President Trump's speech to Congress annotated with statements from Catholic leaders

President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Image via AP) President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Image via AP)

In an hour-long address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday Feb. 28, Pres ident Donald J. Trump discussed what he has accomplished in his first month on the job and laid out goals for the rest of his term.

U.S. Catholic bishops have issued a flurry of statements about the many executive orders signed by Mr. Trump and have reacted to ideas put forth by his administration. They have been alarmed by his policies on migration and refugees but cautiously optimistic on issues such as school choice.

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Some of the issues on which church leaders have weighed in recently are annotated and highlighted from Mr. Trump's speech below. Absent from his speech, however, were several issues that are priorities for Catholic leaders in the United States, including climate change. Mr. Trump also made no mention of abortion or L.G.B.T. issues during his speech. Read the full speech here.


Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation's path toward civil rights and the work that still remains. Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.

Bishop Mitchell Rozanski, head of the bishops’ committee on interreligious affairs, released a statement on Feb. 24in which he called on Americans “to find the opportunities to be lights of resistance, resilience, and persistence during these contentious times.”


It's been a little over a month since my inauguration, and I want to take this moment to update the Nation on the progress I've made in keeping those promises. ... We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines—thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs—and I've issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.

Jesuits of the United States released a statement on Feb. 23, citing their history of work with Native Americans and urging the Trump administration “to reverse this decision” out of respect for environmental concerns.

We have withdrawn the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Catholic bishops took no official stance on the T.P.P., but in a 2013 letter to the Obama administration, which supported the deal, they laid out key priorities that should guide trade deals. The first among them was labor protections, which they wrote should include “the right to organize, as well as compliance with internationally-agreed worker standards.” They said they feared the impact international trade deals had on jobs in urban and rural areas of the U.S.

To protect our citizens, I have directed the Department of Justice to form a Task Force on Reducing Violent Crime.

In September, Catholic bishops held a day of prayer focused on peace in inner cities and in November, Atlanta’s Archbishop Wilton Gregory said that bishops must move quickly on drafting a pastoral response to condemn racism.


I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread across our Nation.

We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth -- and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.

Bishops in Massachusetts said in 2016 that the “abuse and misuse of opioids has become a national and local epidemic” and said it “must be stopped.” They urged federal and state lawmakers and health care professionals to find a solution.


We want all Americans to succeed—but that can't happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders.For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.

Bishop Joe S. Vasquez, head of the bishops’ committee on migration, said in a statement on Jan. 26 that a border wall would “put immigrant lives needlessly in harm's way."

As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.

Bishop Vasquez said in a statement last month that the Department of Homeland Security’s plans for deportation essentially turns all undocumented immigrants into criminals and could destabilize communities. The new rules, he wrote, place “already vulnerable immigrants among us in an even greater state of vulnerability.”


To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this question: what would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?

Our obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States. We are also taking strong measures to protect our Nation from Radical Islamic Terrorism.

Pope Francis has repeatedly condemned the framing of terrorism in religious terms. In a letter to activists meeting in California last month, he wrote, “Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist.”


We have seen the attacks in France, in Belgium, in Germany and all over the world.

It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.

Many Catholic bishops insist that proper vetting is in place and have been critical of Mr. Trump’s executive order banning certain refugees, which a court struck down earlier this year.

We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America—we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.

The president has promised to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities, municipalities that direct law enforcement not to cooperate with federal authorities trying to deport undocumented immigrants. Newark’s Cardinal Joe Tobin called the plan “the opposite of what it means to be an American” earlier this year.


I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran's ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel.

Mr. Trump has been critical of a 2015 deal between the United States and Iran and wants to dismantle it. In 2015, Bishop Oscar Cantu expressed support for the agreement, saying in a statement, “The alternative to an agreement leads toward armed conflict, an outcome of profound concern to the Church.”


Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others—have a merit-based immigration system. It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon. According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America's taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.

Catholic bishops have said the U.S. immigration system is broken and in need of reform. But they have consistently called for a system that is based on keeping together families and providing sanctuary to those fleeing oppression and seeking greater opportunities.


Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better Healthcare.

Catholic bishops in the U.S. have long advocated for universal healthcare, but they took issue with provisions of Obamacare that they said violated their religious freedom. Bishop Frank DeWane, head of the bishops’ committee on domestic justice, sent a letter to lawmakers on Jan. 18, in which he wrote, “a repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act ought not be undertaken without the concurrent passage of a replacement plan that ensures access to adequate health care for the millions of people who now rely upon it for their wellbeing.”


My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make childcare accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women's health, and to promote clean air and clear water, and to rebuild our military and our infrastructure.

Pope Francis and many U.S. Catholic bishops have come out in support of paid parental leave in recent years. In 2015, the pope said expectant mothers must enjoy “the right to work and the right to motherhood,” and beginning last year, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced it was offering employees three months of paid parental leave.


Today is Rare Disease day, and joining us in the gallery is a Rare Disease Survivor, Megan Crowley. Megan was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, a rare and serious illness, when she was 15 months old. She was not expected to live past 5.

On receiving this news, Megan's dad, John, fought with everything he had to save the life of his precious child. He founded a company to look for a cure, and helped develop the drug that saved Megan's life. Today she is 20 years old—and a sophomore at Notre Dame.

Many bishops love Notre Dame. But whether or not Notre Dame loves Mr. Trump remains to be seen. The university is debating whether or not it will invite him to give a speech at commencement, an honor regularly offered to new presidents. But Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, who has said the media is being too hard on the new president, thinks he should be invited.


Education is the civil rights issue of our time. I am calling upon Members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.

Catholic leaders have long pushed for programs that would allow federal dollars to help fund Catholic schools, and some of them see in the Trump administration a possible ally in the fight.


The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century. In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone—and the murder rate so far this year has been even higher.

Since his arrival in 2014, Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich has made combatting violence a priority, meeting with police and community leaders to explore how the church might play a role. In December, the Rev. Michael Pfleger led a march down Michigan Avenue memorializing those slain by gun violence in 2016.


Finally, to keep America Safe we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war and—if they must—to fight and to win. I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.

Historically, Catholic bishops have expressed concern over federal budget proposals that increase military spending at the expense of domestic anti-poverty programs. In 2012, for example, they sent a letter to Congress urging defense cuts.


We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William "Ryan" Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero—battling against terrorism and securing our Nation.

I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, "Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies." Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity. For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom—we will never forget him.

Mr. Trump is alluding to John 15:13.


This is our vision. This is our mission.
But we can only get there together.
We are one people, with one destiny.
We all bleed the same blood.
We all salute the same flag.
And we are all made by the same God.

This was the most retweeted line from a tweet posted on the president’s Twitter account.

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