The Catholic Church is urging President Biden to accept a lot more refugees

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A Jesus on the cross is seen as Catholic priests of Saint Charles Missions from Latin America, the US and Canada gather to pray at the US-Mexico border fence in solidarity to migrants and against hate and indifference, in Tijuana, Baja California State, Mexico, on July 4, 2019.

  • Bishop Mario Dorsonville scolded Biden for not immediately raising the cap on refugee admissions.
  • “The number of refugees who will be welcomed this year is far short of what we can do as a country,” he said.
  • This year’s admissions cap is 15,000, although the Biden administration says it will raise it soon.
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President Joe Biden may attend mass every Sunday, but when it comes to welcoming more refugees he has thus far been a disappointment to the Catholic Church.

Biden campaigned on establishing a more humane immigration system, promising, in particular, to restore a refugee resettlement program that had been systematically gutted by his predecessor. Soon after taking office, the first Catholic in the White House in more than 50 years announced plans to resettle as many as 125,000 refugees in fiscal year 2021, which begins October 1.

But last week the Biden administration disappointed immigrants and their allies when it informed Congress it was not committed to raising the ultra-low cap on refugee admissions set by the last White House. Left unchanged, just 15,000 people, at most, would be resettled by the end of the current fiscal year. For comparison, the US admitted over 200,000 refugees in 1980.

Bishop Mario Dorsonville, head of the US Conference on Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, said Monday the country can do a lot more to help the world’s most vulnerable

“The number of refugees who will be welcomed this year is far short of what we can do as a country and is not an adequate response to the immense resettlement need,” Dorsonville, an auxiliary bishop in Washington, DC, and himself an immigrant from Colombia, said in a statement.

The church frequently clashed with former President Donald Trump. US bishops accused him of seeking to “instigate panic in our communities” with mass deportations, and describing his efforts to practically eliminate refugee resettlement – he launched racist attacks on Somali refugees who had already come, while his adviser, Stephen Miller, advocated slashing admissions to zero – as “counter to our values as a nation of immigrants.”

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services is one of nine nonprofit organizations that partner with the US government to meet the needs of refugees who arrive in the country. Those seeking protection from war and repression deserve compassion and assistance, it teaches, citing the “mercy of Christ, who himself was a immigrant and child of refugees.”

‘Shocked and disappointed’

Faith leaders were aghast, then, at hearing the new administration suggest it might embrace continuity on refugees, at least for now, with Protestants joining Catholics in denouncing the status quo.

Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, an Evangelic Christian group that helps resettle refugees, said he was “shocked and disappointed” by the news. By “embracing President Trump’s historically low refugee ceiling,” he said in a statement, “President Biden is betraying his commitment to build back better.”

The White House heard the uproar. Hours after appearing content to stay put, the Biden administration put out a statement reiterating that it does not plan to stick with the last administration’s refugee policy forever; it will announce a new admissions cap for the rest of this year in the coming weeks, it said. But because the resettlement program was decimated by the last administration, spokesperson Jen Psaki lowered expectations for how many will be admitted this year, walking back an earlier goal of more than 62,000.

The Catholic Church, however, is urging the administration to go big.

“We expect the administration to recalibrate and raise this ceiling,” Bishop Dorsonville said, pointing to the “unprecedented number of refugee families seeking new homes after being persecuted for religious, political, and other reasons.” The church, he added, is in fact “disappointed that it has not done so yet.”

It is not the only area of immigration policy where Biden has disappointed some Catholics. Asylum-seekers, too, have generally experienced more of the same during the first few months of this presidency. Biden has allowed unaccompanied minors to enter the US, in contrast to a predecessor who kept them on the other side of the border.

But he has otherwise maintained his predecessor’s closed-door policy, asylees included, citing a lack of infrastructure to process new arrivals, as well as the public health risk posed by increased admissions during a pandemic.

“There is an expectation that Biden would have more humanitarian policies at the border,” Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute, a Catholic group that assists migrants, recently told the Jesuit magazine America. “In practice, however, that has not happened.”

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Pope Francis says Catholic priests can’t bless same-sex unions because God ‘cannot bless sin’

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Pope Francis delivers a homily during Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican in November 2020.

  • A decree from Pope Francis on Monday said Catholic priests can’t bless same-sex unions.
  • A Vatican statement said “any form of blessing that tends to acknowledge their unions” was illicit.
  • The note from the Church comes months after the pope said he supported civil union laws.
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Catholic priests can’t bless same-sex unions because God “cannot bless sin,” the Vatican announced Monday.

“The blessing of homosexual unions cannot be considered licit,” said the Vatican statement, which was approved by Pope Francis. “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”

God “never ceases to bless” each person, the Vatican added.

“But he does not and cannot bless sin,” the decree continued. “He blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him.”

Gay people “who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching” can still be blessed by priests and the Catholic Church. But the Church said “any form of blessing that tends to acknowledge their unions” was illicit.

The note – which was released by the church’s orthodoxy office in response to a question about same-sex unions – comes just months after Pope Francis said he supported a civil union law for same-sex couples in an interview for a documentary.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” he said in October 2020. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” Francis said. “I stood up for that.”

The Catholic Church has historically been opposed to giving LGBT people equal rights under the law, and Francis’ remarks at the time were groundbreaking.

But the Vatican partially walked back those remarks weeks later, saying they were taken out of context and “led to confusion.”

According to the Vatican, Pope Francis supported governments instituting same-sex marriage laws, as opposed to the decision being a “doctrine of the Church.”

About 70% of Americans surveyed for a national poll said they supported same-sex marriage, according to an American Values Survey published in October 2020.

There was also strong support for same-sex marriage when broken down by religious denomination. Nearly 80% of Hispanic Roman Catholics surveyed and about 67% of white Catholics said they supported it.

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