The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver is seen Oct. 10, 2021, after it was vandalized. Since February 2020, the Archdiocese of Denver is aware of 25 parishes or ministry locations in northern Colorado that have been the target of vandalism, property destruction or theft. (CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Denver)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Oct. 10 vandalization of Denver’s cathedral basilica that resulted in satanic and other “hateful graffiti” being scrawled on its doors and at least one statue brought to 100 the number of incidents of arson, vandalism and other destruction that have taken place at Catholic sites across the United States since May 2020.

That month the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty began tracking such incidents, according to an Oct. 14 USCCB news release.

“These incidents of vandalism have ranged from the tragic to the obscene, from the transparent to the inexplicable,” the chairmen of the USCCB’s religious liberty and domestic policy committees said in a joint statement included in the release.

“There remains much we do not know about this phenomenon, but at a minimum, they underscore that our society is in sore need of God’s grace,” they said, calling on the nation’s elected officials “to step forward and condemn these attacks.”

“In all cases, we must reach out to the perpetrators with prayer and forgiveness,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“Where the motive was retribution for some past fault of ours, we must reconcile; where misunderstanding of our teachings has caused anger toward us, we must offer clarity; but this destruction must stop. This is not the way,” they said.

“We thank our law enforcement for investigating these incidents and taking appropriate steps to prevent further harm,” Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Coakley said. “We appeal to community members for help as well. These are not mere property crimes — this is the degradation of visible representations of our Catholic faith. These are acts of hate.”

In a July 2020 joint statement, Archbishop Coakley and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, then acting chairman of the religious liberty committee decried the growing number of incidents of church vandalism.

“Whether those who committed these acts were troubled individuals crying out for help or agents of hate seeking to intimidate, the attacks are signs of a society in need of healing,” the two archbishops said.

“In those incidents where human actions are clear, the motives still are not. As we strain to understand the destruction of these holy symbols of selfless love and devotion, we pray for any who have caused it, and we remain vigilant against more of it,” they said.

“Our nation finds itself in an extraordinary hour of cultural conflict,” they added. “The path forward must be through the compassion and understanding practiced and taught by Jesus and his Holy Mother. Let us contemplate, rather than destroy, images of these examples of God’s love. Following the example of Our Lord, we respond to confusion with understanding and to hatred with love.”

These incidents have ranged from a man crashing his van through the doors of a Catholic church in the Diocese of Orlando, Florida, and setting the interior ablaze, to a St. Junípero Serra statue outside Mission San Rafael in San Rafael, California, in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, being desecrated with red paint and toppled, leaving just the saint’s feet in place.

In response to such attacks, the Committee for Religious Liberty launched the “Beauty Heals” project featuring videos from various dioceses discussing the significance of sacred art.

At least 10 videos are available on YouTube; a link to the play list of all the videos can be found at https://bit.ly/3peNq3o.

In a June 1, 2021, letter to the respective chairs and ranking members of the Appropriation Committee in the House and Senate , the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty joined with several other faith groups calling for more funding for appropriations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program in fiscal year 2022.

The text of the letter can be found at https://bit.ly/3n6Rz6t.

“As organizations representing Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Catholic, Episcopal, Evangelical, Lutheran, Protestant, Seventh-day Adventist, and other Christian and communities of faith across the United States, we believe that all people ought to be free from fear when gathering for religious worship and service,” they wrote, urging more funds for the FEMA grant program.

The grants provide funds for “target hardening and other physical security enhancements and activities” for, as the letter stated, “at-risk nonprofits from urban settings to suburban neighborhoods and rural communities, including houses of worship, religious schools, community centers and other charities.”

“There is a critical need and urgency for these grants,” the faith groups said. “Our sacred spaces have been desecrated, and our faithful murdered.”

In a 20-year period starting in mid-1999, there were shootings at an estimated 19 houses of worship resulting in fatalities.

 

WASHINGTON (CNS) – As part of the Year of St. Joseph declared by Pope Francis, the U.S. Catholic Church’s annual Respect Life Month celebration in October “highlights the example of that great saint” as protector of life, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee.

“As the faithful protector of both Jesus and Mary,” St. Joseph is “a profound reminder of our own call to welcome, safeguard and defend God’s precious gift of human life,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas.

“Despite the mysterious circumstances surrounding Mary’s pregnancy, St. Joseph took her into his home at the word of the angel,” and like the saint, “we are also called to care for those God has entrusted to us — especially vulnerable mothers and children,” the archbishop said.

The prelate, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, made the comments in a Sept. 27 statement.

During October, Respect Life Sunday is observed on the first Sunday of the month, which this year is Oct. 3.

To join in prayer for the intercession of St. Joseph, defender of life, visit www.respectlife.org/prayer-to-st-joseph.

Various resources for celebrating Respect for Life Month — including dozens of articles, prayer cards, prayers for life, a toolkit for parish pro-life leaders, homily helps and other resources can be found online at https://www.respectlife.org/respect-life-month.

As the Holy Family’s protector, St. Joseph “guided their journey to Bethlehem, found shelter and welcomed the infant Jesus as his son,” Archbishop Naumann said. “When Herod threatened the life of the Christ Child, St. Joseph left his homeland behind and fled with Jesus and Mary to Egypt.”

“We can follow in the footsteps of St. Joseph as protector by advocating against taxpayer-funded abortion, which targets the lives of millions of poor children and their mothers here in the United States,” he continued.

“We can imitate his care and provision by helping to start Walking with Moms in Need at our parishes, ‘walking in the shoes’ of mothers experiencing a difficult pregnancy, especially low-income mothers in our communities,” he said.

In March 2020, the USCCB’s pro-life committee asked all U.S. Catholic bishops to invite the parishes in their dioceses to join a nationwide effort called “Walking With Moms in Need: A Year of Service,” which began March 25 of that year.

But “like everything else, the roll out of Walking with Moms in Need was dramatically impacted by COVID-19,” Archbishop Naumann noted in a Sept. 21 address to a Nebraska pro-life conference.

He said the pro-life committee “is renewing our efforts to encourage every diocese and parish to implement the Walking with Moms in Need process.”

Walking with Moms in Need asks every diocese and parish to make an assessment of the resources available to assist mothers experiencing a difficult pregnancy.

The program seeks to identify gaps in available services and then encourage dioceses and parishes to find ways to fill those gaps. Walking with Moms in Need also includes efforts to communicate better available resources and to encourage every Catholic to support Pregnancy Resource Centers.

The program has its own website, www.walkingwithmoms.com, with resources, outreach tools and models to assist parishes in this effort.

Also, Archbishop Naumann in his Sept. 27 statement urged Catholics to learn more about preventing taxpayer-funded abortion by visiting www.notaxpayerabortion.com.

“At times, we may feel uncertain of our ability to answer the Lord’s call. But he invites us to faithfully respond, despite our own fears or weaknesses: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9),” the archbishop said.

“May we imitate St. Joseph’s faithful trust and courage as we work to uphold the dignity of every human life,” he added. “St. Joseph, defender of life, pray for us!”

WASHINGTON (CNS) – In a 218-211 vote Sept. 24, the U.S. House passed what opponents consider one of the most extreme abortion bills ever seen in the nation — the Women’s Health Protection Act.

“This bill is far outside the American mainstream and goes far beyond Roe v. Wade,” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said in remarks ahead of the vote. “This bill constitutes an existential threat to unborn children and to the value of life itself.”

H.R. 3755 codifies the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide. The measure establishes the legal right to abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy in all 50 states under federal law.

“For the first time ever by congressional statute, H.R. 3755 would legally enable the death of unborn baby girls and boys by dismemberment, decapitation, forced expulsion from the womb, deadly poisons or other methods at any time until birth,” he said,

“A significant majority of Americans are deeply concerned about protecting the lives of unborn children,” the Catholic congressman said.

He pointed to a 2021 Marist Poll that found 65% of Americans want Roe v. Wade “reinterpreted to either send the issue to the states or stop legalized abortion.”

The bill nullifies: requirements to provide women seeking abortion with specific information on their unborn child and on alternatives to abortion; laws requiring a waiting period before a woman receives and abortion; laws allowing medical professionals to opt out of providing abortions; and laws stating that only licensed physicians can perform abortions.

“This deceptively named bill is the most extreme pro-abortion bill our nation has ever seen,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, said Sept. 24. “H.R. 3755 is not about the health of women, but only about eliminating any and all protections for unborn children — including baby girls.”

If it became law, “it would lead to the deliberate destruction of millions of unborn lives, leaving countless women with physical, emotional and spiritual scars,” he said in a statement.

“This bill assumes that abortion can be the only, or best, solution to a crisis pregnancy” and “is built on a false and despairing narrative that utterly fails women,” he continued. “In treating abortion as the moral equivalent to the removal of an appendix, this proposal is radically out of step with the American public.”

“As a nation built on the recognition that every human being is endowed by its Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, this bill is a complete injustice,” Archbishop Naumann said.

“Congress should embrace public policy that respects the rights of mothers, their children and the consciences of all Americans,” he added, “not advance a radical ‘abortion on demand until birth’ policy that is completely out of step with our country’s principles.”

The Senate version of the Women’s Health Protection Act, S. 1975, is not expected to pass, but sponsors of the House bill said their vote still sends a message about the outrage they say has been felt by women over the new Texas law banning abortion after six weeks.

The vote also comes ahead of the Dec. 1 oral arguments to be heard by the high court in in an appeal from Mississippi to keep its ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Supporters of the law are urging the court to reexamine its previous abortion rulings, including Roe.

“In the United States, the tragically pervasive acceptance of abortion has resulted in more than 62 million abortions since Roe v. Wade,” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, said in a statement.

“Still, today the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impose abortion on demand nationwide — and thus double down on daily murder of the defenseless — by passing the false and deceptively named ‘Women’s Health Protection Act,'” he said Sept. 24.

“Let us be clear: Abortion harms women and ends the life of a child; it is not health care, and it protects no one,” he said. “Health and protection are about healing, defending and saving lives, not destroying them.”

National pro-life leaders were quick to respond to the House vote, including Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, who said that “pro-abortion Democrats have revealed their true vision for abortion policy in America” by pushing legislation she also called “deceptively named.”

All House Democrats but one voted for H.R. 3755; Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, was the lone Democrat opposed to it. No House Republicans voted for the measure.

If President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., “and their allies get their way, the United States will soon be indistinguishable from North Korea and China on the human rights issue of abortion,” Mancini said.

Biden and Pelosi are both Catholics who support legal abortion and have vowed to see Roe codified in federal law.

Regarding the bill’s provision invalidating all state laws, National Right to Life’s president Carol Tobias noted that “the 10th Amendment, which gives each state the right to set its own policy, is in the U.S. Constitution. Abortion is not.”

“Only abortionists and abortion providers like Planned Parenthood benefit from this legislation,” she said in a statement. “Tragically, the losers in this debate are the mothers and their unborn babies.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, in a conference call with reporters ahead of the vote called the House action a “completely extreme approach at the moment the country is moving in the opposite direction.”

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, also decried the House vote, adding: ““We are grateful that the U.S. Senate will be a firewall against this radical bill, and grateful for the role of the filibuster in saving America from such dangerous legislation.”

In a tweet Sept. 25, Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison, Wis., said: “With the full support of our Catholic president, our Catholic speaker of the house, and scores of Catholic representatives, the most radical pro-abortion bill was passed by the House of Representatives, claiming that any restrictions on abortion are misogyny.”

In Virginia, Richmond Bishop Barry C. Knestout called on U.S. senators “to direct our government’s resources toward policies that support both mothers and their children. Reverse the extremely dangerous and deadly course you are charting. Do not allow this legislation to pass in your chamber!”

He asked Virginia Catholics to contact their senators to vote no on their version of “the most radical abortion bill of all time.”

“Together, all of us, including our elected officials, must reject abortion and welcome, protect and defend life every day through the decisions we make and the lives we live,” Bishop Knestout said.

A few days before the House vote, San Francisco’s archbishop said the Women’s Health Protection Act allowed “nothing short of child sacrifice.”

The “misnamed” measure “shows to what radical extremes the supposedly ‘pro-choice’ advocates in our country will go to protect what they hold most sacred: the right to kill innocent human beings in the womb,” Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone said in a Sept. 21 statement.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila also weighed in with a statement a day later, echoing the San Francisco prelate in urging the bill be defeated.

“Today, the abortion industry and its supporters are pushing one of the most extreme national abortion bills this country has ever seen, and doing it under the lie that abortion is a form of health care that must be protected and promoted,” he said.

Early Sept. 24, Archbishop Cordileone tweeted: “Morning Prayer: On this day when our U.S. Congress votes on whether to strip all the unborn of all protections in all fifty states, May the Martyrs of Chalcedon, who refused even a pinch of incense to the Pagan God of War, Pray for us.”

 

Last Friday was a very dark day as the House of Representatives voted to pass the most radical abortion bill ever. The so-called Women’s Health Protection Act, H.R. 3755, would:

  • Allow abortion on demand nationwide throughout EVERY STAGE of pregnancy
  • BAN pro-life laws in every state and local government
  • Force Americans to support abortions with their tax dollars
  • Likely eliminate conscience protections for doctors—among other extreme actions

TAKE ACTION NOW!

Of those present, all but one House Democrat voted for the bill and all House Republicans voted against. The single House Democrat to vote against the bill was Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas. You can see how your representative voted here.

In his statement responding to this vote, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, Chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called this bill “the most extreme pro-abortion bill our nation has ever seen.”

Please contact your Representative today either to thank him/her for voting against H.R. 3755 or to express strong, but respectful, disagreement with their vote for the bill while urging him/her to reconsider support for this radical bill.

In addition, we believe it is likely that the Senate will also vote on this bill in the very near future. So, please also contact your two Senators to strongly urge their opposition to the Senate version of this bill (S. 1975) when it comes up for a vote.

TAKE ACTION NOW!

As always, we are grateful for any action you can take on this matter and for all you do to proclaim the Gospel of Life. Please also join us in praying that our nation and its leaders will fully embrace this Gospel.

 

September 20, 2021

WASHINGTON— National Migration Week 2021 starts today and will conclude on September 26 in solidarity with the Holy See’s observation of the World Day for Migrants and Refugees (WDMR) on September 26.

The theme for this year’s WDMR is “Towards an Ever Wider ‘We’,” which Pope Francis drew from his encyclical Fratelli tutti. He emphasized in his annual WDMR message that such a focus calls on us to ensure that “we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those,’ but only ‘us’” (Fratelli tutti, no. 35) and this universal “us” must become a reality first of all within the Church, which is called to cultivate communion in diversity. In general, National Migration Week is meant to emphasize the ways in which the migration question is important for the Catholic Church in the United States.

“The migration story is one of compassion, welcome, and unity,” said Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration. “It is about opening our hearts to others, and at this critical juncture, we do not have to look far to see its practical application or find those with a need to migrate. The Holy Father calls us to embrace and express the Church’s catholicity—her universality—‘according to the will and grace of the Lord who promised to be with us always, until the end of the age.’ Let us, the Catholics of the United States, join together to answer his call and be especially mindful of it during this upcoming week.”

In previous years, National Migration Week was observed in January, but it was changed recently by the USCCB to align with the Vatican’s observation of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Educational materials and other resources for National Migration Week are available for download on the Justice for Immigrants website.

 

An election worker in San Diego, Calif., places mail-in ballots into a voting box at a drive-through drop off location at the Registrar of Voters for San Diego County Oct. 19, 2020. Polarization in politics, the church and across society has prompted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to launch an initiative that looks to bring people together to serve the common good through “charity, clarity and creativity.” (CNS photo/Mike Blake, Reuters)

CLEVELAND (CNS) – Polarization across society has prompted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to launch an initiative that looks to bring people together to serve the common good.

Called “Civilize It: A Better Kind of Politics,” the initiative is designed to “move forward the kind of conversations that we need to be having to overcome our divisions,” said Jill Rauh, director of education and outreach in the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, which is coordinating the effort.

The USCCB introduced the initiative Sept. 7.

The effort draws heavily from the teachings of Pope Francis, particularly his call in the third encyclical of his papacy, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship.”

“We are in a situation where both in society and the church we are experiencing a lot of division and polarization,” Rauh told Catholic News Service. “In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis specifically is calling Catholics and all people of goodwill to build a better kind of politics, one at the service of the common good.”

The Civilize It initiative is meant not just for political leaders, but for all people, Rauh added.

A special webpage for the initiative, CivilizeIt.org, has links to a tool kit with resources to help parishes, small groups and individuals address polarization of any kind.

“Pope Francis is very clear in ‘Fratelli Tutti’ and the bishops have been clear in ‘Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship’ that we are called to engage in the public sphere and to do so year-round, to be working together and to try to identify ways to work for the common good,” Rauh said.

“Forming Consciences” is the bishops’ quadrennial document on election participation.

Other USCCB offices also are promoting the initiative, Rauh said. In addition, leaders in at least 45 dioceses are planning to incorporate the initiative in diocesan programs and more are expected to also take part.

Tool kit resources range from a Prayer for Civility that draws from the Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi to a reflection titled “Loving our Neighbor through Dialogue.” Other materials include a study guide and parish bulletin inserts.

Website visitors are invited to sign a pledge saying they will rely on “charity, clarity and creativity” to promote understanding and dialogue over division.

Signers pledge to affirm each person’s dignity, even when they disagree with someone and respectfully listen to others “to understand experiences different from my own.”

The pledge also invites signers to engage in “critical examination to ensure that my perspectives are rooted in truth, that my sources of information are unbiased and that I not open myself to manipulation by partisan interests.”

Other actions listed with the pledge include becoming a “bridgebuilder who participates in constructive dialogue based in shared values” and to see differences in perspectives as “opportunities for creative tension which can yield solutions for the common good.”

The initiative builds on a program with a similar name introduced by the Department of Justice Peace and Human Development for the 2020 election cycle. That effort sought to remind people that civility in political discussions, not rancor, is a virtue.

The idea for “Civilize It” originated in the Social Action Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2016. Its success in Ohio caught the attention of the USCCB, which decided that the model, with a few tweaks, could be introduced nationwide in 2019.

 

 

Afghans make their way to a bus taking them to a refugee processing center upon arrival at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., Aug. 24, 2021. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

August 17, 2021

WASHINGTON—A widespread humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Afghanistan, with the Taliban swiftly seizing control of the capital on August 15. Thousands of people who have worked as interpreters, translators, and in other capacities alongside the United States military over the past twenty years, including Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants, find themselves and their families in danger. The United States is in the process of evacuating diplomats and other U.S. government employees. However, all commercial flights to and from Kabul’s airport have been suspended for the time being. Yesterday, the President authorized use of up to $500 million from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund for meeting the urgent needs of Afghan refugees and SIV applicants.

In response to these events, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued the following statement:

“We have known that the withdrawal of American forces and evacuation of vulnerable Afghans, including those who supported our military or worked with NGOs and other organizations, would be a complicated process that had the potential for instability in Afghanistan. The images and videos coming out of the country are difficult to view, as people make life or death decisions in desperation. We are particularly concerned for all those requiring evacuation, as well as Afghan women and girls, who risk losing opportunities gained over the last two decades and now face potential mistreatment.

“For the past few weeks, staff from the USCCB, Catholic Charities, and other partners have been at Fort Lee in Virginia, assisting the U.S. government in the welcoming and resettlement of SIV applicants and their families. We will continue that work as long as necessary until those who are in harm’s way are brought to safety.

“The government’s goal to relocate as many as 30,000 SIV applicants to the United States remains a monumental task that hangs in the balance. We know that time is of the essence to help our brothers and sisters in need, and we call on our government to act with the utmost urgency, considering all available avenues to preserve life. We also join the Holy Father in praying for peace in Afghanistan—‘that the clamor of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue.’”

 

August 4, 2021

WASHINGTON- Catholics across the United States offer hope and help to their sisters and brothers in Africa through contributions to the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa. Each year, many dioceses in the United States support the Solidarity Fund during July and August with special collections at Sunday Mass and through their online and e-giving platforms. Other dioceses take a collection at different times throughout the year or make a direct contribution in lieu of a collection.

“Gifts to the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa support the Church’s mission to bring hope, foster understanding and healing among diverse peoples and help to spread the Good News of God’s love and mercy through Jesus Christ,” said Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R. of Newark, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Church in Africa. “The generosity of U.S. Catholics makes a tangible, lasting impact in the lives of our Catholic brothers and sisters.”

From an economic and political standpoint, Africa is the poorest and most marginalized area of the world. Endemic poverty, ecological damage, poor governance, persistent conflict, and major population displacements plague much of the continent.

“Yet, Africa is also a continent of enormous spiritual vitality, where the People of God – ordained and laity alike – share the Gospel with a joy that should inspire all of us to do likewise,” said Cardinal Tobin. “Donations from U.S. Catholics to the Solidarity Fund provide the basic resources that the Church in Africa needs in its pastoral mission to deepen the faith of its people, evangelize its neighbors, strengthen its leadership and promote peace and justice. Every dollar that is received in the basket or sent online through e-giving platforms goes a long way to make a real difference in the faith lives of individuals, families, and communities across Africa.”

In 2020, giving to the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa declined dramatically due to the long stretch without in-person masses because of the COVID pandemic – at the very time that the need in Africa escalated due to the same pandemic. Nevertheless, in 2020 the Fund was able to support these other critical ministries:

  • In war-torn Cameroon, 65 catechists received training in trauma counseling and human rights education, enabling them to offer pastoral support to masses of displaced persons who fled fighting that destroyed their homes and communities.
  • In Burundi, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference is expanding its programs to protect minors and vulnerable adults from sexual violence and abuse, establishing an outreach program in every diocese to raise awareness and end sexual abuse in the Church and in society.
  • In the Republic of Congo, a four-day national teachers’ workshop will revitalize the teaching of religion and impact thousands of students nationwide.
  • In Zambia, a country with so few priests that villagers often go months without access to the sacraments, lay leaders at two national Bible conferences received intensive instruction in understanding and properly interpreting the Word of God.

Learn more about the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa and how donations make a difference at www.usccb.org/africa.

 

People in Washington demonstrate near the White House July 19, 2021, following July 11 protests in Cuba against the government and a deteriorating economy. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of the USCCB’s international policy committee expressed their solidarity and that of all the U.S. bishops “with our brothers in the Cuban episcopate, and with all men and women of goodwill in Cuba.”

Released late July 19, the statement acknowledged “the ongoing protests in Cuba and among the diaspora in the United States.”

It was jointly issued by Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB president, and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“As the Cuban bishops declared in their July 12 statement, ‘A favorable solution will not be reached by impositions, nor by calling for confrontation, but through mutual listening, where common agreements are sought and concrete and tangible steps are taken that contribute, with the contribution of all Cubans without exception, to the building-up of the Fatherland,'” the two U.S. prelates said.

“In the same spirit as the Cuban bishops, we urge the United States to seek the peace that comes from reconciliation and concord between our countries,” Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Malloy said.

Thousands of Cubans in Havana and in 14 other Cuban cities took to the streets July 11 to protest economic hardships, lack of basic freedoms and the Cuban government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, making for what some have described as the most significant unrest in decades.

They were mirrored by a vocal street protest in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood late afternoon July 11. Protests are ongoing in Cuba and in the U.S.

Since July 11, the Cuban government reportedly has responded by arresting people, including clergy, not only on the streets but also in their homes. There was at least one confirmed death after police shot a man taking part in the anti-government protest. The government also has restricted internet and phone services.

Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Malloy said that for decades the USCCB, “in conjunction with the Holy See and the Cuban bishops, has called for robust cultural and commercial engagement between the United States and Cuba as the means to assist the island in achieving greater prosperity and social transformation.”

“We pray that Our Lady of Charity, our mother, watches over her children in Cuba, and that, together, our countries can grow in friendship in the interests of justice and peace,” they said.

On July 20, The Wall Street Journal reported: “The whereabouts of hundreds of arrested demonstrators is unknown and others are being held incommunicado without charges nine days after nationwide demonstrations rocked the Caribbean nation.”

“More than a week after the unprecedented demonstrations, hundreds of people are lining up outside police stations across the island asking about missing relatives,” the newspaper said.

 

Msgr. Jeffrey D. Burrill, a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., is pictured at the USCCB headquarters in Washington Nov. 17, 2020, during the bishops’ virtual fall meeting. Msgr. Burrill resigned as USCCB general secretary July 20, 2021, amid “impending media reports alleging possible improper behavior.” In announcing the resignation, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB president, said the claim “did not include allegations of misconduct with minors.” (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Msgr. Jeffrey D. Burrill, the general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops since November, has resigned from the post after the USCCB “became aware of impending media reports alleging possible improper behavior by Msgr. Burrill,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB president.

In a July 20 memo to bishops, Archbishop Gomez said he had accepted Msgr. Burrill’s resignation, effective immediately.

“What was shared with us did not include allegations of misconduct with minors. However, in order to avoid becoming a distraction to the operations and ongoing work of the conference, Monsignor has resigned,” the archbishop said.

“The conference takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and will pursue all appropriate steps to address them,” he said.

In a lengthy story posted midday, The Pillar, an online outlet that covers the Catholic Church and provides news and analysis, said Archbishop Gomez’s memo came after it had contacted the USCCB and Msgr. Burrill regarding evidence the news outlet claimed to have “of a pattern of sexual misconduct on Burrill’s part.”

The Pillar claimed it had “found evidence the priest engaged in serial sexual misconduct, while he held a critical oversight role in the Catholic Church’s response to the recent spate of sexual abuse and misconduct scandals.”

“An analysis of app data signals correlated to Burrill’s mobile device shows the priest also visited gay bars and private residences while using a location-based hookup app in numerous cities from 2018 to 2020, even while traveling on assignment for the U.S. bishops’ conference,” it reported.

Commercially available app signal data, The Pillar said, “does not identify the names of app users, but instead correlates a unique numerical identifier to each mobile device using particular apps.”

“Signal data, collected by apps after users consent to data collection, is aggregated and sold by data vendors. It can be analyzed to provide timestamped location data and usage information for each numbered device,” The Pillar added.

In a brief statement released later in the day by its Office of Public Affairs, the USCCB, like Archbishop Gomez in his memo, said it had received “impending media reports alleging possible improper behavior” by Msgr. Burrill and that the priest had resigned, effective immediately, “to avoid becoming a distraction” to the conference’s operations and ongoing work.

“The conference takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and will pursue all appropriate steps to address them,” the statement said.

Archbishop Gomez said in his memo that in consultation with the bishops’ Executive Committee, he was appointing Father Michael J.K. Fuller, associate general secretary, to serve as interim general secretary “until the election of a new general secretary by the body of bishops.”

Father Fuller, a priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, was named to the associate post Nov. 19. The priest had worked as the executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Doctrine and Canonical Affairs since August 2016.

“I ask for your prayers for Monsignor, and for the conference staff during this difficult time,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We also pray that all those affected might find strength and comfort in our merciful Lord.”

A priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Msgr. Burrill was named general secretary after the result of voting by the bishops that was announced Nov. 16, the first day of the USCCB’s annual fall general assembly. He had been the conference’s associate general secretary since March 1, 2016.

The Diocese of La Crosse issued a statement saying Bishop William P. Callahan and diocesan representatives “are saddened to hear the media reports related to Msgr. Burrill. The Diocese of La Crosse pledges its full cooperation with the conference of Catholic bishops to pursue all appropriate steps in investigating and addressing the situation.”

“Please remember Msgr. Burrill and all affected in your prayers so they may find refuge and strength in God’s unfailing love,” it added.

Prior to his USCCB appointment, Msgr. Burrill was pastor of St. Bronislava Church in Plover in central Wisconsin for three years. He was at the Pontifical North American College in Rome from 2009 to 2013, serving originally as director of apostolic formation and subsequently as the Carl J. Peter chair of homiletics, formation adviser and director of media relations.

He was ordained in 1998 for the Diocese of La Crosse. He was pastor of the parishes of St. Mary, in Duran, Holy Rosary in Lima, and Sacred of Jesus in Mondovi, Wisconsin, from 2001 to 2009. He also taught and was chaplain at Regis High School and Middle School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, for two years prior to his parish assignments.

In addition, he was a regional vicar for six years, served two terms on the diocesan priests’ council and also was the diocese’s ecumenical officer and a member of the seminary admissions board.

A native of Marshfield, Wisconsin, Msgr. Burrill has a bachelor of arts degree from Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, adjacent to the campus of St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, in Winona, and a bachelor of sacred theology from Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. In 1999, he earned a licentiate in ecumenical theology from the Angelicum, or Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas, which also is in Rome.

 

June 29, 2021

Since the conclusion of the Spring General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), there has been significant attention (and in some cases misinformation) on the vote taken to draft a document on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.

A great deal of media coverage has focused on the question of whether to deny an individual or groups of people Holy Communion. In reality, this question was not up for a vote or debate at the meeting. Bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion.

The vote taken by the full body of bishops tasked the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine to begin the drafting of a teaching document on the Eucharist. For the last several years, helping all people understand the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist has been an important goal for bishops – especially after a 2019 Pew Study found that many Catholics do not understand or believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

As indicated to all bishops at the recent USCCB meeting, the document would include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate – but the document would not be disciplinary in nature.

The Eucharist is an amazing gift from the Lord that He has given to us as nourishment for our souls. Each Catholic is called to continual conversion and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, along with his brother bishops, have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

In addition to the proposed document, the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis has detailed plans for a three-year National Eucharistic Revival, which would aim to share the love of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist with the world. This revival has the opportunity to have a tremendous impact – as it would be designed to affect every level of the church, from the home and parish to the national stage.

To learn more about the proposed document on the Eucharist, the Bishops’ vote to approve the drafting of the document or the planned “Eucharistic Revival,” please click here.