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 October 4, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 17   •   Oakland, CA

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Catechists: guides in how to grow to spiritual maturity
Ending birth citizenship in U.S. has far-reaching consequences
Catechists: guides in
how to grow to spiritual maturity

Catechetical Sunday was celebrated Sept. 12 at Oakland’s Cathedral of Christ the Light during the 10 a.m. Mass, with over 200 diocesan catechists in attendance. The following is adapted from the homily which Bishop Salvatore Bishop Cordileone delivered during the liturgy. The full homily can be found on the bishop’s web page at www.oakdiocese.org/Cordileone.htm

The Church uses all of the senses, in whatever ways human ingenuity can create, to imbue us with the truth of the Gospel, so that this saving truth may penetrate our minds, hearts and very being. This, ultimately, is why the Church teaches. It is not just a matter of imparting knowledge, as important as that is, nor is it a matter of instilling right conduct, as essential as that is for living an authentic Christian life.

Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone

Rather, in its fullest, deepest sense, the Church’s teaching mission is for the purpose of moving the whole person along the path of salvation, what we appropriately refer to as “faith formation.” This means moving people to respond to the call of conversion, and assisting them in growing toward spiritual maturity.

We need look no further than our readings for Mass this Sunday to find the scriptural basis for all of this. We can begin with our second reading, where St. Paul holds himself up as a model of conversion. Indeed, his is the greatest conversion story in the history of the Church, right there at the very beginning.

As he says: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life.”

Notice his frank humility here. Holding himself up as an example is not a matter of arrogance; quite the contrary, he candidly confesses his sins, publicly, in this passage from his First Letter to Timothy.

He confesses to having been “a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant.” He does so not to draw attention or acclaim to himself, but for those who would come to believe after him, to believe in “Christ Jesus . . . for everlasting life.”

The path of conversion begins with repentance, which is made possible by the virtue of humility, so necessary in order for one to admit one’s sins. It is painful but it ends in joy, as our Lord makes clear in the parable we heard in the Gospel reading, illustrating the joy in heaven over just one sinner who repents and is saved. Or, as he puts it, was lost and then found.

Notice: conversion is not something that takes us away from being human, turning us into bodiless angels or some such thing. No, conversion is what makes us truly human, human in the fullest sense according to what God originally created us for — sharing His very life and love. This is what it means to “be found.”

This, though, is a process of continual growth. Conversion, in other words, sets us on the path toward spiritual maturity. Guiding God’s people toward spiritual maturity is the responsibility of those in the Church who are charged with faith formation.

In particular, today here at the Cathedral of Christ the Light we are celebrating Catechetical Sunday. It will be celebrated in our parishes next week, but we celebrate it here at the cathedral today in order to thank and commission those catechists who will be acknowledged in their parishes next week.

If we look closely at today’s Gospel reading, we will see that there is something more involved at the beginning point of conversion, in addition to the virtue of humility.

The Gospel explains that the tax collectors and sinners were the ones who drew near to listen to Jesus. This verse at the beginning of the reading is connected with the verse that comes immediately before it in St. Luke’s Gospel, where Jesus declares, as at various other points in the Gospel, that those who have ears to hear ought to listen.

Hearing, then, is also necessary to set out on the path of conversion, leading to spiritual maturity. Yes, the Church teaches in many different ways, but most especially the Church needs those who will speak the Word, communicate with words the saving truth of the Gospel through preaching and catechesis.

I therefore wish to thank all of our catechists who dedicate themselves to this ministry in our diocese, so that others may hear the Gospel and receive it into their lives. Your work is irreplaceable. Yes, teaching with words is irreplaceable, for this is how the Church most of all guides her people toward full spiritual maturity.

We also see this principle reflected in today’s Mass, specifically, in our first reading. In this passage from the Book of Exodus God shows Himself to be the wise catechist with regard to Moses. Obviously, God does not need to be convinced to have mercy on His people, and to be reminded of all He has done for His people and all He has promised them. He knows what He is going to do; He knew it all along.

Rather, God allows Moses to plead with Him for Moses’ own sake, in order to develop Moses’ talents to be the leader of God’s people God was calling him to be. God is drawing out from within Moses all of his potential, so that Moses might become all that God created him to be.

This highlights one specific aspect of faith formation, which happens to be one of the five goals of our diocese’s five-year strategic pastoral plan: formation for pastoral leadership.

I therefore want to encourage all of our catechists to focus on this vision of faith formation in their ministry. In particular, take the theme for this year’s Catechetical Sunday — Matrimony: Sacrament of Enduring Love — and imbue all of your catechesis with it, not only this coming year, but always.

There is so much confusion about marriage in the world today, what it is and what God intends it to be, and yet, the nuptial mystery is really the key to understanding everything about the truth that God reveals to us and developing the virtues to put that truth into action.

This is evident from the deep pain that always results when this foundational truth is not understood and lived correctly. And for us as pastors of souls, it is also one area where we can see with a particularly sharp focus the point of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel about the joy in heaven over those who are lost and found, that is, those who live a fully human life in Christ.

Marriage ministry makes this very clear, especially preparing couples for marriage and celebrating their weddings. We see the heartache, and feel it ourselves, when these couples are indoctrinated by the post-modern materialistic culture which places all value on passing sensory experiences.

But we also see and experience the joy of a couple who truly understands and lives God’s plan for marriage even before they tie the knot. This is clear even at the celebration of their wedding, which is a completely different experience: joyful, not glamorous, worship, not a show; in a word, holy. This is the good news that is at the heart of the Good News which is the Gospel.

So, to our catechists throughout the diocese, represented by those of you here today who will be commissioned at this Mass, I urge you to continue to deepen your own life of faith and response to your call to holiness, each in accordance with your vocation in life, so that you may hear the Word, receive Him into your minds, hearts and very being, and so be converted ever anew and grow in spiritual maturity, to the full human stature of the person God has created you to be.

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Ending birth citizenship in U.S. has far-reaching consequences

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In this heated election season, one issue keeping debate simmering has been the suggestion from some members of Congress that the United States do away with birthright citizenship as it is defined under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

While the issue comes loaded with sound-bite furor over “anchor babies,” and the theory that denying citizenship to all newborns will somehow reduce the number of people in the country who are without legal status, a new study shows the opposite effect would result from changing the law.

“It’s a discussion driven as much by emotion as anything else,” said Michael Fix, senior vice president and director of studies at the Migration Policy Institute, co-author of the analysis.

Much of the debate about birthright citizenship has involved the second clause of the 14th Amendment. Many legal scholars argue that it would take amending the Constitution to reverse what has been the status quo since 1868, when the 14th Amendment was passed, primarily to ensure full rights to former slaves.

But the current efforts take aim at the amendment’s phrasing that citizenship is granted to anyone born in the country who is “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States. They argue that the clause could be reinterpreted by an act of Congress to exclude the offspring of people who are here illegally.
Three bills introduced in the House this session would attempt to do just that.

Proponents of ending birthright citizenship claim that it is a lure to people to enter the country illegally to have children here, so those “anchor babies” can provide their parents and extended family legal residency and U.S. citizenship. Doing away with birthright citizenship would discourage illegal immigration, they argue, and maybe even make some people who are here already go back to their home countries.

The reality is that only after a child turns 18 can he petition for his parents to become legal residents and the applicants must still wait their turn in line and meet all the requirements such as passing background checks. Having a U.S. citizen child does not protect parents from being deported.

Nor does having a U.S. citizen child entitle her parents, if they are in the country illegally, to any benefits such as welfare. Citizen children of undocumented parents may be eligible for food stamps, Medicaid and other basic forms of aid if the family meets income criteria. And a 1982 Supreme Court ruling said that children’s immigration status — let alone that of their parents — may not be used to bar them from attending public schools.

The long-term effects of conferring different rights upon newborns depending upon their parents’ immigration status has only recently entered the debate, and many questions remain unanswered. For instance, what is the legal status of someone whose parents were both born here but who was denied citizenship because of their parents’ legal status? And, for how many generations will people born in the United States be penalized for their ancestors’ immigration problems?

The analysis released this month by the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute looked at some long-term consequences. It found that by ending birthright citizenship, the number of people in the country illegally would snowball, doubling the number of undocumented residents in the country from 2 to 4 percent of the population in 40 years and creating “a self-perpetuating class of unauthorized immigrants who would be excluded from social membership for generations.”

Jennifer Van Hook, a professor of sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University and a fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, said that even assuming new illegal immigration stops immediately upon passage of a law, the population of people without legal status would grow as succeeding generations of offspring also would lack U.S. citizenship.

“While some are discussing an end to birthright citizenship as a means to reduce illegal immigration, such a move would in fact significantly increase the size of the unauthorized population,” said Van Hook.
Under one of several scenarios tested, by the third generation, in 2050, 6.3 million people born in the United States would be here without legal status, many in spite of having two parents who were born in the country.

“This perpetuation of hereditary disadvantage based on the legal status of one’s ancestors would be unprecedented in U.S. immigration law,” Fix said.

Fix and Van Hook predicted how many people would lack citizenship or legal residency status under four scenarios: the status quo of citizenship being granted to all U.S.-born children; a rule denying citizenship to newborns only if both parents are in the country illegally; a rule denying citizenship only if the mother lacks legal immigration status; and a rule denying citizenship if either parent is here illegally, even if one parent is a U.S. citizen.

The bills currently before Congress would extend birthright citizenship to newborns with one parent who is a citizen, a legal permanent resident or “an alien performing active service in the armed forces.”

The smallest increase in the undocumented population would occur under that second scenario — if both parents are in the country illegally. The study projected that the population of unauthorized residents would grow from the current 11 million to 16 million, assuming there was no increase in people entering the country illegally.

Under the most extreme scenario — denying citizenship if either of the child’s parents lacks legal immigration status — the population of people lacking legal residency, millions of them having lived nowhere else in their lives, would grow to 24 million by 2050, the study said.

The study assumed that unauthorized immigrants would continue to behave as they do now, with subsequent generations having children at the same rates as today.

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