Over the past month and into July, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have released the following USCCB news releases. We thought the releases would be of great interest.

August 6, 2020

U.S. Bishops’ President and International Justice and Peace Chairman Join in Solidarity with the Suffering of Lebanon After Explosion in the Port of Beirut


Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued the following statement in solidarity with Lebanon after the explosion in the Port of Beirut:

“The world watched with shock and horror the catastrophic explosion in the Port of Beirut (last) Tuesday. Over 135 have died, thousands are injured, and the suffering has only begun to be told.

“Lebanon was already reeling from economic and government corruption along with the novel coronavirus pandemic. The plight of the Lebanese people is now even more dire. We received Lebanon’s patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai’s Appeal to the Nations of the World with fraternal love and solidarity. We encourage Catholics and all people of good will to pray for the afflicted and give generously to Catholic Relief Services’ Lebanon disaster response at crs.org. In addition, we call on the U.S. government to accelerate any and all humanitarian assistance to Lebanon in this hour of critical need.

“Joining in Pope Francis’ prayer that Lebanon may ‘overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing’ and beseeching the intercession of Our Lady of Lebanon, we place our sure hope in Him who reconciles all things unto himself.”

August 6, 2020

U.S. Bishops’ President, Cardinals, and Committee Chairman Press Congress for Emergency Aid for Catholic Schools

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap. of Boston, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R. of Newark and Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ of Oakland and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Catholic Education cosigned a letter requesting that emergency aid to Catholic schools be included in the next federal COVID emergency relief package.

“The economic devastation that has hit so many of America’s families has made it impossible for many struggling families to continue paying tuition,” the bishops wrote. “As a result, already 140 Catholic schools have permanently closed their doors, and hundreds more are in danger of being unable to open in the fall. The closure of schools that serve urban areas are disproportionately harmful to low-income and black children served by these schools.”

They continued, “Not only is this devastating to each of those school communities, their staff and business partners, but it has a detrimental impact on local taxpayers. For every student educated in a Catholic or non-public school, taxpayers save thousands of dollars. Nationwide, Catholic schools save state and local governments more than $20 billion annually.”

The letter asked for the U.S. Congress to designate 10% of emergency K-12 education funding for scholarship aid to low-middle income private school families.

According to the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), Catholic school student enrollment for the current academic year is 1,737,297 across 6,183 schools. 21.8% of students represent racial minorities and 19.1% of the total enrollment in non-Catholic.

The full text of the letter to Congress is available here.

Ministry Leaders to Examine Catholic Church’s Engagement with Young People

July 22, 2020

WASHINGTON— On Saturday, July 25, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, in collaboration with other offices at the USCCB and joined by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFYCM), will convene a yearlong intercultural process with young adults and ministry leaders.

The initiative, entitled Journeying Together is meant to explore the Church’s engagement with young people of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds and mobilize the faithful on issues and concerns related to culture and race in the United States. It is based on Pope Francis’ call for encounter and dialogue in his 2019 apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit. Due to health concerns with the novel coronavirus, the initiative will primarily take place online from July 2020 through May 2021, with an anticipated live gathering next summer, pending health and safety directives.

The process will feature intracultural and intercultural digital gatherings and conversations with young adult delegates and key ministry leaders from different cultural communities including African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, European Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, and Native Americans, as well as immigrant groups, migrants, and refugees. The conversations will be facilitated by young adults in response to Pope Francis’ encouragement of young people to be “protagonists” in the Church’s mission of evangelization. The initiative, led by the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, will include collaboration with the USCCB’s Secretariat for Catholic Education; Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis; and Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia, and chairman of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, said of this initiative, “This dialogue comes at an incredibly important time in our nation’s history where we find ourselves engaged in a serious conversation about race and racism, with calls for meaningful and lasting social reform, a movement led in large part by young people across the country and around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic also has affected communities of color most significantly. Over the course of the next year, it is my hope that we can have honest conversations on these and other issues impacting young people and on how we can move ahead on the important questions of race, culture, and community. We have been very intentional about making sure every cultural family has their voice represented and a seat at the table as we journey together. The bishops are looking forward to learning from the young people and those who accompany them.”

The delegates within the Journeying Together process, including bishops, young adults, and local ministry leaders, will seek to involve their peers in the dialogue and mobilization aspects of this yearlong experience. The goal of the initiative is to help the Church better engage and respond to the realities facing young people of all cultural backgrounds.

For more information about the process, go to http://www.usccb.org/journey2020.

Bishop Chairmen Condemn Acts of Vandalism, Destruction at Catholic Sites

July 22, 2020

WASHINGTON — Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued the following statement in response to reports of increasing incidents of church vandalism and fires:

“In the last few weeks, we have witnessed, among other things, one church rammed with a car and set on fire, as well as statues of Jesus Christ and of the Virgin Mary defaced or even beheaded. An historic mission church has also been badly damaged by fire, and the cause is still under investigation.

“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.

“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.

“Our nation finds itself in an extraordinary hour of cultural conflict. 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.”

Migration Committee Chairman Opposes Proposed New Rule Seeking to Eliminate Protection for Asylum Seekers Fleeing Violence

July 14, 2020

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) issued new proposed rules on asylum on June 15 with comments due on July 15. The new proposed rules would, among other changes: allow immigration judges to summarily deny applications before the asylum-seeker can see a judge; redefine the term “particular social group” in asylum law to effectively eliminate asylum for those fleeing domestic violence or gangs; and raise standards for initial asylum interviews. The following statement was made by Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration:

“These proposed asylum regulations will have devastating consequences for those seeking protection in the United States who are fleeing domestic violence or persecution from gangs in their home countries. The Catholic Church teaches us to look at the root causes of migration, poverty, violence, and corruption. Pope Francis reminds us that ‘we must keep our eyes open …, keep our hearts open …, to remind everyone of the indispensable commitment to save every human life, a moral duty that unites believers and non-believers.’ We cannot turn our backs on the vulnerable.”

July 10, 2020

Bishop Chairman Comments on Paycheck Protection Program

Following the publication of a national news story on Catholic churches receiving loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued the following statement in response:

“The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental supplier of social services in the United States. Each year, our parishes, schools and ministries serve millions of people in need, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. The novel coronavirus only intensified the needs of the people we serve and the demand for our ministries. The loans we applied for enabled our essential ministries to continue to function in a time of national emergency.

“In addition, shutdown orders and economic fallout associated with the virus have affected everyone, including the thousands of Catholic ministries — churches, schools, healthcare and social services — that employ about 1 million people in the United States. These loans have been an essential lifeline to keep hundreds of thousands of employees on payroll, ensure families maintain their health insurance, and enable lay workers to continue serving their brothers and sisters during this crisis.

“The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to protect the jobs of Americans from all walks of life, regardless of whether they work for for-profit or non-profit employers, faith-based or secular.

“Despite all of this, more than 100 Catholic schools have announced that they plan to close, with hundreds more facing an uncertain future. Businesses, hospitals, schools, and churches all across the country are facing many of the exact same problems.

“We will continue advocating for everyone negatively affected by this terrible pandemic, praying for all the sick, for all who have died and are in mourning, and especially the poor and vulnerable at this time of great need.”

July 8, 2020
USCCB Chairmen Welcome SCOTUS Decision Preserving the Religious Liberty of Little Sisters
The Little Sisters of the Poor recently went to the Supreme Court of the United States again to defend their community against attempts to force Catholic religious to cooperate with immoral activities, and again, the Supreme Court has recognized their right to religious freedom. By a vote of 7-2, the Court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters. Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, have issued a statement addressing the case:

“This is a saga that did not need to occur. Contraception is not health care, and the government should never have mandated that employers provide it in the first place. Yet even after it had, there were multiple opportunities for government officials to do the right thing and exempt conscientious objectors. Time after time, administrators and attorneys refused to respect the rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the Catholic faith they exemplify, to operate in accordance with the truth about sex and the human person. Even after the federal government expanded religious exemptions to the HHS contraceptive mandate, Pennsylvania and other states chose to continue this attack on conscience.

“The Little Sisters of the Poor is an international congregation that is committed to building a culture of life. They care for the elderly poor. They uphold human dignity. They follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church. The government has no right to force a religious order to cooperate with evil. We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision. We hope it brings a close to this episode of government discrimination against people of faith. Yet, considering the efforts we have seen to force compliance with this mandate, we must continue to be vigilant for religious freedom.”

The USCCB filed amicus curiae briefs supporting these religious institutions. The briefs can be found here:
· usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/19-431-and-19-454_Amici-Brief.pdf
· usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/2019-11-04-LSP-SPPH-v-COP-SONJ.pdf

July 8, 2020
USCCB Chairmen Praise SCOTUS Decision Recognizing the Right of the Church to Choose Its Own Leaders
The Supreme Court of the United States has issued its decision in the consolidated cases of Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel. These cases involved the right of Catholic schools, free of government interference, to choose teachers who will teach and model the Catholic faith. By a vote of 7-2, the Court ruled in favor of the schools. Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J. of Oakland, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education, have issued a statement addressing the decision:

“Education is a central aspect of the Church’s mission. Indeed, teaching is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. James schools continue the Catholic tradition of offering Christian education. As institutions carrying out a ministry of the Church, Catholic schools have a right, recognized by the Constitution, to select people who will perform ministry. The government has no authority to second-guess those ministerial decisions. We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision, which rightly acknowledged this limit on state authority. This decision means that the Church can continue to serve her neighbors with integrity.”

The USCCB filed an amicus curiae brief supporting these religious institutions, which may be found here: Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrisey-Berru

June 30, 2020
Bishop Chairman Calls on Administration to Reverse Course on Federal Executions
Following the U.S. Attorney General’s decision to set new federal execution dates for four federal death row inmates beginning July 13, 2020, and the decision by the Supreme Court of the United States declining to hear their appeal, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on the Administration to reverse course on presiding over federal executions for the first time in 17 years. Archbishop Coakley’s full statement follows:

“Now that the Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeals of four federal death row inmates, and the Justice Department has set new execution dates beginning July 13, I reiterate the call made last July for the Administration to reverse course.

“As articulated to the Supreme Court in another case earlier this year, the bishops have been calling for an end to the death penalty for decades. Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all called for an end to the death penalty around the world. As Pope Francis articulated through the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the death penalty is unacceptable as an affront to the Gospel and to respect for human life. At their June 2019 meeting, the Catholic bishops of the United States voted overwhelmingly in affirmation of this position.

“Two of my brother bishops and I wrote last year: ‘To oppose the death penalty is not to be “soft on crime.” Rather, it is to be strong on the dignity of life.’ To this end, I implore Attorney General Barr and President Trump to abandon this path to preside over the first federal executions in 17 years.”

June 30, 2020
Bishops’ Religious Liberty and Catholic Education Chairmen Grateful for SCOTUS’s Decision in Blaine Amendment Case

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in the case of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which challenged a decision by the Montana Supreme Court to invalidate a tax credit scholarship program because families benefiting include those who choose to send their children to religiously-affiliated schools, a violation of the Montana state constitution’s “Blaine Amendment” of 1889 against aid to religious schools. By vote of 5-4, the Court ruled in favor of the petitioners.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J. of Oakland, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Catholic Education, have issued a statement:

“The Court has rightly ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not permit states to discriminate against religion. This decision means that religious persons and organizations can, like everyone else, participate in government programs that are open to all. This is good news, not only for people of faith, but for our country. A strong civil society needs the full participation of religious institutions. By ensuring the rights of faith-based organizations’ freedom to serve, the Court is also promoting the common good.

“The Court has also dealt a blow to the odious legacy of anti-Catholicism in America. Blaine Amendments, which are in 37 states’ constitutions, were the product of nativism and bigotry. They were never meant to ensure government neutrality towards religion, but were expressions of hostility toward the Catholic Church. We are grateful that the Supreme Court has taken an important step that will help bring an end to this shameful legacy.”

The USCCB filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the petitioners, which can be found here: usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/Laycock-Berg-CLS-Amicus-Brief.pdf.

Note: Click on titles below for the entire news releases

June 30, 2020
Annual Survey of Permanent Diaconate Highlights the Importance of Their Work in the Life of the Church
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations has shared the results of the annual survey on the permanent diaconate. A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate: A Study for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 2019-2020, was conducted by the…

June 29, 2020
Bishops’ Pro-Life Chairman Says SCOTUS Decision Continues Cruel Precedent of Abortion Business Interests Over Women’s Health
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States announced its decision in an abortion case out of Louisiana, June Medical Services v. Russo. The Court ruled 5 to 4 to strike down the Louisiana law that requires abortion doctors to…

June 26, 2020
Committee on Catholic Education Joins Coalition to Request Emergency Aid for Catholic Schools
Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J of Oakland, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education for the USCCB, has joined a coalition of more than 150 interfaith and civil society organizations calling on…

June 25, 2020
Bishops Secretariat For Child and Youth Protection Releases Annual Report
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection has released the 2019 Annual Report – Findings and Recommendations on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People…

New Directory for Catechesis Available for Purchase Through Bishops’ Marketing and Episcopal Resources
As the Catholic Church embarks on the mission of teaching the Christian faith, the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization has released a new Directory for Catechesis…
· Bishops’ Chairman of Evangelization and Catechesis Welcomes New Directory for Catechesis
The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization has released a new Directory for Catechesis…

May 25, 2020
USCCB Chairman for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs on 25th Anniversary of Encyclical on Catholic Church’s Commitment to Ecumenism
WASHINGTON – On the anniversary of the encyclical on the Catholic Church’s commitment to ecumenism, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton and chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, has issued the following statement:
 
“May 25, 2020, marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the promulgation of Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical on the Catholic Church’s commitment to ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint. This anniversary should serve as a reminder that the way of ecumenism is the way of the Church (7), and that all Catholics are called to espouse a strong commitment to building Christian unity.
 
“Pope St. John Paul II, who worked tirelessly to build ecumenical relationships, described the impulse of working for unity between Christians as ‘a duty of Christian conscience enlightened by faith and guided by love’ (8). We rejoice that Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have continued to advance this singular mission between the Catholic Church and other Christian communities. We celebrate numerous theological convergences that have been discovered in ecumenical dialogues over the course of the past twenty-five years as we seek to grow closer together.
 
“Pope St. John Paul II concluded this encyclical with a profound insight from St. Cyprian’s Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer: ‘God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. For God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord, and a people made one by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ (102). In a time of pandemic, people seek refuge and unity in their faith community. May this anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s call for Christian unity serve as a unique pastoral opportunity to build bridges by continuing to reach out with love to all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. May He heal our wounds of division and help us grow closer in unity, especially in this moment, by witnessing together to the peace of Christ that our world needs so very much.”
 
May 22, 2020
U.S. Bishops’ Chairman for Domestic Justice and Human Development Urges Care for the Poor and Vulnerable in Further Consideration of COVID-19 Relief Legislation
WASHINGTON – Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, released a statement urging lawmakers to remember the needs of the poor and vulnerable as they consider additional relief packages related to the COVID-19 crisis. This follows the statements of Archbishop Coakley on March 12 and March 28 on the previous legislation providing emergency relief to those suffering from the impact of the coronavirus. 
 
Archbishop Coakley’s full statement follows:
 
“In the readings last Sunday, we heard from St. Peter, ‘Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…’ (1 Pt. 3:15). On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis prayed for the gift of hope while powerfully illuminating the concerns of the Church during the pandemic:
‘This is not a time for indifference, because the whole world is suffering and needs to be united in facing the pandemic. May the risen Jesus grant hope to all the poor, to those living on the peripheries, to refugees and the homeless. May these, the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters living in the cities and peripheries of every part of the world, not be abandoned. Let us ensure that they do not lack basic necessities…’[1]
 
“As Congress turns once more to considering additional relief related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus should be on those most in need—the poor, the vulnerable, and people on the margins—to offer them some hope and assistance in desperate circumstances. Since early April, some of my brother bishops and I have sent five letters to express this touchstone principle to Congress and its various committees, in contexts ranging from food security, housing, access to affordable health care, protections for the unborn, addressing racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes, assistance for the poor and unemployed, care for migrants and refugees, safety for detainees and the incarcerated, education, international assistance and debt relief, and help for charities serving vulnerable populations. 
 
“Additional needs have emerged such as sufficient protective equipment for all essential workers, protection of familial well-being and integrity, additional research on the link between air pollution and coronavirus health outcomes, and the need to address disruptions to the food supply chain and its impact on farmers and farmworkers, food waste and public health. We welcome the Vatican’s new commission on COVID-19, and will continue our advocacy in the same mode as this critical work for the common good continues.
 
“In this time of trial, it is important to remember ‘the reason for our hope.’ On the Feast of the Ascension this week, we hear the resurrected Lord tell his disciples, ‘And behold, I am with you always’ (Mt. 28:20). Let us proceed in this hope, asking the Lord for wisdom on how best to respond, drawing close to our brothers and sisters in need, and finding our peace in the Lord’s promise to be with us ‘until the end of the age.’”  
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