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U.S. Bishops call for prayers, care for others after shooting in Las Vegas

On October 2, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), expressed “deep grief” after a deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas. 
 
The full text of the statement follows:
 
“We woke this morning and learned of yet another night filled with unspeakable terror, this time in the city of Las Vegas, and by all accounts, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.  My heart and my prayers, and those of my brother bishops and all the members of the Church, go out to the victims of this tragedy and to the city of Las Vegas.  At this time, we need to pray and to take care of those who are suffering.  In the end, the only response is to do good – for no matter what the darkness, it will never overcome the light.  May the Lord of all gentleness surround all those who are suffering from this evil, and for those who have been killed we pray, eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”

“I join with Cardinal DiNardo in offering my prayers for the victims, their families, and for the first-responders," said Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of the Diocese of Burlington, "and I invite all those of the Catholic community in Vermont to do so as well.”

 
  • Published in Nation

Collection requested for Hurricane Irma relief

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington has asked his fellow bishops throughout the country to take an emergency collection in their Dioceses during weekend Masses Sept. 23-24 to help those recovering from devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and the southeastern region of the United States.
 
"While emergency outreach was immediate, we know that the road to recovery and the rebuilding of communities will be long and additional support will be needed," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston in a statement issued Sept. 14.
 
The funds collected "will be used in the affected areas to support humanitarian aid, assistance with long-term efforts to restore communities after widespread destruction and for the pastoral and reconstruction needs of the Church in U.S. and the Caribbean," he said.
 
Cardinal DiNardo acknowledged that his call "comes on the heels" of the emergency collection for victims of Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas and Louisiana and held on for days before moving inland.
 
Harvey, too, "caused catastrophic damage and compelled us to respond," he said.
 
"Likewise, Hurricane Irma has been devastating and our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean, especially the Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, and the southern U.S. need our help."
 
The earlier call for a collection came in an Aug. 28 letter from Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, as USCCB vice president, suggesting funds be collected during Masses the weekend of Sept. 2-3 or Sept. 9-10.
 
Hardly any place in the path of Hurricane Irma was left untouched. Its strength and size, with 120-plus-mph winds stretching 70 miles from its core, leveled entire islands in the eastern Caribbean, brought unprecedented flooding on Cuba's north coast, devastated the Florida Keys, snapped construction cranes in downtown Miami and targeted cities along Florida's Gulf Coast.
 
In the Keys alone, at least 25 percent of the homes were destroyed and 65 percent suffered significant damage, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long. "Basically, every house in the Keys was impacted," he told the news media.
 
In a Sept. 12 statement, the U.S. bishops' Executive Committee prayed for "the safety and care of human life" after two catastrophic hurricanes -- Irma and Harvey -- and they urged Catholics around the country to offer their prayers as well as financial support and volunteer help as they can.
 
Irma dwindled to a tropical storm as it neared the Florida-Georgia line early Sept. 11 and had died out over southern states by week's end.
 
"The Church is a channel for grace and solidarity in the wake of natural disasters as it offers solace and support in their aftermath," Cardinal DiNardo said Sept. 14. "However, as is so often the case, the Church itself in these regions is both a long-standing provider of aid and now is in need of tremendous assistance itself."
 
Many church structures "have been damaged and their resources depleted, which makes it even more challenging to provide assistance and pastoral outreach to those in need," he added.
 
 
  • Published in Nation

U.S. Bishops Call for Solidarity, Conversion

In anticipation of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on September 1, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued a statement echoing Pope Francis’ call that all people, “Christians or not,…should be united in showing mercy to the earth as our common home.”  

The letter emphasizes the call to conversion and the role of mercy in caring for the environment, building on the Pope’s message last year. “Showing mercy to our common home first requires a personal and institutional examination of conscience,” said Bishops Dewane and Cantú.

The bishops recognized the need for collective action and restated their call for an “energy revolution,” stressing that we must especially “remember those who labor in the energy industry, from coal miners and solar engineers to legislators and scientists.”

The message also recognizes September 1 as the first day of the “Season of Creation,” which concludes on October 4 with the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. The bishops acknowledge that this “is a privileged time for all persons of faith to consider spiritual and corporal acts of mercy towards our common home and all those living in it, so that this may also become a ‘season of mercy’ within our families, our communities and our world.”  

Full text: Statement on World Day of Prayer for Creation

 
  • Published in Nation

U.S. Bishops chairman responds to repeal bill defeat

WASHINGTON—In response to last night’s Senate vote on the “skinny repeal” bill, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, has issued the following statement:    
 
“Despite the Senate’s decision not to pass legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act last night, the task of reforming the healthcare system still remains. The current healthcare system is not financially sustainable, lacks full Hyde protections and conscience rights, and is inaccessible to many immigrants.  Inaction will result in harm for too many people.
 
A moment has opened for Congress, and indeed all Americans, to set aside party and personal political interest and pursue the common good of our nation and its people, especially the most vulnerable. In order to be just, any bill for consideration must:
 
  • Protect the Medicaid program from changes that would harm millions of struggling Americans.
  • Protect the safety net from any other changes that harm the poor, immigrants, or any others at the margins.
  • Address the real probability of collapsing insurance markets and the corresponding loss of genuine affordability for those with limited means. 
  • Provide full Hyde Amendment provisions and much-needed conscience protections. 
  • Any final agreement that respects human life and dignity, honors conscience rights, and ensures that everyone can access health care that is comprehensive, high quality, and truly affordable deserves the support of all of us.
 
The greatness of our country is not measured by the well-being of the powerful but how we have cared for the ‘least of these.’  Congress can and should pass health care legislation that lives up to that greatness.”

 
  • Published in Nation

Withdrawal From The Paris Agreement

President Donald J. Trump announced June 1 that the United States will not honor the Paris agreement on climate change. The United States and China, the two largest carbon emitters, and 195 other nations, signed the agreement that was ratified in November 2016. The Paris agreement establishes that nations must reduce their carbon dioxide emissions in order to keep global temperatures well below a two-degree Celsius increase in relation to pre-industrial levels.

In the following statement, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, N.M., chairman of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops Committee on International Justice and Peace, stresses that, although the Paris agreement is not the only possible mechanism for addressing global carbon mitigation, the lack of a current viable alternative is a serious concern.   

Full statement follows:  
"The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), along with Pope Francis and the entire Catholic Church, have consistently upheld the Paris agreement as an important international mechanism to promote environmental stewardship and encourage climate change mitigation. The President's decision not to honor the U.S. commitment to the Paris agreement is deeply troubling.

The Scriptures affirm the value of caring for creation and caring for each other in solidarity. The Paris agreement is an international accord that promotes these values. President Trump's decision will harm the people of the United States and the world, especially the poorest, most vulnerable communities. The impacts of climate change are already being experienced in sea level rise, glacial melts, intensified storms, and more frequent droughts. I can only hope that the President will propose concrete ways to address global climate change and promote environmental stewardship."
The USCCB has voiced support for prudent action and dialogue on climate change since its 2001 statement: "Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good". In a letter to Congress in 2015, the U.S. Bishops, along with the presidents of Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services, encouraged the United States to sign the Paris agreement. They have since reiterated their support on several occasions. Pope Francis and the Holy See have also consistently voiced support for the Paris agreement." 
 
 
 
  • Published in World

Pro-growth and pro-environment

President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Order on March 28, 2017 that rescinds and weakens numerous environmental protections, and effectively dismantles the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the national program designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32% in relation to 2015 levels by the year 2030. Fossil fuel-fired power plants are the largest pollution emitting sector, making up just under one-third of U.S. total greenhouse gas emissions. 

"The USCCB, in unity with Pope Francis, strongly supports environmental stewardship and has called consistently for 'our own country to curtail carbon emissions,'" said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in response to the order. "This Executive Order places a number of environmental protections in jeopardy and moves the U.S. away from a national carbon standard, all without adopting a sufficient plan for ensuring proper care for people and creation. Yesterday's action means that, sadly, the United States is unlikely to meet its domestic and international mitigation goals." 

The USCCB has voiced support for a national carbon emission standard in recent years, though the Church does not privilege one set of technical, economic, or political approaches over another.  Bishop Dewane stresses that, although the CPP is not the only possible mechanism for reducing carbon emissions, the lack of a current viable alternative is a serious concern.    

"The EPA Administrator has repeatedly stated that policies must be pro-growth and pro-environment.  An integral approach can respect human and natural concerns and still achieve these aims, if properly done.  Many states have already made great progress toward carbon mitigation goals under the CPP, and this momentum ought to be encouraged and not hindered. Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato si', focuses on both the 'the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.'  With this recent order, the Administration risks damage to our air, our waters and, most importantly, our people, particularly the poor and vulnerable, without proposing a concrete and adequate approach to meet our stewardship obligations as a nation."
  • Published in Nation

Common dreams, diverse backgrounds

The U.S. bishops in a pastoral reflection released March 22 called all Catholics to do what each of them can "to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States."

Titled "Living as a People of God in Unsettled Times," the reflection was issued "in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands," said a news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"To live as a people of God is to live in the hope of the Resurrection," said the reflection, which was approved by the USCCB Administrative Committee on the first day of a two-day meeting in Washington.

The 37-member committee is made up of the executive officers of the USCCB, elected committee chairmen and elected regional representatives. It acts on behalf of the nation's bishops between their spring and fall general meetings.

"To live in Christ is to draw upon the limitless love of Jesus to fortify us against the temptation of fear," it continued. "Pray that our engagement in the debate over immigration and refugee issues may bring peace and comfort to those most affected by current and proposed national policy changes."

The bishops urged Catholics to pray for an end to the root causes of violence and other circumstances forcing families to flee their homeland to find a better life; to meet with newcomers in their parishes and "listen to their story, and share your own"; and to call, write or visit their elected representatives to ask them to fix our broken immigration system" in a way that would safeguard the country's security and "our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration."

The statement opened with a passage from Chapter 19 of the Book of Leviticus: "The word of God is truly alive today. When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt."

The bishops urged Catholics to "not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life. They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future."

"As shepherds of a pilgrim church," they wrote, "we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: "We are with you."

Those families could include "a family seeking security from an increased threat of extremist violence," they said, adding that "it is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity."

The bishops said that "intense debate is essential to healthy democracy, but the rhetoric of fear does not serve us well."

"When we look at one another, do we see with the heart of Jesus?" they asked.

Their pastoral reflection comes at a time when the Trump administration's rhetoric and its policies on national security, refugees and immigration are in the headlines almost daily. Those policies have sparked almost nonstop protests in various parts of the country since President Donald Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration. In some cases, the anti-Trump demonstrations have turned violent.

The latest action on the refugee issue came March 16 when two federal judges blocked Trump's new executive order banning for 90 days the entry into the U.S. of citizens from six Muslim-majority nations and suspending for 120 days the resettlement of refugees. Two federal judges, one in Hawaii and one in Maryland, blocked the order before it was to take effect March 16 at midnight.

The Department of Justice announced March 17 it will appeal the Maryland ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which is based in Richmond, Virginia.

In their reflection, the bishops said that all in this country find "common dreams for our children" in their "diverse backgrounds."

"Hope in the next generation is how the nation will realize its founding motto, 'out of many, one,'" they said. "In doing so, we will also realize God's hope for all his children: that we would see each other as valued sisters and brothers regardless of race, religion or national origin."

Christ, as the word made flesh, "strengthens us to bring our words to life," they said, and suggested three ways Catholics, "in our own small way," can "bring our words of solidarity for migrants and refugees to life": by praying, welcoming newcomers and writing to their elected representatives urging them to support humane immigration policies.

"Pray for an end to the root causes of violent hatred that force mothers and fathers to flee the only home they may have known in search of economic and physical security for their children," the bishops said.

They asked Catholics to meet with newcomers in their parishes, and to "listen to their story and share your own." The bishops noted parishes across the country have programs for immigrants and refugees "both to comfort them and to help them know their rights."

They also urged Catholics to "to reach out in loving dialogue to those who may disagree with us. The more we come to understand each other's concerns the better we can serve one another. Together, we are one body in Christ."

Finally, Catholics should call, write or visit their elected officials urging they "fix our broken immigration system in a way that safeguards both our security and our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration."

The reflection ended with a quote from Pope Francis: "To migrate is the expression of that inherent desire for the happiness proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued. For us Christians, all human life is an itinerant journey toward our heavenly homeland."

Full text of the Bishops' Administrative Committee statement, Living As A People Of God In Unsettled Times
 
  • Published in Nation

Bishops: Congress must consider budget's moral dimensions

The chairmen of six U.S. bishops' policy committees March 3 told members of the House and Senate that every decision they will make on the federal budget "should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity."

"A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects 'the least of these' (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, vulnerable and at risk, without work or in poverty should come first," the six chairmen said.

They pointed out that the government and other institutions have "a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times."

The letter said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops supports the goal of reducing future unsustainable deficits and believes the country has an obligation to address their impact on the health of the economy but that a "just framework for the federal budget cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons."

They also warned that cuts to domestic and international poverty-reducing and refugee-assisting programs would "result in millions of people being put in harm's way, denying access to life-saving and life-affirming services."

The bishops said they have devoted their efforts to addressing the "morally problematic features of health care reform while insuring that people have access to health care coverage."

They noted that the Catholic Church -- in its work across the country caring for the poor, homeless, the sick and refugees -- often partners with the government. "Our combined resources allow us to reach further and help more," they said.

The bishops urged federal lawmakers to recognize that the "moral measure of the federal budget is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless, exploited, poor, unborn or undocumented are treated."

"Their voices are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources," they said.

The letter was signed by: New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, chairman of the Committee on Communications; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace; Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education; and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration.
  • Published in Nation
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