Bishops Express Thanks on First Anniversary of Pope Francis, Highlight Concern for Poor, Reform of Curia, Outreach to Alienated
Pope Calls on Catholics To Renew Gospel Values
Wants Church To Be for the Poor, Reach Out to Marginalized
Emphasis on Mercy, Humanity Inspires People Around the Globe
The first anniversary of the election of Pope Francis, March 13, is a time to give thanks, said the U.S. bishops’ Administrative Committee, meeting in Washington, March 11-12. The Administrative Committee is the highest ranking body of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops when the bishops are not in plenary session.
“He has encouraged us to be a Church of the poor and for the poor, reaching out to the marginalized and being present to those on the periphery of society,” the bishops said in the statement issued March 11. “He has set an example by choosing a personal simplicity of life, by washing the feet of prisoners, and by taking into his hands and kissing the badly disfigured.”
The entire statement follows.
STATEMENT OF THE USCCB ADMINISTRATIVE COMMITTEE
ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE ELECTION OF POPE FRANCIS
Gathered together in Washington, DC, for their annual March meeting, the members of the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have noted with thanksgiving the first anniversary of the election of His Holiness Pope Francis as the 266th successor of the Apostle Peter.
In his first year in office, Pope Francis has consistently called upon Catholics to look again at the fundamental values of the Gospel. He has encouraged us to be a Church of the poor and for the poor, reaching out to the marginalized and being present to those on the periphery of society. He has set an example by choosing a personal simplicity of life, by washing the feet of prisoners, and by taking into his hands and kissing the badly disfigured. His Holiness has also set in motion a process that will lead to the reshaping of the Roman Curia in a way that will enhance the effectiveness of his ministry and better serve the needs of the Church in our present day.
In this way the Holy Father has brought to light new dimensions of the Petrine Ministry and added new life to the office he holds. His constant outreach to the alienated, his emphasis on mercy and his sheer humanity have served as an inspiration not only to Catholics but also to other Christians and people of good will around the globe. On this first anniversary of his election, the Administrative Committee invites the prayers of all the faithful that Christ our Lord will bless Pope Francis and grant him many years of fruitful ministry as Bishop of Rome, as the Servant of the Servants of God.
Questions about oil development, “extraordinary places,” and conservation measures have brought renewed attention to property rights in North Dakota. As with most issues, Catholics will have to assess the merits and consequences of each proposal. Before doing so, however, a person should look at what Catholic social doctrine has to say.
The Church has long defended the right to private property. It might surprise many in our country that the Church views this right very differently than the typical American. Americans tend to view property ownership as a mostly absolute dominion over a thing; a power to do what one wishes with the property and to prevent others from interfering with that power.
Catholic doctrine, however, does not consider private property an intrinsic good, that is, something that is itself good. Rather, the Church views private property as necessary because it serves the human person. As such, the right is limited to what is good for the human person and to what extent it is consistent with the universal destination of goods.
The Catechism expresses it this way:
2402 In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits. The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. However, the earth is divided up among men to assure the security of their lives, endangered by poverty and threatened by violence. The appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping
each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge. It should allow for a natural solidarity to develop between men.
2403 The right to private property, acquired or received in a just way, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind. The universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise.
2404 “In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately
owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself.” The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family.
When discussing the main principles of the Church’s social doctrine, the
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church does not even list the right to private property. Rather, it discusses the right in the context of the more fundamental universal destination of goods. Private property derives from the dignity of human work and the right to posses it derives from its functional aspects of strengthening the family and preserving liberty (176)
The Compendium also notes that “Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute and untouchable: ‘On the contrary, it has always understood this right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is
subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone.’” (177)
That the right to private property derives from its functional nature is emphasized further: “Private property, in fact, regardless of the concrete forms of the regulations and juridical norms relative to it, is in its essence only an instrument for respecting the principle of the universal destination of goods; in the final analysis, therefore, it is not an end but a means.” (177)
As is often the case, the Catholic view of private property is somewhere in the middle, between absolute individualism and absolute collectivism. We should not be surprised. Errors, like heresies, will always fall on one or the either side of the Truth.
Catholics can take inspiration from Pope Francis and find advice and ideas for observing Lent on this downloadable calendar.
Broad-based Coalition Forms to Pass North Dakota Human Life Amendment
A broad-based coalition of organizations and community leaders announced today that they have formed ND Choose Life, a ballot measure committee that will work to pass the Human Life Amendment on the November 2014 ballot. The amendment will be on the ballot as Measure 1.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to work with this outstanding coalition of groups and community leaders in support of the Human Life Amendment,” said Janne Myrdal, chairwoman of ND Choose Life. “This amendment will provide urgently needed legal protections in our state constitution to make sure our sensible laws to protect life, women, and families are upheld in the courts.”
ND Choose Life is a coalition of pro-life, pro-family, women’s and religious organizations. Supporters include the North Dakota Catholic Conference, North Dakota Family Alliance, North Dakota Life League, Love Them Both, North Dakota Right to Life and the North Dakota chapter of Concerned Women for America, among others. The coalition’s web site is under construction, but supporters can register at NDChooseLife.org.
“We have some wonderful laws on the books such as ensuring that women are given full disclosure of information prior to an abortion, making sure parents are notified if their daughter is seeking an abortion, and prohibiting children who are partially born from being killed before their birth can be completed,” Myrdal said.
“Unfortunately, wealthy out-of-state special interest groups regularly challenge our laws and attempt to persuade judges to invent a state constitutional right to abortion as a way of overturning these laws. The Human Life Amendment will give us needed legal protection against a judge inventing a right to abortion, as recently happened in Fargo.”
Ruling on the validity of two laws passed by the Legislature to protect the health and safety of women receiving abortions, Judge Wickham Corwin claimed that the North Dakota constitution contains an implicit right to abortion. The Human Life Amendment would make clear that the constitution protects every person’s inalienable right to life.
For more information about ND Choose Life, go to www.ndchooselife.com
As courts across the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court, take up challenges to the HHS Mandate, they – indeed, all of us – could learn a lesson from an event from Anglican history.
In 1847, the Anglican vicar George Gorham sought the vicariate for a small parish in Devon, England. The Anglican bishop for the region, Henry Phillpotts, interviewed Gorham and found him to be unsuitable for the position because Gorham rejected the sacramental view of baptism and did not believe in baptismal regeneration. Phillpotts considered Gorham’s views as inconsistent with Anglican theology.
Gorham eventually appealed to a secular court which awarded him the position in 1850. The Gorham Judgment caused an uproar in the Anglican Church. For some, it represented inappropriate interference by the state into ecclesiastical affairs. For others, it confirmed their suspicions that the Church of England was more an arm of the state rather than a church in succession with the apostles. The affair was one event that led to many, including Henry Manning and John Henry Newman, to become Roman Catholics.
The Gorham Judgment was possible, of course, because the Church of England was – and still is – the “established church” of England. The Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the U.S. Constitution are supposed to prevent interference by the government into religious affairs in our country. Nevertheless, in its defense of the HHS Mandate, the Obama Administration has opined that the religious objections held by Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor are not, in fact, religious objections.
In the case involving for-profit entities headed to the Supreme Court, the Administration claims that because Hobby Lobby puts money into a general fund to finance health care for their employees and because the employees choose whether to use the coverage for abortifacients, the injury to the religious rights of Hobby Lobby is too “attenuated” and remote.
Remoteness is, however, a religious question. Indeed, volumes of Catholic moral theology have been written on the subject. Undoubtedly, there are some who would agree with the Obama Administration that the decision by an employee to use an abortifacient is so removed from Hobby Lobby’s act of funding the health care coverage that Hobby Lobby should not feel like it violated its religious tenets. What ultimately matters, though, is not what others think, but what Hobby Lobby’s owners think. The Obama Administration position amounts to telling Hobby Lobby, “We know what is morally right and wrong more than you do.”
The Administration’s position for non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor is no better. The Administration attempted to create an “accommodation” for religious entities that are not places of worship. The accommodation provides that the religious entities do not have to pay for the contraceptives directly. Instead, they will be covered directly by the insurance companies or administrators. In order for the religious entity to take advantage of this accommodation, and before the insurer can provide the contraceptives, the entity has to complete a specified government form.
If the government form was only a notice to the federal government that the entity seeks the accommodation, there might not have been a problem. However, as numerous courts have agreed, the form is really a permission slip allowing the insurer to provide the objectionable coverage.
To moral theologians the dilemma is clear. If you cannot morally do a wrongful act you also cannot help someone else to do it by giving them legal permission to do so. To the Little Sisters of the Poor and many other Catholic entities, completing the form would make them complicit in something to which they morally object. The Obama Administration, however, despite admitting that without the form the insurer cannot provide the contraceptives, argues that completing the form would not violate the religious beliefs of the Little Sisters of the Poor.
All Americans should be troubled by the Administration’s attempt to impose its moral and religious analyses. Like the court in the Gorham case, the government’s position amounts to nothing more than the assertion that they know religion better than the rest of us.
Executive Director, North Dakota Catholic Conference
Thanks to the efforts of Catholic UND medical students a new official school recognized Student Section of the Catholic Medical Association is being formed at UND. The first gathering took place Jan 15 with 18 attendees: 13 medical students, 3 physical therapy students, and 2 significant others. A survey was done, and the students are interested in spiritual support followed by intellectual and social gatherings. There were requests for service opportunities as well.
The group met Friday Jan 31 for Holy Hour at St. Anne’s Guest Home followed by a social at a local pub. The next gathering will be on Sat AM Feb 8 at St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center watching the CMA Student Boot Camp DVD to help spread the word about this opportunity available summer 2014.
The Fargo CMA plans to meet and extend our support for the Student Section of the CMA. If there are any physicians who have a desire to help with this effort please let me know. We are considering setting up a mentoring program. The Student Section is currently seeking speakers on various topics. Please contact Walter Johnson or John Emmel.
The chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace, along with representatives of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Catholic Charities USA, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Rural Life, responded to the agreement of the Farm Bill Conference Committee, commending their ability to set aside partisan differences to advance a farm bill.
“While we are disappointed that the final compromise continues to call disproportionately for sacrifices from hungry and poor people in this country and around the world, especially when large industrial agricultural operations continue to receive unnecessary subsidies, we are glad to see support will continue for domestic and international nutrition and development aid, rural development and conservation,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
USCCB and its Catholic partners have been vocal in their opposition to harmful cuts and changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Farm Bill Conference Committee proposal calls for a reduction of $8.6 billion to SNAP over ten years by increasing the threshold at which persons receiving the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) may receive SNAP benefits. However, the bill does include increases for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, and Sheila K. Gilbert, president of the National Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, expressed concern for the challenges that organizations like Catholic Charities agencies and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul face every day in trying to meet the needs of people in their communities.
“We continue to be concerned that those who are most vulnerable will bear the greatest burden when cuts are being considered in any programs that address poverty in this country,” said Father Snyder. “However, we realize that tough choices may have to be made and encourage our country’s decision-makers on this 50th anniversary on the War on Poverty to commit to ensuring that millions of our brothers and sisters are not being left out or left behind.”
Bishop Richard E. Pates, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Carolyn Woo, president of CRS, expressed support for the bill’s international food assistance funding, particularly for development programs, and reforms that increase program efficiency and provide more tools to combat hunger. “With one in eight persons around the world struggling to feed themselves each day, we welcome the renewed commitment by Congress to programs that tackle root causes of chronic hunger and appreciate its foresight in making programs more cost effective so we can serve more people with the limited resources available,” said Bishop Pates.
In addressing agriculture reform James Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life stated, “We are disappointed to see that necessary reforms to farm commodity programs and payment levels have been struck down in the final bill,” Ennis said. “Congress needs to close loopholes and set real payment limits. By doing so, the farm bill will help to save hundreds of millions of dollars and take a step towards leveling the playing field for all family farmers.”
USCCB has worked closely with its Catholic partners urging Congress to finalize a Farm Bill that prioritizes poor and hungry people, serves small and medium-sized family farms, promotes sustainable stewardship of the land, and helps vulnerable farmers and rural communities in the U.S. and around the world.
U.S. Bishops File Amicus Curiae Brief Supporting Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties in Supreme Court Cases Challenging HHS Mandate
Brief highlights ‘potentially fatal fines’ confronting closely held businesses
Reiterates support for business owners challenging HHS mandate
Laws must protect individuals and families who seek to practice faith in daily life
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on January 28 filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the plaintiffs in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. In both cases, family-owned businesses are challenging the legality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation that forces virtually all employers to include in their employee health plans coverage of sterilization, contraceptives, and drugs and devices that may cause abortions, as well as related education and counseling.
The USCCB explained in its amicus brief that it opposes “any rule that would require faithful Catholics and other religiously motivated business owners to choose between providing coverage for products and speech that violate their religious beliefs, and exposing their businesses to devastating penalties.” These penalties include “potentially fatal fines” of $100 a day per affected individual.
The brief reflects and implements the U.S. bishops’ consistent support for litigants from the non-profit and for-profit sectors alike who have challenged the HHS mandate in court.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, stated that “Catholics believe that the right to religious freedom proceeds from the inherent dignity of each and every human person, and that includes people who run businesses. They should not be specially excluded from the freedom to practice their faith in daily life.”
The amicus brief argued that religious exercise cannot, and should not, be excluded from the marketplace; that the mandate substantially burdens Hobby Lobby’s and Conestoga’s religious exercise; and that the mandate cannot survive strict scrutiny review by the Court.
Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are among over 90 lawsuits filed by more than 300 plaintiffs challenging the HHS mandate in courts around the country.
The brief is available online: http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/amicus-13-354-13-356-sebelius-hobby-lobby-conestoga-wood.pdf
Archbishop Kurtz Welcomes Supreme Court Injunction for Little Sisters of the Poor Against HHS Mandate
At the March for Life Rally on the Mall in Washington, DC, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced that the U.S. House of Representatives would vote on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7) during the week of January 27. NCHLA has updated its Action Alert to reflect this new information. See: nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=310.
Please continue to do what you can to encourage people to contact their U.S. Representatives on this matter.
The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, first introduced in 2010, would place in permanent law a consistent policy that the federal government should not use tax dollars to support or promote elective abortion. In 2011, the measure was approved by the House with bipartisan support, 251-yes, 175-no.
Thanks for all that you do in support of life!