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All Catholics must take faith, witness to the public square, bishop says

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Catholic News Service

ST. PAUL, Minn. — In his famous work “Democracy in America,” published in 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: “Where education and freedom are the children of morality and religion … democracy … makes better choices than anywhere else.”

Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Neb., encourages more than 1,000 Catholics to engage in the public square during his talk March 9 at Catholics at the Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., sponsored by the Minnesota Catholic Conference. The event featured Mass, talks and visits with state legislators. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Neb., encourages more than 1,000 Catholics to engage in the public square during his talk March 9 at Catholics at the Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., sponsored by the Minnesota Catholic Conference. The event featured Mass, talks and visits with state legislators. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, made the case March 9 that those words remain true nearly two centuries later, and that Catholics need to engage in the public square.

He made the comments in an address to more than 1,000 Catholics gathered for Minnesota’s first Catholics at the Capitol event.

Organized by the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the education and advocacy event drew Catholics from every region of the state.

A member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Bishop Conley noted that the Minnesota Capitol stands at the confluence of streets named for two prominent American leaders: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Irish-born Archbishop John Ireland, St. Paul’s first archbishop.

“Those two streets on which the Capitol stands,” he said, “should remind us of two fundamental and important truths: that democracies depend on believers to witness prophetically to virtue, to truth, to goodness and to beauty; that believers have a critical and important role to play in the public life for the common good, to build a culture of life and a civilization of love; and we must do all of this as … missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. Your state needs your faith and your witness.”

He told Catholics that democracy’s success depends on the “generous participation of believers.”

“Secular activists argue that our faith should stay out of the public square, that debates over public policy shouldn’t involve religious perspectives, (and) that we have no right to bring faith into the voting booth, or into the Capitol, or into the media,” he said.

But, he said, America’s Founding Fathers saw things differently. “”The Founding Fathers believed that well-formed believers were essential and critical for maintaining the social contract underlying the U.S. Constitution,” he said.

He pointed to the words of President John Adams, written in 1798 to soldiers of Massachusetts: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

“Public religious faith provides the ability to make moral judgments, which are rooted in a sense of common good rather than the individual good or personal gain,” Bishop Conley said.

He said in the first part of the 20th century, Catholics were observed to have kept their faith out of their political engagement, as they viewed it as a private or family matter “with no political implications.”

“But our faith is more than a family matter. Our faith is not private,” he said. “Our faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is teeming with political implications, and we cannot live our faith in Jesus Christ as a private affair. We cannot be afraid to challenge our democracy with the truths of the Gospel. In fact, our democracy depends on that challenge.”

He said that our faith upholds a vision of the common good under which all people can flourish.

“The Gospel calls the world to objective standards of truth,” Bishop Conley said. “The Gospel promotes human dignity and protects the family and orders justice. Jesus Christ tells us what freedom is, what justice is, what it means to have peace and what it means to prosper. The Founding Fathers knew that the American Experiment would depend on the public faith of religious believers, and they knew that democracy itself depends on people of faith.”

During the last election cycle, many American Catholics considered themselves “politically homeless” because their values didn’t fit easily in either the Democratic or Republican parties. While it’s true that neither party represents a Catholic worldview, Catholics should not feel “homeless,” Bishop Conley said.

“Catholics do not have a political party, but we do have a political home,” he said. “Catholics are not politically liberal or politically conservative; we are simply Catholics, disciples of Christ and his Gospel. Our mission in the public life is to be faithful to the truth of Jesus Christ and his church, and the truths he’s revealed to us.”

“Our political home is our eternal home, the city of God,” he said. “Because of that, our political mission in this world is to build a culture of life, a civilization of love.”

He said Catholics are meant to be prophetic voices who speak the word of God and trust in its power. He quoted G.K. Chesterton: “When the world is upside down, prophets are the ones who stand on their heads to see things as they are.”

“Today, in a world that is upside down, God calls us to stand on our heads … to see things as they are and to speak the truth,” he said, pointing to abortion and other life issues, marriage, and the need to help people who are poor, immigrant, refugees or incarcerated.

Speaking truth might mean that Catholics lose friends, he said. “If we are faithful witnesses to the church’s teaching, we will make our neighbors from every political party unhappy and uncomfortable,” he said.

Catholics also need to trust in God’s providence, he said. Success is measured by fidelity, not results, and God may use people’s efforts in ways they may never see.

“The time in which we live is a very difficult one for Catholics and for our nation,” Bishop Conley said. “May we together work for the kingdom of God, for justice, for truth, for charity. May we do all of this as disciples of Jesus Christ and may we trust in the Lord, who calls us to be holy above all things, who has a plan for each one of us, and who knows how that plan will unfold in his glory, in the providence of eternity.”

 

Wiering is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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U.S. bishops’ group to monitor needs of immigrants, refugees

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is establishing a working group charged with developing spiritual, pastoral and policy advocacy support for immigrants and refugees.

People in Tijuana, Mexico, stand next to a wall separating Mexico and the United States Dec. 10. (CNS photo/Jorge Duenes, Reuters)

People in Tijuana, Mexico, stand next to a wall separating Mexico and the United States Dec. 10. (CNS photo/Jorge Duenes, Reuters)

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, has named members of the working group, with the mandate of closely following developments related to immigrants and refugees in the United States. The USCCB Public Affairs Office announced formation of the group Dec. 16.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president, will chair the group. Members include the chairman of USCCB committees and subcommittees involved in immigration concerns: Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, Committee on Migration; Auxiliary Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Rockville Centre, New York, Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Committee on Domestic Social Development; Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants; and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Committee on International Justice and Peace.

The groundwork for the working group was set during the bishops’ annual fall general assembly in Baltimore when several bishops suggested the conference closely monitor actions by the federal government that affect immigrants and refugees.

In announcing the working group, the Public Affairs Office said the bishops and USCCB staff will be ready to respond to any executive orders and legislation that the new Congress and President-elect Donald J. Trump may introduce.

The working group will inform the efforts of individual bishops in their pastoral responses to immigrants and refugees and recommend appropriate additional efforts as needed, such as the recent day of prayer on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago outlined some of the responsibilities of the working group in a column in the Dec. 11 issue of Catholic New World, archdiocesan newspaper.

He said the group will look at what is being done pastorally in U.S. dioceses and will share best practices with bishops.

“Particular attention will be given to addressing the economic struggles, alienation, fear and exclusion many feel, along with the resistance to the church’s message regarding migrants and refugees,” Cardinal Cupich wrote. “Emphasis will be given to ways we can build bridges between various segments of society.”

The working group will also spearhead advocacy, building on existing USCCB efforts and to engage constructively with the incoming administration and Congress, the cardinal said.

The formation of the new entity, which Archbishop Gomez planned to convene weekly, “will send a message to those who live in fear that the Catholic bishops of the United States stand with them, pray with them, offer pastoral support and speak prophetically in defense of their human dignity,” Cardinal Cupich wrote.

He added that the Chicago archdiocese will continue to “walk with all who, given our broken immigration system, live in the shadows. We will advocate for them as well as for refugees seeking a better life for the families.”

On Nov. 30, at the end of Mass at St. Agatha of Bohemia Parish in Chicago, Cardinal Cupich told the congregation he had been invite to meet with President Barack Obama Nov. 29 “and the only issue I discussed with him was the executive order granting temporary protection for a large number of undocumented persons.”

He told Obama the U.S. Catholic bishops “favor this action but see if only as a first step” to comprehensive immigration reform. The cardinal said he and Obama discussed the need to have some confidentiality provision the church” for if they register for protection, that information would not be used against them.

“I wanted to tell you today about my discussion with the president,” Cardinal Cupich told the congregation, “so that you will know that you can count on me as a good friend of the immigrant community.”

National Migration Week is Jan. 8-14.

 

More information about the U.S. bishops’ observance of National Migration Week in January and links to various resources can be found at http://bit.ly/1cWdELM.

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Diversity theme dominates U.S. bishops’ meeting in Baltimore

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BALTIMORE — A groundbreaking new study commissioned by the bishops that finds diversity abounds in the U.S. Catholic Church is a clarion call to Catholic institutions and ministries to adapt and prepare for growing diversity, said Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio. Read more »

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U.S. bishops OK four-year 740-things-to-do list

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — A new strategic plan adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 15 during its fall general assembly reflects the efforts of Pope Francis to establish a more merciful and accompanying church, said the archbishop who led the planning process.

Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, listens to a speaker Nov. 15 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, listens to a speaker Nov. 15 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

The plan, adopted by a vote of 199-4 with two abstentions, will govern the work of the conference and its committees from 2017 through 2020. It takes effect in January.

“We have adapted these priorities to coincide with the priorities of Pope Francis,” Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans and chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Priorities and Plans, told the assembled bishops before their vote.

The plan incorporates the theme “Encountering the Mercy of Christ and Accompanying His People With Joy” in setting five priorities: evangelization, marriage and family life, human life and dignity, vocations, and religious freedom. In total, the five priorities identify more than 740 individual projects to accomplish during the next four years.

Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis, who recently was appointed archbishop of Newark, N.J., asked where in the plan might be concern for the environment and people who are experiencing the negative effects of climate change.

“It is more urgent than ever given the possibility that the new (presidential) administration is not going to be interested in the issues Pope Francis is interested in,” Cardinal-designate Tobin said.

Archbishop Aymond responded that the plan’s work on the environment, climate change and a response to the needs of people on the margins of society worldwide falls under the human life and dignity priority.

In that section, one of the areas addressed includes teaching and advocating about what the pope has described as integral ecology, “emphasizing environmental degradation and its impact on the lives of the most vulnerable.”

The plan also calls for the U.S. church to move from a “silo approach” to ministry as expressed through the USCCB committees to deeper collaboration and cooperation in service of each bishops’ ministry.

“Committee chairmen and committee members will need to make sure we stay on track,” Archbishop Aymond told the assembly.

The plan, more than a year under discussion by the bishops through their committees, subcommittees and an ad hoc committee, stems in large part from Pope Francis’ message to the bishops when he visited the U.S. in 2015.

The 28-page document offers an overview of the plan and outlines several specific areas to address under each priority. Much of the plan was developed to support individuals of all ages as well as families as people go through daily life and to encourage actions that carry out what is described as “missionary discipleship.”

Another passage in the plan stresses that it charts “a path of hope for the people in need of a loving embrace as they face the challenges of the world.”

      Further, the document states, “The USCCB strategic plan exists to serve the mission of evangelization entrusted in a particular way to each bishop; it is the tool the U.S. bishops rely upon to prioritize, organize, optimize and resource good works which will allow the conference to fulfill its mission.”

      Two major events are expected to help achieve the priorities including the national Convocation of Catholic Leaders scheduled for July 1-4, 2017, in Orlando, Florida, and the V Encuentro for Hispanic Latino Ministry in 2018.

      Thousands of Catholics are expected at each event to discuss, learn, pray and act on ideas to strengthen the church at the local level and inspire new leaders to take on the challenges posed by modern society.

      The strategic plan also mentions that the early projects being undertaken will help the bishops as they prepare a pastoral letter on race relations that is planned for the 50th anniversary of the death of civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 2018.

      In his presentation Nov. 14, Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, as chairman of the the USCCB Task Force to Promote Peace in Our Communities, urged his brother bishops to issue the statement on racism sooner than scheduled, because of the racial turmoil that has affected many of the nation’s communities after police shootings of African-Americans. The archbishop also said such a statement would help address postelection tensions across the country.

 Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — Earlier this year, as communities faced tensions, protests and violence, following a spate of shooting and killings of black men by police, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, of Louisville, Kentucky, as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked dioceses across the country to observe a day of prayer for peace.

Choir members sing during Mass Nov. 13 at St. Peter Claver Church in Baltimore. The U.S. bishops concelebrated Mass at the church Nov. 14, the first day of their fall general assembly. Bishop Wilton D, Gregory has asked the bishops assembled in Baltimore to issue a document on racism. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Choir members sing during Mass Nov. 13 at St. Peter Claver Church in Baltimore. The U.S. bishops concelebrated Mass at the church Nov. 14, the first day of their fall general assembly. Bishop Wilton D, Gregory has asked the bishops assembled in Baltimore to issue a document on racism. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

He also wanted the bishops to look for ways they could help the suffering communities, as well as police affected by the incidents.

To that end, he appointed a special task force to explore ways of promoting peace and healing around the country and named by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta to head it.

On Nov. 14, Archbishop Gregory urged bishops gathered in Baltimore at the USCCB’s fall general assembly to issue, sooner rather than later, a document on racism, given “postelection uncertainty” and that some of the tensions have only gotten worse following the presidential election.

He urged prayer, ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, dialogues, as well as parish-based and diocesan conversations and training, and providing opportunities for encounter.

In a news conference that followed his afternoon presentation and ended the first day of the bishops’ assembly, Archbishop Gregory said communities that were disrupted by violence and riots after the police shootings, prompting a calling for healing from the church, are now seeing recent and highly public reactions to tensions brought about by the election results.

“It’s the hope of the task force, of people of goodwill, that the demonstrations, don’t turn violent,” he said.

American society has the ability to express opinion on social matters through various forms of expression, including protests, but “what we pray for is that those expressions of frustrations don’t provide another vehicle for violence.”

Tensions had been high enough in July, when Archbishop Kurtz had said the Catholic Church needed to “walk with and help these suffering communities” that had been affected by the shootings and the riots protesting them that followed.

“I have stressed the need to look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence,” Archbishop Kurtz said at the time. He said he wanted the work of the task force to help embrace the suffering of the communities, to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in local communities.

The recommendations, said Archbishop Gregory, were examined before the recent elections and all the tensions and protests that have followed. The recommendations were related to race and violence issues related to the summer shootings and riots.

But Archbishop Gregory expressed hope that the church could help foster dialogue and bring healing by working with communities for a lasting peace.

 

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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Papal nuncio tells U.S. bishops to welcome, learn from and teach young people

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the new apostolic nuncio to the United States, urged U.S. bishops Nov. 14 to pay close attention to young Catholics to both learn from them and help them to deepen their faith.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, speaks Nov. 14 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, speaks Nov. 14 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

“Many young people are not allergic to the truths of the faith or to the church, but they simply don’t know anything or know very little about the faith,” he said, urging bishops to take steps needed to help them.

The archbishop, who addressed the bishops at the start of their fall general assembly in Baltimore, also noted that it is difficult for today’s young people to live out their faith in today’s world and they need to know they are welcome in the church.

His remarks were geared to encouraging bishops to prepare for the October 2018 Synod of Bishops, which has the theme of accompanying young people on the path of faith and in discerning their vocation, announced by the Vatican this October.

“We know that youth are critical to the life of the church,” he stressed, adding that they often “find themselves at the peripheries of both the church and society. We must go out to them.”

This was the archbishop’s first address to an assembly of the U.S. bishops since his appointment earlier this year. He said Catholics in the U.S. were still benefiting from the pope’s visit last year and from experiences from the Year of Mercy.

The archbishop, who has spent 40 years in the Vatican diplomatic corps, spent most of his 30-minute address pleading with the bishops to come to understand the young people in their dioceses, noting that they “tend to place everything in the present moment” and are often in a state of constant flux and unable to make a permanent choice.

He also noted the impact of modern technology on today’s youths, saying it has made them change their ways of showing their feelings and communicating, trading “virtual closeness” for real encounters.

To truly understand the young is not only a way to reach out to them but a way to help them discern their next steps, particularly regarding vocations, he added.

Archbishop Pierre stressed that in general they are “open, available and generous” and want authentic relationships and seek the truth. They want to be heard, he added, saying church leaders need to listen to them, following the example of Pope Francis.

The archbishop also stressed the bishops alone do not have the responsibility to help young people connect with their faith, because it is up to the whole church “to go to and walk with our young people.”

 

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter @carolmaczim.

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U.S. bishops’ fall assembly opens in Baltimore Monday

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops will discuss ways to promote peace in U.S. communities torn apart by violence, vote on ways to implement priority areas for their conference approved last year and elect new leaders during their Nov. 14-16 fall general assembly in Baltimore.

The discussion about restoring peace in the nation will stem from a report to be presented to the bishops from a task force formed this past summer after shootings by police and of police took place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Minneapolis; and Dallas.

The U.S. bishops will discuss ways to promote peace in U.S. communities torn apart by violence, vote on ways to implement priority areas for their conference approved last year and elect new leaders during their Nov. 14-16 fall general assembly in Baltimore. Above, people demonstrate outside the White House in early July after shootings by police and of police took place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Minneapolis and Dallas. (CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA)

The U.S. bishops will discuss ways to promote peace in U.S. communities torn apart by violence, vote on ways to implement priority areas for their conference approved last year and elect new leaders during their Nov. 14-16 fall general assembly in Baltimore. Above, people demonstrate outside the White House in early July after shootings by police and of police took place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Minneapolis and Dallas. (CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA)

When Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced the USCCB Task Force to Promote Peace in Our Communities, he said there needed to be “ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence.”

The task force is chaired by Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, who told reporters in September that the U.S. bishops are in beginning stages of developing a pastoral letter that will examine racism in society and the church and will encourage dialogue on the issue as well as describe steps Catholics can take to bring about healing and reconciliation.

As part of the USCCB’s 2017-2020 strategic plan, the bishops will discuss and vote on an action plan to support the five priorities they approved last November: evangelization; family and marriage; human life and dignity; religious freedom; and vocations and ongoing formation.

They also will be given an update on preparations for the convocation of Catholic leaders from all across the country taking place next July in Orlando, Fla., and focusing on “The Joy of the Gospel in America.” It is an initiative of bishops’ Working Group on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person.

The bishops will convene key leaders from dioceses and Catholic organizations from across the country “to assess the challenges and opportunities of our time,” particularly in the context of the U.S. Catholic Church, according to the USCCB.

Inspired by Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), the convocation “will form leaders who will be equipped and re-energized to share the Gospel as missionary disciples,” the USCCB said.

Archbishop Kurtz will give his final address as USCCB president; his three year-term ends at the conclusion of the fall assembly. Also ending his three-term is the current vice president, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.

During their meeting, the bishops will elect a new president and vice president, whose three-year terms will begin at the conclusion of the assembly. Each office is elected from a slate of 10 candidates who have been nominated by their fellow bishops.

The nominees are: New Orleans Gregory M. Aymond; Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput; Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul S. Coakley; Cardinal DiNardo; Texas Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville; Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez; Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori; Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron; Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski and New Mexico Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe.

USCCB bylaws provide that the first election is that of the president by simple majority vote of members who are present and voting. Following the election of the president, the vice president is elected from the remaining nine candidates.

In either election, if a candidate does not receive more than half of the votes cast on the first ballot, a second vote is taken. If a third round of voting is necessary, that ballot is a run-off between the two bishops who received the most votes on the second ballot.

During the meeting, the bishops also will vote for new chairmen-elect of the following five USCCB committees: Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance; Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis; Committee on International Justice and Peace; and Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People. They serve one year as chairmen-elect and then over as chairmen at the conclusion of the bishops’ fall assembly in 2017.

The nominees are:

  • Canonical Affairs and Church Governance: Bishops Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, and David M. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois.
  • Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs: Bishops Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Michael C. Barber of Oakland, California.
  • Evangelization and Catechesis: Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles and Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
  • International Justice and Peace: Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese of the Military Services.
  • Protection of Children and Young People: Bishops Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, and Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington.
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U.S. bishops say compromise could be reached in HHS contraceptive mandate case

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WASHINGTON — A Sept. 9 letter from USCCB officials to the Department of Health and Human Services stressed that a compromise could effectively be reached in the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive requirement.

The letter, in response to the government’s request for comments on a proposal mandating contraceptive coverage, echoed the Supreme Court’s May 16 decision in Zubik v. Burwell — the combined lawsuit of the Little Sisters of the Poor, Priests for Life, and several other religious groups, that said providing contraception coverage to employees through their insurance plans violated their religious beliefs.

Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington are seen near the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 23. A Sept. 9 letter from U. S. bishops'  officials to the Department of Health and Human Services stressed that a compromise could effectively be reached in the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive requirement.(CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington are seen near the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 23. A Sept. 9 letter from U. S. bishops’ officials to the Department of Health and Human Services stressed that a compromise could effectively be reached in the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive requirement.(CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

The court sent the cases back to the lower courts saying religious employers and the government should be “afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.”

For this accommodation to happen, the USCCB letter stressed that “any government-mandated contraceptive coverage must be truly independent of petitioners and their plans,” meaning the coverage should be offered by a separate communication and with a different policy, enrollment process, insurance card and payment source.

The letter, signed by members of the USCCB’s general counsel, also said such coverage should not be automatic in order to protect the conscience rights of people with religious objections to contraception and sterilization coverage.

It said that another look at the HHS contraceptive requirement provides an opportunity for the government to “bring to an end years of church-state litigation and, in turn, to avoid a legacy of ongoing and unnecessary conflict with substantial portions of the religious community in the United States.”

It also noted that the Supreme Court had urged the litigants “to resolve this matter amicably” which the letter said they had done by “describing, in good faith and in great detail, a way to reach an amicable resolution.”

But these groups cannot change the regulations, the letter added, stressing that only the government could and should do this instead of ignoring “the sincerely held and repeatedly stated religious objections of a substantial minority of our civil society.”

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Bishop Malooly’s statement regarding Biden officiating at same-sex marriage

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Bishop Malooly sent the following statement to priests of the Diocese of Wilmington, Aug. 5, after Vice President Joe Biden officiated at a same-sex marriage at the Vice President’s residence in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 1.

“I share with you this link to a statement that was released [Aug. 5] from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding the recent and disappointing public celebration of a same-sex union.

“I have spoken to and consulted with the leaders of our conference and completely concur with this statement. We join together in clarifying our Catholic teaching and upholding our beliefs.”

Here is the link to the full text of the U.S. bishops’ “Faithful Witness to Marriage” statement:

http://usccbmedia.blogspot.com/2016/08/faithful-witness-to-marriage.html

A groom and bride hold hands on their wedding day. Bishop Malooly has issued a statement on the "disappointing" celebration of a same-sex marriage where Vice President Joe Biden officiated. (CNS file photo/Jon L. Hendricks)

A groom and bride hold hands on their wedding day. Bishop Malooly has issued a statement on the “disappointing” celebration of a same-sex marriage where Vice President Joe Biden officiated. (CNS file photo/Jon L. Hendricks)

The Catholic News Service story on the statement from the U.S. bishops’ conference, is on The Dialog website’s National section at:

http://thedialog.org/bishops-biden-created-confusion-over-church-teaching-a-counter-witness-for-presiding-at-wedding/

 

 

 

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U.S. bishops’ audit on protection of children policies warns of complacency

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Catholic News Service

 WASHINGTON — The annual report on the implementation of the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” warns against complacency in dioceses, and the firm contracted to conduct audits of dioceses and parishes said there was “plenty of room for improvement” in implementing two of the charter’s articles.

In remarks prefacing the report,  chairman of the National Review Board, the all-lay group that tracks for the bishops how dioceses address clergy sexual abuse, said this year’s audit results “continue to demonstrate the progress that has been made in ensuring safe environments for children in the church.”

This is the cover of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection annual report on dioceses' compliance with the USCCB charter on abuse prevention. It was released May 20. (CNS/USCCB)

This is the cover of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Child and Youth Protection annual report on dioceses’ compliance with the USCCB charter on abuse prevention. It was released May 20. (CNS/USCCB)

“The bishops need to be acknowledged for keeping the protection of children and young people in the forefront of their leadership by continually enhancing their efforts to comply with the charter,” Cesareo said.

However, he also warned that the U.S. church’s progress can “foster a false sense of security” that can “lead to complacency.”

“Such complacency can lead to a minimalist approach to the charter, which can be seen simply as a series of requirements that need to be checked off, as opposed to an implementation that renders the charter fully operative,” he said.

One example Cesareo gave was that “while every diocese has a diocesan review board, thereby complying with the charter’s requirement, in some cases the diocesan review board rarely meets or had not met in several years.”

In this year’s report, the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, was again found to be not in compliance with the charter, as were the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle in El Cajon, California; the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance in Newark, New Jersey, for Syrians; the Armenian Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg based in Glendale, California; the Ukrainian Eparchy of Stamford, Connecticut; and the Houston-based Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter for former Anglican groups and clergy in North America joining the Catholic Church.

The report said the Lincoln diocese would take part in the next audit, and that four of the other five ecclesial jurisdictions would as well, although which ones were not specifically named.

The Diocese of Santa Rosa, Calif., was judged to be not in compliance with two articles of the charter having to do with the education of children and those who minister to children about ways to create and maintain a safe environment for children and young people, and with evaluating background of clergy, candidates for ordination, educators, employees and volunteers who minister to children.

“Although the diocese may be providing training for the required categories of individuals, auditors could not accurately gauge participation by their parishes,” said the report, compiled by StoneBridge Business Partners. “Even though all others were deemed compliant with this article, there is still plenty of room for improvement.”

The new report said that between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015, 26 allegations of clerical sexual abuse were made by minors, and seven had been substantiated. All allegations were reported to civil authorities. The previous year, 37 allegations had been made, and 43 allegations had been made the year before that.

“While the number of allegations continues to decline, one instance of abuse is one too many,” said Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection, in the report.

Also in the same time period, 838 survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy came forward in 123 dioceses with 903 specific allegations, according to the report. The number of allegations is similar to 2013’s numbers; the 2014 numbers had been below 2015. The report attributed the increase to “six dioceses experiencing an influx of allegations during the 2015 audit year,” most commonly reported through from bankruptcy proceedings.

While the report stated that of the 838 victims, 386 of them, or 46 percent, “were offered outreach,” Deacon Nojadera, asked for clarification by Catholic News Service, said all 838 had been offered outreach, and that 386 had accepted the offer.

Of the 903 allegations, some of which date back to the 1940s, the investigation is ongoing in 398 of them. In 213 of them, an investigation has been unable to provide proof, often because the accused priest has died. Another 123 were substantiated, while 53 were unsubstantiated and the status of 116 of them is unknown, although some were referred to the provincial of the priest’s religious order.

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, whose clergy abuse questionnaire to all U.S. dioceses and men’s religious orders also is part of the report, said that responses indicated that 81 percent of abuse victims were male and 19 percent female. Children ages 10-14 were the most common victims of abuse, at 49 percent, while 16 percent were under age 10, and 15 percent were ages 15-17; the age of the others was not known or submitted. Two percent of the allegations had to do with child pornography in the priest’s possession.

During the July 2014-June 2015 time period, dioceses, eparchies, and religious institutes reported paying out $153,619,544 for costs related to allegations. The diocesan costs of $141,283,794 is 33 percent higher than what was reported the year before, with most of the increase due to settlement payments to victims.

Dioceses, eparchies and religious orders also spent another $51,021,837 for child protection efforts. Over 2.4 million background checks were performed on adults at parishes and schools.

The report offered a number of cautions for dioceses.

“A significant number of allegations continue to involve international priests. Dioceses should take note of this and ensure they are utilizing the appropriate methods for evaluating their backgrounds,” the report said.

Turnover of personnel charged with charter implementation is another issue. “Staff turnover in diocesan and parish offices will become more pronounced as the first generation of leaders in our nation, especially those around since 2002 and 2003, begin to retire or move into new positions elsewhere,” the report said. “Dioceses should institutionalize policies and procedures rather than rely on historical knowledge of staff/employees alone.”

While the number of parish audits supplementing diocesan audits increased in 2015 from the year before, “most dioceses and all eparchies” opted not have StoneBridge conduct parish audits or surveys, the report added. Parish audits are optional but strongly encouraged, it said.

Untimely and incomplete reporting also proved to be limitations.

“Due dates were communicated several times throughout the audit workshops and via email,” the report said, but “dioceses and eparchies continue to submit their documents past the deadline.”

And “despite the frequent phone calls and emails we receive from diocesan/eparchial personnel throughout the year, we noted a significant number of incomplete and/or inaccurate documents submitted during this audit period. Several audit instruments were not completely filled out, which required the auditors to go through each item with the diocese/eparchy, resulting in less efficient use of time spent on-site.”

     

Note: The full report is available at http://tinyurl.com/hp7a36v.

     

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