalties for Catholics “who are involved in this,” referring to children being separated from their families at the border. Canonical penalties can range from denial of sacraments to excommunication, though Weisenburger did not specify what he intended beyond referring to sanctions that already exist for “life issues.”