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.

 

A priest prepares to distribute Communion during Mass in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked the nation’s Catholics to pray for him and his brother bishops “as we continue our dialogues and reflections” in the process of drafting a document on the “meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the church.”

“I pray that this will be a time for all of us in the church to reflect on our own faith and readiness to receive our Lord in the holy Eucharist,” Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez said in a statement released late June 21.

During their virtual spring general assembly June 16-18, the bishops approved in a 168-55 vote, with six abstentions, the drafting of this document. The vote followed a lengthy debate June 17 and the results were announced the following day.

The USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine will draft it and present the document for discussion when the bishops reconvene in person in November for their fall general assembly.

“My brother bishops and I voted overwhelmingly to issue a teaching document on the beauty and power of the Eucharist,” Archbishop Gomez said.

As the committee begins drafting it, “in the months ahead the bishops will continue our prayer and discernment through a series of regional meetings and consultations,” he said, noting they’ll discuss the draft at their fall meeting.

“The Eucharist is the heart of the church and the heart of our lives as Catholics,” he said. “In the holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ himself draws near to each one of us personally and gathers us together as one family of God and one body of Christ.”

“As bishops, our desire is to deepen our people’s awareness of this great mystery of faith, and to awaken their amazement at this divine gift, in which we have communion with the living God,” Archbishop Gomez added. “That is our pastoral purpose in writing this document.”

Before they voted, debate lasted for over two hours, and 43 bishops expressed differing views about drafting such a document. Some stressed the document was necessary to provide clarity about the significance of the Eucharist, while others questioned its timing and if it could be perceived as fracturing the unity of a church already faced with numerous challenges.

Although the bishops reached no consensus during the discussion, most of those who spoke during the comments’ session welcomed the idea of strengthening teaching about the Eucharist.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chairman of the doctrine committee, presented a proposed outline to the bishops June 17 in a prerecorded message. It would include three parts, subtitled “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Believed,” “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Celebrated” and “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Lived.”

As proposed, each part includes three topics that would be addressed including, respectively, the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in Communion; unity, beauty and identity as the “fount and apex of the whole Christian life”; and moral transformation, eucharistic consistency and missionary discipleship.

Bishop Rhoades said this was developed in light of the decline in Catholics’ belief in the Real Presence in the Eucharist as well as the long absences from regular Mass attendance, which may have led to people placing less significance on the Eucharist in their lives.

He also said the document was never intended to present national norms for the reception of the Eucharist, but to serve as a teaching tool for Catholics about the reception of holy Communion as a grace-filled gift.

 

June 18, 2021

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) concluded its Spring General Assembly on Friday, June 18, 2021.

During the three-day virtual meeting, there was an emphasis on the Eucharist in several areas.

First, the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis 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.

In addition, the full body of bishops voted to task the Committee on Doctrine to move forward with the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.

Significant attention has been on this document and the possibility of whether public officials who support abortion will be prevented from receiving Holy Communion.

As discussed in the USCCB meeting, the document, which has yet to be written in draft form, would be much broader, focusing on the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in Communion and the beauty of the Eucharist. Of particular note, Bishop Kevin Rhodes, Chairman of the Doctrine Committee, indicated that the draft would not include a national policy regarding limiting access to Holy Communion for certain individuals. The document would consist of three parts:

  • “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Believed”
  • “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Celebrated”
  • “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Lived”

During the virtual meeting, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera addressed his brother bishops saying in light of the USCCB’s current strategic plan, it would be opportune for the conference to consider the development of a document on the Eucharist – but highlighting several concerns regarding process.

The bishop noted significant concerns regarding how the development of the proposed document would adhere to the parameters established by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, outlined in a May 7, 2021, letter sent from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Bishop Bambera stressed the need to follow the guidance of the Cardinal prior to the creation of a draft document. As the Bishop expressed in his remarks, that guidance would include the need for two-stage dialogue (dialogue among the bishops themselves and dialogue between the bishops and politicians within their own jurisdiction), the assurance that the document would not target only one category of Catholics and the need to consult with other episcopal conferences.

Questions and Answers on the U.S. Bishops’ Vote to Draft a
Document on the Meaning of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church

 

U.S. Catholic bishops attend a Nov. 11, 2019, session during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. The bishops’ 2021 spring assembly June 16-18 will take place virtually due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – When they gather virtually for their annual spring assembly June 16-18, the U.S. bishops will be asked to approve the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Catholic Church.

They also will be asked to approve three translations by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy for use in U.S. dioceses of the United States, to endorse the sainthood causes of two military chaplains revered for their heroism in World War II and the Korean War, and approve drafting of a national pastoral framework for youth and young adults.

Also on the agenda will be an update from the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis on the Eucharistic Revival initiative; an update from the Subcommittee for Pastoral Care for Immigrants, Refugees and Travelers on a study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate; and an update on the work of the Subcommittee on the Catechism.

Earlier this year, the bishops voted to approve convening this June meeting in a virtual format given the challenges of meeting in person with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The “Action Item” asking the bishops to approve the drafting of a teaching document on the reception of Communion is likely to draw the most debate — and media attention — starting with a vote to formally approve the meeting agenda shortly after the assembly is called to order.

In early May, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, president of the USCCB, received an unprecedented letter from 67 bishops appealing for a delay in a discussion during the bishops’ upcoming spring general assembly on whether to prepare a teaching document about the Eucharist.

The signers wrote that “we respectfully urge that all conference-wide discussion and committee work on the topic of eucharistic worthiness and other issues raised by the Holy See be postponed until the full body of bishops is able to meet in person.”

Among those signing the letter were Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey.

In a May 22 memo to fellow bishops, Archbishop Gomez explained that USCCB rules require that the body of bishops first be asked whether to issue a document on a particular topic.

The bishops’ letter and Archbishop Gomez’s memo follow an increasingly public debate among the bishops about Catholic politicians who support keeping abortion legal and whether they should be denied access to the Eucharist.

Archbishop Gomez in his memo said the USCCB Administrative Committee approved a request from Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, that time be included on the spring assembly agenda for discussion on drafting a teaching document on Communion.

The process, the archbishop said, involves the creation of an “Action Item” for the bishops to consider. “Importantly, the Action Item does not ask the body to approve a final statement, but only whether drafting of a text may begin,” he said.

The bishops’ meeting agenda also includes a report from the National Review Board, which advises the USCCB and the Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People about matters of child and youth protection, specifically on policies and practices.

There also will be a vote to approve a “National Pastoral Framework for Marriage and Family Life Ministry in the United States: Called to the Joy of Love” and a vote to authorize the development of a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for Native American/Alaska Native Ministry.

The assembly will begin with an address by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, followed by an address by Archbishop Gomez as USCCB president.

The sainthood candidates whose causes the bishops will be asked to approve are Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur and Capt. Leonard LaRue, who became Benedictine Brother Marinus of St. Paul’s Abbey in Newton, New Jersey. Both have the title “Servant of God.”

Father Lafleur, a priest of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, was a World War II chaplain who gave his life while saving others on a Japanese prison ship.

Survivors recall the priest’s heroic efforts helping his fellow POWs escape the hull of the ship under Japanese gunfire by pushing them up to the deck at the cost of his own life. He died Sept. 7, 1944.

In October 2017, Father LaFleur was honored posthumously with the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart.

LaRue and the crew of the S.S. Meredith Victory piloted 14,005 refugees to safety during the Korean War from the port of Hungnam, now part of North Korea. The mission has been called a “Christmas Miracle.”

In early December 1950, the S.S. Meredith Victory’s duties involved delivering supplies to anti-communist forces in Korea, which included a stop in Hungnam. In the midst of the heavy fighting on land, LaRue, who also was a World War II veteran, volunteered the Merchant Marine cargo ship to participate in the rescue operation — the refugees’ last hope of escape. The captain entered religious life after the Korean War.

The public sessions of the bishops’ spring assembly are scheduled for: June 16 from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT); June 17 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT); and June 18 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (EDT). They will be livestreamed on the USCCB website — www.usccb.org/meetings.

The vote tallies on the action items, news updates, texts of addresses and presentations and other materials will be available on the USCCB website.

Those wishing to follow the meeting on social media should use the hashtag #USCCB21 and follow on Twitter (@USCCB) as well as on Facebook (www.facebook.com/usccb) and Instagram (https://instagram.com/usccb).

 

 

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston greets newly ordained Deacon Bruce Flagg during an ordination Mass for permanent deacons at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston Feb. 20, 2021. Deacon Flagg, who is deaf, assists with deaf ministry in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. (CNS photo/James Ramos, Texas Catholic Herald)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Based on responses to a questionnaire sent to all U.S. dioceses, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate estimates there are about 19,000 deacons in the United States today.

The number, though, is dropping, mirroring trends seen in religious life and the priesthood for the past half-century.

“Responding offices reported that 410 deacons retired from active ministry and 378 died. Another 587 were ordained to the permanent diaconate during 2020,” said the report, “A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate: A Study for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,” issued June 1. The trend goes back to at least 2014.

Deacons are getting older, too. The CARA report said 35% are 70 or older, 40% are ages 60-69, 21% are ages 50-59, just 5% are ages 40-49, and only 1% are under 40.

“Latin rite arch/dioceses reported having 12,292 permanent deacons active in ministry. The single eparchy (participating in the questionnaire) reported 11 active permanent deacons. Extrapolating to include dioceses and eparchies that did not respond to the survey, it can be estimated that there are 14,722 deacons active in ministry in the United States today, or about 78% of all permanent deacons,” the report said, adding the estimated number of all deacons is 19,008.

CARA also figures that, if 78% of deacons are in active ministry, then 17% are retired, 2% are on a leave of absence, 2% have been suspended from active ministry, and 2% inactive for other reasons.

Retirement age differs from diocese to diocese. Forty-two percent of dioceses have no retirement age for deacons. Of the others, no diocese requires deacons to retire until they reach at least age 70, while 88% require retirement at ages 75-79, and 10% mandate retirement at ages 70-74. One percent does not require retirement until at least age 80.

The archdiocese with the most deacons is the Archdiocese of Chicago, with 852, exactly twice that of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ 426.

Other dioceses and archdioceses with at least 250 deacons are, in descending order, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, 367; the Archdiocese of San Antonio, 364; the Archdiocese of New York, 305; the Archdiocese of Atlanta, 299; the Archdiocese of St. Louis, 297; the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, 268; the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 265; and the Archdiocese of Boston, 255.

But other dioceses have a much smaller ratio of Catholics to deacons. The Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky leads the way with a ratio of 508 Catholics per deacon.

Other dioceses with ratios under 900 Catholics per deacon, in ascending order, are the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, 640; the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, 703; the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota, 725; the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, 747; the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, 779; the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska, 783; the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia, 871; and the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, 893.

According to CARA, 93% of deacons are married, 4% are widowed, 2% have never married, 1% are divorced and have not remarried, and fewer than 1% remarried subsequent to diaconal ordination.

CARA said the racial and ethnic makeup of U.S. deacons is 72% white, 21% Hispanic, 4% Asian/Pacific Islander, 3% Black, and fewer than 1% Native American or other.

The report said 93% of deacons are incardinated in the diocese in which they serve, and 6% are incardinated in another Latin-rite diocese but serving with faculties in their diocese of residence. Fewer than 1% are incardinated in Eastern Catholic churches or as members of religious orders.

“One in nine active permanent deacons are financially compensated for ministry in 2020, a continuation of a downward trend from 27% in 2001, 26% in 2017, and 15% in 2019,” the report said.

Also, “87% of responding arch/dioceses and arch/eparchies require post-ordination formation for deacons,” CARA said. “Among those that do require post-ordination formation, the median number of hours required per year is 20.”

How dioceses deal with diaconal ministry also were questionnaire topics.

Eighty percent of responding dioceses say they have a plan for placement and ministry of deacons, and 93% have an active formation program for the diaconate. Of those that don’t, 78% said they were planning to establish one within the next two years.

Close to two-thirds of dioceses have an active deacon council or deacon assembly, and responding dioceses were about evenly split as to whether they had a formal policy for deacons who got divorced or separated after their ordination.

“As our world continues to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent deacons provide an encouraging witness to the love and mercy of Christ,” said Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

In a statement accompanying the release of the CARA report, he emphasized the importance of permanent deacons to the church, saying: “They bring the light and presence of Jesus into many different areas of society — preaching the Gospel in their jobs, within their families, to the poor and among their broader communities.”

 

June 2, 2021

WASHINGTON– Each year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) observes Religious Freedom Week. Beginning with the feast day of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, and including the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, the week-long commemoration ends with the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Religious Freedom Week will be observed this year from June 22 to June 29 and the theme chosen is Solidarity in Freedom. “Solidarity means much more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity. It means thinking and acting in terms of community” (Fratelli tutti, 116). Religious freedom allows the Church, and all religious communities, to live out their faith in public and to serve the good of all.

The USCCB has prepared resources to “Pray – Reflect – Act” which may be found at: www.usccb.org/ReligiousFreedomWeek. Each day focuses on different religious liberty topics of concern for the bishops. These materials were prepared to help people understand religious liberty from a Catholic perspective, pray about particular issues, and act on what they learn by advocating for policies that promote religious freedom.

The USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty collaborated with the Office of International Justice and Peace to raise awareness and show solidarity with people throughout the world who suffer for their faith, from the persecution of Christians in Nicaragua to highlighting Pope Francis’s trip to Iraq this year. Domestically, a major area of concern continues to be freedom for Catholic institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and child welfare service providers, to carry out their missions with integrity.

Through prayer, education, and public action during Religious Freedom Week, the USCCB hopes to promote the essential right of religious freedom for Catholics and for those of all faiths.

Connect with the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty.  Text FREEDOM to 84576 and sign up for First Freedom News, the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty’s monthly newsletter.

 

WASHINGTON— After the Biden Administration released its federal budget proposal today, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, expressed deep concerns about its proposal to eliminate the Hyde Amendment and some related pro-life provisions. The Hyde Amendment, which has been in effect since 1976 with bipartisan support, prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Archbishop Naumann called on Congress to preserve it and “to work toward a budget that truly builds up the common good of all.” His full statement follows:

“No member of our great nation is weaker, more vulnerable, or less protected, than the child in the womb. There are aspects to President Biden’s budget proposal that will assist vulnerable people. However, Congress must reject the Administration’s proposal to subsidize the deaths of unborn children. For nearly half a century, the Hyde Amendment and related provisions have protected taxpayers from funding most abortions. These policies have broad support from Democrats and Republicans. They have been enacted and signed into law by congresses and presidents of both political parties and have been broadly supported by the majority of low-income women, including women of color.

“Taxpayer-funded abortion represents a failure to serve women in their maternity by funding despair and death instead of hope and life. All women deserve the resources to enable them to fully care for and nurture their baby, to welcome them in a loving, stable environment. These resources would be far better spent supporting women in crisis pregnancies and struggling new mothers so that no woman ever feels economic pressure to have an abortion.

“I call on all government leaders to work toward a budget that truly builds up the common good of all. This should include the many proposals in the President’s budget submission that seek to protect vulnerable people. And it must also preserve the Hyde Amendment and related provisions which have protected millions of unborn babies, and mothers in difficult circumstances, from the tragedy of abortion.”

 

 

Pro-life leaders unfurl a petition in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington Oct. 1, 2019, with more than 250,000 signatures calling for the court to overturn Roe v. Wade. This year, U.S. bishops are encouraging Catholics to sign a petition to oppose the Hyde Amendment’s repeal. The Hyde Amendment would prevent federal funding for abortion as a permanent part of the law. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Diocesan Respect Life coordinators and the Pro-Life Secretariat of the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops are encouraging Catholics to speak out against the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, legislation which bans federal Medicaid funding of abortions.

“It is so important for people in our parishes to learn about the Hyde Amendment and the life-saving, conscience-protecting impact it has had for the past 45 years. Without this protection, our federal tax dollars will contribute to millions more abortions around our nation and beyond,” said Rachel Hendricks, diocesan Respect Life coordinator for the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey.

The Hyde Amendment, which first became law in 1976, prohibits use of federal Medicaid dollars for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered.

Named for former Representative Henry Hyde, Illinois Republican, the amendment is renewed every year as part of the appropriations bill for what is now the Department of Health and Human Services.

It was excluded, however, in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act that was signed into law March 11 by President Joe Biden.

As the amendment faces an uncertain future, the USCCB’s Pro-Life Secretariat is encouraging Catholics to sign the petition asking members of Congress to oppose the Hyde Amendment’s repeal at https://www.notaxpayerabortion.com/.

The petition urges members of Congress “to ensure that the Hyde Amendment and all similar life-saving appropriations riders remain in place during the 117th Congress and beyond.”

“Do not force Americans to subsidize the taking of innocent life,” it adds, urging Congress to “oppose any bill, including any appropriations bill, that expands taxpayer funding of abortion.”

 

WASHINGTON – On the weekend of May 15-16, Catholics throughout the United States will be invited to help spread the good news of hope and mercy by giving to the Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC).

“Ever since Jesus told his disciples to take his message to all nations, the Church has done so using the best communications methods of the day,” said Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv. of Atlanta and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on the Catholic Communication Campaign.

“Early Christians pioneered new communications technology when they switched from scrolls to booklets. The founder of my own tradition, Saint Francis of Assisi, used the popular media of the middle ages when he spread the Gospel by entertaining in village squares. Today, our Catholic Communication Campaign enables the Church to continue promoting Jesus’ message of faith, hope, and healing through mass media.”

The CCC collection has both local and national impact: half of the gift stays in the donor’s diocese, supporting local projects to inspire, enlighten, and draw people closer to Jesus. The other half supports Catholic communication activities that are national in scope or that aid Catholic outreach in developing nations.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic presented the “perfect storm” with increasing demand for support from the Catholic Communication Campaign while at the same time most parishioners were unable to attend Mass due to COVID-related restrictions the weekend of the collection. That situation resulted in a significant decline in giving to the CCC, which is trending down by more than half.

“We have seen the importance of staying spiritually connected in a time of physical distancing,” said Archbishop Hartmayer. “From local parishes streaming their Masses online for parishioners, to dioceses hosting special opportunities of prayer with their bishops in the midst of fear and uncertainty, the Catholic Communication Campaign provided crucial assistance throughout the COVID pandemic to keep our faith family connected. The CCC relies on the generosity of Catholics across the country to help us continue to spread the Good News, especially during these challenging times.”

When limitations and restrictions on group gatherings prompted churches to close their doors, funds from the CCC collection enabled Catholic ministry to continue in places with little communication infrastructure. The USCCB used CCC funds to help dioceses and parishes livestream the Mass. The USCCB also launched its own redesigned, mobile-friendly website, where Catholics can find daily readings and reflections on Scripture.

COVID is not the only crisis to which this collection responds. Campaign funds have also enabled bishops to lead virtual roundtables on racism, gun control, and care for creation in order to engage the faithful on pertinent moral and social issues. The reach of the collection is far and wide – it is also helping the Archdiocese of Blantyre in Malawi launch a radio station to reach rural Catholics. A grant to Renew International, which produces small group study materials, will underwrite videos in which Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, explains Church teaching against the death penalty and proposes a better vision of criminal justice. Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice, Inc., a Vatican-chartered organization that Pope John Paul II founded to promote Catholic social teaching, will use a CCC grant to improve its social media outreach and to produce animated videos on Catholic social principles.

Several recent grants highlight people whose ministry placed them on the path to sainthood. The forthcoming documentary “Mother Saints” will examine the lives of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821) and Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917), whose service to and advocacy for people on the peripheries still inspires the Church’s social ministry. Another documentary will tell the story of Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman (1937-1990), the granddaughter of a slave who became a joyous advocate for Jesus and for racial justice. In addition, a forthcoming film led by the Diocese of Savannah will share the moving story of the Five Georgia Martyrs who gave their lives in witness to the Christian faith as Franciscan missionaries in what is now Georgia.

“Gifts to this collection will bring the message of Jesus to your community and to communities on the other side of the world,” Archbishop Hartmayer said. “Please give generously, knowing that you are continuing the work of the apostles.”

Resources to promote the collection are on the USCCB’s website. You can learn more about the Catholic Communication Campaign at www.usccb.org/ccc.