Thursday, May 21, 2015

LOS ANGELES' $15 MINIMUM WAGE

The Los Angeles City Council has voted to increase the minimum wage in the City to $15 per hour by the year 2020.  Thirty years ago when I first became Archbishop of Los Angeles, I would never have thought it necessary to take such an enormous leap in low-end worker salaries.

Not any more.

There are many reasons for the hike, but two of them are really important:

1.     In past years, minimum wage jobs were also relatively short-term jobs.  They were meant for young people working part-time or others just entering the job market.  No one expected such jobs to be long-term and permanent work.  These jobs were to get a foothold in the work field, and then to move on to better middle class jobs.

2.     The number of next level, middle class, jobs across southern California have all but disappeared.  Recall after the Second World War how our area became a great leader in aerospace and defense companies.  Hundreds of thousands of people were employed in these good paying, middle class jobs over the years.  But gradually, because of many factors, those companies and those jobs began to disappear.

The result?  People desperate to provide for their families are increasingly stuck in low-paying jobs, most paying at or below minimum wage.  This is particularly true for our immigrant brothers and sisters.  There are no "better jobs" to move on to.

And it's not just the wages.  Minimum wage jobs almost never offer benefits such as health care, retirement plans, or other amenities from previous generations.  Many companies limit the hours for such employees in order to avoid having to pay for medical insurance.  Shifting schedules makes it difficult for such workers to get to other low-wage jobs, or to take some classes.

Another worrying result is the rapid expansion of low-income families, and increasing wealth of high-income families, and the narrowing group in the middle.

The real issue is not just about minimum wage jobs.  Rather, our goal must be to look for ways to narrow this growing gap between people at the top and those at the bottom.

The gap is not only economic.  In so many places across the country, it is also a racial divide.  Studies show that the minority communities of our country consistently remain on the lower rung of the economic ladder.  Both divides need our focused attention, and I hope that the 2016 Presidential candidates will engage our country in this discussion--and that they be required to lay out concrete plans to ease the divide and to provide greater economic opportunity for everyone.

Just a few areas might help move us in the right direction.  Home ownership has always been a past measure of success for our families.  We need to make home ownership more readily available to all of our people--through new qualification parameters, lower down payments, and other means that do not jeopardize either the families or the economy.

Most lower paying jobs offer no pension plan opportunities.  Even if companies offered a very simple plan these families could begin acquiring some equity for the future.

Social Security could raise the cap on payroll taxes so that the more affluent can contribute their fair share into the plan which will benefit them.

The City of Los Angeles plan will go a long way to help our poorer families.  But all of the incorporated cities in Los Angeles County need to match this new increase in the minimum wage for it to have its full effect.  If a company in Los Angeles City just moves a few miles to a small city with a lower minimum wage, then everyone loses.

The widening gap between those at the higher end of our economy and those at the lower end of our economy must return to its former, historic narrow range.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

UNIQUE STATIONS of the CROSS

On Good Friday this year I was privileged to make the Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross, with the parishioners of St. Patrick's Parish in central Los Angeles.

The Stations were written and acted out by young people of the parish.  What made these Stations unique was the integration of the traditional Stations with the realities of their own community.  A brief summary of each of the 14 Stations follows:

1st:     We stopped at an intersection near the Church where where a young man who was mentally disabled was struck and killed by a car as he walked home on Ash Wednesday night from Church; ashes still on his forehead.  Remembrance of senseless accidents.

2nd:     An elementary school was the next stop; reflection on Jesus' care and concern for children in his ministry; remembrance of children suffering in broken or violent homes.

3rd:     Stopped opposite two Botanicas, or drug stores, where in the past sales of drugs took place.

4th:     Next location was a former small church, now covered in graffiti.

5th:     Paused in front of a high school and pondered the love of Jesus for young people, especially those living in barrios.

6th:     Stopped in front of an old hotel--the only place where African-Americans could stay in past years, especially when they were forbidden to stay in all other Los Angeles hotels.  Prayed for an end to racism.

7th:     Next location was next to a new Police Station, prayed for our law enforcement officials to help bring an end to street violence.

8th:     Paused opposition two liquor stores; prayed for an end to alcohol abuse and recovery for all addicted to various substances.

9th:     Stopped in front of one of the dozens of small clothing manufacturing plants where so many parishioners work; considered Jesus working there along side of these men and women.

10th:     Next stop was an ally behind clothing plants; reflected on so many people earning a minimum wage, no benefits, no rights; Jesus is here with the workers day and night.

11th:     Paused in the midst of a residential area, reflecting on Jesus knocking on the doors wanting to enter and dwell with our families.

12th:     Stopped in an ally and reflected on Jesus dying for all of us, abandoned and alone.

13th:     Next stop was another alley where the dirty sights and smells reminded us of so many people who mourn the loss of a loved one; Jesus there in our midst.

14th:     Returned to the interior of the Church to reflect on the burial of Jesus, awaiting the miracle of his resurrection in three days.


These Stations of the Cross were creative and imaginative, all situated in the living reality of the people of St. Patrick's Parish on Central Avenue and 34th Street.  The young people who developed them were amazing, and filled with faith a deep love for Jesus in his self-giving for all of us.

I have already entered this parish on my calendar for Good Friday 2016.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

ATTITUDES TOWARDS IMMIGRANTS CHANGES

In a recent study published by the Public Policy Institute of California it is reported that the attitudes among California residents have changed dramatically over the years.  Gone are the harsh and repressive attitudes of people 21 years ago when the infamous Proposition 187 was passed.

The following question was given to respondents:

"If you had to choose, what do you think should happen to most illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the United States for at least two years?  They should be given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status, or they should be deported back to their native country."

The results were both gratifying and a bit surprising:

70%      they should be given a chance to keep their jobs

25%      they should be deported back to their native country

5%         don't know

To view the full report on immigration in California, please see this link:

http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/atissue/AI_711HJAI.pdf


While this study was done in California, across the country similar studies suggest that between 62% and 85% of all Americans surveyed would respond in the same way.

If this substantial support to allow unauthorized immigrants to keep their jobs and begin down an earned path towards legal status, why is it impossible to get members of Congress to pass needed legislation to make this possible?  That remains a mystery.

Each one of us needs to send an email to our House of Representative member and to our U.S. Senators urging them to pass needed immigration reform.

Let's continue praying for this intention, especially as we approach Holy Week and enter the joyous Easter Season.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

POPE FRANCIS TO MEET WITH CARDINALS

Pope Francis will meet with all the Cardinals of the world, along with those to be created on February 14, in Rome on Thursday and Friday, February 12 and 13.

We have been informed that the agenda will focus on the ongoing restructuring of the Vatican Curia, the various offices which assist the Pope in his governance of the Universal Church.

This will be fascinating, and it is becoming increasingly obvious that Pope Francis is leading all of us disciples of Jesus into a fuller and deeper relationship with Jesus as a first step.  Any renewal of the broader Church must begin with our own personal renewal in and through Jesus.  Then, Pope Francis is pointing us to a simpler organizational and administrative structure, preferring the simpler model of the Church in the Acts of the Apostles.  This model places greater autonomy at the local levels of the Church, as lived out historically in  the Eastern Catholic Churches and in the Orthodox Churches.

Over the centuries, the local level model gave way to a more centralized governing in the Vatican.  It is apparent that Pope Francis is now helping to re-shape the Church and using more fully those ancient structures which have been so pastorally fruitful:  Councils, Metropolitan Provinces, Synods, and Patriarchs. Note the Pope's decision to have the Pallium for new Archbishops bestowed in their Metropolitan Sees, not in Rome; and involving all of the Suffragan Dioceses in that process.

I have great hopes for the direction which Pope Francis is guiding us, and the Holy Spirit will surely be present and active the week of February 9 to 15.

Please pray for Pope Francis and all of the Cardinals attending these important sessions.

Friday, January 2, 2015

CALIFORNIA DRIVERS' LICENSES

Today, January 2, 2015 over a million California undocumented residents will be able to legally apply for a Driver's Privilege card here in California.  Thank God!

Over the years I have heard the difficult stories of so many men and women who were forced because of job, school, or other need to get behind the wheel of a car without a license.  Their fears of being stopped, of possibly being deported, of suffering in many ways--all haunted them day after day.

Now, they must pass a written test, a vision test, and a driving test in order to qualify for a driver's licence in our State.  Some 250 of our parishes have been working with the possible applicants to prepare them to understand the Department of Motor Vehicles driver's booklet and to prepare for the tests.  It has been a long and important task for all of them, but they are anxious to become "legal" in at least this aspect of their daily lives.

It is possible that as many as 800,000 would be eligible here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for this driving privilege, and the Church is working diligently with many volunteers to help our people prepare well.

May this be a first step in a long journey bring our undocumented brothers and sisters fully out from the shadows so that they can participate fully in the life of our country where they have sacrificed and served for so many years.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

THE OUTCASTS AMONG US

As we celebrate once again the graces of the Incarnation of Jesus into our lives, we are always reminded with the fact that so many outcasts are the first to hear the good news of salvation.

It is the shepherds--the outcasts of that era--were the first ones to whom the angels proclaimed the good news.  And they responded with joy and disbelief.  They were the first ones to come to behold the new-born Jesus.

Down through the ages, the poorest and the outcasts have been the ones to whom God has spoken first.

In our own time, I am convinced that the immigrants, migrants, and refugees of our time are the ones to whom the new-born Jesus Christ is being revealed even now.

Blessings upon all during the coming New Year!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

PRIEST CELEBRATES HIS 100th BIRTHDAY

On Sunday, November 2, Monsignor Felix Diomartich celebrated his 100th Birthday and the 77th Anniversary of his Priesthood Ordination with a special Mass at St. Anthony's Croatian Parish in Los Angeles.

I could find no other Archdiocesan priest in the history of our Archdiocese who reached the age of 100 years.

Monsignor Diomartich is a native of Croatia where he studied theology and was ordained a priest.  He subsequently was sent to Rome where he obtained doctorates in both theology and in canon law.  Because of World War II he was impeded from returning to Croatia, and found himself in New York city where he worked as a young priest.

Then then Archbishop James Francis McIntyre was transferred to Los Angeles, he invited then Father Diomartich to come to Los Angeles to serve the Croatian Catholics living there.  He became an official member of the presbyterate of Los Angeles in 1963.

Over the years he served the Croatian community both in Los Angeles and in San Pedro.  He was pastor of St. Anthony's Parish for several decades, and greatly loved by all the people.

He also helped begin the ethnic ministry of the Archdiocese under Cardinal Timothy Manning, and served in the Tribunal and in other leadership roles.

He is retired at Nazareth House where he enjoys his sunset years with many brother priests.

In 2015, Monsignor Richard Murray, pastor emeritus of St. Bernardine of Siena Parish in Woodland Hills, will celebrate his 100th birthday.  Then a year later in 2016, Monsignor John Fosselman, pastor emeritus of Assumption Parish in East Los Angeles, will celebrate his 100th birthday.

Incredible:  three priest centenarians in the space of three years!

May the spirit and example of these wonderful priests inspire us all, and especially, young men who are listening carefully to the call of Jesus Christ to serve as a priest.