June 24, 2022

WASHINGTON – In response to the Supreme Court of the United States issuing its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities issued the following statement:

“This is a historic day in the life of our country, one that stirs our thoughts, emotions and prayers. For nearly fifty years, America has enforced an unjust law that has permitted some to decide whether others can live or die; this policy has resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of preborn children, generations that were denied the right to even be born.

“America was founded on the truth that all men and women are created equal, with God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This truth was grievously denied by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized and normalized the taking of innocent human life. We thank God today that the Court has now overturned this decision. We pray that our elected officials will now enact laws and policies that promote and protect the most vulnerable among us.

“Our first thoughts are with the little ones whose lives have been taken since 1973. We mourn their loss, and we entrust their souls to God, who loved them from before all ages and who will love them for all eternity. Our hearts are also with every woman and man who has suffered grievously from abortion; we pray for their healing, and we pledge our continued compassion and support. As a Church, we need to serve those who face difficult pregnancies and surround them with love.

“Today’s decision is also the fruit of the prayers, sacrifices, and advocacy of countless ordinary Americans from every walk of life. Over these long years, millions of our fellow citizens have worked together peacefully to educate and persuade their neighbors about the injustice of abortion, to offer care and counseling to women, and to work for alternatives to abortion, including adoption, foster care, and public policies that truly support families. We share their joy today and we are grateful to them. Their work for the cause of life reflects all that is good in our democracy, and the pro-life movement deserves to be numbered among the great movements for social change and civil rights in our nation’s history.

“Now is the time to begin the work of building a post-Roe America. It is a time for healing wounds and repairing social divisions; it is a time for reasoned reflection and civil dialogue, and for coming together to build a society and economy that supports marriages and families, and where every woman has the support and resources she needs to bring her child into this world in love.

“As religious leaders, we pledge ourselves to continue our service to God’s great plan of love for the human person, and to work with our fellow citizens to fulfill America’s promise to guarantee the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people.”

 

 

 

 

 

WASHINGTON – In response to the leak of a draft opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, some abortion advocates are calling for nationwide demonstrations, disruptions of church services, and the personal intimidation of specific Supreme Court justices. Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities invited the faithful to unite in fasting and prayer:

“In the midst of current tensions, we invite Catholics around the country to join us in fasting and praying the Rosary on Friday, May 13, the Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. Let us offer our prayers and fasting for these intentions:

• For our nation, for the integrity of our judicial system, and that all branches of government be dedicated to seeking the common good and protecting the dignity and rights of the human person, from conception to natural death.

• For the overturning of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in the Supreme Court’s final decision in Dobbs v. Jackson.

• For the conversion of the hearts and minds of those who advocate for abortion.

• For a new commitment to building an America where children are welcomed, cherished, and cared for; where mothers and fathers are encouraged and strengthened; and where marriage and the family are recognized and supported as the true foundations of a healthy and flourishing society.

• For Our Blessed Mother’s intercession and guidance as the Church continues to walk with mothers and families in need, and continues to promote alternatives to abortion, and seeks to create a culture of life.

As Catholics, let us witness to the beautiful gift of life with civility and love, and with our peaceful prayers and our compassionate service to all those in need.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.”

 

March 4, 2022

WASHINGTON – As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace offered the following statement:

“On February 24, the world watched in horror as Russia launched airstrikes and began shelling Ukraine. The death toll is already in the hundreds if not thousands and mounting. Over one million Ukrainians have already fled the fighting into neighboring European countries and millions more could become refugees.

“In this time of crisis, we echo the appeal by Pope Francis to those ‘with political responsibility to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war…who wants us to be brothers and not enemies.’ We join with the Holy Father in praying that ‘all the parties involved refrain from any action that would cause even more suffering to the people, destabilizing coexistence between nations and bringing international law into disrepute.’ We also join in solidarity with the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches and the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the U.S. who are all united in prayer for their people and their homeland.

“In view of the developing humanitarian crisis, I urge the U.S. government to provide all possible assistance to the people of Ukraine and to work closely with faith-based partners who are already on the ground providing emergency aid. I encourage everyone to give generously to organizations such as Catholic Relief Services and USCCB’s Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe that are bringing tangible relief and the hope of Christ to those in need.

“Those suffering in Ukraine and in the surrounding region will remain close in our hearts through this conflict. During this penitential season of Lent, with Our Lady of Fatima as our guide, let us not grow weary in praying for peace, justice, and the salvation of the whole world.”

 

WASHINGTON – Since the collapse of communism in the early 1990s, the countries in Central and Eastern Europe have been endeavored to rebuild, but the severe consequences of the oppressive Soviet rule continue to challenge all aspects of life in the region. Each year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Collection for Central and Eastern Europe brings healing and opportunities for renewed life in Christ.

The annual collection supports youth ministry, seminaries, social services, pastoral centers, evangelization and catechesis, communications, and church construction and renovation in 28 countries. Most dioceses will take this collection in their parishes on Ash Wednesday, which this year is March 2. #iGiveCatholicTogether also accepts funds for the collection.

“The generation that has passed since the fall of the Iron Curtain has not yet undone the ruin perpetuated by decades of communist oppression,” said Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton of Steubenville, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. “When we give to the Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, we are sharing faith and mercy with people whose parents and grandparents were imprisoned for practicing the faith or praying.”

In 2021, gifts to the collection provided more than $6.4 million through 348 grants. Among them:

  • In Poland, where more than 1 million people have fled the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Jesuits of Southern Poland and Ukraine Mission established DEON, UA, a Ukrainian language digital platform offering secular and Catholic news and discussion forums to help Ukrainian immigrants stay informed and build relationships.
  • In Croatia, where one-fifth of the population lives in poverty and communism destroyed the tradition of volunteer work, “72 Hours Without Compromise” brings older teens and young adults together for four days in which they pray, learn about Catholic social teaching, and put their faith into action through service to the poor.
  • In Belarus, the Tabita ministry organizes social and spiritual outreach to adults with disabilities, bringing them out of isolation to build friendships and receive help for their physical, social, psychological, and spiritual needs.
  • In many nations, including Hungary and Romania, the collection is helping dioceses implement the standards set forth by Pope Francis 2019 Apostolic Letter issued motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi addressing the crime and sin of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons by individuals serving in the Church. In some parts of this region, the creation and implementation of diocesan child and youth protection guidelines is the first systematic effort at child protection training by any major organization, secular or religious.
  • In Bosnia-Herzegovina, where ethnic and religious animosities still carry a threat of violence, the John Paul II Pastoral Youth Center in Sarajevo brings together teens and young adults of all backgrounds for sports activities designed to help them build friendships across ethnic lines.
  • The Roma people are perhaps the most marginalized ethnic group in Europe, with many living in communities that lack running water and electricity. In Slovakia, the Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Prešov is engaged in outreach among the Roma and produces documentaries to help other Slovaks understand and appreciate them.

“When we give to the Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, we are responding to our Blessed Mother’s love for those suffering under communism, to the call of St. John Paul II to aid those recovering from Soviet oppression, and to Pope Francis’ pledge of solidarity with those on the margins,” Bishop Monforton said. “In addition to our prayers and the ongoing work that the Church does in this region, gifts to this collection help us grow closer to the people of Central and Eastern Europe as brothers and sisters in Christ.”

More information and diocesan resources to help support awareness of the collection may be found at: www.usccb.org/ccee.

 

A pro-life activist holding a crucifix joins a protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington Dec. 1, 2021, ahead of the court hearing oral arguments in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, an appeal from Mississippi to keep its ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee Dec. 1 urged Catholics, people of other faiths and all people of goodwill to unite in prayer that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade in its eventual ruling on Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

His statement was issued the same day the court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, an appeal from Mississippi. Its ban was struck down by a federal District Court in Mississippi in 2018 and upheld a year later by the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

The Mississippi law is being challenged by the state’s only abortion facility, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. It’s the first major abortion case the court has heard in decades.

“In the United States, abortion takes the lives of over 600,000 babies every year,” said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health could change that.”

“We pray that the court will do the right thing and allow states to once again limit or prohibit abortion, and in doing so protect millions of unborn children and their mothers from this painful, life-destroying act,” he added. “We invite all people of goodwill to uphold the dignity of human life by joining us in prayer and fasting for this important case.”

If the court’s ruling, expected in July, upholds the ban, it possibly also could overturn Roe and send the abortion issue back to the states to decide laws on it.

Archbishop Lori directed people to www.prayfordobbs.com for Catholic and ecumenical prayers and resources for community engagement and action “as we await the court’s decision in this case.”

Pro-life advocates and supporters of keeping abortion legal gathered outside the Supreme Court rallying for their respective positions on the issue as the justices heard oral arguments in the case inside the court.

Beyond the court building’s steps, statements about the Mississippi law and predictions about the outcome of the case came from all quarters.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., predicted there would be “a revolution” if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Shaheen, who is on record as a supporter of widespread access to abortion, said that young people in particular would find it unacceptable if the court strikes down the legal precedent set by Roe in 1973 legalizing abortion nationwide.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., called on the Senate to Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. The measure, passed by the House Sept. 24, codifies Roe and establishes the legal right to abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy in all 50 states under federal law.

“The Mississippi case brought before the Supreme Court is a product of Republican attacks on reproductive rights spanning decades,” said DeLauro, a Catholic. If Roe is overturned, the court will be “depriving individuals across the country of their right to choose to have an abortion,” she said.

Many pro-lifers hoping Roe will be overturned emphasized how many scientific advances have been made in the nearly 50 years since that decision was handed down, advances they argued that have led to unprecedented information on the developmental stages of the unborn child from conception to birth.

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, pointed to what he called the “utterly weak and time-worn arguments” that he said were made by Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonya Sotomayor, considered the liberal members of the court.

Among their comments was Sotomayor’s claim that only “fringe” doctors believe in the existence of fetal pain as a reason to restrict abortion.

“They do not acknowledge that the changes in science are real, or that the confusion thrust upon judges and legislators by the court’s approach to abortion is also real,” Father Pavone said in a statement.

“These and other objective reasons have led us to the day when Mississippi, and other states, believe it is time to enact stronger protections for the unborn, and for unelected judges to stop imposing policies that the legislatures should be responsible for instead,” he said.

At the rally outside the court, Grazie Pozo Christie, a radiologist and a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, similarly commented that “incredible advances in science and fetal medicine have rendered viability a totally incoherent legal standard.”

“Science and common sense tell us children in the womb are as undeniably human as the rest of us,” remarked Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote, an independent political advocacy group. “We know for instance that by 15 weeks they already have beating hearts, can suck their thumbs, and even feel pain.”

“It is time to overturn Roe and allow Americans to once again pass laws that reflect these basic values,” he said in a statement.

He added that “millions of faithful Catholics across the nation are hopeful after today’s oral arguments that the Supreme Court of the United States will restore sanity to its abortion jurisprudence which has enabled over 62 million American children to be aborted since 1973 when Roe v. Wade was decided.”

“Protecting innocent life is the preeminent moral issue for Catholics but it is also the condition of any just society, and abortion robs our most vulnerable citizens of that most basic human right,” Burch said.

Not all eyes on the court were in the nation’s capital.

In Illinois, Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, said the country has “the first real legal opportunity in over a decade to topple” Roe, which “has left a tragic trail of human carnage: more than 62 million dead children and countless broken families and wounded souls.”

He said the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm, has assisted thousands of clients, including some of the nation’s leading pro-life figures, “all of whom have either spoken to the opportunity now facing the Supreme Court or are actively engaged in the cry to ‘Overturn Roe.'”

Louisiana Right to Life associate director Angie Thomas said that while no one can predict the outcome of a Supreme Court case on the basis of oral arguments, she was heartened that at least six of the nine justices asked questions that seemed to support Mississippi’s ban.

In a news conference outside the pro-life organization’s New Orleans headquarters, Thomas noted that Justice Brett Kavanaugh stressed the court should remain “scrupulously neutral” on issues “that are just this complicated and this divisive,” allowing those issues to be decided by individual states and their elected representatives.

In addition, Thomas said, Justice Samuel Alito interjected during the nearly two hours of oral arguments that the rights of the unborn child had to be considered along with the rights of the mother.

“Alito mentioned that the fetus has an interest in life, too, when the other side was talking about the women’s interest,” she said. “He mentioned how there are two interests there that actually are difficult to hold together.”

“These justices are really digging into the difficult issues of where there is an objective line of protection (for the unborn child) and how do you truly balance these interests, and should the court even be doing that?” Thomas said after the news conference. “It’s more important that the Supreme Court just remain neutral and allow the states to work this out.”

“New York is going to be very different than Louisiana, but it is the power of the people to make that decision,” she told the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Thomas said advances in science have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt about the humanity of the unborn child from its earliest stages.

“At 15 weeks, the child is moving, the child has a beating heart and the child’s organs are formed,” she said.

“We have the chance to protect that child. … We could have a significant change in abortion law in America today,” Thomas added. “And, if that change happened, in Louisiana we are ready to be a post-Roe, abortion-free community where women are truly helped and babies are protected.”

 

Father John C. Maria prays over the Eucharist at the altar of the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena in Allentown, Pa., March 9, 2020. According to Catholic teaching, the bread and wine, upon consecration, become the body and blood of Christ. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

BALTIMORE (CNS) – The U.S. bishops approved their statement on the Eucharist with 222 “yes” votes Nov. 17, the second of two days of public sessions during their Nov. 15-18 fall general assembly.

Their OK came a day after their discussion of the document – a discussion that took a drastically different tone than their previous debate about what the document could potentially contain during their virtual assembly five months ago.

At that June gathering, a major focus highlighted whether it would address denying Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Some bishops said a strong rebuke of President Joe Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, should be included in it because of Biden’s recent actions protecting and expanding abortion access, while others warned that this would portray the bishops as a partisan force during a time of bitter political divisions across the country.

The document the bishops discussed and approved does not specifically call out Catholic political leaders, but it does more generally point out the seriousness of the sacrament.

The discussion, just prior to the vote, focused on some of the statement’s wording. Specific amendments were approved and additional comments about wording changes, that were raised on the floor, did not.

One of the bishops, for example, wanted to add the word “etcetera” after a list of vulnerable people the church was responsible for in order to show its broad inclusion, but the bishops, who had already added to the list to include the unborn, chose not to add the additional descriptor.

As points of discussion, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, outgoing chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, stressed the prelates must not forget the responsibility they have to “take care of the souls” of Catholic politicians who do not publicly support church teaching on abortion.

And Bishop Donald E. DeGrood of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, noted that there is a healthy tension for the bishops, to call out what isn’t right but to do so in love and to be united as they find ways to apply this new document in their dioceses.

The document on the Eucharist states: “One should not celebrate Mass or receive holy Communion in the state of mortal sin without having sought the sacrament of reconciliation and received absolution.”

It also says that if a Catholic in his or her personal life has “knowingly and obstinately” rejected the doctrines of the church or its teaching on moral issues, that person should refrain from receiving Communion because it is “likely to cause scandal for others.”

Back in June, at the end of the bishops’ discussion of the document, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chairman of the bishops’ doctrine committee, said the draft would not focus on denying Communion to people but would emphasize the importance of the sacrament.

And in his Nov. 16 presentation of the 26-page statement titled “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” Bishop Rhoades said it “addresses the fundamental doctrine about the Eucharist that the church needs to retrieve and revive.”

In his short presentation to U.S. bishops, followed by just a handful of comments from the floor, the bishop said the document is addressed to all Catholics in the United States and “endeavors to explain the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the church.”

He also said it is intended to be a theological contribution to the bishops’ strategic plan and to the bishops’ planned eucharistic revival “by providing a doctrinal resource for parishes, catechists and the faithful.”

Discussion from the floor included a request from Bishop Peter Baldacchino of Las Cruces, New Mexico, that the document include more about the paschal mystery, or the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee, wondered how the document would be understood by college students, high schoolers or children, noting that “a lot of it’s over their heads” and they would have to have some kind of theological foundation to grasp it.

“We have these beautiful, beautiful documents that sometimes are just ignored,” he said, suggesting that it should be made “more readable and understandable.”

In response, Bishop Rhoades said the document “as it stands is really meant for adults,” but he could see it being used in high schools with a teacher who would explain it better. He also said it could be developed by publishers as a resource for catechesis for grade school students.

Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, said the work put in “laboring over texts should not discourage us,” pointing out that often language falls short but that the church has many other means at its disposal to express the faith such as music, dance, poetry and visuals.

The draft of the document explains the importance of Communion, often calling it a gift, and uses references from Scripture, prayers of the church and Second Vatican Council documents to back this up. It also explains, citing words of the saints, how Communion is not just a symbol but the real presence of Christ.

This transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, the document says, is “one of the central mysteries of the Catholic faith” which is a “doorway through which we, like the saints and mystics before us, may enter into a deeper perception” of God’s presence.

It notes, almost halfway through, that the Vatican II document “Lumen Gentium” (The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) describes the Eucharist as “the source and summit of the Christian life.” It also says that as Catholics understand what the Eucharist means, they should more fully participate in Mass and also reach out to serve those in need, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says: “The Eucharist commits us to the poor.”

It concludes with examples of saints who were transformed by their reception of the Eucharist and their deep understanding of what it means.

This heavily footnoted statement also has a pastoral message urging those who have left the church to come back. It ties this return back to the Eucharist quoting St. Teresa of Kolkata, who said: “Once you understand the Eucharist, you can never leave the church. Not because the church won’t let you but because your heart won’t let you.”

What this document might say and how it could specifically call out Biden and other Catholic politicians has been disputed for months and has not just been a topic for the U.S. bishops and Catholics across the country, but also involved the Vatican.

Prior to the bishops’ initial discussion of this document, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, urged the bishops in a letter to proceed with caution in developing a national policy “to address the situation of Catholics in public office who support legislation allowing abortion, euthanasia or other moral evils.”

And Pope Francis said on a Sept. 15 flight back from Bratislava, Slovakia, that he preferred not to comment directly on the issue of denying Communion, but he urged U.S. bishops to take a pastoral approach rather than wade into the political sphere.

More recently, after the pope and Biden met at the Vatican Oct. 29, Biden was asked by reporters in Rome if abortion was one of the topics of their meeting and the president said: “We just talked about the fact he was happy that I was a good Catholic, and I should keep receiving Communion.”

 

This is the cover of the October 2021 report on the implementation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” released Nov. 9, 2021, by the USCCB, the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection and the National Review Board. (CNS photo/courtesy USCCB)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – More than 4,200 allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy and others were reported during the year ending June 30, 2020, a slight decline from the previous auditing period, according to a report on diocesan and eparchial compliance with the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

Released late Nov. 9, the 18th annual report from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection stated that 3,924 child sexual abuse survivors filed 4,228 allegations.

In the 2019 report, covering the 2018-2019 audit period, 4,220 adults filed 4,434 allegations.

The charter was adopted in 2002 by the U.S. bishops following widespread reports of clergy abuse and has been revised several times since to adapt to changing situations surrounding the question of clergy sexual abuse of minors.

Conducted by StoneBridge Business Partners of Rochester, New York, the new report covers the year from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020.

While the number of allegations remained high during the audit period, the report said only 22 allegations involve current cases of abuse.

The report said the number of allegations remained high in part because of changes in statutes of limitations on reporting abuse in several states. “It should be noted that the vast majority of these reports were historical in nature,” the report said.

The report attributed about 66% of allegations to lawsuits, compensation programs established by dioceses and other entities and bankruptcies. In addition, 1% of allegations emerged after a review of clergy personnel files, according to the report.

Of the 22 allegations for the current year, six were found to be substantiated. The report said they originated from five dioceses.

Of the remaining reported allegations, seven continued to be investigated, two were unsubstantiated, three were determined to be “unable to be proven,” and four were classified as “other.”

The report said nine of the allegations involved the use of child pornography. Seven of those cases remained under investigation, one was substantiated and one was referred to a provincial or a religious order.

The allegations involved 2,458 priests, 31 deacons and 282 unknown clerics, statistics in the report show.

The report indicated that 195 of 197 dioceses and eparchies participated in the audit. Auditors conducted 61 onsite visits with 10 in person before the pandemic erupted in early 2020. The other 51 were conducted online. Data also was collected from 135 other dioceses and eparchies.

The Syro-Malankara Eparchy of St. Mary Queen of Peace of the United States and Canada and the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle of San Diego did not participate in the audit.

Of the 61 entities undergoing onsite audits, two dioceses and two eparchies were determined to be in noncompliance.

The dioceses of Fort Worth, Texas, and Helena, Montana, were noncompliant with charter’s requirement for not having their respective Diocesan Review Board meet during the audit period. Subsequent to the audit, the boards in each diocese were convened, making them compliant with the charter, the report said.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago and the Syriac Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance, which covers the United States and is based New Jersey, were found noncompliant with charter provisions that require background screening and training of adults working with minors.

The report also acknowledged the continuing work of church entities to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults. The USCCB said that expenditures on protective services rose 15% in 2020 with more than 2.5 million background checks of adults and training in safety measures for 3.1 million children.

Suzanne Healy, who chairs the National Review Board, said that as the charter enters its third decade of implementation it becomes important to continue evaluating incidents of abuse as well as understand trends of abuse and why they change.

In a letter to Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, USCCB president, that accompanied the report, Healy said a board committee is examining the safe environment education programs for adults and children in dioceses throughout the country.

“The research is an attempt to determine which elements or combination of elements of these training programs is most effective in mitigating the occurrence of child abuse and ensuring that any suspicion of abuse is reported to authorities,” Healy wrote.

She also said the board recommended two procedures be added to the audit process and welcomed their edition for the 2020-2021 audit cycle. The first is “a three-year look-back window, which will eliminate any gaps that existed regarding the reporting of case resolution,” Healy said.

The second relates to onsite visits by StoneBridge that finds auditors meeting with all or most diocesan review board members rather than one or two individuals.

“The ministries of safe environments and victim assistance are here to stay. The protocols and procedures for letters of suitability, background checks, and safe environment training are the norm,” said Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the USCCB Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection.

“By the grace of God, the church is working toward being accessible, accountable, and safe. We continue to rely on the Holy Spirit and the intercession of Our Mother to guide our efforts as we promise to protect and pledge to heal,” he wrote in a letter addressed to Archbishop Gomez and Healy that was included in the report.

In his preface to the report, Archbishop Gomez said: “As we know, one allegation of abuse is too many. But my brother bishops and I remain firmly committed to maintain our vigilance in protecting children and vulnerable adults and providing compassion and outreach to victim-survivors of abuse.”

Speaking for himself and the body of bishops, the archbishop expressed their “sorrow and apologies to every person who has suffered at the hands of someone in the church.”

“While we cannot give you back what has been taken from you,” Archbishop Gomez said, “we do commit ourselves to doing everything in our power to help you to heal and to fight the scourge of abuse in the church and in the wider society.”

Note: The full annual report on compliance with the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops can be found online at https://bit.ly/3CYMQdX

 

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The proposed Build Back Better Act has much-needed provisions “uplifting the common good,” but “it is completely unacceptable” the current House version of the bill “expands taxpayer funding of abortion,” the chairmen of six committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Nov. 3.

“We have been consistent in our position and reiterate that it would be a calamity if the important and life-affirming provisions in this bill were accompanied by provisions facilitating and funding the destruction of unborn human life,” they wrote in a joint letter to all members of the House and Senate.

The six prelates commended “the bipartisan efforts that led to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” which will create millions of jobs, improve global competitiveness and provide new funds for roads, bridges, the electric grid and other major projects.

The bishops also outlined their support for social policies and programs in the Build Back Better Act that would strengthen the social safety net, support workers and families, increase affordable housing, provide affordable health care coverage and protect the environment.

They renewed their requests to Congress — outlined in at least four other letters to lawmakers over the last several months — “to work together toward legislation that promotes the common good and the dignity of every person.”

The Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act was passed by the Senate in August and awaits action in the House, whose members have refused to pass it without also holding a vote on the Build Back Better Act at the same time. The latter measure is still being negotiated in the Senate.

The USCCB chairmen who signed the Nov. 3 letter were: Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Committee for Religious Liberty; Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, California, Committee on Catholic Education; Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; and Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, Committee on Migration.

In addition to their opposition on abortion funding in the bill, the bishops also expressed concern about provisions that could effectively exclude faith-based providers from child care and pre-K programs.

Several provisions “do not align” with preserving religious liberty and expanding access to early childhood education, the bishops said.

“Expanded access to early child care and pre-K would be beneficial for many working families,” they said, but “current provisions to do so — in a departure from the approach in existing federal programs — explicitly make providers recipients of federal financial assistance and attach new and troubling compliance obligations.”

They also pressed Congress to include a provision in the Build Back Better bill that would provide for the full integration of people in this country without documents by legalizing their status and providing them with a pathway to citizenship.

“We strongly urge you to adopt provisions in this measure that would achieve this goal,” they wrote.

“While we remain opposed to the existence of a ‘double society,’ in the event that parliamentary constraints preclude permanent protections for the undocumented from being included in this bill,” they said, “we would affirm the value of enacting temporary protections, with the expectation that Congress will work expeditiously to enact permanent relief in subsequent legislation.”

The committee chairmen praised the Build Back Better bill’s expansion of health care coverage, which they have long supported at the federal and state levels, they said.

These provisions include the provision of health care coverage to those in the “Medicaid gap” through Affordable Care Act premium tax credits, the extension of Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months and other investments to address the high rates of preventable maternal deaths in the United States, and support for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP.

“We are pleased to see the addition of funding for training of health professionals in palliative medicine and hospice care,” they said, but they also strongly urged “the addition of language to ensure that this funding cannot be used for training or promotion of assisted suicide or euthanasia.”

Their letter concluded with reiterating the “fundamental problem” of expanded abortion funding in the measure.

This “must be remedied before the bill moves forward,” they wrote.

Editor’s Note: The full text of the bishops’ Nov. 3 letter, with links to previous USCCB committee letters to Congress, can be found at https://bit.ly/3mJKHwQ

 

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, is encouraging dioceses to use National Vocation Awareness Week, Nov. 7-13, as a time to foster vocations in their local faith communities.

“Studies of those recently ordained and religiously professed consistently show that the encouragement of the parish priest is the most influential factor in vocational discernment,” Bishop Checchio said in an Oct. 20 statement about the upcoming weeklong observance.

“But the accompaniment of the whole faith community is key for genuine vocational discernment — from one’s parents and family members, to the Catholic educators, as well as the vital role that youth ministers and fellow parishioners play as the early encounters for young people to the faith,” he added.

National Vocation Awareness Week is an annual celebration of the U.S. Catholic Church dedicated to promoting vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and calling the faithful to pray for and support those who are considering such a vocation.

Resources for dioceses to utilize during National Vocation Awareness Week, including homily aids in English and Spanish, recommended reading and discernment tips, prayers of the faithful in English and Spanish, and bulletin-ready quotes are available online at https://bit.ly/3jCqTcS.

The observance of National Vocation Awareness Week began in 1976 when the U.S. bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year to call attention to the importance of upholding vocations and praying for those discerning a religious vocation and celebrating those who were in ordained ministry and consecrated life.

In 1997, the celebration was moved to the feast of the Baptism of the Lord and in 2014, the USCCB’s Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations moved the observance to November to influence youth and young adults by engaging Catholic schools and colleges.

In his message for the 58th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations April 25, Pope Francis offered St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, as a model for vocational discernment.

He urged the church “to look to St. Joseph as an ‘outstanding example of acceptance of God’s plans.'”

“For St. Joseph, service — as a concrete expression of the gift of self – did not remain simply a high ideal, but became a rule for daily life,” the pope said in his message. “I like to think, then, of Saint Joseph, the protector of Jesus and of the church, as the protector of vocations. In fact, from his willingness to serve comes his concern to protect.”

Pope Francis added: “What a beautiful example of Christian life we give when we refuse to pursue our ambitions or indulge in our illusions, but instead care for what the Lord has entrusted to us through the church! God then pours out his Spirit and creativity upon us; he works wonders in us, as he did in Joseph.”

 

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The chairmen of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life and religious liberty committees urged U.S. Senate leaders Oct. 22 to include the Hyde and Weldon amendments and “other long-standing, bipartisan pro-life provisions” in appropriations bills being advanced in the chamber.

By eliminating these provisions, “the Senate is staking out an extreme position of forcing taxpayers to pay for the taking of innocent unborn human life and forcing health care providers to participate in this injustice” against their deeply-held beliefs, the prelates said in a joint statement.

In addition, employers and insurers will be forced to cover and pay for abortion, they added.

On Oct. 19, the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Appropriations released the text of several appropriations bills which, “like their House counterparts,” they said, currently exclude pro-life measures, such as the 46-year-old Hyde Amendment, which have long enjoyed bipartisan support.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued their statement in response to the Senate committee’s action.

“We recognize and appreciate that these bills also include many life-affirming provisions that help vulnerable people, including pregnant moms, refugees, low-income families and the elderly,” they said. “The laudable concern and support these provisions represent must also extend to our vulnerable brothers and sisters in the womb.”

“We reiterate the fact that funding the destruction of innocent unborn human lives, and forcing people to participate, are grave abuses of human rights,” Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Naumann added. “We call on the Senate to prevent this injustice by passing appropriations bills that fully support and protect human dignity, and the most vulnerable among us.”

Their statement reiterated a number of earlier statements issued by U.S. bishops over the past several months urging both House and Senate to keep Hyde, Weldon and other pro-life provisions intact in spending bills.

In July, the U.S. House rejected several pro-life riders to spending bills offered by pro-life House members, including Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., and supported by the U.S. bishops and various pro-life organizations.

Hyde first became law in 1976 to prohibit federal funds appropriated through the Labor Department, the Health and Human Services Department and related agencies from being used to cover abortion or fund health plans that cover abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered.

Hyde has been reenacted in spending bills every year since it was first passed.

The Helms Amendment — what Smith called “the Hyde Amendment for the rest of the world” — has prohibited using U.S. taxpayer funds to directly pay for abortions in other countries since 1973.”

The Weldon Amendment has been included in the annual appropriation for Health and Human Services since 2005. It allows health care providers as well as insurance plans to refuse to provide abortions, pay for them or refer women to abortion clinics.

An early version of the Senate’s $3.5 trillion spending plan did pass with a pro-life amendment offered on the Senate floor by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. It was approved in a largely party-line vote of 50-49, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., joining Republicans to support it.

The Lankford Amendment included Hyde language to prohibit federal funding for abortions and Weldon Amendment language to provide conscience protections for health care providers and medical professionals who object to performing abortions.

But the $3.5 trillion bill is stalled and ongoing negotiations are aimed at trimming the bill; Manchin, whose “yes” vote Democrats would need to pass it, said he won’t vote for anything higher than $2 trillion and is pushing for less.

Though Hyde and the other provisions have for years enjoyed bipartisan support, a number of Democrats in the House and Senate now claim the provisions “discriminate against low-income women who depend on Medicaid and other federal funding for health care and places a disproportionate burden on women of color, especially Black and Hispanic women,” according to an Oct. 6 article in The Hill, a daily news outlet.