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    Latest News Releases from USCCB

    U. S. Bishops to Vote for Conference Secretary, Chairman and Chairmen-Elect of Five Committees at Fall General Assembly in Baltimore, Nov. 13-14

    WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will be voting for the conference secretary, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty and chairmen-elect of five additional standing committees at the upcoming annual 2016 General Assembly taking place November 13-14 in Baltimore, Maryland. The five committee chairmen will serve for one year as chairmen-elect before beginning a three-year term at the conclusion of the bishops' 2018 Fall General Assembly.  

    Nominees for the Conference Secretary, Chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty and Chairman-elect of each committee are as follows:

    Conference Secretary:

    Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City
    Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, Archdiocese of Detroit

    Committee on Communications:

    Bishop John O. Barres, Diocese of Rockville Centre
    Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Diocese of Arlington

    Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church:

    Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux
    Bishop Nelson J. Pérez, Diocese of Cleveland

    Committee on Doctrine:

    Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend
    Bishop Daniel E. Thomas, Diocese of Toledo

    Committee on National Collections:

    Bishop Joseph R. Cistone, Diocese of Saginaw
    Archbishop Michael O. Jackels, Archdiocese of Dubuque

    Committee on Pro-Life Activities:

    Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archdiocese of Chicago
    Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas

    Committee on Religious Liberty - Chairman:

    Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Archdiocese of Louisville
    Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, Archdiocese of Milwaukee

    Coverage of the meeting is open to credentialed media. Sessions open to the media will be Monday, November 13, and Tuesday, November 14. Media conferences will follow the close of each open session. Reporters interested in covering the meeting can download a credential application form at:  http://www.usccb.org/about/public-affairs/upload/application-news-media-credentials.pdf

    Please submit credential form by November 7. You can submit your form via email to USCCB Media Relations, fax (202) 541-3173, or mail:

    Address:
    November Meeting Credentials
    Office of Media Relations
    3211 4th St. NE
    Washington, DC 20017-1194

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    Keywords: USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, November meeting, Fall General Assembly, Baltimore, committees, elections, conference secretary, committee chairmen-elect

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 10:45 am

    Pope Names Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Siegel as New Bishop of Evansville

    WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Bishop Joseph M. Siegel, up until now Auxiliary Bishop of Joliet, as the new bishop of Evansville, Indiana.

    The announcement was publicized in Washington on October 18 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.  

    Bishop Siegel was named Auxiliary Bishop of Joliet, Illinois, by Pope Benedict XVI on October 28, 2009 and was ordained a bishop on January 19, 2010 by Bishop Peter Sartain.

    He was born in Lockport Township on July 18, 1963 and is the youngest of nine children. He attended St. Meinrad Seminary, Indiana, where he completed his college education.  He was then sent to the North American College in Rome (1984-1988), attending the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities.

    Bishop Siegel was ordained a priest for the Joliet Diocese in 1988 and then completed his Licentiate in Sacred Theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Illinois.

    Assignments after ordination include: associate pastor, St. Isidore Parish, Bloomingdale, Illinois, 1988-1994; associate pastor, St. Mary Immaculate Parish, Plainfield, Illinois, 1994-1998; parochial vicar, St. Mary Nativity Church, Joliet, Illinois, 1998-2000; parochial vicar, Cathedral of St. Raymond, Joliet, Illinois, 2000-2004; pastor, Visitation Parish, Elmhurst, Illinois, 2004-2009. In July 2011, Bishop R. Daniel Conlon appointed Bishop Siegel as his Vicar General.

    Bishop Siegel has served as a member and chairman of the Presbyteral Council and was appointed to the Diocesan Board of Consultors. He also served as director of Continuing Formation for Priests, a member of the Diocesan Vocation Board, the Priest Personnel Board and Dean of Eastern Will County.

    At the Catholic Conference of Illinois, he served on the Executive Committee and was chairman of the Catholics for Life Department. He chaired the Steering Committee for the Joliet Diocesan Year of the Eucharist and Eucharistic Congress and has been a member of the Bishops' Respect Life Advisory Board. He is a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus and a member of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.

    The Diocese of Evansville, Indiana, comprises 5,010 square miles. It has a total population of 512,870 people of which 76,218, or 15 percent, are Catholic.

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    Keywords: Pope Francis, Bishop Joseph Siegel, Diocese of Joliet, Diocese of Evansville, bishop appointment, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio.

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: October 18, 2017, 9:55 am

    USCCB Migration and Refugee Services Release Report Recommending Extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador and Honduras

    WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office of Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS), released its report today, entitled Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle recommending the U.S. government extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador and Honduras.

    Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, in a letter of introduction of the report states: "As this report indicates, there is ample evidence to suggest that current TPS recipients from Honduras and El Salvador cannot return safely to their home country at this time."

    A delegation from MRS/USCCB traveled to Honduras and El Salvador, from August 13 to 19, 2017, to examine conditions in both countries regarding Honduras and El Salvador's ability to adequately receive and integrate the possible return of existing TPS recipients. USCCB/MRS Committee Member, Auxiliary Bishop David O'Connell of Los Angeles, California, led the delegation and was accompanied by MRS staff from Children's Services, Policy and Public Affairs, and the National Collections offices.

    Currently, El Salvador and Honduras have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from the U.S. government for certain nationals living in the United States, and the review of TPS is shortly to be re-evaluated by the U.S. government. It is estimated that there are approximately 200,000 current TPS recipients from El Salvador and 57,000 TPS recipients from Honduras living in the United States. TPS recipients living in the United States are parents to over 270,000 U.S. citizen children and are very integrated into American daily life.

    Bishop Vásquez states in his introductory letter: "As you read this report, I urge you to keep the people of El Salvador and Honduras, including TPS recipients, in your thoughts and prayers. I encourage you to engage the Administration in requesting a TPS extension for El Salvador and Honduras . . . and to reach out to your elected Congressional leaders to request they support a legislative solution for TPS recipients who have been in the United States for many years."

    Resources and information about Temporary Protected Status and the report are available on the Justice for Immigrants website www.justiceforimmigrants.org. The information includes a backgrounder on the temporary protected status and a toolkit for Catholic leaders that offers ideas on how to show their support and solidarity with TPS recipients.

    The full text of the report can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/fact-finding-mission-reports/upload/el-salvador-honduras-report-20171016.pdf.

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    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe Vasquez, Committee on Migration, Migration and Refugee Services, Temporary Protected Status, TPS recipients, TPS beneficiaries, Congress, Honduras, El Salvador, refugees, migration, prayers, legislative solution

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: October 17, 2017, 12:43 pm

    Pope Accepts Resignation of Auxiliary Bishop of Newark

    WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has accepted the retirement of Bishop John W. Flesey from the office of auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Newark. 

    The announcement was publicized in Washington on October 16 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.  

    Bishop Flesey has served in the Archdiocese since 1969.

    As required by Canon Law, Bishop Flesey submitted to Pope Francis his letter offering his retirement having reached 75 years of age.

    The Most Reverend John Walter Flesey, STD was born in Jersey City, NJ in 1942. He attended Immaculate Conception Seminary until 1969, when he was ordained.

    Bishop Flesey's first assignment was to St. Bernard of Clairvaux Parish, Plainfield, after which he earned an STL degree in Spiritual Theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, and a Doctorate of Sacred Theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. 

    He also holds an MS degree in Pastoral Counseling from Iona College and an STB from Catholic University of America.

    He has served the Archdiocese as a member of the faculty, Rector and Dean, and Spiritual Director of Immaculate Conception Seminary, Seton Hall University, as well as Director of Ongoing Formation for the Priests of the Archdiocese of Newark.

    Bishop Flesey was named Titular Bishop of Allegheny and Auxiliary Bishop of Newark in May 2004. He currently serves as Regional Bishop of Bergen County and Pastor of Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Franklin Lakes. 

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    Keywords: Pope Francis, Bishop John W. Flesey, Archdiocese of Newark, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio.  

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: October 16, 2017, 9:27 am

    U.S. Bishops Chairman Expresses Concern, Calls for Careful Implementation of Health Care Executive Order

    WASHINGTON—On October 13, President Trump signed an Executive Order on health care, and news about the Administration ending subsidies to insurers to help lower-income individuals was confirmed by Administration officials around the same time. In light of these developments, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called for the Administration and Congress to protect low income people, as well as enact comprehensive reform for the sake of the most vulnerable.

    Bishop Dewane's full statement follows:

    "President Trump signed an executive order yesterday intended to allow the sale of health insurance across state lines, and expanding certain insurance options and arrangements. The USCCB will closely monitor the implementation and impacts of this executive order by the relevant administrative agencies. 

    In general, robust options for people to obtain health coverage, as well as flexibility and approaches aimed at increased affordability, are important strategies in health care. However, in implementing this executive order, great care must be taken to avoid risk of additional harm to those who now receive health care coverage through exchanges formed under the Affordable Care Act.  

    Administration officials also confirmed that subsidies to insurers designed to help low income individuals afford insurance would be ending. This is of grave concern. The Affordable Care Act is, by no means, perfect, but as leaders attempt to address impending challenges to insurance market stability and affordability, they must not use people's health care as leverage or as a bargaining chip. To do so would be to strike at the heart of human dignity and the fundamental right to health care. The poor and vulnerable will bear the brunt of such an approach.

    Ultimately, this Executive Order ignores many more significant problems in the nation's health care system. Congress must still act on comprehensive reform in order to provide a sustainable framework for health care, providing lasting solutions for the life, conscience, immigrant access, market stability, and underlying affordability problems that remain unaddressed."

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    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, President Donald Trump, Executive Order, Health Care, Congress, health insurance, Affordable Care Act, subsidies, insurance access, lasting solutions. 

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane 
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: October 14, 2017, 12:56 pm

    Attorney General’s Religious Liberty Guidance Protects Freedom of Faith-Based Organizations

    WASHINGTON–On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum for all executive departments and agencies on the subject of "Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty". Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has offered the following statement in response:

    "The Attorney General's guidance helpfully reaffirms that the law protects the freedom of faith-based organizations to conduct their operations in accordance with their religious mission. The guidance also reaffirms that the federal government should never exclude religious organizations from competing on an equal footing for government grants or contracts, and religious entities should never be forced to change their religious character in order to participate in such programs. We appreciate the Attorney General's clarification of these matters, which will protect faith-based organizations' freedom to serve all those in need, including the homeless, immigrants, refugees, and students attending religious schools."

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    Keywords: Archbishop William Lori, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, U.S. Department of Justice, religious liberty, religious freedom

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: October 12, 2017, 5:00 pm

    U.S. Bishops Chairman Calls for Prayer for those Impacted by California Wildfires

    WASHINGTON—Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, asked for prayers for favorable weather and assistance for those impacted by devastating fires raging through Northern California.

    Bishop Dewane's full statement follows:

    "Do not fear: I am with you;
    do not be anxious: I am your God.

    I will strengthen you, I will help you,

    I will uphold you with my victorious right hand
    ."
    – Isaiah 41:10

    Today we ask for the intercession of Almighty God as wildfires rage in Northern California. Already, these blazes have killed over 20 people, destroyed hundreds of houses and other buildings, and forced thousands of individuals to leave their homes and livelihoods behind in uncertainty. High winds and dry conditions have greatly increased the danger for the people in this region.

    As brave men and women respond to these disasters, battling the fires and helping people to safety, we call upon God for improved weather, for the blessing of rain and favorable winds, to assist them. We pray that those who are missing or are still in harm's way will be found and protected. May God grant eternal rest to those who have died, and bring them into glory with him forever.

    We pray, too, for generosity, care, and concern from neighbors and surrounding communities for those who are grieving and displaced. Though we may be weary from all that has taken place around the country in recent days, we know that God cannot be outdone in generosity and charity. May he provide us with new wellsprings of love to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters who are hurting so deeply today.

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    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, wildfires, natural disaster, Northern California, prayer, solidarity.

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200


    Author:
    Posted: October 12, 2017, 11:55 am

    Pope Francis Appoints New Auxiliary Bishop of Miami

    WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has appointed Father Enrique Delgado as a new auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Miami, Florida. Father Delgado is a priest of the Archdiocese of Miami and currently serves as pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Church in Weston, Florida.

    The appointment was publicized in Washington on October 12 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

    Father Delgado was born December 26, 1955 in Lima, Peru. He earned a master's degree in economics with a concentration in finance and accounting from the University of Lima in Peru. He worked for several years managing a company before immigrating to the United States. He entered seminary in the Archdiocese of Miami in 1991.

    He completed his studies in philosophy at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami and finished a master's degree in theology in 1995 and a master of divinity in 1996 from St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida.

    He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Miami on June 29, 1996, in a Holy Mass in Peru officiated by Monsignor Agustin Roman.

    Assignments after ordination include: parochial vicar at St. Agnes Church, Key Biscayne, Florida, 1996-1999; parochial vicar, Nativity Catholic Church, Hollywood, Florida, 1999-2003; pastor, St. Justin the Martyr Catholic Church, Key Largo, Florida, 2003-2010; pastor, St. Katharine Drexel Church, Weston, Florida, 2014-present. 

    Father Delgado finished his doctoral studies in practical theology on December 19, 2015 from St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida.

    The Archdiocese of Miami, Florida, comprises 4,958 square miles. It has a total population of 4,317,591 people of which 496,528, or 12 percent, are Catholic.

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    Keywords: Pope Francis, Reverend Enrique Delgado, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nunciature, Archdiocese of Miami.  

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: October 12, 2017, 9:50 am

    National Vocations Awareness Week Set for November 5-11

    WASHINGTON—The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week, November 5-11, 2017. This annual event is a special time for parishes in the United States to actively foster and pray for a culture of vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life.

    Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the Chair of the US Bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations, reminds us that each of us in the Church has a key role to play in the witness of our vocation in ordinary circumstances, "As we go about our everyday life and most especially this week, we must keep vocations in our prayers, while, at the same time, being a mindful witness with our own vocation. We may never know how our lives may have an impact on someone else's story. Simply living out our call as disciples of Jesus Christ fully and joyfully in the world bears witness to the love of Christ as He generously bestows on each of us our own personal call."

    National Vocations Awareness Week, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations, is designed to help promote vocation awareness and to encourage young people to ask the question: "To what vocation in life is God calling me?" Parish and school communities across the nation are encouraged to include, during the first full week in November, prayer and special activities that focus on vocation awareness.  

    Observance of Vocation Awareness Week began in 1976 when the U.S. bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year for the celebration. It was later moved to Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in January. The USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations moved the observance of National Vocation Awareness Week to November to engage Catholic schools and colleges more effectively in this effort.  

    More information and resources for National Vocations Awareness Week, including a prayer card, homily aids, suggested prayers of the faithful and bulletin-ready quotes are available online at: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/national-vocation-awareness-week.cfm.

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    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, vocations, National Vocation Awareness Week, priesthood, religious life, vocation, diaconate, Catholic education, young people, ministry, prayer

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: October 11, 2017, 11:47 am

    U.S. Bishop Chairman Statement on Immigration Principles and Need for Congressional Action to Protect Dreamers

    WASHINGTON—On Sunday evening, the White House released Immigration Principles and Policies that are a proposed list of priorities to be considered when working on legislative protection for Dreamers. Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the Committee on Migration, issued the following statement urging Congress to "ensure true protection for Dreamers once and for all."

    Full statement follows:

    "The Administration's Immigration Principles and Policies do not provide the way forward for comprehensive immigration reform rooted in respect for human life and dignity, and for the security of our citizens. They are not reflective of our country's immigrant past, and they attack the most vulnerable, notably unaccompanied children and many others who flee persecution. Most unfortunately, the principles fail to recognize that the family is the fundamental building block of our immigration system, our society, and our Church.

    "Since July, Congress has introduced legislative solutions for Dreamers, including the Dream Act. The Administration should focus attention on ensuring that a legislative solution for Dreamers is found as soon as possible. Every day that passes without that solution, these youth experience growing apprehension for their futures and their families. Each passing day brings us all a step closer to March 2018, when DACA recipients will begin to lose legal work privileges, and far worse, face the threat of deportation and family separation.

    "For this reason, we exhort Congress to take up legislation and move forward promptly to ensure true protection for Dreamers once and for all. Together with so many others of good will, we shall continue to offer welcome and support to these remarkable young people, and we shall not stop advocating for their permanent protection and eventual citizenship."

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    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Committee on Migration, Immigration Principles and Policies, DREAMERS, Dream Act, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, U.S. Congress, young people, citizenship.  

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane 
    202-541-3200
    Author:
    Posted: October 10, 2017, 4:03 pm

    U.S. Bishops to Meet November 13-14 in Baltimore; Address from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Report from Bishops Working Group on Immigration, Centennial Anniversary

    WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will meet in Baltimore, November 13-14, for their fall general assembly. During the assembly, the bishops will elect a new secretary for the Conference as well as five committee chairs. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, will also give his first address to the body of bishops as President of the USCCB as he completes the first year of his three-year term. In addition, the body of bishops will also hear an update from the bishops working group on immigration.

    The bishops will vote for new chairmen-elect of the following six USCCB committees: Committee on Communications, Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, Committee on National Collections, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Committee on Doctrine, and a Chairman for the Committee for Religious Liberty. Bishop nominees for the board of directors for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) will also elected.

    The assembly will vote on the ICEL Gray Book translation of the Order of Baptism of Children text which reflects the translation principles introduced in Liturgian authenticam. They will also discuss and vote on the Conference's 2018 budget.

    There will also be a voice vote on the cause for canonization for a Lakota holy man and medicine man turned Catholic teacher named Nicholas Black Elk, Sr., sought by Bishop Robert Gruss of Rapid City.

    Several reports will also be given including a report from the National Advisory Council, as well as a report from Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and from Bishop Frank Dewane, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Bishop George Murry, Chairman of the newly established Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, will also give an update report. The bishops will also hear updates on the Share the Journey campaign launched by Pope Francis on September 27 and reports from Sean Callahan, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services as well as Sister Donna Markham, OP, Ph.D., President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA).

    An update will also be given on the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in America that took place July 1-4, 2017 in Orlando, Florida, as well as reports on preparations for the upcoming V National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry and the 2018 Synod for Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment. The Most Reverend José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, OSA, Archbishop of Panama will also present on preparations for the 2019 World Youth Day.

    On Sunday evening, a Mass will also be held in downtown, Baltimore. The Mass will mark the Centennial Anniversary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

    The Conference will take place at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel.

    Coverage of the bishops' meeting is open to credentialed media. Sessions open to the media will be Monday, November 13, and Tuesday, November 14. There will be media conferences after each open session. Reporters interested in covering the meeting can download a credential application form at:  http://www.usccb.org/about/public-affairs/upload/application-news-media-credentials.pdf.

    Note: Please submit application form by no later than November 7, via email to USCCB Media Relations, fax (202) 541-3173, or by mail:  

    November Meeting Credentials
    Office of Media Relations
    3211 4th St. NE
    Washington, DC 20017-1194

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    Keywords: USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Fall General Assembly, November meeting, Baltimore, committees, elections, chairmen, vote, USCCB centennial.

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200
    Author:
    Posted: October 10, 2017, 2:43 pm

    USCCB Domestic Justice Chairman Calls for Renewed Carbon Emissions Solutions

    WASHINGTON—After Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the EPA will formally seek to revoke the Clean Power Plan, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, expressed disappointment about the decision and called on leaders to "hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor."

    The full statement follows:

    "The USCCB, in unity with Pope Francis, strongly supports environmental stewardship, and has for several years called on our nation to help curb carbon emissions through a national carbon standard.  Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Pruitt announced that the EPA will now take steps to revoke the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the national program designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32% in relation to 2015 levels by the year 2030.

    The CPP may not have been the only possible mechanism for addressing carbon emissions, but, unfortunately, the Administration does not propose an adequate alternative as it seeks to dismantle the CPP. Having already withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement, this change in course by the EPA solidifies the already troubling approach of our nation in addressing climate change, and places at risk many people, including the poor who can least bear the consequences of inaction.

    Many states have already made great progress toward carbon mitigation goals under the CPP, making this decision even more difficult. Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato si', calls us to action in caring for our common home. A national carbon standard is a critical step for the U.S. at this time. Facing this shift from the Trump Administration, our leaders should heed the Holy Father's moral call and seek new legislative solutions that will help the nation and world 'hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor' once more."

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    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Clean Power Plan (CPP), Trump Administration, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, carbon emissions, Pope Francis, environmental stewardship, Laudato si', Paris climate agreement, carbon mitigation goals, common home

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: October 10, 2017, 2:36 pm

    U.S. Catholic Church Calls for Week of Prayer and Action in Solidarity with Migrants and Refugees as Part of the “Share the Journey” Campaign

    WASHINGTON— Following last week's kick-off of the "Share the Journey" Migration Campaign, launched by Pope Francis on Sept. 27, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA are calling for a Week of Prayer and Action from October 7-13, 2017.  Dioceses across the country are encouraged to participate by hosting different events during this week and throughout the two-year campaign.

    "During the week of prayer and action we need to show our support and compassion for those in need," said Bishop Joe Vásquez, Chair of USCCB's Committee on Migration. "It is important that we also highlight the positive contributions that migrants and refugees have made to our society."

    "The Holy Father has repeatedly called on us to support migrants and refugees forcibly displaced from their homes," said Joan Rosenhauer, CRS Vice President for US Operations. "We're called by the Gospel to love our neighbor, and amid a global refugee crisis not seen since World War II, we have to do more to welcome and support those whose lives are threatened by violence and poverty. In the U.S. we can do that by admitting the most vulnerable refugees for resettlement and of course assist them and the countries hosting them around the world."

    Resources and information about the campaign and week of prayer and action are available on the campaign's website, www.sharejourney.org. Included amongst the information is a toolkit for Catholic leaders that offers ideas on how to show their support and solidarity with migrants and refugees in schools, at mass and in the community.

    Sister Donna Markham OP, PhD, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) said, "When we encounter people who have had to flee to the U.S. in order to save their lives, we do not have to guess at how to help.  We pray for them and we extend ourselves in compassion to assist in whatever ways we can."

    The "Share the Journey" campaign kicked off globally last week by the Caritas network. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) are sponsoring the campaign in the U.S. Both CRS, working in more than 100 countries around the world, and CCUSA, the Catholic Church's domestic agency, are members of Caritas Internationalis, the Church's worldwide charity organization that is the overall sponsor of the campaign.

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    About Catholic Charities USA

    Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), a member of Caritas Internationalis, is the national office for the Catholic Charities ministry nationwide. CCUSA's members provide help and create hope to more than 8 million people a year regardless of religious, social, or economic backgrounds. To learn more, please visit www.catholiccharitiesusa.org and follow CCUSA on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

    About Catholic Relief Services

    Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS' relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding.  For more information, visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media: Facebook, Twitter at @CatholicRelief, @CRSnews and @CRSnoticias, InstagramPinterest and YouTube.

    About the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

    The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is an assembly of the hierarchy of the United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands who jointly exercise certain pastoral functions on behalf of the Christian faithful of the United States. The purpose of the Conference is to promote the greater good which the Church offers humankind, especially through forms and programs of the apostolate fittingly adapted to the circumstances of time and place. This purpose is drawn from the universal law of the Church and applies to the episcopal conferences which are established all over the world for the same purpose. For more information, visit www.usccb.org and www.justiceforimmigrants.org Follow the USCCB on Facebook, Twitter @USCCB, Instagram.

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

     

    Author:
    Posted: October 6, 2017, 4:50 pm

    HHS Mandate Decision Represents Return to Common Sense

    WASHINGTON–Today's decision to expand the HHS mandate exemption is a "return to common sense, long-standing federal practice, and peaceful coexistence between church and state," according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the USCCB, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, are hailing the Trump Administration's announcement to provide a broad religious and moral exemption from the mandate requiring health insurance coverage of sterilization, contraception, and drugs and devices that may cause abortions.

    Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Lori offered the following joint statement in response:

    "The Administration's decision to provide a broad religious and moral exemption to the HHS mandate recognizes that the full range of faith-based and mission-driven organizations, as well as the people who run them, have deeply held religious and moral beliefs that the law must respect. Such an exemption is no innovation, but instead a return to common sense, long-standing federal practice, and peaceful coexistence between church and state. It corrects an anomalous failure by federal regulators that should never have occurred and should never be repeated.

    "These regulations are good news for the Little Sisters of the Poor and others who are challenging the HHS mandate in court.  We urge the government to take the next logical step and promptly resolve the litigation that the Supreme Court has urged the parties to settle.

    "The regulations are also good news for all Americans. A government mandate that coerces people to make an impossible choice between obeying their consciences and obeying the call to serve the poor is harmful not only to Catholics but to the common good. Religious freedom is a fundamental right for all, so when it is threatened for some, it is threatened for all. We welcome the news that this particular threat to religious freedom has been lifted, and with the encouragement of Pope Francis, we will remain 'vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.'"

    ---
    Keywords: Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop William Lori, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS mandate, Little Sisters of the Poor, contraceptives, religious liberty, religious freedom

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    MEDIA CONTACT
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: October 6, 2017, 2:31 pm

    U.S. Bishops Chairman Calls on U.S. Government to work with Burma, Bangladesh, and the International Community to Address Burma Refugee Crisis for Religious Minority

    Washington—Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, submitted written testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee for a hearing on October 5, 2017, entitled "The Rohingya Crisis: U.S. Response to the Tragedy in Burma." The hearing addressed the U.S. government response to the plight of a Muslim religious minority from Rakhine State, Burma, known as the Rohingya.

    In part of his testimony, Bishop Vásquez states, "We turn now to the grim situation of those forced to flee from Rakhine State, Burma. Forced out by what the Burmese military reportedly has referred to as a 'clearance campaign,' an estimated 501,000 people have fled from Rakhine State, Burma, to Bangladesh since August 25, 2017. Most are women and children, and the most vulnerable are newborns, pregnant women, and the elderly. Many have only makeshift shelters at best, are struggling to find the mere basics of life, and are trying to avoid debilitating and life-threatening waterborne and airborne diseases. They are all in our thoughts and prayers as the Catholic Church joins with others to mobilize in response to the horrific situation."

    The most recent violence is part of an historical pattern of persecution against the Muslim minority in Rakhine State, and also continues against other religious and ethnic minorities, such as a Christian ethnic minority group in Kachin State, Burma. While such persecution has lessened in recent years with democratic elections, the Burmese military still maintains substantial political power and economic control. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, human rights icon and the major democratic leader in Burma, has not been very vocal about the plight of those fleeing Rakhine State, but she has played a major role in changing the day-to-day life for her people and continues to lead a major peacebuilding effort with ethnic groups in Burma known as the Panglong Process to build a viable democratic federal system.

    "As we shed light on the human rights tragedies in Burma, we urge continued U.S. support to resolve these critical situations and to support the democratically elected government in addressing these situations while also supporting their broader efforts to build a new, democratic, inclusive Burma," notes Bishop Vásquez.  

    Bishop Vásquez's full testimony can be found at: https://justiceforimmigrants.org/statements/written-testimony-reverend-joe-s-vasquez-bishop-austin-texas-chair-u-s-conference-catholic-bishops-committee-migration-rohingya-crisis-u-s-response/.

    ---
    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez, Committee on Migration, House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rohingya, Rakhine State, Burma, Bangladesh, refugee crisis, Muslim minority, Kachin State, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Panglong Process, refugee, protection, durable solutions.

    ###

    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: October 6, 2017, 10:16 am

    Pope Francis Names New Auxiliary Bishop of Orange

    WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has appointed Father Thanh Thai Nguyen as a new auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Orange, California. Father Nguyen is a priest of the Diocese of St. Augustine where he currently serves as pastor of St. Joseph Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

    The appointment was publicized in Washington on October 6 by Msgr. Walter Erbi, Chargé d'Affaires at the Apostolic Nunciature in the United States.

    Father Nguyen was born April 7, 1953 in Nha Trang, Vietnam. In 1979, he escaped Vietnam by boat with his family and spent 10 months in a refugee camp in the Philippines before arriving in the United States in 1980.

    He holds a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from Merrimack College, North Andover, Massachusetts and a master of divinity degree from Weston School of Theology, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Father Nguyen entered the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette in 1984 and served as a priest of that congregation for eight years. He was ordained a priest on May 11, 1991. He was incardinated in the Diocese of St. Augustine, June 29,1999.

    Assignments after ordination include: parochial vicar at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Smyrna, Georgia, 1991-1994; parochial vicar, St. Ann Parish, Marietta, Georgia, 1994-1996; parochial vicar, Christ the King Parish, Jacksonville, Florida, 1996-2001; pastor, Christ the King Parish, Jacksonville, 2001-2014; pastor, St. Joseph Parish, Jacksonville, 2014-present.   

    The Diocese of Orange, California comprises 782 square miles. It has a total population of 3,145,515 people of which 1,346,540, or 42 percent, are Catholic.

    ---
    Keywords: Pope Francis, Reverent Thanh Thai Nguyen, Msgr. Walter Erbi, Apostolic Nunciature, Diocese of Orange, Diocese of St. Augustine.

    ###

    Media Contact
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: October 6, 2017, 9:16 am

    Cardinal Dolan Launches 2017-18 Program with Respect Life Month Statement

    WASHINGTON—In a statement to mark Respect Life Month, October 2017, Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York reiterated the need to build a culture of life throughout the year. Cardinal Dolan chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The Cardinal's statement launches the year-long 2017-18 Respect Life Program (www.usccb.org/respectlife), which provides materials exploring the theme, "Be Not Afraid."

    "Looking back over the last year, there's been a lot of uncertainty, suffering, and heartache. Between tragedies that occur in the public eye and trials that take place in our personal lives, there's no shortage of reasons we cry out to God," Cardinal Dolan said. "At such times, we may feel alone and unequipped... But we have an anchor of hope to cling to. ...God says to us, 'Do not fear: I am with you' (Isaiah 41:10)."

    "There are times we may doubt the value of our own lives or falter at the thought of welcoming and embracing the life of another. But…He makes all things beautiful. He makes all things new. He is the God of redemption," the Cardinal said. "That's powerful. That's something to hold onto."

    "As followers of Jesus Christ, …we are called to be missionary disciples…commissioned to reach out to one another, especially to the weak and vulnerable," Cardinal Dolan said.

    Begun in 1972, the Respect Life Program highlights the value and dignity of human life throughout the year. Materials are intended for use across the spectrum of Catholic life, work, ministry, and education.

    The 2017-18 Respect Life Program features six articles on a range of issues. They address practical steps to build a culture of life, compelling reasons to oppose assisted suicide, principles to consider at the end of life, an overview of the role of conscience, offering genuine support to a friend who's considering abortion, and a Catholic Q & A on the death penalty. Many digital and print resources are offered, including toolkits for priests and deacons, parishes, Catholic education, Respect Life ministry, youth ministry, young adult ministry, faith formation, and communications.

    The full text of Cardinal Dolan's statement is available along with many other resources at www.usccb.org/respectlife.

    ---
    Keywords: USCCB, U.S. bishops, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, pro-life, Respect Life Month, Respect Life Program, human dignity, women, pregnancy, abortion, conscience, death penalty, capital punishment, elder care, end of life care, advance medical directives, assisted suicide, prayer, social justice, #BeNotAfraid


    # # #


    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

     

    Author:
    Posted: October 3, 2017, 11:21 am

    Pope Accepts Resignation of Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson; Names Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger as Successor

    WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, 76, from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona.  Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger, up until now Bishop of Salina, Kansas, has been named as the new bishop for the diocese.

    The appointment was publicized in Washington on October 3 by Msgr. Walter Erbi, Chargé d'Affaires at the Apostolic Nunciature in the United States.

    Bishop Weisenburger was born in Alton, Illinois on December 23, 1960. He pursued seminary studies at the American College Seminary at the Catholic University of Louvain in Leuven, Belgium where he earned a bachelor of Sacred Theology degree along with both a masters in Religious Studies in 1986 and Moral and Religious Science in 1987. 

    Bishop Weisenburger was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City on December 19, 1987. He later earned his pontifical J.C.L. degree from the University of St. Paul in Ottawa, Canada (1992). Upon returning to the archdiocese, he was appointed vice-chancellor and adjutant judicial vicar.    

    In addition to chancery duties, he worked in parish and prison ministries from 1992-1995 and served as the on-site chaplain for rescue workers following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. In 1996, he was appointed Vicar General of the archdiocese of Oklahoma City. He remained with the Oklahoma City Tribunal for almost 20 years and served in various capacities including Promoter of Justice for the cause of canonization of Stanley Francis Rother, Servant of God. He served as pastor of Holy Trinity parish in Okarche, Oklahoma (1995-2002) and as pastor of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (2002-2012). On February 6, 2012, he was appointed Bishop of Salina by Pope Benedict XVI and was ordained on May 1, 2012.

    Bishop Kicanas was born August 18, 1941 in Chicago, Illinois. He was ordained a priest on April 27, 1967 and served in various capacities in the seminary system of the Archdiocese of Chicago for 25 years. In 1984, he was appointed Rector of Mundelein Seminary and held seminary postings that included rector, principal, and dean of formation at the former Quigley Seminary South.    

    Bishop Kicanas is the former Vice President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and former Secretary of the USCCB.  He currently serves on the USCCB Committee on Catholic Education, Committee on Communications, the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa, Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs (consultant), and he is a member of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc, (CLINIC).

    He is also the former Chair of the Board of Directors of Catholic Relief Services and has chaired and served on numerous USCCB committees.

    Bishop Kicanas was named coadjutor bishop of Tucson on October 30, 2001, and was installed on January 15, 2002. He became the seventh Bishop of Tucson on March 7, 2003.

    The diocese of Tucson comprises 42,707 square miles of the southern part of Arizona.  It has a population of 1,904,477 people of whom 390,418 or 20 percent are Catholic.

    ---
    Keywords: Pope Francis, Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger, Salina, Kansas, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, Diocese of Tucson, Msgr. Walter Erbi, Chargé d'Affaires, Apostolic Nunciature, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB.

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    Media Contact
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: October 3, 2017, 9:40 am

    Bishops Conference President Calls for Prayers, Care for Others After Tragic Shooting in Las Vegas

    WASHINGTON—On October 2, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), expressed "deep grief" after a deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas.

    The full text of the statement follows:

    "We woke this morning and learned of yet another night filled with unspeakable terror, this time in the city of Las Vegas, and by all accounts, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. My heart and my prayers, and those of my brother bishops and all the members of the Church, go out to the victims of this tragedy and to the city of Las Vegas. At this time, we need to pray and to take care of those who are suffering.  In the end, the only response is to do good – for no matter what the darkness, it will never overcome the light. May the Lord of all gentleness surround all those who are suffering from this evil, and for those who have been killed we pray, eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them."

    -----
    Keywords: U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Las Vegas, mass shooting, prayers.

    ###

    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: October 2, 2017, 10:18 am

    USCCB Pro Life Chairman Urges Passage of Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

    WASHINGTON— Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36). It is expected to come to the House floor the first week of October. The bill, introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), proposes a ban on abortions starting at 20 weeks after fertilization.

    In a September 29 letter to the House, Cardinal Dolan wrote, "All decent and humane people are repulsed by the callous and barbarous treatment of women and children in clinics…that abort children after 20 weeks."

    "Planned Parenthood's callous and disturbing practices of harvesting fetal body parts from late-term abortions, partial-birth abortions, and the deplorable actions of late-term abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell…, have shocked our nation and led many Americans to realize that our permissive laws and attitudes have allowed the abortion industry to undertake these procedures," Cardinal Dolan said, calling the 20-week ban a "common-sense reform."

    The Cardinal offered reasons why "the proposed ban on abortion at 20 weeks after fertilization is a place to begin uniting Americans who see themselves as 'pro-life' and as 'pro-choice'." The first centers on the expanding range of fetal 'viability'. "The Supreme Court's past insistence that unborn children must be 'viable' to deserve even nominal protection is not meaningful or workable…[M]edical technology is moving the point of viability earlier in the pregnancy putting Roe on a collision course with itself." Second, there are life-threatening dangers to women undergoing abortions beyond 20 weeks. Finally, addressing the proposal to perform late-term abortions in "mainstream" clinics, he notes that those clinics generally refuse to perform the risky procedures. "What does it say about us as a nation, if we will not act against abortions that even full-time abortionists find abhorrent?" Cardinal Dolan asked.

    Cardinal Dolan reaffirmed the right to life of humans at every stage of development, and clarified that the Church remains committed to advocating for the full legal protection of all unborn children: "[E]very child, from conception onward, deserves love and the protection of the law…. [T]he real problems that lead women to consider abortion should be addressed with solutions that support both mother and child."

    For the full text of Cardinal Dolan's letter to the House of Representatives, visit: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/abortion/upload/CdlDolan-HR36-House-Ltr-09-29-2017.pdf.

    ---

    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, U.S. House of Representatives, Congress, Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36), Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), abortion, late-term abortion, viability, Roe v. Wade, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, Planned Parenthood, fetal organ harvesting, civil rights, pro-life, 20-week abortion ban

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200
    Author:
    Posted: September 29, 2017, 3:36 pm

    USCCB Migration Chairman “Gravely Concerned” About Presidential Determination for Refugee Admissions

    WASHINGTON—On September 27, 2017, the Administration, in a consultation with Congress, proposed to only admit up to 45,000 refugees to the United States in fiscal year 2018. This Presidential Determination (PD) for Refugee Admissions is the lowest since the founding of the program in 1980 and marks the second consecutive year that the new Administration has reduced the PD. Currently there are 65 million displaced people and 22 million refugees worldwide.

    Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, issued the following statement:

    "We are disturbed and deeply disappointed by the proposed Presidential Determination number of 45,000 for the upcoming fiscal year. While the Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities, and Catholic communities across the country join in welcoming all of those refugees to American communities with joy and open arms, we are gravely concerned for the tens of thousands of extremely vulnerable refugees left behind by this decision.

    "As I have stated before, this decision has very severe human consequences—people with faces, names, children and families are suffering and cannot safely or humanely remain where they are until the war and persecution in their countries of origin gets resolved. These people include at-risk women and children; frightened youth; the elderly; those whose lives are threatened because of their religion, ethnicity or race; and refugees seeking family reunification with loved ones in the United States.

    "Each refugee that comes to the United States is admitted through an extensive vetting system. Many of these refugees already have family in the United States, and most begin working immediately to rebuild their lives; in turn contributing to the strength and richness of our society. God has blessed our country with bounty and precious liberty, and so we have great capacity to welcome those in such desperate need, while ensuring our nation's security.

    "The same day of the consultation, Pope Francis exhorted us to 'reach out, open your arms to migrants and refugees, share the journey.' We urge the Administration to move past this period of intensified scrutiny and skepticism of the U.S. refugee program, which serves as an international model. This is a moment of opportunity to restore America's historic leadership as a refuge for those fleeing persecution. We urge the Administration to welcome and resettle every one of the refugees eventually authorized for FY2018. Looking ahead, we strongly urge the Administration next year to return to the level of resettling at least 75,000 refugees annually to the United States. We can and must do better."

    --- 

    Keywords: Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, USCCB Committee on Migration, Presidential Determination, refugee admissions, family reunification, refugee resettlement, welcoming the stranger, U.S. security, Pope Francis, Share the Journey.

    ### 

    Media Contact: 
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200 
    Author:
    Posted: September 29, 2017, 11:26 am

    USCCB Chairmen Urge Congress to Support the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2017, H.R. 2405 / S. 1823

    Legislation would eNsure fair treatment for houses of worship damaged in natural disasters 

    Bill passed U.S. House with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2013 

    FEMA shouldn't discriminate 

    WASHINGTON—Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, urged Members of Congress to support passage of the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2017 (H.R. 2405 / S. 1823). An almost identical bill passed the House in 2013 with overwhelming bipartisan support. 

    In September 27 letters to the House and Senate, in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, Archbishop Lori and Bishop Rozanski asked Representatives and Senators to support the legislation, which would ensure the fair and equal treatment for houses of worship damaged in natural disasters by enabling them to seek aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  

    The letters noted that the "legislation is consistent with Supreme Court jurisprudence, which recognizes the right of religious institutions to receive public financial aid in the context of a broad program administered on the basis of religion-neutral criteria." The letters note the 2017 Trinity Lutheran Church case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which provides a firm legal foundation for such assistance. 

    Archbishop Lori and Bishop Rozanski explained that "houses of worship often play an irreplaceable role in the recovery of a community" after a natural disaster.  

    "Discrimination that treats houses of worship as ineligible for federal assistance in the wake of a natural disaster, beyond being a legal violation, hurts the very communities most affected by the indiscriminate force of nature," said Archbishop Lori and Bishop Rozanski. 

    Links to each of the letters can be found here: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Letter-of-Support-to-House-for-Federal-Disaster-Assistance-Nonprofit-Fairness-Act-of-2017.pdf

    www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Letter-of-Support-to-Senate-for-Federal-Disaster-Assistance-Nonprofit-Fairness-Act-of-2017.pdf

    A backgrounder is available at:  http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Federal-Disaster-Assistance-Nonprofit-Fairness-Act-2017-Fact-Sheet.pdf  

    --- 

    Keywords: Archbishop William Lori, Bishop Mitchell Rozanski, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2017, Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, religious liberty, religious freedom, houses of worship, disaster relief.

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200


     

    Author:
    Posted: September 28, 2017, 9:52 am

    U.S. Catholics Join with Pope Francis in Campaign to “Share the Journey” of Migrants and Refugees

    WASHINGTON—Today, several dozen bishops across the United States are joining Pope Francis as he launched the two-year "Share the Journey" campaign, holding events and reaching out to support migrants and refugees in their own dioceses as the campaign aims to raise awareness about their plight worldwide.

    Kicked off around the world by the global Caritas network, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) are sponsoring the campaign in the United States. Both CRS, working in more than 100 countries around the world, and CCUSA, the Catholic Church's domestic agency, are members of Caritas Internationalis, the Church's worldwide charity organization that is the overall sponsor of the campaign.

    "This campaign is both spiritual and practical," says Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who is president of the USCCB. "The Pope is asking us to pray and reflect and to use the awareness we build to take action, both personally and publically. To our Church, this campaign is an embodiment of the Biblical command to love our neighbor."

    Pope Francis kicked off "Share the Journey" at the Vatican today with a symbolic gesture of reaching out to those displaced from their homes, who now number some 65 million around the world, the biggest such crisis since World War II. That will be followed by a week of prayer and action for migrants and refugees in Catholic churches and parishes around the world from Oct. 7 to Oct. 14.

    "The Holy Father wants us to feel this personally," says Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. "Each of us must work to encounter the migrants and refugees who are all around us. All too often, they seem invisible to us. We need to hear their stories, literally share their journeys, and see them as our brothers and sisters."

    From Seattle to Miami, bishops are holding masses, prayer vigils and events with local migrants and refugees. Two dioceses in Florida, for example, illustrate the support the Catholic Church is lending to the campaign. The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Jacksonville, part of the St. Augustine diocese, is working through its local Catholic Charities to invite refugees and migrants to a special 7 p.m. mass where they will be welcomed to share their stories.

    In Venice, the diocese is launching a photo exhibition and slideshow focused on the issue, along with a video about a young woman, the adult child of migrant workers, who is now Program Director for Catholic Charities Guadalupe Social Services in Immokalee, FL. The campaign also calls for governments and international organizations to take responsibility for caring for forced migrants, most of whom are fleeing disasters – war, famine, violence – beyond their control.

    "At CRS, we work with both the internally displaced and refugees around the world," CRS President Sean Callahan says. "We know firsthand that these are innocent victims, that they should be treated with respect and dignity, that they are the people the Bible calls us to love. By heeding Pope Francis' call to share their journey, we can all come to understand that."

    More information about "Share the Journey" is available on sharejourney.org.

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    About Catholic Charities USA

    Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), a member of Caritas Internationalis, is the national office for the Catholic Charities ministry nationwide. CCUSA's members provide help and create hope to more than 8 million people a year regardless of religious, social, or economic backgrounds. To learn more, please visit www.catholiccharitiesusa.org and follow CCUSA on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

    About Catholic Relief Services

    Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS' relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding.  For more information, visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media: Facebook, Twitter at @CatholicRelief, @CRSnews and @CRSnoticias, InstagramPinterest and YouTube.

    About the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

    The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is an assembly of the hierarchy of the United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands who jointly exercise certain pastoral functions on behalf of the Christian faithful of the United States. The purpose of the Conference is to promote the greater good which the Church offers humankind, especially through forms and programs of the apostolate fittingly adapted to the circumstances of time and place. This purpose is drawn from the universal law of the Church and applies to the episcopal conferences which are established all over the world for the same purpose. For more information, visit www.usccb.org and www.justiceforimmigrants.org Follow the USCCB on Facebook, Twitter @USCCB, Instagram.

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

     

    Author:
    Posted: September 27, 2017, 2:27 pm

    U.S. Bishops Welcome Bipartisan Bill that Seeks Climate Solutions

    WASHINGTON— Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Bishop Oscar Cantú voiced their support for the Climate Solutions Commission Act of 2017, a bill that would establish a bipartisan National Climate Solutions Commission.

    "This bill has the potential to inspire positive and concrete solutions towards protecting our common home," said Bishops Dewane and Cantú. They urged legislators to support H.R. 2326, a bill introduced by Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) who is a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.

    Bishop Dewane is the Bishop of Venice, Florida and chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Bishop Cantú is the Bishop of Las Cruces, and chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the USCCB.

    The chairmen, in a joint letter of support to each of the sponsors, noted that this would be "an important bipartisan step for protecting the environment and mitigating the harmful effects of climate change." There is a need, said the bishops, for "courageous actions and strategies aimed at promoting an integral ecology that considers together the protection of nature, the need for equitable economic development and the promotion of human dignity, especially that of the poor."

    The full letter can be found at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/letter-to-congress-on-climate-solutions-commission-act-2017-09-15.cfm.

    ---

    Keywords:  Bishop Oscar Cantú, Las Cruces, New Mexico, Bishop Frank Dewane, Venice, Florida, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Committee on International Justice and Peace, Pope Francis, USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, climate change, creation, environment, Laudato Si'.

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: September 22, 2017, 4:28 pm

    President of U.S. Bishops Conference Statement on Hurricane Maria

    WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement on the impact of Hurricane Maria. The storm has devastated Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Dominica. Now downgraded to Category-3 winds, the storm is expected to bring more heavy rain and flash floods as it makes landfall later today in the Turks and Caicos.

    Full statement follows:

    "Just as we begin to assess the material and emotional damage of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the devastation of yet another storm, Hurricane Maria, has struck the U.S. Virgin Islands and Dominica, and has battered Puerto Rico with catastrophic effects unprecedented in the island's modern history. I exhort the faithful to solidarity in this time of great need for our brothers and sisters in harm's way—many of whom have been hit repeatedly by the successive hurricanes.

    "Casting aside any temptation to despair, and full of hope in the loving Providence of God, we pray that our Father may receive unto his loving presence those who have lost their lives, may he comfort the grieving, and may he fortify the courage and resilience of those whose lives have been uprooted by these disasters. May he extend the might of his right hand and bid the sea be 'quiet' and 'still' (Mark 4:39)."

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    Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominica, Turks and Caicos Islands, solidarity.

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    Media Contact:
    Judy Keane
    202-541-3200

    Author:
    Posted: September 22, 2017, 11:10 am
  • National Catholic Reporter - The Independent News Source

    Campus Notebook: Dual-degree partnerships; Protesting racism at Boston College

    College roundup: Loyola University New Orleans' program enables students to earn degrees in both physics, engineering; Students stage walkout at Boston College over racism incidents
    Author: James Dearie
    Posted: October 20, 2017, 5:26 pm

    Philippine House fails to renew license of bishops' radio network

    The Philippine House of Representatives has not renewed the license of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines to operate dozens of radio stations across the country.
    Author: Catholic News Service
    Posted: October 20, 2017, 3:25 pm

    Edina Seleskovic's public art challenges division, ethnonationalism

    Distinctly Catholic: In this time of renewed manipulation of cultural memes, the artist is perhaps best equipped to evoke emotions that edify instead of dehumanize. One such artist: Edina Seleskovic.
    Author: Michael Sean Winters
    Posted: October 20, 2017, 1:55 pm

    New Mexico judge orders release of clergy sex abuse records

    The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has released hundreds of pages of court records related to sexual abuse allegations against clergy members in response to an order from a New Mexico judge.
    Author: The Associated Press, Religion News Service
    Posted: October 20, 2017, 1:51 pm

    Sex, gender, religion: Scholars discuss possible 'reformation'

    Disputes over sex and gender have ripped apart the Protestant world and threaten to create schism among Catholics, but perhaps there's hope for a new Reformation about such issues, theologians and writers said in an Oct. 17 panel discussion at Fordham University.
    Author: Peter Feuerherd
    Posted: October 20, 2017, 8:00 am

    Pope's quotes: Economy that kills

    Pope's quotes: Some of our favorite quotes from Pope Francis.
    Author: NCR Staff
    Posted: October 20, 2017, 8:00 am

    NCR Podcast: A conversation on sexuality, gender and the Catholic Church

    Listen: Jamie Manson, Mary Hunt, and Marianne Duddy-Burke call on the church to support LGBTQI Catholics.
    Author: NCR Staff
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 9:53 pm

    Rockville Centre Diocese to implement compensation program

    Bishop John Barres said the program, modeled after those in New York and Brooklyn, will allow the church "to stand in solidarity with survivors" of clergy sexual abuse.
    Author: Peter Feuerherd
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 9:08 pm

    Cross honoring soldiers who died in World War I deemed unconstitutional

    A 40-foot-tall cross memorializing soldiers who died in World War I that sits at a busy intersection in the Washington suburb of Bladensburg, Maryland, was ruled unconstitutional.
    Author: Catholic News Service
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Nominees announced for US bishops' conference leadership roles

    The slate of nominees for several leadership positions in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was released Oct. 19; The vote will take place at the U.S. bishops' meeting Nov. 13-14 in Baltimore. 
    Author: Heidi Schlumpf
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 4:42 pm

    Links for 10/19/17

    Michael Sean Winters rounds up political news and commentary: Pope Francis and the hard-hearted; voting straight party ticket blindly; Vatican II is 55; keeping refugees protected; musical soothing
    Author: Michael Sean Winters
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 2:57 pm

    Pope names Bishop Joseph Siegel to lead Diocese of Evansville

    Pope Francis named Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Siegel of Joliet, Illinois, to head the Diocese of Evansville, Indiana.
    Author: Catholic News Service
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 2:23 pm

    Pray that priests never use law to shut door to salvation, pope says

    The Pharisees and doctors of the law who claim salvation comes only from fulfilling God's laws are not just biblical figures of the past, Pope Francis said.
    Author: Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 2:20 pm

    Morning Briefing, Roman style

    From a new Rome-centric version of Morning Briefing: Pope Francis explains why he speaks so freely in press conferences, the former head of the Vatican children's hospital is found guilty of abuse of office, and prisoners use a lunch with the pope to give their prison the slip.
    Author: Joshua J. McElwee
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 8:00 am

    Prayer as both gift and task

    Young Voices: Prayer is getting a bit of a bum rap these days, at least when it is tagged on to the end of the platitude most often employed in the face of tragedy — "thoughts and prayers."
    Author: Susan Rose Francois, Global Sisters Report
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 8:00 am

    Francis, the comic strip

    Francis, the comic strip: It seems Francis himself has recognized the humor inherent in being pope. "Francis," the comic strip, picks up on that cue.
    Author: Pat Marrin
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 8:00 am

    Change your lives

    The Peace Pulpit: "Know that many are called, but few are chosen," Jesus concludes a parable. That story of today's Gospel is very important for us as we reflect on this call to change our lives. Those who were invited began to make excuses.
    Author: Thomas Gumbleton
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 8:00 am

    Methodist experience in closing congregations offers lessons to Catholics

    The Field Hospital: Massive consolidation of Catholic parishes has a familiar ring to mainstream Protestants who have been shedding congregations since the 1970s.​
    Author: Peter Feuerherd
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 8:00 am

    Keep 'Dream Act' free of strings, activists say about childhood immigrants

    President Donald Trump's recent insistence that new legislation protecting beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program be paired with his newly-released list of policy demands is an obstacle.
    Author: Maria Benevento
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 8:00 am

    Italian priest kidnapped in Nigeria freed

    Italian Fr. Maurizio Pallu, who was kidnapped by several gunmen in Nigeria and held captive for nearly a week, was freed Oct. 17.
    Author: Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service
    Posted: October 18, 2017, 5:21 pm

    Faith brings hope even at moment of death, pope says

    Christians can find hope even at the hour of death, which faith teaches is not a closed door but a wide-open passage to a new life with Christ, Pope Francis said.
    Author: Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service
    Posted: October 18, 2017, 1:42 pm

    Federal judge in Hawaii blocks Trump's new expanded travel ban

    A federal judge in Hawaii Oct. 17 blocked the Trump administration's expanded version of its travel prohibitions issued in late September.
    Author: Catholic News Service
    Posted: October 18, 2017, 1:27 pm

    Morning Briefing

    Morning Briefing: Contraceptive mandate; Senate confirms Callista Gingrich; Values Voter Summit; A 'habited hipster'; Francis invited prisoners to lunch and they escape
    Author: Stephanie Yeagle
    Posted: October 18, 2017, 1:17 pm

    Parish roundup: California wildfire crisis; helping stranded Puerto Ricans

    The Field Hospital: Santa Rosa Diocese responds to Northern California's fire crisis; San Diego parish welcomes gay Catholics; A parish in Cooperstown, New York, collects potatoes for the poor
    Author: Peter Feuerherd
    Posted: October 18, 2017, 8:00 am

    Contraception mandate: women's health or religious liberty issue?

    Nine out of 10 Americans find birth control to be morally acceptable, but proponents of religious liberty say that having to provide contraception through health insurance plans goes against Christian beliefs. New exemptions are fueling the debate.
    Author: Heidi Schlumpf
    Posted: October 18, 2017, 8:00 am
  • CNA Daily News - US

    ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.

    Georgetown pro-marriage group faces sanctions after students complain

    Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2017 / 09:53 am (CNA).- A pro-marriage student group at Georgetown University is in danger of being defunded and barred from campus facilities, after fellow students have petitioned that it be recognized as a “hate group.”

    The Hoya, Georgetown’s student newspaper, reported on Oct. 20 that Love Saxa, a student organization promoting Catholic doctrine regarding marriage, will undergo a Student Activities Commission hearing on Oct. 23, to defend itself against charges that the group fosters hatred and intolerance. The hearing is a response to a petition filed by a student-senator in the Georgetown University Student Association, and supported by leaders of gay pride student organizations at Georgetown.

    Love Saxa intends to petition for a delay before the hearing takes place. The group told CNA they were only officially informed of the hearing’s date on the evening of Oct. 19, giving them an insufficient amount of time to prepare. The group also says they haven’t been given a copy of the petition, or an exact rendering of the charges against them.

    Lova Saxa’s student-president Amelia Irvine told CNA, “I believe that Love Saxa has the right to exist, especially at a Catholic school. We exist to promote healthy, loving relationships at Georgetown.”

    In a Sept. 6 column in The Hoya, Irvine wrote that “we believe that marriage is a conjugal union on every level – emotional, spiritual, physical and mental – directed toward caring for biological children. To us, marriage is much more than commitment of love between two consenting adults.”

    Leaders of gay pride student organizations at Georgetown denounced this language as “homophobic,” and claimed it violated university standards.  

    The university’s Student Organization Standards state that: “Groups will not be eligible for access to benefits if their purpose or activities … foster hatred or intolerance of others because of their race, nationality, gender, religion, or sexual preferences.” Love Saxa is accused of fostering hatred and intolerance, because of its support for Catholic teaching regarding marriage.

    Love Saxa receives $250 of funding from the university, and is permitted to use university facilities for its activities, according to The Hoya. Results of the hearing could lead to loss of funding and facility access, among other sanctions, the newspaper reported.

    Irvine told CNA that Love Saxa is hopeful about the results of the hearing. “We're optimistic that the university will uphold our right to exist, given that we share the Catholic view on marriage,” she added.

    In an Oct. 20 editorial, The Hoya’s editorial board advocated for Love Saxa’s defunding. The editorial board wrote that Love Saxa fosters intolerance by “actively advocating a limited definition of marriage that would concretely take rights away from the LGBTQ community.”

    Georgetown is a Catholic university in Washington, D.C., founded by the Society of Jesus in 1789.

     

    Author:
    Posted: October 20, 2017, 3:53 pm

    Commentary: Redefining gender while California burns

    Sacramento, Calif., Oct 20, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA).- California is still burning.

    At this point, 42 people are dead. Some 217,000 acres are devastated. Thousands of homes are destroyed. Entire towns are now charred wreckage. As the fires burned their hottest, trees glowed a seething orange behind their bark, before exploding. Families took shelter wherever they could find it; one couple spent a long, cold night submerged to their necks in a neighbor’s pool, seeking refuge from falling embers.  

    The fires are now mostly contained. But the cleanup will be massive. It will take political cooperation at the local, state, and federal levels to allocate funds, organize rebuilding, and provide relief to the tens of thousands of people who are now displaced – homeless – with no certainty about their future. It will take leadership, compromise, and statesmanship. It will take selflessness.

    Even in ordinary times, the political cooperation and organizational infrastructure required after a disaster of this magnitude are a challenge. The political infighting after Hurricane Katrina is the stuff of legend. And these are not ordinary times. After a particularly brutal hurricane season, federal recovery dollars will be hard to come by. And Washington has never been more polarized, or less stable. California is beginning a gubernatorial primary season, which brings with it the kind of posturing and grandstanding that make it difficult to get real work done. At the same time, finger-pointing has begun, as Californians try to explain the causes of the massive wildfires that consumed so much of the Napa Valley. Governor Jerry Brown is already being blamed for the fires, after vetoing a bipartisan 2016 bill intended to make power lines less likely to contribute to the spread of wildfire in residential areas.

    In such extraordinary times, facing such a monumental task, it’s natural to hope for a singularly focused, consensus-building political leader, who would cut through partisanship and pettiness to help rebuild lives, homes, and communities across California. Governor Brown, who has a very long record of public service in California, and has few political limitations in the year before his final term expires, should be the man for the job. That is why it is so disappointing that on Sunday night, while the wildfires were still spreading, the governor took time to sign California’s Gender Recognition Act, which allows Californians to choose a “non-binary” gender identity on drivers’ licenses, and to change name and gender on state identification documents with ease.

    Signing the bill will cement Brown’s legacy among libertines and elites, who already revere him because of his support for gay marriage and assisted suicide. But while the Gender Recognition Act will win him adulation from progressive pundits, it won’t make it easier for Brown to solve the real and immediate problems his state is facing. In fact, he’s made that job harder.

    In the face of a crisis requiring broad cooperation, especially from churches and religious social service agencies, Brown chose to remind Californians of faith that their views don’t matter, and that they have no place in his vision for California. Instead of building the consensus that would help real Californians, Brown chose to secure his place in the pantheon of progressive demagogues, consequences be damned. Instead of facing the reality of California’s needs, Brown spent his time trying redefine what’s real, to usher in a new world in which reason is supplanted by confusion, masquerading as freedom.
     
    In the classic 1951 film Quo Vadis, based upon Henryk Sienkiewicz’ novel, the emperor Nero is a mad narcissist: licentious, insecure, and cruel. Nero is far more concerned with securing his place in history – with being remembered as a genius, and an artist – than he is with leading his people. They suffer for his madness, and for his neglect.  

    Eventually, Nero’s Rome burns to the ground, in a fire which the emperor himself began. But he is impervious to the suffering of his citizens. He stands overlooking his burning city, plucking a harp, and obsessing about his place in history, and a new world he’ll create in his own image – Neropolis.

    “That is my epic,” Nero tells his courtiers. “To change the face of the world. To demolish and create anew.”

    California is burning. Brown is not the cause of the fire. But he should be singularly focused on helping his people. Instead, he seems more concerned with plucking a harp for his place in history, redefining reality with his pen. “To change the face of the world. To demolish, and create anew.”

     

    Author:
    Posted: October 20, 2017, 9:01 am

    How Los Angeles Catholics help the homeless

    Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 20, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With growing numbers of people suffering homelessness in the expensive megalopolis of Los Angeles, Catholics and people of other religions are working together to provide a serious response.

    “The faith community is really a giant part of the services provided to the folks in need,” Kathleen Domingo, Director of the Los Angeles archdiocese’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, told CNA.

    There’s a reason Catholics help the homeless.

    “We’ve been told that our salvation depends on how we treat those in need,” said Domingo. “Our faith isn’t just in praying and personal spirituality, it’s actually in what we put into action.”

    She said the homeless are “the face of Christ, especially in Los Angeles.” Many residents live in such prosperity that “to turn our backs on the homeless is really to turn our backs on Christ.”

    “We really need to ask ourselves: are we willing to sacrifice our salvation, literally, for our own convenience or our own comfort at not getting involved?” Domingo said.

    Leaders of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities gathered at the University of Southern California campus Oct. 18 for a roundtable discussion that aimed to find new ideas and a united approach to responding to homelessness.

    Among the scheduled speakers was Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. He joined other religious leaders, homeless experts, and representatives from Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti’s office.

    In a June 6 column, Gomez warned that an increase in homelessness shows a failure to foster a strong “human ecology.” It reflects a widening gap “between those who have what they need for a dignified life and those who do not.”

    “I worry that we are getting accustomed to these sights in our city,” he said. “We cannot allow ourselves to accept a Los Angeles where sidewalks become permanent residences for our neighbors.”

    A May 2017 report from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found a 23 percent increase in homelessness in Los Angeles County since the previous year. According to the Associated Press, about 7,700 volunteers counted about 58,800 homeless people, an increase of 11,000.

    The number of homeless veterans had increased 57 percent. The number of homeless aged 18 to 24 increased 64 percent, while the number of those under 18 increased 41 percent.

    The report did find improvements in the number of homeless families who have shelter. The number of families without shelter decreased 21 percent.

    Officials said there is increasing financial stress on renters in the Los Angeles area. Over 2 million households spend half their income or more on housing costs.

    The roundtable is sponsored by four USC organizations, including the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies. Father James L. Heft, founder and president of the institute, said there are many different religions in Los Angeles working to ameliorate the homelessness crisis.

    “People in these different religions are doing good things to address this crisis. But they often work by themselves,” he said. “I thought it would be good for the leaders of the different religions to talk with each other, learn from each other, and through these conversations find even better ways to work at solving the crisis of homelessness.”

    According to Heft, the roundtable aims to help advance understanding of the “complex issue of homelessness” and learn the most effective ways to address it.

    “We want to promote greater cooperation among religions in addressing a serious challenge that our whole community faces,” the priest said.

    For Domingo, Catholic action for the homeless in Los Angeles already has a record of success.

    In 2016, Catholic Charities of Los Angeles and the St. Vincent de Paul Society worked together to place about 300 people in permanent housing. Though the numbers seem small compared to the problem, the beneficiaries are given a sustainable place to live and the means to stay there for the long-term. They also receive help with job placement and other support resources.

    The work of individual parishes is significant, but sometimes difficult to report, Domingo said. “Much of it is done just in a manner of course as the parishes operate.”

    Domingo noted a five-parish cluster in the archdiocese’s eastern San Gabriel region which collectively offers cold weather shelter to the homeless. The parishes also offer food, including some meals homemade by parishioners.

    In addition, parish outreach seeks barbers, stylists and manicurists for these beneficiaries to “make them feel good and look good while they’re here,” she said.

    The parishes involve homeless guests in Christmas activities, including Las Posadas, the traditional Mexican Advent season commemoration of the journey of the Holy Family, in which they found no room at the inn of Bethlehem.

    Local schoolchildren make prayer cards, placemats, and table settings to help welcome the hosted families. A jazz band from the local Catholic high school also comes to play.

    “You could just see this exhaustion melt away as people listen to music that maybe they haven’t been exposed to for years,” said Domingo, who added: “These are really amazing moments. It doesn’t get a lot of press, but it’s really the parish coming together to do something impactful.”

    Some parishes collaborate with the nationwide Family Promise program to house families that have just become homeless. When they secure permanent housing quickly, they have a better chance of not becoming homeless again.

    Domingo praised the “housing-first” approach to homelessness. This approach, developed in recent decades, aims to provide permanent housing immediately for those in need, rather than put them through transitional programs whose conditions are sometimes counterproductive and harder to fulfill for someone without permanent housing. She suggested the archdiocese would be happy to pursue such an approach.

    “That’s also an approach that’s very much in keeping with Catholic social teaching, with the dignity of the person,” she said. Getting someone a house is something basic that does not need many restrictions.

    “Just get people housed. That’s a very good step in the right direction,” said Domingo.

    Many Catholic charities, St. Vincent de Paul organizations, and parishes in Los Angeles are taking part in a process called the Coordinated Entry System. It helps to ensure some knowledge about who is getting services and to ensure that some people are not “falling through the cracks.”

    Domingo attributed the shortfall in housing for those at risk of homelessness to the “not in my backyard” mindset. Many projects have been halted due to local opposition.

    “As Catholics we could help to shift the conversation on that,” she suggested. Catholics could help rally their neighbors to welcome homeless families to their neighborhood just as they’d welcome any family.

    She also stressed the need for people to educate themselves about the options specifically available for homeless minors and the elderly so that they could help those the encounter find temporary assistance.

    “It seems small in a sense, but they’re realistic steps, and I think that they can be incredibly effective,” she said.

    Author:
    Posted: October 20, 2017, 6:04 am

    Government must allow abortion for undocumented teenager, judge rules

    Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2017 / 12:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a controversial decision, a U.S. district judge ruled that the government must facilitate an abortion for an undocumented teenager under federal custody in Texas. The federal government has appealed the ruling, asking for a stay on the judge’s order.

    On Oct. 18, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that a 17-year-old from Central America, known only as “Jane Doe,” must be allowed to get an abortion. The girl has been in federal custody since early September, and is living in a south Texas shelter operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement – an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Currently 15 weeks pregnant, the girl has secured outside funding for the abortion, and has obtained state permission to get the abortion – a requirement for any minor in Texas who does not have parental permission for an abortion procedure.

    The ACLU has alleged that the government is utilizing an “unconstitutional veto power” by not allowing Doe to obtain an abortion, and has filed a suit against HHS. The administration has countered that the government has “exercised a legitimate choice to refuse to facilitate an abortion,” and argues that the girl could leave the country voluntarily to obtain the procedure. It also argues that since the girl is in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, it has the right to determine what is in the best interest of the teenager.

    The government also says that the United States has an interest in “not providing incentives for pregnant minors to illegally cross the border to obtain elective abortions while in federal custody.”

    Under the judge’s ruling, the administration must allow the minor to attend an abortion counseling appointment on Oct. 20, and have the abortion the following day or over the weekend. If the administration does not comply, it will be held in contempt of court, the ruling states. A decision on the appeal is expected Thursday evening.

    Pro-life organizations criticized the judge’s decision, warning of the precedent it sets.

    “Today’s ruling is outrageous and sets a dangerous precedent,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

    “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services took a simple position that it would protect the life and dignity of the teenage girl and her unborn child while in their care,” she said in a statement. “Shame on this judge for overruling compassionate care and instead mandating that the U.S. government help facilitate an abortion for a teenage girl.”

    “This ruling plays into the broader agenda of the ACLU, which is recklessly exploiting a teenage girl in order to make the United States a sanctuary state for abortion,” she added.

    Catherine Glenn Foster, President and CEO of Americans United for Life, also objected to the ruling, saying that because the government would have to expend resources to provide access to the abortion clinic, the decision “mandates that taxpayer funds be expended to facilitate the destruction of an innocent human life, in violation of the Hyde Amendment and the consciences of millions of American citizens.”

    Author:
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 6:50 pm

    English nuns offer free meals – but there's a catch

    London, England, Oct 19, 2017 / 12:08 pm (CNA).- A group of religious sisters are offering free meals in a trendy neighborhood of London, but on one condition: the customers must forfeit the use of their phones and converse with fellow diners.

    “We give you a little food for soul. We don’t just mean the food that you eat, but something for you to take away and reflect in your life,” said Sister Anna, according to Business Insider.

    As part of the new reality TV series “Bad Habits: Holy Orders,” the Daughters of Divine Charity have left their homes in rural Norfolk to serve food at “Nundos” in Shoreditch from Oct. 17-19.

    The pop-up restaurant is a play on words for the peri-peri chicken chain Nando’s, but rather than serving African cuisine the holy restaurant offers chicken broth, lentil soup, breads, and homemade pies.  

    If the costumer’s phone is put aside, the wholesome meals are offered free of charge as a means to deter people from the distractions of social media.

    The Channel 5 series takes five millennial women and follows their transition from a party lifestyle to the simple life of the convent. The girls' beliefs are then challenged by the religious community as they participate in the nun’s activities, like early morning prayers and works of charity.

    Founded in 1868, the Daughters of Divine Charity seek to make God visible through acts of charity, like attending to the sick and elderly and aiding children in preparation for the sacraments.

    Author:
    Posted: October 19, 2017, 6:08 pm

    Central Americans fleeing violence can't return home yet, bishops warn

    Washington D.C., Oct 18, 2017 / 05:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As a temporary immigration permit program for families fleeing violence in Honduras and El Salvador is set to expire, the U.S. bishops warn that requiring immigrants to return to unsafe countries is unjust.

    “There is ample evidence to suggest that current TPS recipients from Honduras and El Salvador cannot return safely to their home country at this time,” said Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops Committee on Migration.

    He urged the faithful to keep the people of El Salvador and Honduras, including those with Temporary Protective Status “in your thoughts and prayers,” while introducing a report on the issue, released by the USCCB this week.

    The bishop and the report expressed support for an extension of TPS – a kind of temporary immigration status– for people from Honduras and El Salvador, and called for a long-term legislative solution to the situation.

    Temporary Protective Status allows people who are unable to safely return to their home nations because of armed conflict, other violence, natural disasters or other extraordinary and temporary circumstances to remain in the United States while the situation in their home country resolves.

    In August, a group of researchers from the USCCB’s Office of Migration and Refugee Services traveled to Honduras and El Salvador to assess the circumstances TPS recipients returning to their home countries would face.

    The trip was inspired by the upcoming expiration of TPS status for Salvadoran and Honduran nationals. The TPS designation for Honduras is set to expire on January 5, 2018, and El Salvador’s will end on March 9, 2018, unless the Department of Homeland Security authorizes an extension. If the designations expire, more than 200,000 people from El Salvador and 57,000 people from Honduras will need to return to their home countries. These temporary immigrants are parents to more than 270,000 children who are United States citizens.

    In El Salvador, gang-related violence has led to widespread crime and extortion, the bishops’ report said. In addition, children and their families are targeted for gang recruitment. This has also led to the displacement of between 200,000 and 400,000 persons in El Salvador.

    In Honduras, the bishops’ report said, high homicide rates and internal displacement of families has led to the designation of TPS status for some Honduran refugees. Currently, there are at least 174,000 people who are internally displaced within the country.

    Many of the affected families sought TPS as part of the Central American Minors refugee program in order to protect their children from violence and gang recruitment.

    The bishops observed that the security situations in both countries has not been fully resolved, and their report warned that the end of TPS might “negatively impact regional security, and have negative economic and humanitarian consequences” in El Salvador and Honduras, as well as in the United States. They also observed that neither country is prepared to receive and reintegrate the full population of citizens that would need to return.

    The bishops warn that forcing families to return, including those families whose children are US citizens, would leave returned people at grave risk of violence and targeted gang action.

    On top of the policy ramifications of the political situation in Honduras and El Salvador, the destabilization and insecurity in these two countries has made it more difficult for the Church to operate and adequately minister to those in need, the bishops’ conference reported.

    The report quoted Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador: “It is truly unfortunate and painful that the Church cannot work because of this atmosphere of insecurity and anxiety that shakes our beloved country.”

    The bishops offered a number of policy recommendations for the United States, as well as to the impacted countries and Church leaders. To the US government, they encouraged the extension of the TPS program for 18 months, and also backed efforts to ensure permanent lawful status for some, namely those who are parents of U.S. citizens or who have found employment in U.S. businesses.

    The bishops also urged the U.S. to work with both Honduras and El Salvador to help the countries end the violence – particularly violence that targets youth – and form a solid plan to reintegrate families who will need to return. The U.S. government, they said, should “support anti-gang, anti-corruption and systematic integration efforts to ensure greater regional stability and human security.” They encouraged the Central American countries to improve job access and help ensure that Internally Displaced Persons can also return to their homes.

    The bishops encouraged the Church and charitable organizations to help with humanitarian aid and supporting a solution to displacement – an issue which will be essential for “possible future TPS returnees.” They also encouraged Church-government partnerships to help people returning to their home countries, as well as any who might seek legal status in the United States and Canada.

    “We look forward to working with Congress, the Administration and others in pursuing humane and just solutions for the long-term TPS beneficiaries currently residing in the United States,” the bishops concluded.

    Author:
    Posted: October 18, 2017, 11:04 pm

    Wealthy donors working to limit 'inappropriate' religious freedom

    Denver, Colo., Oct 18, 2017 / 02:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A network of wealthy donors is funding a series of well-organized lobbying campaigns to restrict legal protections for religious freedom, in order to advance access to abortion and LGBT causes.

    Since 2013, a network of funders has earmarked at least $8.5 million in grants for projects intended to limit religious freedom provisions in federal, state, and local law, according to a CNA investigation of grant listings and tax forms.

    Many of these funders are part of the Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative, a grantmaking fund launched by the Proteus Fund in March 2017. The collaborative opposes “the inappropriate use of religious exemptions to curtail reproductive health, rights and justice, discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community, and otherwise undermine fundamental rights and liberties essential to a healthy democracy,” the fund’s website says.

    The new anti-religious freedom collaborative was created to oppose “ongoing and growing efforts in too many states to ‘legalize’ discrimination and restrict fundamental human and civil rights under the guise of protecting ‘religious liberty’,” according to the fund’s website.

    The Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative has given grants to pro-abortion groups and LGBT advocacy groups at the state, federal and international levels; religious groups including Catholics for Choice; legal advocacy groups like the ACLU and Lambda Legal; and aligned academics, including those at Columbia Law School’s “Public Rights, Private Conscience Project.”

    One donor, the Arcus Foundation, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to John Podesta’s Center for American Progress initiatives. These grants seek to redefine religious liberty as “a core progressive American value that includes LGBT equality and women’s reproductive health and rights,” according to its latest grant listed at the Arcus Foundation website.

    The collaborative’s network also spends millions on leadership development, donor development, anti-violence and anti-discrimination projects, and LGBT and pro-abortion rights advocacy.

    The Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative says it will serve as “a vehicle for broader donor education and mobilization in order to achieve deeper funding alignment as well as enhanced donor collaboration.”

    The collaborative aims to nurture strategies and organizations that foster collaboration between “the reproductive equity and LGBTQ movements, especially at the state and local level.” It aims to boost the influence of faith leaders and religious communities that it says will support “equal rights and opportunities for everyone while also protecting legitimate constitutionally protected religious liberty rights.” Its website also claims that “discriminatory practices fostered by overly broad religious exemptions” have a disproportionate impact on racial minorities.

    The collaborative’s funding partners, listed on the Proteus Fund’s website, are the Alki Fund of the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Arcus Foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the Gill Foundation, the Groundswell Fund, the Irving Harris Foundation, the Moriah Fund, the Overbrook Foundation, and anonymous donors.

    The Proteus Fund appears to have had previous success. Its Civil Marriage Collaborative, closed in 2015, was a leader in the push for legal recognition of gay marriage. The fund’s “Hearts & Minds” report says that the consortium of foundations invested $153 million over 11 years in many states and at the national level in marriage-related advocacy.

    CNA contacted the Proteus Fund for comment, but received no response by deadline.

    Religious freedom laws: ‘not a blank check’

    Richard Garnett, a professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School, disagreed with the fund’s claims that religious freedom legal accommodations and exemptions are illegitimate. He said this claim is “inconsistent with our history and with our longstanding commitment to religious liberty as our ‘first freedom.’

    “Reasonable exemptions do not ‘undermine fundamental rights and liberties,’ they protect and promote them,” he told CNA.

    “Unfortunately, there are powerful and well-funded interests who, with broad support in the academy and in media, have been working hard to associate our ‘first freedom’ with discrimination and prejudice,” Garnett said.

    He reflected on the state of religious freedom advocacy.

    “Proponents of religious freedom, broadly and generously understood, will need to work hard to remind our fellow citizens that religious liberty – which has to mean religious liberty for all, and not just for ‘people like us’ – is itself a fundamental human right, and a protection for democracy,” he said. “And, of course, to make religious freedom more appealing, it is important that religious-freedom proponents conduct their efforts in a civil, charitable, and inviting way.”

    For Garnett, the fund’s rhetoric about discrimination concerns did not accurately represent the current state of the law.

    “In fact, only a tiny number of religious-exemptions claims involve antidiscrimination laws and these claims almost always fail,” he said. “The claim that religious-liberty laws undermine important anti-discrimination protections in the marketplace, the workplace, or in public accommodations is false.  

    “Instead, what these laws do is call for sensible accommodations for religious conscience, in cases where the accommodations will not undermine compelling public interests. These laws call for a balance, not a blank check.”

    Religious freedom protections have become more controversial in recent decades. In 2012, the Obama administration attempted to mandate that all employers, including religious employers, cover sterilization and contraceptive drugs, including drugs that can cause abortions. The mandate burdened many Catholic dioceses and organizations, including EWTN Global Catholic Network, and was only changed by a recent Trump administration action.

    There is also an ongoing push in some states to require insurance coverage of abortions, and some medical professionals and hospitals have faced pressure to cooperate in providing abortions.

    Garnett thought abortion would be a prime focus of the Proteus funding network.

    “My sense is that what efforts like the Proteus Fund are really aimed at is undermining the longstanding protections in American law for religious health care workers and institutions who cannot in conscience participate in abortions,” he said. “These protections are falsely labeled as ‘discriminatory’ when, in fact, they reflect the commonsense notion that it would be deeply unjust to require, as a condition of working as a healer, a pro-life medical professional to participate in a procedure she believes to be gravely wrong.”

    Some Christian adoption agencies have been forced to close because placing children with same-sex couples violates their religious convictions. There is an ongoing debate over whether small businesses in the marriage industry must cater to same-sex ceremonies if they have religious objections to them.

    Ryan T. Anderson, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and co-author of “Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination,” reflected on the current situation.

    “Anti-gay and anti-transgender bigotry exists and should be condemned,” he told CNA. “But support for marriage as the union of husband and wife isn’t anti-gay. Nor is the conviction that sex is a biological reality anti-transgender.

    “Just as we’ve combatted sexism without treating pro-life medicine as sexist, any public policy necessary to help people who identify as LGBT meet their needs should be crafted so as to respect the consciences of reasonable people, acting on good-faith beliefs about marriage and gender identity,” said Anderson. “Not every disagreement is discrimination. And our law shouldn’t suppose otherwise.”

    ‘We’re going to punish the wicked’

    The Proteus Fund’s collaborative brings together several organizations with experience in effective political advocacy.

    One of its funding partners, the Colorado-based Gill Foundation, was launched by the politically savvy former businessman Tim Gill. He has pursued strategic LGBT advocacy through funding both non-profits and political campaigns.

    “We’re going into the hardest states in the country… we’re going to punish the wicked,” Gill said in a June interview with Rolling Stone magazine about his LGBT activism.

    In March 2015, Tim Sweeney, a former president and CEO of the Gill Foundation,  told leading business executives and others attending the Out & Equal Workplace Advocates executive forum in San Francisco about the need to ensure their fight against religious exemptions is finished quickly.

    “We are at a crossroads where the choices we make will mean we will fight religious exemptions for two to three years or have a protracted twenty year struggle on our hands,” he said.

    The New York-based Arcus Foundation, founded by billionaire heir Jon Stryker, has dedicated millions of dollars to opposing religious freedom protections and to funding LGBT advocacy within world religions, including dissenting Catholic groups like Catholics for Choice, New Ways Ministry and Dignity USA.

    One board member of this foundation is Darren Walker, past vice-president of the Rockefeller Foundation and current president of the deeply influential Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation has funded some projects against religious liberty protections, but is not listed as a direct member of the collaborative based at the Proteus Fund.

    However, the Oakland, Calif.-based Groundswell Fund board of directors is chaired by Rocio L. Cordoba, a past program officer for the Ford Foundation’s Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Justice Program. The Groundswell Fund claims to fund more reproductive justice organizations than any other foundation.

    Another partner, the Rockefeller Family Fund, was launched in 1967 by members of the prominent American family, including then-New York governor and future vice-president Nelson Rockefeller. Its mission statement says it “initiates, cultivates, and funds strategic efforts to promote a sustainable, just, free, and participatory society.” The fund did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

    The San Francisco-based Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund is a private family foundation with half a billion dollars in assets. Since 2014 it has earmarked at least $1.4 million in grants for projects related to religious exemptions, according to a CNA review of its grant listings.

    The New York-based Overbrook Foundation, founded in 1948 by financier Frank Altschul and his wife Helen, has a gender rights program to fund those who oppose “overly broad religious exemptions.” Its website listed $220,000 in grants related to religious freedom: a $100,000 grant to the Proteus Fund’s collaborative, and two $60,000 grants to Lambda Legal.

    The Chicago-based Irving Harris Foundation, created by the businessman and philanthropist, awards $10 to $15 million in grants annually, InsidePhilanthropy reports. The Washington, D.C.-based Moriah Fund dedicated over $10.6 million to program spending in fiscal year 2016. Neither grant maker's website listed grants related to religious freedom.

     

    Correction Oct. 18, 2017, 12:40 pm ET: This article incorrectly identified the Alki Fund as being part of the Rockefeller Foundation. It is part of the Rockefeller Family Fund.

     

     

    Author:
    Posted: October 18, 2017, 8:51 am

    A modern horror: global persecution of Christians at historic peak, report says

    New York City, N.Y., Oct 17, 2017 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Anti-Christian persecution is “worse than at any time in history” and in many cases genocide and other crimes against humanity “now mean that the Church in core countries and regions faces the possibility of imminent wipe-out,” says a new report from Aid to the Church in Need.

    The report, titled “Persecuted and Forgotten?”, covers the years 2015-2017. Its contents are bleak, describing Christianity as “the world’s most oppressed faith community.” Anti-Christian persecution in the worst regions has reached “a new peak” and its impact is “only now beginning to be felt in all its horror.”

    “In 12 of the 13 countries reviewed, the situation for Christians was worse in overall terms in the period 2015–17 than within the preceding two years,” said the report’s executive summary, released Oct. 12.  

    John Pontifex, the report's editor, commented that “In terms of the numbers of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed and their impact, it is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history. Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution.”

    China, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria were ranked “extreme” in the scale of anti-Christian persecution. Egypt, India, and Iran were rated “high to extreme,” while Turkey was rated “moderate to high.”

    The report’s ratings draw from analyses like the Pew Forum’s Social Hostilities Index and Open Door’s World Watch List, in addition to other factors and sources, including fact-finding trips.   

    In some countries the state is the principal persecutor, while in other countries social groups are culpable, while in still others a combination of both are responsible.

    Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic pastoral charity, provides emergency and pastoral relief in 140 countries. Its U.S. affiliate published the report.

    The report’s foreword was written by Archbishop Issam John Darwish of the Melkite Archdiocese of Zahlé and Furzo, a Lebanese archdiocese near the Syrian border. He recounted the stories of Christian refugees fleeing the six-year-old Syrian civil war.

    “Many refugees have told terrible stories of persecution: like the man whose brother, a priest, was kidnapped – and despite the family paying the ransom they killed the priest. They sent his family a box containing his severed wrist, tattooed with a cross, to show he was dead,” the archbishop said.

    The Middle East is a major focus for the report.

    “Governments in the West and the U.N. failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway,” the report said. “If Christian organizations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.”

    The exodus of Christians from Iraq has been “very severe.” Christians in the country now may number as few as 150,000, a decline from 275,000 in mid-2015. By spring 2017 there were some signs of hope, with the defeat of the Islamic State group and the return of some Christians to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.

    However, the departure of Christians from Syria has also threatened the survival of their communities in the country, including historic Christian centers like Aleppo. Syrian Christians there suffer threats of forced conversion and extortion. One Chaldean bishop in the country estimates the Christian population to be at 500,000, down from 1.2 million before the war.

    Many Christians in the region fear going to official refugee camps, due to concerns about rape and other violence.

    The Islamic State group and other militants have committed genocide in Syria and Iraq. While Islamic State and other groups have been defeated in their major strongholds, many Christian groups are threatened with extinction and would not survive another attack.

    In northern Nigeria, the radical Islamist group Boko Haram has engaged in genocide against Christians.

    There are reports from North Korea of forced starvation of Christians and forced abortion. Some Christians have been hung on crosses over fire, and others have been crushed by steamrollers. Protestants and Catholics are ranked among those least sympathetic to the state, which limits their access to food, education, and health care. Christianity is linked with American influence, and Christians are executed as spies.

    In Sudan, the government’s pursuit of an extremist Islamist agenda led to orders to tear down Christian churches. Christians are arrested for alleged proselytism, and women face fines for wearing “obscene” or immodest dress. The government stripped citizenship rights of people with origins outside Sudan, leading many to leave for their ancestral homelands in South Sudan. Many had lived in their homes for three decades or more.

    In January 2017 the U.S. put a six-month waiver on human rights sanctions against Sudan, on condition that the country improve its human rights and religious freedom record.

    In Pakistan, banned fundamentalist cells pose a great threat to Christians, but some charge that the government’s failure to crack down on these groups worsens the problem of violence. On Easter Sunday 2016 as many as 24 Christians were killed in targeted violence in Lahore. A faction of the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

    In India, persecution has increased since 2014, with the rise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Like-minded groups frequently accuse Christians of forced conversion, a charge local Christian leaders strongly deny. An India-based Catholic group reported 365 serious anti-Christian atrocities in 2016, with 10 people killed and more than 500 clergy or church leaders attacked for their faith.

    Some Christians have faced pressure to convert under threat of force, while others have been forced to take part in Hindu rituals and deny their faith.

    In China, church communities face increased hostility. Authorities in some provinces have removed crosses from some churches and destroyed church buildings. In some regions, Christmas trees and greeting cards have been banned.

    President Xi Jinping has depicted Christianity as a means of “foreign infiltration” into China and has advocated more state control and targeting of unofficial churches. There are fears that China’s 2016 announcement of categorization of citizens based on political, commercial, social and legal “credit,” will create a system that disadvantages Christians in a way similar to North Korea.

    Christians in Egypt suffered a major suicide bombing attack in December 2016 and again on Palm Sunday in April 2017. Dozens were killed and more injured in both attacks, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

    Saudi Arabia has come under criticism from western powers and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. However, President Donald Trump signed a $110 billion arms deal with the country, a deal which had been held up under the Obama administration due to human rights concerns. The Aid to the Church in Need report said sources in the country are supplying arms and finances to Sunni extremist groups including the Islamic State, known in the region as “Daesh.”

    “Given that Islamist groups such as Daesh are likely to be heavily reliant on undeclared external sources for weapons and intelligence, there is an urgent need to step up action to stop all entities collaborating with them,” the report continued. “Persecuted Christians are among the many who stand to be beneficiaries of progress in this area.”

    Archbishop Darwish said it is imperative to help persecuted Christians.

    “When the Christian families who have turned to us need the very basics for daily life – food, shelter and medical care – how can we refuse to help?” he asked, lamenting a lack of aid from the U.N. and other humanitarian organizations.

    He praised Aid to the Church in Need’s efforts to report anti-Christian persecution and aid those persecuted.

    Author:
    Posted: October 17, 2017, 9:02 pm

    US bishops call for health care protection for the most vulnerable

    Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of an executive order issued by the Trump administration halting federal assistance for certain insurance plans, the U.S. bishops reaffirmed that helping to protect low-income persons and the vulnerable is of the utmost importance.

    “This is of grave concern. The Affordable Care Act is, by no means, perfect, but as leaders attempt to address impending challenges to insurance market stability and affordability, they must not use people’s health care as leverage or as a bargaining chip,” said Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chairman of the U.S. bishops’  Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development in a statement.

    “To do so would be to strike at the heart of human dignity and the fundamental right to health care. The poor and vulnerable will bear the brunt of such an approach.”

    Trump's decision will end a series of subsidies for lower-income enrollees in Affordable Care Act plans, which help those people reduce their cost share. The subsidies were expected to total more than $9 billion in 2018, and Congress has never appropriated the money for these cost-sharing subsidies in particular.

    Trump’s decision has been met with criticism from both the Democratic party and some members of the Republican party, while other members of the president’s party, like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), praised the move.

    Bishop Dewane explained that in addition to cutting federal funds for insurance subsidies for low-income buyers, Trump also issued a directive whichallow the sale of insurance plans across state lines and expand options for certain kinds of plans that are lower-cost, but contain fewer benefits.

    There is also concern among healthcare policy experts that if enough healthy people leave their current plans for such high-deductible plans, those remaining in other Affordable Care Act plans would be, on the whole, sicker, and eventually face higher premiums. These costs would eventually impact the economy at large.

    Dewane said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will monitor how the order is implemented, and its impact on vulnerable persons.

    “In general, robust options for people to obtain health coverage, as well as flexibility and approaches aimed at increased affordability, are important strategies in health care,” he said of the other elements of the executive order. “However, in implementing this executive order, great care must be taken to avoid risk of additional harm to those who now receive health care coverage through exchanges formed under the Affordable Care Act.”

    In addition to opening up new areas of concern, the executive order “ignores” other severe problems in the health care system, Dewane said.

    “Congress must still act on comprehensive reform in order to provide a sustainable framework for health care, providing lasting solutions for the life, conscience, immigrant access, market stability, and underlying affordability problems that remain unaddressed.”

    Author:
    Posted: October 17, 2017, 12:04 pm

    Department of Justice announces settlement in HHS mandate suits

    Washington D.C., Oct 16, 2017 / 09:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A week after issuing new religious freedom guidelines to all administrative agencies in the federal government, the U.S. Department of Justice has settled with more than 70 plaintiffs who had challenged the controversial HHS contraceptive mandate.

    The Oct. 13 agreement was reached between the government and the law firm Jones Day, which represented more than 70 clients fighting the mandate. Made public Oct. 16, the agreement states that the plaintiffs would not be forced to provide health insurance coverage for “morally unacceptable” products and procedures, including contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.

    “This settlement brings to a conclusion our litigation challenging the Health and Human Services’ mandate obliging our institutions to provide support for morally objectionable activities, as well as a level of assurance as we move into the future,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. in an Oct. 16 letter to priests of the archdiocese.

    The mandate originated with the Obama administration. Issued through the Department of Health and Human Services, it required employers – even those with deeply-held religious objections – to provide and pay for contraceptive, abortifacient and sterilization coverage in their health insurance plans.

    The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., was one of more than 300 plaintiffs who had challenged the mandate, arguing “that the practice of our faith was inextricably tied to the ministries that put that faith into action,” and that as such, they should not be forced to violate their faith to continue their ministries, Wuerl recalled.

    The archdiocese and six other plaintiffs had argued their position before the Supreme Court in the case Zubik v. Burwell. In 2016, the high court ruled against the government’s requirement that certain employers provide and pay for the morally objectionable services.

    “While the Trump Administration’s Executive Order on Religious Liberty and new guidelines and regulations are extremely helpful, the settlement of the Zubik litigation adds a leavening of certainty moving forward,” the cardinal added.

    The Department of Justice’s new settlement “removes doubt” and closes these cases challenging the mandate, the cardinal continued. “The settlement adds additional assurances that we will not be subject to enforcement or imposition of similar regulations imposing such morally unacceptable mandates moving forward,” he stated.

    On Oct. 6, the Department of Justice revised its guidelines for all government agencies in light of existing religious freedom laws, releasing a set of principles which stated clearly that the government cannot substantially burden religious practices, unless there is a compelling state interest in doing so and those burdens use the least-restrictive means possible.

    Thomas Aquinas College, a Catholic college in California and another plaintiff against the HHS mandate also celebrated the protection the settlement brings.

    “While we welcomed the broadening of the exemption from the HHS mandate last week by the Trump administration, we have under our agreement today something even better: a permanent exemption from an onerous federal directive – and any similar future directive – that would require us to compromise our fundamental beliefs,” said Thomas Aquinas College president Dr. Michael F. McLean in an Oct. 16 statement.

    “This is an extraordinary outcome for Thomas Aquinas College and for the cause of religious freedom.”

    In addition to settling the case, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury have also decided to provide partial coverage of the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and costs of the lawsuits.

    “This financial concession by the government only reinforces its admission of the burdensome nature of the HHS contraceptive mandate and its violation of the College's free exercise of religion,” stated Thomas Aquinas College General Counsel, Quincy Masteller.

    Author:
    Posted: October 17, 2017, 3:45 am

    Callista Gingrich confirmed as US Ambassador to the Vatican

    Washington D.C., Oct 16, 2017 / 04:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as the next U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. The vote was 70-23.

    In a July 18 hearing, Gingrich had voiced her commitment to fight human trafficking and promote human rights and religious freedom. She had said that immigration and protecting the environment are both issues that the Trump administration is taking seriously, although taking a different approach from the previous administration.

    Callista Gingrich is the president of both Gingrich Productions in Arlington, Va. and the charitable non-profit Gingrich Foundation, and is a former Congressional aide.

    She is also a long-time member of the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

    Newt and Callista married in 2000, after having a six-year affair while Newt was married to his previous wife. Newt converted to Catholicism in 2009 and explained, in an interview that year with Deal Hudson at InsideCatholic.com, how Callista’s witness as a Catholic brought him towards the faith.

    He noted that he had attended Masses at the National Shrine where Callista sang in the choir, and she “created an environment where I could gradually think and evolve on the issue of faith.”

    At the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2011, he also cited Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 visit to the U.S. as a “moment of confirmation” for him. At vespers with the Pope, where Callista sang in the Shrine choir, Newt recalled thinking that “here is where I belong.”

    The couple worked on a documentary together that was released in 2010, “Nine Days That Changed the World,” that focused on Pope St. John Paul II’s 1979 pilgrimage to Poland when the former Soviet bloc country was under a communist government.

    The documentary explained how the Pope invigorated the faith of the Polish people in Jesus Christ during his pilgrimage there, and how the visit precipitated the fall of Communism.

    In an Easter message posted on the website of Gingrich Productions, the couple noted that “we should remember the many threats facing Christians today,” including “a growing secularism, which seeks to place human desires ahead of God and His will,” and “radical Islamism” that “seeks to destroy Christianity across the globe.”

    “But in the face of this evil, we remember the words of Saint John Paul II, who throughout his papacy urged us to, ‘Be not afraid’,” the statement continued.

    As ambassador, Gingrich will follow Ken Hackett, the former head of Catholic Relief Services who served during President Obama’s second term as president.

    In a January interview with CNA, Hackett opined that there would be areas of difference and of collaboration between the U.S. and the Holy See under the Trump administration.

    One of the possible areas of tension might be on immigration and refugees, he said, as Trump criticized Pope Francis on the campaign trail in 2016 after the Pope celebrated Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border and urged everyone to pray for conversion of hearts over the suffering of forced migration.

    Trump, who repeatedly promised to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and make the Mexican government pay for it, said last February that the Pope was a “pawn” of the Mexican government and “is a very political person, I think he doesn't understand the problems our country has.”

    He also issued an executive order shutting down refugee admissions for four months at a time when Pope Francis has taken in refugees and U.S. bishops have called for the country to continue accepting refugees fleeing violence.

    Meanwhile, there are other possible areas of collaboration between the U.S. and the Holy See, Hackett said in January, including on human trafficking, peace in the Middle East, a solution to the worsening crisis in Venezuela, and efforts to alleviate global poverty.

    Pope Francis and President Trump met at the Vatican in May. According to a Vatican communique, they expressed satisfaction “for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience.”

    During the “cordial discussions,” the two expressed hope for peaceful collaboration between the government and the Catholic Church in the United States, that it may be “engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants,” the Vatican statement said.

    The two leaders also exchanged views “on various themes relating to international affairs, the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities.”

     

     

    Author:
    Posted: October 16, 2017, 10:46 pm

    'No science' behind transgender therapy for kids, doctors warn

    Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2017 / 03:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Children who struggle to match their gender identity with their biological sex should not be pushed into transgender therapies, but given treatments that help treat the underlying cause of the dysphoria, said doctors in the field.

    From a medical standpoint, deciding not to offer hormonal therapy to children who experience gender dysphoria is “not a judgment” on the child, but a matter of the best medical healthcare, said Dr. Paul Hruz, associate professor of Pediatrics, Endocrinology, Cell Biology and Physiology at the Washington University of Medicine.

    “It’s the best outcome, because they’re not exposed to all these harms that we know they will experience if they move forward” with the hormone treatments, he said.

    Dr. Hruz also voiced serious concerns about treating young people with intense and potentially dangerous off-label hormone therapy, without subjecting the regimen to rigorous scientific testing.

    This falls short of the scientific standards used to evaluate other treatments, he said. “We search for the truth by testing it with experimental evidence.”

    Hruz spoke at an Oct. 11 panel on Gender Dysphoria in Children at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. Also speaking at the event were Dr. Michelle Cretella, president of the American College of Pediatricians, and Dr. Allan Josephson, professor and division chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

    Gender dysphoria is a psychological condition in which a person’s experience of the psychological and cultural associations of their gender differ greatly from their biological sex. It is unclear how many children in the United States experience gender dysphoria, but the condition is relatively uncommon.

    Cretella explained the health risks of putting children on puberty blockers and hormones associated with the opposite sex. The use of these drugs, she said, “is treating puberty like a disease, arresting a normal process which is critical to normal development for kids.”

    She pointed out that there had never been long-term studies on hormone repression drugs, and their impact – particularly on children – is unknown. What is known, however, is the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and growth disruption associated with hormone therapies used for cross-sex treatment.

    She also pushed back against the claims that affirming a patient's perceived gender leads to improved outcomes to children, saying that “those studies are extremely short term” with small study groups and poorly designed controls. Cretella pointed to former patients who change their minds “at age 28 or so and saying, ‘Oh my gosh, what was done to me?’”

    Emphasizing the importance of rooting medical practices in science rather than ideology, Hruz noted that no randomized controlled trial or consistent findings have shown that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are the best treatments for children with gender dysphoria.

    “The reality is there is no science to back this drastic change.” He also noted that as many as 90 percent of youth outgrow gender dysphoria by the end of adolescence and realign their identity with their biological sex.

    Josephson focused on the psychological element of childhood gender dysphoria, noting that at its root, the disorder is a social and psychological phenomenon.

    He contested that relying on hormonal therapies leaves aside a full investigation of the root psychological causes underlying the dysphoria, which therefore halts the most effective treatment before it starts.

    Josephson pointed to the treatment of one patient who came in for counseling on gender dysphoria and ended up uncovering deep wounds of childhood abuse underlying their discomfort. “When doctors see pain or distress we try to find the cause of it and map out a treatment. We don’t try to ignore it,” he urged.

    And treatment does not mean avoiding all forms of stress or trial, Josephson said. “In the process of development we’re always subjected to some kind of stress or developmental crisis.”

    The key is to adequately diagnose and treat the underlying causes of gender dysphoria, he said. “If we ignore pain, the bottom line is that we might miss a diagnosis and chance for developmental progress.”

    Most of all, Josephson said, children going through gender dysphoria need to be affirmed and loved.

    “Of course you affirm a child and love a child,” he said. “But you don’t affirm a bad idea.”

    Author:
    Posted: October 15, 2017, 9:57 pm

    US bishops laud attorney general's new religious freedom protections

    Washington D.C., Oct 13, 2017 / 01:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following an announcement by the U.S. Attorney General detailing 20 principles of religious liberty for all government agencies and executive departments to follow, the U.S. bishops have praised the government’s reaffirmation of religious freedom protections.

    “The Attorney General’s guidance helpfully reaffirms that the law protects the freedom of faith-based organizations to conduct their operations in accordance with their religious mission,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, in a statement.

    “The guidance also reaffirms that the federal government should never exclude religious organizations from competing on an equal footing for government grants or contracts, and religious entities should never be forced to change their religious character in order to participate in such programs,” he continued.

    “We appreciate the Attorney General’s clarification of these matters, which will protect faith-based organizations’ freedom to serve all those in need, including the homeless, immigrants, refugees, and students attending religious schools.”

    The guidance was issued on Oct. 6 by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, responding to an executive order to “issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law.” The document highlights key issues surrounding religious freedom in the United States and points to the importance of religious freedom in the country, as well as existing laws and precedents which protect the fundamental right.

    At the memo’s outset, the document notes that religious freedom “is not merely a right to personal religious beliefs or even to worship in a sacred place. It also encompasses religious observance and practice.” The guidance reaffirms a broader definition of religious freedom, which has come under pressure as the previous Obama administration promoted the much narrower phrasing “freedom of worship.”

    ....

    Read CNA's analysis of the new religous freedom guidance to learn more:

    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The government&#39;s new religious freedom guidance: What does it mean?<a href="https://t.co/MgD9ixcaoK">https://t.co/MgD9ixcaoK</a></p>&mdash; Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) <a href="https://twitter.com/cnalive/status/917102798113853442?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 8, 2017</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

     

    Author:
    Posted: October 13, 2017, 7:46 pm

    How parishes can help address the epidemic of domestic abuse

    Washington D.C., Oct 13, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Domestic violence is a hidden epidemic that many clergy and laypersons need additional training to address, says one priest who runs the country’s largest parish-based ministry to counter the problem.

    “When you start talking about it, that’s when people will start coming forward,” Fr. Chuck Dahm, O.P., who directs domestic violence outreach for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told CNA about the problem of domestic abuse.

    Fr. Chuck said that many priests and deacons have little preparation to assist victims of domestic violence, and that more seminary training would be helpful for both preparing priests and raising awareness on the issue.  

     He said that “When I Call for Help,” a pastoral letter on domestic violence from the USCCB, is a helpful resource for clergy looking for more understanding.

    October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. According to the CDC, “intimate partner violence” can be physical, sexual, or even emotional, as with instances of stalking or “psychological aggression.”

    Some 27 percent of women in the U.S. have suffered intimate partner violence at some point, along with 12 percent of men, the CDC has reported.

    There are many physical and psychological effects of domestic violence on victims – physical injuries and disabilities and bodily effects of stress, but also anxiety, depression, and trust issues. Children witnessing violence in the home may grow up with emotional problems like anger, or may even become abusers themselves when they are adults.

    In his apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis wrote of the problem of domestic abuse:

    “Unacceptable customs still need to be eliminated. I think particularly of the shameful ill-treatment to which women are sometimes subjected, domestic violence and various forms of enslavement which, rather than a show of masculine power, are craven acts of cowardice. The verbal, physical, and sexual violence that women endure in some marriages contradicts the very nature of the conjugal union.”

    He also insisted upon the need for parishes and priests to be ready to deal properly with these problems: “Good pastoral training is important ‘especially in light of particular emergency situations arising from cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse’,” he added, citing the final document from the 2015 Synod on the Family.

    Catholics have responded to this dire need in various ways, from organizing a prayer campaign for domestic abuse victims to working to spread awareness of the problem and educate clergy on how to properly deal with instances of abuse.

    A symposium on domestic abuse took place last year at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., hosted by the university’s School of Social Service.

    A “toolkit” for fighting domestic abuse has been provided by the Catholics for Family Peace, Education, and Research Initiative, which includes prayers and directions for helping a victim of domestic abuse.

    In recent years, the group has marked Domestic Violence Awareness Month by asking people to pray at 3 p.m. daily for domestic abuse victims, and has called for a day of prayer on Oct. 28, the feast of St. Jude the Apostle, the patron saint of hopeless cases.

    Fr. Chuck Dahm has created a parish-based ministry to combat domestic violence. A key part of his work is simply preaching about it, he says, because it is a widespread problem that hides in plain sight.

    There is an “overwhelming lack of recognition that the problem is more frequent, more common than people think,” he told CNA. Many priests are completely unaware of cases of it, Fr. Chuck noted, although “there are people in their parishes who are suffering.”

    “I have gone to 90 parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago,” he said. “And after I preach about it, people walk out of the church and they tell me ‘thank you for talking about this. This is long overdue. And my sister, my daughter is in it, or I grew up in it.’ And this is so much more common than anybody realizes.”

    Sometimes, Fr. Chuck said, priests are not well trained and do not know how to handle situations in which parishioners come to tell them about abuse. They may offer inadequate advice and solutions.

    Fr. Chuck participated in the symposium on domestic abuse at Catholic University last year. Since then he’s seen the fruits of the conference, spreading awareness of the problem.

    “A significant number went home with the plans of doing something in their diocese or their respective organizations,” he said of conference participants.

    The Archdiocese of Washington held a workshop for priests to learn how to deal with incidents of domestic abuse and 31 priests attended, he said. Two representatives of Catholic Charities in Vermont are starting a workshop for priests there, and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City held a workshop attended by several priests and a meeting for priests with Fr. Chuck.

    Still, sometimes priests do not attend these events, Fr. Chuck acknowledged, and raising awareness about the importance of the problem is key.

    Unfortunately, it’s been negative incidents that have driven the conversation about domestic abuse, he said. For instance, when surveillance videos surfaced of former NFL running back Ray Rice punching his fiancée, and then dragging her off an elevator while she was unconscious, the “subsequent outrage” after that and other incidents like it “helps create more awareness about the problem.”

    Then “people feel a little bit more comfortable and required to speak out about this and do something about it,” Fr. Chuck explained. “The publicity about negative events or harmful events is quite helpful in raising awareness.”

    “We’re really behind on this,” he said of the Church’s efforts to combat the problem, but at the same time, “we’re making progress.”


    An earlier version of this article originally ran on CNA Oct. 24, 2016.

    Author:
    Posted: October 13, 2017, 9:02 am

    The future of the US Church is missionary encounter, nuncio says

    Jefferson City, Mo., Oct 13, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The American cultural situation poses great challenges, but these can be overcome through a missionary renewal following Pope Francis’ proposed “culture of encounter,” said the apostolic nuncio to the U.S.

    Archbishop Christophe Pierre spoke Oct. 7 at an event marking the 50th anniversary of the Missouri Catholic Conference.

    “Reading the history of the Missouri Catholic Conference, one cannot help but marvel at how the Spirit of God has been at work in you in the defense of Catholic school students, marriage and family life, in protecting the unborn, disabled and vulnerable members of society, and in your genuine concern for the poor and migrants,” he said.

    “Today is a day to give thanks to God, but it is also a time to reflect on the future of your journey together.”

    The archbishop spoke at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Jefferson City, Missouri for the anniversary celebration of the Catholic conference, which handles public policy for the Catholic Church in Missouri.

    In his remarks, Pierre cited Pope Francis’ desire for a “synodal Church,” a Church that journeys together on the paths of history “towards the encounter with Christ the Lord.” He said the Catholic conference has been “building up the Kingdom of God by living and acting in a collegial way.”

    He also surveyed American cultural changes, drawing on Boston College professor Hosffman Ospino’s keynote at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders held earlier this year.

    The roles, expectations and practices of family life have been reconfigured; communal life has been eroded in favor of individualism, including in religious practice and Mass attendance; culture wars have led to “the demonization of those with whom we disagree”; and rising secularization has meant that 25 percent of Americans and about half of baptized Catholics under age 30 identify as having no religious affiliation, he noted.

    “The challenges are great, but not insurmountable,” said Pierre, drawing on his experience as nuncio to Mexico.

    He cited Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” as a key to understanding the Church’s missionary dimension.

    “If something should rightly disturb us, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life,” the Pope said in his exhortation.

    Similarly, Pope Francis told the U.S. bishops in a November 2016 video message: “Our great challenge is to create a culture of encounter, which encourages individuals and groups to share the richness of our traditions and experiences, to break down walls and to build bridges.”

    Archbishop Pierre added: “If we are to propose God’s Word to the World, and the Holy Father reminds us that ‘no one is to be excluded from the joy brought by the Lord,’ then we must do so positively – with the joyful ‘Yes’ of our whole life! This is exactly what the Blessed Virgin Mary, the model missionary disciple, did with her life.”

    The nuncio drew on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and its roots in the victory of Christian forces at the Battle of Lepanto despite being outnumbered and outgunned by an Ottoman fleet.

    Archbishop Pierre said reflection on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary might help the faithful better understand the Church’s mission and help the Catholic conference better reflect on how the Gospel might have “a greater impact on the life and structures of individuals, the Church, and the world in a rapidly changing environment, marked by secularization, individualism, and isolation.”

    “We learn from Mary that we find true joy in obedience to God’s Word – according to His plan and in His time. As disciples, at times, we want our vocation on our terms. Mary teaches us that everything must be surrendered to God. This lesson – which really involves our conversion – is best learned in silence and contemplation.”

    Mary showed active engagement in the world, and could not keep her joy to herself.

    The Nativity of Christ, because it was witnessed by people on the peripheries, such as shepherds, showed that the encounter with Christ at the peripheries opens new horizons. It prompts one to ask how Christ is present at the margins, like in prisons and jails or on death row.

    Pierre praised the Missouri Catholic Conference’s work combating the “throwaway culture” and its creation of communities and conditions “in which every life and all of creation is valued.” The nuncio also stressed the importance of work on migration, work that promotes the common good, and the preferential option for the poor that is not merely social activism but “loving attentiveness.”

    “The Church must go forth to meet people unafraid of encountering those families facing difficulty,” he said.

    Pope Francis expressed “cordial greetings and good wishes” to those gathered, according to a message from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State. The cardinal conveyed the Pope’s apostolic blessing “as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.”

    “His Holiness prays that this anniversary will be the occasion not only of gratitude for the blessings and accomplishments of the past half century, but also of a renewed effort to favor the pastoral effectiveness of the Church’s mission in the State of Missouri amid the challenges and the opportunities of the present time,” Cardinal Parolin said in a message read by Pierre.

     

    Author:
    Posted: October 13, 2017, 6:02 am