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Border Bishop . . . Blasts Pro-Life Officials For Opposing Amnesty

August 12, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By CHRISTOPHER MANION

On July 3, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, published a nationally distributed op-ed blasting nine state attorneys general and one governor for insisting that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions enforce U.S. immigration law.
The officials, led by Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas, had addressed specifically DACA, the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” policy announced by the Obama administration on June 15, 2012, which gave some 1.1 million “Dreamers” — aliens who entered the U.S. illegally when they were 16 or younger — the opportunity to avoid deportation under certain circumstances.
In their letter, the officials observed that “DACA unilaterally confers eligibility for work authorization and lawful presence without any statutory authorization from Congress.”
In other words, Obama could not persuade Congress to pass legislation authorizing his policy, so he instituted it by fiat.
In defense of DACA, Bishop Seitz was strident. “When I hear their [the letter’s signers’] legalistic insistence upon every letter of our broken immigration law being carried out to this cruel degree, I can hear Jesus’ indignant response: ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites’,” he wrote.
Bishop Seitz’s tirade was admittedly emotional. “When I read that he and the other attorneys general had come out with that statement, it really made me angry,” he later told USA Today.
In fact, it is not clear at all whether Bishop Seitz actually read the letter he criticized. He does not appear to notice that one signatory was not an attorney general, but a governor, Butch Otter of Idaho, who is a pro-life Catholic.
The bishop’s angry attack on Gov, Otter and his colleagues invites a relevant and significant question: If the bishop condemns elected officials who disagree with him on immigration, how does he treat officials who advocate abortion rights?
The Wanderer spoke with Cong. Beto O’Rourke, who represents Texas’16th Congressional District, which includes Bishop Seitz’s Diocese of El Paso. Mr. O’Rourke told us that he admires and strongly supports Bishop Seitz’s work on immigration. He also recalled that he had appeared with the bishop at a DACA rally in El Paso’s Plaza San Jacinto last January.
When asked whether Bishop Seitz had ever criticized him publicly for his position on abortion rights, Mr. O’Rourke confirmed that the bishop had not. (Cong. O’Rourke receives a 100 percent rating from the National Abortion Rights Action League, NARAL.)
On July 25, The Wanderer wrote Bishop Seitz, noting his attack on Gov. Otter and the attorneys general, and relating our conversation with Mr. O’Rourke. “Like Mr. O’Rourke,” I asked, “I can find no record of your ever criticizing your congressman publicly for his support of ‘abortion rights.’ Have you ever done so? If so, when? Where? What terms did you use to characterize him and/or his beliefs?”
On July 26, Nancy Ramos, Bishop Seitz’s communications director, responded:
“We are working diligently to locate documents to accompany Bishop’s response.” A day later, Ms. Ramos wrote that “Bishop Seitz statements on pro-life issues are plenty and Bishop has worked diligently to strengthen our pro-life ministry in the diocese. Bishop Seitz has participated in the annual March for Life in El Paso which is a well known and well attended event with a participation attendance of 4,000+. He also has attended and supported the 40 Days for Life event in El Paso.
“Bishop Seitz, an avid hiker in our Franklin Mountains, has also launched Hike for Life in El Paso, which raises funds for crisis pregnancy centers. His commitment to life is very well known in this region and he will continue to proactively support and grow support for this very cause.”
Ms. Ramos did not include any documents, but did provide this statement from Bishop Seitz:
“While Congressman O’Rourke values his Catholic upbringing he knows he is not presently in accord with a number of clear teachings of the Catholic Church. I have met with Congressman O’Rourke privately and expressed the Church’s position on abortion as well as the entire range of Catholic moral and social teachings. I intend to continue to work with him in matters of mutual agreement and to discuss with him those issues in which there is a divergence from Catholic teaching.”
So Bishop Seitz confirms Cong. O’Rourke’s statement: The bishop has never publicly criticized Mr. O’Rourke’s pro-abortion-“rights” record.
But the bishop did reach out “privately.” Did he ever privately reach out to Attorney General Paxton or his fellow signatories, including at least three Catholics?
Matt Welch, a spokesman for Attorney General Paxton, tells The Wanderer that “I am unaware of any attempt by Bishop Seitz to contact General Paxton, either before or after the bishop’s July 3 op-ed appeared, to discuss privately his concerns regarding DACA.”
In fact, Mr. Welch continues, “I am not aware of the Bishop ever reaching out to AG Ken Paxton on any matter (religious liberty, pro-life legislation, human-trafficking and anti-pedophilia task forces, etc.)”
Mr. Paxton is one of America’s most valiant defenders of the right to life, the integrity of the family, and many other positions which the Catholic Church teaches are not optional, but magisterial from the point of view of Church teaching. Yet Bishop Seitz has apparently never reached out to Mr. Paxton privately, or commended him publicly, for defending these firm (and Catholic) but decidedly unpopular principles.
The Wanderer also contacted the offices of Bishop Seitz’s state representative, Cesar Blanco, and state senator, José Rodriguez. Both are El Paso Catholics, and both are 100 percent pro-abortion-“rights.” Neither office had any knowledge or record of any public criticism by Bishop Seitz of the pro-abortion records of these officials.
The Wanderer reached out to Bishop Seitz with questions following up on his statement. In one of them, we asked:
“In a letter to the El Paso Times published on July 10, Mr. Richard Barraza, a practicing Catholic, responded to your op-ed of July 3. There Mr. Barraza writes that, while President Obama was a staunch supporter of abortion rights, in direct contradiction to one of the principal teachings of the church, ‘I never once heard or read Bishop Seitz criticize him.’
“Is Mr. Barraza correct? Please advise if you have any information to the contrary, especially regarding any public criticism specifically of President Obama you might have made regarding his support of abortion rights.
“Mr. Barraza also suggests that your ‘name-calling rhetoric’ is selective: ‘Bishop Seitz should exercise the same courtesy as he did under the previous administration, lest we be called hypocrites,’ he writes.
“Your Excellency, if you have not publicly criticized President Obama, Rep. O’Rourke, Sen. Rodriguez, or Rep. Blanco by name for their radical pro-abortion record with the same intensity with which you criticize Mr. Paxton and the other signatories of his DACA letter, are you not inviting the charge that you yourself are the hypocrite in this matter?”
On August 9, Bishop Seitz’s spokeswoman responded, “At this time he will not be answering any further questions from The Wanderer regarding this matter.”

Pursuing Answers

We respect Bishop Seitz’s decision to remain silent on the Catholic Catechism’s teaching regarding immigration (n. 2241), on the rights of the laity (Lumen Gentium, nn. 31-37), and the application of canon law in instances where public officials are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” (n. 915).
In the American hierarchy, Bishop Seitz has many silent partners. However, The Wanderer considers these questions to be so important — and not only to Catholics — that we will continue to pursue the answers, both in El Paso and countless other dioceses in the United States.

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