March 21, 2018
On the Seal of Confession
By Archbishop John C. Wester
ALBUQUERQUE – Wednesday, March 21, 2018–IMMEDIATE RELEASE— A recent news story from Erie, Pennsylvania raised questions about the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance|Confession) and the seal of the confessional. There is much we do not know about the reported incident, but what we do know is the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the obligation of absolute secrecy imposed upon the priest is sacred and absolute.
I wish to assure all the faithful in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe that Canon 983.1 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law is scrupulously observed by all of our priests and bishops. Canon 983.1 states, “The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore, it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray, in any way, a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.”
It is my hope as many Catholics as possible will celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Easter, availing themselves of this precious gift of Christ to the Church.---END (En Español)
March 6, 2018
New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops
An Open Letter:
Children Come First
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Yesterday, I received an open letter from some of our state legislators related to the support the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops continues to give to the NM HJR1 2018 (Land Grant Fund Distributions). Since the letter is directed to the Conference, we three undersigned Catholic bishops of New Mexico are responding today.
“ ‘Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth’ (1 Jn 3:18). These words of the Apostle John voice an imperative that no Christian may disregard. The seriousness with which the ‘beloved disciple’ hands down Jesus’ command to our own day is made even clearer by the contrast between the empty words so frequently on our lips and the concrete deeds against which we are called to measure ourselves.” This was the opening to the message from His Holiness Pope Francis on the First World Day of the Poor in November 2017.
New Mexico has the highest rate of children living in poverty and the highest rate of children suffering adverse childhood experiences in the United States. Our state has the resources to address these problems. The data speaks for itself. Numbers don’t lie. The condition of our children has raised the level of urgency; we must not only speak, but act. The status quo yields traumatic and inexcusable inequities, especially for young children of color. No one individual has been accused of racism. Rather, we’ve highlighted deep flaws in a system in dire need of substantial reforms. Pope Francis states, “We are called, then, to draw near to the poor, to encounter them, to meet their gaze, to embrace them and to let them feel the warmth of love that breaks through their solitude. Their outstretched hand is also an invitation to step out of our certainties and comforts.”
Institutional or structural racism is constructed by policies and practices that, intentionally or not, produce the outcomes that place a racial group on an unlevel playing field. It is complex, and
this structural racism took root long before our time. For example, the history of the Land Grant Permanent Fund is based in inequitable and unfair policy practices. The lands that generate the revenue for the Fund are lands seized from the Native Americans by using treaties that were facilitated under coercion and then violated after ratification. Later, under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Spanish or Mexican claims to the land were denied through legislative and judicial procedures. Land produces wealth, and whole groups of people were deprived of the ability to accumulate intergenerational wealth as their land was taken away. As a community, we have a unique opportunity to change inexcusable inequities in our state. The fact that 90 percent of Native Americans and 83 percent of Hispanics are not proficient in reading at the 4th grade level should be of the utmost concern for us all. The horrible irony is that many of the children impacted are descendants of people from whom the land was taken. Pope Francis states, “We may think of the poor simply as the beneficiaries of our occasional volunteer work, or of impromptu acts of generosity that appease our conscience. However good and useful such acts may be for making us sensitive to people’s needs and the injustices that are often their cause, they ought to lead to a true encounter with the poor and a sharing that becomes a way of life.”
In Brothers and Sisters to Us, the 1979 USCCB Pastoral Letter on Racism, the bishops state: "The structures of our society are subtly racist, for these structures reflect the values which society upholds. They are geared to the success of the majority and the failure of the minority. Members of both groups give unwitting approval by accepting things as they are. Perhaps no single individual is to blame. The sinfulness is often anonymous but nonetheless real. The sin is social in nature in that each of us, in varying degrees, is responsible. All of us in some measure are accomplices. As our recent pastoral letter on moral values states: ‘The absence of personal fault for an evil does not absolve one of all responsibility. We must seek to resist and undo injustices we have not caused, least we become bystanders who tacitly endorse evil and so share in guilt in it.’ ”
We now have an opportunity to take an inward look to see how we can end systemic inequities that prevent our state from reaching its full potential. Together we must purge racism within our community; even the smallest component of racism is an offense against God. Racism is an affront to the dignity of the human person.
It is not enough to identify poverty and its impact on our community, all people of good will must act with urgency. Pope Francis speaks very clearly to this, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’, without giving them the things needed for the body; what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has not works, is dead (First World Day of the Poor 2:5-6.14-17).”
On behalf of the children of New Mexico, we bishops are very appreciative some appropriations for early childhood programs have been made; however those appropriations hardly repair the 2008 recession cuts. When 100,000 children are eligible for home visiting, and only 4,500 are enrolled, that reality should be alarming to our legislators. This year, only $1.5 million of “new money” was allocated to home visiting. Home visiting is the very instrument that brings stability and vibrancy to families and ends the cycle of poverty. Again, the words of Pope Francis, “The earliest community realized that being a disciple of Jesus meant demonstrating fraternity and solidarity, in obedience to the Master’s proclamation that the poor are blessed and heirs to the Kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 5:3).”
For 15 years, Allen Sánchez, our advocate for the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, has served us and the Church well. Mr. Sánchez’ deep love for the Gospel, the Church and the people of God are shown through his dedicated ministry, and his extensive educational background which includes: BS Pastoral Studies College of Santa Fe, STB Theology Pontifical Gregorian University Rome, and MS Spirituality Pontifical Saint Thomas Aquinas University Rome.
Today’s unconscionable plight of our children has called for the Church to be a prophetic voice. God comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. In the words of Pope Francis, “If we want to help change history and promote real development, we need to hear the cry of the poor and commit ourselves to ending their marginalization.”
We Catholic bishops of New Mexico respectfully request our elected officials keep their focus on the issue at hand: the plight of our children living in extreme poverty. We are grateful for our legislators’ open letter to us, and we pray they will leave no stone unturned as they transform their good will into action and provide for our children by passing HJR1 and bringing this vital issue to the voting public. That is what St. John meant in his first letter: we must "...not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth."
Respectfully yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe
Most Reverend Oscar Cantú, Bishop of Diocese of Las Cruces
Most Reverend James S. Wall, Bishop of Diocese of Gallup--END
Abide In Christ: Say "I'm Sorry" During Lent
Quite a few years ago a JAL 747 landed short of the San Francisco International Airport runway and ended up in the bay. Fortunately, no lives were lost. What I remember most about that incident is that the CEO of Japan Airlines went on television and apologized for the accident. He then made a profound bow that underscored the sincerity of his apology. Back then, I wondered why he apologized. First of all, he wasn’t flying the plane. Furthermore, I presume that the pilot did not land in the bay on purpose. And yet, the CEO was personally apologizing from the bottom of his heart. Contrast that apology with a rather common one in these modern times. Somebody makes a public comment about another person that is extremely hateful, disrespectful and damaging to that person’s reputation. Then, when called on it, replies, “If he or she is so thin-skinned as to be bothered by my innocuous comment then I guess I apologize.” Not quite the same, is it?
One could go a long time without hearing the words, “I’m sorry.” I suppose there are many reasons for this. For one thing, most of our cars carry in the glove compartment an insurance company reminder not to admit fault if we have been in an accident but only to give our name, license number and insurance information. We live in a litigious society and it may be that we are trained early on not to say, “I’m sorry.” Another possible reason may be that we are more and more pressured to look good, to find our self-worth in our accomplishments and to defend our honor at all costs. Certainly this kind of thinking makes admitting fault and apologizing for such rather taboo. I think this last point hits the mark. Our society values externals: how much money we have, what our titles are, how big a house we live in, how much power we have, how often we are “liked” on social media, how many people know about us, etc. Given this reality, it is far too dangerous to admit that I have sinned and even more dangerous to ask for forgiveness. It might lessen my perceived self-worth. Apologizing is seen as weakness when in fact it is a sign of real strength to admit our mistakes, apologize and become the better for it.
This modern mentality seems to extend to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). Of course, there are sound spiritual reasons for receiving sacramental absolution, for telling God we are sorry and receiving his forgiveness. Yet, look at how few Catholics go to confession compared to the “old days.” Why is this? I suppose the reasons are related to why we are so reticent to say we are sorry. To admit that I am a sinner is rather difficult when, as I have suggested, my self-worth comes from externals and from my own doing. We often make the mistake of thinking that God loves us because we are good. Father Michael Demkovich, OP, recently reminded me that according to St. Thomas Aquinas, the opposite is true: we are good because God loves us. Ah, there it is! When my dignity and worth come from God and his love for me then I more easily admit my sinfulness, my mistakes and my weaknesses, knowing that they do not lessen my self-worth because God never withdraws his love for me. Seeking forgiveness is the portal to growth, new life and a fuller expression of who I am. As a prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours has it, “Grant that where sin has abounded, grace may more abound, so that we can become holier through forgiveness and be more grateful to you.” Saying “I am sorry” does not diminish me but rather it directs me back to the God whose love gives me my dignity and worth in the first place. We do not have to become perfect in order to gain God’s love. He loves us from the first moment of our existence, in our mother’s womb, even before we have done anything that makes us “worthy” of his love. Or, as St. Paul reminds us, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Call to mind the episode in Luke’s Gospel when a paralytic was lowered into a crowded house where Jesus was teaching so that he could be healed. Jesus, seeing their faith and knowing their thoughts, said immediately, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” That lowering down, that humble expression of sorrow, that implied, “I am sorry”, opened the floodgates of Christ’s mercy and love. We can do the same this Lent by celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation and hearing Christ speak through the priest, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” We will not lose face, self-worth or esteem. Quite to the contrary, we will be the better for it and filled with a dignity that only God’s love can give us.
Do you remember the 1970 movie, “Love Story”, with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal? One of its most famous lines was often quoted: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Ryan O’Neal starred with Barbara Streisand two years later in the comedy, “What’s Up, Doc?”, in which Streisand bats her eyelashes at O’Neal and says, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” The latter responds, “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.” I agree! Love means you have to say you’re sorry, over and over and over again. And it is love, especially God’s love, that makes it possible to say those seldom heard words.
February 22, 2018
STATEMENT FROM ARCHBISHOP JOHN C. WESTER
Support the Dreamers: Congressional Call-In Campaign
Please participate in the Call-in Day to Congress on
Monday, February 26, 2018!
ALBUQUERQUE – Thursday, February 22, 2018–IMMEDIATE RELEASE— Please participate in the National Call-in Day to Congress on Monday, February 26, 2018. Your advocacy is critical to help the nearly 1.8 million Dreamers, young people who were brought into the United States by their parents as children. They may face deportation as soon as March 6, unless Congress reaches a bi-partisan deal to protect them.
I invite you to view the USCCB video with Bishop Joe S. Vasquez (Diocese of Austin) to learn more about the National Call-in Day for Dreamers: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1OL62uuq7EJWyx-EYhHTRBEPvGm9yIxte/view
I also invite you to please call 855.589.5698 to reach the Capitol switchboard, and press 1 to connect to your Senators. Once you are connected to each Senator’s office, please ask the person on the phone to deliver this simple message:
“I urge you to support a bipartisan, common-sense, and humane solution for Dreamers:
• Protect Dreamers from deportation and provide them with a path to citizenship.
• Reject proposals that undermine family immigration or protections for unaccompanied children.
• As a Catholic, I know that families are not ‘chains’, but a blessing to be protected.
• Act now to protect Dreamers, our immigrant brothers and sisters.”
Please call 855.589.5698 a second time to reach the Capitol switchboard again, and press 2 to connect to your Representative. Once you are connected to the Representative’s office, please ask the person on the phone to deliver the same message as above.
After completing your call, please go to http://www.justiceforimmigrants.org to learn more about Dreamers and find other ways to voice your support.
USCCB President, Vice President, and Migration Chair Announce
National Call-in Day for Dreamers for February 26
February 19, 2018
WASHINGTON—Late last week, the Senate failed to achieve the 60 votes needed to move forward with debate on legislation to provide relief to Dreamers. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB President; Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB Vice President; and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, together issued the following statement:
"We are deeply disappointed that the Senate was not able to come together in a bipartisan manner to secure legislative protection for the Dreamers. With the March 5th deadline looming, we ask once again that Members of Congress show the leadership necessary to find a just and humane solution for these young people, who daily face mounting anxiety and uncertainty.
"We are also announcing a National Catholic Call-In Day to Protect Dreamers. This coming weekend, we will be asking the faithful across the nation to call their Members of Congress next Monday, February 26, to protect Dreamers from deportation, to provide them a path to citizenship, and to avoid any damage to existing protections for families and unaccompanied minors in the process.
"Our faith compels us to stand with the vulnerable, including our immigrant brothers and sisters. We have done so continually, but we must show our support and solidarity now in a special way. Now is the time for action."
February 15, 2018
Urgent: We need Catholic voices to support the Dreamers.
Call our New Mexico Senators and Representatives now.
Time is running out for them!
ALBUQUERQUE – Thursday, February 15, 2018–IMMEDIATE RELEASE— As Catholics, we believe the dignity of every human being, particularly that of our immigrant and refugee children and youth, must be protected. The sanctity of families must be upheld. The Catholic bishops have long supported undocumented youth brought to the United States by their parents, known as Dreamers, and continue to do so. We ask you to engage with your elected officials to voice your support for these young people and call on your members of Congress to find a bipartisan legislative solution to protect Dreamers immediately. As we move closer to the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA, ending March 5, 2018), over 800,000 young people who entered into the U.S. and only know America as their home, may face deportation. Every day, these youth lose their status, and with it, lose their ability to go to school, serve in the military and work legally. Our church stands in solidarity with Dreamers. We celebrate the contributions of refugees and immigrants in our churches, communities and in our country.
Congress must pass bipartisan legislation that would provide urgently needed relief for Dreamers.
1. Dreamers entered the United States through no fault of their own, but rather came to the U.S with their parents as children to seek a better future. They often know America as their only home.
2. These young people are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes.
3. They live out their daily lives with hope and a determination to flourish and contribute to society. They should not be forced to live their lives in constant fear that they will be deported at any moment and separated from their families. If deported, they face real dangers of violence, poverty and family separation in a place they have never known.
4. These undocumented youth are woven into the fabric of our country and of our church, and are, by every social and human measure, American youth. It is both our moral duty and in our nation’s best interest to protect them and allow them to reach their God-given potential.
5. Congress is now considering this important issue and must act to protect these young people by March 5, 2018. Please call your Senators and Representatives now and say the following (They will be on recess in home offices Friday, February 16 through the following week.):
“As a constituent, I urge you to stand in support of Dreamers, to publicly support Dreamers and pass a Clean Dream Act. The Dream Act offers qualifying immigrant youth ‘conditional permanent resident status’ and a path to full lawful permanent residency and citizenship. With the recent rescission of the DACA program, now is the time for Congress to work together to protect these exemplary young people. Find a prompt, humane and durable solution.”
Local, in district numbers:
Senator Tom Udall-Albuquerque 505.346.6791, Santa Fe 505.988.6511, Portales 575.356.6811
Senator Martin Heinrich-Albuquerque 505.346.6601, Santa Fe 505.988.6647
District 1: Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham-Albuquerque 505.346.6781
District 2: Representative Steve Pearce-Socorro, Los Lunas offices 855.4.PEARCE (732723)
District 3: Representative Ben Ray Lujan- Rio Rancho 505.994.0499, Santa Fe 505.984.8950--END
February 6, 2018
Archbishop John C. Wester on the Passage of the HJR1 Early Childhood Constitutional Amendment
ALBUQUERQUE – Tuesday, February 6, 2018–IMMEDIATE RELEASE— Archbishop John C. Wester has issued the following statement regarding the passage of the HJR1 Early Childhood Constitutional Amendment:
I congratulate the New Mexico House of Representatives for recognizing the needs of our children. Their critical passage of HJRl will allow New Mexicans to vote for a Constitutional amendment that brings the Land Grant Permanent Fund’s archaic distribution formula up to speed with science: learning begins at birth. This passage is responsible and admirable; we cannot continue with the status quo wherein our children rank in the highest percentage of those living in poverty in the United States.
We now pray the New Mexico State Senate will also hear our children’s voices and pass HJR1 so voters can participate in strengthening New Mexico for our children and our posterity. We can both protect the fund and create the educational system to change the future.—END
Christ Is Waiting for You
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
During the first week of January, we bishops of Region XIII made our annual retreat at the Redemptorist Retreat House near Tucson, AZ. The retreat house is located in the northern part of the Sonora Desert, nestled near the famous Picture Rocks, named for the ancient hieroglyphics found on them. Each day of the retreat, I enjoyed taking a walk into the desert which is at once beautiful and ominous. The saguaro cactus is abundant along with many other desert flora and fauna. I half expected to see Snoopy's brother Spike leaning against one of the cacti as he takes a nap! But the desert is nothing to joke about. It can be a very dangerous place. Though survival becomes one’s first priority, an opportunity presents itself to bask in its beauty
One of the beauties of the desert is how it demonstrates the tenacity of life, how it breaks through the cracked and dry soil. On my daily walks, I saw life springing up in so many ways. For example, I saw cactus growing out of boulders, showcasing how life is so tenacious even in the midst of a hostile environment. It then struck me that our church is just as tenacious in defending and protecting the precious gift of human life in all its stages. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin wrote eloquently on this topic, referring to the church’s stand as a commitment to hold sacred the “seamless garment” of life from conception to natural death. This approach underscores the beauty of life, the sacredness of it and the uniqueness of each unrepeatable human life.
Lent is certainly a time for us to deepen our appreciation for the gift of life. By stripping away all that is not essential - the superficiality, the glitz and glamour - I come to realize what really counts: the sacred gift of life God has given me and my relationship to the God of love who created me in His very image and likeness. Through my prayers, I relate to God more deeply which helps me realize what really counts… the gift of life. It’s not money, not possessions, not power, but the great precious gift of life and my relationship to the Author of Life.
Perhaps this is why Jesus went into the desert to begin His public ministry. He knew there He could strip away all that was not essential and deepen His appreciation for the gift of His life, God made man, lived in the presence of the Father. In the desert, Jesus would be alone, truly alone and He could hear more clearly the voice of His Father calling Him to do His will. In the desert, Jesus confirmed His decision to do the will of His Father as He began a ministry that would eventually lead to His death, resurrection and our redemption. The desert provided Jesus with the venue He needed to make sure He was on the right path even if it was a path fraught with peril and suffering. Of course, this path does not end with the cross but with the resurrection: no cross, no resurrection. It was in the desert that Jesus gathered the strength and the grace He needed to move forward in fulfilling the will of His Father, for Him and for all of us. During those 40 days and nights, Jesus emptied Himself so He could experience anew the love of His Father, the only gift that would truly satiate Him.
No wonder, then, that the church calls you and me to enter into the desert of Lent that we also might confirm our desire to do the will of God in our lives and to deepen in our appreciation for the gift of life. It is in the Lenten desert that we can strip away the superfluous, the unnecessary and do battle with our temptation to make ourselves the center of the universe instead of God, thus reestablish our commitment to follow Christ, no matter the cost. It is in the desert that we will follow the path that leads to the Easter mysteries in which we will celebrate Christ's resurrection and His triumph over sin and death. What does the desert of Lent look like?
Our Lenten desert is comprised of three elements: fasting, almsgiving and prayer. By fasting, we are reminded that we are hungry for God. By almsgiving, we are reminded that Christ’s body, the church, is hungry for God. By praying, we are reminded that we are hungry for eternal life with God. These Lenten practices put me in touch with my existential poverty and my journey in the desert reminds me to turn to God, not the world, if I wish to experience the fullness of life.
This Lent, the church invites us to enter into the desert as we place our trust in God’s love, aware of God’s deep desire to satisfy our longing hearts and souls. The desert can certainly be difficult: it is never easy to stand alone in the presence of an all-knowing, all-powerful God. But Christ reminds us that we are also in the presence of an all-loving God who wants nothing more than to fill us with his undying love. We enter the desert of Lent to become poor so that God can make us rich in his love and grace. I encourage us all to provide more time in our day for prayer, reflecting on Christ’s passion and death so that we will be prepared to celebrate his victory over the grave. I also encourage us to connect our fasting with our almsgiving. Fasting is far more efficacious if it serves as a reminder to reach out to others in need, not out of charity, but because I who am poor and hungry give to my brother or sister who is poor. Such “charity” reminds me that there are many ways to be poor and that in God’s presence, we are all poor in one way or another, standing in need of his love and mercy. It also reminds us that the greatest poverty of all is to fail to respect the sanctity of human life given by God to each unrepeatable human being so that we might be one with Him forever in heaven.
As you and I prepare for our Lenten journey, our Lenten retreat in the desert, remember the words of Hosea Chapter 2: “But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.” Christ is waiting for you in the desert – may you have a blessed journey.
January 26, 2018
A Reflection on the Moral and Ethical Imperative
to Create Systemic Change to Transform the Lives of Our Children
When Pope Francis appointed me two years ago as Archbishop of Santa Fe, I was shocked to discover the poverty in which so many children live. Hearing their cries, I offer a reflection on the moral and ethical imperative to create systemic change to transform the lives of our children.
For eight years, there has been debate over funding Early Childhood programs, yet there has been no substantial investment to create an intervention that will change the trajectory of our children. Much time, but little paid effort, has been spent to fund proven programs. We cannot call 25% of children receiving Pre-K as a full effort. We cannot call fewer than 5% receiving Home Visiting a full effort.
The disparity is surprising, even more so when shown by the US Census that 36.2% of our children under the age of five live in poverty, while the state accumulates a Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) of $17.2 billion. State Investment Council and Legislative Finance Council members offer unfounded projections of LGPF doomsday scenarios, of the stock market crashing and gas and oil dropping. Yet both have come and gone and the fund has proven to be strong.
The true doomsday is the condition of our children. Adverse childhood experiences are at epidemic proportions in New Mexico. If we calculate the hardship and cost to society for crime, educational remediation and an unprepared work force, this is the doomsday scenario playing out right in front of us.
We are at the bottom of the barrel of all outcomes of children’s wellbeing, yet there is another barrel, which has become a golden calf, which is overflowing. Commissions paid on the management of the LGPF have been referred to as a drop in the bucket, yet asking for a distribution of 1% is a smaller drop than was paid in commissions. The proposition that this 1% would deplete the fund is not true.
The lack of programs is why our outcomes have not improved. Polls show that New Mexicans are ready to support 1% being drawn from the LGPF; to make real change we must place this issue on the ballot.
As a leader of the Catholic Church in New Mexico, I view this through the lens of the Gospel, echoed in the challenges to care for our children presented by Pope Francis. For Catholics, fidelity to the Gospel is a communal call for a preferential option for the poor. The reality is that if a great many of our children are in poverty, we all are impoverished.
An investment in human capital is recession-proof. A resilient society creates more profit for a state than the dependency on a trust gambled daily in the stock market.
Be assured of my prayers for the children of New Mexico. I urge all people of good will to keep our children in our hearts, in our minds, and in our voices to bring about productive change.
"None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice." Pope Francis
January 23, 2018
I wish to thank all those who attended the panel discussions on clergy sexual abuse last Tuesday, January 16 in Clovis at Sacred Heart parish. There were approximately 300 people who came to express their concern and prayerful support for all those who have been victims of clergy sexual abuse. I’m grateful to Father John Daniel, Vicar General; Annette Klimka, Victim Assistance and Safe Environment Coordinator; Judge Geraldine Rivera, Chair of the Independent Review Board IRB) and Dr. Paul Peloquin, mediator and member of the IRB for their participation in this very important meeting. We have one more scheduled which will be Wednesday, January 31 at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Las Vegas, NM. Please join me in praying for all those who have been victims of clergy sexual abuse and join me in all of our many efforts to keep children and young persons safe from harm.
Legislator Breakfast/Sanctity of Life:
I want to thank all those who participated in and helped to host the Legislator Breakfast last Wednesday, January 17 in Santa Fe at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We had a marvelous turnout of legislators and others who are concerned about the well-being of our State. This afforded our Archdiocese an opportunity to thank our legislators for their service to New Mexico, to express our prayerful support of them and to share with them some of the essential teachings of the Catholic Church regarding social justice issues. I believe it was a wonderful and supportive day for all and I’m glad that it went so well. I’d like to extend a special thank you to Mr. Allen Sánchez, Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops. I’m also grateful to Bishop James Wall of Gallup who gave the beautiful homily at our pro-life Mass held at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. After Mass, we processed to the New Mexico State Capitol Roundhouse where we held a rally in support of pro-life issues.
Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal:
The Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal is kicking off. We had a wonderful meeting in Las Vegas at Our Lady of Sorrows’ parish hall last Friday night and then followed it with another wonderful meeting at St. Anne’s parish in Santa Fe. The Albuquerque meeting is coming up on Wednesday, January 24 followed by a meeting at St. Anthony of Padua in Fort Sumner on Saturday, January 27. I’m grateful to all the parish leaders who are attending these important meetings and who give great hope to the work and mission of our Archdiocese. Special thanks to Karin Wrasman and Kyra Klavetter for their work in shepherding this important process in our Archdiocese.
January 17, 2018
Sanctity of Life & Unity Day
"I join all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe as we pray for the deepened awareness of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. On this anniversary of the Supreme Court decision of Roe vs. Wade , we pray that we might find legal and moral protection for all children who are in the womb. Our prayers are with those who seek to reflect the sanctity of human life in all that we do by promoting the sanctity of human life by praying for an end to abortion in our country and in our world."
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Diocese of Gallup and Diocese of Las Cruces (New Mexico's three dioceses) and their ecumenical and interfaith families prayerfully mark the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion. Events included Mass and procession to the NM State Capitol for a rally led by the NM Conference of Catholic Bishops. We invite you to watch the video below.
January 16, 2018
Archbishop John C. Wester Congratulates New President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson
ALBUQUERQUE – Tuesday, January 16, 2018–IMMEDIATE RELEASE—Archbishop John C. Wester congratulates new president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson:
The news that Senior Apostle Russell M. Nelson, Sr., has been sustained as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a cause for great joy not only for those within his Church but for so many of us who have had the honor and privilege of working with the leadership of the LDS Church over the years. I will be always grateful to President Nelson for his kindness to me during my time in Salt Lake City. His warmth and goodness were readily evident as he brought his healing skills from the medical profession into his service as an Apostle. As I congratulate President Nelson I also offer my prayers and best wishes as he assumes his new responsibilities. May God bless him with continued good health so that he may follow his call with a generous spirit and a joyful heart. --END
January 9, 2018
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As we continue to celebrate the Christmas season, our thoughts focus on the Holy Family, forced to flee persecution and the threatened death of the Christ Child by Herod. Sadly, there are millions of people in the world today who also flee persecution, suffering, and in all too many cases, the very real threat of death. In this article, Archbishop Wester reflects on this reality and gives the following ethical perspective on immigration policy in the United States. It was published in the Santa Fe New Mexican and the Albuquerque Journal. Due to its timeliness and importance, we’d like to also share it with you, our People of God family.
Celine Baca Radigan, Editor
You may be surprised by this, but Catholic teaching acknowledges the right of a sovereign country to control its borders and enforce its immigration laws. However, that does not mean that the human dignity and human rights of immigrants should be violated.
Over the past 30 years, U.S. immigration policy has been characterized by an increase in enforcement measures without corresponding updates to other aspects of the legal immigration system. Immigration enforcement funding has risen dramatically, with immigration enforcement, compared with other US enforcement agencies, now being the largest share of the annual budget. Moreover, enforcement policies and practices have been added to the system during this period, including the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996, which has weakened due process protections for immigrants.
Under the current administration, an executive order has made all immigrants without legal status priorities for deportation, regardless of the length of time in the country, their US-citizen children, and other equities in the country—the same population which would have benefited from a path to citizenship in previous immigration reform bills.
While enforcement is an important element of any immigration system, so is fairness and justice. Too often we witness in our current system enforcement tactics or policies which prevent an immigrant from receiving the due process of the laws.
First, our system unjustly detains immigrants who are seeking asylum and are no threat to our society—even women and children. This prevents them from receiving community support and from accessing legal representation. In fact, our immigration detention system has exploded, with close to half a million immigrants detained yearly.
Certainly those who are a threat to our communities should be detained, but the vast majority of immigrants are not threats and have not committed a criminal offense. Instead of incarcerating them, our government should place them in community-based alternatives to detention, whereby community groups could provide them with housing and legal support. Such programs have been proven successful in ensuring immigrants show up for their hearings and are able to obtain legal representation, which also makes the court system more efficient.
Second, our immigration justice system should uphold the values upon which our nation was built—fairness and equal justice for all. Sadly, often our immigration court system does not meet this test, as it has been neglected and underfunded by Congress for years. Immigration court backlogs can last for years, depriving many of timely justice. Immigrants, especially those who are detained, have little access to legal counsel to navigate the complex court system, especially asylum-seekers.
Additionally, the use and expansion of expedited removal, a part of the 1996 act, deprives individuals of the opportunity to go before an immigration judge to seek relief from deportation. This policy adversely impacts the ability of asylum-seekers to have their claims adequately heard.
Third, state and local law enforcement officials, who are charged to protect the public, should not be required to enforce immigration laws. Changing the nature of their important mission would distract them from their essential task of public safety and undermine trust between them and immigrant communities. However, federal, state, and local enforcement officials should cooperate in identifying immigrants who may constitute a threat or have committed violent crimes.
Now more than ever immigrants are scapegoated for our social ills and are painted as criminals, even though their intent is simply to find work to support their families. The vast majority of immigrants are law-abiding and should not be demonized by public officials or others. Such rhetoric creates fear in immigrant communities, reducing cooperation with law enforcement and chilling legal immigrants from availing themselves of benefits for which they are entitled. It also demeans their human dignity, making them seem less than human and not deserving of human rights.
We can do better. Bi-partisan efforts to enact immigration reform have fallen short in the past ten years, but the need for reform exists.
Comprehensive immigration reform would restore the rule of law by increasing the legal avenues available for immigrants seeking to work in important US economic sectors. By bringing 11 million undocumented persons out of the shadows and into the light, we can ensure that all are included in a new system governed by the law, not illegal behavior, including by unscrupulous employers. It also would protect law-abiding immigrants and isolate those who are a threat to our communities.
For over three decades, U.S. immigration policy has been marked by increased enforcement, but our nation is still seeking an effective way to manage migration flows. Surely, another approach is needed, whereby our elected officials look at all aspects of the system together. Enforcement policies, fairly applied, are part of the solution—they are not a solution by themselves.
Migration is a global challenge, but also a global opportunity. Our nation has led the world in the integration of immigrants from around the world, to our great benefit. We must not continue to turn our back on this heritage, which has served our nation so well.
January 5, 2018
Archbishop John C. Wester on death of Thomas S. Monson, President,
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
ALBUQUERQUE – Friday, January 5, 2018–IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Archbishop John C. Wester has issued the following statement regarding the death of Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
I was very saddened to learn of the death of President Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was a man of great compassion who had a genuine concern for all God’s children and he will be missed, not only by those within the LDS Church, but by countless others who were touched by his gentle leadership and loving heart. I extend to all our brothers and sisters in the Mormon Church the sincere sympathy of the Catholic faithful in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and I assure you of our prayers for President Monson, his family and all of those who mourn the passing of this gentle shepherd.--END
December 6, 2017
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As we enter into this holy season of Advent, we are reminded that waiting is an essential part of life: a married couple waits for nine months for their child to be born; an athlete waits for an important game to take place; a student waits to take a final examination. Notice that in these examples as in so many others instances in life, waiting is not simply sitting back in an easy chair until the big event happens. Rather, we are actively involved in watchful waiting, attentive waiting, and active waiting so that we will be ready when the big moment happens. For me, this is what Advent is all about. The Church calls us together to actively wait, to prepare ourselves so that we will be ready to receive the Christ child this Christmas.
Unfortunately, we are losing our ability to wait productively with our attention fixed on our goal. We usually see waiting as a waste of time, a lost opportunity. That’s why we check our cell phones while waiting in a grocery line or read a magazine when waiting for a doctor’s appointment or work on our laptops while waiting for a plane. There is nothing wrong with any of these multitasking activities but they certainly can prevent me from being attentive to the now moment – the gift of the present. God is speaking to us during our time of expectation as I am sure any expectant mother would agree. By listening more attentively, without distractions and with mind and heart attuned to the coming event, I may find that watchful waiting makes life more interesting, less complicated and lived more fully.
It is in this spirit, then, that I invite you all, my brothers and sisters, to enter fully into this season of watchful waiting. As a community of faith, I pray that our local Church in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe may adopt the posture of Mary as we await the coming of our Savior this Christmas. Like Mary, I pray that we will be attentive to the “now” moment, a moment of grace. Quieting ourselves, externally and internally, let us take a collective deep breath and allow the Holy Spirit to take root in our lives, anchoring all our fears, worries, anxieties, concerns and problems to the life-giving and deeply refreshing breath of God. Instead of rushing to conclusions or finding quick, facile solutions, let us attempt to simply be in God’s presence and allow God to speak to us deeply within the recesses of our hearts. As my dear friend, Archbishop John Quinn often said, “God knows all we want and he has all we need.” Let that truth sit still in our hearts for a while and see where God leads us. It led Mary to the birth of our Savior and it will lead us to new life as well.
Our world has seen many tragedies this past year: hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, mass shootings, religious persecution, genocide, an increase of refugee flows, and so much more. On a personal level, so many of our brothers and sisters are carrying heavy crosses. We are waiting for new life, for peace, for freedom, for consolation, for answers and for whatever will lift us from all that weighs us down. God will not disappoint us for he is always faithful. The incarnation we celebrate this coming Christmas is living testimony to that fidelity. For now, for this moment, during this Advent, we await the new-born savior who will change our darkness to light, our sadness to joy. At the same time, I have always found it helpful to ask the question, “Who is waiting for whom?” Could it be that God is also waiting for us to open our hearts to the now moment, to his presence in our midst, to Emmanuel, to God with us? As the old bumper sticker said, “If God seems far away, guess who moved?” Now is the time to open our hearts to the God of the now moment, the “God of more.”
I join you in praying that God will bless this graced time of waiting for the coming of the Lord this Christmas. And I pray with you that God will reveal himself to us in the here and now so that the journey of Advent will itself be our destination, the beginning of Christmas where we find Christ who is the way, the truth and the life. May this same Christ raise his hands of benediction over all of us in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, granting us every grace and blessing that emanates from the crib of the newborn savior.
December 5, 2017
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,