USCCB Committee Chairs Welcome Congressional Initiatives Responding to Pope Francis’ Call to Care for Creation

Legislation by Senator Hoeven Welcomed
October 1, 2015
IMGP0048WASHINGTON—Archbishop Thomas Wenski and Bishop Oscar Cantú welcomed new initiatives in Congress that respond to Pope Francis’ call during his visit to the United States to care for our common home “and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”

“The bishops welcome the various initiatives to protect the environment and address climate change that have recently emerged in Congress,” said Archbishop Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “Such efforts help respond to Pope Francis’ call in his encyclical Laudato Si’ for ‘courageous actions and strategies aimed at implementing a ‘culture of care.’”

These recent legislative initiatives include: a Congressional resolution introduced by Congressman Chris Gibson and several Republican House Members promoting environmental stewardship and efforts to address climate change; the American Energy Innovation Act of 2015 unveiled by Senator Maria Cantwell along with many Senate Democrats; as well as bipartisan efforts in the Senate and House including The Super Pollutants Act of 2015 introduced by Senators Chris Murphy and Susan Collins and the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act introduced by Congressmen Matt Cartwright and Robert Dold in the House and Senators Amy Klobuchar and John Hoeven in the Senate.

“These efforts by government leaders are positive actions that respond to Pope Francis’ call in his encyclical, Laudato Sí, to ‘redirect our steps’ and to act together to protect our common home,” said Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace. “We encourage these initiatives because they will stimulate greater dialogue in seeking sustainable solutions that can lead to real and lasting change.”

“The U.S. bishops stand united with the Holy Father in his call to protect creation,” said Archbishop Wenski, who also affirmed Pope Francis’ appeal in his encyclical for a new and honest dialogue. “As Pope Francis said, ‘We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.’”

Bishop Cantú Urges Congress To Reauthorize International Religious Freedom Commission

1934701_106085432284_2617810_nWASHINGTON—With international religious freedom increasingly imperiled, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) must be reauthorized quickly so it can continue to “highlight the need to protect those who are discriminated against, harassed and even killed for their faith,” said the bishop who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a September 29 letter to Congress, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, urged legislators to support S. 2078, a bill that would extend USCIRF’s mandate for four years. The fact that Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) came together to support this bill in a bipartisan manner is a “welcome sign,” said Bishop Cantú. USCIRF’s mandate is set to expire today.

Bishop Cantú expressed the hope that swift passage of this bill would lead to broader discussion on how to protect religious freedom, which the Church views as a “cornerstone of the structure of human rights.”

Bishop Cantú reminded members of Congress that Pope Francis, in his recent visit, warned about efforts to suppress religious freedom, and asked everyone to join “in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.”

Full text of Bishop Cantú’s letter is available online:

Action Alert: Allow States to Not Fund Abortion Clinics

health_care-255x255A House vote is expected today on an important effort to support those states which choose to deny Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers. Please take a moment right now to click here to contact your Representative in Congress.

The “Women’s Public Health and Safety Act” (H.R. 3495), introduced by Sean Duffy (R-WI) will allow states to refuse Medicaid funding for providers that perform elective abortions such as Planned Parenthood clinics. In the wake of the release of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood’s willingness to perform late-term abortions and traffic in fetal organs, several states opted to reallocate Medicaid funds away from Planned Parenthood – only to be told by the Obama administration it sees their action as violating federal law. H.R. 3495 addresses this problem by enhancing “State flexibility” with respect to funding providers involved in abortions through Medicaid. Please contact your Representative immediately to urge support for H.R. 3495!

Thank you for responding to this urgent request for action, and for all that you do to help build the culture of life in law. Together we will be heard!

Our Commitment to Refugees

Within the pro-life movement we often hear that a classroom of children is killed each week by abortion.  The claim holds true for North Dakota.  The state has lower abortion numbers than most states, but is also has smaller class sizes.  An average of fifteen unborn children of North Dakota residents are aborted each week.  A classroom size a week is about 800 a year.respect-life-2015-montage

The statistical information on women subjected to abortions is remarkably consistent. The overwhelming majority of them are unmarried, about 87%. Eighty percent of them have less than a four-year degree.  Twenty percent of them are non-white, which is twice the percentage of the state’s population.  Although we do not have economic data, we can safely conclude, based on other studies and the fact that most of them are unmarried and lacking a college degree, that they are poor.

We can also conclude that the children, if they were not aborted, would be more likely to grow up in poverty.  Growing up in a single-parent household is one of the strongest indicators that child will live in poverty.  It also strongly correlated to other social problems, such as involvement in crime, substance abuse, problems in school, and more.  The absence of a college degree by the parent, like racial factors, compounds the problems.

No matter what their marital, educational, or racial status, one hundred percent of the women have something in their life that led them to the unplanned pregnancy and the abortionist.  It could be drugs, mental health issues, a lack of maturity, domestic abuse, or any number of other issues.  Whatever the issue, it probably would have an impact on the child if he or she was born.

This does not mean that the child would be doomed to a life of poverty and delinquency.  For the record, I was raised by a single parent.  Statistically, however, the child and mother is much more likely to face these challenges.

To the purveyors of the culture of death, these are exactly the reasons these women should get abortions.  “Better a dead child than a poor child or an inconvenienced parent” is their motto.  The love and mercy of the culture of life, however, embraces every child and mother.  There exists no circumstance, no matter how bad, that justifies abortion.  That is the pro-life way.

Which brings us back to the claim about a classroom a week being lost by abortion.  Implicit in that lament is that society should welcome every one of those children no matter what their situation and no matter what challenges they pose to the rest of us.  Also implicit is that our acceptance of these children and our responsibilities to care and educate them is not dependent on the size of the classroom.  If the abortion numbers doubled, our commitment to life – and them – would not change.

This commitment is something we should remember as our nation and our state prepares to welcome more refugees.  Each year Lutheran Social Services helps the federal government place about 400 refugees in the state.  There are some indications that the number will increase to around 500.  Even the higher number is less than a classroom a week.

Refugees are not individuals merely seeking to take advantage of American life.  They have unwillingly left their homeland to escape persecution and war.  Before admission to the US, each refugee undergoes an extensive interviewing, screening, and security clearance process.  Our response to refugees goes beyond the biblical call to treat the “alien among us” no differently than the citizen.  They come needing food, clothing, shelter, employment, English language training, and orientation to a new community and culture.  They are among the “least of us” that demand our welcoming embrace.

Nevertheless, there are some who oppose the placement of refugees in the state.  They cite the “burdens” refugees place on communities.  Refugee resettlement does place some burdens on our resources and sometimes those burdens can be disproportionate geographically.  Finding ways to minimize and accept those burdens, however, is the right thing to do.  It is no different from when a family embraces an unexpected pregnancy by a teenage daughter.  Yes, it is a difficult, but she and the child are deserving of our love, not abandonment that could drive the young woman to the abortionist.

The human family, meaning society, must embrace the burdens of accepting refugees and not abandon them to what is in many cases certain death in their home country.  If we are sincere about our willingness as a society to accept all the children destroyed by abortion, we must also be willing to embrace refugees escaping persecution and death.

Christopher Dodson, Executive Director, North Dakota Catholic Conference

Archbishop Kurtz Calls for Welcoming of Refugees Fleeing Syria


Catholics in the United States, as well as all people of good will, should express openness and welcome to refugees fleeing Syria and elsewhere in order to survive, said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a statement, September 10. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, issued the call on the heels of Pope Francis’ appeal, September 6, that every Catholic parish in Europe house a refugee family.


“The Catholic Church in the United States—with nearly 100 Catholic Charities agencies and hundreds of parishes assisting refugees to this country each year, and with Catholic Relief Services providing humanitarian aid to refugees in the Middle East and Europe—stands ready to help in this effort,” wrote Archbishop Kurtz.


Archbishop Kurtz expressed his solidarity with the pope, the bishops of Syria, the Middle East, and Europe, “and all people who have responded to this humanitarian crisis with charity and compassion.” He also encouraged the U.S. government “to assist more robustly the nations of Europe and the Middle East in protecting and supporting these refugees and in helping to end this horrific conflict, so refugees may return home in safety.


The full text of Archbishop Kurtz’s statement follows:


Statement of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

Archbishop of Louisville, KY

President, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

On Syrian Refugee Crisis


September 10, 2015



In recent days, we have seen reports about and pictures of thousands of refugees from the Middle East, primarily Syrians fleeing the conflict in their nation, fleeing into Europe in search of protection. These images have captured the world’s attention and sympathy. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has asked Catholics in Europe to respond to the needs of the refugees streaming into Europe and, throughout his papacy, has consistently called upon the world to protect refugees and other persons on the move.


As president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I urge all Catholics in the United States and others of good will to express openness and welcome to these refugees, who are escaping desperate situations in order to survive. Regardless of their religious affiliation or national origin, these refugees are all human persons—made in the image of God, bearing inherent dignity, and deserving our respect and care and protection by law from persecution.


I express my solidarity with the Holy Father, the bishops of Syria, the Middle East, and Europe, and all people who have responded to this humanitarian crisis with charity and compassion. I also encourage the U.S. government to assist more robustly the nations of Europe and the Middle East in protecting and supporting these refugees and in helping to end this horrific conflict, so refugees may return home in safety. The Catholic Church in the United States—with nearly 100 Catholic Charities agencies and hundreds of parishes assisting refugees to this country each year, and with Catholic Relief Services providing humanitarian aid to refugees in the Middle East and Europe—stands ready to help in this effort.


In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph flee the terror of Herod. They are the archetype of every refugee family. Let us pray that the Holy Family watches over the thousands of refugee families in Europe and beyond at this time.

Urge Congress to Reauthorize the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom

1934701_106085432284_2617810_nTake Action Now!

The Catholic Church views protection of religious freedom as a “cornerstone of the structure of human rights” since it is rooted in the dignity of the human person. USCCB worked with other faith-based groups and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to pass the landmark 1988 International Religious freedom Act (IRFA). IRFA created the Office of International Religious Freedom in the Department of State and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad. USCIRF uses international standards to monitor religious freedom violations globally, and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and Congressional leaders of both political parties. Their work is supported by a professional, nonpartisan staff. USCIRF has a proven track record of promoting human dignity and human rights around the world by monitoring and promoting religious freedom.

USCIRF is due to expire this September 30th unless legislation is passed for its reauthorization. Reauthorization of USCIRF is of critical importance to a wide range of U.S. religious believers/voters, U.S. and overseas NGO’s, and to religious communities and governments all over the world. This is not a Democrat or Republic issue or a concern of only a few Members. This is not a concern of only Christians or of the religious faiths most popular in the US. It is a bipartisan issue of concern to all US religious communities because around the world Bahia’s, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and members of newer and less numerous religions all experience persecution and discrimination in various countries.

Failure to reauthorize USCIRF will send a tremendously negative message to the international community. It will tell the worst offenders that our government is no longer truly interested in fighting for religious freedom and basic human rights of religious believers in their countries. If this happens, religious believers will be killed, jailed, and tortured.

Given the Church’s ongoing concern over the plight of Christians and other religious minorities, we strongly support a bipartisan bill to reauthorize USCIRF. We share the concerns of Pope Francis, “In today’s world, religious freedom is more often affirmed than put into practice.” Defending religious liberty “guarantees the growth and development of the entire community.” Please encourage Congress to lend their support for reauthorization.

See Bishop Oscar Cantu’s August 26, 2015 letter to Congress encouraging legislation for the reauthorization of USCIRF, in which he wrote, “Protecting religious freedom is critical to the health of societies.”

Write your Members of Congress now!

USCCB Comments on Medicare’s Proposed Rule on Advance Care Planning

health_care-255x255The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) submitted comments on September 4 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The comments relate to a Proposed Rule to incorporate end-of-life decision making or “Advance Care Planning” into the Medicare program.

The comments filed today by Anthony Picarello, USCCB general counsel, and Michael Moses, associate general counsel, note that while the Catholic Church does not object to encouraging patients to consider future treatment decisions in case they may become unable to communicate their wishes, “the current open-ended proposal has several deficiencies that merit attention before a final rule is considered.”

Picarello and Moses note that “the Church has a long and rich tradition on the parameters for such decision making, providing concepts and distinctions that have long played an important role in secular medical ethics as well.”   They add that “Catholic dioceses and other organizations have actively participated in the nationwide debate on end-of-life decision making and on the pros and cons of various ‘advance directives’.”  They explain that while such directives constitute one approach to advance care planning, they are not the only way, and some documents ignore important ethical distinctions and may be biased toward withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment.

The comment letter also reviews “important statutory guidance on this issue” found in the Patient Self-Determination Act, the Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act, and the Affordable Care Act, stating that the safeguards in these laws are not currently reflected in the proposed rule or its preamble.

The USCCB provides the following recommendations for any final rule or published guidance that encourage “advance care planning”:

  • Acknowledge the full range of advance care planning options, including those which rely on discussion and collaboration among family members instead of on pre-packaged documents that may be biased toward withdrawal of treatment;
  • Caution patients about the need to read any document carefully before signing it, to ensure that it fully protects the individual patient’s well-being and values, and inform them that additional resources may be available from their religious denomination or other sources of moral guidance;
  • Completely exclude counseling and documents that present lethal actions such as assisted suicide or euthanasia as treatment options;
  • Treat the counseling session as an opportunity for suicide prevention;
  • Reflect current law’s commitment to an “equality of life” standard that upholds life with a disability or permanent impairment as having inherent worth.

Video Series on Catholic Social Teaching Launches with ‘Care for God’s Creation’

WASHINGTON— A video on “Care for God’s Creation” is the first of a seven-part series on Catholic Social Teaching, designed to be an introduction to this body of thought with notable Catholics reflecting on each of the teachings. The video release comes in conjunction with Pope Francis’ declaration of September 1 as a day of prayer for creation. The video series is co-sponsored by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“We received the earth as a garden,” says Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in the “Care for God’s Creation” video. “It would be very unfair if we pass on the earth as a wilderness.”
The videos will be released every three weeks in conjunction with notable events on the Church calendar, leading up to the kickoff of CRS’ Lenten program CRS Rice Bowl on Ash Wednesday 2016. The series will comprise seven short videos, each highlighting one of the seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching as recognized by USCCB:
  • Care for God’s Creation
  • Call to Family, Community, Participation
  • Life and Dignity of the Human Person
  • Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers
  • Solidarity
  • Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
  • Rights and Responsibilities
 “Catholic Social Teaching is at the core of why and how CRS performs its mission to serve the poorest of the poor and people in need at times of emergency,” said Carolyn Woo, CEO and president of CRS. “These teachings are embedded in our identity as employees and servants of God.”
“Care for each other and care for creation, what Pope Francis calls integral ecology, are at the heart of our witness as disciples of Jesus Christ. This series will help us put our faith into action,” said Jonathan Reyes, executive director of USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.
Cardinal Turkson, Woo and Fr. James Martin, SJ, editor at large for America Magazine, all appear in “Care for God’s Creation.” The series will also feature:  Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, archbishop of Manila and president of Caritas Internationalis; Jonathan Reyes; Lisa Hendey, founder of; Kerry Weber, managing editor, America Magazine; Helen M. Alvaré, JD professor of law, George Mason University; and Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. Operations for CRS.

Join Pope Francis in Day of Prayer for Preserving & Protecting God’s Creation

laudato siPope Francis is urging all Catholics to a first-ever “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” on September 1. The day will be highlighted by prayer and contemplation as Catholics consider how they might live in greater harmony with the environment. This call flows out of the Holy Father’s latest encyclical Laudato Si’ On Care For Our Common Home.

The pontiff is imploring all members of the Catholic Church to unite in three prayerful activities this Wednesday. These include: 1) thanking God for the “marvelous works” He has given us, 2) invoking His help in protecting creation, and 3) asking for His Divine Mercy in forgiving the sins we have committed against the environment. Pope Francis is also asking for the prayerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Francis of Assisi to assist the faithful with these three intentions.

You may also want to access the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ reflection aids at Prayers for the Care of Creation

Prayer of Petition
For the Care of Creation

O Lord, grant us the grace to respect and care for Your creation.
Lord, hear our prayer.

O Lord, bless all of your creatures as a sign of Your wondrous love.
Lord, hear our prayer.O Lord, help us to end the suffering of the poor and bring healing to all of your creation.
Lord, hear our prayer.

O Lord, help us to use our technological inventiveness to undo the damage we have done to Your creation and to sustain Your gift of nature.
Lord, hear our prayer.

Reflections for the Care of Creation

  • How are we called to care for God’s creation?
  • How may we apply our social teaching with its emphasis on the life and dignity of the human person, to the challenge of protecting the earth, our common home?
  • What can we in the Catholic community offer to the environmental movement, and what can we learn from it?
  • How can we encourage a serious dialogue in the Catholic community—in our parishes, schools, colleges, universities and other settings—on the significant ethical dimensions of the environmental crisis?

NDCC Director in NYT: Ban on Down Syndrome Abortions Strengthens Disability Laws

Screen Shot 2015-08-29 at 10.36.43 AMTo the Editor:

Your article and editorial (“Abortion and Down Syndrome,” Aug. 25), about proposed legislation in Ohio to prohibit abortions because of a Down syndrome diagnosis, pointed to the lack of prosecutions in North Dakota, the only state with such a law, but did not mention the true purpose and potential impact of the law.

Read the rest . . .